Fact and/or Fiction

Remember that old fifth grade writing journal? Yeah, well it wasn’t all opinion essays and seasonal poetry and Thoreauean pursuits. Oh, no. My young mind really stretched her legs in the free fiction assignments. Evidently these were not subjected to the normal litany of grammatical corrections. Sweet, sweet creative licence! Freed from the constraints of sane punctuation and responsible spelling choices, I filled pages and pages…
Ah, hello big, loopy pen(cil)menship, you old friend.

Fiction honorable mentions: the best and the worst:

“An Untitled Story set in the ‘beautiful mountains of Lur'”:
Here is an adventure tale about “friendship, bravery, and their rewards,” starring a young, big-dreaming peacock named Farel, and his friends Skipper the otter, pheasant Spring, and badger Starling on a quest to prove themselves by rescuing a young foxed named Reese from the evil clutches of the local wood witch, an “ugly, dirty beast with red eyes and a crown of bones” named Velga. Along the way they help Potter, a frustrated bear cub retrieve a beehive, then devise a keen rescue plan clearly influenced by the Dorothy-rescue-scene in Wizard of Oz. Upon escaping, the friends run “all day and into the next without stopping or ever looking back”. Naturally, a very annoyed Velga catches up eventually, but is ultimately thwarted by Potter’s gang of bears, returning that earlier favor with the honey. And so one hand washes the other. The story veers into Just-So territory at the end, when the brave companions are rewarded with gifts like “a lovely white stripe down the back,” “sharp white teeth,” silky fur, sharp claws, yadda yadda, and, for Farel, “incredibly wonderful looking tail feathers that spread out. Annnnd a sharp beak.” If that doesn’t describe a modern-day peacock I don’t know what does. Incidentally, my teacher asked that I read this little gem out loud to the class, though I have no recollection if I ever did, as I would have likely blocked out such a public-speaking event if I managed not to faint in the first place.

“Stone into Gold”
A heart-warming, if not cliched, tale about Draken the alchemist and his (male) apprentice Sarise. I have since wondered if there is a Johnny Cash-like song playing on the radio stations of Lur entitled Boy Named Sarise. Yeah, super manly. Anyway, naturally the pair’s objective is to get paid, and it seems Sarise keeps messing up the secret gold-making recipe by adding too many drops of the golden frog’s spit. The story features typical teen angst: “…at least there is something I can do,” Sarise mumbles as he goes falconing for dinner, probably kicking a dandelion on his way out the door. When the boy returns in triumph with “three scrawny rabbits and a few field mice,” there are culinary delights to be had: “While Sarise was out, Draken collected an assortment of magic herbs. (Though they were not truly magic, he had nicknamed them that because when mixed with oil, then rubbed on to meat it gave an irresistible flavor that tasted as if a magic spell had been cast on it.)” Move over Wolfgang, we’ve got herbed-oil on field mouse! Prepare to have your tiny mind blown. And because I liked a success story, you can rest assured that by the end young Sarise was clutching a small lump of gold in a victorious hand.

“The Eclipse”
A cautionary tale about the dangers of dabbling with drugs. DRUGS! I think this may have been my singular attempt at a genre other than fantasy. Alright, I co-wrote this story with my best friend Annie at the height of the anti-drug-barrage that was shoved down every elementary and middle schooler’s throat in the 80s/90s cusp years. I confess that this particular story is not in my writing journal as I believe we wrote it in Annie’s book, but I felt the need to mention it nonetheless. A group of friends try to stage an intervention when one of them finds “bags of drugs, including cocaine!” in her now ornery and despondent friend’s locker. The reader will find herself on the edge of her seat as we ratchet up the suspense. Alas, the tale remains unfinished. Perhaps things just got too real.

“A Night’s Howl”
The classic eleven page, two part saga about a pack of wolves, heavily influenced by my obsession with the wolf-riding-badass-forest-elves featured in my favorite comic book, Elfquest. Part one is a daring tale of rescue and vengeance. An evil human tribe has captured, and are on the verge of sacrificing, Quickpaw when his girlfriend and pack-mates storm in to save him. “The wolves caught the humans by surprise. Silk-ear let out a thundering howl and slayed two of the men in a fury.” In the end they save Quickpaw amidst a bloodbath and conveniently take him to the pack’s healer. When he is well enough to be reprimanded, the chief lectures him on the dangers of hunting alone. Strangely, the story then veers with an inexplicable “two months later” segue into a totally different plot line. A romance. 

Wendy and Richard Pini, we salute you!

“She had perky and aware ears, lovely, large eyes, a silky tail, and a graceful paws. She was slim, but muscular.” Woo! Hot stuff! The unexpected romance between orphaned loner Moondancer and pack Lothario, Starjumper ignites the page as it brightly, if not painfully, illuminates my young brain’s deepest desires. Naturally there is a bit of confusion amidst the hunting, pack introductions, and “festival of the seasons” dance invitation, but all ends well as the pair ultimately become life-mates, (canid equivalent of married with babies). ”…Since the two were both fascinated by the sky, especially the stars, they spent most nights on a large hill together, star-gazing…” I mean, they were named Starjumper and Moondancer.

I then essentially re-told nearly the same story with elf characters, in what I now clearly see as straight-up fanfic, though at the time I had no idea such a thing existed. Here again we witness the first encounter between orphaned loner Stardrop (who had been living in a cave with her wolf friend for God knows how long) and pack Lothario, Skywise. Ahem. Here’s some soul-bearing: What you have to understand is that for several years (and arguably yet today) I wanted to be a wolf-riding, bow-shooting, leather-wearing, tree-climbing, human-killing, telepathic, sexy forest elf. I’d stop at the comic shop on the way home from school and stare lovingly at the Elfquest books on the shelf, almost afraid to touch them until I’d saved up the twenty dollars to bring the latest one home with me. Because these elves had only four fingers, I would actually tape my pinky under my hand to see what I would like with elf hands. I spent hours sketching out my intended outfits made of soft, tanned hides. I mean, I had it bad. Stargazing bachelor Skywise is an actual character in Elquest, and in the great fantasyland of my young mind, I wanted to be the object of his affection. Namely, a beautiful, mysterious, elf named Stardrop. I needed to create a story to arrange their introductions, and so I did.

My sappy yet earnest story ends with a to be continued… and reading it again, so many years later, I couldn’t help but wonder what those crazy elves were up to these days. Because you know, I actually do miss them. And in the end, that is the great power of fiction. Whether you’re reading it or writing it, it allows you to suspend your disbelief, flex your imagination, slip into the skin of a wolf, or peacock, or unfortunately named apprentice. In paging through this old writing journal its like I am actually witnessing my personality form. Though I was a cautious and shy kid, I think I must have felt fairly fearless when writing. I didn’t worry what anyone else thought, I wrote for myself, freely. It opened my mind up. Rediscovering this has been a gift. Okay, a slightly embarrassing one.

2 responses to “Fact and/or Fiction

  1. Pingback: More Recommended Reading | Otter Down

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