One Night


August 18, 2006

As of 10:48 this morning, Jimmy is ten. His birthday celebration consists of a stack of superhero comics from the used book store and pizza his mom brought home from the restaurant where she works. It’s a little rubbery when reheated but tastes good. His mom sticks a candle in the middle and sings Happy Birthday in her best Aretha Franklin voice. Jimmy pretends he wants her to stop. He tells her he is too old to make a wish, but one pops into his head as he is blowing out the candle anyway. Jimmy wishes for a superpower of his own, and of course he knows it’s silly, but who’s to know? It’s not like superpowers are real. It’s not like anyone can read his mind.

October 2, 2006

Jimmy knows that putting metal in the microwave is stupid, but he is so busy reading his newest comic book that he doesn’t notice he left the fork on the plate. When the sparks start flying, he looks up just in time to see the full explosion. He holds the book out like a shield, but paper doesn’t offer much protection. Shards of metal and boiling hot food strike him in the face. The pain is all-consuming. Jimmy wonders if this is death and then, inconsequentially, how his mother will heat up her dinners without a microwave. His last emotion is embarrassment. He knows putting metal in the microwave is stupid.

October 3, 2006

Jimmy is shaken awake at 2:00 am by his frantic mother. He opens his eyes and the look of relief on her face is so overwhelming that he shuts them again. Her voice is loud in his ears, asking what happened. I died, he thinks, though this is obviously not true. His mother helps him sit up and they both look at the pile of shrapnel he was lying on. Jimmy remembers the hot metal passing through his body. There is no blood. Jimmy’s only pain is in his memory. On the floor with the rest of the wreckage is a shredded comic book. Jimmy can’t even read the title anymore. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I forgot the fork.” His mother is just glad that he’s okay.

January 23, 2007

Though he never speaks of it, Jimmy can’t stop thinking about the explosion. His mother bought a new microwave and a huge box of plastic forks. They laughed about it at the time, but when she’s not around Jimmy eats his food cold. He kept a handful of the shrapnel, which he has in an old lunch box under his bed. He takes it out almost every night and looks at it, wondering. Finally, he decides to try an experiment. None of the knives in the kitchen are sharp, but one still has a nice point to it. He stabs it into his hand. The pain is just as he remembered, but this time there is blood. Lots of blood. Jimmy cleans it up and wraps his hand in an old towel. When his mother comes home, he tell her that he fell at school while carrying a pencil.  She takes him in for stitches. It will take a few weeks to heal, the doctor says. It does, and Jimmy feels stupid for believing in birthday wishes. The night his bandages come off, Jimmy takes the lunch box full of shrapnel out from under the bed. He goes out back and throws it in the trash.

August 18, 2007

Jimmy is 11. This year, his mom has the day off, and she takes him bowling to celebrate. Jimmy’s mom used to bowl in a league. Tonight, she bowls a 235. Jimmy bowls a 98. She buys him ice cream to make up for beating him, but Jimmy never minds losing to her. When Jimmy’s mom ties her hair back and steps up to her lane, she smiles the smile he never sees any other time.  Even though they are in an ice cream shop, Jimmy’s mom puts a candle in his sundae and makes him blow it out. This year he does his best not to make a wish, but he can’t quite help it. It’s barely even a wish, more like an idle thought, that the world would be better if you didn’t have to outgrow birthday wishes.

October 2, 2007

He had planned to pretend that he didn’t notice what day it was, but at dinner time Jimmy finds himself standing in front of the new microwave. Tonight’s dinner is a burrito from the restaurant. Jimmy hates cold burritos. He presses the buttons. Nothing happens other than his food heating. Jimmy is glad no one is around to watch him dump the heated burrito in the sink. He’s not hungry anymore. He feels something he can’t name but it reminds him of the time his cereal box promised him a collectible Star Wars toy and there was nothing in it. Jimmy moves down the hall toward his bedroom and stops halfway. He leans his head against the wall in the dark. His head passes through it.

October 3, 2007

Jimmy has been walking through walls all night. When his mom comes home at 1:30 in the morning, he pretends to be asleep in bed, but as soon as she settles in with the TV on, he walks straight through his window and outside. It is chilly. He can feel the wind blowing right through him. Jimmy walks down the street to the huge oak on the corner. He steps inside the tree. It is warm here inside of the wood and out of the wind. None of this is possible, but Jimmy doesn’t question it. He walks on. He passes through iron fences and brick walls. He walks into the restaurant where his mother works. It is dark and quiet. He goes straight through the huge metal doors of the walk-in freezer. This has always been one of his favorite places. When he was little, he would stare at those rows and rows of food boxes and imagine they were all his. He considers taking one of the frozen hand pies. His clothes pass through the walls with him. He imagines that a pie in his pocket would, too. The idea of stealing something makes him feel lonely, though, so instead, he walks out through the back wall and down the alley. He passes through dumpsters, the awful smell temporarily chasing away the feeling that he’s in a dream. He walks right through his neighbors house, but when he sees their baby sleeping peacefully in its crib, he leaves again quickly. The sun is almost up when he slips through back wall of his house and into his own bed. He thinks he’ll never be able to fall asleep, but he does.

October 4, 2007

All day long, dragging his tired body through another day at school, Jimmy thinks about what he can do once he is alone at home. There is no place he can’t go. There is nothing that could hurt him. He thinks of the heroes in his comic books. He imagines what they would do. Rescue kidnapped children, maybe. Or steal back things that thieves have stolen. He wonders how you find kidnappers and thieves. Maybe he should sneak into the police station and read their files. After school, he checks that no one is looking and then doesn’t bother opening the front door. Instead he darts into it at full speed. His head hits the wood so hard, he sees stars as he stumbles backward. Immediately he feels a rush of anger, though he doesn’t know who is angry with. Slowly he puts a hand out and presses it against the door. He feels its solid surface under his palm. He can’t tell if this moment is a dream, or if the dream was last night. He stands there for a long time hoping the answer will come to him. Then he takes out his key and lets himself inside the house.

March 16, 2008

Jimmy has not walked through any walls since that one night. By now he’s pretty much convinced himself that night was a hallucination. He reads about post traumatic stress disorder. He can’t tell if that’s what he has, but it kind of makes sense. He doesn’t mention it to anyone else, though, just in case the real answer is that he’s crazy.

August 18, 2008

Jimmy is 12. His mother has to work late, but she leaves him a big piece of cake in the fridge with a note that says she loves him. There are no candles, but the cake is Jimmy’s favorite Boston cream. He eats it as slowly as he can and tries to be grateful that he doesn’t have to worry about wishing. 

October 2, 2008

Everything Jimmy has read about PTSD says that there are triggers for your reactions to your trauma. He figures the kitchen, and particularly the microwave, are his triggers, but just to be safe, he leaves the house altogether. His mom is working late again, so he goes to a coffee shop that is open until 10. He orders hot chocolate and sits in a corner. It’s quiet. Only two other customers are in the shop, a sappy couple fawning over each other on the leather couch. Jimmy tries not to look at them. The girl behind the counter is busy cleaning up. It’s almost time to close, and she wants to get home as soon as possible. Jimmy feels perfectly normal. Maybe it’s the calm coffee shop, or maybe he doesn’t really have PTSD. Maybe he just ate something weird last year and had some crazy dreams. Jimmy tips his chair back against the wall. He falls right through it and into the kitchen of the bakery next door.

October 3, 2008

Jimmy tries to be angry that this is happening again, but all he can feel is excitement. He slowly stands up in the darkness of the bakery and takes a deep breath of yeast and cinnamon. Dimly, by the light of the exit sign, he can see lumps of something delicious set out to rise for tomorrow.  Nothing has ever smelled so good, and he doesn’t think a dream would be so real. He stands perfectly still in the darkness and makes a plan to find out for sure. Ten minutes later, he walks straight through the cinder block walls of an apartment building. He is in a long hallway. The staircase at the end is blocked by a locked door, but that’s not a problem. Jimmy climbs to the eleventh floor. He listens carefully outside the door of 1103. Everything is quiet. Jimmy walks through the kitchen sink and through the tiny sofa and through the giant TV and into a small bedroom. A boy is sleeping on the narrow bed. Marco was Jimmy’s best friend in fourth grade. They don’t hang out as much anymore, but he’s still the only person Jimmy trusts not to get him in trouble. He shakes Marco awake. Marco isn’t too happy about it. “How’d you get in here?” He asks. Jimmy just shrugs. “I need the homework for social studies,” he says. Marco gives it to him, but not without calling him a few names first.

October 4, 2008

At school, Marco confronts Jimmy right away about last night’s visit. “That was creepy, dude,” he says. Jimmy apologizes. He pretends he’s flunking social studies and that this mom is mad about it. This is something Marco understands. He walks away, and Jimmy is left standing in the hallway with a grin on his face. He is solid again today. His ability is gone. But the social studies homework in his hand is proof that it will come back.

December 11, 2008

Jimmy has succeeded in getting accepted into a mentor program that matches police officers with at-risk youth. It wasn’t that hard to convince the director that Jimmy is at risk. Today he meets his new mentor, Officer Jackson, who takes him out for pizza and asks about Jimmy’s life. Jimmy shows a lot of interest in Officer Jackson’s job. He hints that he might like to be a cop someday. He asks if they ever do ridealongs. Officer Jackson is impressed by Jimmy’s respectful manner. He wants to encourage a kid like this. He promises him he’ll see what he can do.

