22 July, 2011

Double Feature

Here it is!  Chapters two and three for your reading pleasure.  Enjoy!

People who disappeared went into The Nothing.

That’s the best any of the scientists could discover. Magic was a slippery thing, sometimes working just as the rules said, sometimes not. As most everybody had no control over it, most everybody left it alone.

I don’t know how, but it got around my school that I was cursed. At first everyone stared at me silently, mournfully, like I would drop dead any second.

When I told them waspishly that one, I didn’t believe in it, and two, it wouldn’t happen until I was seventeen or something, the other students eased off. Then the teasing began.

“Where’s your Prince Charming?” they asked, batting their eyelashes at me.

“Or maybe he’s a frog! Kiss the frog, Becca! Do it! Do it! Do it!”

“Let’s jab her with a needle and see if that’s it!”

I usually came home in a rage, flinging my backpack across the kitchen.

“Becca!” my mother would say. “Pick that up!” Being cursed did not spare me having to clean my room or keep my toys tidy.

“I hate school!” I bellowed, throwing my wrinkled test paper as well. It had a big fat D scrawled across it. It was math, something I normally found easy. But today, Billy Friscan had colored my apple with permanent marker, saying it was poisoned and then pushed me down on the play ground. I had been so mad, I couldn’t see and the numbers started changing places and turning around, dancing until I had a headache and couldn’t think.

I didn’t see the look my parents exchanged over my head. Dad stayed home more now.

“Next year you go to junior high,” he said gently, coming to give me a hug. I balled into his shirt.

“I don’t want to go!” I wailed, beside myself. “I won’t! You can’t make me!”

“Hush, now.” He said, rubbing my head. “Come have a snack, you’ll feel better.”

“I’ll feel better if Billy Friscan got cursed!” I spat. “He should eat his stupid poison apple!” Said apple was hurled after the backpack and test paper. It hit the wall and splattered all over the place.

“Rebecca Beckons!”

So I ended up eating my snack in my room, grounded until dinner time.

Most of that year and the next few saw me in my room, chuntering to myself. Eventually I learned to ignore my tormentors, then to snap back so carefully and wittily that everyone started laughing at them instead. Then we all turned fifteen or so and nobody cared any more.

I think my parents did me a favor for not pulling me out of school or telling the other parents to stop their own children. That would have made it worse, either not teaching me to be tough or making the other children bully me secretly, which can turn much nastier than general taunts.

I spent a good deal of time, too, in doctor’s offices. Sometimes a curse just meant someone would develop incredibly rare brain-cancer-ebola. If it was caught in time, then it could be treated and the curse maybe lifted.

Unfortunately for me, no matter how many needles they jabbed me with or how many fancy x-rays, I was given a clean bill of health. Almost unbelievably healthy.

I never had a cavity. I never got a zit (which earned me no friends, let me tell you). I never got the chicken pox, or the flu, or a cold. Nothing. Ever. When I did fall down, a rarity once I stopped being a clumsy oaf and grew into my feet, I would heal quickly, like in one day. I broke my arm and it set in three weeks.

It was like my body knew it only had seventeen summers and was living in fast forward, getting all its time in all at once. The doctors had no name for it, which meant one thing.


So, we started going to different magic places. I was excited at first, thinking again of enchanted woods and other fun things. It was mostly sleek office buildings with lots of humming equipment and people in dust suits.

Once we went to a little house at the edge of a creepy looking lake, but the woman there said we had the wrong address and shut the door in our faces. She only one eye, like a cyclops, so we just left.

I woke up one morning and wanted to go back to sleep, denying the sun streaming through my curtains.

It was the first day of summer. My eighteenth summer.

I groaned and rolled out of bed. School had gotten out weeks ago, leaving me nothing to do but wonder our property and think about being struck down by some nameless thing.

Would I get hit by a truck? An airplane? Would martians come? Would I just keel over and die? Would I prick my finger on a needle or something and sleep for a hundred years?

And when? Today? Midsummer, on the solstice? On the last day of summer? It was a very vague warning.

Mom and dad were careful not to meet my eyes. They knew exactly what I was thinking. We’d gone all over the place last summer. I missed half the school year because we’d gone to Egypt and Greece and London. Everywhere I wanted to go.

This summer, we had no plans.

I ate my cereal slowly, thinking about how to spend my last days.

“How are you?” mom asked gently.

