I've written a children's chapter book, which means it's geared toward 8-10 year olds and is around 12,000 words. Today I'm posting the first chapter just for fun...it makes kind of a longer post than usual, so I don't know how many of you will be patient enough to read its approximately 1300 words, but if you have time, thanks!
ROSIE BUSH CREEK Adventure
On the Other Side
Mother told me never to cross the creek behind our house. She said, “Josephine Marie Jenkins, if I ever catch you crossing Rosie Bush Creek…” Well you know the rest. I didn’t disobey on purpose, but it wasn’t always easy to follow the rules.
One day my best friend Mags and I planned to meet at the stone bridge, that crossed our imaginary moat, to write in our diaries and plan out our summer.
As soon as I’d finished helping Ma with the breakfast dishes, I’d put on my favorite striped shorts and pink blouse, brushed the tangles out of my snarly dull brown hair, grabbed my diary and fountain pen, and headed for the creek.
We’d named our favorite meeting place along the creek bank, Flat Rock, after the great smooth rock we used for a bench and a desk. I got there first, sprawled out on the rock’s sun-warmed surface, and had just written down Monday, June 13, 1955 in my diary, when I heard a door slam, and saw Maggie heading toward me. We were both ten, and about the same height, but she was fashionably thin. I’d always felt fat and clumsy around her even though Ma said she was too skinny and that I was just right.
I noticed she didn’t have her diary with her. “Hey, I thought we were going to write in our diaries today.”
“Yeh, I guess we were, but I really don’t feel like it after all. Instead, let’s go over to that house across the creek and see if we can spy on the witch.”
Maggie had often talked about a witch, who supposedly lived in the large rocked house sitting smack dab in the middle of the field, on the other side of Rosie Bush Creek. I never knew for sure if she honestly believed that a witch lived there, or if it was just another one of her made-up stories.
“Let’s not go over there, and say that we did. Okay?” That was kind of a smart-aleck phrase we used a lot with each other, especially when we were annoyed.
“No, it’s not okay. I want to go over there and see what she looks like.”
“Maggie, you know I’m not allowed to cross the creek. Besides, can’t you see the NO TRESPASSING sign on that giant tree over there? It means we are supposed to stay off of that person’s private property. If a witch does live there, I don’t want to see her and I sure don’t want her to see us.”
“Oh come on Jo. Don’t be such a party pooper. It’ll be fun. We’ll just sneak up to the house, peek in the window, get a quick look at her, and then run away. No one will ever know we were there. It’s not any worse than calling people on the phone and hanging up on them.”
She knew I didn’t like to do that either.
Before I had a chance to say another word, she was off, galloping across the creek, like Roy Rogers’ horse Trigger, cutting a trail through the grassy field.
“Oh man, Maggie. I’m coming. Wait up.” I hid my diary, and my lavendar Esterbrook pen under Flat Rock, and took out after her.
Almost immediately, my legs broke out into welts from the field’s tall mustard weed slapping against them. All I could see ahead of me was Maggie’s curly red ponytail waving behind her like a flag and her white cotton blouse popping up and then back down like a shiny yoyo bouncing through the field.
Running behind her made me feel like an elephant trying to keep up with a cheetah. We ran right past the NO TRESPASSING sign posted on the ancient oak, and then were slowed by a barbed-wire fence with a BEWARE OF DOG sign hanging from it sideways. Oh great.
“Ple-e-ase Maggie, We can’t get through that barbed-wire fence and she probably has a humongous dog just waiting to have us for lunch.”
“Come over here.” she bossed. “See this loose piece of wire? We can crawl under it easily enough if we hold it up for each other.”
Like a dummy, I grabbed the rusted piece of barbed wire and held it up while she scooted under on her belly. When it was my turn, she held it up for me. I had a little harder time fitting under the wire, but I finally made it. Soon my arms were itching as much as my legs from crawling through the weeds.
As we edged closer to the mysterious ancient looking house, I could feel the hot wind breathing down my neck like a warning. Chill bumps ran all over me and my stomach was starting to hurt.
“We shouldn’t be trespassing on this lady’s property Maggie.” I said. “We’re going to get in trouble. In fact, isn’t that Ma I hear calling me for lunch?”
“I don’t hear anything. Hush up Jo, and stay low…”
We crouched down and crept around to the backside of the house like cat burglars. We peeked through several knotholes in the fence and bright splashes of color looked back at us. The garden was small with a lot of plants and flowers crowded together—some in pots and others in hanging baskets. A narrow gray stone path wove its way through the landscape like stitches on a quilt. All sorts of critters; squirrels, rabbits, a fox, and even some turtles sat amongst the flowers. They looked real, but they were still as stone. The tiny garden looked like a colorful poster of a fairyland frozen in time—.
“Wow!” we said together, and then a woman’s thin scratchy voice startled us back to reality, “Hello. Who’s over there?”
It’s her—Oh no. She sees us.
And then, Maggie popped up and answered in her sweetest voice.
“It’s me and Josephine Jenkins, M’am.”
Why did Maggie use MY name?
“And what are you and Josephine Jenkins doing here, may I ask?”
I cleared my voice and said, “We live just across the creek and were out exploring. We accidentally ended up right here by your yard is all, but we’re really sorry.”
“You’re SORRY, are you? Come over here closer where I can see you and hear you better.”
Isn’t that exactly what the witch in Hansel and Gretel said?
For the first time ever, I saw purple fear cross Maggie’s freckled face. We both turned and ran as fast as we could. This time I kept right up with the cheetah, past the leaning BEWARE OF DOG sign, back through the gap in the barbed-wire fence, and past the NO TRESPASSING sign. In no time, the woman with the scratchy voice, the magical garden, the fence and the grassy field were all behind us. We fell panting onto the damp creek bank.
“Do you know what we saw, Jo?” Maggie said, gasping for breath.
“A very colorful garden, but something about it gave me the creeps.”
“It was creepy all right. Don’t you know those flowers and animals used to be real? I knew it—I was right. That woman is a witch, and through some type of magic, has turned all of those live flowers and animals into stone.”
“Are you sure about that Maggie Claire McClain? If that’s true, shouldn’t she be arrested or something?”
“For sure.” Maggie said. Her normally pale complexion shone hot with excitement, but tears gathered in my eyes and started spilling over onto my blotchy cheeks.
“What are you being such a baby about, Jo?”
“I’m sad for the animals. I wish I’d never seen them and now I can’t tell Ma about it because I wasn’t supposed to be over on that side of the creek to begin with. Stupid Maggie. You and your big ideas.”
I headed for home leaving my best friend with a surprised look on her face. I’d never talked to her like that, but she deserved it. It was her fault I’d disobeyed. Now I’d have to keep this secret from my mother, or she’d know I’d gone out of bounds. I wouldn’t be able to ask her about the witch, the stone flowers or the poor little petrified animals.