Author: Summer Bird

Castles in the Sky

As long as Jason could remember, his dreams had been architectural. He dreamed of arches and columns, colonnades, cupolas, and decorative shutters.   Some nights he dreamed of gazebos and landscape design.

He didn’t realize this was at all unusual until his third birthday. His grandmother gave him a lovely book of fairy tales and invited him to sit in her lap to be read to. He looked at the castles carefully and was thrilled to see one that somewhat matched a building in his dreams the night before.

“I dreamed this one,” he said. “’Cept it had a pretty building in the center with a round roof and the windows were pretty glass. The outside windows all had shiny metal bars.”

“You are good at remembering your dreams,” his grandmother said. “Who lived in that castle?”

“Don’t know.” Jason said. “I only ever dream the buildings.”

The adults thought this was funny for some reason and laughed a lot. After that, his mother started asking him each morning about his dreams. She would ask all sorts of questions about what people said or what happened next or if there was maybe a bunny or a dragon or a dinosaur. “I told you,” he said each time. “I only dream the buildings.”

The next time he had a check-up, his mother asked the doctor about his dreams. “It sounds unusual, but I wouldn’t worry about it. He doesn’t have any difficulty sleeping, and he doesn’t seem disturbed or upset by these dreams. It may just be a phase.”

She told his father about it at dinner. He thought for a moment. “Perhaps if we feed his interest, he’ll be satisfied and move on. If not, he may just become a gifted architect. It couldn’t hurt. I’ll pick up some books at the library on my way home,” his father said.

Father started to read to Jason in the evenings about porticos, reliefs, and spandrels. Jason now had names for the parts of the buildings he dreamed of, but he did not stop dreaming of buildings. He liked the dreams of castles best. He drew with a ruler to direct his crayons and added ramparts and battlements, turrets and keeps to his drawings.

His mother bought a dream dictionary. “Was there more than one door? How many were opened and how many were closed? You may have some regrets over missed opportunities. Do you want to talk about it?” It was all very confusing.

One day, Grandmother came to visit. “It’s a nice day outside. I brought you some sidewalk chalk. Why don’t you go draw out on the patio in back?” Jason thanked her for the gift and ran outside.

His dream the night before had been especially grand. He carefully drew the details of the castle and was rather pleased with the results. He’d even carefully drawn the portcullis up and the drawbridge down, to show that it was peaceful and happy, just like it felt in his dream.

That night something woke him unexpectedly, just when he had been wandering through a library full of secret rooms. A wispy, see-through person stood at his bedside smiling and waving.   If he was a ghost, he was a friendly ghost, so Jason wasn’t afraid.

“Are you a ghost?” he asked, just to be certain.

“No,” the man said. “I am a cloud person. Thank you for building us such marvelous buildings over the years. You are very talented.”

“I was building cloud buildings with my dreams?” Jason asked. Somehow it seemed true. The buildings he visited in his dreams seemed too real not to exist somewhere.

“Yes. And we finally found you when we saw your drawing of the Grand Duke’s new palace. He’s throwing a party to celebrate his new home and would like you to come.”

“How would that work?” Jason asked.

The man gave him a necklace to wear with a big round flat blue stone pendant.   After he put it on, Jason could see through his hands. They were wispy and ghost-like, just like the rest of him.

The cloud person pulled something out of his pocket. It looked like a handkerchief, but grew after he pulled it out until it was the size of a rug. It looked like a piece of rainbow. The cloud man sat on it and Jason sat beside him.

They flew up, up into the clouds and through a cloud city. Jason recognized many of the buildings and gardens from his dreams. The grand castle he dreamt up the night before was at the far end of town. It was just as lovely as he’d dreamed. The grand duke welcomed him as a guest of honor.

There was a tour of the castle followed by speeches and dancing. Jason didn’t really like the food, but everything else was amazing.   The grand duke himself took Jason home when the party was over and thanked Jason again before he left.

Jason gave him back the pendant and snuggled into bed, hoping to find himself back in the library. He did.   It was a great dream.

“I went to a party at a palace last night,” Jason told his mother the next morning.