April 30, 2009

By now, Jimmy is a regular at the police station. Officer Jackson is proud of him and all the other officers know him by name. Wanda, who covers the front desk, always keeps candy in her desk drawer just for Jimmy. No one will let him near anything important, but sometimes Jimmy is there when perps are brought in. He always listens carefully to what they say. A surprising number of them give up names and places just while mouthing off. Jimmy has a notebook in his backpack. The officers think it’s for school, but really he is keeping track of everything he hears. “That’s some kind of neat handwriting,” Officer Jackson says when he sees Jimmy writing in it. Jimmy snaps the notebook shut. “In a couple of years, we could probably find you a job in the file room or something,” says Officer Jackson. Jimmy tries to look like this offer means nothing.

August 18, 2009

In the kitchen, Jimmy’s mom is making pancakes for his birthday breakfast. When he stands next to her, they both notice for the first time that he is taller than she is. Jimmy’s mom jokes that this means it’s time for him to start making the birthday pancakes. When Jimmy tries to take the spatula from her, though, she swats his hand away. “I’m still the mom here,” she says, “and don’t you forget it, teenager.” Pancakes have never tasted so good. 

October 2, 2009

Jimmy has his plan in place. He’s discovered an old warehouse that a local fence uses to store stolen goods before he sells them. Jimmy also knows where one of the local chop shops is hidden. The police have long suspected that stolen cars are taken there, but they haven’t been able to get the evidence they need to bust the guy who owns it. Jimmy has black pants and a long-sleeved black tshirt. He has a dark ski mask to hide his face and black leather gloves for his hands.  He has an old digital camera he bought off of the Internet and a beat up bike he bought from a kid at school. He is all ready, but his mom has the night off, so he has to wait until she’s asleep. They spend the evening watching a Twilight Zone marathon, and Jimmy’s mom asks him eight times why he keeps jiggling his leg like a madman. She tells him they should make a Twilight Zone  episode about it. Jimmy doesn’t have to fake his laugh.

October 3, 2009

Jimmy’s mom falls asleep around midnight but he waits until one just to be safe. Now he slips out the back wall and around to the alley where he’s hidden the bike. In no time at all, he’s at the chop shop. He leaves the bike down the block and walks into the locked pawn shop next door. He passes silently through its garish displays and carefully sticks his head through the wall into the garage where the stolen cars are being disassembled. At least eight men are at work there, and at least four cars have been delivered tonight. Jimmy sees a place where he can come through the wall on the opposite side and hide behind some barrels to take his pictures. He gets shots of men’s faces, including the boss. He gets shots of the  cars and the license plates. He even sneaks back outside and takes outside shots. Then he heads across town to the warehouse. Jimmy takes more pictures here, but he also takes several pieces of expensive jewelry. He stuffs his pockets with them and then walks right out of the locked safe and hops on his bike.

October 4, 2009

Jimmy didn’t sleep at all last night, but he doesn’t feel tired yet. After school, he drops by the police station. The place is nearly empty. Wanda tells him about how a mysterious person left a disk full of pictures and a whole pile of stolen jewelry on the police chief’s desk. The pictures were enough evidence to arrest a whole ring of auto thieves and to bring in a local fence and confiscate his current stash. She says they’re pretty sure the fence will give up some of the thieves who work with him. “Who knew our city had a secret vigilante?” She says. “It’s like we have our own Batman.” Jimmy does not think he will feel tired for a long time.

November 13, 2009

It is hard to imagine waiting a whole year for October 2 to come around again. Jimmy has already started doing research on other criminals, but everything he finds out makes him want to do something now. He tries to come up with a plan that doesn’t rely on his ability, but everything seems impossible.  Jimmy stops going to the police station as often. It’s depressing to listen to the speculation about the secret vigilante. It’s depressing to be treated like a thirteen year old kid. It’s depressing to realize that for a whole year, that’s all he is.

August 18, 2010

Fourteen feels good. October seems closer now, and Jimmy has just heard of a serial kidnap case that he thinks he can help with. He spends the whole afternoon at the police station, and when his mom comes to get him, the officers bring out a cake. Everyone sings. Jimmy doesn’t hesitate as he blows out the candles. His wish has been in place for a while now.

September 24, 2010

The police just found a kid’s body. Jimmy feels sick. The kid had been missing for three weeks. It’s the fourth kid that’s been found dead, and there is still one girl missing. The police don’t know where she’s being kept, but they are working around the clock to find out. Jimmy can’t help but feel that if he had his abilities all the time, he could have stopped that kid’s death. He could be searching every house in town, walking through them all every night. Instead, he’s waiting, watching the police follow leads and try to get enough evidence for search warrants. The dead kid might give them more clues. If they can just get a general direction, Jimmy knows he can find the missing girl. He wills away the days until October 2.

October 2, 2010

The police say the boy had to have been killed near to where his body was found, but they have not yet found the kidnapper or the missing girl. Jimmy knows this could take all night, so he tells his mom that he’s sleeping over at a friend’s. She’s surprised, but she doesn’t question it. Jimmy is wearing all black again and his face is covered. He has a map and a flashlight and several protein bars in his pocket.  He goes up and down the blocks, slipping in and out of every floor of every house. He checks out all the businesses. He enters safes and freezers, basements and storage units. At first, he has to be very careful to check for occupants, but as it gets later, most people are asleep. He moves faster.

October 3, 2010

It is four in the morning when Jimmy drops down into the basement of an old house on the very edge of his search territory. A noise in the corner catches his attention, but he’s seen enough rats tonight to know better than to hope. He shines his light back and forth across the space. There in the corner is a pile of rags, and it is trembling. Two dark eyes stare back at him, terrified. Jimmy’s heart is pounding. He walks quietly across the cement floor and kneels down by the girl. She flinches away but the gag on her mouth keeps her from screaming. “It’s okay,” Jimmy says. “I’m going to get you out of here.” She presses herself into the corner, shrinking from his hands as he tries to untie her. Jimmy stops and takes off his mask. He watches her recognize that they are the same age. He unties her hands and lifts her up. Then he carries her up the stairs and straight through the locked door of her prison.

October 4, 2010

Jimmy knows that he should stay away, but he can’t help himself. As soon as it is light, he heads back to the police station where he had dropped the girl off just a few hours before. He walks up the sidewalk and sees her being loaded into an ambulance. She catches his eye, and he knows she recognizes him, but she doesn’t say anything. Her parents crowd around her, each holding one of her hands.  They have been crying. She has not. Inside the station, Jimmy hears the whole story of how the girl walked in the front door alone last night, telling of a masked rescuer who delivered her moments before. No one saw the man who saved her, but she had a piece of paper with an address. Together with her description of the kidnapper, the evidence is more than enough. They have already made the arrest.

December 28, 2010

It is easier to be patient this year, but Jimmy still feels depressed every time he hears of a crime he could have helped prevent. He remembers the eyes of the girl he rescued. He thinks of her every day. Her face is a talisman against the faces of victims he sees on TV. The ones he didn’t save. The ones he didn’t help. He knows the girl’s name now and where she lives, but he makes no attempt to see her. He hopes she can move on. He hopes she can forget.

August 18, 2011

As promised, the day Jimmy turns fifteen, he is officially given a job at the police station. It’s just copying and filing and delivering messages and making coffee, but for the first time, he has two things he’s needed for a while: access to information and a steady income. That night when his mom sings to him over his birthday pie, he doesn’t feel the need for any wishes.

September 30, 2011

Jimmy has been making preparations for weeks. Not only does he think he knows where some thieves have been hiding out, there is a young boy missing. He disappeared two days ago. The police suspect a family member, but they’ve searched the house of everyone on the list and found nothing. Jimmy is planning his own kind of search.

October 1, 2011

The police get a tip from a family member. They return to the house of the missing boy’s uncle. There is a secret room hidden behind the bathroom mirror. The boy is there. He was killed hours before the police arrive.

October 2, 2011

Prickling hot rage courses through Jimmy’s veins. His head feels like it will explode from it. He could have found that secret room in seconds. He could have saved that boy. He could have…if he could use his ability more than once a year. He leaves the house the minute it’s dark, without even giving his mother an excuse. He heads straight to the thieves’ hideout. It is empty. Judging from the food in the refrigerator and the trash left everywhere, they were here until this morning. Jimmy throws an empty beer bottle against the wall and it smashes loudly. He stands in the living room, surrounded by the smell of stale smoke, and realizes that he has no more leads. He will be able to walk through walls until the sun comes up again, but there is nowhere he needs to go.  What is the point of having a superpower if you can’t help people when they actually need it? What is the point of being special if you always arrive too late?

October 3, 2011

Jimmy wanders the city, entering buildings randomly until the pointlessness makes him sick. He wants to break something, but nothing seems worth breaking. Instead he goes home. His mom is sitting at the table. The worry on her face piles guilt on top of his anger and despair. She asks where he’s been, and when he says he’s just been walking, she believes him. He stands in the doorway and they look at each other for a long time. Neither of them says anything. Jimmy notices that she has wrinkles around her eyes that didn’t used to be there. The silence is broken when his mother starts coughing. “Get some sleep,” she says. “It helps more than you might think.” Jimmy doesn’t think that’s true, but he’s happy for the excuse to go to his room.

