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Kat writes in her downtown treehouse where traffic sounds like ocean waves and imagination reigns.

October 17, 2016

Here is a sample from TANGLE BOY a Short story excerpted from a novel in progress. It won Honorable Mention in the Children’s/Young Adult Fiction category for the 87th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, 2018.

 

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Tangle of vines, thick and ropey… The filthy boy climbed them, his wiry arms and legs strong from years of practice. He sat at the top, in the crook of a gnarly branch; gnawed on long, plump, vine leaves. Sucked out juicy green pulp as he gazed out across the tangle that stretched for as far as he could see in every direction. His world. All he knew, all he remembered.

He listened to sounds around him. Caw, cree, and cheet-cheet-a-dee… Whispery shi-shoo of leaves brushing in the breeze… Till he thought of other things. Things that rats knew how to find. Like that shiny round thing glinting between a particular rat’s sharp teeth. He’d seen it. And heard it. Hum-m-m,hum-m-m… That’s how the shiny thing had called to him. Like the hum of vine song, but different. That shiny round thing, He had to have it.

The boy shimmied down the tangle to the leaf-strewn ground to stalk that  rat, find its hiding place—and the shiny thing… the shiny thing…

He swatted aside dangling tendrils, drooping leaves. He poked through mounds of rock and rubble with a broken vine stalk—and found the rat hole. Excited, the boy pulled back twigs and stones. Exposed the rat. Its sharp teeth bared, the rat leapt at him. But the boy was quick. He jumped aside, swung his stick at the rat as he grabbed the shiny circle from the rotten nest. He clenched it between his teeth, the way he’d watched the rat do—then he bolted.

The rat squeaked with rage, chased after him, nipping his heels. The boy screeched, shimmied halfway up the gnarly vines, fending off the rat with his stick till the scrambling rat lost its footing, and tumbled, skittered, bumping downward through the vines. The boy listened till he heard the rat hit the ground, scurry away.

“Cree-cree! Cheet-cheet-a-dee!” the boy cried in triumph. Then he leaned back, made the whispery shi-shoo sound of brushing vine leaves. And scratching, squeaking rat sounds. He was good at that. But he didn’t like rats. No, not rats. Rats that chased him, nipped him. He shivered at the thought of that rat. So he made the scary, high-pitched Eee-yaaa and Aho-o-o sounds he sometimes heard in the distance. That would scare away rats. And for good measure, his fiercest cry:

“Mmm-a-a-a! Mmm-a-a-a!”

Then, the boy climbed higher. He turned the shiny circle—his shiny circle now—over in his spindly fingers. He puzzled over tiny marks that twined around it. He held the circle up to the light, squinted through the hole. At the sky…at the birds… At the far away mountain poking up through the vines. Sunlight glinted off the round, shiny thing. Bright flashes that startled him. He almost dropped his prize. His hand trembled as he slipped it on and off his finger, then his thumb. Tried to figure out how he would keep it safe.

A vine tendril tapped his skinny shoulder, comforting him as he held his glinting prize close to his ear; heard its hum. He drew the tendril closer, threading its pointed tip through the circle’s hole. He nudged the tendril. It loosely looped around his neck, once, twice… He tapped the tendril’s tip till it twined around itself, securing the shiny circle to dangle just over his heart. Then the boy broke the tendril from the vine, making it and the circle his own.

The world grew dark. The boy yawned, rubbed his eyes. Clasping the shiny circle, he let long, green vine leaves wrap around him, cocoon him from the night. Their protective hum whispered through the boy, lulling him into peaceful sleep. But a haunting memory dream made the boy shake in his cocoon. Frightened, worried voices, mama and papa voices, echoed through the dream, calling to him. But white-white was falling all around him….all around him…muffling the voices. Then, he couldn’t hear them anymore. And he was all alone… except for the vines.

When dark gave way to light again, the boy woke, his dream forgotten. But an uneasy feeling bothered him, made him feel alone. He shook his head to shake away the feeling. He had other things to think about. Rats. He tugged loose a vine leaf, then another, and another. Sucking out juicy pulp and warily listening for the squeak and screech of a certain rat below.

Instead, he heard a rumble and roar—growing louder, coming closer—like no animal he had heard before. So loud, it shook the ground, shook the vines—shook the boy right out of them. He screeched with terror as he tumbled, skittered, grasping for a hold, the way the rat had done. He bumped against shuddering, shifting branches, and still he was falling. Until he plopped onto a pile of leaves at the bottom. They cushioned the impact. But the fall knocked the wind from him. He lay there gasping, covering his ears, squeezing his eyes shut as the noise, the terrible noise, grew louder, came closer.

Then, with a sputter and thud, the roar-rumble stopped. The boy opened his eyes, surprised he hadn’t been devoured by whatever lurked out there. He dared to peek through the tangle and shook anew at what he saw: a monster made of shiny stuff—like his ring. He gaped as the monster’s belly opened and—

Click the Children’s Stories link above to read a sample from my 2016 Writer’s Digest award-winning story, “Singing Up the Sun.” 

HONORED AT SAN MATEO VISUAL ART/LENS OF POETRY POET LAUREATE CEREMONY JUNE 18, 2018, TO READ MY POEM “STAR SHADOWS” BASED ON THE PAINTING BY STEVE LEWIS ENTITLED “HILLSDALE V”

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STAR SHADOW

How little we know

Of the stars watching over us,

Especially our own,

The one we call Sun.

 

How little we notice

As we rush through our day,

Our mother star connecting us,

One to another, shadow by shadow,

Fingertip to toe.

And all along, you thought you were alone.

 

Click the other categories above for more examples of my writing.

Contact: kmstclaire@gmail.com

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