She smiled. “That’s great! So, do you think you’re done dreaming of buildings, then?”

“I don’t think so,” Jason said. And he was right.


The Wisdom of Parker

Parker heard his sisters yelling in the living room and decided to read at the kitchen table instead. They got angry quickly and calmed down just as quickly if left alone.   They’d gotten better as they got older, and now fights like this were rare.

In his book, Toad had just bought a car.   Parker knew this meant trouble and eagerly turned the page. Something landed on the table in front of him, shocking him out of the story.   Looking down, he saw an old Barbie doll grinning fiercely up at him. Creepy.

He looked up and leaned back a little. Harriet and Annette were glaring at him arms folded.   What now? He looked down again. The doll looked fine. “What’s wrong?” He asked.

“Annette says this Barbie used to be hers, but it was mine,” Harriet said.

“No, it was mine,” Annette said. She glared at Harriet. Harriet snorted.

“I don’t remember anything about your Barbies,” Parker said.

“Of course you don’t,” Harriet said. “You were still wearing diapers when we played with dolls.”

“Then I don’t see how I can help you,” Parker said.   “Have you asked Mom?”

“She says she doesn’t remember and we should learn to share,” Annette said. She flopped down on a chair across from Parker.

“Like that would work,” Harriet said. Annette laughed. Harriet sat down next to her.

“You could ask Dad,” Parker said.

“He’d take it away ‘cause we were fighting over it,” Harriet said. She bumped her shoulder into Annette’s and Annette smiled.

“That’s true.” Parker leaned forward. “And Amy?”

“She said she doesn’t care and Barbies are stupid,” Annette said.

“Like she wasn’t the one inventing those weird soap opera plots for her Barbies all the time,” Harriet said. She scowled.

“So…” Parker began.

“So we want you to help us decide who keeps it,” Harriet said and leaned back in her chair.

“Alright,” Parker said. “So, do you remember anything that can help me decide?”

“It’s not Harriet’s,” Annette said. “She used to cut the hair off of all her dolls.”

“Not all of them! And I stopped doing that.” Harriet sat up straight and began to glare again. “Besides, this one still has its original outfit. You were always dressing yours in weird scraps of cloth and old socks and stuff.”

Now Annette was glaring too. “That’s ridiculous. I changed them back, too.”

“Well,” Parker said. “We could take the head off. One of you could keep the head and play with the doll’s hair, and the other could keep the body and experiment with different outfits.”

Both sisters stared. After a long moment, Annette laughed. “That seems logical. I’ll let you keep the head, Harriet.”

Harriet laughed too. “What would I do with a Barbie head? You keep the whole thing, Annie. I’d hate to see it broken in pieces just ‘cause we can’t get along.”

“I don’t know,” Parker said. “It seems to me that Harriet cares the most about the doll’s well-being. Maybe she should be in charge of it.”

Annette sighed. “I guess so. That’s too bad. It was the last nice Barbie we had left.”

“Maybe we can learn to share,” Harriet said. She picked up the doll and held it out to Annette.

“Like that’s going to happen,” Annette said, but she smiled and took the doll. She straightened its clothes. “Well, okay, maybe we can try. Thanks, Harriet.”

The sisters stood to leave. “Thanks, Parker,” Harriet said.

“Yeah, good job,” Annette added. They left and Parker went back to his book with a smile.barbie-10-29

Vampires on Vacation

When vampires go to the beach, they go at night.   They like it best when it’s cold and foggy or rainy. They cover up from head to toe in heavy clothes and wear death preservers filled with lead weights so they can walk on the bottom of the ocean. They bring blood in thermoses and sit around a pile of kelp that’s inside a ring of stones. They tell scary stories about kids around a campfire with long sharpened sticks.

When it’s time to go home, they don’t gather shells or bottles of sand. They know that there will be shells and sand the next time they come. Vampires live a long time. They like the beach because it is always there and doesn’t really change, even though it’s a little different every time they visit. The shells may be different shells, but there will be shells. There will be sand and rings of rocks and kelp and waves. There will be moonlight and stars too, if they aren’t lucky enough to catch a storm.

