Suggested by: Emily Ecrivaine
Name: Faith Dunmore
Place: A dank shed
Time: Early morning
Object: A bent shovel
I sighed as I tossed the novel I’d been reading, Captain Burlington’s Adventures. I had read it three times already this summer. It was great stuff, don’t get me wrong: a space captain from another galaxy and his android co-pilot get caught in our solar system and have to pass through a kid’s video game to get out. But the gags were only appealing the first and second times through.
I sighed again, louder this time.
“Do you have trouble breathing, cherie?” asked my Aunt Arielle.
“Where is my notebook?” I whined, even though there was no way she could have found it by now.
I had brought it with me on this trip to Marseilles because nothing seemed more romantic to me than finding a shady willow on a French hillside to finish my story about a princess who tamed dragons. I had managed to work out the most thrilling description of the Dragon King on the plane—and yet the moment we arrived at my aunt’s chateau, the notebook seemingly vanished from among my possessions and I could not find it anywhere. It wasn’t like it was hard to miss: Bright red with golden sworls, and my name, Faith Dunmore, scrawled across the front in black Sharpie.
“I do not know where it is, cherie,” Aunt Arielle answered. “As I told you before, your uncle and I have looked everywhere for it. Why do you not use the new journal he bought for you in the market?”
“It’s not the same!” For some reason, my aunt didn’t understand the fickle nature of inspiration; there was no way I could regain all that I had lost, no matter how hard I tried.
“Perhaps you might like to walk in the garden, Faith,” Aunt Arielle tried a different tack. “It is so beautiful this time of morning; no doubt you will find plenty of stories there.”
By now I was done arguing. Slowly I trudged out the door and into the tall, winding gardens.
Aunt Arielle’s flowers grew tall and hearty, the black-eyed daisies towering over my head, while the roses seemed to blossom in the juniper trees, so thickly they grew. The sun bathed everything in a liquid-golden light that caught the stray, floating specks of dust and made them sparkle like little puffs of fairy-magic. The trees here were very short, dwarf-sized, without the large, gnarled roots that I wanted so dearly to sit among. One more turn around a hedge, and I couldn’t see the house anymore. It was as if I was all alone in a world so different from the real one.
Abruptly, I came upon a squat, dark shape in the shade of a weeping willow, one that stood out among the tender pastels of the poppies. The hairs on the back of my neck prickled as I came near the shed. I knew Aunt Arielle had a nice large tool shed next to the house that was bright and warm and smelled strongly of sawdust and potting soil. What, then, was this little hideaway back here? The wood was so old it was almost a blackish-blue color. Ivy coated the roof. Amid the humming of the bees, I imagined I could hear something coming from inside the shed. I leaned closer.
Scritch-scritch, came the sound. I ran my hand along the vines till my fingers connected with something hard. I gripped it like a handle and pushed.
The shed was pitch-dark inside, but the scratching noise was much louder. I stepped slowly inside, my feet making only the slightest crunch in the soft dirt. I could feel the temperature drop in the darkness like a damp blanket.
All of a sudden, a spade emerged between my feet. I jumped back against the side of the shed. The shovel folded at an odd angle; it was old and well-used, whatever it was. The bent spade retracted and emerged a few more times, while I wondered if there were any French prisons nearby that I didn't know about. (I had just begun to read the Count of Monte Cristo; who could blame me?)
While visions of Chateau D'If danced in my head, I stared unmoving as a round, iron lantern with a golden shade appeared next from the wide hole in the middle of the shed. The next thing to come out was much bigger than either of the things before it, and it reached a height of about four feet, and just stopped. I saw a wizened little face with whispery little whiskers on the chin, a wide, grinning mouth, long, sharp nose, and two beady little eyes regarding me closely, as we were eye-to-eye while I sat on the ground. It was a very short man coming out of the tunnel, but he wasn't scraggly or emaciated as a prisoner might have been. His skin looked worn, but his belly was obviously well-fed. With one of his gnarled hands he pulled out a large pocket-watch from the red sash around his waist. He glanced at me.
"Voozet juiced at omm," he muttered.
I blinked at him, still sitting there with my hands pressing into the dirt. It sounded French, but I didn't speak French. I was still trying to comprehend what a dwarf was doing in my aunt's dank garden shed. The dwarf came toward me, and I flinched. He reached into his wide belt and pulled out a notebook just about as big as his chest, with "Faith Dunmore" in curling cursive scribbled across the front.
I forgot my confusion right away and seized my long-lost possession.
"My notebook!" I cried.
The dwarf grinned and nodded to me. "Essay voo, mademoiselle?" He asked. He looked like he wanted something. He kept pointing at me and asking, "Etvoo leckreevenn?" When I frowned to show I did not understand, he gestured that he wanted the notebook. I handed it to him.
The dwarf turned the pages gently, almost with a sort of reverence.
"Lemoo!" he murmured over and over. "Lemoo pwisahn!"
He reached the last of the pages I had filled. Pointing and handing the book back to me, he said again, "Leer lemoo, eckreevenn!" I took it, and he watched me expectantly.
Realization dawned. "You want me to read to you?" I asked.
The dwarf nodded. "Oui!" There at last was the only French word I understood. "Leer lemoo!"
I started reading. His short, stubby fingers indicated the paragraph when I described my prized creation.
"The Dragon King stirred as dawn broke over the land," I whispered in the stillness. "His whip-like tail shifted off his back as his powerful legs flexed. His wings unfolded from his sides as he stretched out his neck the size of a tree trunk. The midnight blue of his scales glittered like a sky full of stars in the firelight. He swung his mighty head as big as that of an elephant, and a plume of fire lit up the night sky as the Dragon King roared!"
I was so caught up in reading that I didn't realize I had gotten to my feet till I almost fell over at the thunderous sound. I gaped at the dwarf, but the little French imp was staring at the door of the shed, a smile on his thin little mouth.
"What was that?" I asked, even as my body knew the answer and quaked at every joint.
"Dragon," he hissed in the dark.