Sunday, May 7, 2017
1st 5 Pages May Workshop - Vogel
Name: Zack Vogel
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Title: Our Mother Not in Heaven
Elita Bauer, Ellie for short, hopped off the school bus and breezily skipped down her long dusty driveway. At the end sat her family's small, turn-of-the-century, red-brick farmhouse. Waist high wheat stretched out for miles from either side of the driveway terminating in a painted green line beneath the blue rim of the sky. The tightly huddled grasses swayed and waved in the steady warm breeze that stroked the vast acres of pancake flat plains. The matte green human planted crop rippled like the surface of a lake in the wind. It's sheen displayed alternating patches of light and shade, like a shag rug stroked back and forth by the hand of a child. Each thin hollow straw of wheat, undoubtedly there, yet indistinguishable from the whole.
Ellie paid no mind to the wheat or its lively texture. It was always there this time of year, and its miraculous living transformations were slow enough to go unnoticed. She darted in through the backdoor and tossed her backpack onto the chunky weathered kitchen table of red oak that her grandpa had hand-crafted decades before she had even been conceived. She gulped down a glass of water and ran back outside. Ellie was eager to verify that her new tree house had endured the day's gentle winds while she fidgeted in the still school air. Just like grandpa, she built it with her own hands. It made her proud. Dad only lent a hand when the powered tools with the toothed, spinning metal blades were required. Ellie's older brothers contributed to the project's completion too, but not with sweat or muscle. Instead, they doubted her capabilities loudly and to her face. She typically had no lack of self-motivation, but her taunting siblings virtually guaranteed the structure's erection. Ellie was capable of nearly anything she was told she could not do.
Just as she barreled out through the creaky screen door, a loud bang rattled the center pane of the kitchen's bay window. The crash stopped her in her tracks. Anger gripped her immediately. That distinctive echoing thud resounded for the third time this month - another sudden, tragic interruption of flight. She ran outside with nausea in her gut. There in the red mulch between the house and the line of flowering inkberry bushes, lay the comatose body of a large, male, red-breasted robin. The sight of the grounded bird's limp but breathing body laced a dose of excitement into her anger. She had a new patient. Travesty and opportunity, sheathed in gleaming but fragile feathers, plunked down to her from the sky above in an instant.
Ellie sprinted out behind the main barn. She slid to her knees in the dusty dirt, skidding to a stop next to her humane animal trap. She picked it up and dumped the day old cubes of cantaloupe into the groundhog hole at the base of the barn's foundation. She breathlessly broadcast toward the hole, "I guess you get a free lunch today", and ran.
The emptied trap was now a cage. Trapping had been the original purpose for the galvanized metal mesh box with the spring-loaded trapdoor. It was the only gift Ellie admitted wanting - in order to insure its receipt - for her eleventh birthday. It came with a contract. A contractual truce really. Dad had reluctantly agreed that anything Ellie trapped could be transported and released alive. Burrowing animals to smart for Ellie's trap would continue to be shot. Ellie's end of the bargain entailed a moratorium on the unrelenting animal rights speeches. Ellie saved lives while Dad avoided the postmortem drama surrounding each and every death. Ellie became quite the trapper, and tangentially, a tireless cyclist. When she came home from school to find the cage occupied, mostly by the gullible, sweet-toothed groundhogs, she would toss a towel over the cage, bungee it to her rack, and pedal it away. It was an eight mile ride back to school where she would release the chubby brown rodents in the woods behind the ball fields. Father and daughter both knew that eight miles wasn't always enough, but Dad was too worn down to reopen the negotiations and Ellie secretly longed for reunions with her bucktoothed deportees.
She placed the empty, open-ended cage down on the spongy dry bed of chipped wood between the evergreen bush and doorstep. Her cupped hands, a gurney of youthful but farm-labor calloused skin, slid beneath the avocado-sized avian form. Ellie maintained a thin layer of mulch between her skin and the animal's fragile and nearly weightless frame. The shaved wood buffer was a gesture for the patient, not the caregiver. She glided the bird into the cage, taking great care to clear the hair-triggered floor plate. The spring-loaded trap door wielded surprising force, as the symmetrical red scrapes on her forearms from the week prior bore witness. Once the bird was safely inside, Ellie released the latch and gently lowered the trapdoor.
Ellie lifted the cage and its precious cargo by the handle and tiptoed to the gnarled, ancient maple tree at the far corner of her backyard. A repurposed, rusted steel S-hook dangling at eye level, hung waiting from frayed brown twine. The hoist and the rectangular cut hole in the tree house floor served this exact purpose - airlifting patients. Ellie hooked up and steadied the cage and scampered up the tree house ladder. The bird levitated up into the makeshift veterinary clinic, as if summoned by the rapid clicking sound of the hand-cranked brake winch. With the robin safely inside, Ellie sat close, took a few deep breaths, and began her vigil. The bird's scarcely rising and falling chest served as the only meter of passing time. It could have been five minutes or twenty, but at last the bird shuddered and groggily struggled to his feet. The robin's eyelids sagged like half-drawn curtains, obscuring the top halves of its glazed and unfocused eyes.
"Ellie, come on in! Dinner's on the table!" Dad hollered through the kitchen screen door.
"OK Dad, coming!" Ellie shouted back. She spun toward the tree house exit, then turned back, "I'll be right back. Don't worry, I'll let you go soon enough. I just want to make sure you're really ok before I let you fly again." She climbed down the ladder and ran inside. The usual dinner table chatter, mostly generated by Mom and the boys, whirled around her head without penetrating. She was too busy sending telepathic messages of reassurance toward the stunned caged bird.
"Mom, can I be excused?" Ellie asked.
"You've been here three minutes. You barely touched your chicken," Mom replied.
"Just for a few minutes, please? I think my bird is ready to go."
"Fine, but it'll be right there when you come back. You know we don't waste food around here. You can eat it cold." There was no microwave oven in the Bauer household. Mom claimed not to see the need. In reality, radiation emitting devices, however purportedly safe, had no place in her kitchen.
"Thanks Mom!" Ellie ran outside and darted back up the ladder. The robin was frantic. His panicked wings slapped and slammed the walls of the rattly cage.