Appetite that never ends
Scared of vacuums
and camera flash
and they're my rats
Thursday, July 25, 2013
By Julia Moser
It was a chilly September day. A cool, crisp breeze was blowing, and crunchy leaves covered the sidewalk; golden, tan, and brick. There was also a nine-year-old girl walking around the corner, her turquoise backpack sagging over her shoulder as her feet dragged through the fallen leaves. Her name was Jennifer, and it had been her first day of fourth grade. Already she was sure she was going to hate it.
Jenny lugged her backpack up the front steps of her house, and fumbled for her key. She turned it in the lock, walked inside, and plopped down on the dusty couch. Jenny sighed. She and her family were new in this town, their fourth move in three years. Jenny had had high hopes for this town, though. On their first day all the neighbors had come over to welcome them, and the house wasn’t that dusty or dingy for once. She had her own room, a beautiful view, and what she’d seen of the other neighborhood children had made her think school might not be so bad after all. But that first day had squashed her hopes. None of the other fourth graders had made the slightest move towards her all day, and her teacher, Ms. Ceary, hadn’t exactly included her either. Jenny’s dad walked through the kitchen door.
“Hey, Jen. How was your day?”
“Okay.” Jenny changed the topic. “So, where’s Meg?” Meg was Jenny’s four-year-old younger sister. Her father chuckled.
“She fell asleep right after lunch. Still tired from the drive two days ago, I guess.” Jenny yawned. She was tired, too, but unlike her sister she had homework to do.
The next morning, Jenny ate a quick breakfast, slung her backpack over her shoulder, and slowly started the three-block walk to school. She shuffled through the leaves, thinking how lucky Meg was that she didn’t start school until next year. Just then, a little reddish-brown chipmunk scurried onto the path in front of her. It gave a tiny “Squeak!” then dashed back to the side of the path to nibble on an acorn. Jenny chuckled, then set her eyes back on the path ahead.
That afternoon, as Jenny walked back home from another exhausting day at school, she noticed that the chipmunk was still there; staring at her with its big, round, shining eyes. She stopped, and stooped over to look closer at it. Strangely, it didn’t run away. It just stood there, looking up at her. Jenny stared. The chipmunk stared. Jenny stared harder. The chipmunk stared harder. Tentatively, Jenny reached out her hand and gently scooped it up. The chipmunk’s tail twitched, and it looked like it was considering jumping off her hand and running away, but she stroked its fur and it curled up in a ball and was soon fast asleep. A shiver of delight ran through Jenny’s arm as she watched the little chipmunk’s nose twitch as it dreamed. She gently placed it in her coat pocket, and continued the walk home.
When she got there, her father came to the door to greet her.
“How was school, Jens?”
“Good. Dad, do you have a cardboard box? And maybe some cotton balls?”
Her father looked taken aback. “Well, yes, I believe so. What do you need them for?”
“Uhh- for a school project.” Jenny needed somewhere to keep her new pet, and a cardboard box would be the perfect size.
“Well, I think there are a few in the garage you could use. And there’s a bag of cotton balls in the bottom drawer in the cabinet.” Jenny thanked her father, and ran off to the garage with the chipmunk still in her pocket. When she took it out, the chipmunk was wide awake and looking a little grumpy at having been jolted and jostled around in Jenny’s pocket. It squeaked loudly, then proceeded to scurry around and sniff everything in the garage. The chipmunk seemed very attached to an old shoebox, clambering in and refusing to come out, so Jenny picked up the box (which was met with shrill squeaks of protest) and carried it over to the dining room cabinet for cotton balls.
Once the chipmunk was happily situated in its new box, complete with a cotton ball rug, Jenny quickly did her homework and ate dinner. She brought the chipmunk a few kernels of corn, and then she and it settled down for the night. The chipmunk seemed to go straight to sleep, but Jenny lay there, thinking about her new pet. She’d always wanted a dog, but her dad was allergic to their fur. It was the same story with cats, and birds were too noisy for Meg. However, she was sure no one was allergic to chipmunks, and they made almost no noise. It was very cute too, and energetic. She was happy. Jenny closed her eyes and fell asleep.
