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Trey’s school has been doing a thing where parents come up and read short stories to the class. The student picks the story. The parent reads the story. Sounds pretty simple, right? Right. Unless your child is Trey and the parent is Me.

Instead of picking a story, my child decided that we should write a story. After many days of brainstorming, he finally comes up with, “A story about a grumpy, messy Troll that always eats too much food, and a kid that’s a Scientist who brings the Troll and a beautiful Fairy together so she can take care of him and they can be a family.”

So basically, it is The Story Of Us and, while I’m deeply impressed that’s he’s already speaking in metaphor at 7 years old, I’m also slightly hurt that some part of him sees me as a grumpy, messy troll with an eating disorder. But oh well, you can’t have everything.

He came up with the story idea, then plotted most of the individual elements. At the last minute, we added a change to the end (mostly for the sake of nuking a few “chapters” and keeping the length down, since I’ve got to read this out loud to his class within a 15-20 minute window), and he did the illustrations.

And that, as they say, is that. We just finished it up just now, so it’s probably riddled with spelling, grammar and typographical errors, so shut up.

The Troll Who Loved Ice Cream

Scene 1Googalaga was a troll. He wasn’t a very good troll, because as a rule, to be a good troll meant you had to be bad. But Googalaga didn’t care about doing mean things like hiding under bridges and scaring humans, and he had no taste for eating the sheep that good trolls liked to steal from the nice shepherds in the village. Instead, he preferred to keep to himself in his hut, and was quite content to pass his days doing nothing more than eating ice cream, which was the only thing he ever really loved.

And he did love ice cream. Every flavor. He loved chocolate ice cream and vanilla ice cream, and even ice cream that had gone melty and dribbled onto the ground. He was a troll, after all, so he didn’t mind mixing a little dirt with his ice cream. In fact, one of his favorite flavor combinations was one scoop of vanilla, one scoop of strawberry, three scoops of chocolate and five tablespoons of dirt and rocks and sand. (Sometimes rabbit poop, if he was really lucky. But, like most sensible creatures, rabbits tended to stay away from trolls, fearing that they were very likely to be eaten if they got too close. And, with most trolls, this would be true – but not with Googalaga. He loved his forest friends, even if they kept their distance.)

There was, however, a terrible problem with a troll loving ice cream, and Googalaga was all too familiar with it. In fact, it was a problem that he was determined to solve, one day. Some day. Maybe. If he ever figured out how to read and managed to get a little smarter. (Trolls, by nature, aren’t very bright, which doesn’t usually matter when coupled with a bad temper because being angry and stupid never hurt a troll. But being nice and not too bright? That could be a problem.)

Not being a very bright troll himself, Googalaga never learned that trolls should not eat ice cream. They can’t digest it properly, since their natural diet consists mostly of rocks and sheep, and of anything nasty and squishy and squirmy that they can dig out of the ground with their big, fat fingers. But ice cream? Ice cream was tricky. The digestive tract of a troll was used to handling all things nasty, so any old troll could eat just about any old icky thing and continue on with its day like nothing ever happened. But when a troll ate something as sweet and as wonderful as ice cream…well, something different happened…

Googalaga was sitting at the table of his dirty hut, having just finished a very large meal with a double serving of chalk rock with obsidian sprinkles, along with a side of nightcrawler worms and scorpion soup. He still had desert to eat, and he was trying to decide which flavor of ice cream he’d eat tonight, since he always ate ice cream after every meal.

“Better go check the freezer,” he said as he pushed himself up from the table and knocking over the pile of dirty dishes sitting beside him that he meant to wash a few weeks ago, but just never got around to it. He shoved some old trash out of the way and kicked aside the empty ice cream buckets that littered the floor. Slowly, he carved a path from his chair to his freezer, where he kept his ice cream.

“Ah,” he said to himself, opening the lid a bit to peek inside. “What shall I have tonight?”

He dug around the freezer, pushing aside the frozen mudbug snack cakes and iced barnacle pops until he found the ice cream. He was running low.

“Looks like it’ll be chocolate stinkbug surprise,” he said, hauling the giant bucket out of the freezer. “And I’m down to my last ten scoops!”

