Moving to a new Place

Hi!  I am still writing stories.  I moved all these stories to a new blog and I’m still adding new stories there.  Please come find me there at:

http://www.summerbirdstories.com

 

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Grandfather and George: The Pebble

George rushed over to his grandfather’s house after school. “Grandfather, look at this,” he said as soon as he’d closed the door.

“Take your coat off and come in to the living room,” Grandfather said.

George hung up his coat and hurried in. He held out his hand. On his palm there was a tiny, glowing, silver pebble. “On my way to school, a crow landed in front of me and dropped this on the sidewalk. What is it?”

Grandfather held out his hand. George tipped his palm and watched the pebble roll down onto grandfather’s palm. Grandfather held it in the light from the window and the pebble dimmed. He blocked the sunlight with his other hand, and it glowed softly.

“What is it?” George asked again.

“I think it’s a star,” Grandfather said. “It’s come loose.”

“I thought stars were made of plasma or burning gasses or something,” George said. “We learned about it in science.”

“Of course not,” Grandfather said. “The moon isn’t made of cheese and the earth isn’t flat either.”

“I know that,” George said.

“Perhaps, but people always believe such crazy things and call it science. The science changes, but the new ideas are still crazy. Science is like that,” Grandfather said.

“I thought science was all about proving things,” George said.

“Yes, yes, but they don’t realize that they’re leaving things out, so they keep getting these weird ideas,” Grandfather said.

George frowned. “But, if that’s a star, why did the crow bring it to me?”

“He probably wanted you to put it back.” Grandfather smiled. “You should do that. The night sky just wouldn’t be the same without all its stars.”

“How?” George asked. “And why did the crow choose me?”

“Toss it in the air just after sunset. It will find its place,” Grandfather said. “Just make sure you toss it outside.” He handed the pebble back to George. “I think the crow picked you because it trusted you to help.   You’re a good boy, George.”

George held the pebble tightly in his fist. He opened his hand a little and peeked at the star. “I’ll take care of it,” he said.

“Of course you will,” Grandfather said. “Would you like a snack?”

That evening, George sat on his bed and watched the sun set. It was beautiful. The sky looked like it was painted with ribbons of color. The colors deepened and darkened.

George opened his window. A chilly breeze blew in. The air felt sharp on his warm face. He held out the pebble. It glowed brightly. He tossed it up and away into the air.

It went up in an arc and paused. Just when George thought it would fall, it started to rise, slowly at first and then faster and faster. It gleamed brightly for a moment, and then George could barely see it.   It had found its place in the sky.

The next day, George went to his Grandfather’s house after school again.   He hung up his coat and found his grandfather in the kitchen, putting together some strange device that looked like a lantern with arms and legs.

“What’s that?” George asked.

“A phoenix house. I think I saw one eyeing the tree out back. It’ll need a safe place to nest, poor thing. It’s certainly the wrong weather for rebirth. I’ll have to add a little heater,” Grandfather said.

“But phoenixes aren’t real,” George said. “I think.”

“Nonsense, of course they are,” Grandfather said. “So, what happened with your star?”

“I put it back, just like you said.” George reached into his pocket and opened his hand to reveal three more glowing silver pebbles. “This morning, on my way to school some crows swooped down and dropped these in front of me.”

“That’s great. You must have done a good job,” Grandfather said.

“Is this going to happen every morning?” George asked.

“Perhaps.” Grandfather said. “Stars fall more often at some times and less often at others. Some nights there are hundreds of falling stars.”

“Hundreds?”

“Don’t worry about that right now,” Grandfather said. “I’m sure it will be fine. Do you want a snack?”

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The New Family

After Lavi’s parents were captured, he was sent to live with his parents’ friends, the Hyder family. He was a little nervous, because he was a lion and they were rabbits. What if he accidentally ate somebody? He was relieved to learn that wasn’t possible, and soon felt at home with his new family.

He made new friends, but still got phone calls from his old friends, too.   Unfortunately, not all of his old friends were willing to accept his new friends and family. He was tired of the jokes and mean comments.

His latest phone call with Leander was pretty typical. “Hey Lavi,” Leander said. “Invite me over to eat…I mean meet…your new family.” Leander laughed as though he hadn’t said the exact same joke the last three times they’d talked.

“Fine,” Lavi said. “Invite Lelle to come too. Meet my new family. I think you’ll be surprised.”

