The Long Way - Micro Fiction Winners
Dandelion Press is excited to announce the winner of last month’s Micro Fiction Contest, The Long Way. Marion Canning’s evocative setting, finely expressed details and imaginative characters all came together in the space of one summer’s day to beautifully tell the tale of The Long Way. We hope you will enjoy her winning story as much as we did!
We had so many fine entries, especially from the 18 and under age group, that we simply had to create an “Honorable Mention” category, where you will find the three more wonderful stories—one adult and two young people’s. Mindy Garza’s sixty-one word story is a masterful sketch—like the breath of a dream—no names, no place—just the perfectly balanced inhale and exhale of mutual recognition.
Among the many fine submissions from young people all over the country, we selected two for publication on this blog. Twelve-year old Lauren Brown penned a heart-felt coming of age story called “Isa’s Painting” that we loved for the way it captured Dandelion Press’s magical way with paint! Actually, she created an entire family’s coming-of-age, through Isa’s adventurous creativity.
Finally, ten-year old Sathvik Appana not only wrote a fast-paced adventure story, but he managed to create a convincing ten-year old girl as the heroine of his tale! Many of the young writers themed their stories around loss and grief. Though “Journey to Fortune” is also built around the now-orphaned girl Ivory, she discovers her own special means of resolving her loss.
Many thanks to all the fine writers who submitted their stories for The Long Way! Please don’t hesitate to enter again and again as you’re inspired by our illustrations.
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THE LONG WAY
by Marion Canning - Springfield, Massachusetts
Caroline Elizabeth Weston climbed onto the back of the Earl of Wye as he began moving slowly away from the kitchen garden at Aston Place. Sweet peas and hollyhocks shielded them from Cook's sight. Only the top of Caroline's hat would have been visible to Cook's beady eyes if she happened to be standing in the dooryard.
It felt good to be perched atop of the ancient tortoise. He had waited patiently as she packed. It took a long time. There were so many things to sort out. Granny's deck of cards, a soft blanket for sitting, skeins of yarn and crochet hooks and the magnifier went into the hatbox. Mummy's jumper, two handkerchiefs, and Caroline's extra sweater fit snugly in the traveling bag. She squashed her mac and gum boots, Cook's horsehair broom and dear Iris's shawl, drawing pad, pencils and water colors in the portmanteau. The carry-all she held on her lap came from the spring house. It smelled like Mr. Mac's gardening gloves. The cheese, biscuits and lettuces, the pears she snatched when Cook was not in the kitchen and a packet of flakes just fit. The clasp was rusty from resting besides the milk cans stored in the stream trickling under the flag stones and it was very hard to close. Her grip was filled with Alice, Beatrix Potter and Black Beauty and fastened with a belt to keep them from tumbling out. Her father's camera balanced next to the Prince in his fish bowl.
Aston Place lay in a soft valley on the River Wye. The river chiseled out hidden pools and eddies along the shore bordering the property. These provided Mr. Mac with big fat trout for the dinner table when the family was in residence. Sheep grazed on the grounds that bordered the woods. Walking paths meandered all through the estate where Caroline and Iris, her tutor, sketched and read together. Now Iris was on summer holiday and Caroline had discovered in the post, among the letters, one with numerous stamps smudged from travel and with pictures of India on them. She did not have to be told that Granny and her parents were not coming back before the end of summer. Left without companionship she roamed long solitary hours by herself. She only appeared in the kitchen for tea with Cook and Mr. Mac at the end of the day.
Now the Earl, the Prince and Caroline edged along the high garden wall until they reached the backside of the stables. There the paddocks opened out to a rolling landscape towards the woods and river. It took quite some time to reach the trees. The sun was strong overhead and Caroline's face was hot and flushed. She was still cross about the letter that came with the mail and she missed Iris not sharing in today's most important venture. The Prince's small watery home had warmed considerably and he was flustered with all the jouncing on top of the wobbly pile of suitcases. He wished he had been left on the library reading table away from the sun.
At last they came to a place where the path became two. "Left please", Caroline commanded loudly since the Earl was so ancient he was mostly deaf. The new path took them into the wood along a wide, worn stretch and the sudden shade felt cool and refreshing. Up ahead Caroline could see the shape of her best discovery yet: an old mossy pavilion tucked away under an ancient beech tree that stood guarding a clear spring fed pool. Caroline imagined the ladies of Aston Place once spending lazy afternoons there reading and gossiping while the men were busy with estate business.
Upon arriving at the pavilion Caroline set to work unpacking the tortoise and sweeping away dust from the past. Paints, sketch books, cards and yarn all fit along the marble benches surrounding the walls. The suitcases she found long forgotten in the attic slipped underneath. A rickety table held her favorite books. "Now" she said, "we shall have our lunch." She spread out the cheese and biscuits on the soft blanket and shared the pears and lettuces with the Earl. It was very quiet under the tree and Caroline was weary from all her activity. She curled up next to the tortoise and set the Prince next to her and soon she slept.