Googalaga carried the bucket back to the table, where he sat down and pulled a large, dirty spoon from his back pocket. “Mmmmm,” he said as jabbed the spoon into the ice cream. “Extra stinkbugs!”

It didn’t take him long to finish the bucket, since there were only ten scoops left. But ten scoops was enough. He pushed himself back from the table, and gently patted his enormous stomach with his big, fat hand.

“That was delicious!” he exclaimed. He sat back in his chair, let out a long, satisfied sigh and smiled.

And then, he exploded.

*****

Scene 2From down the hill and around the bend, up the stream and through the woods, a little boy in a long white coat heard a loud *POP* and immediately took cover under his chair. After a few minutes had passed and he realized he hadn’t been blown up into tiny bits, he stood back up and looked around.

“Hrmmmm,” he pondered. “Everything looks ok, I guess. Nothing exploded, anyway.”
He dusted himself off and pushed his chair underneath a long, black table. Different flasks and vials with long, swirly bits of glass were set along the table. Some were bubbling, others were smoking, and a few were making very peculiar gurgling noises.
“Well, that was a little scary, wasn’t it, Atlas?” asked the boy, to no one in particular.
“It sure was, Atlas,” he replied, again to no one in particular.
“Oh well, no harm done, I think. Now, where’d we put that TNT?”

Atlas was a very interesting little boy, no older than seven or eight, with short brown hair that shot out in all directions from the sides of his head, and big, blue eyes that darted back and forth just fast enough that they only made him look a little bit crazy.
He lived alone, here, in a little cottage that had once belonged to his parents. They had gone away to hunt for food in the forest one day, and had never come back. That was three years ago. He was used to being alone now. And he talked to himself a lot.
“Oh, never mind about the TNT, Atlas,” he said to himself. “Let’s finish the experiment tomorrow. I don’t think anything will explode tonight, anyway.”
“OK,” he said back to himself again. “See you in the morning, then!”
“Goodnight, Atlas.”
“Sleep tight, Atlas.”

He took off his long, white coat and tossed it over a hook by the stairs, which he then climbed up to make his way into a tiny crawl space that had no exit. He reached out his right hand and pushed hard against the solid stone wall, which began to grind and twist and spin open into a tiny room in his little cottage.

His father had been a scientist, and he’d built himself a secret laboratory underground in a little cave Atlas had discovered when he was only three years old. Atlas used it himself now that he was old enough and on his own. He spent almost every waking moment down in the lab, doing experiments and coming up with inventions to keep his mind busy so he didn’t ever spend too long thinking about how much he missed his family. It helped that he talked to himself the whole time, too. He enjoyed his company.

Stepping out of the crawl space and into his tiny room, he spun the wall back around and heard it click back into place. On this side of the wall was a bookcase, and the large red book that opened the secret passage slid back into its place on the shelf. If you didn’t know any better, it looked like an ordinary book on an ordinary shelf in an ordinary cottage.

“Time for bed,” he told himself, as he shuffled over to his little mattress on the floor. He’d outgrown his baby bed a long time ago, but sleeping in his parents’ bed didn’t feel right. So, one night, he took the mattress out of the bed he could no longer fit in, and set it on the floor. His feet dangled off the end of it, but that was ok by him. He didn’t sleep very much, anyway.

He yawned and stretched and closed his eyes, and had just begun to drift off to sleep when there was a very loud knock on his door. He sat straight up in bed, eyes wide and hair shooting off in all directions.