“Your loss, Lavi,” Leander said. “Just kidding. We’ll come.   Just say when.”

Lavi arranged the visit with Mrs. Hyder. A week later, he met Leander and Lelle at the bus stop. “Wow, you’re really out in the middle of nowhere, aren’t you?” Lelle asked.

“Have you eaten anyone yet?” Leander asked.

“Of course not,” Lavi said. They started walking.

“Doesn’t your new family have a car?” Lelle asked.

“Of course they do,” Lavi said. “They just really, really believe in the importance of exercise.”
It took a while to finally reach the gate at the end of the driveway.   Lavi entered the code at the gate and it slowly slid open. He guided his friends through the maze of traps and obstacles. “Is it always like this?” Leander asked.

“Yeah,” Lavi said. “It’s fun.”
They had to rescue Lelle from a net that trapped her high in a tree.   Leander lost an inch of fur on his tail when he stepped on the wrong brick in the garden path. Both of them had a hard time swinging on the rope over the snake pit at the heart of the hedge maze.

“Isn’t there a shortcut?” Lelle asked.

“Yes,” Lavi said, “but I’ve never quite figured out fire walking, so I’d rather avoid it.”

At the front door, tiny bunnies dressed in black and bristling with weapons surrounded them. “Are you novices or intruders?” A bunny asked.

“Do you know the password?” Another asked.

“You’re taking too long,” a third said. He poked Leander in the calf with a needle, and Leander crumpled.

“Kevin! They’re guests,” Lavi said.

“Sorry,” the little bunny said. He lifted Leander with one arm as though he weighed nothing. “I’ll take him to the parlor.”

He walked off, but the other bunnies pressed in closer.   “Do your guests want to spar, Lavi?   We’re between missions,” one asked.

“I’ll let you know. Leander will probably have to recover first,” Lavi said.

“Fine, fine. Remind him not to eat pineapple for two weeks, okay?” The bunny said. Then all the little bunnies melted into the bushes.

“Where did they go?” Lelle asked.

“Oh, they’re still here somewhere,” Lavi said.   “Let’s go inside and find Leander.”

Leander was sitting on the sofa, clutching his head.   “What happened?” he asked.

“You were taken out by little ninja assassins,” Lelle said. “Honestly, Lavi, you could have warned us.”

“Warned you about what?” Lavi asked.

“The traps and killer bunnies for starters. I mean, that’s not normal, Lavi,” Lelle said.

Leander groaned. “Quieter please. I think my head may split open.”

“My family was just like this. I found out my parents worked with the Hyders. It was such a relief to know that I’d fit right in,” Lavi said.

“Your house was like this?” Leander said.

“Yeah, but my parents never let me have anyone over.   The Hyders are so friendly and welcoming. Sometimes I worry people will take advantage of them,” Lavi said.

Mrs. Hyder appeared at his elbow. “Oh, thank you Lavi. Don’t worry about us, though. We’ll be fine. Would your friends like some cookies?” A tray appeared out of nowhere. Leander and Lelle cautiously reached out for the treats. “Oh, don’t take the coconut ones dears, unless you’re immune to arsenic.   I put those out for Lavi.”

Leander and Lelle pulled their hands back. Lavi took a coconut cookie with a smile.   “Thank you, Mrs. Hyder. You’re very kind.” He bit into his cookie and munched happily.

Lelle smiled a weird sort of smile. “Hey, Lavi? I’m not feeling so good. Do you know when the next bus leaves?”

Leander stood up. “I’ll walk you there, Lelle,” he said. “We could leave now and wait at the station.”

“You just got here,” Lavi said.

“And we had a very lovely time,” Leander said.

“Thanks for inviting us, Lavi,” Lelle said. “Now show us the way out, please.”

“Fine,” Lavi said. “Thank you for coming. Now let’s go.”

His old friends didn’t have anything bad to say about his new friends and family after that. They also called a lot less often.

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Green Puppy

The morning after the thunderstorm, Sam put on his rain boots and ran out into the muddy garden. After the early frost, mom had left the garden clean up until spring. So there were bits of vines and late vegetables strewn here and there, peeking from the slush left from the snowstorm earlier in the week.

In the back corner there had been a watermelon vine. The last watermelon hadn’t ripened in time to be picked.   Sam stomped through the mud to look at it again. But it wasn’t there.