In the morning, Jenny was awakened to the feeling of tiny paws scrambling up and down on her arm. She sat up with a start, almost flinging the little chipmunk across the room.
“Oh, it’s just you. Sorry about that,” Jenny apologized. She looked back at the shoebox. The cotton balls were in shreds, and the box was lying on its side. Poor thing, Jenny thought, it must have gotten scared during the night. The “poor thing” watched Jenny for a moment, then scrambled up onto her stomach and squeaked at her. Jenny sighed. Just then, her father called up.
“Jenny, it’s time to get up!”
“Yeah!” Meg called. “Daddy says you’ll be late for school if you don’t hurry up!” Jenny patted the little chipmunk on the head one last time, relocated the box to the corner of the bedroom, and left, firmly shutting the door behind her.
The weeks passed. Jenny’s father eventually found out about the chipmunk, but, to her relief, said it was all right for it to stay. She named the chipmunk “Squeaks”, which was approved by the chipmunk with a loud
“Squeak!” School became more bearable for Jenny with the promise of scrambling about with the chipmunk after it was done. They would run/scamper across the sidewalk, and at the street corner they’d stop. Jenny would toss Squeaks some of the berries that grew on the hedges there, and see if he could catch them in his tiny mouth. Those were Jenny’s favorite times, and she wished they could last forever. Then one day, Jenny had just finished her homework and was heading outside, when Meg jumped in front of her.
“Can I play with the mousie too?” the four year old asked, grinning.
“ Meg, it’s not a mouse, it’s a chipmunk, and no, you can’t play.” Jenny was annoyed with her little sister, and she knew Meg didn’t know how to behave with animals. Meg pouted.
“Daddy, Jenny says I can’t come and play with her mousie!” Their father, busy with dinner, called out of the kitchen, “Jenny, let your sister play!” Jenny sighed, and allowed her sister to walk outside with her. They walked to the corner in silence, then Jenny gently placed the chipmunk down on the sidewalk.
“Can I pet him?” Meg asked, excitedly.
“N-yeah, sure” Jenny said, reluctantly. She wasn’t quite sure what happened next, but it looked like Meg raised her hand to “pet” the chipmunk, (it looked more like a whack than a pet) the chipmunk gave a loud squeak and scurried the other way, and the next thing she knew Meg was dangling the chipmunk by its tail, scolding it. Jenny was horrified.
“Meg! Put him down!” Her sister ignored her and began to wag her index finger at the poor little chipmunk.
“Meg-“ Jenny began, but Squeaks nipped Meg’s finger and she gave a cry and dropped him. The chipmunk scampered off, not heeding Jenny’s cries. She turned on her sister, furious.
“You scared him away!”
“I-I-“ Meg whimpered.
“Go. Go home. I’m going to look for him.” Meg ran away, clutching her finger. Jenny stormed around the corner, poked through the hedge, and checked around the bases of trees. She searched everywhere, but Squeaks was gone. Jenny slowly walked home, threw herself down on her bed, and cried.
Over the next few weeks, Jenny’s father tried to cheer her up, but to no avail. Before now, Jenny had never realized how attached she’d become to Squeaks, and now she was heartbroken. Meg was deliberately avoiding her sister, knowing that Jenny blamed her for “the mousie’s” absence. However, next Tuesday was Jenny’s tenth birthday, and Meg had something planned. She would go out and look for Squeaks, find him, and bring him back on Jenny’s birthday for a surprise. So, early Monday morning, Meg slipped outside and began her search.
Jenny woke up on Monday morning, stretched, and went downstairs. She sat down at the breakfast table next to her father, and started in on the plate of pancakes her father passed her. Wait a minute, Jenny thought, where’s Meg? She voiced her concern to her father, who replied, uncertainly,
“She was up early this morning. Went outside to look for something.” He checked his watch.
“My, she has been gone a while, hasn’t she?” Jenny jumped up, and went to get her jacket.
