A Story for Her Birthday
by Mr. Sheehy
Note: The following is a story I wrote for my daughter’s seventh birthday. It is so full of inside jokes and caricatures of people in our family that I don’t know if it could possibly make sense to anyone else. So be it. I thought I’d share it anyway, if just to encourage others to do something similar for their own families.
Chapter 1 – Gramma’s flower fascination leads to trouble
On a fine but rainy spring day in South Dakota, Gramma G– was babysitting her three wonderfully wild grandchildren. She had taken them out for a walk when they passed by a field of wildflowers.
“Oh, look!” bubbled Gramma. “Wild iris! And Queen Anne’s Lace, and oh, I forget what this one is but we’ll have to pick some and look it up in the flower book when we return.” The children happily followed Gramma through the field, but were shocked at what happened when Gramma saw a flower she’d never seen before.
“Oh, my. Isn’t this one pretty?” she declared upon seeing a strange and exotic flower, different from all the other flowers in the field. “I think I’ll have to pick it and look it up tooooooooooooooo!”
She never finished her sentence, because the moment she grabbed the stem of the flower, the ground beneath her opened up and she fell inside. Before the children could utter a cry, a chariot pulled by a team of black horses flew out of the hole and into the sky. Gramma was in the chariot, calling for help, but the chariot flew so fast the children could do nothing but watch her as her form grew smaller and smaller in the distance and finally disappeared.
“What do we do?” the two girls cried.
“Where did Gramma go?” the little boy questioned.
With their faces contorted in dramatic expressions of pain, the children sprinted back to their house, finding that their parents had returned. In sadness, they told the story about what had happened to Gramma.
“This is impossible!” their father declared as soon as he heard what had happened, and as he said it he ran from the room. The children looked at one another with confusion, for it certainly appeared to be possible. After all, if it weren’t possible, wouldn’t Gramma be here with them? Whatever the case, their father returned with a book and opened it up to a story called, “The Pomegranate Seed.”
“See here,” he explained. “When we read about the pomegranate seed in Tanglewood Tales, the ground opened up and Persephone disappeared. This can mean only one thing. Your gramma accidentally picked the flower that was meant to catch Persephone! Hades has captured her and taken her away! You have to go and rescue her!”
“We have to rescue her!” the children cried in unison, jumping up and down with excitement.
“They have to rescue her?” their mother exclaimed. “Why don’t we go rescue her?”
“Well, we’re too old, of course. And even if we weren’t, our birthdays aren’t soon enough. To rescue a human who has been captured by a mythical character, you have to have secret powers, and you only get secret powers on your first 10 birthdays. After that, you’re too old and you can only give advice to people who can get those secret powers. Thankfully the kids each have birthdays approaching, so they should be able to accomplish the mission. Hey, you kids ought to get ready. What do you think you’ll need?”
“Pack packs!” shouted S–, and he ran from the room.
“The Wonder Book! I’ll get it!” A– said breathlessly, and off she sprinted down the hallway.
“I think I’ll need the yellow book, so I can know all I there is to know about Greek myths,” E– declared thoughtfully, and off she strutted to the bookcase.
Within minutes each child had a backpack full of Gramma-rescuing necessities, including every book they owned about Greek mythology, Interstate battery flashlights, a wad of tissues, a small purse with a handful of craft feathers stuffed inside, a book about trains, and a copy of Treasure Island.
“Trains? Treasure Island?” E– asked when she saw them in S–’s backpack. “We’re hiking to fight Hades, not riding a train to battle pirates.”
“No!” S– declared with vehemence. “I’m Long John Silver!” and with that declaration he bent his leg at the knee and hopped around the room to prove that his point was undebatable. Changing the subject quickly before they left, their father knelt before them to share one last bit of advice.
“On your journey, you need to know what your secret powers are and when you can use them,” he explained. “You can only use them on your birthday. On the other days, you’ll have to use your wits and bravery to continue on the journey. A–, yours is first, and on your birthday you’ll be granted King Midas’s golden touch. Do not fear–your golden touch will be under your control; you can choose what you want to turn to gold, unlike Midas. E–, your birthday is next, and on it you’ll have the power of Hermes, which means you’ll have the wit to weasel out of any tough situation, as well as the power to fly like the wind. S–, your birthday is last, and you’ll have the charm of Orpheus’s song. When you sing, all hearers will be entranced, and they’ll allow you to do whatever you wish.”
