• Jonathan Dow

Knights, Princesses, and Dragons

This is a short story I would love to have illustrated someday... if anyone is interested... anyone?

One day, a curly haired girl named Marcia visited the library. As always, the first thing she did was to take her voice out and put it in the little box by the front door. Her voice was very happy to chat with the other voices fluttering around inside that special wooden box, and Marcia skipped into the labyrinth of books, ideas, and imagination.

It was easy for Marcia to find books that she liked. She loved most kinds of books. She liked the ones with pictures and no words, she like the ones with words and no pictures, and she liked the ones with a little of both, but her favorite books talked about knights and princesses and dragons. She decided that she was going to be a princess when she grows up. She was going to live in a castle with a dragon and wait for some knight to come rescue her, although when he does, he will find out that the dragon is her pet, but he will still marry her and they will still live in the castle with their pet dragon. She read so much about knights and princesses and dragons that she knew all about them. She knew that knights were always honorable and strong. She knew that princesses were always pretty and kind, and dragons... well, there wasn't anything she didn't know about dragons. She knew what to feed them, (when they're not eating knights) how to care for them, (put down treasure for a bed and pick armor out of their teeth) and even how train them, (she actually learned this one from a movie, not from a book). The only thing she didn't know was that time forgot to stop for her when she was in the library and her mother was impatiently searching the library aisles.

When her mom did find her, she scolded her for taking too long, but Marcia said nothing because her voice was in the wooden box by the front door. Marcia pleaded with her eyes to check out all the books she found. Her mom held up three fingers and now Marcia had to choose. She looked down at the books sprawled out around her. How could she choose three from 5,000? (She actually only had ten, but that didn't make the matter any less difficult.) After much deliberation, (and her mother's foot tappings,) she chose three and shed a tear as she placed the rest on the "go back" table.

On the way out the door, she slipped over to the voice box, gently lifted the lid and peered inside. The voices fluttered like butterflies whispering sweet nothings to each other. She examined each one, but hers wasn't in there. One of the voices fluttered up and landed ticklishly on her nose.

"One of the voices got away." It whispered. It's voice was so soft, it was difficult to hear. Marcia wiggled her ears to hear better. "She said something about going to find a castle." The Voice fluttered back to the group in the box and joined the commotion. Marcia's voice was gone. It had fluttered away.

Marcia's mom's voice, however, did not flutter away. In fact, if Marcia's mom put her voice in the box, it would not flutter around like a butterfly, but sink to the bottom like a sea shell. It was a deep rich voice like the ocean, calm and soothing most of the time, but rough and harsh when a storm rose. "Marcia, I'm already late!" Marcia left the wooden box and followed her mother to the car.

Marcia loved to look out the window while her mom was driving. She imagined that she were sitting still, which is what it felt like, and the world was moving fast, which is what it looked like. Her eyes would wander in the trees and soar through the sky and skip on the sidewalk in this fast-paced world, but today, they were searching for something small, pink, and fluttering.

She thought about what the other voice said. "Going to find a castle." But there aren't any castles around here. Perhaps the closest one was a million miles away! That's a long way for a voice to flutter. Where could the voice be going? Wouldn't it get tired along the way?

That evening, her parents were a little worried about why Marcia stopped talking. She didn't seem unhappy, and read about knights, princesses, and dragons after dinner with a smile on her face. Her favorite place to read was by the fireplace. She would lie down on the shaggy rug, or when her dad wasn't home, she would lie down on his easy chair upside down, stick her feet in the air, and hang her head over the edge. She didn't mind reading upside down. After a few minutes, she was thinking about knights, princesses, and dragons so much that she forgot where she was and it seemed that she was right-side up and the world was upside down.

The next day, her teacher asked her a question. Marcia didn't answer, but just stared back at the teacher adoring her with her eyes. (She loved her teacher.) Her teacher thought for a moment before pushing a piece of paper across her desk. Marcia wrote an account of what happened in green, blue, and red crayon, and handed it to her teacher. She smiled and said that she didn't have to speak until she wanted to.

A week went by and her parents grew worried. Evenings were spent smiling at questions she didn't understand, trying to communicate that she was perfectly happy and okay without a voice, but her notes made her parents frown and they didn't like how her voice had fluttered away. At school, things were much different. When the other students asked why she wasn't talking, the teacher explained just what Marcia had written. The other students didn't have a problem with Marcia not talking, and would often answer for her to anyone that asks.