April 3, 2012

All winter, Jimmy was so lost inside his own head that he didn’t notice that his mother’s cough didn’t go away. Even now that it it’s getting warmer outside, she is coughing more than ever. She is watching the news and nearly hacking up a lung when he comes into the living room with their TV dinners. Even though she changes the channel right away, he still sees the report of a murder over on fourth street. Jimmy hasn’t made a secret of his hatred of the news. He doesn’t want to see all the horrible things that people are getting away with every day. He doesn’t want to know about what he can’t stop. He quit his job at the police station. He walks dogs in the neighborhood now. It doesn’t pay much, but it keeps him moving. Jimmy hates sitting still these days. His mom coughs again. “You should see the doctor,” he says, but his mind is still on the picture of that murder victim, so he doesn’t notice when she just shakes her head.

August 18, 2012

Jimmy is sixteen. He takes his mom out to dinner with his dog-walking money, and she says he’s quite a man now. She looks happy, but he also notices that she’s pale and she coughs her way through the grilled chicken she never finishes. After he blows out his candle, he tell her he wished she would see a doctor. He doesn’t let up until she promises she will.

September 13, 2012

October is coming, and once again Jimmy is making plans. His mother finally saw that doctor, and the diagnosis is lung cancer. They’ve known for a week now. Jimmy’s mom says he’s not to worry. She says she’s going to fight this, but he knows the truth. She can’t afford the treatments the doctor recommends. She has the cheapest insurance, and though they’ll cover the basics, she needs way more than that. She still goes to work six days a week, but ever since she saw the doctor, her cough seems worse. She tries to smile and tell him she’s fine, but he remembers what her real smile looks like.

October 2, 2012

It’s the easiest thing in the world to walk into the wall of the safe and pull the money off the shelf and back through the wall with him. He knows if he went all the way inside an alarm would go off, but this way he’s in and out in five minutes. One hundred thousand dollars makes a surprisingly small bundle. It fits in the oversized pocket of his winter coat. Jimmy walks through the closed businesses along the street until he is far enough away that it won’t matter if he’s seen. He keeps walking.

October 3, 2012

Coming here wasn’t a part of Jimmy’s plan. He thought he was just wandering, not ready to go home yet, but his feet have brought him to this old house. In the back yard, he sees that the cellar door has been jimmied open, but he still walks through the wall to get inside. She’s waiting there just as he knew that she would be, and she is not surprised to see him appear out of nowhere. She is older now, just as he is, and cleaner, and she is not afraid. Her hair is a mass of dark curls. They stare at each other for a long time. She only has one question. “Why me?” He feels the weight of every person he hasn’t saved in that question. He doesn’t have the heart to tell her she just got lucky. She was kidnapped at the right time of year. He says nothing. He drinks in the sight of her wide, unflinching eyes and tries not to think about the bundle in his pocket. Then he disappears through the wall and goes home.

November 21, 2012

Jimmy’s mother has started her treatments, and though they are awful, her coughing has all but stopped.  He told her that he set up an online funding account and that kind strangers have been donating to help her. The Internet is a wonderful place, he says. She insists on writing a long thank-you for him to post. He tells her the donors will love it. He checks the police investigation into the robbery on tenth street last month. They have no leads. There was no sign of negligence. No one lost their job. The bank was insured, of course. No one has lost anything.

January 14, 2013

The treatment was not enough. Jimmy’s mother improved for a while, but the cancer was too strong. She’s at home now, resting. She doesn’t go into work anymore. Jimmy brings her hot water and crackers and holds her hand while she coughs. When she thinks he’s going to school, he is actually working shifts at the hardware store down the street. They think he’s in a night school program. Actually, he hasn’t been to a class since before Christmas. He misses it, but the missing feels good.

March 4, 2013

It rains the day of his mother’s funeral. Jimmy stands there with some of the officers from the police station and a few waitresses from the restaurant. His umbrella keeps his head dry, but his pants and shoes are soaked. Wanda, the receptionist, stands next to him. She has told him he can come live with her and her two young sons. Her only condition is that he has to go back to school. He has agreed to this because he doesn’t want to leave the neighborhood and because it doesn’t seem to matter what he does now. When the service is over, Wanda tells him she’ll be waiting in the car and that he should take his time. Jimmy waits until he is all alone by the graveside. Then he takes a plastic fork from his pocket and drops it into the hole. When he turns around, he is face to face with a tall girl with steady eyes. He doesn’t question how she found him. She doesn’t say she’s sorry for his loss. She just stand there with no umbrella, the rain making rivers in her dark curls. “You want to know my secret?” she asks. When he doesn’t respond, she tells him anyway. “I stopped feeling sorry for myself.”

August 18, 2013

Wanda makes Jimmy a birthday cake, and her boys are so excited you would think it was their birthday. Jimmy eats a piece to make them happy. He opens the homemade card with a crayon picture of Superman and thanks the artist with some tickles. Then he goes to the coffee shop down the street where the girl with the dark hair is waiting with one candle in her hand. She makes him blow it out even though he says he doesn’t make wishes anymore. While the smoke is still curling up from the wick, the girl smiles and says she stole his wish since he didn’t want it. Then she shows him her notebook. As soon as he reads the first page, he snaps it shut and hands it back to her. She doesn’t take it. The notebook sits on the table, looking like someone’s homework, looking normal. “It’s one more night than anyone else has,” the girl says as she leaves. Jimmy doesn’t read the notebook, but he doesn’t leave it there, either.

October 2, 2013

Jimmy sits on the stairs that lead up to Wanda’s apartment. There is a composition notebook unopened on his lap. He isn’t looking at it. He’s looking at the street, where two little boys are playing soccer on the sidewalk. The youngest misses most of the time, swinging his foot on open air while the ball just sits, unmoved. Jimmy opens the notebook.

October 3, 2013

After a long night of work, Jimmy goes to the basement of the old house. The girl is not there, but he sits in the dark, in the far corner where he first saw her. He sits there so long, he is suddenly afraid that it has been too long, that the sun has come up and he’s trapped. He hurries outside just in time. When he gets home, the sun is already above the trees, and the girl is waiting on the steps. She’s holding a soccer ball, covered in dew from being left out all night. He stands on the sidewalk looking up at her. “It’s not nearly enough,” he says. She shrugs. It never is.

August 18, 2014

For Jimmy’s 18th birthday, the officers at the precinct chip in to buy him his own laptop. “You’re a whiz with the computer now,” they say when they present it to him. “You’re going to need this in college.” They all slap him on the back while Wanda passes around pieces of cake. None of them have any idea what he plans to do with their gift. Late at night, he sits at the kitchen table. The girl with the dark curly hair sits across from him. They are not applying to colleges, as Wanda thinks. Jimmy is quietly hacking into the police database. The girl is taking notes on what he finds. All these months later, she has eight full notebooks. No one knows more about their city than these two. And the girl is endlessly creative in thinking of ways to use the information.

October 3, 2014

The police station is buzzing with activity. When the day shift arrived, they found the evidence room crammed with unregistered guns. They found lockers full of illegal drugs. Each was tagged with the address where it was found and several have photos attached and one even has a voice recording of a very incriminating conversation. None of this will be admissible in court, but it’s enough information to fuel their investigations for weeks. The night shift never saw anyone come in here. Something shorted out the cameras, too. Down the street at the homeless shelter and soup kitchen, the director has just discovered a stack of cash in his donation box. Across town, the runaway shelter has a similar stack right in the middle of the kitchen counter. The ER at the hospital has an envelope on the reception desk with a small handwritten note. On another street in another part of town, a drug lord is systematically beating his employees to find out who stole from him. There was no break in.  It had to be an inside job. At the tenth street bank, there is a neat stack on the shelf in the vault. It’s exactly 100,00 dollars.

August 18, 2015

Jimmy is moving out of Wanda’s apartment, and her boys stand around, shifting from foot to foot while he zips up his duffle bag. He gives them each a fist bump and a $10 bill. He’ll see them again soon. He’s only moving a few blocks away, to be closer to school.  He’s already promised Wanda to come by for dinner once a week. Jimmy got accepted to four different colleges, but he chose the one that’s right here at home. He’ll study computer science. He’ll still work at the police station. Before he leaves, Wanda sits him down and puts a blueberry pie on the table. It has one candle in it. She and the boys sing Happy Birthday off key, and when he leaves, she makes him take the leftover pie with him. He takes the candle, too. Someone else gets all his wishes now.

October 2, 2015

Jimmy is dressed and ready to go long before it’s dark. He has the plan mapped out of four sheets of notebook paper, and his room is full of supplies. He opens the front door, and the girl is waiting outside, wearing all black. Jimmy raises one eyebrow. The girl shrugs. “We already know you can carry me through walls,” she says. Jimmy thinks of all the possible dangers but he also thinks of having an extra pair of hands. It’s just so much work to do in one night. And if he’s being honest, most of the ideas are hers anyway. “If I’m carrying you, you’ll have to take the pack,” he says. She turns around and lets him slip it onto her shoulders.

August 18, 2016

As of 10:48 this morning, Jimmy is twenty years old. His birthday dinner consists of pepperoni pizza with olives on one half only. The girl sticks a candle in the middle and sings Happy Birthday, and when she finishes he waits patiently. She always takes her time. She likes to think things through. Finally, she blows out the flame, and though she doesn’t tell him what she wished for, he knows anyway. He also knows that it will come true. His birthday wishes always do.