“Er, is you home, little scientist?” asked a voice on the other side of the door.
Atlas sat very still and very quiet on his tiny mattress on the floor.
There was another knock. “Aw, come on. I’s knows yer in der. I can smells your bits of bubbly things and such likes.”
Atlas pulled his tiny blanket up to his chest. “Wh-wha,” he stammered. “Wha-what do you want?”
“I’s needs your help,” said the voice.
“With what?” asked Atlas.
“Er, it’s personal. Let me in.”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“Because I don’t know you, and I’m not allowed to talk to strangers.”
“Eh, I’m no stranger, boy. I’s knewed yer Papa.”
Atlas’ eyes grew a little wider. “What?” he asked.
“Yeah, and yer’s Mama, too. We’s was good friends, all things considered.”
“What do you mean, ‘all things considered’?”
“Er, it’s complicated. Open the door and you’ll see.”
Atlas thought about it for a minute, then remembered one of his inventions and smiled. “Hang on a minute,” he said. “Could you just look up for a second, please?”
“What?” said the voice. “Why?”
Atlas stood up and began rummaging around a pile of papers by the door. “Just do it, please,” he said.
“Fine,” said the voice. “I’s looking up. Can you open the door now?”
“Just a moment,” said Atlas. He smiled as his fingers found the little metal contraption buried in the paper pile. “Got it!” he shouted.
“Gots what?” asked the voice.
“Nothing,” replied Atlas. “Now, hold still.” Atlas clicked something on the side of the little metal contraption and from under the door came a bright flash of light.
“OW! ME EYES!” shouted the voice.
“Oh,” said Atlas, “sorry about that.” A few seconds later, a little square piece of paper shot out from a little slot next to the door. On it, was a little picture of what was on the other side of the door. “Oh my,” he gasped. “You’re a troll!”
“What?” asked the voice. “How’d you’d knewed that?”
“Because of my Insta-Draw-O-Matic,” answered Atlas. “See, I have an electric eel in a tank above the door here, and when I push this button on my Insta-Light-Inator, it drops a little pebble against the side of the tank that scares the eel and makes him let out a shock, which then travels over to my Electro-Lumino-Interocitor and causes a bright flash that —“
“Yeah, yeah,” interrupted the troll. “You’s is yer father’s boy, alright. He was always makin’ up crazy contraptions. He made me a freezer once, you know.”
“A what?” asked Atlas.
“A freezer. You know, something what keeps things frozen.”
“I’ve never heard of a freezer before. It sounds fascinating.”
“Oh, it is,” said the troll. “But can you please let me in now?”
“Ah,” stammered Atlas. “Sorry about that. Promise you won’t eat me?” he asked.
“Of course I won’t eats you. I’s a nice troll. And besides, it’s eating what done made me need to come see yer Papa. If’n he was still around, that is. But yer’s the next best thing, I figure.”
Atlas thought about it for a minute, then cautiously opened the door. A giant, hairy beast of a troll grinned at him from the other side.
“Hull-oh,” it said, extending a massive arm out toward Atlas. “Name’s Googalaga. Nice to meet you!”
And with that, Atlas fainted.

When he came to, he and Googalaga had a nice long talk about his parents and the special friendship they shared with Googalaga. The troll had agreed to protect the cottage, while Atlas’ parents had agreed to not call the Town Watch on Googalaga. It was a mutually beneficial relationship, and over the years, they became the best of friends. When Atlas’ parents went missing, Googalaga decided to stay and keep an eye on the boy, to make sure no harm ever came to him.

“So you see, that’s why’s I’s needs yer help, young master,” said Googalaga. “I’s has an eating disorder.”
“More like an exploding disorder,” Atlas retorted.
“Yeah. That, too,” said the troll. “But at least I always come back together again, what with being a troll and all. So does you thinks you’s can help me?”
Atlas sat back and thought about the problem. “Maybe,” he said. “Not with the exploding, really, but with the eating.”
“What you’s mean?”
“I mean, I can’t keep you from exploding after you eat ice cream, but I can keep you from wanting to eat ice cream.”
“But I’s loves ice cream!”
“Yes,” said Atlas. “But do you love exploding?”
“Well,” shrugged Googalaga, “not really.”
“It’s settled, then. Just wait here. Shouldn’t take but a minute.”

Atlas walked over to the perfectly ordinary bookcase, found the perfectly ordinary red book, and gave it a gentle tug. The wall spun around, and Atlas was back in his lab. Googalaga waited.
And waited.
And he waited some more.

*BANG*
*CLANK*
*WHOOSH*
*TINGLE* *TINKLE* *THWINK*

Atlas emerged from the other side of the bookcase, and closed the wall behind him. “Here you go,” he said. “This oughta do the trick!”
Googalaga opened his big, fat hand, and Atlas set a small, green pill into his palm. “What dis do?” he asked.
Atlas smiled. “I call it Ice-Cream-Craving-B-Gone-Icillin. All you need to do is swallow it, and you won’t want any more ice cream ever again.”
“Oh. Seems sad,” said the troll.
“Small price to pay for not exploding, my friend!”