“Fine.” I said, tapping my spoon on my eerily perfect teeth. “I think I’ll go for a drive.”

Mom made a noise like she wanted to object, but dad rustled his paper and she stayed silent. They were very good at talking without talking. It frustrated me to no end.

“Take the truck.” Dad offered, sliding the keys over. “Be careful.”

“I will.” I promised. Unless I’m struck down, then there wasn’t much I could do. Maybe giant ants would come and carry me away. Or a bolt of lightening.

The truck, the same truck we’d first gone the The Farm in, was still in the driveway. Dad had had the truck for years and years. It needed some paint, but otherwise was great. It looked odd next to my mother’s gleaming sedan.

Maybe that’s what inspired me, but I grabbed a lunch and raced over the hills for the Farm. It was a beautiful day, clear and warm. I rolled down the windows instead of using the AC and hummed to myself.

I was just getting weary of driving when I saw the silos. The grain stretched in every direction, looking like no time had passed. There were even some tractors out in the waving grains. Rotational planting, my dad called it. So there was always ripe wheat, every season, even when there shouldn’t be.

I rumbled to a stop at the main office building, climbing down. No one was about, so I grabbed my backpack and walked around, looking at things, stretching my legs.

It was weird to come back and see nothing changed. Like time hadn’t passed here. It had unfortunately passed for me. The wheat was not nearly so tall now, coming just up to my waist instead of over my head.

“Can I help you?”

I turned. A man stood behind me, looking put out that I was wondering around private property.

I peered at him. “Jeff?”

“Yeah.” He said, examining me as well. His eyes flicked to the truck. “Becca Beckons?”

I nodded, smiling. “Long time, yes?”

“I’d say.” He said laughing. “Where’s your Dad? I didn’t know he was coming.”

“He’s not. I came alone.”

“Why?” He asked. He winced. “Oh, yeah, sorry.”

I shrugged. “I’ll stay far away from the combines,” I promised. “I’d hate for you to get fired for striking me down.”

His laugh was a little forced, but so was my smile.

“Come for anything in particular?” he asked, coming up next to me. He was wearing normal clothes, which I thought was odd. I’d always thought of him in those coveralls and mask. Of course he would wear normal clothes. He probably had a normal house he went to, not far from here.

“No. Why are you here?”

He smiled. “Paperwork.”


“Tell me about it. And…” he hesitated.


He turned to look down at me. “I never saw that woman again.” He said finally.

I nodded. “I don’t imagine she stuck around.”

“Did you ever find out what it was about?”

“No.” I wasn’t surprised Dad didn’t talk about it with him. Dad avoided the subject and became suddenly deaf when the relatives wanted to discuss it. “But, my eighteenth summer is here. At last.”

He grunted. “Congratulations.”

“Thanks,” I said dryly, giving him a scorching look. He chuckled.

“Stay out of trouble,” he said, reaching out and ruffling my hair. I scowled at him and ducked away.

I backed the truck up to the edge of the fields and ate my lunch, sitting in the bed. The sun was brilliant, shimmering over everything. I adjusted my hat and lounged back, looking at the waving grasstops over my toes.

Gravel crunched, warning me.

“How have you been?” Jeff asked softly.

“Miserable.” I said promptly. “But, not too bad, otherwise.”

He grunted. The bed lurched as he climbed up, sitting on the edge of the bed wall. I noticed his boots were muddy. “You just finished what, tenth grade?”

“Eleventh.” I said tartly. “But not that it matters.”

“It might.” He said, shrugging with one shoulder, just like I remembered.

“What about you?” i asked.

“What do you mean?”

“What have you been doing?”

He smiled. “Working.”

“And?” I prompted. Oddly, my overactive imagination had never invented a life for him besides him filling grain trucks and working here.

“Working some more.” He said with a laugh. “I took over all your dad’s operations last summer.”

The summer we spent traveling, seeing the world. Before I was struck down and missed it.

“You’re not married or anything? College?”

“Nope.” He said, looking out over the wheat.

“Why not?”

He eyed me. His eyes were brown. “Why would I?”

“Seems like the normal thing to do, doesn’t it?”

“I suppose.” He shrugged again. “Maybe I didn’t want to.”


“Get married. Go to college.”

“You like working here?”

He nodded. “I do.”

“My mother thought you were magic.”

He leveled me an odd look. “Why?”