It may be a long time between visits. Vampires live a long time and there are many places for them to see. The beach will wait for them, it always does. And when they return, they will let the fish swim in their hair and look for new shipwrecks to explore. They’ll shiver at the idea of impulsive children with deadly pointy sticks coated in sugar or cooked meat and applaud the fantastic lightning shows. Then they’ll make sand castles and graveyards and churches with crypts. And then they will go home and leave the shells and sand and kelp and rocks for the next time they come.



The Judgment of Parker

It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Parker hummed a happy song as he raced out to check the mail. There was a package in the mailbox! Unfortunately, it wasn’t for him. It was addressed to his three older sisters.

When he came inside, all three sisters jumped up when they saw the package. Parker tossed it up in the air so that he didn’t get trampled. Amy caught it.

“Look, it’s for us from Grandma Helen,” she said.

“Well, open it,” Harriet said. She reached for the package. “You’re taking too long.

Amy scowled and hugged the package to her chest. “Back off.”

Annette sighed. “Just open it, Amy. Sit down, Harriet, or this will just take longer.”

Harriet sat, and Amy opened the package. “Look,” she said, “it’s a gold bracelet with a pretty apple charm.   It’s so cute!”

“But who does it belong to?” Harriet asked. She snatched away the packaging. “All three of us? How is that supposed to work?”

“I suppose we can take turns,” Annette said.

Amy laughed. “Like that would work.”

Parker giggled. His sisters had never been very good at sharing. The giggle had been a mistake. His sisters had forgotten he was there, but now they were all looking at him.

“Parker has no claim on the bracelet, and he’s always been pretty fair,” Annette said.

“Yeah, we should ask him who gets the bracelet,” Harriet said.

“Alright,” Amy said. “So who is it?”

“What?” Parker started backing up.   This was a terrible idea.

“Not so fast,” Harriet said. Her eyes narrowed. “Sit down now, Parker.”   Parker sat.

“Pick me,” Amy said. “I’ll make you the prettiest cake ever!”

“Don’t be silly. I’d drive you to school for a month, Parker,” Harriet said.

“I could drive you to the library and help you with your science fair project,” Annette said.

The sisters glared at each other. All at once, they turned and glared at Parker. Parker felt the back of his neck prickle in sudden dread.

“If you don’t pick me, I’ll put bugs in your lunch box and give you a funny hair cut,” Amy said.

“I’ll put ice in your bed and take away your nightlight,” Harriet said.

“I’ll tape mean signs to your back and hide your homework,” Annette said.

Parker couldn’t take it any more. This wasn’t fair. Why should he care about a stupid bracelet, anyways? He felt angry.

“I don’t think any of you should have it. Mom should have the bracelet. If it was Grandma Helen’s, it should have come to her first anyways.”   Then, before his sisters could react, he ran out of the room and hid behind the door. That usually worked when they were chasing him.

But this time, no one followed. “That’s not a bad idea. Mom will let me borrow it whenever I want, unlike you two,” he heard Amy say.

“Unless I ask her first,” Harriet said. “Let’s go tell mom and see she what she says. It’s like we’re starting all over, thanks to Parker.”

“No, I think he did a pretty good job this time,” Annette said.

“I guess so. Let’s go give mom her bracelet,” Harriet said.

Parker smiled. It sounded like they’d avoided having a war after all. He hurried down the hall and out the back door. It was time to play outside for a little while.


A Classroom Mystery

A month after the new term started, Kim was pretty sure that the girl who sat in front of her in math was a vampire. Her name was Veronica, which is a vampire-sounding name, and she glittered. Kim hadn’t read that popular vampire book, but she had heard that was a telltale sign.

Kim’s mom said that if you have a question, it’s always best to just ask. So, Kim tapped Veronica on her shoulder and asked. “Why are you all glittery?”

Veronica turned around and raised her eyebrows as though she thought it was a strange question. “My lotion has body glitter in it,” she said.

“Oh.” That made sense. “Are you a vampire?”

Veronica looked at her like she was crazy. And maybe a little bit rude. “No.”

