November 27, 2013

Stairwell of the Red-Red Phoenix, A Bedtime Tale

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Ready?”

“Yeah,” they said, squirming beneath the comforter.

“Alright." The room was gray, illuminated by a solitary lamp. "This might be scary.”

“We’re never scared,” the elder said.

I twined my fingers behind my head and started: “Once upon a time—”

“Once upon a time,” the younger parroted.

“If I tell a story, you have to listen. Understand? No more interrupting.”

They nodded.

“Good.” I shifted into storytelling mode. “Once upon a time, there lived two girls.”

“Regan and Ellis,” the elder shouted.

“That’s right,” I said. “One day, while playing in the backyard—”

“Dragon,” the younger said.

“No, not a dragon. Don’t interrupt. One day, while playing in the backyard, they found something, something special. Do you know what it was?”

They shook their heads.

“A box,” I said.

The younger scrunched her eyebrows. Confused by the path on which this story was hurtling.

“But not any box,” I said, before she could voice her objections. “It was a magical box.”

“What was in it?” the elder asked.

“Why don’t you stop talking and let me tell you.”

“Okay.”

“Alright then.” I composed myself. “It was dark and glowing—”

“Scary,” the younger said.

“Seriously, let me get through this.”

They blinked.

“It was dark and glowing. Both were scared. Regan, however, knew that if a magical box appeared in their backyard, then they simply couldn’t ignore it. For, obviously, it was a receptacle of great significance, carved with all kinds looping and pagan symbols.”

“Pagan?”

“Uh…I mean, pretty.”

“Oh.”

“Regan, then, reached out with great care and slowly pried back the lid.”

“What was in it?” the elder asked with wide, glowing eyes.

“A key, ornate and wooden.”

“What’s ‘ornate?’” the elder asked.

“Never mind that. It was special…special and wooden. But it wasn’t alone. Tucked beneath the key was a note, handwritten.”

“What did it say?”

“It read: Dear Girls, If you are reading this, then I’m already dead.”

“Benjamin!” my wife roared from the living room.

“Alright, alright,” I yelled back before starting again. “If you are reading this, then the Rainbow of All Encompassing Blackness has already spread throughout our land. We tried to stop it, but we failed. We, the Butterflies of Butterland, need you. We have given you the key. Find the Tree Beneath the Sun for it will lead you to the Stairwell of the Red-Red Phoenix. Fit the key and enter.

“Did they?” the elder asked.

“Yes, yes they did. And the key was true. Actually, it was Ellis who slid the key into the tree’s lock, turned it, and watched as the bark door creaked open. Inside, silver and overgrown, were shimmering spider webs—”

“Scary,” the younger interjected.

“Inside,” I corrected, “a golden light was streaming upon a stairway leading towards the sky. It was the Stairwell of the Red-Red Phoenix as once recounted in, The Grim and the Bold, written by the Grand Marquess of Nim.”

“Who?”

“The Grand Marquess of Nim,” I said.

“Oh,” the elder said. “What happened next?”

“Well…for that, you’ll have to wait. For all adventurers, and eyes, must rest. It’s time for bed.”

“But I don’t want to sleep. I want to know about the Stairwell of the Red-Red Phoenix.”

“Tomorrow.”

“Fine,” the elder yawned.

I stood up, kissed both girls on the forehead, and flipped off the light. As I shut the door, I heard the hum of a whisper: “Scary.”

April 2, 2013

The Adventures of Eagle Girl and Her Most Wondrous Midnight: Hearts and Stars

Stars"Daddy," my daughter said, "you will never die." My wife and I, along with our two daughters, were circled around the dinner table. We were eating baked chicken, which my daughter, Regan, had pointed out, is white, not like human meat, which is red.

"Well, someday I might die, but you don't need to worry about that for a long time."

"No," she was adamant, "you will never die."

"Okay," I said between bites, "why not?"

"Because Eagle Girl will use her magic on you."

"And with this magic, I can live forever?"

"Yes." Her tiny hands, indifferent to the world around her, were plucking off the chicken's  cardamom dressing.

"What, exactly," my wife asked, "does Eagle Girl's magic look like? What does it do?"

"Oh," Regan jumped up from her seat, "it's filled with hearts that shoot out!"

"Hearts?" I asked.

"Hearts," my youngest daughter, Ellis, squawked in response to Regan's enthusiasm.