“Because you could predict the weather.”

He smiled. “Lucky guesses.”

I examined him. “You are magic, aren’t you!”

He laughed. “Hardly.” He stood and stepped down. “Don’t stay too long, you’ll get a sunburn.”

I sneered at his back and laid back and closed my eyes.

He woke me by pounding on the side of the truck. I sat up with a yelp, scrambling to my feet.

“You’d better get home, Becca,” he said when he’d finished laughing at me.


“It’s a long drive,” he explained, his eyes twinkling. His face was dirty, now, as were his clothes. What had he been doing? It didn’t seem like paperwork. He turned and looked out at the clear blue sky. “And there’s going to be a thunderstorm.”

“How do you know that?” I demanded.

“Look at the haze in the air. Anyone can see it.”

“Not me.”

“You’re just not looking hard enough.” He said, his eyes on me now. I shivered suddenly. They weren’t brown, but kind of green. Like fields of wheat. Like that woman. I climbed down and got in the driver’s seat quick like.

He shut the door on me and leaned against the open window.

“Careful on the road.” He said as I started the truck.

“I know, I know.” I muttered. My face felt tight and tingly. I was sunburned, just like he said. It didn’t improve my mood.

Neither did the billowing black clouds the rose up over the horizon and dumped rain and hail on me. I made it home just fine, my ears ringing from thunder, but fine.

I went to bed that night, kissing my parents and telling them I loved them.

I woke up the next morning, still alive.
The first day of fall came. I’d gone back to school, but my teachers let me stare listlessly out the window most days. Today they ignored me entirely. Who knew? Maybe I would be struck down by a carelessly flung piece of chalk? Better to let me be and send me home alive and well to die at my house.
My parents made my favorite foods. We watched my favorite movies. We sat and looked out over our garden as the sun set.
Finally my dad crossed to me and kissed my cheek.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better daughter, Becca.” He said.
I broke down completely, sobbing into his arms. Mom came and put her arms around us.
I must have fallen asleep, even if I didn’t want to. Because when I woke up again, it was morning.
I shifted.
My dad grunted, my head on his leg, stretched out on the couch. Mom was sitting on the floor, one hand holding mine, the other one of dad’s.
I sat up, completely and absolutely stunned.
I was alive.
He opened his eyes and looked up at me.
We pretty much went to pieces after that.
And when I woke up the next day and the next and the next, I dissolved into a whimpering mess. The stress of it was killing me. Maybe this was the curse, this was what would cut me down. One day halfway through October, I took myself in hand.
I went back to school. No one believed it was me.
No one spoke to me or sat near me. People would get up and vacate my immediate vicinity when I went into the cafeteria. I knew they were afraid my curse would suddenly crash down, all the more powerful for being pent up and restrained, like a dam bursting.
I was used to it. And I didn’t care. I was alive.
I had my eighteenth birthday. November first.
I decided not to go back to school. Mom protested, but I enrolled in an on-line course. I finished high-school in a few weeks, just after New Years. It was easy. I was filled with energy, the relief and joy of being alive intoxicating. I hardly slept. I couldn’t carry on forever like this, but I enjoyed it while it lasted.
It was early spring when Jeff came to the house.
I opened the front door, my mouth full of bagel.
“Becca?” he asked, startled.
I stared at him. “What?”  It came out more like ‘mumf.’
He closed his mouth. “Sorry, I was just expecting you to be dead.”
I grinned. “Nope.”
He kept staring. It was very odd. His eyes were brown again. “Is your dad home?”
I nodded and let him in. He edged around me, like the kids at school. I scowled at him. “What?” Again, ‘mumf.’
“Nothing,” he said slowly. “You look good. For a dead person.”
“Ha ha ha.” I made a face and went back to the kitchen to finish cream-cheesing my bagel. “Dad!” I bellowed.
I heard them talking in the front entry, in low, tense voices that meant they were talking about me.
“I can hear you!” I called out to them. They went silent, then moved to the other room. I snorted to myself and went back to my book, bagel in hand.
After about a half an hour of dead silence, I went to see what was the matter.
They were leaning over my dad’s wide desk, a map spread out before them. Not a map, I looked again. A chart of weather patterns, long lines over the continent.
“You’re sure?” dad asked.
“Yes,” Jeff said wearily. “Don’t think I don’t wish it was otherwise.”
“What’s going on?” I asked from the door. They both looked up. Dad rubbed his hand over his face.
“Nothing, Becca. Just Farm stuff.”
But I was looking at Jeff. His face was set in hard lines, clean for the first time I’d ever seen him. He didn’t think it was nothing.
“Mom says dinner’s soon.” I said, letting it pass for now.
“Okay.” Dad said, his eyes on the map again.
Jeff stayed for dinner. Mom sat him by me. I did not like the little glances she kept flicking between us. They made me blush, but I wasn’t sure why.
“Delicious,” Jeff said.
“Thank you, Mr. Strenton.”
I blinked. Of course, he had a last name. And a middle name, too. I wondered what it was.
He and dad talked some more after dinner, out on the porch. I washed up with mom, burning with curiosity. How could I get him to tell me?
I could flirt with him.
I burned with a very different fire, then. I scowled and dumped the scraps in the garbage. I didn’t know what made me think of it, but it was stupid. And it wasn’t as if I knew how to anyway. Being under a curse of death had pretty much scared off any boys, even the weird creepy ones.
“Take these out to your dad.” Mom handed me two open beers. I sighed and rolled my eyes. I went, trying to master the color that kept rising in my face.
“Here.” I said, setting them down on the deck table rather forcefully.
“Thanks, Becca.” My dad said absently.
“Thank you, Becca.” Jeff said, smiling at me. I stormed back into the house.
I didn’t really want to know anyway what was so terrible. Or his middle name.