“Wait, Jens, where are you going?”
“Sorry, gotta go!” she called. Jenny rushed out the door. She thought she knew what Meg had done. Her little sister had felt bad about scaring Squeaks, and so had set of to find him again. She had to stop her before she got into real trouble- oh, no. Meg was standing inches in front of a very busy street, about to cross. A car, driving extremely fast, was coming right this way, and Meg, not watching where she was going, was about to step right in front of it...
“No, MEG!” Jenny screamed. Meg barely turned her head. Jenny started to run towards her sister, but it felt like she was moving through thick cream. The five yards separating them were five miles... One of Meg’s feet was in the street...
“Ouch! Bad mousie!” Something small and reddish brown had nipped Meg’s ankle, causing her to jump back. Meg took a double take.“Mousie!”
“Meg! You’re O.K!” Jenny tackled her sister in a huge hug. Squeaks, not to be left out, scurried up to Jenny’s shoulder and nuzzled her ear. Jenny’s eyes filled with joyful tears. She sank to her knees as her father jogged around the block, saw the two sisters, and joined the hug. Jenny felt she could sit there forever with her family around her and her chipmunk on her shoulder.
Friday, April 5, 2013
By Julia E. Moser
One night, near the base of a tall, tall mountain, a girl and a unicorn lay snuggled together, fast asleep. The girl’s name was Rebecca. She and the unicorn, Goldenmane, had just succeeded in retrieving a golden apple from a maybe-not-so-fearsome-after-all dragon and were resting before another tiring day tomorrow. Finally the sun rose, and Rebecca yawned and sat up. She reached sleepily for her bag, intending to get herself breakfast--then stopped, remembering that she’d left all the pancakes with the dragon back in the clearing. Rebecca sighed, beginning to regret that she hadn’t at least saved one or two, and got up to look for berries or nuts.
When she got back, Goldenmane was awake and ready to start climbing the mountain. Rebecca had started noticing that he was a little thinner than usual, but the only apple she had was the golden one in her bag, and she couldn’t give him that. Besides, she reassured herself, his energy level didn’t seem to have been affected; the unicorns she really needed to worry about were the ones back at the school. Rebecca started to walk up the trail that ran down the side of the mountain. Goldenmane followed, but reluctantly, causing Rebecca to look down. “Oh, no! I forgot the apple!” she gasped, rushing back down. After all this time, she couldn’t afford to leave it behind. Finally, they started climbing again and Rebecca struggled to hold up the bag containing the golden apple, which had been so light before. The journey was much rougher than their trip to the clearing, and Rebecca wished she could make the bag lighter. Finally, after hours of climbing what had taken mere minutes before, Rebecca and Goldenmane sat down to rest. She decided it couldn’t hurt to get some sleep for a few hours, and propped her head up on the bag. It was uncomfortable, but it kept the apple safe from hungry animals. Who knew what creatures lived up on top of a mountain? The only thing that worried her was that if she rolled too much in her sleep, she could topple straight off the mountain. However, Rebecca decided that Goldenmane would keep that from happening, and soon fell fast asleep.
When Rebecca woke up, she was surprised to find her head resting on the ground and Goldenmane’s nose in the bag. “Oh, no! You can’t eat the apple!” Rebecca cried. Goldenmane, looking ashamed, backed up from the bag. “You poor thing.” Rebecca murmured. “We need to get you home.” They began to descend the mountain, Goldenmane stumbling along and barely making it to the bottom. Rebecca desperately hoped that they would be able to make it back to the school, because Goldenmane didn’t seem very energetic anymore.
