This chapter didn’t at all go where I thought it was going to go. Hence I am not sure whether I like it.
The plot thickens…
[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com. The original link is broken, but I’ve pasted the text below, without my illustrations which I think might be lost to history.]
by Lisa Hsia
The garkle gave one more evil-sounding laugh and then hopped away.
“That’s horrible,” said Mineisha to Mr. Snafu. “Those garkles are so mean!”
Mr. Snafu looked tired and sad. His eyes turned to the farmyard, which was now very empty-looking, with only long green stems and no bittens.
“Look at this field, Mineisha,” he said. “If the garkles hadn’t come, the bittens from this one field could have fed three families. But now, all we can do is hope they don’t come back too soon. Last time they came, they ate two fields in one day. Maybe this time they will stay away longer.”
“Mr. Snafu! Mr. Snafu!” Mineisha heard voices calling. She turned around to see five other people running toward her and Mr. Snafu. When they reached the farmyard fence, they stopped running and got very quiet, looking at the field. Mr. Snafu went and stood beside them.
Mineisha didn’t know what to do, so she just stood there. These people looked like a family. There was one person who was even taller than Mr. Snafu, and this person looked very old. There were two other people who looked like adults, but they were slightly shorter than Mr. Snafu. Then there were two young ones. They were shorter than Mineisha. The oldest one had orange and yellow hair, the two older ones had blue and white hair, and the youngest two had no hair at all. Mineisha couldn’t tell if any of them were boys or girls, men or women. They didn’t look like anybody she had ever met, including Mr. Snafu. Maybe they were the family who lived in this farm house and took care of this field of bittens. They must be very sad to see all their hard work go to waste.
The family didn’t seem to see Mineisha at first. Instead, they spoke to Mr. Snafu. Mineisha heard the oldest one tell him that they only left for a little while, to get water from the river. The water was going to be for the bittens, but when they saw their empty field they just dropped the water and ran to see.
“The garkles came suddenly and left quickly,” said Mr. Snafu. “Mineisha and I could do nothing but watch them eat.”
Then the five people turned and stared at Mineisha in surprise. “Oh!” said one of the younger ones. The younger ones looked shy, but the older three turned to Mr. Snafu in excitement.
“Oh, Mr. Snafu,” said one, “Perhaps she is the one who can save us!”
“Yes,” replied Mr. Snafu, “that is why I went up the tunnel to go get her.” He turned and looked at Mineisha. The other five people were all looking at her too. Mineisha felt terrible. She didn’t like to think of Mr. Snafu and this family and all the other Kogians starving. She wanted to help. In fact, she had to help—Mr. Snafu had brought her to Kog so she could save them. Her mom said she would be able to do it. But how? Mineisha had no idea how to get rid of the garkles.
Mineisha looked at the family. They looked hopeful. “But, Mr. Snafu,” Mineisha said, “I don’t understand why you think I can help! I don’t know anything about garkles! How can I get rid of them?”
One of the younger family members spoke up. “We’ve been waiting for someone like you. Come on, I’ll show you.” He or she ran into the farm house. Mineisha followed.
Inside the house it was cool and just a little bit dark. After Mineisha blinked a few times, her eyes adjusted and it didn’t seem dark anymore. She looked around. The furniture was very rounded looking, and it looked like it was part of the house itself. The doors were oval shaped, and they were placed in the walls themselves, like windows. Even the room had rounded corners, so it felt like it was oval shaped, not rectangular. The young Kogian was standing in one of these rounded corners, taking a book down from a shelf.
Mineisha felt funny not knowing the person’s name, so she asked, “What’s your name?” What she really wanted to ask was, “Are you a boy or a girl?” but she thought that might not be polite.
“I’m Lu,” said the person, in what sounded like a girl’s voice. “And my brother is Sufie.”
“Hi, Lu,” said Mineisha. “I’m Mineisha, but I guess you already know that. Are the grown-ups your parents?”
“Yes,” said Lu. “There’s my mom and dad, and also my grandpa. He’s my mom’s dad. My grandma died when I was really little, but she’s the one who made this.”
Lu held out the book she was holding. Mineisha looked at it. It had a colorful cover made of many different pieces of cloth sewn together with different kinds of thread. Inside, the pale yellow pages were thick and heavy. The edges of the pages were ragged, like they had been torn, not cut.
“A long time ago, before even my grandparents were born,” said Lu, “animals invaded our farms.”
“Garkles?” Mineisha asked.
“No,” said Lu. “They weren’t garkles. They were zithes. They looked like big birds. They were eating our quellies, and we didn’t know what to do. Then Mr. Snafu came here, and he told my great-grandparents that he knew someone who could get rid of the zithes and save our farms.”
“This story sounds familiar,” thought Mineisha.
“Here,” said Lu, “look at this.” She flipped to a page in the middle of the book. “My grandma wrote down the story her mother told her about what happened. She used an ancient Kogian language that no one uses anymore. We still know a few words, but we can’t read most of it. But we have the pictures. This one is of the person who saved our fields. My grandma didn’t know what the person looked like, but my great-grandma told her what she remembered, and this is the picture she drew.”
Mineisha looked where Lu was pointing. There on the page were strange-looking symbols that must have been the ancient writing. Below the writing was a square with a picture inside. It was a portrait of a girl who looked a little bit like Mineisha . . .
What kind of book is it? It sounds interesting….
It’s a story I’m writing for my fourth-grade tutee, to give her practice in reading. I started it with no idea of where I was going, but it’s rapidly becoming very sci-fi. People have (really too complimentarily) compared it to Roald Dahl and Madeleine L’Engle, though I was hoping most for Louis Sachar (in style, if not content).