Instead, there was a green puppy. It was light green with darker green stripes running down its sides and back.   It wagged its tail when it saw Sam and barked. It ran in a circle around him and then it put its muddy paws on his leg and barked again.

Wow! Sam had always wanted a puppy.   He bent over and started petting the puppy. He scratched behind its ears.   The puppy wagged its tail and twisted away.

It started chewing on the garden hose. “No, Puppy,” Sam said. He tried throwing a stick for it to chase. The puppy’s tail grew, vine-like, and caught the stick. It kept chewing on the hose.

“That was weird, Puppy,” Sam said. “Don’t do that.” The puppy dropped the stick and wagged its short-again tail. It raced off after a bird.

The bird flew up and perched on a bush. The puppy raced into the bush. Sam could hear branches breaking. “Stop, Puppy, stop,” he said.

The puppy didn’t listen. The bird flew off. Puppy spit little black seeds after it. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. So weird. Sam laughed. “Do that again Puppy,” he said. The puppy wagged its tail.

It pounced on him again. Sam looked down at the muddy paw prints. “Puppy, you need a bath,” he said.

He wrapped puppy in his coat and carried him into the house. “Mom, I found a puppy.”

Sam’s mom came down stairs. “Oh, poor thing. Is he covered in paint?   You should give him a bath,” she said.

“Okay,” Sam said. Puppy jumped in the bathtub as soon as the water was running. It wagged its tail and looked like it was smiling.

“Isn’t that cold, Puppy?” Sam asked. He turned up the hot tap. The water began to warm up. Puppy growled and tried to bite the faucet.

Sam turned off the hot tap. The water ran cold again. The puppy wagged its tail. “Cold it is, then,” Sam said.

Puppy didn’t like the soap either. He picked it up with his vine tail and tossed it at the wall. He started drinking the cold bath water, and he started getting bigger.

“I’m not sure that’s a good thing,” Sam said.

Mom came in. “Did the paint come off?” She asked. She looked at the green puppy. “You might want to use soap.”

“I think it’s not really a puppy,” Sam said. “I think it’s our watermelon.”

“That doesn’t really make sense, Sam.” Mom picked up the soap. “Why is the soap over here?” When she walked over to the bathtub, the puppy’s vine tail snatched up the soap and tossed it again.

“See, it’s a watermelon. Maybe lightning hit it last night or something,” Sam said.

“It still doesn’t make sense,” Mom said. She started scrubbing the puppy clean with a washcloth. The puppy drank more water and grew a little more.   “Bath’s done,” she said. Mom pulled the plug and put the puppy on the counter. She started toweling him dry as the bathtub drained.

“Can we keep him?” Sam asked.

“I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Mom said. “But if he is our watermelon, I guess we are responsible for him.”

“It’ll be great, you’ll see,” Sam said. The puppy spit black seeds at the mirror. Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa. Mom looked at Sam. “See? Pretty funny,” Sam said.

Mom looked at the puppy. He wagged his tail. “I still think this is a bad idea,” she said.

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A Timely Vacation

Melanie was in her room reading. Unexpectedly, there was a thumping sound in her closet. She put the book down. Someone giggled, even though there wasn’t anyone else in the room. Melanie ran for the door.

“Wait, Melanie,” a young sounding voice said. Melanie paused, halfway out the door. A small child tumbled out of the closet, followed by two older children.   The oldest seemed to be around Melanie’s age.

“You can’t call her Melanie,” the oldest child said.

“Well I can’t call her Grandma,” the youngest child said. “She doesn’t look old enough. It would be weird.”

“Grandma?” Melanie asked. The children froze and looked at her.

“You aren’t angry, are you Grandma?” The middle child said. “It was a wish. The fairy said we could visit you until dinnertime.”

“Are there any more of you here?” Melanie asked.

“Just us three,” the oldest said. “I’m Tiffany. That’s Greg, and Amy is the baby.” She pointed to the other two.

“I’m not a baby!” Amy said. Melanie laughed and came back in, leaving the door open just in case.

Melanie sat on the bed. “Come and sit and tell me more about yourselves and when you’re from.”

The children scampered over. “We can call you Melanie, right?” Amy asked.

“Of course you can,” Melanie said.

Amy stuck out her tongue at Tiffany. “You see, I told you,” she said.

“It’s just until we go home. Don’t call Grandma by her first name when we go home, Amy,” Tiffany said. The two girls started making faces at each other.

