Saturday, March 23, 2013

Writing Challenge With Author, Kirstin Pulioff

Good morning, everyone! This week Write Like A Wizard will feature the author of The Escape of Princess Madeline, Kirstin Pulioff. I am very pleased that she has accepted my fun, fantasy, challenge!

The Challenge: 
In 2000 words or less, write about an egg. What is inside the egg? A dragon? A chicken? A turtle? Be creative! Also, who discovers the egg and what do they do with it? 

The Results:
The Family Tradition

By, Kirstin Pulioff

Jackson’s family had a peculiar tradition.  They planted treasures.  It started generations ago when Jackson’s great-great-great-grandfather planted his magical beans.  After that, each person, on their thirteenth birthday journeyed to the same spot and planted their own treasure in hopes of magic.  As with most traditions, the reasoning behind it had been long forgotten, but the practice remained, and every new generation looked forward to this rite of passage.    

Jackson could hardly sleep.  Visions of beanstalks, magic, and adventure raced through his mind as he carefully planned which treasures to plant. By the time the first yellow rays of sunshine peaked through his window, he was already up and ready.  

A soft rat-a-tat-tat sounded on his window.  Running over to see what the commotion was, Jackson instantly smiled.  Down in his front yard stood his best friend, Gretchen.  With her strawberry-blond hair pulled back neatly into a ponytail, wearing her work overalls and a blue gingham shirt, she looked quite at ease with the big shovel slung over her shoulder.  Her goofy grin matched his.  She had been waiting for this day too.  One more rock, thrown in fun was all it took to get Jackson moving. 

“Mom,” Jackson called out, running down the stairs, his fingers futilely trying to straighten the messy mop of brown curls on top of his head. “Mom?” he asked again, seeing no sign of her in the main room or hall.  “Mom!” he yelled.

“Jackson, honey, what is it?” she asked running into the room, soap bubbles dripping off her fingertips.

“Sorry, Mom” he said sheepishly.  “I just wanted to see if I could run and play with Gretchen today?  We’re going to plant our treasure.”

“Of course, dear, just remember- be careful where you dig, some treasures are meant to stay buried… and have fun.”  She waved him off with a smile, watching him practically jump through the door, as soap suds dripped onto the floor beneath her.  

“Are you ready?!” Gretchen asked excitedly, as he bounded towards her, her little nose scrunched up, making her sun-kissed freckles stand out even more.  Standing there with one hand on the shovel, a basket of bread beside her, she gently teased him by tossing the seed shape container in the air.

“Careful,” Jackson warned, leaning in and grabbing the seed before she tossed it again.  “There are special things in there.”  Looking down at the seed, he saw his reflection staring back.  Big blue eyes, a head full of brown curls, and more freckles than was considered cute covering his cheeks.  

“Are you ready?” she asked again, shaking the shovel impatiently.  

“You betcha,” he said, cradling the container carefully in one hand.  “Let’s go!”

Their giggles rang high as they skipped over the hills, across Farmer Percy’s beet farm, stopping only for a moment to toss rocks in the old river, and a final look at the map. 

“Here,” he said pointing to the corner.  “This is where we need to go, in the shade of the old bean plant.”

“Are you sure?”  Gretchen asked, her normal confidence replaced with a slight tremble.  “My mom told me the Giants still hide in that part of the forest.” 

“Giants, nah,” Jackson giggled.  “They disappeared years ago when Great-Grandpa chopped down the beanstalk.  We’re almost there, and anyways,” he said holding out his hand, “I’ll keep you safe.”

She smiled up at him and grabbed his hand.  Together, they ran the rest of the way through the farmlands, to the far end of the dark forest, stopping as they entered the clearing where the stump stood.  

Even chopped down, the top of the stump was over Jackson’s head, and at least five feet around.  Tiny sprouts of green vines twirled around the base, a living tribute to the magic and adventure that their family planted.

“We’re here,” Jackson said quietly, looking up in silent reverence.  Gretchen elbowed him, and nodded to the seed container.

“Did you remember everything?” he asked, slightly shaking the container and hearing a soft shuffle inside.  

“Yes,” she said, sticking the shovel into the ground in front of them.  “One loaf of bread from the bakery, and my stuffed unicorn, you just need to add in your pieces.”  

“They’re right here,” he said pulling them from his pocket, smiling at the loud thump as each treasure was dropped in- his favorite action hero and his magic rock.  

 The rock was something special that he had found one day at the river.  It was perfectly smooth and flat, and every time he skipped it on the surface of the river, it bounced along to the other side without sinking.  If anything was magical to him, it was that rock.

The shovel dug into the ground easily, and before long, a pile was growing.  Sweat beaded up on his forehead as the tower of dirt waved above them.  Jackson yelled in excitement as his shovel struck something hard.  

“Got it,” he said, reaching down to grab the items in the hole, and passing them off to Gretchen.  A seed shaped container like his, and a round golden egg.

 “This one is heavy,” she said struggling to take it from Jackson’s hands so he could climb out.  “Ok, let’s see what’s in here,” she said, shaking the dirt stained egg side to side.  Jackson knelt by her side.  

“Ewww,” they squealed, pulling out a moldy blob that slightly resembled his mother’s famous chocolate brownies. Quickly peaking in to see if there was more, Jackson pulled out a yellow ribbon, and some dried flowers.  “I guess that is all from hers,” he said disappointed.  

“I wonder what’s in the other one,” he said, moving closer to the sparkly egg.

“I don’t know, Jackson.  This one looks different.  Maybe your mom was right that some treasures should stay buried.” 