When the afternoon sun peeked between the leaves of the beech tree, she awoke and remembered her most important mission. She knelt down and put her face close to the fish bowl and saw the Prince swimming listlessly around in the water. She said softly, "I have brought you to this secret pool where you will be able to grow big and shiny". She murmured almost to herself, "It is too lonely living all alone in the library". She then lowered the Prince gently into the pool and watched as he swam out of his cramped bowl into the deep cool water. She sprinkled the packet of flakes over the surface and magically, beautiful gold fish from lazy afternoons gone by, appeared at the surface to greet him. "There!”, she smiled with hands on her hips as she watched all the fish released from too small fish bowls left in nurseries and libraries receive the Prince.
"Cook will be looking for me", remembered Caroline. Turning away from the pool she went into the pavilion to fetch her hat and retrieve her umbrella and the violin she hadn't practiced at all! When they finally reached the vegetable garden the sun was low. She slid off the tortoise and as he he disappeared under the cabbages she set off for the kitchen. Cook and Mr. Mac were waiting for her. "Where have you been Caroline Elizabeth?" said Cook. "We took the long way round, and the Earl was so terribly slow", said Caroline.
THE LONG WAY
by Mindy Garza - Southern California
She sensed their dreams at all times, but they felt strongest when the stars shone in the darkness. Navigating with a strong steady pace, she found the little one alone with her tears. The girl took one look at her and understood. She packed her belongings, ready for the journey. They traveled in silent understanding to the place where dreams grow.
by Lauren Brown - Firestone, Colorado 12 years old
A little four year old Isa was walking along the edge of the small clearing that was her backyard when she, for no reason, decided to wander into the forest just a little. She found an injured baby tortoise with no mommy or family in sight.
“You have a boo boo. I will make you all better!” Isa picked up the baby tortoise and took him back into her cottage where she lived with her dad. “I will call you Baxter and you will be my bestest friend forwever!”
Isa opened her eyes, smiling. That was her favorite memory. Meeting Baxter had forever changed her life. She was leaning against him right then. Baxter had grown huge over the last twelve years, and was now big enough to carry Isa when she pleased.
Isa had big hopes and dreams, but she remained confined to her small town. Isa wanted to become an artist who painted landscapes, and got to travel the world. Her kind heart was hungry for some excitement. But her dad would never let her go.
Isa’s mom had disappeared shortly after the twins had been born. One of those twins was Isa herself. Her twin sister, Maria, was nothing like her. She and dad were always getting into fights. Raising two girls without a mother hadn’t been her dad’s plan. Isa was the one who did the cooking, washing, cleaning, and shopping in the market.
Her dad worked hard as a blacksmith to bring home money. And Maria was hardly ever around. Her dad thought he couldn’t keep their family together without her. But Isa wanted to see the world and discover who she really was outside of this town. Baxter could feel her eagerness to leave and spread her wings. She had only stayed this long because she felt as though she would be leaving just as her mother had. Leaving behind a broken family.
Yet she knew it wouldn’t be like that at all. The inside walls of their cottage were covered in landscapes Isa had painted. When she ran out of canvas, she’d replaced the wallpaper with her own. The walls were covered with rolling hills, setting suns, sparkling lakes. She’d even done the ceiling. Looking up in their home meant looking into the treetops where exotic birds were soaring and the occasional chipmunk leaping. It was truly remarkable to walk in the halls. A huge piece of Isa would always be in this house.
That night at dinner, Isa decided to ask flat out. “Dad, am I allowed to leave?”
Startled, he looked up and swallowed his mouthful. Maria continued on as though no one had spoken. “Sure, you go into town all the time.”
“No Dad. I think I’m ready to have my own adventure.” Now Maria looked up. “Sis? Why would you want to leave? Aren’t you happy here?”
“I love it here, but,” Isa gestured to the walls and ceiling. “It’s time for me to have my own adventure to do the things I love. I want to travel and paint the world.” Isa’s father looked into his daughter’s big brown eyes that sparkled. He sighed.
“I’d always known you’d leave. Your spirit is too big to be kept in our small town.
Your dreams too bright and your tortoise too large.” This made Isa smile. It was true, Baxter was getting too big to fit in the house. But the rest of what her dad said was also true. And Maria knew it too.
“I’ll help you pack tomorrow. You can take my trunk with the daisy for a clasp.” Maria and Isa stood and hugged. Tears fell from Isa’s eyes. “Thank you.” was all she could whisper.
Two days later everything Isa needed was strapped to the willing Baxter, who she would ride. He was smarter and speedier than he appeared. Isa had many bags other than the trunk her sister had provided. They each held something, like her brushes, the paint, or what she needed to make more. Plus canvases.
Isa stared at her reflection in the mirror. She’d chosen a sleeveless pink dress and navy blue shoes for day one. Putting a navy blue hat on her head, she twirled her short blond hair. Today was the start of something she’d only ever dreamed of. And with that, she turned and walked out the door of her room.
Hugs were exchanged before Isa climbed onto Baxter. Isa promised to visit for Christmas and would send gifts for birthdays. Maria and Isa decided that they would become pen pals. Her dad gave her a ring with a stone in the center. “As long as you wear this, I’ll be with you.” She’d hugged him tight. “Let’s go boy.” And they rode off.
