Storytime: A Major Motion Picture.

March 19th, 2014

Once upon a time – and a space too, for good measure – there was a young girl being tucked into bed by her mother, who was pouting. The girl, not the mother. Don’t confuse the two.
“What’s wrong, sweetness?” asked the mother.
“Life is confusing and hard,” said the girl. “I wish it made sense.”
“Well, sometimes it all seems that way,” said the mother, whose name was actually Alison. “But just keep trying your best, and I promise it’ll all become clear to you someday.”
“Night,” said the girl, whose name was Becky.
“Good night,” said the mother whose name was Alison.
And that was that, until a bit past midnight the girl whose name was Becky (called Becky) heard a strange curdled crying coming from underneath her door. At first she thought it was the Ancient Nibs, their primeval cat, but then it failed to rise to his familiar yodel-whine crescendo and her curiosity was aroused.
The hall was empty. The living room was quiet. And then, in the bathroom, half-tucked under the dryer, she found it. It was small and wrinkled and looked like a throw pillow that had put on three different wedding dresses and it was absolutely bawling its eyes out.
“What’s wrong?” asked Becky.
“The sinister Sock-King! He rules the Lint-land with a woolen fist! My family is due to be darned to heck underneath his regime! And I can’t find anyone to help!”
Becky pondered this. The way her mom had explained it, she’d figured it would take life longer than this to start explaining itself, and that it’d be a bit less direct. But what the hey, right?
“Lead on!” said Betty, striking her most dynamic possible pose. She pointed forwards with more than one finger, for extra emphasis.
“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you!” cheered the small pillow. “I am Fwump, sonlette of Fwopp. This way, this way!”
And as Becky crawled headfirst down the bathroom’s heating duct, she hoped that this would be over before breakfast. Even if it was a weekend, she thought her mom would get suspicious if she was still out at noon.

By nine-thirty Becky staggered out of the bathroom, bleary-eyed. In one hand she held a tattered towel, in the other her fist clenched a dislocated drying-rack rod. She’d also acquired the seeds of seven new wrinkles.
“Morning, sweetness!” said Alison. “Goodness, what’s that for?”
Becky stared at what six days ago she’d been told was the legendary sockslayer-blade, whose secret name she’d learned twelve hours ago was Woolsplitter, which she had only minutes hence buried in the black thread of the Sock-King.
“Dunno,” she said. “It broke. Where’s breakfast?”
And as she ate and dodged questions about the state of her hair, Becky reflected upon the many humbling and valuable life-lessons she had learned, often at the point of a hand-knitted spear. Well, she supposed it beat gym class.

“Psst,” said the voice.
Becky paused, one hand still ready to pounce upon the piece of kindling she’d selected.
Becky straightened up and looked around. The woodshed was empty.
“Naw, down HERE.”
She looked down there. A mouse was twitching its whiskers at her. Or maybe it was a rat.
“Hey lady. Name’s Mike, I’m here on behalf of a couple of… associates. Can you do us a solid?”
“A what?” Rude, maybe, but the mouse wasn’t exactly being polite either.
“A favour. You scratch our back we scratch your back. YagetwhaddImean?”
“Igeddwhaddyamean. What needs doing?”
“Hey hey – not so loud, not so loud, hey? C’mon. We can talk on the go. Eat this seed.”
Becky had been told not to take candy from strangers, but seeds weren’t candy and mice were a pretty familiar sight in the woodshed. Gulp, swallow, and then she was four inches tall and chasing the mouse down a knothole, into a world of tunnels.

“Back so soon?” asked Alison. “What kept you out there?”
“I had to learn the meaning of true friendship and loyalty,” said Becky.
Alison sighed. “All right, all right. We can stop the sarcasm, both of us.”
Becky, who had just been nearly-betrayed and then not-betrayed six times by Mike before, during, and after an epic duel above a bottomless badger-burrow against a blind albino rat, said nothing.
Instead, she handed over the kindling.
“Thanks, sweetness.”

Gym class was not fun. Particularly the rope. Becky could not climb the rope. But dodgeball was a close second, and dodgeball where you get targeted over and over was right up there, and dodgeball where everyone picks on you until you yell at them and then you get told to pick up and store everything while everyone else gets to leave early was slightly worse than the rope, unless you had blisters.
The gym closet was enormous. Somewhere in this maze of old, broken plastic and mangled, matted foam was a bin full of old soccer balls too malformed for the field yet still firm enough to bruise flesh on impact.
She was almost positive.
Maybe it was behind this mat? No, wait, that mat.
“Shit,” she said. A small gasp came from behind her.
Becky sighed and rubbed her face. “Problem?”
“Yes.” The voice was timidity in a bottle.
“Need help?”
“If you would, please.”
“Right. Be there in a moment.” She threw the ball up in the air and watched as it slowly landed, bounced twice, and tipped over a small Everest of delicately-balanced lacrosse sticks.
She shrugged, decided against using more than one swear per minute, then turned to face the tiny, pitiful little catcher’s mitt that had addressed her. A small pink ribbon was wrapped around its thumb.
“Okay, ready.”

