Deep Subject

On Tuesday, we discovered the dragon in the well.

Dad was grimly triumphant. He’d been complaining about a change in the water pressure for two weeks now; oh, we’d doubted him, had we? My sister Pippa was pleased. She’d just begun school and said she had nothing to talk about with her classmates. Well, no one else at school had any sort of reptiles affecting their utilities. Mom was disgusted. The entire reason that we’d had the well investigated was because she’d noticed an “off taste” to her pasta and tea and decided it was something in the water.

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It’s hard not to feel bad for the prisoners, but I guess that’s because I don’t know what they did to get in here. When they turn doleful eyes to you or say they miss their family, you don’t think about what the prisoners broke in order to end up in here. It’s really a lot easier to imagine a hypothetical dining room table with an empty seat in some faraway place than it is to imagine some heinous crime in progress.

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Found Objects

I just remembered that Jim Everest gave me this pen.

When I was fifteen, my mother gave me a sketchbook. With a Sharpie, I wrote PAOLA on the front of it in big, hollow letters, and then I doodled small tunneling animals inside the lines of the them. I left the O empty. I was waiting for inspiration to hit. You have to leave yourself room to maneuver when you’re working with something permanent.

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Between the Drops

I AM 9.

When it rains, I walk slantwise between the drops, and get to Arcadia. It’s not really called Arcadia, I don’t think, but there is a main thoroughfare that goes through the town called Arcadia, and so I reckon it is as good as name as any. Because if I had a town and I had a main road through it, I might name it after the town. I might name it after my chameleon, too, just because I like her, but Squish is a terrible name for a street.

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Our mother didn’t like the house.

It wasn’t anything particularly intimidating. An old, L-shaped farmhouse in the middle of what used to be a cornfield. John Davies, the amiable patriarch of our family, had a penchant for old houses with creaky floors and high ceiling. He liked houses with what he called character. But what he meant was mice.

After our parents had been to sign the contracts, he’d boomed about what a bargain the house had been.

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Fiction by Maggie. Sort of.

Note from Tessa, the First: Some of you may know that Maggie is currently wandering about the wilds of Europe, leashed to publicists and forced to live off the blood of booksellers.

Valiantly, she began writing her Pied Piper story to post for you today, but seeing as she’s in Germany, the home of said Piper, there was a snag.

Her laptop died. It seems her story is too close to the truth for the spirit of the Piper to allow her to finish it (though he apparently has nothing against straight irons"). Against the wishes of the dead and in the face of curses and painful consequences to our firstborn – we’re posting the beginning of her story anyway!


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Non Quis, Sed Quid

She’d been dating the demon for about a year. No, maybe not a year. Maybe eight months. Her father told her once there was a big difference between eight months and a year. If you were told you were going to die in a year, he said, and Death knocked on your door in eight months, don’t you think you’d be a little put off?

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Only As Strong As the Feet We Stand On

King Julian never knew his kingdom was a democracy, and had been for three generations.

A nursemaid is something that should be chosen carefully, if you are a king. Even if you are a king of a not very sizable kingdom that tends to get too much rain and is chiefly known for its lettuce crop (in particular a variety of red lettuce known as ‘Julian’s Head’). You’re still in a position of power, and the nursemaid you choose for your son will spent more time teaching him politics than your wife. And as Julian is wont to say, a nation is only as strong as the feet it stands on.

I have been a nursemaid for a very long time, and I can assure you that the decision was not accidental. I was chosen from a family who had a long history of providing nursemaids to the crown. We were known to be unflappable (important as the red-headed royal line was wont to produce colicky babies), sturdy (lucky as a brief struggle with the neighboring country had resulted on an embargo on all shoes except for the locally made clogs), healthy (fortuitous in a country plagued by rain), and above all, absolutely cunning.

I am cunning.

I also provided a very fine view for those watching me leave, if you get my meaning, which is the real reason why I believe the young king took me on forty years ago. Julian, like all beautiful people, liked to be surrounded by other beautiful people, in case the ugly got on him. His wife, the Queen Ruth, had in fact died ugly, shortly after childbirth, and Julian had never quite recovered.

King Julian had a son, Bertrand, and Bertrand had grown up beautiful and red-headed like his father. Also like his father before him, Bertrand was to marry a girl of true royal blood at the age of seventeen. As his birthday approached, the court whipped into action. We all knew the ritual for finding a true princess; we’d lived through it before. Each time a male member of the royal house began to look for a spouse, a dozen potential girls would descend upon the castle grounds. Each of them would be led to a room that had been prepared exactly the same way: nothing in the room but a lantern and twenty mattresses with twenty feather mattresses piled on top of them. If there were twelve girls, they would sleep there for twelve nights, and each night, one of them had a pea placed under the mattresses. The true princess was the one who could not sleep with such an insult under her bed. The other imposters were killed.

I am kidding.

Of course we didn’t kill the other girls. Who has room to time to bury all those bodies? But the rest of it is true. The entire fate of the kingdom rested on some silly girl feeling some silly vegetable in her bedding.

This is why we all have to wear clogs.

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