Googalga smiled and thanked Atlas for his work, then tucked the small, green pill into his pocket, left the tiny cottage and headed back through the woods and down the stream, around the bend and up the hill.

And that’s when he started getting hungry…

*****

Scene 3Googalaga was almost home, when his stomach began rumbling. He was hungry, and he wanted more ice cream. He thought about taking the Ice-Cream-Craving-B-Gone-Icillin, but he wasn’t ready to commit to a life without ice cream just yet. He’d just have to think of something else.

He was stomping through the forest, growing hungrier and grumpier the more he thought about how much food he wasn’t eating, when he heard a gentle singing on the breeze. It was faint, at first. Tiny and probably inaudible to humans, but he could hear it with his big troll ears. And it was beautiful.

He followed the sound as it grew louder and more beautiful the closer he got to it, until, eventually, it could get no louder or more beautiful. But all he found was a tree. It was a very large tree, sure, and pretty enough as far as trees go, but at the end of the day, it was still just a tree. And trees don’t sing.

Except this one was. It was singling loudly and beautifully, and all Googalaga wanted to do was listen to its song. But his stomach was grumbling louder and louder, and he knew it would eventually grumble and grow so loudly that he wouldn’t be able to hear the singing anymore. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out the small, green pill that Atlas had given him, and stared at it.

“Well,” he said. “I guess I’s gotsta do it. Might as well get it overs with.”
Just as he was about to toss the pill into his mouth and swallow it, the singing stopped. A moment later, he heard the same beautiful voice again, but this time it was talking to him instead of singing at him.
“What are you doing, silly troll?” asked the voice.
“Wha? Who dat dere?”
“Look up,” said the voice.
Googalaga looked up. “Oooooh,” he said, quite by accident. He didn’t mean to say it, but out it came, anyway. “Ooooooh,” he said again.

Descending slowly from high above the forest floor was a brilliant golden light. As it grew closer to Googalaga, it started to take shape. First, there were wings. Then legs. Arms. A body and a head. And long, glowing golden hair. It was a fairy.

But not just any fairy. This was the most beautiful fairy Googalaga had ever seen, and he had seen a few in his time…usually just as they were flying away in terror of a troll having seen them, but still. He’d seen other fairies, and this one had them all beat. Her name was Sharlene, and she was the most beautiful creature Googalaga had ever seen.

“Hello,” she said. “My name is Sharlene.”
“I’m Googalaga,” said Googalaga. “And you are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen.
Sharlene blushed. “Oh, that’s very sweet of you to say. You’re very handsome yourself.”
Now Googalaga blushed, or at least what passed for blushing with trolls. Not many people went around complimenting them, so it was hard to tell. His stomach began to rumble again. “Um,” he stammered. “Excuse me a minute.”

Googalaga turned around and tossed the Ice-Cream-Craving-B-Gone-Icillin into his mouth and gulped it down. He didn’t want his stomach making embarrassing noises in front of a lady.

“Sorry about that,” he said. “Now where were we?”
Sharlene fluttered over beside him. “We were right here, silly. Just where we are now.”
“Ah, yeah. I knowed that. I means, what was we talking about?”
“Oh, nothing in particular,” said Sharlene. “Just getting acquainted, I suppose.”

At that moment, a feeling rushed over Googalaga that he had never felt before, except in the presence of ice cream. What was in that pill, he wondered. I think I’m in love.

(And he was, it turned out, very much in love. Because inventing new pills and potions for fairytale creatures is not an exact science, Atlas had been forced to guess at the ingredients for his Ice-Cream-Craving-B-Gone-Icillin. And he hadn’t got it quite right. Had he known better, he would had realized his mistake after learning that his recipe actually called for two carrots, rather than one two carat diamond. But he hadn’t discovered homonyms yet, because he was only a kid and mistakes happen. And this mistake had created a Love Pill, because sometimes that’s what happens in stories.)