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Ghosts of Me

Sitting on a front porch in an old gold-mining town
I sing a song and weave my dreams and watch the sun go down

Down in Oklahoma, under the silk trees
I gather up the seed pods as I climb and skin my knees

Ghosts of me still linger
Ghosts of me still dare
Ghosts of me still whisper
Oh my ghosts are everywhere

In a park in rainy Portland you can hear the endless sound
Of my tennis ball that bounces from my hand to wall to ground

On a trail through Rocky mountains, I make my solitary way
At each new lovely vista, my feet pause but never stay

Ghosts of me still linger
Ghosts of me still dare
Ghosts of me still whisper
Oh my ghosts are everywhere

In the slums of Buenos Aires, I am covered with the mud
Of attempting the impossible through streets now under flood

On a thousand far flung highways, while the music fills the air
I drive and drive and hold his hand and no one else is there

Ghosts of me still linger
Ghosts of me still dare
Ghosts of me still whisper
Oh my ghosts are everywhere

Posted in Poetry | 1 Comment

2016 Reading List

This has been a great reading year for me, which is my way of saying, I am feeling GOOD. I found a sci-fi series I love, several teen reads I can actually recommend to my daughter, and even some of the best non-fiction I’ve ever come across. (I know. I’m growing up.)

All this reading, and even more writing in other places, has made my posting here less frequent. Not to mention a series of real-world stresses. In truth, having a good book to fall into helped carry me through a fairly stressful winter and spring. The world can never look completely bleak when you still have a good story to turn to.

The end result for all of you is that this reading list update, which I prefer to do every few months, had grown into a mega-monster reading list. In an attempt to make this more readable, I’m not listing them in the order I read them. Instead, I led with the ones I actually recommend. If I gave it a label, consider it a recommendation. The rest are all jumbled together but still in more less descending order of quality. Though, to be clear, I started many, many more books this year that I never finished. These are the ones that I found worth finishing. So they’re better than some!

Without further ado: the books that have made my life better this year. I hope they can do the same for you.

  • The Expanse Series (Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War, Abaddon’s Gate, Cibola Burn, and Nemesis Games, plus a few novellas) by James S.A. Corey

“There aren’t any new starts,” Bobbie said. “All the new ones pack the old ones along with them. If we ever really started fresh, it’s mean not having a history any more. I don’t know how to do that.”

I first checked out the books because of the Syfy Channel show that was based on them. We started watching and were pretty into it (It’s quality TV.), but it wasn’t until I got about halfway through the first book that I was totally hooked.  I devoured all five huge books in about two months and can’t wait for the sixth one which is supposed to come out in November. This is space opera at its best, spanning the galaxy but still focused in on the very human characters, and the writing is strong. It’s just the right amount of mystery, a nice mix of drama and humor, and takes place in a well-thought-through universe. All of the characters are real people, very flawed and with complex motivations, but there are several you can legitimately root for. In fact, after a while, the series takes on a sort of Firefly feel, with a team of independent personalities weaving in and out of massive system-wide events. (Comparing something to Firefly is the highest compliment I can give.) It’s a fun read. Plus, I love the basic philosophy of the series, which is that however far we travel and however advanced we get, we still just have all the same old human problems. This is epic sci-fi on a scale that feels personal. I highly recommend it.

  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

That was the week you learned that the killers of Michael Brown would go free. The men who had left his body in the street like some awesome declaration of their inviolable power would never be punished. It was not my expectation that anyone would ever be punished. But you were young and still believed. You stayed up till 11 P.M . that night, waiting for the announcement of an indictment, and when instead it was announced that there was none you said, “I’ve got to go,” and you went into your room, and I heard you crying. I came in five minutes after, and I didn’t hug you, and I didn’t comfort you, because I thought it would be wrong to comfort you. I did not tell you that it would be okay, because I have never believed it would be okay. What I told you is what your grandparents tried to tell me: that this is your country, that this is your world, that this is your body, and you must find some way to live within the all of it.

I had heard from others that this was an incredible book. They didn’t oversell it. I had to really struggle to choose just one quote to share with you. While I was reading it, I jotted down a dozen at least. Coates uses the most powerful and poetic language to describe his own life experiences as he attempts to make sense of life as black man in America. The book is addressed to his son, and it reads with that kind of intimacy. It felt like tip-toeing into someone else’s head and peering out at the world through his eyes. He offers no solutions. He has none. He has no God. He has no answers. But if you want to get outside of your own little view of life, this is a great place to start.

  • Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

When Unoka died he had taken no title at all and was heavily in debt. Any wonder then that his son Okonkwo was ashamed of him? Fortunately, among these people a man was judged according to his worth and not according to the worth of his father. Okonkwo was clearly cut out for great things. He was still young but he had won fame as the greatest wrestler in the nine villages.

This book was written in 1959, and I feel like an idiot for never having read it before. It’s short. It’s fascinating. It’s an African story told in a very African voice. And it packs a visceral punch at the end. If you’ve never read it, you really have to do it. It will only take you a couple of hours, and you won’t regret it.

  • The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

Fascinating sci-fi from a powerful African point of view. It’s simmering with rage and also full of beauty. It is graphic in places and pulls no punches, but it moves at a pace that keeps the dense nature of what’s happening from getting too overwhelming. I’ve read a lot of dystopian fiction, but this is the one that most forcefully made me think about the question behind it: if it all really did burn down, what would actually rise from the ashes?

  • You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day –

This was my first read of the new year, and it was a good one to start with. If you don’t know who Felicia Day is, you are only half a geek, and that’s okay. You’d probably enjoy her book anyway. She tells her story in a way that will make you laugh out loud and also think you’d better get off your butt and do something with your life. It’s a winning combination and makes for a quick and uplifting read.

  • Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

• Don’t make the same mistakes that everyone else makes. Make wonderful mistakes. Make the kind of mistakes that make people so shocked that they have no other choice but to be a little impressed. • Sometimes stunned silence is better than applause.

If you know who Jenny Lawson (aka The Blogess) is, you’ll already know that this book is funny and weird (like bordering on bizarre). In between making you laugh so hard you can’t breathe, she gives you a peek into life with mental illness. Also, this book features taxidermy in the best possible way. Yes, there’s a good way to talk about taxidermy. I swear.

  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

You’re in the right place at the right time, and you care enough to do what needs to be done. Sometimes that’s enough.

Beautiful, dark, magical fiction. This is dark like nighttime is dark, not like evil is dark. It winds around through time and through its characters in a twisting path that brings you to a very satisfying end. I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect to like this much, but I ended up absorbed and delighted.

  • Reading right now: American Gods by Neil Gaiman.

Chicago happened slowly, like a migraine. First they were driving through countryside, then, imperceptibly, the occasional town became a low suburban sprawl, and the sprawl became the city.

I woudn’t normally recommend a book before I’ve finished it, but this is a great book. Reminds me forcefully in style (though not storyline) of King’s The Stand. The writing is amazing, as you would expect, and the main idea as I see it so far is fascinating. Can’t wait to see how it ends.

  • Death by Living by N.D. Wilson

Glory is sacrifice, glory is exhaustion, glory is having nothing left to give. Almost. It is death by living.

I’m so glad I discovered this book. Each chapter is its own little window into this idea of life lived as sacrifice, making your life into the ultimate story. The chapters about Wilson’s grandparents are powerful. Also this, which I just couldn’t not copy out for you:

Adam, living his story rightly, would have done the same. Adam would not have been the well-behaved Mormon teenager, abstaining from the fruit. He would have looked at Eve, seen her curse, seen her enemy, and gone after that serpent with pure and righteous wrath. He would have then turned to face the pure and righteous God Himself (that Adam had just imaged), and he would have said something quite simple, something that would be said by another, thousands of years later.
“Take me instead.”
Adam could have been conquerer rather than conquered. Regardless, fallen or unfallen, he was born to die.
So are you. So am I.

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This book was really fun. Set in a fantasy world, but at its heart, this is just a heist story with a group of odd misfits. Yes, please, and when does the sequel come out? (Disclaimer: this is definitely on the older end of YA.)

  • Shadow and Bone, Seige and Storm, Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo.

A good YA fantasy series, but I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as Six of Crows. It’s set in the same world as SoC but lacked the band of misfits feel I love so much, falling more into the typical YA category of girl with special powers has to choose between two men she loves. But it was pretty solid for all that, and the third book has one of my favorite all time titles, so there’s that.

  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Also fairly typical fantasy YA story. I found the world to be pretty creative, if the plot wasn’t so much. Also, it’s appropriate for the younger end of YA.  I wish I could find more to say about it. I did enjoy it while I was reading it, but in retrospect, it was just…decent.

  • Scarlet, Cress, Winter (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer.

I had already read Cinder last year and somehow never was into the story enough to keep reading. Then my nephew told me I really should, and I’m not sorry I did. I enjoyed the sequels so much more than the first book. And bonus, they fall within the range of things I’m comfortable with my daughter reading. That’s always nice in a YA book.

  • Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Pretty fun new sci-if book that came out this year. I thought the characters were real and interesting and the plot moved along. I’ll definitely read the sequels when they come out.

  • Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Complete change of gears here to some modern YA. Audrey is dealing with her intense anxiety issues as she tries to find her way in the world again after a traumatic event. Not my usual genre, but this was well-written and humorous in that British way that deals with serious issues honestly while also sort of refusing to take them too seriously. It’s one I’ll pass on to my kid, if not something I’d rave about overmuch.

  • Poldark: Jeremy Poldark by Winston Graham

This is the third of the Poldark books, which were written in the 70s. I had read Ross Poldark and Demelza last year. This is historical fiction done right. A pretty realistic look at life in the era, including the behavior of the characters which is incredibly real. I like these characters a lot, so even though I have to strike the right mood to get into the genre, I’m sure I’ll eventually read the rest of the series.