Two Weeks Later…
Isa stood on a hilltop, paintbrush in hand. The first stars were starting to sparkle in the sky. Nothing had ever felt more right to Isa in that moment. Baxter was resting behind Isa, next to the tent she’d set up. Putting her brush down, she went and picked up the first painting she’d done on her adventure. In it, a small town could been seen at sunset. In the upper left corner, a cottage with a clearing in the back had a pink heart around it. Isa would always return to that clearing, no matter where her mind took her. Because her heart would hold that location close. Home is where the ones you love are. And her family would be there, waiting.
JOURNEY TO FORTUNE
by Sathvik Appana - Lexington, Massachusetts 10 years old
“Ivory, Wake up! It’s your 10th birthday.”
I threw off the covers, and leaped out of bed.
“Happy Birthday Ivory.” Said my mother.
“I made you your favorite treat.”
And she handed me a platter filled with sweet cream cookies.
“ Ivory, on this birthday, your 10th, I think that it’s fair that I should tell you what happened to your father.”
The temperature in the room seemed to have suddenly dropped, and so did my mother’s mood. She soon regained her happy face.
“Eight years ago when you were a baby, your father dreamed of finding a place called Fortune falls. It was said that Fortune had the greatest treasure man could ever dream of, flowing through it’s streams. Your father went to the elders of the village to seek their blessings to go find the falls. When he went to them, they gave him a ceramic turtle charm and told him that it would guide him to what he wanted the most. He used all of our money and bought a ship. We set sail along with some crew that he hired. On the first night, the ship hit a big storm. There were waves like mountains, and jagged white lines coming from the clouds. The ship was severely damaged. Your father sent us off in the one remaining lifeboat. As I rowed away, I saw your father’s ship sink.”
By now tears were forming in both of our eyes.
“Well, that was the past. Lets focus on the future. I’m going to give you your gifts. The first gift was from your father. It is his ceramic turtle charm. Your second gift is from me. I’m giving you 100 crescents. Spend it wisely. Now, go play with your friends.”
My mother’s story had shocked me, but she was right, the past is the past. For the rest of the day I played with my friends in the woods and around town. I was actually feeling good until my neighbor ran up to me, and said
“Ivory, It’s your mother, she was hit by a stampeding bull. Go quick.”
I dropped everything and ran home. When got to my house, I burst through the door into my mother’s room. She had a huge gash on her side and there were medics hunched over tending to her wounds.
“Ivory, go find Fortune falls. That was mine and your father’s wish; The turtle charm will help you.”
Then she gasped, and closed her eyes. The medics were shaking their heads.
“We’re sorry Ivory.”
At that moment lots of feelings surged through me, but I was determined to find Fortune falls and fulfill my mother’s wish. After my mother’s funeral service the next day, I went to the stream behind my house to wash my face. As I dipped my hand into the water my turtle charm fell off, and grew into a giant turtle.
“I am Aegis, your guide to fortune falls. Collect your belongings and get on my back.”
Speechless, I ran into my house, packed my clothes, the cookies my mom made for me, the money I got for my birthday, and a jar with my pet goldfish.
“Are you ready Ivory?”
“In that case, let us begin our journey to fortune falls”.
Over the next few days Aegis carried my belongings and me through forests, hamlets, and across streams.
On the fifth day, while Aegis and I were traveling through a forest, I suddenly felt a sharp pain on the side of my arm and Aegis collapsed. Then everything was black. When I woke up, I found myself surrounded by three burly men.
“She’s awake,” said one of the men.
“Who are you and where are you going with this giant turtle?”
“My name is Ivory and Aegis here is my turtle guide. He will take me to Fortune falls.”
The men looked at each other with suspicious grins. “How do you know about fortune falls?’
“When I was little, my father lost his life trying to find Fortune falls. Now I am going to find them.”
“ We’ve been searching for the falls as well. Can we join you and this giant turtle in your journey?”
“Sure, you can join,” I said
For the next few days, the men and me followed Aegis through many more jungles until we finally came to a huge sparkling water fall.
“We are at Fortune falls”, Aegis announced.
The three men’s faces changed. They were no longer excited. They seemed angry.
“Where is the fortune?” “I don’t know.” I said.
“Its all that blasted turtles fault.” They started hitting Aegis.
“No, please stop hitting him!”
As I put up my hand to block a blow from the stick that they were hitting Aegis with, I got a huge gash on my hand. My head was swimming from the pain.
“We don’t have any use for these two. Let’s dump them in the water.” Said the men.
The three men pushed us into the water. Something strange started to happen under water. The cut on my hand was starting to heal, and I could breath normally under the water. After we had been swept down stream by the current, Aegis got himself and me out of the water. Where we had gotten out, I saw a tattered old and rusty sign that said Fortune Falls ahead. We had found Fortune falls! It did contain the greatest treasure of all. It was not gold, but it was the ability to heal. I opened one of caskets that was tied to my waist and filled it up with water from Fortune falls. We started our journey back home. After we got back, I used the water to heal people so that they didn’t have to go through the despair that I did when I lost my mom.