story time

25 Jan

Hi friends,

I’m going to cut right to the chase with this one without too much blah-de-blah-ing: A few months ago, I had randomly dug up my old copy of “The Mysteries of Harris Burdick” ** and shown it to Tim and our friend Josh who then (rightly) demanded we would all write stories based on the illustrations and share them with each other at a later date. This is the first of the four stories we wrote. I hope you enjoy it (I know I did!).

** A really cool collection of illustrations that were “supposedly” the basis for different children’s stories that were never published because of mysterious circumstances. If you haven’t heard about it before, this will basically explain it.

Presenting…  “Just Dessert” by Josh Hoover

She lowered the knife and it grew even brighter.

“JUST DESSERT”

Tired and euphoric, Meek rolled out of the pumpkin patch and brought a long windy wooden pipe to his beard. As he lay puffing and watching vaporous grey clouds fade into the sun, he wondered: “how many butterflies would it take to lift my newly hollowed pumpkin?”

You see underneath a wall of flowers, interspersed with aging wise weeds, and hollowed gourds, there lives a community of color dwellers. The men and women of the color dwellers travel far and near to wherever the colors are the most vibrant; the purpose of their instinctual need to be around color is unknown to all, even to themselves. Peculiar to you and I, their only root horror is isolation from color. Provide a color dweller with color, love, and shelter, in that order of course, and they will be happy folk. Underneath this particular wall of flowers lived Meek, a particularly loose-footed color dweller who often ignored the mustn’ts and shouldn’ts, and who once befriended a bee named Happy and became the first (and only in the recorded history of the color dwellers) to hang with the bees.

And it was in the air, on Happy’s back, that Meek had his vision and his grand idea. With the breeze in his beard, over a rose covered hill, he saw a garden with hundreds of flowers. It was a full spectrum rainbow sprouting from the earth – the kind of place that only existed in fairy tales. He imagined himself smoking and dancing on the pedals and making his home in their shade. But he knew the flight would be too long for his children, of which he had thirty; they would get too excited and jump into the roses below.

But perhaps there was another way. “A sparrow. No. Too fluttery. A squirrel. No. Too nutty. An aircraft…” Which brings us back to our story where Meek is hard at work thinking about how butterflies will carry his newly hollowed pumpkin over the hill.

“It’s probably not a question of how many butterflies,” he thought, “but rather which ones. Of course not all butterflies could have equal strength. Just think about Skittle who ran off with the circus because she loved the colorful curtains. She couldn’t even lift an acorn! (Although maybe she could fit in one.) Meanwhile, Uncle Fullbite could probably lift ten acorns. He could probably eat ten acorns too.”

“I assume,” Meek began to explain to the sun, “that there needs to be a reason for the butterflies to want to lift the pumpkin as well. I remember when Mr. Ipslop lifted an entire pear that had fallen on his wife! Although he did eat most of the pear before the Big Lift – the principle still applies! Are the butterflies lifting the pumpkin in passion or just having a good time? Circumstance must matter.”

“And how are we expected to hold onto your pumpkin?” asked a green and purple butterfly having just landed and now perching on Meek’s cushiony belly.

I should explain, contrary to Meek’s theory, in reality, butterflies never think to ask “why”, it’s not for them to care, for they are good and true, and certainly everyone else must be too. And it’s no paradox, after their greedy youth as caterpillars – through their philosophical middle years in their cocoons – they become the most exultant creatures in the garden once they grow wings. Free to be free.

“How about I tie some string to your legs?” Meek amicably responded.

“String? You expect us to lift a pumpkin with string? Even with a concerted effort of our finest, I think we would lose many legs and your pumpkin may meet a calamitous end,” countered the butterfly.

“Alright, I’ll put you into the pumpkin,” said Meek proudly.

“That solves the problem with the string yes, but you know, we are quite claustrophobic.” Meek watched as his new friend shivered in a flux of green and purple. “Just thinking about being in that pumpkin makes me shiver!”

“Right, the cocoon years,” Meek thought to himself. “Well, it’s not too far. I estimate four or five cloud passes should be enough time. We’ll be there before you know it, and think of all the flowers. After such an arduous journey, just imagine the multicolored flowers that will be your reward. We will be in paradise my friend. Besides, you will not have to work so hard. Leave it to me to figure out the details and meet me here just before the 3rd sunrise. Till then, just imagine the sun illuminating the world’s most beautiful garden.”

