Once again it has been pure pleasure to receive and read so many fine story submissions from writers of all ages! Of all our Dandelion images, we hadn’t imagined that Overbooked would be the image to inspire so many visionary tales. In the adult category, so much wit and skill made our winning choice for Overbooked a creative challenge. Still, Susan Ferrari’s The Omnibus was such an inspiring story of the possibility for true wisdom, we could not resist its spirited optimism. The Omnibus is our winning story for Overbooked, congratulations Susan!
In the young writers’ category, we had more wonderful submissions than ever. Each one shone with its own whimsy and insight, but thirteen year-old E. Rhoads took the cake with her The Raid of the Redbox. We are delighted to share her imaginative vision of the Overbooked school bus’ destiny as our Honorable Mention winner, and hope you will enjoy it as much as we did!
Again, our deepest thanks to each of you who took the time and creative courage to write your stories for us, and we look forward to the results of your imaginative talents when you set your pens to work around our next illustration, to be announced shortly. This next go-round will be the last Dandelion Micro-Fiction contest of 2017, but don’t worry, the fun will continue early next year!
The Winning Story
by Susan Ferrari - Gilford, New Hampshire
The scruffy tri-colored dog sat at the edge of the woods watching the girl on the swing. She put no effort into swinging, just sat there and let the breeze move her slightly. Staring at the ground without blinking, she seemed almost in a trance. The dog decided it was safe to approach. You never know with humans. One had to be careful.
Walking almost silently, the dog came up from behind, downwind of her. She couldn’t smell him, but he could smell her. Her scent was sweet and clean. Peanut butter and soap, perhaps? He could sense that she was calm, maybe even kind. So far, so good. He walked around her so that he was right in front of her. And there he sat, waiting for her to look up. He kept about ten feet between them, just in case he was wrong about her.
When she didn’t notice him, he said without sound, “Hello there, girl. See me.”
She did just that. Looked up and saw him. Suddenly alert and smiling widely, she exclaimed, “Oh, hi there, little dog!”
She hopped off the swing, tripped over the lunchbox and teddy bear that she’d dropped earlier, and started toward him. Her hand was outstretched and he knew instantly that she meant to pet him, touch him.
The dog backed away and said, without speaking, “Please, don’t.”
“I’m sorry,” said the girl, “you don’t want me to touch you. I promise I won’t hurt you.” She plopped down and sat cross legged on the ground. “See, I’ll wait ’til you’re ready. Do you have a family? Are you hungry? Do you want to play with me? My name is Maddy. Do you have a name? I think I’ll call you Chance. You like that name? Chance is a good name for you because we just met by chance. Get it?”
Humans! Blah, blah, blah all the time, thought the dog. But still, he liked her. He lay down, forelegs stretched out in front. “Chance, hmmm. You cannot call me Chance. We did not meet
by chance. There is a reason I’m here,” said the dog, again without speaking.
“There’s a reason you’re here so I shouldn’t call you Chance?” the girl asked.
Yes, she’s the one, he thought. “You understand me?” he asked, just to be sure.
The girl, Maddy, nodded.
“You may call me Agamenticuz, with a ‘z’,” the dog told her in his silent way.
“A-ga-men-ti-cuz,” she said slowly. “Huh! Like the alphabet. You begin with ‘A’ and end with ‘Z’.”
“Just so. The beginning and the end, and everything in between. That’s me, the Alpha and Omega.” Agamenticuz stood and said, “Let’s walk.
Maddy grabbed her lunchbox and teddy then followed the dog into the woods. Agamenticuz loped easily ahead while Maddy
struggled over fallen trees and roots that seemed to grab at her ankles. Small stones crunched and slid under her feet as she tried to keep up. Finally Agamenticuz stopped and waited. When Maddy came abreast of him she noticed that the ground had changed. It was no longer a wooded path but a narrow cobblestone road. A bench stood at the edge of the road.
Agamenticuz tapped the bench with his paw, indicating that Maddy should sit.
“Where are we?” she asked.
“Nowhere, at the moment, but on our way to Somewhere.” Agamenticuz answered without voice.
Maddy looked confused. “I don’t understand,” she said.
“You will,” said the dog silently. “There is much for you to learn.”
Maddy sat on the bench and stared at Agamenticuz.
“Maddy, we have chosen you because we believe that you, like us, can hear what is not said, you can see what is not visible, and you can learn what cannot be taught. You hear me, yet I do not speak. You see possibility in nothing, and opportunity in difficulties.” Agamenticuz looked deep into Maddy’s eyes, then continued. “Above all, you discern Truth.”
Maddy looked down at the cobblestones and asked quietly, “You said ‘we’. Who did you mean?”