21 July, 2011



So much of my childhood wrapped up in one little comic:  Dr. Seuss and MarioKart.  Those were the days...

19 July, 2011

Unfinished Business

So, something I meant to do after finishing Cousin of the Crown, but forgot until just now, was write a little about how I decided who everybody should be and their names and stuff.  I always think that's really interesting to peek into someone's creative process.  Sometimes it leads to cool observations.  Sometimes it all boils down to "I made it up."

BTW, there's a chipmunk barking at my dog in the backyard and it's driving her crazy.  It's like a squeaky fuzz-covered car alarm.

Anyway, so.  Now comes the hard part.  Trying decide how I decided to do things in CoftheC.

First off, I named Terran Terran to imply he was solid.  Unmovable.  Steady.  Determined.  Terra plus 'n'.  The earth or stone or gravity, that sort of idea.

I picked the names of the countries by looking at old maps of Europe and picking some that sounded cool.  Nothing really special there.  I do that all the time.  Saves making up names.

Gulin...it wasn't really for 'gullible' but I like the name because it sounded weaker than Terran.  Sorry if anyone in the world is actually named Gulin.  He had to be less firm than his older brother.  Less concerned with his duty.

Henry, pronounced all french like, if you want, was a minor character that I randomly assigned a name to and then never changed later.  Lazy author.

I recently discovered someone who is really named Alea, even though I thought I'd just made it up.  I liked it for a girl name because of the vowels.  Most girl names end or start with an a or e and it sounds soft and feminine, even though she is not at times.  She was an opera singer to show her slightly rebellious side, flouting convention, that she was passionate and driven, but still disciplined.  You can't be a great musician without being willing to buckled down and work hard and do things you don't want to.

Also, I think it led credibility to her ability to act like nothing was wrong.  It gave her an escape and a way to manage the problems she was having.  Lahdel, on the other hand, was a terrible actress, though Alea loves her too much to even suspect.  I tried not to make it too obvious about L and G, but the hints are in there.  Was it effective?

Hmmmm...the setting was just me like "I want to write a quasi-fairy-tale-thing."  I'm not sure about the landlocked lake...I just thought it would be a cool way to get Terran to be shipwrecked without the possibility of losing him across an ocean.  That would have been too unbelievable for him to make his way back without the story lasting for years and years.

I still think the plague should have had more part in the story, but then it would need a lot more exposition and development of other characters.  I wanted to keep the plot tight, centered around just the four main characters, very intense and personal.  If too many other characters require development, I think it would lose the focused quality it has, making it too long and rambling.  I love Robert Jordan, but heavens-to-Betsey, that man was verbose.

So, yeah.  I can't think of anything else I made a conscious decision about at the moment.  I did write the opening chapter first, with no pre-character development.  Then I expanded from there in both directions.  I wasn't going to write any before at all, but I felt that would make it feel odd.