“I’m George,” George said. He ignored Tiffany and Amy. “I’m your favorite grandchild. We make cookies together. You always say that your mom’s cookies tasted the best. Can I have a cookie while we’re here?”

Tiffany stopped making faces and turned to look at George with a frown.   She looked at Melanie. “He’s not your favorite, I am. You’ve known me the longest. We talk about our favorite books. You said that you ride your bike to the library most Saturdays. We made sure to come on a Saturday. Can we go to see the library?”

Amy laughed. “They’re lying. I’m your favorite, because I’m the cutest of course. I want to go to the pond and feed bread to the ducks and fish and swans. Except for the swan that bit you. I’ll chase that one away.”

“Do you still have the tire swing?” George asked.

“Is it the right time of year for the snapdragons?” Amy asked.

“Grandma, do you still have your mom’s copy of Alice in Wonderland?   You said you’d lost it later I think.”   Tiffany said.

“Just a moment, just a moment,” Melanie said. “You’re starting to talk at once and not giving me a chance to answer.”

“Sorry Grandma,” “Sorry,” “Sorry Melanie,” the children said.

“You all seem very nice, so I’m sure that as your grandma I love all of you.   Now, if we only have until dinner, we’ll have to get started if we’re going to do all the things you’ve mentioned so far. Let me make a list.”   Melanie took out a pencil and paper and started writing.

They stopped at the kitchen for cookies and a few pieces of bread.   Melanie left a note to tell her mom where she’d be. They had to walk to the library because there weren’t enough bicycles. Melanie made sure everyone was bundled up, because it was the wrong sort of weather for snapdragons.

They stopped at the duck pond on the way. When the swans came close, Amy screamed and hid behind Melanie. They left soon after. They didn’t stay long at the library. They had enough time for a short tour, and then they went home and everyone took turns on the tire swing.

Before the children had to leave, Melanie gave Tiffany her mom’s Alice in Wonderland. “If it’s going to get lost later, it might as well stay in the family,” she said.

The kids all gave her hugs. “This was actually a really good idea, Amy,” Tiffany said.

“It was the best wish yet, better than George’s ever-full candy dish,” Amy said.

“You ate more of the candy than anyone,” George said.

“And it made me so sick I had to go to bed early,” Amy said.

The children were still arguing as they disappeared.

Melanie smiled.

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In Remembrancw

The team leader turned and his hands flew through a number of complicated signs. The faces around him looked grim. This was it. They dashed forward.

They broke through the barriers and took down the electric field within minutes.   Three members of the team were down before they could take out the guards. However, it looked like they were in induced comas, so the team following behind them would be able to treat them.

The team surged forward and secured the lab. Most of the scientists surrendered immediately. However, the three scientists guarding the man covered in electrodes fought back. They were biting and scratching and hitting people with clipboards. One of them even tried to stab the team leader with his pen.

It didn’t take long to knock them out and leave them in a holding room with the others. They returned to the room to look at the man wearing the electrodes. It was the lead scientist and head criminal himself.

One of the team signed a question, “do we pull the plug?”

The team leader shook his head. “That’s for the clean up crew to decide,” he signed.

The team took their positions and waited. They had found and secured the latest threat to world peace. Now, it was up to someone else to get back the vowels.

Terrorism in the 25th century had become refined and deadly.   As scientists finished their detailed map of the brain and its functions, psychoterrorists began to use the information to plot targeted attacks. In the most bizarre chapter of the attacks, one disgruntled scientist discovered how to steal all the vowels.

He built a machine that amplified thought waves, and used his own brain to give commands that were interpreted through his machine. He had presented prospective designs for the machine at a conference, but was unable to find funding. Investors thought it was too unethical.

Somehow he managed to build it anyway and use it. People could still remember that there were vowels, but not what they were or how they sounded. Those who didn’t know sign language were reduced to guessing games and charades to communicate.

After hours of confusion, the scientist sent his demands through a prerecorded message. He projected images of himself with money, a new laboratory, and a large crown onto every available screen worldwide.

After cutting off his access to the media, world leaders began to confer.   They all agreed to ignore his demands.   Teams were sent to find him and reverse his attack. Meanwhile, “w” was declared the new all-purpose vowel.

It took weeks to find the scientist and even longer to undo his work. He refused to cooperate, and was sentenced to solitary confinement. They led him from the courtroom kicking and screaming.