"Yes, and stars."

Regan's eyes were wide with wonder as her little sister echoed, "Stars."

"Oh, I see," said my wife, Natasha. "And what exactly does this magic, imbued with hearts and stars, do?"

"It makes Daddy live forever."

"For—ever," said Ellis, trying out the word for the first time.

"And me too?" asked Natasha.

"Oh," said Regan, "well, maybe." And then, as if remembering something from long ago, "Yes, and the hearts have birds in them!"

"Hearts filled with birds—epic. Do the stars have anything in them?"

"Well, the stars are kind of looking weird."

"Weird," mimicked Ellis.

"Weird," I said.

January 22, 2013

Parenting: The Perilous Adventures of Eagle Girl

Eagle Girl“Dad,” she whispered. “Daddy, wake up.”

I opened my eyes. My daughter's face was centimeters from my nose. “What?” I mumbled. It was still dark.

“Dad, Eagle Girl is here.”

“Who?”

“Eagle Girl, Dad. She’s here to protect you from the dragon.”

I jerked awake. “Dragon? Where?”

“Shh,” she admonished. “You don’t want it to hear you. Besides, Eagle Girl is here.”

My daughter, four, had recently created an alter ego by the name of Eagle Girl. She did this because her cousin, a boy, was rapturously in love with Spiderman. Eagle Girl though, or so my daughter said, was infinitely better than Spiderman.

Eagle Girl was half eagle and half lion. She could fly and run. She could speak to elves and dance. Eagle Girl was a voracious eater of ice cream, but, surprisingly, hated peas. She was big, but not too big, and when she wanted to, she could make herself as small as a thimble. The best thing about Eagle Girl though, was that she was a unicorn. I tried my best to untangle this amazing fact, but to no avail. Eagle Girl, my daughter insisted, was half eagle, half lion, and all unicorn. And how, exactly, did Eagle Girl identify as a unicorn? “Well,” my daughter would say, “because she has a corn on her head.”

“So,” I was back in bed on a dark night, “what is Eagle Girl going to do with this dragon?”

“Hmm," my daughter placed a slender finger on her chin, "I think she will tickle her.”

“The dragon is a girl?”

“Yes.”

“And Eagle Girl is going to tickle her?”

“Yes.”

“No sword?”

My daughter cocked her head, “Sword?”

“Nevermind,” I said, drawing the covers over my head. “That sounds like a good plan. Do you need me or can I go back to bed now?”

“I need you."

“Why?”

“Well," she said, "because Eagle Girl is afraid of the dark.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” I slid out of bed and snatched up Eagle Girl, “let’s go.” We shuffled to her room, navigating our hallways by the shallow glow of nightlights. I kicked open her door and dumped her into bed. “Does Eagle Girl need me to sleep with her?”

“Maybe. I think so.”

I lifted Eagle Girl’s covers and crept into bed alongside of her.

As I finally started to drift asleep, my daughter whispered into my ear: “Dad, Eagle Girl needs water.”

November 27, 2012

Parenting

Trees Make Sad Faces

The door creaked as my daughter’s head poked around the corner.  “Daddy,” she said.  It was five-forty five in the morning.  I bookmarked the page I was reading.

“Good morning,” I said as she jumped into my lap.

“Four things,” she started, “one, we will go to Lydia’s house; two, we will read all the books in the world; free, we will go back to Lydia’s house; and sixteen,” her voice fell to a whisper, “we will go see your favorite movie: Curious George.”

“Today?” I asked.

She nodded.  “Oh, and nineteen, we will eat hot chocolate.”

“Sounds like a good day.”

Looking over my shoulder and out the window, she changed the subject: “Do you see that pretty pink color in the big-blue sky?”

I turned.  “The sun is waking,” I said, “rising over the edge of the world.”

“Beautiful,” she said.  “I like pink.  But what about all of the trees making sad faces?”

“What?”

“Look,” she pointed.  Bare and leafless trees were creeping over the edges of the window, obscuring the sunrise’s pretty-pink colors.

I kissed her on the forehead.  “I guess they do,” I said.

“I have to go potty.”

We stood.  I held her hand as I directed her to the bathroom.  She hopped on the seat and smiled.  “Daddy,” she said, “you have to leave.  I need my pregnancy.”

© 2019 Benjamin John Peters

© 2018 Benjamin John Peters