“Okay,” Kim said. Veronica turned around again and Kim had almost decided she wasn’t really a vampire after all. Then she noticed the sunglasses clipped to the edge of her bag.   Hmmm. Weren’t vampires sensitive to sunlight? Maybe she needed to investigate some more.

The next day, she sat by Veronica and her friends at lunch. Veronica was sipping a protein shake. Isn’t blood mostly protein?   Suspicious, to be sure.   “Veronica,” Kim said, trying to sound casual, “would you like some of my garlic bread? It’s really good. My mom made it extra garlicky.”

Veronica gave her a weird look and said, “No, thank you.” Kim smiled, but inside was shouting, “Aha!”

Now that she was pretty sure that Veronica was a vampire, she needed to decide what to do. She seemed to be a pretty nice vampire, and if she could survive on protein shakes, then there was really nothing to worry about, right? Now if her classmates started mysteriously disappearing, Kim would have to do something. She would keep a really sharp pencil in her bag, just in case.

Weeks passed and not much happened. No one had puncture marks on their neck.   Anyone who was absent came back with a note. Kim began to look around for a new mystery. Then, one day, Veronica came to school looking especially pale. She had dark circles under her eyes.

“Why do you look so tired?” Kim asked.

“Oh,” Veronica said, “it was a full moon last night and all the cats in the neighborhood were yowling at the moon.   I didn’t get much sleep.”

Kim almost gasped out loud. The full moon? Was Veronica actually a werewolf? Could someone be a vampire and a werewolf? It was time to investigate. “Veronica,” she asked, “are you a werewolf?”

“No,” Veronica said. She rolled her eyes.

“A werewolf vampire hybrid?”

“Are you serious?” Veronica asked.

“Yes.” Kim said. “Are you?”

“No.” Veronica said.

“Hmmm.” Kim said. Veronica rolled her eyes again and turned around.

The next month, Kim had a plan. The day before the full moon, she tapped Veronica on the shoulder. “Hey, can I have your phone number? I may need to call you about the assignment tonight.”

“Fine,” Veronica said. She wrote out her number and handed it to Kim. “But I may be going out tonight.”

“Uh huh,” said Kim. “Thank you.”

“Whatever,” Veronica said.

When Kim called Veronica’s house, after dark, when the moon was up, no one answered. She heard howling outside, in the distance, and felt a little nervous.   Was it yowling cats? A dog? A werewolf?   “Mom! We need to lock all the doors now!” she said.

“Go right ahead,” her mom said. “Then come and help me fold the laundry.”

Nothing scary happened.  The next day, Veronica looked tired again. “I’m sorry I missed your call. My family went to a movie. We were out pretty late. Did you still have a question about the homework?”

“No, I think I figured it out,” Kim said.   Veronica seemed to be a pretty nice werewolf vampire. There were no suspicious reports about people being mauled last night, either.   Now that she knew to be extra careful, she could let it go. Unless people started disappearing or something, of course. “Thank you for offering,” she said. It probably wouldn’t hurt to be extra nice. Just in case.


Yellow Cats

Dave frowned. There was just a muffin and a banana in his lunchbox. He hated the end of the month when money was tight.   Maybe if he ate slower he wouldn’t feel as hungry.

He put his books on the lunch table so no one would see how small his lunch was, and unpeeled the banana. He blinked. There wasn’t a banana inside the peel. Instead, there was a little yellow kitten with dark eyes. He pinched himself. Still there.

“Hello,” the kitten said. He looked around and looked back. It was still there. “No one else can see me,” it said. It turned its head and started licking its back.

“Where did my banana go?” Dave asked.

“There wasn’t one,” the kitten said. “Just me.”

“Oh,” Dave said. He started to peel his muffin. He really was hungry. The kitten watched him and leaned forward as he prepared to take a bite. “Did you want some?” Dave asked.

“Thank you,” the kitten said. It swallowed the entire muffin in one bite and then went back to licking its back. The muffin was bigger than its head, so Dave wasn’t really sure how that just happened.

“You’re welcome, I guess,” Dave said. “What’s your name?”

“I don’t want one,” the kitten said.

“Then what will I call you?”