And so they bade each other farewell. And just before the 3rd sunrise, in the guise of the night, they met again. This time Meek’s wife and children were all with him – all smoking wooden pipes with the exception of the smallest three – for their minds were racing with the possibilities of air travel and could not be bothered. He also brought a team of thirty fireflies to light their way – all of them barely able to dim their bottoms under all their gaiety. Never before had they witnessed a pumpkin flying through the air – they were going to be a part of history! They were to light the way for, coincidentally, they owed Meek a favor after he led a miraculous mason jar rescue in the geographical oddity nearby known as “the city.”

The butterfly had stayed true to his word and brought with him the strongest swarm ever collected.

“Thank you for coming friends!” began Meek standing tall on top of his pumpkin aircraft. “Through this darkness of night, we embark on an adventure above the rampant rose thorns of Hazard Hill to a land only revered in our hearts and dreams. A colorful life is one worth living. And even if we find serpents in the garden, we will befriend them for color never decreases by being shared.”

The butterflies and fireflies brightened the inner soul of Meek’s children. Twenty-seven of them introduced themselves and led the butterflies to their stations in the pumpkin while the youngest three dreamed of having wings and glowing bottoms.

Once inside the pumpkin, flittering butterfly wings were fastened to stringy pumpkin fibers, which were intertwined with pearl white seeds that grated as the wings flapped up and down. The children watched in excitement as tiny sparks from the seeds traveled back up the pumpkin to a vine propeller where the fireflies stood guard ready to lead the journey into the night. Moonlight reflecting off the seeds danced throughout the aircraft with each rotation.

Meek grabbed his wife and together they jumped down into the pumpkin. I mentioned that these color dwellers were leapers, yes? Well, they are.

And so they were off. The fireflies stood guard to ensure no trees were in the way and they stayed well above the thorny rose bushes, the butterflies flapped with multicolored dreams, and Meek, his wife and children all drank in celebration of their ascent into a more colorful tomorrow. Of course there was the exception of his youngest three, for they hung with the fireflies and reached for the stars…surely that cannot be that much further now that they are already in the air.

Time passed. Maybe a cloud cycle – maybe three. It’s hard to say. But soon all that stayed awake through the dark, non-colorful night – which was… well, everyone – was asleep. And you know, that’s a funny thing because the pumpkin was only in the air thanks to the tireless butterflies who had all of a sudden started having cocoon flashbacks and passed out. But no one could blame them, of course, for they meant well. Perhaps their minds could have been kept busy if all of the children had not fallen asleep and there were still beginning minds there to question the why’s and how’s.

The first to wake were the fireflies. They were used to being awake at night and sleeping during the day. It was light outside when they began to pull their faces from their warm mate’s spots. To their horror, they realized they were in the city – the land where the giants capture and often murder them in transparent cylinders of doom. They could see the garden, but it was far. The pumpkin was covered in devilish brown spikes, and the propeller was missing. They must have crashed into the hill, rolled down, and passed the garden.

Suddenly, inches away, the white tree that had stopped their roll flung open and there stood one of the giants themselves. Brave and finding themselves at enmity, some of the fireflies darted out towards the woman in an attempt to scare her away. Their friends nearly swooned when the woman merely flicked her hand and disregarded their attack.

“Mr. MacSnook, you shouldn’t have. I’ll have to bake you a pie for your kindness.” The woman reached down, picked up the aircraft, brushed off the rose bush thorns, and walked inside. The fireflies watched from the hatch near the stem as they were carried through a bright colorful cave. They were placed carefully on a slab and the woman disappeared. They could hear a rustling of metal and wood around them but did not dare to peek out further from the hatch. Suddenly the woman returned into sight with a large knife in her hand.

Well, it wasn’t night, but the firefly’s decided it was time to do what they did best. And of course that is, glowing. They sheltered themselves in the aircraft and shown and shown until even on the outside of the pumpkin, you could see a glowing light.

She lowered the knife, and it grew even brighter. The fireflies shown as brightly as they could, and you know, they would have just screamed to get the attention of Meek and the butterflies, but of course you know just as well as I that fireflies cannot speak – that’s why they shine so brightly. The pumpkin grew brighter and brighter. Until the woman screamed and disappeared. The fireflies had scared her away! They celebrated in the only way they know how – which is by glowing. And then suddenly blackness covered the pumpkin, and they could feel the aircraft lifting back off the slab. But Meek and the butterflies were still sleeping. It was dark but the fireflies could feel that they were moving at an incredible rate. And then light filled the pumpkin again and they could see they were airborne and were flying a little fast back towards the garden.

A sudden thud awoke Meek. He saw the fear of the fireflies and remembered the languor of the pumpkin patch with the sun on his face and the butterfly on his stomach. But then with great panache, Meek stood and called out to his children and friends. Wake up! The color lies outside, everyone to the top – we are here! The fireflies looked among themselves and decided they had repaid Meek’s favor.

The youngest three were the first ones out.

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