“No!” he declared. “I’m Long John Silver!” and he bent his leg again and hopped to clarify his position on the matter.
“Okay, okay,” his father said, even as he turned to the girls and mouthed out the truth. “Orpheus’s song!” The girls giggled, hugged their parents, and set out on their journey to rescue Gramma.
Chapter 2 – A– touches everything with the Golden Touch
The children walked and walked for seven whole minutes before they realized how difficult their journey was going to be.
“My legs are tired.” A– said.
“Will you carry me?” S– asked E–.
“Think of Gramma. We’ve got to rescue her!” E– responded, and at the mention of Gramma everyone’s spirits lifted and they continued to walk.
Day after day they walked, through mysteriously dark woods, over rushing rivers, and across rocky mountain tops. Then, one day they emerged from a clump of trees to a glade where the sun shone softly on the leaves. It was a relieving sight, and the children ran to the sunshine.
It was an unfortunate move, however, because the glade was a trap. The leaves beneath the children’s feet gave way and they fell into a deep hole, falling down, down, down. As they fell, E– sang to her siblings, “Oh my goodness, oh my soul! There goes Alice down the hoooooooooole!” With a splat, they landed at the bottom and could see light 200 feet above them. They searched the walls for a ladder, but nothing presented itself. The only thing to climb was the branch of a tree, far too flimsy to support their weight if they tried to climb it.
“I just . . . I just . . .“ A– began to explain. “I just want to get out of this hole!”
S– sucked his thumb quietly, and with no prospect of escape that day, the children went to sleep.
When they woke up, E– took out her calendar, which she’d borrowed from Gramma’s purse that Gramma had left at their house before looking for wildflowers.
“A–! It’s your birthday!”
“The golden touch!” A– squealed with delight, and she began touching everything in the hole. Things grew brighter in a hurry as she touched the dark mud walls and all the rocks. Most importantly, however, she touched the tree branch, and when it turned to gold it gained the strength needed to support the children’s weight. They climbed out of the hole and resumed their journey.
It was an eventful day as A– delighted in the golden touch. She changed a grasshopper to gold, as well as many trees and rocks. One time she wasn’t paying attention and turned a cheese quesadilla to gold right before taking a bite. Oops.
Then as the children walked over a little hill and into a field, they saw something they wished they hadn’t seen: growing from the ground all across the field were strange helmet-like forms. Then, the helmets were followed by heads and spears and swords and soldiers in full armor. It was the field of the dragon’s teeth! Thinking fast, E– grabbed a rock and went to throw it into the mass of soldiers, but before she could, S– held out his finger and shouted, “I shoot them! Peeeww!”
At the noise, the army of soldiers turned and saw the children, and they began to run right at them, wielding their swords and spears.
“Oh, no, A–!” E– yelled. “Use your golden touch!”
“No thank you, E–!” A– yelled, but as she did so a soldier reached her and she stuck out her hand to protect herself. The hand brushed the soldier’s knee, and he fell to the ground, made completely of gold. When A– saw how easy it was to turn the soldiers to gold, she changed her mind about using the golden touch. She began to sprint wildly through the ranks of the army, slapping high fives to all the soldiers and dropping them down in hunks of useless gold.
That night the children found a nice place to sleep on pillows of gold (“Sorry E–. I didn’t mean to turn your pillow to gold.”), happy to have survived a day of danger and to have continued on their journey to save Gramma.
Chapter 3 – E–’s uses more than just the wit of Quicksilver
For the next month the children trudged across the land, asking every passerby if he or she had seen Gramma. They talked to many interesting people, including an old hag who was selling apples, and though she tried to foist one on the children, they thought it best not to accept her offer. On another day a violent storm blew through and they had to hide in a nearby cave to stay safe. As they watched the storm from their safe spot, they were sure they saw a house blow by on the top of a twisting tornado, but they couldn’t really be sure.
Then, at the end of that month of traveling, they came to a narrow pathway through a mountain cleft. They entered the pathway because it was the only way to proceed, but the further they went, the darker it became, until finally they could not see their hands when they held them out in front of their faces.
“I know!” A– said. “Our flashlights!” And in a wink, all three children were giggling and shining their flashlights up their noses and into each other’s mouths.