Googalaga didn’t know why he felt this way, but he knew that he wanted to spend more time with Sharlene. As much time as possible, really. All the times, if he could. But he should probably start with just a little time. Like, with a date. Start small, he told himself. See where it goes.

He looked at Sharlene and smiled. “Um,” he started, nervous and shaking. “Would you’s…uh…um…woulds yer…ah, well…um…”
Sharlene smiled back at him and finished his thought. “Like to go out on a date with you?”
Googalaga was stunned into silence. He just looked at her and nodded his big, giant head.
“Ok, then,” she said. “Sounds like fun.”
Googalaga just smiled and shook his head some more.
“Are you hungry?” she asked.
More head shaking.
“Would you like to go to the tavern in the village?”
Googalaga stopped shaking his head. “NO!” he shouted. “Humans hate trolls. They’s would kills me!”
Sharlene flashed a sly smile, narrowed her eyes and said, “Oh, I don’t know about that…”

There was a brilliant flash of light, and for the second time in the same night, Googalaga was blinded. “OW! ME EYES!” he shouted.
“Oh,” said Sharlene. “Sorry about that. Should clear up in a second, though. Look down.”
“Huh?” asked Googalaga.
“At your hands, silly. Look down at your hands.”
Googalaga looked at his hands. They weren’t big. They weren’t fat. They weren’t hairy. They were just…hands. Human hands. Normal, human-sized hands. “Whaaaaaaaaaa?” was all he could manage to say.
“It’s just a little magic, so you’ll look like a human. It only works for a little while, though. So we best be off.”

With that, Sharlene smiled her little sly grin once more, and there was another, smaller flash of light, and she stopped glowing. And floating. Her wings were gone, and she looked like a perfectly ordinary, perfectly beautiful human lady.

And Googalaga was still in love.

*****

Scene 4Dinner did not go well.

The humans were nice enough, as humans go, and none of them in the tavern realized they were dining alongside a fairy and a troll, but Googalaga still had to make conversation. And he wasn’t very good with words.

“Um, so, uh…” he stammered. “What’s yer favorite food?”
“Oh,” said Sharlene, “I’ve always been partial to ice cream, myself.”
Googalaga gulped.
“What about you?” she asked.
“Ice cream. Good. Yeah. Ice cream.”
“You’re a very silly troll, you know that?”
Googalaga smiled. “If you’s says so. I’s not too used to being around peoples.”
“I bet you’re smarter than you let on.”
“Ya think?” he asked.
“Sure,” said Sharlene. “Why, I bet you’ve got a heart of gold, too.”
“No,” he said. “Just normal troll heart. Mades of mud rocks, I thinks.”
Sharlene smiled again. “Hrmmmm, I’m not so sure about that.”

The food came, and it was good. At least by human standards, anyway. By troll standards, it was tiny and lacked the good crunch of hard rocks or the delicate texture of squishy grub worms. As for what fairies ate was anybody’s guess. For all Googalaga knew, Sharlene ate rainbows and dewdrops. But if she didn’t like the food, she didn’t complain. She ate and he ate, and she talked and he talked, and eventually, the meal was over. Except for dessert.

“Ice cream!” proclaimed Sharlene, when the waiter took her order. “I’ll have a big bowl of vanilla ice cream, and my friend here will have a big bowl of…” she trailed off and looked at Googalaga. “What’s your favorite flavor?”
“Um,” he sighed as his eyes darted around the room, “Vanilla. Good. Yeah.”
“Two bowls of vanilla then, please.” The waiter smiled, wrote down the order and walked away into the kitchen.
“Er, there’s somethin’ yer should knows abouts me and ice cream,” said Googalaga.
“What, that you love it more than anything else?”
“How’d you know?”
“Oh, I just have a knack for people, I guess.”
“Yeah, but really. You’s needs to knows that -“
The waiter was back, carrying two large bowls of vanilla ice cream on his tray. He set one down in front of Sharlene, and the other in front of Googalaga.

“That was fast,” said Googalaga.
“We aim for speed here at the Rusty Flagon, sir,” replied the waiter.
“I’ll say.”

