I’ve been working on a little serial kids story over the past few days. My students at daycare love to hear a story about a little boy who suddenly finds a magical tree outside his bedroom window and climbs it, only to find himself in a forest ruled by an evil wizard who wants to use the boy for fertilizer. A squirrel helps him escape. These aren’t big readers, yet they ask for this story often, so I thought I would write a similar one and do installments as a special treat every so often. Who knows? Maybe it will encourage them to be a little less crazy in the after-school room!
Will and the Whale, part 1
When Will woke up, he could see the ocean out his window. This was very strange, for Will lived in a valley some five miles inland. There was a big beech tree in his yard that was just starting to turn yellow for fall, and a line of pine trees that ringed the yard like a big green hug. But that was on a normal day. Today, Will couldn’t see any trees. What he saw instead was a red and white tugboat, chugging smoke into the bright blue sky. He saw a buoy with a green stripe and the number 54 on it. He saw a seagull.
“My gosh!” said Will, running to the windowsill. The room seemed to tip: he was afloat at sea! Will remembered falling asleep to rain. It must have rained so much that the whole world was flooded!
Will knew just what to do. He could hardly believe his luck. All summer long, mom and dad had had to drag him out of the water when it came time to leave the beach, laughing and calling him their little fish. Now Will could swim as long and as far as he wanted! Any other day, he would have brushed his teeth and gotten ready for school, but he couldn’t go to school if he was stranded in the middle of the ocean! So Will changed into his swim trunks, opened the window, and plunged into the ocean.
Will shivered with delight and wiped the salt from his eyes, treading water with his arms and legs. The waves were rougher than they had looked from his window, and the current had already swept him quite a distance from his house. Will imagined his mother’s voice telling him not to swim too far out, so he started back toward the safety of the house.
But no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t get any closer to the house. In fact, he was drifting farther away! Will tried the crawl stroke, the breast stroke, and even the back stroke. Finally, exhausted, Will had to take a break and float on his back like his swimming teacher had shown him. The house was farther away than ever, just a tiny blue square against the bigger blue sky on a very far-away horizon. Will wished he’d brought a floatie. Or at least goggles. He grabbed onto a nearby buoy for support.
The buoy wriggled, and Will let go with a shout. It wasn’t a buoy at all, but the dorsal fin of a huge whale! Will watched with wide eyes as the fin arced and disappeared under the surface, followed by a massive tail that slapped the water and splashed him in the face. By the time Will had finished spitting out water and rubbing his eyes, the whale had circled around to face him.
“Ahoy there!” said the whale. “Haven’t seen you around before.”
Will blinked. After all the strange things that had happened so far today, he guessed meeting a talking whale wasn’t the strangest thing that could have happened next. “Well,” he said, “I’m not really from here. In fact, I have no idea how I got here. I just woke up and my house was floating in the middle of the ocean.”
“Oh my,” said the whale. “That’s very bad.”
“Why is that bad?” Will asked, his teeth beginning to chatter.
“Because,” the whale explained, “there is a dangerous wizard who lives nearby. He takes the form of a human only at night. He lives in a tower with a bright lamp on top.”
“A lighthouse,” said Will.
The whale went on, “But when the sun rises, the wizard turns into a giant sting ray.”
“So why is this bad for me?” asked Will.
“Because,” said the whale, “if the wizard brought you here with magic, it probably means the sting ray is hungry. Not good for you.”
“No,” Will agreed, now shaking with both cold and fear. “Not good at all.”
“Don’t worry, kid,” said the whale. “We all hate the wizard. We’ll help you get back to your house.”
“We?” Will repeated.
Suddenly, the water around them filled with fishy faces. Will saw a clown fish, a crab, a huge sea turtle, and even a grinning shark. “But I don’t even know where my house is anymore,” Will said miserably, or tried to say. By now his teeth were chattering so badly that it came out more like, “b-b-buddeye d-d-donee-no w-w-where muh h-h-houzis n-n-n-mur.”
“Poor dear,” said a ruffly, pink and brown creature who looked rather like a blanket, if a blanket came to life and could swim. She draped herself around Will’s shoulders. She was cool and slimy, yet Will found that he was shivering a little bit less than before.
“Thanks,” said Will. “What kind of sea creature are you?”
“Just call me Bertha, dear,” said the blanket, hugging him tight with her wriggly, tickly ruffles. Then, to the rest of the creatures, she said, “we need to get him out of the water. He needs to warm up. Then we can look for his house.”
“I can give you a lift,” offered the sea turtle. “I know an island not too far away. Climb on!” So Will climbed onto the turtle’s huge shell. Bertha slid off his shoulders and back into the water with a little splash.
“Don’t worry, hun,” she said as the group struck out for land. “We’re all your friends now, and we’ll keep you safe from the wizard.”
To be continued…