“Do you think we should use them to keep walking?” E– asked after five minutes of enjoyment. Her siblings agreed, and they walked on through the dark passageway. Soon, they heard a strange noise emitting from the tunnel ahead. It was an odd cry, kind of like the moo of a cow, but also like the sound of a person whose tongue has gone numb.
They stopped to listen to the muttered cry for a minute or two when E– remembered she’d heard about this place. She took a book out of her backpack, and using her flashlight, found the story of the minotaur. Sure enough, that half-bull half-man lived in a dark maze, and here they were in such a place, about to encounter that horrible beast!
“I am going to shoot the cow!” S– announced when he heard there was a cow ahead, but E– hushed him quickly, lest the minotaur attack like the army of the dragon’s teeth had. Thinking but for a moment, and realizing it was now her birthday, E– concocted a plan. She removed her sparkly purse from her bag, dumped the colorful craft feathers into the pack, and pulled on the edges of the purse’s opening. For some reason, it stretched further than it should have.
“What are you doing, E–?” A– asked.
“I’ve got Hermes power on my birthday,” E– explained. “So that must mean I have his magic purse, just like the one Perseus used to store the Gorgon’s head. I’m going to hide you inside this purse now!” And with that she stuck the purse over A–’s and S–’s heads before they could protest being stuck inside it.
Looking to her feet, she noticed for the first time that her purple shoes had wings on them today, and when she wiggled them a tad, she began to float. Shining her flashlight ahead, she flew like the wind through the twists of the tunnel, zooming right over the head of the fuming minotaur, who snorted with rage when he smelled E–’s hot-box scent but could not reach her.
The rest of the day was a whirlwind, quite literally, as E– enjoyed flying like like Grampa. They circled the Earth twice, stopping for a moment to see the view from the top of Mount Olympus (they asked if anyone had seen Gramma, but since Hades never goes to Olympus, no one had talked to him to know he’d taken her), and passing by Pegasus and Bellerophone. Pegasus wanted to race, and though Bellerophone tried to bow out when he spotted Hermes’s shoes, the race continued, and E– won. Pegasus was impressed and he and Bellerophone promised to help her whenever she’d need a hand in the future.
That night the children laid themselves to rest on the golden fleece, which they borrowed from Jason as he returned from his quest.
Chapter 4 – S– proves that he’s Long John Silver
For the next two days the children trekked through the snow of the high mountains. On the third day they reached the entrance to a large cave. They peeked inside one at a time and each reported with breathless excitment and fear what they saw.
“It’s Gramma! She’s tied to the wall!” said A–.
“It’s the big eyed beast!” said S–.
“Hades must have left her here when he realized she doesn’t like pomegranates!” said E–.
“What are we going to do?!” said A–, as tears began to well up in her eyes.
“I know!” began E– joyfully. “It’s S–’s birthday, and he has the power of Orpheus’s song! All he has to do is go inside and sing, and the beast will untie Gramma for us!” Turning to S–, she continued, “S–, go inside and sing something. Sing I Heard It through the Grapevine or Daisy Daisy!”
“No!” S– snapped. “I’m Long John Silver!” And with that he drew his leg up at the knee and hopped around the corner, right into the open mouth of the cave. The moment the big eyed beast saw S– hopping into his cave, he snorted smoke and flame from his nose. He roared a terrible roar, and gnashed his terrible teeth, and showed his terrible claws, and began to rush at S–, determined to eat him in one gulp.
“Noo, S–!” the girls both shouted, unable to stop their tears. But S– showed no fear. He looked up at the rushing beast with determination in his eyes.
“I shoot the big-eyed beast!” he said shortly, and then he raised his finger and released one well aimed round. Pewwww.
The beast fell in a heap before the children, and S– led them in a celebratory dance of ring around the rosey, ashes ashes, they all fall down. Within moments, they untied Gramma (cutting the rope with the nail clippers that S– had apparently hidden in A–’s back pack three months earlier) and called to their new friend Pegasus, who flew them all home even faster than Grampa’s plane could have.
At home, everyone hugged for a whole day, they were so happy to be back together. Then they sat at the dinner table and discovered that their mother had placed three birthday cakes there, one for each of them, since they had not been home to eat them on their birthdays. With smiles as big as Zeus’s lightning bolts, they ate them all up.