The kitten turned around and stared at him. “Don’t say anything at all. People will think you’re crazy. If you only talk to me when we’re alone, who else would you be talking to?”

That made sense. Dave nodded and then looked around. Everyone else was eating. He sighed and began to pack his bag again. No lunch today. Maybe he could win some candy if Mr. Long was giving a pop quiz. He always studied hard just in case.

To his delight, there was a pop quiz. He quickly filled in his answers and waited for the others to finish writing. He could almost taste the chocolate. The kitten jumped off his shoulder and studied his paper. “This one is wrong,” it said. “And this one. And this one. You’re really bad at this.”

Dave looked at his answers again. He really wanted that chocolate. He was pretty sure they were right. But he was so hungry. He changed his answers.

The kitten was wrong. “Sorry,” it said and started licking its paws. Dave groaned and shoved the test in his bag. His stomach growled.

“Dave,” Mr. Long said. “You sound hungry.” The class laughed. Dave’s face burned.   Mr. Long waited until everyone settled down and then smiled. “I’ll give you a second chance to earn a treat. Come to the board and show us how to do this problem.”

Dave was willing to try. The kitten climbed up on his arm, and he went to the board.   The kitten kept yelling in his ear that he was doing it wrong. He ended up making a silly mistake and some of his classmates laughed. Mr. Long gave him the candy anyways.

The kitten yelled the opposite of whatever the teacher said for the rest of the day. Dave had an enormous headache. When he got home, no one was home. There was another banana and a package of ramen on the table with a note. Mom would be home late.

Dave was sure this was a bad idea, but he unpeeled the banana. There was another kitten.   “Where did mom get these?” he asked.   No one answered. Instead, the other kitten climbed on his other shoulder.   The cats began to sing opera loudly.   He groaned.

“I think it’s time you both got down,” he said.   They ignored him. He tried to pick them up and move them, but it was like trying to catch smoke. They darted away from his hands and scratched at him with little needle-like claws.

Dave sat down and the kittens perched on his shoulders. Cats hate water, right? “I think I might need to take a shower,” he said. “Right now.” The first kitten growled and its eyes grew large. It was kind of scary.

“Never mind, I give up. What do you want from me?” he asked.

“We want to go home to our mother,” the second kitten said. “I’m hungry.”

Dave made up the ramen. The kittens ate it all. He called his mom’s work. “This had better be important,” she said.

“Umm…I think I heard something outside in the bushes,” he said.

“Are the doors locked?” Mom sounded impatient.

“Uh, yes,” Dave said.

“Then turn out the lights and go to bed early. We have nothing to steal.”

Dave frowned. He still had homework to do. And he was hungry. “Mom, where did the bananas come from?”

“Aunt Jenny, when I was returning her umbrella.   I’ll see you in the morning Dave.   I’m sorry you have to be home alone.”   Mom hung up.

Dave called Aunt Jenny. “Hi, Aunt Jenny? Where did the bananas come from? Do you have the neighbor’s number? Thank you!”

He called the neighbor, and then a garden store, and then a bakery. The baker told him they were from an elderly lady who lived by the bakery. By now, the kittens were having a loud argument.   They kept swiping at each other and scratching Dave instead.

It wasn’t late yet, so Dave walked to the bakery.   He knocked at the door of the house next to it. A very tall man answered and said the old lady lived two doors down.

Dave trudged down the street and knocked on the door. The house was clean and well kept. And neon pink.

The old lady who answered had bright blue hair.   Her house was full of yellow cats.   The kittens climbed down and raced around the corner. The old lady smiled. “Thank you dear,” she said. “You look hungry. Would you like something to eat?”

“Not a banana?” Dave asked. Just in case.

“Of course not.” The old lady looked shocked. “Here, have a nice muffin from the bakery. Would you like to come by sometimes and help me with my sweet cats?”

“Probably not,” Dave said. “But thank you for the muffin.”

“I’ll pay you for your time, of course,” the lady said.

Dave looked down at where a yellow cat was chewing on his shoelaces. “Well, let me think about it. I’ll let you know.” The lady handed him another muffin and smiled. Dave sighed. He knew he’d probably say yes. He hated the end of the month when money was tight.


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