He looked at her with a crooked smile and wink.  “Alright, but what if we take just a quick peak.  Nothing wrong in peaking, right?” he asked.  “Besides, this one is cracked anyway.  We need to check, to make sure nothing broke on the inside.”  

That was enough of an excuse for both of them.  Keeping the egg hidden between them, Jackson took a deep breath and lifted the egg up gently in his hands.

“Ouch,” he yelled, dropping the egg, pulling his hand back to reveal a small pinprick.  “It bit me.  There’s something in there.”   

The egg rolled to the side where they had discarded the shovel and bread basket. 

“I knew it, we should have left it alone,” Gretchen whispered, quickly moving behind his back, shutting her eyes as the egg shook, and the cracks opened.  They jumped backwards in shock, as the egg broke away, revealing a small white bird.  

“Gretchen,” he said, pulling on her ponytail to make her open her eyes, and pointing to the bird.  “Do you know what we found?”

“What?” she asked, slowly peeking through her fingers.  She gasped, quickly covering her mouth.  “Is that what I think it is?”

“Yes!” Jackson yelled excitingly, jumping up and down.  “That is one of the Golden Goose’s eggs.  We found it, and it hatched!  Do you know what this means?”

“Do you know what this means?” she asked looking at him in horror.  “Don’t you remember the old stories?” she asked, recalling in her own mind the tales of blessings and curses that came from the Golden Goose.  “It wasn’t all golden dreams.  Each egg that the golden goose laid was made either for human dreams or curses.  If the hatched bird turned blue, a dream would come true.  If the feathers turned orange…” she trailed off, watching the white bird peck at the stump.

“Dreamers, be warned.” Jackson finished for her, knowing the stories himself.  “Well, look here. This bird hasn’t decided her colors yet, maybe we’ll be on the lucky side.”  He said, stretching his hand towards the bird, holding out crumbs from Gretchen’s bread basket.  “Here, birdie birdie…”

“Jackson, I don’t think we should be doing this.” She backed away.

“Don’t be silly, it’s just a little b-,” he started to say and stopped as soft colors began to appear on the colorless wings.
The white feathers slowly turned soft shades of greens, purples, and darker hues, and then settled on a fearful bright orange.

Gretchen pulled Jack towards her, as her eyes began to fill with tears.  “Jackson, I’m scared.  This was not the adventure we had in mind.” 

Jackson sat, mutely nodding, watching as his blessing of adventure turned into a curse before his eyes. 
The bird moved, slowly at first, stretching its wings, pecking at the base of the stump, jumping closer to their basket of bread.  Jack and Gretchen backed away slowly, their eyes fixed on the moving curse.  

Blood slowly dripped from the bite on Jack’s hand onto the ground.  A soft drop, quiet enough they did not notice, but the bird did.  Its head shifted in their direction, its beady eyes reflecting off the bright sun as it focused in on them.  Jumping closer, it sniffed up to them and squawked.  Their faces reflected off its small eyes, as the bird narrowed in on them- the fear in their wide eyes, the trembling of their chins, the tears flowing down Gretchen’s cheeks.  They stood still, watching as the bird approached. 

A quick squawk, some beating of its wings, and the orange bird took flight.  They watched, paralyzed with fear as it circled overhead, gathering speed and strength, before turning back down towards them.

“Run!” Jackson yelled seeing the bird descending towards them.  His chest burned as he struggled to run faster and farther, his feet matching the beat of his heart, until he heard the screams.

Looking back, he saw Gretchen flailing in the air.  The bird’s talons tightly hooked around her overall straps.  Her screams shot straight to his heart.  

 “Jackson!” she cried.  “Help me!”  Her voice cracked with fear between sobs.

Jackson watched in horror as his best friend was carried away.  He watched her slowly disappear, her soft red hair blending into the orange of the feathers, her freckles fading out of vision as they rose higher.

His heart pounded in his chest, his mind raced trying to find a way to rescue his friend.  If only he hadn’t shared this tradition with her, she would have been safe.  He had hoped for magic, but not at this price.  Hearing her screams echo through the air, seeing her body swing all over, somehow the adventure of planting his magic rock seemed so insignificant.

The rock!  The rock!  He thought to himself.  Quickly running, he skidded into the fresh dirt by the beanstalk stump, digging through until his seed container was found.   Ripping it open, he scattered the pieces and ran, feeling the cold stone squeezed into his palm.

“Here, birdie birdie,” he yelled again, watching it circle above.  The bird squawked and dove towards him.

“One, Two, Three,” he yelled, throwing the rock in a perfect arc.  It skipped through the air, and bounced off the bird’s beak.  Gretchen screamed as the bird dropped her.  The ground shook with a thud as her body fell to the ground.

“Gretchen!” he yelled, running to her side.  “Are you alright?” he asked, moving a strand of hair out of her freckled face.  

Her pale lips inched up in a smile, but her eyes remained closed. 

His mother watched him enter, and stopped in her tracks.  “Jackson?” she asked, “did you enjoy planting your treasure?”

He stared at her, no words to even begin explaining.
“Did you open any other seeds?” she accused taking his silence as an admittance of guilt.  “I hope you remembered what I said.  That some treasures are meant to stay buried,” she reminded him.

He stared back at her, incredulously.  “You have no idea.” He muttered under his breath, knowing the thin line between a blessing and a curse, and all about buried treasures.  

Wow, that was an excellent read! Check in soon for Kirstin's interview! -K.N. Lee

Kirstin Pulioff