I usually write in a straight stream of consciousness way, letting things get made up as I go.  I usually have a goal in mind.  Like I knew Lahdel would get pregnant.  I just didn't know when or how...well, I knew how, but...oh, you know what I mean...*blush*

So now the next story!  This one I haven't finished and am not sure how I am going to finish it.  I like to keep some options open.  Maybe I'll have a vote.  Or a choose your own ending...Hmmmm...So many words so little time!

Oh, and a friend of mine has made a cover for CoftheC.  It's fabulous!  I lurv it.  Maybe I'll get it up soon!


16 July, 2011

Fluted Out

I am officially fluted out.
I spent the past week at a Flute Masterclass, which basically meant I speant six hours listening to flutes, then a few hours practicing my flute, then had some classes about flutes.  And piccolos.

I need a nap.

I thought I might get some writing done in my down time.  Hah!  So next week I will start up the story again.  Sorry for the delay.


12 July, 2011


So, no short story chapter this week.  I'm attending a week long conference that goes from 9 am to 10 pm all week.  Gak!  As stated above.  It's totally awesome, but no time left for other fun things like writing.  Or sleeping.

Next week will get you double, since I'll be away again the last week in July.  August, here I come!


07 July, 2011


Yesterday, I was bumtoodling around the inter-web, looking at census data for California during the 1870s.  (Long story.  Literally and figuratively.)  Now, I'm sure this is something I knew at one point, but then forgot.  However, if you've never heard of it, be sure you are not drinking and/or eating anything, as you might snort it up your nose.

May I present, James I, Emperor of the United States?

And, as all men should who would declare themselves emperor of someone elses' country, he looks like a scowly pirate.  Awesome.

Apparently, this Englishman decided he should be the emperor of America and thus began issuing decrees and proclamations to the good people of San Fransisco.  He dissolved the political parties, printed his own currency.  Good stuff.  I think I might be a fan.


06 July, 2011

Round Two!

Alright, here is the first chapter of my next 'short' story.  This one is going to be interesting because it isn't finished yet.  I have a general idea about how I want it to go, but I've only written the first five or so chapters.  I think this will be fun, because then I can change things around until the last minute.  Not that I couldn't do that before, but once a story is wrapped up, it is a kind of self-contained.  Also, this one doesn't have a title yet.  I think I'll save that for later.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think!


What happens when your fairy tale doesn’t come true?

And I don’t mean that your true love turns out not to be a prince.  That happens all the time.  And not when no fairy godmother comes and rescues you from you evil step-mother and you have to grow up and get a job and make your own self happy.

I mean, what happens when you actually do have a curse pronounced over you, a threat of death or a hundred year sleep or some sort of animal transfiguration and then it doesn’t happen.  Should you be happy?  Should you be very, very worried?

That’s the quandary I found myself in.

Let me go back to the beginning.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess.

Except I wasn’t a princess.  We did away with kings and queens about two centuries previous, so really, I was just an average little girl.  I wasn’t even the president’s daughter, or the daughter of a movie star or anything.  My parents had money, but that was because they owned a huge commercial farm.

They had ‘subjects,’ I suppose, but they each got a very good wage and a benefit package and were in all quite pleased to work for my father.

I didn’t know any of this, because to me, it was just ‘the farm.’  I remember having a hazy idea of a bucolic sort of countryside, with a little pasture with a half dozen cows, maybe a few sheep dotted around.  The corn would wave lazily in the summer air and horses would sleep in a big red barn with white paint at the edges.

That’s what farms looked like in school.  They were even complete with a pig wallowing the mud, which I thought was a fantastic idea.  I tried it out at recess and spent the rest of the day dripping into the carpet of the principal’s office.

When I finally did go out to The Farm, it was a three hour drive into the boonies, with mom and dad arguing the whole way about whether we should have taken the interstate or not.  As we were not on the interstate, I don’t see why it would matter, but I was too eager to see the barn and the pig and the cows to worry about it.

“There it is.” My dad said, pointing out the windshield.

I unbuckled, the ultimate no-no, and stood up to see where he pointed.

I blinked at the brown landscape.

“There’s what?”

“That’s the farm.” He said, grinning at me.


“Those buildings, there.”

I scowled.  “Those are silos.”  I knew that word.  They held grain.

“Yep.  Those ones there and those over there.”  He pointed to the side.  “And those ones you can just see at the horizon.  All this,” he waved around.  “Is our farm.”

