As I am sure you are aware, your cousins, the Penguin Children, are visiting. Both of them have asked me what I want for my birthday, and I told BOTH of them that I LOVE stories and pictures drawn and written by children.
So, I am sort of asking for birthday presents here, but in return I am going to follow the Hobbit custom and post a story for you on the blog today. It's a bit long, so I will post part I today and part II -- um-- very soon. It really is mostly written. Unfortunately for your curiosity, there are three parts (so far), and I haven't even started part III yet. Also unfortunately for your curiosity, my motivation has never grown larger from nagging, so continually asking when I will finish is probably not the best strategy for getting me to do so. Telling me that you enjoyed the story might work, though. And if you are bored, you can write your own stories, right? Right.
Annabel and the Gorgon, part I: Magical Corrective Lenses
The week after Alexander met the gorgon on the way to his grandmother’s house, their Grandmother Hildegaard came to visit them. Alexander and his siblings, as usual, were delighted to have their grandmother for a visit, and they were very persistent about asking questions about her friend, the gorgon. Grandmother Hildegaard was not particularly forthcoming, however. She kept on putting them off and putting them off until finally, at dinnertime, she said,
“Children, I have decided that I cannot really tell you about the Gorgon myself. Her life story is very sad, and I do not have permission from her to tell it. As I think about this problem, I am coming to the conclusion that the only thing for it is for you children to make friends with the Gorgon yourselves.”
Alexander felt alarmed, and the rest of the children looked at each other nervously; but Annabel had been extremely curious about the Gorgon ever since Alexander had had his run-in with her, so she spoke up. "I think that's a lovely idea, Grandmother. When can we meet her?"
"Well, first off, anyone who wants to be friends with a Gorgon is going to have to get a pair of Magical Corrective Lenses.”
The children’s parents exchanged glances at this announcement, but the children did not notice this.
“What are Magical Corrective Lenses please, Grandmother?” asked Annabel.
“They are a kind of lens which allows you to see certain things as they truly are. My own reading spectacles are a variety of Magical Corrective Lenses, though normally I just use them for reading the fine print on medicine bottles and so on.”
Several children started talking at once, but Annabel had learned at school that raising your hand can get a grownup’s attention when nothing else seems to be able to, so she did this now. “Yes, Annabel?” asked her grandmother.
“Why couldn’t we just borrow your magical corrective lenses?” asked Annabel.
“Because the magical part only works for the person for whom the Corrective Lenses have been made,” said grandmother.
Now Annabel turned to her parents, pleading. “Couldn’t I get a pair? Pleease?”
Her parents looked grave. “It isn’t just a matter of going down to the grocery store and getting a pair,” said Griselda, her mother. “I don’t even know if there is anyone around who makes them anymore. And even if there is someone around, it can be quite expensive to get a pair.”
“If Grandmother thinks it would be worth it to be friends with a gorgon, and if getting magical corrective lenses is what we have to do to make friends with the gorgon, then I am willing to spend all of my Birthday money and all of my Christmas money on it,” said Annabel.
The other children were pretty amazed by this. Making friends with the gorgon did seem like an interesting project, but they weren’t sure that it would be worth spending good Christmas and Easter money on.
“If that’s how you feel, I’ll start looking on the Internet tomorrow for a shop,” said their mother.
And that was what she did. She found one the next morning, and it wasn’t even that far away. It was a little shop that was tucked between the book shop they liked to frequent and a cobbler’s shop they always hurried past as fast as they could, because the cobbler didn’t like children very much (especially vampire children), and would yell at them if they got too close to his shoes (and this wasn’t very close).
As they pushed through the front door, a little bell dinged. A few seconds later, Annabel could see something—a tuft of hair?—coming out from the back of the shop; but she couldn’t see much more, because whoever it was was hidden by a counter which was almost taller than Annabel.
Finally he was close enough that the tuft had turned in to a face. “Mr. Rufus Ferner, at your service; and with whom do I have the pleasure of speaking this afternoon?”
“Griselda the Witch, and my daughter, Annabel,” said Annabel’s mother.
Annabel was a very well-raised child, and she knew very well the rules of politeness, but she wasn’t sure which one applied here: the pair of spectacles he was wearing was so extraordinary looking that she wanted to stare at it, but she knew that staring was rude. On the other hand, she knew that it was also rude not to look someone in the eye when you were meeting them. She felt frustrated as she realized she had already stared for several seconds, so then she made up her mind immediately, and stared at the floor.
"What do you want?" asked Mr. Ferner.
"I would like to get a pair of Magical Corrective Lenses for myself, please," she said.
"YOU want to get Magical Corrective Lenses?" he asked Annabel, sounding very shocked. "WHY?" And he came around the counter to see her face to face.
"My grandmother is friends with a gorgon and I want to make friends with the gorgon too, and grandmother said that I should get Magical Corrective Lenses so that I can."
"Hmph. They're very expensive, you know."
"Yes, I know. I have all of my allowance here, and I am willing to bring in all of my allowance all summer so that I can get them."
They looked at each other for a moment.
"Well. I appreciate the offer, but magical corrective lenses are a great deal more expensive than THAT." He shuffled back around the counter and struggled for a moment to pull open a drawer. "Ah! Here it is." He held up what looked like a seed packet; it had a picture of a red flower on front, and the bottom of it bulged out a little. "This is my second-to-last fire-flower seed. Fire-flowers are extremely rare and valuable. If you will grow this seed in to a grown-up fireflower, then the fire-flower will produce two seeds. You may keep one for yourself, but bring the other one back to me, and I will make you the magical corrective lenses. I warn you, it will be very difficult."
"I would like to try anyway, thank you. I will ask my Grandmother Hildegaard for help."
"Hmph. Well. You're one of Hildegaard's grandchildren then, are you? Them there is some chance you will succeed." He studied her face very carefully for several seconds, and she tried not to squirm. "Would you like to have a look at mine?” he asked.
Annabel looked up with a huge grin on her face that said, “yes,” and Mr. Ferner took the spectacles off and handed them to her. “You can put them on if you’d like,” he said.
And by now you are really wondering what those spectacles looked like, and I am going to tell you, if I can manage. If anyone can draw me a picture, that would be most handy. At any rate, the spectacles looked a little bit like a carnival mask, if you have ever seen one, only instead of fancy glittery mask, the part that was spread out was made of lenses. All of the lenses were attached to hinges, so that they could be slid down in to place in front of the wearer’s eyes, or slid out of place, as the wearer wished.
Annabel put on the spectacles and looked up at her mother. At the moment, only the basic, first-level lenses were in place, but her mother looked pretty much like she always did. Annabel slid a set of lenses in to place; her mother now looked quite glowy, and Mr. Ferner’s hair had turned black instead of the white it was in real life. When she looked around the room, she saw-- well, I am getting distracted from the real story. Perhaps someone could draw a before-and-after picture of the shop, too.
Annabel took the Magical Corrective lenses off and handed them back very carefully to the Magical Corrective Lens Maker. "Thank you," she said.
"You're welcome," he replied, and then he said "good luck," and Annabel knew that this was his way of saying that she should leave, so she carefully tucked the seed packet in to her coat pocket, and then went outside with her mother.