Finally, after hours of Rebecca being terrified that Goldenmane would trip and fall, they made it to the ground. Rebecca set down her bag, yawned, and muttered, “Let’s go a tiny bit farther, and then we can rest for a moment. Not for long, though, because I really want to make it to the school.” They walked about half up mile forward, then lay down to rest. Rebecca thought she could just about see the woods surrounding the school in the distance. She wondered what Miss Meretell, her teacher was doing right now. She wondered if she missed her. She wondered... and then Rebecca fell fast asleep. So exhausted was she, that she had failed to notice one very important thing. Over to her left, looking extremely unpleasant, was a swamp. In that swamp were pixies. And those pixies were set on mischief. As Rebecca and Goldenmane slept, two tiny, delicate pixies were slipping out of the swamp and flitting silently across the grass to the two sleeping adventurers, and landing lightly on their bag. One pixie strained to open the bag, and then they both dived in. Squeaky exclamations of “Ooh, sparkly,” and “Pretty gold,” could be heard coming from the bag, and the two mischief-makers began fluttering away, giggling. It was these giggles that woke Rebecca up. She opened her eyes, saw the pixies already three fourths of the way to the swamp, and, without thinking, began to run. She ran as fast as she could after those pixies, she had almost caught up, she was reaching out a hand to grab the apple, but the pixies vanished into the swamp, leaving Rebecca standing there alone. Rebecca thought of the unicorns. She thought of their long, exhausting trip. She thought of the school. And then she thought of Goldenmane. Rebecca’s eyes felt wet, and she sat down. Goldenmane, awake by now, trotted over and lay down next to Rebecca. He nuzzled up close to her and Rebecca, who had been holding back tears, felt his soft, white fur, and began to cry. All this work, and they were robbed by a couple of troublemaking pixies. Rebecca’s cheeks felt hot. She buried her face in Goldenmane’s warm, silky fur- and then there was a loud rumbling sound, coming from the Gem Mountains. Rebecca looked up. A huge, scaly, majestic dragon was rising over the mountains and soaring towards them. “Oh, no,” Rebecca breathed. “He finished the pancakes and wants his apple back.” The dragon rose higher and higher; then dove straight for the swamp. There were high-pitched shrieks as he plunged into the pixies’ lair, and after a few terrifying moments, he emerged victorious from the swamp. He was clutching the golden apple in his long, curled, ivory talons, and gracefully landed in front of Goldenmane and Rebecca. Rebecca started backing off, but the dragon let the apple gently fall off his talons into her hands. Rebecca looked unbelieving for a moment; then the dragon picked the two of them up, placed them on his back, and flew them home with the most amazing ride ever. Rebecca spent the first part of the trip in shock, but she and Goldenmane acclimated quickly, just in time to see the gorgeous sunrise from up high.
When the dragon dropped them off, Miss Meretell, who seemed to have been waiting there, rushed over to her. “Oh, Rebecca-“ “Wait.” Goldenmane quickly dug a hole with his hoof, and Rebecca dropped the apple in and covered it up. The three of them stared at the spot for a few minutes, and for one awful moment, it seemed like nothing was going to happen. Then there was a low rumbling sound, and all over the ground tiny green shoots were popping, up, growing bark and leaves, and finally a thick tangle of golden apples. Goldenmane happily leaped up and grabbed an apple, and all the other starving looking unicorns joined in. Rebecca sighed with happiness. Now this was a happy ending.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
By Julia Moser
“Goldenmane!” Rebecca sprinted lightly across the green field, towards the creamy white, golden-maned unicorn she was supposed to be keeping an eye on. “You really shouldn’t run off like that,” Rebecca scolded, “You’ll get us both into trouble.”
Rebecca was in her first year at Mythic Academy, where students studied and cared for “mythical” creatures, such unicorns and dragons. She had been assigned to watch Goldenmane, a 2-year-old male unicorn before class while Miss Meretell, their teacher, went to get a bag of silver apples for the lesson. From the first day of class, Rebecca and Goldenmane had been drawn to each other. Rebecca didn’t know why, they just were.