  • MWF seeking BFF by Rachel Bertche

Another non-fiction book! What got into me this year? I actually really enjoyed this book, which outlines the authors yearlong search for close friends in her new city. She weaves her own experiences in with some research she did on the topic of making friends. It’s well-written and not overly long, and I enjoyed it. It’s not profound, but it’s an interesting look at a modern woman tackling an age-0ld problem.

  • Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (Book 3 of the Reckoners Series)

This was the conclusion of Sanderson’s YA series, The Reckoners. I really enjoyed all these books. If you have boys looking for good books to read, these should be on your list. David, the main character, is really fun.

  • The Dragon’s Path, The King’s Blood by Daniel Abraham

Abraham is one of the two authors who cowrote the Expanse series, so I thought I’d check out his fantasy orI. These books were decent. The shift back in forth between the point of view of several of the characters, and some are way more interesting than others. There are at least two more books in this series, but I don’t know if I’ll finish it. It bogged down for me on some of hate less interesting characters. But if you’re super into fantasy and need a new series, you should check it out. The writing is better than most.

  • The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Essentially a spoof of YA fantasy fiction, about the kids who just live in and around the “special” kids who have exciting stories happening to them. It was mildly entertaining.

  • Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

Historical fiction on the lit fic side of things, which made it a bit of a stretch for me. It had some really amazing parts. The main character is born over and over again and dies different ways each time, which is a fascinating idea for a plot. Some of her lives are terribly interesting. Some aren’t. It’s really well done, but in the end I found that I was forcing myself to finish it. That’s probably my problem, not the book’s. If you like history, you should read it.

  • Disrupted by Dan Lyons

I’ll be honest: I read this book because my husband really wanted me to.  Lyons was a successful tech journalist who got laid off from Newsweek, and this details his foray into the world of tech startups. His bitingly sarcastic look at it all alternates between being hilarious and being obnoxious. But it’s a pretty real look at the insane way that whole world works and I’m not sorry I read it. It’s good to have a view into a world I don’t walk in, especially because people I know do.

  • First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

This is one of those “If you love Jane Austen, you should read this charming little mystery/romance about other people who love her” kinds of books. There are so many of them. It’s better than most.

  • Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

Sometimes he curses his fumbling English. Sometimes he curses other people who can’t understand the beauty of his Spanish when he speaks it, how eloquent and romantic his mind can be. Instead, he has to settle for this stumbling grammar and these inadequate words. Even though Jimenez speaks it well, he feels his ideas become trapped in a cage of English. He finds the language very practical, but it’s not made for the same beauty as his mother tongue.

This book is self-important lit fic and I can’t really recommend it, but that’s one awesome quote, so the book wasn’t a total waste.

  • Paper Towns by John Green

If you like John Green books, you’ll like this. It’s a John Green book. It was fine, but it was no Fault in our Stars. I have a bit of a hard time swallowing the teenagers-with-profound-insights-into-life thing, if there isn’t any reason why they should have gained them. I know that’s how it feels to be a teenager, which if why they would love this book, but for me it felt a little forced. My daughter asked me recently if I would buy her this book and I said, “Eh, let’s get it from the library.”

  • And Again by Jessica Chiarella

This book was short and had a really interesting concept: what if we found a way to clone people and then put the important parts of their brain into a new body so they got to live on? That sounds like a sci-if book and an interesting one. In reality, it was just about how people are super crappy and getting more life wouldn’t change that. But not in an interesting way. Luckily, it was short, so I read the whole thing.

  • Fire by Kristin Cashore

This is the second book in the world of Graceling, which I’ve written about before. I enjoy them. She has a creative mind and writes much better than average heroines. Her sense of morality is oddly disturbing to me, though. I can’t explain it totally, as I usually have a pretty broad tolerance in books, but I don’t pass these on to my kids. It’s just a weird feeling.

  • The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay

Pretty typical modern YA. The main character has been through a trauma and doesn’t speak but meets boy and eventually gets strength to face her issues. That makes it sound a little worse than it is, but mainly it’s Finding Audrey without the humor. The only reason it makes this list is that it gives a little look into the mind of someone who is amazingly gifted and then has that gift taken away. It’s not terribly profound about it, but that part felt very real, and I read on because of it.

  • The Magicians by Lev Grossman

Touted as an adult Harry Potter and recently made into a TV show, this book was utter waste. I don’t even want to take the time to explain why, but let’s just say that people who are given more and more and more gifts and then use them to be worse and worse people are BORING.

And that it! Congratulations if you made it this far! Your reward (hopefully) is a couple of good books to try out!

Happy reading, everyone.

Posted in Book Recommendations | 1 Comment

40


It’s just a number
She said
Which is true
Except
That just is not so just

It’s the sum of parts
Of nine
And eighteen
Of one
three, five, and two times two

It’s foreign lands
once walked
Sights, sounds, and smells
now locked
In mixed with here and now

It’s ordinary houses
Scattered
Across the globe
But each
A true home in its time

It’s life’s true love
To share
The madness
And joy
And walk down through the years

It’s son and daughters
New minds
All astounding
Familiar
And yet uncharted seas

It’s art created
And shared
And love received
From both
And tongues that shaped how eyes could see

It’s the sum of parts
Of nine
And eighteen
Of one
three, five, and two times two

It’s just a number
she said
Which is true
Except
That just…

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A Lesson in Economics

I was in my room reading. (Because I was eleven, and at age eleven, I was always in my room reading.) 

“Want to come outside and do something with me?” my big brother asked, like the book in my hands wasn’t already an answer to that question.

Glance out the window. It looks hot. “Like what?” 

“I was thinking of maybe building a miniature golf course.”

Intriguing. But also, hot. And also experience tells me grandiose plans are not necessarily going to become a reality. Whereas the unlikely band of misfits in this book are very real and most definitely going to save their kingdom through courage and friendship and a little bit of magic. (It was probably a band of misfits. I don’t really remember, but there was inevitably a band of misfits and some kind of sorcerer.)

“Nah.”

“Okay.”

It was a little surprising that he didn’t try to talk me into it. He usually tried to tempt and tease me to bend to his will. It usually worked. (I should have known the lack of bluster meant a more serious plan was in motion, but I hadn’t yet learned that correlation.)

The misfits did their thing. I was very happy in some other world. But not quite enough to ignore the noises happening in my world. Something was definitely going on in the front yard. I peeked out.

My brother was hard at work. Bricks from the random pile in the back yard were laid out. Toys and sticks were arranged as obstacles. Cups were put out to catch the golf balls. It really was a miniature golf course. The neighbor kids were already watching. There was a buzz in the air. I felt a little bit like I was missing out on something great, but not quite enough to do anything about it. I was needed elsewhere. The misfits were on the verge of a breakthrough.

Another half hour. Now there was laughing and shouting coming from out front. I peeked out again. The neighbor kids were playing the course, putting around with my dad’s old golf clubs while my brother stood on and watched…and collected the money. He was charging them a dollar each to play the course. (He was always brilliant like that.) Now I knew for sure I had missed my window. No way he would let me play for free. No way I was paying a dollar to putt around some bricks. It sure did look like a good time in the front yard, though. There was nothing I hated more than missing out on a good time.

I rejoined my misfits with much less enthusiasm. 

That’s when my brother came back. He couldn’t have picked his moment better if he had planned it. (He may have planned it. More likely he had just gotten bored…because he literally has the ability to become bored by how easy it is to make money.) 

“Want to make some money?” He asked, waving the stack of ones in his hand.

I did, in fact, want to earn money, mostly because you can buy books with money.

“How?” I said as casually as I could.

“I built the golf course like I said, and the kids are all playing. They’re paying a dollar per game. I’m kind of tired from standing out there, though. If you go collect the money and watch over the game, I’ll give you a quarter of each dollar they pay.”

“Only a quarter?” I’m a little sister, which is undeniably synonymous with sucker, but I do have some standards.

“Well, it is my golf course. It was my idea. I put all the work into building it. But I guess I could give you fifty cents.”

Ha. Half the money and an excuse to go join the fun. Who’s the sucker now? (It’s still me, but I’m 11. Give me a break.)

I took the deal. I stood in the heat for an hour or so, until the neighbor kids slowly lost interest or ran out of money or both. I made about three dollars. It wasn’t all that much fun, either. These were my brother’s friends, and I wasn’t a part of their game. I got bit by a lot of mosquitos.

This is what happens when you don’t get in on the ground floor of a new enterprise.  

Also, this: my mom came home with the groceries. “Kids, clean up that mess in the front yard before dinner.”

“We will, Mom,” my brother called, appearing from out of nowhere. “It won’t take us long,” he reassured me. There was no more mention of it being his golf course. Fifty-fifty was now the name of the game.

We carried bricks to the back yard. We stacked cups and returned clubs to the garage. The golf course was just a pile of old junk again. 

“Sweet. Made $15 dollars on that,” my brother said, pocketing the cash. 

I looked down at my three and scratched my mosquito bites and reflected that some of us were born to make money and laugh with the neighbor kids and some of us were born to miss out. I shrugged off the blip of resentment and went back inside. It’s all right. This is how misfits are made and why they end up banding together. 

And it’s a good thing they do, or who would save the world from evil sorcerers?


Thanks for the lesson in economics, big brother, and for helping me know who I am.