The bus home was quiet, although some of that could’ve been exhaustion. The polo-battle against Prince Goalpost at the wedding-funeral would have worn Becky out enough even if it had happened after a normal day, even after a normal gym day, even after a normal gym day with dodgeball. It had all been quite excessive, especially the part where she had to outrun a speeding fastball.
She slammed open the house’s door with the swagger of a ten-year-old. “Hello mom school was fine thank you today I learned that there are more kinds of strength than just pure physical prowess and that true bravery comes from overcoming your fear okay that’s nice when’s dinner?”
“Ow,” replied the door.
Becky moved the door, allowing the coat that was pinned behind it to flap free.
“By node.”
“You don’t have a nose.”
“Eaby fur yu to bay.”
Becky rolled her eyes as carefully as she could manage. It was dextrous to behold.
“Okay, okay. Fine. Look, are you busy?”
“Yes,” said Alison.
“Oh. Are you really busy?”
“REALLY busy?”
“Yes. I hate coconut.”
“Ah. Super-truly-really-bu-“
Alison sighed for sixteen seconds straight. It was the only thing she felt free to do anymore. “What do you need?” she asked.
“Well, there’s this magical button…”

“Wakey-wakey, sweetness! Rise ‘n shine! You sleep in too much nowadays, are you going to bed on time?”
“Mmmph,” said Becky to her pillow.
“Allliieee. Are you listening to me?”
“Yuh,” said Becky. She flipped over. “Yeah. Just tired. Overcame greed, learned that happiness is not money. Big day.”
“That’s… nice,” said Alison. “Civics homework, was it?”
“Sort of.” If she closed her eyes, she could still see the view from the zipperlin as she danged from its landing gear, while Oveur’s eyes darted from her to the falling Bling Button and back again. Right choice or not, he’d hesitated too long for her liking.
“Well, time to get up. Breakfast’ll be quick today.”
“Right,” said Becky. She rubbed her face three times fast, stretched, got up, and reached for her backpack to find it gaping and empty. Her window was open and a tiny thing that looked like a cross between a hobbit and a broom was legging it down the yard with her homework flapping in the morning breeze.
She sighed.

“Mom,” asked Becky later that day, rubbing a welt on her arm from where a mop-goblin had landed a lucky blow with its battleswiffer, “does life ever STOP teaching you things?”
“No, not really,” said Alison. “There’s always something new to learn, even for people who think they’ve seen it all. Is there something wrong, sweetness?”
Becky shrugged. Her rubbing took on a vindictive air.

One week, six Lessons of Friendship, three There’s More to Life Than You’s, five Learn to be Happy as Yourselfs, and a But Don’t Stay as a Jerk Either later, Becky woke up at midnight because she couldn’t hear a thing.
She looked in the fridge. Nothing.
She checked under the stairs. Nothing.
She looked in all the heating ducts and up and down the halls and in the bookcases and under the door-cracks and even snuck up into the attic, where she personally upended each and every single one of the incredibly dusty old boxes that her grandma had given then a thousand years ago.
Becky snuck back downstairs to her room, rolled into her bed with the grace of a pouncing lion, and slept like a stone for three seconds before she heard a cough and pounced back upright with the fury of an angry hippo, flattening her room’s latest invader to the carpet with one hand.
“Speak,” she hissed, a fist raised.
“Urk,” proclaimed her guest. It seemed to be a box of cereal.
Becky corrected her grip. “NOW speak.”
Becky uncorrected her grip to give herself some quiet time, and began to think.
She corrected it again. “What is this about?”
“What is it ABOUT?”
The box blinked through watery, raisin-like little eyeballs. “Uhhh….”
She used both hands. “What is it about FOR ME?”
Both hands slightly more gently.
“The-ah-ah-ah… the need for careful contemplation before making rash decisions on preformed opinion-ACK!”
Becky opened her window, ejected the intruder, then went back to bed.
Five minutes later she was in the kitchen, interrogating a set of forks.
“I said no,” she said.
“Nuh-uh,” said the larger fork.
“Yeah,” said the smaller fork. “Never said no, you just threw ‘im out the wind-URK.”
They went out the window too. And then they started rattling its latch, and then came the strawberries, and soon it was two hours past and there was a small mob in her room shrieking and clamouring and yammering and jumping and
being very quiet.
“If we’re going to do this,” said Becky, “this time, YOU’RE going to listen to ME. And you’re going to do it NOW. Get it?”
“Good. Now go to the kitchen and arm yourselves.”

Six minutes later, the first boot hit Breakfast Kingdom soil and the most ruthless conqueror ever to grace its milky fields follow suit, her army of enslaved Spoonlings at her back. Few books gave precise records of the war, for most citizens fled screaming rather than bear witness to its crimes, but most reports placed the Enemy at roughly four-foot-nine, with burning eyes and a fierce intolerance for gentle homilies. Her flag was a ragged box-top, and its pole was the latest in a series of hesitant, halting endearing sidekicks to attempt to gift her with humble homespun anecdotes of simple, sweet morality. She plunged the land into a thousand-year state of darkness from which it never truly recovered, and it was soon absorbed by Luncheonea in a blatant act of imperialist aggression.
Becky slept sound and safe for six hours and had her first happy schoolday in half a month. She walked back home humming a Spoonling war-hymn as her mother looked up.
“Hi sweetness. You look chipper – learn anything at school today?”
“Just one thing,” said Becky. “How to say no.”

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.