Time did as time does and moved on down the road. Marcia grew older and her hair grew curlier. Her love of reading and learning grew stronger, but her voice never returned. Her parents finally stopped trying to get her to talk and let her be alone and quiet in her room as much as she wanted. She had a sadness in her now that sat like a lump of mashed potatoes in her heart. She didn't miss her voice, but she lamented at the ancient passing of knights, princesses, and dragons. She was now old enough to realize that the books she was reading were stories and not real. She had grown out of her own imagination and her personal library was gathering books on math and science. All of her old fantasy books, as she called them now, were in a box deep in her closet, snuggled between her old teddy bear and tea party set.

One day, as she was studying, her father appeared in the doorway. Her father was a short man, but what he lacked in height, he made up for in love. He gave a gentle knock on the door and waited for Marcia to turn around. "We need to have a talk," he said. Marcia stared at him. "Okay, I need to have a talk." He sat down on her bed and rubbed his chin. His loose stubbled skin fell from finger to finger. "You know that we've been a little tight on money," he switched from rubbing his chin to rubbing his face. "And you know that last week, the plant closed down and I lost my job. Well, my buddy Steve put in a good word for me to a good friend of his father's, who happens to be retiring, and I'm going to get his job, which is good. It's great, actually, but there's a downside." This whole time, he had been looking at the floor, the ceiling, anything in the room except for at Marcia, but now he looked her in the eye. "Marcia, we have to move. I'm sorry. You have to come with us. You could stay if you would talk. But you don't. We have to sell the house to move and I can't afford to send you to college." He looked around the room at all the books. He opened up a Calculus book and flipped through it. Tears came to his eyes. "You're so smart. I don't understand any of this stuff. But you do, and if anyone deserved to go to college, it's you." He held her hands "I just can't send you. I'm sorry." They were both crying now, and she couldn't tell him that it was okay. All she could do was hug him tighter.

This car ride was different than when she was young. Marcia no longer thought of the world as moving. Her eyes didn't bounce of the roofs of passing cars or dance in the fields with the cows. Her eyes were on the road, her mind drawing lines and angles between cars and calculating distances. She moved the rear view mirror so that she couldn't see behind her. Her hands were on the wheel. There was no where left to go but straight ahead. She wouldn't have even brought her fantasy books if it wasn't for her father. He insisted that they bring along her childhood for preservation.

It was her father's turn to drive when they arrived. Marcia lowered her window, closed her eyes, and breathed in the salty air. The ocean rustled like fall leaves. She could hear her mom's voice in the waves. A small pink butterfly fluttered nearby. At last the car stopped. "We're here," her father said.

Marcia opened her eyes to see a lighthouse, tall and white. There was a red roof at the very top, and a little house attached to the base. it looked like a castle. "It's beautiful!" She said.

Her father, already out of the car, dropped his hat. "Did you say something, sweetheart?" He gripped the car door as if to steady himself.

"Yes, father, I did." Marcia said, "the lighthouse is beautiful!" Her father rushed around the car to give her a hug. They were still hugging when an elderly couple came out of the lighthouse to give them the keys.

Time never stopped for Marcia. Not once, and it wasn't about to start. Now Marcia was running the lighthouse for herself. Her father had gotten too old to run up the stairs when the weather was bad. Marcia was cleaning out a storage room when she found an old heavy cardboard box. Inside was her childhood. The teddy bear, the tea party set, and books about knights, princesses, and dragons. When she opened the book, she was instantly back in front of her old fireplace, in her father's chair with her feet sticking up and her head hanging down. The morning passed and evening was approaching when she realized she had been reading her fantasy books. "Father will like these," she said. She read to him every night as he lay in bed. He was really sick, but he never stopped smiling. He never wanted the story to end. "One day," he said, "your knight will come."

More time passed. Marcia lived alone in her castle so she decided to get a cat. A big orange one that purrs when pet. She named him dragon and made him a bed of treasure. (Soft golden blankets with red ruby cat toys. She fed him tuna and trained him to walk up the stairs with her on stormy nights.

One day, when she was washing the windows, a strong gust of wind came out of nowhere and slammed the glass door shut. The glass shattered! This was horrible. Without the glass in the door, the light would not be protected from the wind and the rain. The light could go out, and a storm was coming that very night. She called the local glass company, but their installer was sick with the flu. Not knowing what else to do, she called the police.

The sheriff answered the phone and assured her that he would fix the problem. He used to work for that glass company before he started as a sheriff. It had been a few years, but he figured he could still do it. When he arrived with the glass, it took both of them to carry it up the winding stairs. The wind was not kind on the sheriff as he set the glass in place, and the rain started before he was finished. His cap blew off at one point, and his badge came off when it got caught on the edge of door molding, but before it was too dark to see, he was finished, and the lighthouse was fully operational in the nick of time.

Marcia loved to tell of that time to her kids and grandkids of how she met her knight, and how she chased the dragon all over the house that night to pick that badge out from between Dragon's teeth.