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The Glass Castle

“Did you see that the lot next door is for sale?” Gwen asked, passing by with a basket of laundry.

I put my cereal spoon down.  “You’ve got to be kidding.”

“The sign went up today,” she said.

All my righteous indignation rose up. Let’s face it, it didn’t take much to make that happen, but this was a serious cause. “I knew that realtor was lying,” I called to Gwen, who was now pouring detergent into the washing machine. “That’s exactly the standard story they tell. ‘Yes, isn’t the green space wonderful? It will stay that way, too. Owned by an old man, you know, and he refuses to sell or let anyone build on it.’ Like that lie isn’t as worn out as an old shoe.”

“It convinced you,” said Gwen, passing back through with a pile of folded towels. 

She was right. That’s what made me so angry. Like most young hipsters, we had wanted to live in the city, to be a part of urban life and renewal, but I had also worried about raising our theoretical kids away from nature, surrounded by concrete and skyscrapers instead of grass and trees. This place had seemed like the answer to all of that.  The townhouse was old and full of history but it had been renovated to comfortable perfection. It was in an up and coming urban center but right next door was an empty lot full of grass and ringed by beautiful old trees. Of course I wanted to believe the realtor when she said it would never get built up. That didn’t make me any less angry now. 

Worse, we had now lived here long enough that the kids weren’t theoretical anymore. Gwen was expecting our first daughter in just three months. We had spent the whole winter preparing a nursery that looked out onto green branches blowing in the wind. I imagined my daughter now staring out onto an apartment complex or a blocky office building or a Baby Gap.

“I’m going to call the number and find out about it,” I said. 

“You’re only going to get all worked up about nothing,” Gwen answered.

“Well, maybe I’ll write an article about it or something. Get public opinion on our side and save the green space.”

Gwen came to stand in the kitchen doorway and looked at me with one eyebrow raised. I knew that look.

“People love that kind of stuff,” I said defensively.

“I know they do,” she said. “But didn’t you leave journalism because you were tired of having to muster up new causes for people with short attention spans? ‘Pandering to the public’s fickle imagination’ I believe were your exact words.”

“But this is a real cause, a worthy cause, not something manufactured to get people worked up enough to keep reading outdated media. And I always intended to keep writing. This could be my first freelance project.”

I had intended to keep writing. There was a time when I had loved writing. But I had left my job at the local news magazine for a more lucrative and less enfuriating project manager position six months ago, and I had yet to write a single paragraph in all that time.

Gwen’s smile was a little too understanding, but she had always claimed that my idealism was one of the things she loved about me, so she didn’t argue. Plus, I figured, in some part of her heart, she knew I was right. We couldn’t just do nothing.

I called the number on the For Sale sign. A man answered the phone.

“I’m calling to inquire about the empty lot for sale on Orchard Street,” I said.

“Are you interested in buying it?” He asked.

“Well, I’m very interested in it,” I hedged, “but first I just need to know the asking price and the zoning information. That kind of thing.”

“What do you want it for?” He asked.

It suddenly occurred to me that he hadn’t mentioned the name of the realty office when he answered the phone.

“Could I speak to the listing realtor for that property?” I said.

“There’s no realtor,” he answered.

“Who am I speaking with?” I asked.

“Who am I speaking with?” He retorted.

“I’m James Harroway,” I started again. “I actually live next door to the property in question, and I’m interested in finding out more about it.”

There was a long pause. “You live next door?” He asked.

Now I was starting to feel nervous. Wasn’t your address the kind of information you weren’t supposed to give out to strangers over the phone?

“Are you the one selling the property?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered. “Maybe. I own it. And I also live next door.”

For a second I had that creepy the-call-is-coming-from-inside-the-house feeling. Then I realized he must mean next door on the other side. I realized it had been a minute since anyone spoke. “Oh, um, great! So…we’re neighbors. And, um, now you’re selling the lot?”

“Let’s meet and do this face to face,” he said. “Outside in five minutes.”

“Oh,” I said, taken aback. I hadn’t really wanted to face anyone just yet. “Well, um, the thing is…”

“Do you live next door or not?” He asked.

“Um, yes…”

“Are you home right now or not?”

I considered lying, but it just wasn’t in me. “Yes, but…”

“If you want to know about the lot, meet me outside in five minutes,” he said and hung up before I could answer.

I was still feeling a little dizzy when Gwen walked in and grabbed a banana from the bowl on the table.

“What’s wrong with you?” She asked.

“I guess that number was for the owner,” I said. 

“Okay. How much is he asking? I bet it’s half a million, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know. He wants to meet me. He’s our neighbor.”

Gwen laughed. “Really? Are you going to do it?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “It’s going to be pretty awkward when I can’t actually buy the property. One look at me an he’s going to know I don’t have half a million dollars to invest.”

Gwen laughed again. “You should go! I mean, you’ll get to meet a neighbor if nothing else.”

“Want to come?” I asked, standing up.

“Right now?” She said.

“He said in five minutes.”

Gwen laughed again. “Oh no,” she said. “This is all you. But if he turns out to be the old man that the realtor described and not some kind of axe murderer, then you can invite him over for dinner.”

With that kind of overwhelming support behind me, I went down to the front stoop. An old man with brown courderoy pants and a professor-style jacket, complete with elbow patches, was standing on the sidewalk looking up at me as I came out the door.

“So you weren’t lying,” he said.

“I try not to do that,” I answered.

He just nodded. “Good,” he said and held out his hand as if he weren’t a stranger passing judgment on my whole character.

“I’m Jeremiah Cooper. Lived here on Orchard Street for seventy-four years, which means I moved in when I was six, in case you’re wondering.”

I took his hand. “James Harroway.  I’ve lived here for six months, which means I moved in when I was twenty-seven,” I answered.

Jeremiah Cooper smiled and didn’t let go of my hand. “That’s fine,” he said. “It’s good to be young while you can. Now tell me what your interest is in my property.”

It was really hard to be vague while gripping someone’s hand. I tried to pull my hand back, but he wasn’t having it. For an eighty-year old man, he had quite the grip. I gave up and told the whole truth. “The green space next door is why we bought this house. I was upset to see you were selling it. I hope it won’t get built up. I thought I’d ask the price and maybe if it wasn’t too much…”

I couldn’t quite finish the sentence. We’d used up all our savings on the down payment for the townhouse, so unless he was offering the lot for $19.99, I wasn’t a potential buyer.

“Let’s not talk money. Let’s talk dinner. Do you like pierogies?”

My face must have looked pretty comical because he burst out laughing, a long rumbling chuckle that ended in a little coughing fit.

“Never mind,” he said when he had finished. “You’ll like pierogies. Everyone likes pierogies. Come to dinner tomorrow.”

“Um, well…thank you.” I was struggling to find my bearing. “My wife actually…she said I should invite you to dinner at our house if you’d like.”

“Did she? How kind. I accept. But another time we’re doing the pierogies. You’ll love them. Should I come tomorrow?”

“Um…yeah…sure. That would be great.”

He held out his hand again, and after I’d taken it, gave me one firm hand shake and turned toward his own house. When he went up his front steps, I was still standing where he’d left me. It took another ten minutes before I realized I must look ridiculous and went back inside.

“How was it?” Gwen was waiting to pounce on me when I walked into the door. “I peeked a little. Definitely old. Not sure about the axe murderer, though. You looked a little scared.”

“You could have come outside,” I said. 

“Not with the axe murderer thing still in question! Think of our child!”

“He’s not an axe murderer. He’s coming to dinner tomorrow.”

“Oh.” 

Sending his pregnant wife into a 24-hour flurry of dinner preparations can make a man feel a little guilty. It also makes a man wield a vacuum and learn about something called a Swiffer, so I wasn’t in the most positive frame of mind when Jeremiah Cooper rang our bell at 6:30 the next night.

Gwen was charmed from the first minute, though. He brought her a bonsai. Apparently there is something about an eighty-year-old man holding a tiny tree that really speaks to a pregnant woman.

Not that I found it possible to be grumpy for long. Jeremiah was a fascinating dinner guest. He had lived in the neighborhood through economic downturns and the corresponding upturns, through presidential elections and presidential assassinations, through men landing on the moon and shuttles exploding in the atmosphere, through several wars overseas and through the painful changes each had brought back home. I could have listened to his stories all night.

When he finished dinner, though, he began to question us, not about things like jobs and where we grew up but odd questions about what games we had played as children and why we liked the music we did and what our favorite fairy-tales were. After about an hour of these questions, he finally pushed back from the table and smiled.

“I have one more story for you,” he said. “I told you I was six when we moved into 4430, but what I did not say is that I was very sick. For several years I did very little and seldom got as far from bed as the window that looked down onto the empty lot next door. It was a rare condition, but that is not important to the story.” He waved away our questions. “What is important is that on the occasions that I made it to my window, I would sit and look down, and each time I saw lights flickering through the trees. It didn’t look like firelight, more like fireflies dancing, but it was during the day. I was never out of bed after dark. The first time, I dismissed the lights as nothing, but after the second and third times, I began to be obsessed with them. I would lie in bed and imagine what could be causing the light: pirates with their lanterns, traveling magicians practicing their tricks, fairies hidden away in the trees. These imaginings kept me company on many long and painful days. Finally, one day when I was eight years old, I felt a little stronger, and my mother decided it was safe to leave me for half an hour to go to the store. As soon as she was gone, I dragged my weak body down the stairs and outside. I was exhausted by the time I got to the front steps, but excitement kept me going and I limped around into the lot. I could see the lights under the trees at the back, so I slowly made my way along the edge to where they twinkled. When I arrived, I was terribly disappointed. No pirates. No magicians. No fairies. Just a girl.