“Where are the pigs?”

He grinned again, telling me he thought I was being funny.  “We don’t have pigs.  Pork futures are down though, maybe we should buy in.”


That was my mother, telling him she thought he was not being funny.

“Becca, sit!”

This stern order was enforced by a bump in the road.  I went tumbling back to my seat.  I buckled in and scowled.  I was exceedingly disappointed with the lack of cows and pigs and mud.

We stopped soon after.  My dad lifted me out of the truck, even though I was nearly twelve, thank you very much, and set me down in a gravel driveway.

“Mr. Beckons.” A man drawled out.  I turned.

“Jeff!” my dad said cheerfully.  He clapped the man on the shoulder.  “Glad you could come.”

This Jeff shrugged with one shoulder, looking odd in a pair of coveralls and boots.  He had a sort of gas mask on.  I wondered what on earth he could be getting up to.

“This is my girl, Becca.”

The man eyed me.  I stared back.  I thought he might have smiled, but with the mask on I couldn’t tell.  His eyes were twinkling, though.

“Miss Becca.” He said gravely, holding out his hand.  I shook it, just as I had seen my dad do.  His hand was rough, calloused.  He must be a farm worker.

“Mr. Jeff.” I returned coolly.  He did smile then; I could see his eyes narrow, like he was grinning at me.  I scowled some more and turned away.

They talked over my head.  I watched as a huge tractor inched across the field, looking like a squat green beetle, a smaller one trailing just behind.

“What’s that?” I asked, pointing.

“That,” Jeff said above me.  “Is a combination harvester.”

“What does it do?”

“It cuts down the wheat, chops up the stalks, threshes it and puts it in the truck.”

“All at once?” I asked, amazed out of my initial distrust.

“All at once.” He said.  He lifted his mask off his face, perching it on his forehead.  He grinned down at me, dirty and sweaty and covered in a light yellow dust.

I peered at him.  He was younger than I thought.  My basis for age was not concrete.  Most men I placed in a category with my father, old, or the boys I went to school with, not old.  This man seemed somewhere in between.

“How old are you?” I asked at once.

He gave me an odd look.  “Why?  How old are you?”

“I’m eleven and three-quarters.”

His mouth twitched like he wanted to smile at me again.  “Wow, almost twelve years old.”

“Yes.  How old are you?”

“Let’s see…” he thought moment.  “I’m eighteen, seven months, a week and…two days.”

I sniffed, then sneezed.  “You’re dusty.”

“Yes,” he agreed.  “I’ve been loading trucks.”

“Becca!”  My mother’s voice cut over my next question.

“Good-bye, Mr. Jeff.” I said formally.  She was forever going on about manners and things.

“Good-bye, Miss Beckons.” He said, grinning again.

I hurried after my mother.  She took my hand and held it tight, which meant we were going to see things that were dangerous and exciting and she didn’t want me running off and falling into something.

I was very good at doing that.  I was always falling into pits or getting lost in enchanted woods.  Once, I almost was trampled by a unicorn and barely got out alive.  So, you can see I was already the perfect candidate for a fairy tale, even if I wasn’t magic.

I watched as Jeff, his mask back in place, and a few others moved some levers and things and a wave a grain came pouring out of a shoot, filling a the back of a truck.  I could see why he was wearing the mask.  A great cloud of dust rose up, painting them all a fresh yellow brown.

Mom stayed well back, but Dad jumped right in, getting his jeans and hands dirty.  It was boring.

“Charles!” mom exclaimed, forgetting herself enough to let me go in order to scold Dad better.  I eased away, still hoping for pigs or cows.  Even chickens would have been acceptable.

I walked to the edge of the gravel.  The grain started immediately, like a shifting wall of grass.  It was very pretty.

I imagined myself slipping through it, like an Indian maiden, a bow slung over my back, looking for my little paint pony that had wondered away.  There was a mountain lion I was stalking and I had to move as silent as the wind or he would hear me and pounce.

Caught up in my imagination, I took a step into the wheat.

A strong hand grabbed the back of my shirt and hauled me back.

“Where do you think you’re going?”

“Put me down!” I shouted, struggling.

Jeff laughed.  “Don’t wonder off, girly.”

I scowled at him.  “Shut up!”

His eyes went wide.  “Wait until I tell your mother!”