Finally, Miss Meretell got back and other students started arriving. The lesson started, and Miss Meretell began to teach them to feed the unicorn. “Boy, you are hungry today,” Rebecca commented as Goldenmane gobbled apple after apple, not even pausing to breath in between huge mouthfuls. Several students looked rather worried, maybe thinking that Goldenmane would miss the apple and bite their hands instead. They ran out of silver apples very quickly, and Miss Meretell went to go get more from the storehouse. However, she came back empty-handed with a worried look, and announced that class was dismissed early. While the other students chatted happily as they walked off, Miss Meretell quietly called Rebecca back. Goldenmane, rolling himself off his back, followed. Miss Meretell nervously glanced around, took a deep breath, and whispered, “There is only one apple left in the storehouse.” Rebecca gasped, and Goldenmane, not really grasping what was going on but understanding that he was supposed to be alarmed, whinnied and shook his head. “You know,” Miss Meretell continued, “that unicorns cannot eat regular apples. They can only eat the pure silver and gold apples that grow far over the Gem Mountains. Gold apples can sustain them for months, and planting one can grow a whole forest of golden apples in a few hours. However, one has not been seen for years, so we use silver. Every summer before school starts, we are brought a load of these apples that last the whole year, but this year’s supply seems to have run short. The unicorns won’t be able to go more than four or five days without their apples, and we don’t have anything else to give them. We-we-” Miss Meretell paused, taking a deep breath, and Rebecca could see she was trying hard to stay calm. “We may have to close the school.” Rebecca stepped back, stunned. She had only been at the academy a few months, but already it felt like home. “But- you can’t! We- everything-” Miss Meretell sighed, putting a hand on Rebecca’s shoulder. “I feel the same way you do, Rebecca. I will speak with the headmaster. But we can’t keep the unicorns if we can’t feed them, and the school can’t stay open without the unicorns.” She started walking away. “I’ll do my best,” she said, over her shoulder. Rebecca felt tears spring to her eyes. If the school closed, if the unicorns and other mythical creatures were brought back into the wild, she might never see Goldenmane again. “You’re the only friend I have,” she whispered aloud to the unicorn, who rubbed up against her leg, the way he always did when she was upset. Rebecca stroked his soft silky mane; and suddenly realized that she could not let them close the academy. This was the only place in the world where she had a friend, even if he was a unicorn. She couldn’t let them take him away. “We’ll do it ourselves.” Rebecca announced. Goldenmane looked confused. “We’ll go over the Gem Mountains and get more apples. And we’ll bring them back to the school in time to keep them from closing it. We should pack right away! I’ll go get my stuff.” Rebecca ran off towards the academy, leaving Goldenmane staring off after her.
That night, after having packed almost everything she could get her hands on, Rebecca tried to sneak her suitcase and Goldenmane out of the castle unnoticed. It was harder than it looked, and eventually she decided to spend the rest of the night in the forest surrounding the academy, then start anew in the morning. Goldenmane, after looking longingly back at the stables, quickly chose the softest spot of ground, lay down, nudged a few leaves into place and was asleep in five seconds. That left Rebecca to rummage through her suitcase for a blanket, and toss and turn for hours until she finally fell asleep from exhaustion.
In the morning, Goldenmane sprang out of his pile of leaves and nuzzled Rebecca awake. She had aches and pains all over, but Goldenmane dragged her over to the edge of the forest. Finally Rebecca woke up, stretched, yawned- and gave a start to find herself in the forest. After a moment it all came back to her, though, and she went over to her suitcase to unpack the pancakes she’d put in a plastic bag. They were extremely cold, and her teeth almost froze eating them. Goldenmane pawed the ground, looking hungry. “Sorry, boy. I don’t have any apples.” Goldenmane whinnied, and snatched one of Rebecca’s pancakes. He immediately spat it out. Rebecca sighed. She could tell this was going to be a long trip.
They started walking and walking, getting cramps in their legs and making Rebecca wish she’d brought some other method of transportation. She started to realize that she had absolutely no idea how to get over the Gem Mountains with a unicorn, or, even more importantly, how to find the Gem Mountains. They kept going for days, always just hoping that the Gem Mountains were indeed to the north of the academy.