“She was pretty, but I wasn’t of an age to care about that. If I hadn’t used all my energy getting to the spot, I would have turned around and gone straight home. As it was, I half-collapsed onto the grass and tried not to cry. The girl saw me and ran over, very concerned about my health. I’m afraid I was very rude when I told her I was fine and she shouldn’t bother.

“‘I’ve seen your face in the window!’ She said. ‘Have you been sick for long?’

“I hated questions about my health, so I didn’t answer. 

“‘I thought maybe you were trapped in that room, just as I am,’ she said. ‘But I suppose not if you’ve come here.’

“‘You’ve come here, too,’ I said sullenly.

“‘I have’t come here. I’m always here. I can’t leave.’

“Now she had my interest, but I wasn’t ready to show it yet. ‘Of course you can leave. What’s to stop you?’ I sneered.

“‘The magician,’ she answered. ‘My father is a king in a far away land, but he wouldn’t give up his throne to the magician. He knew the magician would mistreat his people. So the magician stole me away and brought me here and trapped me in the glass castle, and now I can never leave.’

“I pretended to laugh at this invention but inside I was enchanted by her story. Trying not to sound too interested, I asked her more questions. Her name was Daisy. She had been living in the glass castle for three years, she said, and I was the first person she had talked to besides the magician who only visited once a month. The castle was magical, of course, and she knew no one could see it but her, but she had practiced some magic of her own, lighting special candles to illuminate her home. Those were the lights I had seen, and when she learned that I could see them she was delighted. The happier she got with our conversation, the more I felt the need to be distant, and finally I knew I must begin the slow walk home or my mother would discover that I had been out.

“‘I can help you, you know,’ said the girl as I stood to leave.

“I stopped.

“‘He leaves me magic potions to make food and medicines and anything I might need while he’s gone. I could make you one. It would cure your sickness.’

“I shrugged as if I didn’t care, but really my heart was pounding. To get better. To be able to leave the house. To go to school and play baseball like the other boys. 

“‘Wait here,” she said and ran out from under the trees into the bright sunlight in the middle of the grassy lot. I was still watching her when she disappeared. She had gone into her glass castle, you see, and everything about that castle was invisible. I waited so long I began to think she wasn’t going to return. I began to feel angry that she had gotten my hopes up for nothing. Then in a blink, she reappeared, running toward me with a little flask in her hands.

“‘Drink it all,’ she said, stern as a doctor. I nodded, and I’m ashamed to say that I left without saying good-bye. I was worried about my mother returning and consumed with doubt and hope about the flask in my hands. 

“I did manage to make it back to the house unnoticed. I sat on my bed for a long time staring at that flask. Then I drank it all.”

“Did it work?” Gwen asked breathlessly.

“It did. I woke up the next morning in perfect health. My parents thought it was a miracle. They took me to doctors. All trace of my condition was gone. They enrolled me in school. My mother cried. I got a baseball bat for my birthday. And after that, I went to visit Daisy next door every day. I did my homework under her trees. I told her all my baseball stories. Before long she was my best friend. I went from being the loneliest boy on the street to the happiest one in the city.”

He paused for long that I thought the story was ended. 

“So that’s why you’ve kept the lot all this time,” I said. “In her memory?”

Jeremiah snorted. “I’ve kept it because she still lives there!”

I traded a look with Gwen. It hadn’t occurred to me before that moment that senility might already be setting in. He seemed so lucid.

“We grew up. Inevitably, I fell in love with her. She loved me, too. But she wasn’t free from the magician. We made a plot. I would hide in the trees. He didn’t know about me. When he came for his monthly visit, I would spring out and capture him. We would force him to free her. But he never came. From one month to the next, he just disappeared. And Daisy was still trapped. She couldn’t leave and I couldn’t see her home. We could only be together under the trees. She refused to marry me. She said it wasn’t fair. I refused to stop coming to visit. We were both very stubborn. I found out that the man who had owned the lot with the glass castle had died. I bought the land. I’ve owned it ever since. After a while, it became clear that there was more to the enchantment that we had understood. I got older. Daisy did not. She has stayed young all these years. She was right not to marry me, I suppose, but I was also right not to leave her.”

He paused again for a long time.

“But now I must. It’s the cancer, and she has no more healing potions left. The doctors say I have only a few months, and then she will be left all alone.”

He sat forward, all trace of emotion suddenly gone. “So now for business. I’m not interested in money. I’ve already turned down exhorbiatant offers. I’m interested in promises, and only those who are prepared to make them will get to own that land. Are you prepared to make promises and sign them into contracts?”

Gwen had tears running down her face, so I mustered a response. “What kind of promises?”

“Three promises in specific,” Jeremiah said. “1. That you will never sell the land for any amount of money or sign it over to anyone who doesn’t make the same three promises. 2. That you will never attempt to build anything on the land or change anything that might harm the princess. 3. That you will never move away and leave her alone.”

“You want us to take care of a princess living in a glass castle?” I said.

“Daisy can take care of herself,” Jeremiah snapped. “I want you to protect her.”

“Can we meet her?” Gwen asked in a soft voice.

I threw a concerned look at my emotional wife, but Jeremiah was already standing up. 

“That, my dear, is exactly the right question.”

Gwen took the old man’s arm and followed him outside. I trailed behind, still feeling like the rug had been pulled out from under me. 

Jeremiah led us along the tree line to the back of the lot where he stopped at a ring of stones under a willow tree. 

“Daisy, dear, I’ve brought the young neighbors to meet you,” he said.

Of course, there was no one there. The light flickered through the tree branches in a way that certainly did lend a magical air to the place, but my concern for the old man holding my wife’s arm was growing by the minute.

“Yes, I thought that might happen,” he said. “She says she’s sorry that you can’t see her. We had hoped… But we knew this was more likely.”

“I’m sorry,” Gwen said gently, and I knew she was sorry for the lonely state of the old man, even though he understood something different. 

“Not your fault, dear. Likely you are too old to see past the enchantment. I got in very young, so it has always been different for me. Daisy thinks that music may help to break through, however. Would you like to hear her sing?”

Gwen cast me a helpless glance, and I wasn’t sure what was best to do. Humor him for now, I supposed. “We’d be happy to listen,” I said. 

Jeremiah fell silent and got a faraway look in his eyes. He smiled dreamily.

Of course, I heard nothing. 

I was about to suggest that we walk our neighbor home, and perhaps ask who we could call to help him, when suddenly Gwen gasped.

“I hear a song!” She said. “It’s very faint, just barely more than the breeze, but I hear it!”

I’m sure my mouth was hanging open. Was dementia catching?

Gwen grabbed my arm. “Oh James! I wish you could hear it! It’s beautiful.”

I barely remember what excuses I made or how we took leave of our neighbor or how I got my wife back home, but by the time we closed the door behind us, she was the one giving me concerned looks. 

“Are you feeling all right?” I asked.

Gwen smiled. “You don’t need to treat me like I’ve lost my mind. I know it sounds crazy. But I also know you, James. I know you loved that story. I know you love that green space, and I know you thought that tree was as magical as I did. I know you liked that old man, too. I’m not sure what I heard, or why I heard it and you didn’t. But I think we should sign that contract. We want to keep that space jsut as it is and we want to live right here forever and raise our kids in this house. Does it matter if this is real or all in his heard? It’s a lovely story, and our daughter will get to live with it forever. How could that be bad?”

She was right, and I knew it. I wasn’t ready to let go of my wisdom and admit it, but in my heart, I knew there was no doubt. I argued for a while that committing to live here forever was a big decision and on and on, but it was soulless debate. In less than two hours, we had agreed to tell Jeremiah that we’d do it.

So we did. We signed a contract that we would live in this house forever.  Jeremiah signed the deed to the empty lot over into our name the next day and we agreed to never sell it or change it. We saw him every day for the next six weeks. We ate pierogies at his kitchen table. Gwen held his hand as the pain got worse, and we both sat by his side the night that he died. The very next day our daughter Viola was born. When we brought her home from the hospital, we pointed out the lovely trees she could see from her window. 

Later that evening when Gwen was resting, I took Viola over to the green lot and held her in my arms and whispered to her the story of the princess who lived, forever young, in a glass castle she could never leave. Somehow nothing feels foolish when you are holding a sleeping baby. 

As I turned to go home, I though I heard, very faintly, the sound of someone singing. 


 

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Animalian Acquirers, Inc.

Step up! Step up! Please gather ’round!
Whatever you’ve lost can still be found!
You’ve tried to look, you’ve searched and scoured
But you’ve not yet been helped by agents like ours.

Have a lost appetite? That’s easy as pie!
Our truffle-hunting pigs barely have to try.
Our Grizzlies find berries, so juicy and sweet,
And our vultures can show you the finest of meats.


But please don’t think food is all we can do
We know you’ve lost much more than something to chew
For those missing keys, our ‘coons find shiny things!
And our robins locate matching socks while they sing!


If you can’t find your car in that huge parking lot
We’ve got hounds to assist you in finding your spot.
And when it turns out you have lost your way home
Our pigeons will guide you; you won’t be alone.