Sharlene picked up her spoon and dipped it delicately into her ice cream. She lifted it to her mouth, closed her eyes, and said, “Mmmmmmmm.”
Googalaga couldn’t resist it any more. He didn’t know why the Ice-Cream-Craving-B-Gone-Icillin wasn’t working, but he didn’t care anymore. All he wanted was a little ice cream. So he grabbed his spoon, then threw it on the floor and grabbed his bowl with both hands. He lifted it to his mouth, tilted his head back, and gobbled up every scoop of the delicious ice cream in one giant gulp.

Sharlene giggled. “See? I told you that you were silly!”
Googalaga flashed a sheepish grin. “Sorry,” he said.
“Don’t be silly, silly!”

But then, from deep within Googalaga’s belly, came a rumbling. Then, from his mouth, a tiny burp. Then a not so tiny burp. Then more rumbling. Then grumbling. Then growling.

“Uh-oh,” he said, and looked up at Sharlene. “I’s sorry, miss.”

And then, he exploded.

*****

Scene 5The owner of the Rusty Flagon was none too pleased with having to clean exploded troll bits out of his tavern for the next several hours, but at least he thought they were human bits. So that probably helped a little. Or not.

Sharlene stayed the whole time, and helped with the clean up. She was careful to quietly slip the different exploded bits of Googalaga into her purse without anyone noticing, which was a very nice thing for her to do, considering he’d need all of his bits to come back together again later. That was the thing about trolls: they’re very hard to kill. Apart from getting caught out in the sunlight (which turns them to stone), there’s not much punishment they can’t take. To a troll, even exploding isn’t anything more than a messy inconvenience.

After the tavern had been cleaned up, Sharlene thanked the owner and the waiter, apologized for the mess, and left out the back door. She thought it best to slip out of the village as quickly as possible, in case the Town Watch started getting suspicious about exploding people and whatnot. It was probably a smart move.

Once she was safely away from the village, Sharlene opened up her purse and dumped all the messy, sticky Googalaga bits onto the ground. She turned around to let him have his privacy, and waited. A few minutes and several unpleasant sounds later, Googalaga was back.

“Um,” he said. “Sorry about that.”
“It’s ok,” said Sharlene. “I really didn’t mind.”
“Seriously?” he asked.
“Yes. I actually thought it was kind of funny.”
Googalaga slumped his shoulders. “Oh,” he said.
“Not the exploding part, of course,” said Sharlene. “I mean, just before, when you were trying to tell me about your problem.”
“Oh?” he said again, reminding himself of how good with words he wasn’t.
“Well, maybe not funny. But cute, I mean. You were cute.”
“Really?” asked Googalaga. “Yous think so?”
“Of course I do, silly. But, you do have a problem. And it needs taking care of right away.”
“I know,” he said.
“After all, I can’t have my boyfriend just exploding all over town every time we go out.”
Googalaga just stood there, stunned into silence. “B-b-buh…boyfriend?”
Sharlene bit her bottom lip and smiled. “Maybe. But first, your problem. Come with me. I know someone who might be able to help you.”

They walked through the forest for a while, not saying anything. Googalaga didn’t talk because he was scared of what stupid bit of stammering nonsense might come out of his mouth next, and Sharlene didn’t talk because Googalaga didn’t know why. Girls are just mysterious that way.

After a long time walking down hills and around bends, up streams and through the woods, they came to a little clearing where there stood a very small, very ordinary cottage…

*****

Scene 6Despite it being very late when Sharlene and Googalaga came knocking on his door, Atlas wasn’t asleep. He didn’t sleep much to begin with, but after discovering that his parents had once made friends with a troll who was now his friend, there was no way he would be sleeping tonight. He recognized Googalaga’s deep, gravelly voice at once, and threw open the door the instant he heard it.