People were thrilled to have their vowels back. There were news reports of babies saying “mama” or “dada” for the first time and married couples finally able to say “I do”. It was a time of celebration.

In remembrance of the defiance against this and any other new terrorist attack, the English-speaking world gave “w” a place of honor. In a ceremony presided over by hundreds of heads of state and diplomats, “w” officially took the place of silent “e”, permanently becoming a vowel.

In the world peace garden, a new fountain was built, capped with a model of the letter “w”. The plaque at the bottom simply read, “In Remembrancw.” The scientist’s machine was duplicated and nations threatened to use it against each other, but no one ever did. It was forgotten after the next big threat came along.

Less than a century later, the strange story had become a short paragraph in grammar books. Children splashed in the fountain and had no idea that there was anything at all to remember. History is like that quite often, after all.

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Charlie’s Room: The Rug

Marianne looked at the thermometer and sighed. “Still feeling under the weather, I see. You’ll need to call in sick again.”

Isaac frowned. “I feel fine.”

“You don’t look fine,” Marianne said. “I can’t remember the last time you were sick. Take one more sick day.   It’s what they’re for.”

“Fine,” Isaac said. He collapsed back onto the pillow.

Marianne smiled. “I’m taking Charlie to school and then I’m going to the post office. Do you need anything?”

“No, thank you,” Isaac said.

Marianne patted his shoulder and left the room. A little while later, he heard Charlie yell, “Bye Dad!” The front door slammed.

Isaac called in sick. Then he rolled over and stared at the wall. He was bored already. He kicked off the blankets and wandered down the hall.

He looked in Charlie’s room. Charlie had made a huge blanket fort. Blankets were tied with yarn to his bed and the rod for hanging clothes in the closet and his desk chair. Several blankets were pieced together with safety pins.

“Wow!” Isaac whispered. He crawled inside. He could sit up with room to spare. There were pillows and books grouped around an old turquoise rug. Where did Charlie find that? He stroked the faded rug and left behind a darker stripe of color as he changed the position of the fibers.

Isaac’s grandmother, his Nona, had given him the rug when he was Charlie’s age.   Isaac smiled fondly. He lay back on the rug and looked up at the blanket ceiling. There was a paper safety pinned there. In big block letters, it said, “Do you like my tent dad?” Charlie obviously knew him too well.

He started to laugh, which caused him to cough. He continued a weird mix of laughing and coughing until the rug unexpectedly lifted itself, and Isaac too, into the air a few inches. Isaac stopped laughing and coughing and the rug silently popped them both to somewhere else.

The somewhere else was a cave. Torches along the far wall did their best to light the cave, but shadows lurked everywhere.   Around the edges of the room, there were piles of things that gleamed in the dim light. In the center of the room there was a pedestal. On the pedestal, there was a small, shiny oil lamp.

Isaac was thrilled. He cautiously rolled up the rug and stuck it under his arm. He listened and looked around the room again. He was alone. Watching where he stepped, he approached the pedestal. Isaac picked up the lamp and rubbed it on his sleeve.

A tall young man appeared next to him. He looked at Isaac and scowled. “Well?”

“Are you a genie?” Isaac asked. He wasn’t dressed like a genie. He looked like a normal teenager.

“Djinni,” the young man said, sounding bored.

“Do you grant wishes?” Isaac asked.

The young man looked at him. “Hmmm.   You can have two.”

“Not three?” Isaac asked.

“Inflation,” the young man said.

“Could you take me home?” Isaac asked.

“Yes,” the young man said. He rolled his eyes.

“Please may…I mean, I wish for you to take me home,” Isaac said. Everything blurred around him for a second, and then he found himself in his living room, holding the rug and lamp.

“One more wish,” the young man said.

Isaac looked around. He looked at the djinni that looked like a teenager. “Would you like to be free from the lamp?” he asked.

“Of course I would,” the young man said.

“Then I wish for your freedom,” Isaac said. There was a flash of light and the lamp and young man disappeared.   Isaac smiled. He took Nona’s rug back to his room and hid it on the top shelf of his closet.

He took the rug out of the bathroom. It was fluffy and had red and white stripes. It reminded him of candy canes. He arranged it in the blanket fort and then took a pen from the mug on Charlie’s desk.

He wrote, “I love it!” on Charlie’s note and added a smiley face. Then he decided to take a nap. It had been a busy morning, and maybe he was feeling a little under the weather after all.

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