“We are transcendent beings trying to help the human race. We see its struggles, how it limits itself with war and greed, prejudice and separatism in all forms including religions.” Agamenticuz sadly shook his head. “It doesn’t have to be like this. It should never be like this.” After a pause, he added, “Come, I have something for you.”
He began to trot down the road. Maddy followed. As the road curved, Maddy saw an old school bus ahead. It looked abandoned.
“Are you taking me to school?” she asked.
“In a way,” he answered. “You are about to embark on the journey of your lifetime. You will travel far within your own mind and your own heart to different lands, different cultures, different beliefs. In exploring these differences you will find a beautiful Oneness. And that will lead to wisdom. Then, dear Maddy, you will be able to help this world, one soul at a time. You will teach without teaching because the lessons you give will be of your own living.”
Agamenticuz turned to face the bus. “Open,” he commanded solemnly.
The door of the bus squeaked loudly as it slowly opened. Suddenly an avalanche of books tumbled forward, some landing on the cobblestones. Maddy gasped as she realized that these were her transport. Without hesitation, she climbed aboard the omnibus, its massive pile of bound tomes with boundless thought from around the world. Taking a deep breath, Maddy drew in the rich perfume of the old books and the promise of hope, the enchantment of hope. She was overjoyed.
“Namaste, Maddy. The spirit within me honors the spirit within you,” said Agamenticuz, bowing.
As he turned away, Maddy asked, “Will I see you again?”
“I’m as sure of it as I am of you. Perhaps the next time you see me I’ll be a giraffe and my name will be Francis.”
The Raid of the Redbox
By E. Rhoads - Georgia 13 years old
Leaves crunching underneath her feet, Sarah walked calmly through the woods with her collie dog Jack. This was her favorite time of day because she got to relax outside. Nothing much ever happened to her; she lived in a sleepy town with Jack and her grandmother Eliza. She was different from other kids her age. Instead of rushing home to finish homework so she could watch television, she would finish her homework to go for a walk. Thunder abruptly boomed in the distance, and she decided to turn around. As she walked, the rain steadily increased, and her walk turned into a run. She was soaked when she suddenly spotted an abandoned bus in the middle of an old lot. Whistling to Jack, she turned and jogged to the bus. She pulled on the door, which opened easily, and climbed inside. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she realized that hundreds of books were in there. “Look at this, Jack,” she breathed. “I’ve never seen so many books in my life!” Picking up a random book, she opened it and began to read. Two hours later, she looked up and realized the rain had ceased. “Oh boy, Grandma is going to be worried. Let’s go, Jack!” Casting a longing glance at the books, she stepped outside and closed the door.
That afternoon, she told her grandmother about what she had found. “I think that they were abandoned,” Sarah said. Her grandmother, who was head librarian at the nearby public library, agreed. “Lately, all that people want to do for entertainment is watch videos. It is quite upsetting. It’s hard to believe, but schools are actually starting to throw out their books.” Ms. Eliza paused, then grinned. “You know, let’s do something about it!”
“I’m all for that!” Sarah agreed. “But how could we do that? It’s not like we can replace all of their videos with books.” Looking at her grandmother’s thoughtful face, she began to consider an option. A crazy idea, but…could it work? She shared her idea with her grandmother, who was enthusiastic about it. They devised a plan, and after a whole day of preparation, they were ready (somewhat) for their revenge!
The next night, clothed in black, Sarah and her grandmother drove the bus load of books to the nearby CVS. They parked the bus and grabbed the dolly they had brought to maneuver the Redbox video dispenser away from the wall. Taking a skeleton key they had borrowed from one of Eliza’s coworkers, they pried open the back of the Redbox standing smugly outside. Reaching in, Sarah removed Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and replaced it with the book version. “Need I say it? The book is always better than the movie,” she told her grandmother. They worked for an hour, replacing the videos with random books. When they had all the movies out, they stood back and admired their handywork. “What should we do with these?” Sarah asked, holding a video cover between her pointer finger and thumb. “Hide them forever?” Eliza guessed. Tossing them into the back of the bus, they climbed in and drove to the next Redbox on their list.
The next day, Barty Dingleas drove up to the CVS, ready to get a good movie. Scrolling through the options, he decided on The Godfather. When he pulled out his movie, however, he realized it was not a movie at all, but Apology by Plato. Frowning, he set the book down and got a random movie. Charlie’s Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl popped out. Barty raised his eyebrows, and, being a good sport, laughed. I guess I should just stick with these books, he thought to himself.
Similar happenings were reported from all over the state. Soon, people from all over the country were coming to Wyoming just to see the new Redbox, newly named the Blue Book Box (or B.B.B.) Other people started petitioning their state government to fill their Redboxes with books. As for Sarah and her grandmother, they were perfectly content with the remainder of their books in the bus, which they affectionately called the Book Bus. Some people were outraged, but they could do little about it. No matter how much they searched, no one could ever find the guilty party.