Sunday, June 7, 2015
First 5 Pages June Workshop - Van Wagoner
Name: Traci Van Wagoner
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Title: Dragon Dilemma
All I wanted was to haul the last cart of manure home without talking to anyone, but someone with my luck never gets the happily ever after. I made two trips, no problem. The South Road was empty, just me and the silly flock of crows diving in now and then to peck at the cow pies. All I had was one more trip. One. Back and forth, and I’d be home free. No incidents. Promise kept.
I was halfway there, and I had to go and thumb my nose at Lady Luck. I stopped at the end of the lane leading to my X-best friend’s house. I knew she wouldn’t be there, but I missed Sara, even though I’d never admit that to her. Last year we were both outside hauling manure together. We laughed and told each other our deepest secrets. I would keep hers to the grave. I hoped she would keep mine.
The back window which used to be her bedroom was dark like I knew it would be. She’d gotten her apprenticeship with the tailor and had moved to the Craft District in the lower city. She was too good for me now. Soft clothes. Shiny shoes. Clean fingernails. New friends. Who needed her anyway?
I turned away but froze as the familiar squeak of her front door sounded as loud as thunder to my ears. I glanced behind me and my heart flip-flopped. It was her. And she was with none other than our once upon a time arch enemy, Gabriella Taylor. Gabby for short, cause she was never short on gab. Sure as my shadow was following me, she was busy yakking in Sara’s ear, probably making fun of me.
I shoved my weight into the wagon. Time to flee. Their giggles rose in the spring afternoon, chasing me. I put my head down and pushed with all my might. Must. Go. Faster. But cow poop is heavy and the road was bumpy. Maybe they wouldn’t notice me. It didn’t help having a black cloud of birds circling overhead. Go away! I thought, to the birds or the two girls, I wasn’t sure which. If anything, the birds grew more agitating, cackling down at me.
My name floated on the wind. I risked a glance under my armpit. The girls turned right at the end of the lane. Toward me. Dang it, cow poop, move faster.
Ka-thunk, bump! One of the wheels hit a hole. Out bounced manure. All over me.
I looked around wildly. I should run. Ditch the poop and get my butt out of there. But I couldn’t leave the manure. Pop had paid with chicken eggs we weren’t supposed to have, sacrificing our breakfasts for a week to pay for it. So, standing in the middle of a pile of cow poop, too valuable to leave behind, I gave up all hope of dignity. Right then and there, for the first time ever, I wished I really was a witch like Mom feared.
I squeezed my eyes shut. Turn invisible, turn invisible. If I were a witch, it would work, right?
“Hey, Adeline, you know we can see you even with your eyes closed,” came Gabby’s snotty voice.
Nope, not invisible. I peaked through my eyelashes. Sara stood with her shoulders slumped half hidden behind Gabby.
“I heard you were turned down for another apprenticeship yesterday,” Gabby said. “I heard you nearly burned down the warehouse.” She nudged Sara who laughed along with her.
I scowled at them. It wasn’t my fault that dumb cat was twisting itself around my feet so I fell and stumbled into a control panel that threw the whole works into chaos as my hands slammed into every single button.
My face was hot. I hoped my hair covered my stupid blushing as I shoveled the manure back into the cart with my teeth clenched so hard my jaw ached. Only in an extreme emergency was I to say anything. I promised Mom I wouldn’t.
“Maybe you can’t get an apprenticeship because you stink.” Gabby said, pinching her perfect turned-up-little-pixie nose.
Real funny. I shooed a bird away and shoveled the last cow pie back into the cart. Every day since my thirteenth birthday a month ago, Mom and sometimes Pop, dragged me to various places around Hidden Lake to get me an apprenticeship with someone … anyone. Every day they came home with me tagging along behind them, staring at my toes so they wouldn’t see my grin.
“Yeah, you stink because you are scooping poop,” Sara said.
“Addy the Pooper Scooper. Good one,” Gabby said, smiling at my X-best friend as if they had always been the best of buds. Only a few months ago, Sara and I would’ve been making fun of Gabby. “But then again, being a pooper scooper is much better than being a witch, right Sara?”
My stomach clenched. How much had Sara told her? I evil-eyed them both as if I were a witch and could turn them both into frogs. Sara shrank further behind Gabby and threw me an apologetic look.
“Oh, come on Addy, that’s funny,” Gabby said. “You’ve got to learn to laugh at yourself.”
One of the birds darted right at her, cackling like mad. It flew so close, Gabby’s hair blew off her surprised face. She squealed and flapped her arms.
I laughed and Gabby stopped her ridiculous dance. “You should laugh at your own self,” I said.
“So, she does speak,” Gabby said, brushing her skirts. She stuck her nose in the air. “We came all the way out to the stupid boondocks to invite you to join us — thanks to Sara,” Gabby scowled at the smaller girl shrinking behind her. “We’re going to Master Hubert T. Bozzlewig’s Amazing Menagerie and Traveling Show. Limited Engagement.”
Sara looked at me with big eyes. “He’s only here for a week. He came from outside the gates, and he’s got all kinds of animals. I know you like animals.”
Gabby smiled, looking down her nose at me. “Hey, I’ve got a wonderful idea. You should ask him for an apprenticeship.” Sara nodded enthusiastically, and Gabby went on to say. “I’m sure he needs someone to pick up all the poop from his most amazing animals still left on earth. Maybe he’ll give you an apprenticeship as his pooper scooper. Then it would be official, Addy the Royal Pooper Scooper.”
“Leave her alone,” Sara said in her mousy voice.
She was sorry, I knew, but I didn’t care. “I don’t need you to stand up for me. I don’t need any of you. I don’t need any stupid apprenticeship. I like digging in the dirt! Maybe I like to stink so people like you won’t bother me!”
What I didn’t say out loud was that at that moment I wanted more than anything for them to stink worse than me, for Gabby’s pretty pink and purple dress to be covered in poop like my dingy overalls.
In a flurry of beating wings, the flock of birds swooped in like a black cloud over the girls and let loose their wet gooey loads. It was raining poop.
“Ew! Stop it!” Sara screamed.
“You’ll regret this, Addy the Royal Pooper Scooper!” Gabby shouted as they ran away.
“Serves you right!” I shouted. I cheered the birds on as they chased the screaming girls.