Finally, the forest ended, and Rebecca was relieved to see the Gem Mountains quite a few miles away. With new determination, she set out again, only to come to a foggy, deep looking swamp a few minutes later. “Hey!” piped a small, high voice. Rebecca twirled around. There, sitting in the branches of a small tree, was a tiny young girl as big as the leaf she was sitting on. Make that a foggy, deep looking, pixie infested swamp. “What’re you doing in our swamp?” the little creature called out. “Ummm-” Rebecca started to answer, but more little pixies started coming out of the trees everywhere, calling out and some even venturing close enough to touch them. Goldenmane whinnied, kicking out his hooves at the little pixies, but they just kept coming back. The two of them had to fight their way across the swamp, and when they finally got out, it was quite a while before the sound of the pixies’ screeching voices died out in the distance. “Those pixies are quite troublesome for such small things,” Rebecca commented with a yawn. She and Goldenmane lay down together on a big mound and fell fast asleep.
In the morning, Rebecca yawned, got up, stretched- and gave a start. The big mound she’d fallen asleep leaning on wasn’t a mound- it was the base of the Gem Mountains! Rebecca stepped back. “Wow.” The mountains were so huge, she couldn’t see their tops and wouldn’t have been surprised if they went beyond the clouds. Then Goldenmane snorted, waking up too, and giving Rebecca a new thought. “How are we going to get you up there?”
They finally started climbing, which was now, officially, the worst part of the trip so far as Rebecca was concerned. Until then she had forgotten that she was afraid of heights, and halfway up a mountain that reaches the sky is not a very good place to remember that. Twice they almost fell; first, when Rebecca looked down for just a moment, saw the trees and bushes looking like tiny green dots and freaked out, grabbing Goldenmane’s hoof to stop her from falling. Second, when Goldenmane’s hoof slipped and Rebecca had to push him back up again to keep both of them from plummeting to their deaths. Finally however, after many hours of climbing, the ground leveled out and the two stood on top of the Gem Mountains.
After a minute of catching her breath, Rebecca began to feel queasy, so they turned around and tried to start heading down the other side. Fortunately, though, someone before them had thoughtfully smoothed a path down the side of the mountain, which Goldenmane trotted happily down, whinnying when he reached the ground. Rebecca looked at the long way down, closed her eyes, sat down, and slid all the way down. “Thank goodness for that path!” she gasped, out of breath. “So, where do we go now?” Goldenmane looked hungry. “Oh yeah, the apples. So, where do we find-“ Rebecca broke off, because there, only about ten yards in front of them, was a tree. On that tree, gleaming in the late afternoon sun, was one shining golden apple. She started to run forward, but Goldenmane grabbed her shirt with his teeth and wouldn’t let go. He waved his hoof at the bottom of the tree. Rebecca stepped back, glad she hadn’t grabbed the apple like she’d been trying to do. There, lying curled around the base of the tree, fast asleep, was a huge, scaly, dragon.
“What do we do, what do we do, what do we do?” Rebecca paced around the small clearing. “We’ve got to get that apple, the unicorns back at the school won’t be able to go much longer without apples, but I am not risking being scorched by that dragon.” Suddenly, the dragon curled around the tree gave a snort and sat up. Rebecca backed off, tripping over her bag with the frozen pancakes in it. “That’s it!” Rebecca exclaimed. She quickly unzipped her bag keeping one eye on the growling, advancing dragon. She pulled out a pancake and threw it to the other side of the clearing. The dragon stopped. It turned its head, and slowly, warily, began to inch towards the pancake. “Good dragon. Nice, hungry dragon,” Rebecca called nervously, tossing another pancake a little farther than the first one. The dragon walked over to the pancakes, sniffed them, and began gnawing ferociously on them. “Poor thing. It obviously hasn’t been fed in ages,” murmured Rebecca, inching towards the tree and gently plucked the apple off it. The dragon was too absorbed in the second pancake too notice. Rebecca left the dragon the rest of the pancakes, and she and Goldenmane quietly left. Rebecca gave a sigh of relief and looked out into the distance. “Now we’ve just got to get back home.” Goldenmane whinnied in agreement, and the two of them walked off into the sunset.