“Tell her what you want!” I snapped, close to tears and furious about it.  “Let me go!”

He dropped me in a heap.  I jumped up and dusted myself off, kicked his shin and fled back to my parents.

“What is it?” my dad asked as I ducked behind him.  I hid my face against his pant leg.

Jeff came up, his mouth tight.  “She’s twelve, you say?”

“Nearly.” My mother answered, absently.

“Huh.” Was all he said in response.  I bristled.  He thought I was being a baby, throwing a tantrum.  I glared at him and he glared back.  I did not like his smile when he turned away.

I occupied myself for the rest of the afternoon with thoughts of stalking him, leading him into my cleverly designed traps and letting the mountain lion have him.  I was not the most gentle-minded child.

Finally it was time to go.  It had been incredibly dull.  My dad talked with the workers, looked over some things in the little office to one side, made some notes and then we headed back to the car.

The beetle-harvester was facing a different direction, but it hadn’t seemed to have moved at all.

“Say, why don’t you come to dinner?” my dad asked Jeff as they dawdled by the truck.  That’s what Mom called it, dawdling, meaning everyone else wanted to go and you were holding everything up.

“Not tonight,” Jeff said, wiping his face with a dirty hand.  He left a brown streak across his forehead.  “Tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow it is.” My dad said, oblivious to the frantic and silent signals I was sending him.  He came finally, patting his jeans to get the worst of the dirt off.

“I still think he’s too young for such responsibility,” my mother said as she dusted me off the same way.

“He’s the best.” Dad said.  “He knows just when to water, when it will be a dry summer, hail storms.  It’s amazing; like he can feel the land.”

“He can’t be magic.” Mom snapped, affronted at the very idea.

Dad shrugged.  “I don’t care.  As long as he saves my crops, he’s got a job.”

The idea of him being magic was intriguing.  I stood on tiptoe to look over the hood of the truck.  He was talking with some of the workers, laughing.  He saw me looking and waved.

I stuck out my tongue and whirled around.

There was a woman in the wheat.

I gasped, backing up until I hit the hot metal of the truck door behind me.

“Becca?  Becca, where’d you…” Mom’s voice died away in strangled gasp like mine.

The woman stepped out of the stalks.  It was almost like she rose up out of them, her dress the same yellow-brown-green, rustling, hissing.  I watched with wide eyes as she walked across the gravel, little whirlwinds rising under her feet with each slow step.

I eased to the side and scrambled back to my parents.  I turned my face away, not wanting to see whatever magic Jeff could use in action.  Did this woman tell him when the rains would come?  When it would be dry and hot?

He father’s hands gripped into my shoulders, biting.

“What do you want?” he asked, harshly.

I peeked.  She wasn’t standing before Jeff.  She was looking at me.  At me.

I shivered.  Her eyes were the same yellow-brown, shimmering, like grass blowing in the wind.

“This girl,” she said.  We all flinched away.  Her voice creaked like old boards, dry and ancient.  “This girl is cursed.”

“What?” my mother demanded, throwing herself in front of me.  “How dare you curse her!”

“I have spoken no such thing.” The woman said sternly.  “I only tell you what has already happened.  She is cursed.  She will reach eighteen summers.  Then she will be struck down.  That is all I know.  You have been warned.”

I blinked, throwing my hand up as the wind gusted, blowing grit and chaff in my face.

My mother started screaming.

It was a confused jumble after that.  The police were called  It was impossible to arrest someone who could just disappear into thin air.

Finally all the flashing cars went away, leaving us standing in the growing darkness.

“Let’s go.” Dad said.  He picked me up and put me in the car.  I was still a little shocked about the whole thing.  And confused.  Being struck down didn’t sound so bad.  I didn’t like to fall down as much as the next kid, but so what?  I’d scrape my knees and then get up again.  I fell all the time.  I had a band-aid on my left leg right now.  Maybe it had already happened?

Jeff ended up coming for dinner, but he didn’t smile at all.  He and my dad sat and talked late into the night.  I could hear their voices rumbling downstairs.

My mother cried over me as she tucked me into bed.  I watched her, patting her hand.

“Don’t worry, mom,” I said.  “I’ll be fine.  Who cares about a stupid curse?”

She threw her arms around me and sobbed.  Eventually I fell asleep, listening to the wind and wondering where people went when they disappeared.