“Googalaga!” he shouted. “How’d that Ice-Cream-Craving-B-Gone-Icillin work for you? No more nasty exploding?”
Googalaga sighed. “A little bit.”
“What? But that’s not possible! I’m quite sure I followed the recipe exactly.”
“It’s ok, though,” said Googalaga. “I made a new friend.”
Atlas looked past Googalaga for the first time, and saw Sharlene. She was the most beautiful lady he had ever seen.
“Hi,” she said. “I’m Sharlene.”
“Hi,” replied Atlas. “I’m Atlas. And you are the most beautiful lady I have ever seen.”
Sharlene blushed. “Aww, you’re sweet. Now, about Googie’s little problem.”
Atlas and Googalaga looked at each other, then both said, “Googie?” at the same time.
“I think it’s cute,” said Sharlene.
Googalaga shrugged. “Me too,” he said.
Atlas blinked a few times and shook his head. “Oh…kay….then. So how can I help you?”
“Actually,” said Sharlene, “I think we can help each other.” Then, she looked Atlas right in the eye, and in the sweetest voice he’d ever heard, she said, “But maybe you should sit down first.” She glanced over at Googalaga. “You too, Googie.”
“Yes, ma’m,” they both replied, in unison.
Sharlene stood before them, stretched out one arm to each of them and said, “Now, take my hand. This could get a little rough.”

No one outside of the little cottage knows exactly what happened next that night, or if anything actually happened at all. For all anyone else knew, a happy family had just always lived in the small cottage in the little clearing deep in the woods.

But inside the cottage, this happened:

“Now take my hand,” said Sharlene. “This could get a little rough.”

Light began to pour out of Sharlene’s body. It spilled down her arms and over her hands, slowly flowing over Atlas and Googalaga, before filling the whole room. It burst through the tiny windows of the cottage, exploded out of the door and shot up into the heavens from the chimney. Dishes rattled in the sink, books shook on their shelves. The floorboards began to vibrate and hum and shake. Things fell off of shelves and off walls, and went crashing to the ground. And then, much more suddenly than it had started, everything stopped.

The light receded and the room went dark, except for the light from a few candles and the fireplace. The dishes stopped rattling in the sink, the books stayed put on their shelves, and the floor stopped moving, too. Everything was still. Even the three people in the middle of the room.

“Woah,” said Atlas.
“Woah,” said Googie.
“I know,” said Sharlene.
“That was your bestest spell yet, Mama! Papa was a fat old troll!”
“I’m not fat,” interrupted Googie.
“And you were a fairy, and I had a secret lab and everything! Let’s do it again!” shouted Atlas.
“Not tonight, young man. You need your rest. And just look what you’ve done to your bed!”
Atlas giggled, “But you made me eight years old and I didn’t fit in it anymore! I was too big!”
Googie laughed. “Yeah, well you fit in it now, mister. And it’s off to bed with you.”
Atlas smiled and stood up, then walked over to Sharlene. “Goonight, Mama,” he said, as best he could.
Googie held out his arms, and Atlas gave him a hug. “Goonight, Papa,” he said, again struggling with the words.
“Goodnight, baby,” said Mama and Papa. “Now you go straight to sleep. We have a big day tomorrow.”
“I know!” shouted Atlas, who was now five years old and happy again. He blew kisses to his Mama and his Papa, and crawled into bed.

Googie looked at Sharlene, and smiled. “That,” he said, “was one of the best games we’ve ever played.”
Sharlene grinned back at Googie. “Do you think so? I didn’t like that whole bit where Atlas was all alone. Maybe next time, I won’t make us disappear in the woods.”
“And maybe not make me fat.”
“Ok, dear.”
“Or a troll.”
“Yes, dear. I just hope Atlas enjoyed it.”
“I’m sure he did,” said Googie. And if he didn’t, then there’s always tomorrow.”
“Or the day after that,” said Sharlene.
“Or the day after that,” said Googie.
“Or the day after that…”

The villagers from down the hill and around the bend, up the stream and through the woods couldn’t remember a time when a family hadn’t lived in that small cottage in the little clearing deep in the forest. And they certainly didn’t remember anything having to do with magical fairies and exploding trolls or scientist children. But they did remember that they couldn’t remember, which is a very odd feeling to have. Something was different about that house, and that family, but no one could ever figure out exactly what it was. There was just always a mother, always a father, and always a little boy. And they had always just been there. Forever.

THE END

And just in case that wasn’t enough for you, here’s me, reading the story to his class at school because, tragically, Neil Gaiman wasn’t available. LOOK UPON MY MUMBLING NARRATION, YE MIGHTY, AND DESPAIR!

© 2014 – 2016, Kristian Bland. All rights reserved.