But wait! Don’t go yet! There’s so very much more!
For your lost hope, we have kittens and bunnies galore!
If your sense of style’s missing, we have chimpanzee groomers!
And our rare garenuks find lost senses of humor.


Whatever you’re missing, our agents stand by.
Don’t mourn what is lost ’til you give us a try.
No matter how difficult, we’re bound to scout it.
And if we can’t, you’re probably better without it.

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What I’ve Got

So hey! Yeah. It’s been a while. I was humming along, focusing hard on Book 5 of The Book of Sight and diving into our usual busy spring schedule and then BOOM, my son got what we thought was the stomach flu but turned out to be appendicitis. Before we even knew what had happened, they were telling us his appendix had ruptured and we were moving into the hospital for a 9-day stay, followed by several weeks of at home recouperation. So yeah, it’s been a while.

The good news is that my boy is up and around and back to school! He’s 10 pounds skinnier and a little weak still, but he’s going to be just fine. Turns out he’s a pretty tough kid. I could not be more grateful. And here I am, back to work again, trying to pick up the threads of the book and of the rest of my unfinished thoughts. I’m looking through my half-written posts. There’s a great one about the books I’ve been reading this year. Can’t wait to share it with you because there are some really fun books on that list. There’s a funny little poem that I think will tickle your fancy if I can ever get it wrapped up. But for today, I don’t have organized or light-hearted. I have this, which I wrote on accident when I was trying to write something for the book. 

Did you know you can accidentally write something? Ten years ago, I would not have thought that was possible. But it is. It makes me cringe a little, but I’ve decided to share my accident with you because I think it’s time we made contact again, and after all the ups and downs of the last several weeks, this is what I’ve got.  So here you go, my attempt to get back to work. The accidental story.


Once a child was given a choice, to travel the world with her father as he worked or to stay in a cozy home under her grandmother’s care. The child knew that either choice offered love but that neither choice offered perfection. She felt safe and content in her grandmother’s house, surrounded by the friends she had always known but never doing anything outside of her routine. A life with her father would be full of adventure and she would see the world from one end to the other, but he would be her only constant companion and often she would be alone. In the end it was neither security nor adventure that enticed her into making her choice. It was only that when the moment came, she could not bear to be parted from the man that was king in her heart.

Once a girl was given a choice, to marry a wealthy young businessman who could offer her the luxuries of the world or to marry a talented young artist who could offer her the beauty of his imagination. The girl knew that either choice offered her a bright future and that neither choice offered perfection. The businessman was kind and attentive and intelligent though he had little care for her frequent flights of fancy. The artist was brilliant and passionate and romantic though he was certainly quite poor and often distracted by his work. In the end, it was neither beauty nor wealth that swayed the girl’s mind. It was only that when the moment came, she could not bear to be parted from the genius who had stolen her heart.

Once a young mother was give a choice, to accept a position at a famous art institute alongside her husband or to turn the job down to have days at home with her new child. The mother knew that either choice offered a kind of success and that neither choice offered perfection. The teaching position would inspire her and bring attention to her name but would also mean long hours of work away from those she loved. Remaining at home would be a satisfying and contented life but one that was often dull and would neglect some of her own gifts. In the end, it was neither inspiration nor duty that swayed the mother’s mind. It was only that when the moment came, she could not bear to be parted from the little man who had filled up her heart.

Once a woman was given a choice, to fight against the disease raging through her body or to numb herself to the pain of it as it took control. The woman knew that either choice offered difficulty and heartache and also that neither came with guarantees. If she chose to fight, her mind would be clear but she would suffer much pain and still might lose in the end. If she chose to submit, she could be at peace but the separation from the world would come all the quicker. In the end, it was neither the hope of victory nor the fear of pain that made up her mind. It was only that when the moment came, she could not bear to parted from the men who held her hands and her heart.

Once a woman was given a choice. To be wrenched from her heart in bitterness and despair or to say goodbye to her heart with longing but no regret. The woman knew that either choice would be the most painful loss she could imagine and that neither could be taken back once made. If she held on tight until her life was torn away, she might be strong in the end and yet the damage left behind might be permanent. If she let go gently, the hole in her chest might go unrecognized, but the heart she handed over would be whole. In the end, it wasn’t her anger or her fear that made her decision. It was only that when the moment came, she realized she had parted with her heart long ago, and there was really no choice at all.


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Princess Ruffle 

Welcome to our bedtime story series! Each time I’ll start with a couple of words that come from kids, things they’d like to hear a story about. Then I’ll briefly outline for you what my quick mental process was in figuring out how to make a story from the elements. Then I’ll give you the finished story (short and silly most of the time, just right for bedtime). I hope you get inspired to riff off of the elements and make a story of your own!

Story elements: Princess, puppy

Process: What’s a strange thing a puppy could do? Dance
What’s a possible result of the dancing? People making fun of it
What’s a way to overcome the problem? Dancing proving useful in some way

Once upon a time there was a princess who also happened to be a puppy. Her father, King Bowser, ruled over all of Canine City, and her mother, a Maltese known only as “Queenie,” was the most beautiful dog in the land.  The princess’s name was Ruffle. (I know, Ruffle is more of a thing you might have on your skirt than a name for a princess, but her father came from a long line of Barksters and Ruffalos and Arooperts, and his favorite uncle had been named Ruffing, so really, Ruffle was lucky to at least be named after something girly. It could have been much worse.)

In any case, Ruffle didn’t care much about her name. She was only interested in dancing. She loved all kinds of dancing, and she would have done it twelve hours a day if she weren’t required to do princessy things from time to time (like telling important people how delighted she was to meet them and ordering elaborate dresses so the Royal seamstresses would have something to do). As it was, she managed to spend most of her time on the dance floor. Her father had ordered the servants to make sure she always had a dance partner, which the servants found quite annoying. (Dogs, as you know, do not have hands and so cannot hold hands while dancing. This means that in dog dancing “partners” are really just two dogs dancing quite near to each other and occasionally bumping noses or tails. Princess Ruffle could have danced quite as well on her own, and the servants could have gotten on with their work, but King Bowser was very strict about certain rules, and for some reason, this was one of them.)

The servant who most often got stuck dancing with Princess Ruffle was the Paper Hound. Paper hound was his job and not his name of course, though he was called Paper Hound more than anything else. The Paper Hound was the pup in charge of fetching the newspapers every morning, so the king could read all about what was happening in the world, and for delivering the important letters the king sent out to the post office each afternoon. The rest of the time, the Paper Hound hung around and did odd jobs, which was how he so often ended up dancing with Princess Ruffle. His real name was Rawlph. 

Rawlph always complained about having to dance with Princess Ruffle, but the truth was that he actually liked it. True, Princess Ruffle was very bossy, and she was very particular that he do all the right dance moves, but once he learned them, it was really fun to dodge and twirl and romp around on the dance floor. 

The worst part of it was that the other boy puppies used to make fun of Rawlph for having to dance with Princess Ruffle. They said he looked stupid with all that twirling and stomping. Rawlph tried to ignore this, but it wasn’t easy. When someone says you look stupid that is a very hard thing to overlook.

One day, though, everything changed.  And, of course, it was the ants who changed it.

The queen of the ants, Queen Antella, was the arch enemy of King Bowser, and she had always wanted to take over his kingdom. Ants, of course, are much smaller than dogs, but they are very strong for their size, and there are so many of them. On the day of the ant invasion, Queen Antella’s army numbered in the thousands.

When the ants swarmed the castle, the dogs fought valiently, but they were at a disadvantage. Dogs generally fight things the same size as they are, or perhaps bigger even. This means that they are used to standing their ground and snapping with their fierce teeth. Unfortunately, when you are fighting ants, standing still is the worst thing you can do, and teeth are much too large to hurt ants. King Bowser’s soldiers found themselves snapping at the air while ants swarmed up their legs, injuring them with a hundred tiny ant bites. 

Things were looking bad for the dogs until Princess Ruffle saw the solution. You probably see it, too, don’t you?

Dancing!

“The fox trot!” Princess Ruffle shouted at Rawlph as the ants rushed down the hallway. 

Rawlph knew exactly what she meant. 

Princess Ruffle and Rawlph began their usual twirling and stomping. The ants tried to climb onto them, but their twirling threw the ants off. The ants tried to get away, but each stomp of a puppy’s paw, crushed a dozens of them.

Soon the other dogs were trying to follow Princess Ruffle’s and Rawlph’s example. All the dogs were twirling and stamping with all their might. It was the biggest dance party the kingdom had ever seen.

And it worked. Soon so many ants had been killed that Queen Antella called the retreat. The ants left the castle and the kingdom, and they never came back. 

The dogs all collapsed, exhausted but happy from their dancing and their victory.

And you had better believe that no puppies ever made fun of Rawlph ever again.

In fact, Princess Ruffle had no trouble coming up with dance partners after that. Everyone wanted to learn how to dance, and they all begged her to show them.

She did, of course, because princesses must always help those in their kingdom who need help. But Rawlph was still her favorite partner.

THE END

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There’s a map on my wall
Of the places I’ve been
Of more places I still have to go
And its colors show much
Of the things I have learned
Of more things that I still need to know

  
There’s a shelf full of books
That hold stories I’ve loved
And some stories that fractured my heart
All their neatly squared spines
Reveal well-ordered thoughts
Conceal feelings that ripped me apart

  
There’s a child in her bed
Who is so much of me
Just as a much something I can’t explain
And I watch as she dreams
This small, vulnerable self
Filled with life that’s too big to contain

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