Sunday, August 13, 2006

Under the Pondweed Journal 1st draft, part I

    Sunday, 8:27 PM  I am out on my constitutional and I have to "hurry" by which I mean make sure not to walk ay extra in order to be back in time to talk to Keith and Graham.
    I'm cutting it very close.
    Meanwhile, in the 43 remaining minutes, 42 now I am going to attempt a story:

     Under the Pondweed

    Sassy crouched at the side of the pond, looking deep into the half-murky water where the tadpoles had stirred up mud and it was slowly settling.  She'd caught and released seven frogs, and now she wanted a tadpole. Not any tadpole, but the big one with back legs and the little stubs of front legs and the face that was already a little squarish, instead of perfectly round, or as Dad would say, ovoid.
    That tadpole was a teenager, Sassy reasoned.  It still had a long tail, a very long tail, and its legs were still relatively small.  But it wasn't a kid tadpole who had no legs at all.
    There it was, lying alongside a submerged branch, looking like a knot in the branch and not at all like a tadpole, but Sassy saw it, and with a sudden lightning strike, she had it.  And though she had struck quickly, she cradled the tadpole carefully in the palm of hand, keeping water around it so it could breathe.  Even though it was a teenage frog, it still had gills and couldn't breathe air.  She wondered then how that difficult transition must work, from breathing water to breathing air.
    She was admiring the tadpole, who after attempting vigorously to escape, now lay still in the palm of her hand in the rapidly draining pool of water there.
    "Kiss it": Billy shouted. When had Billy arrived?  If she'd seen him coming, she'd have beat a hasty retreat.  She just couldn't stand him, hew as the epitome of obnosticity, as her Mom sometimes whispered after Billy had left the house with her brothers.
    "I'd rather kiss the tadpole, than you, any day, Billy Sampson!" she said to him, in a low hiss.
    "Do it, then, or are you a sissy?" Billy taunted.  Sassy, who was no kid's sissy, leaned over and gave the tadpole a little kiss on the top of it's slimy little head, and it grew in her hand.  "It's turning into a prince," shrieked Billy, "and you . . ."  But Sassy never heard what Billy was going to say, or what he did say, perhaps, because his voice was a roar in her head and then the water closed over her.
    She coughed and wheezed and suddenly, she could breathe.  Not by breathing water into her lungs.  Instead, she had gills, she could feel them, long and feathery around her neck like a living necklace. Some movement on the surface of the pond frightened her, and she swam for cover, swam deep into the pong and wriggled into the mud.  There she lay, terrified and stupid.  But after the panic subsided, she realized where she was, under the water of the pond. 
    Carefully, for she now had a great fear of things that ate little creatures, she wriggled up out of the mud, little by little, until she could look around
    Mud was raining from the sky, little bits of dirt and plants that had been stirred up were now quietly settling.
    And there, a little ways away, was the tadpole she had kissed.  She was sure it was the same one, because it was the only one who was as well developed.  Other tadpoles lying around looked younger, like Billy and her brother were younger than she was.
    The tadpole, though, was huge.  They all were.  But wait, she'd only kissed one of them.
    Sassy slowly realized that that the tadpole had not grown in her hand, but that she had shrunk.
    Watch out, came a voice, the dragon is behind you. :  Without looking back, Sassy swam toward the tadpole. She was sure the voice had come from him.  Then, close beside him, she turned and looked behind her, and sure enough, a large cumbersome dragon-like creature was walking slowly toward them    She knew what it was right away.  It was a dragonfly nymph.  They were vicious, but off to the side another far worse monster, a hellgrammite.  These things devoured tadpoles bite by bloody bite, while they were still alive.
    Come with me, the reassuring voice said. It sounded in her head.  And she realized it was not a voice, but thought impressions, visual pictures that formed in her mind, along with reassuring feelings. 
    The tadpole she had kissed started swimming slowly toward the center of the pond, under the duckweed and the strands of stringy green algae. 
    "Wait," Sassy thought at him, "what is your name?"
    "Lonny," came the answer, immediately.
    "I'm Sassy," she said, following him. 
    Lonnie headed for a large submerged log under the deepest part of the pond. He swamp inside. It was dark, who could tell what monsters might be inside there.  But Lonnie said follow so she did. He seemed trustworthy, though her Mom always said, "Don't trusts strangers."  And who could be much stranger than a tadpole?
    Sassy could see nothing.  But she could tell she was with Lonnie, she could feel him nearby somehow.  He turned downward into another tunnel. She couldn't see it at all, but could feel it.  Then, the tunnel turned up again in a way that made her think of a beaver lodge.
    A little light began to slow from somewhere, and then more.  They ran into something that felt like a barrier, like an elastic skin,.  It seemed impenetrable, but suddenly, it faded away and they passed through and came up again in the pond.  It seemed like the same pond, only different.  "Maerddth," Lonnie said, as if that would mean anything to her.
    When they came to the shore of the pond, Lonnie lay at the very edge and slowly, slowly pushed his head out of the water. He indicated that she should do the same.  She heard him breathing and then she was breathing, breathing air as if she'd never been under the water.  She crawled out on land and stood up and looked down at herself.  She was human again with legs and shoes and clothes.    She looked toward Lonnie and shrieked, taking a step away.  He had turned into her arch enemy, Billy.
    What's wrong? Asked Billie. But it wasn't exactly Billie's voice, it was mostly Lonnie's voice, the voice she had heard in her head under the pond.
    "You look like Billy," she said.  "I hate Billie."
    "I'm not Billie, he said, I'm Lonnie. I'm a merboy, and I've taken the likeness of the closest human so you can talk tome and I can talk to you."
    "Oh, but why Billy  UGH!"
    "I'm not Billie, I promise you.  I am a tadpole and a merboy.  What is it you dislike about this Billie person? Tell me,so I won't be like him. 
    "He kills frogs," she blurted, and tadpoles.  And that makes me mad, because I like frogs and tadpoles.
    "Yes, said Lonnie, "I could tell by the gentle way you held me, and by the way you released my friends and my parents, after scaring them half to death by catching them
    "I'm sorry.  I never thought they had that much feeling. I mean, I knew they must be afraid . . . "
    "Terrified," Lonnie corrected, "afraid for their very lives."
    She saw a picture in her mind of a great blue heron swooping down its spear-like beak to grab a frog and felt the mortal terror the frog felt as the beak plunged toward him.  Lonnie's way of talking with pictures and feeling was much more forceful than normal talking, which she had learned to screen out half the time, blabbing teachers and lecturing parents and obnoxious boys.  to be continued

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