Off North Road
Grampy asks for advice
After reading to my granddaughter one evening, I invited her to stay up a little longer and tell me what kind of stories she liked to read. I showed her what an interview would be like. I took out my pad of paper and pencil and wrote down things she said as we talked. I hadn't expected her to charm her grandfather almost beyond words. But I didn't need any words at all. She could have conducted the interview by herself. She punctuated her conversation with frequently raised eyebrows and open-mouthed expectation. She raised her arms and pointed in dramatic gestures.
"I like excitement and surprise, even scary but only a tiny bit scary, lots of animals," she began. "Animals that talk get my attention and lots of children, at least one boy and one girl or two boys and two girls, brothers and sisters. I like really really green places, very colorful pictures and very happy and very smart [people] ... words children will understand," she added. She continued almost on a run for another twenty minutes and stopped. "I have a lot more ideas; I have a mindful, [but] I need to know what you're interested in. I don't want to just blab everything in my mind out." And so, after a while, I wrote a story for my granddaughter.
Gabriella 's story
Once upon a time a seven year old girl, Gabriella, who was called Gubba by her father but Gabriella by her mother and most other people, wanted to set out on an adventure to see some green green fields and deserts where there was still grass. Rivers and oceans were the bluest blue you could imagine, and the grass in the deserts was home for small animals and insects. The insects had the loveliest colors: red, orange, green, blue and violet. The animals grew horns as long as the legs of a table and hair long enough to touch the ground.
Gubba invited a grandfather, whom she called Grampy, to go on her adventure. Her younger brother, Sonny, tagged along at the last minute, hiding in a trunk he had packed very lightly with soft clothes. He made an opening large enough to breathe air in at one end and took a blanket to cover him if the weather got cold. Gabriella said as she was packing, "Sonny is much too young to go along. He might get lost." Sonny was famous for tricks he played - and a good disposition.
Grampy and Gubba, with Sonny hiding in his trunk, sailed on a huge huge ship. It coasted on blue blue water all the way to a faraway land called Africa. From the huge huge ship, they rowed ashore in a hollowed-out log to a sandy beach the color of the deepest pink you ever saw. Sonny swam to shore and hid behind trees all by himself. Gabriella and Grampy walked along the edge of a green green forest and saw tracks of many animals, big big tracks the size of the pancakes you get in a restaurant but not at home, and tiny tiny tracks the size of pinheads. One day Gubba heard the beautiful sound of a robin singing even though they were very far from home. Grampy did not think robins lived in Africa. They walked where Gubba pointed to the sound and saw a strange-looking bird with a bright orange bill and purple feathers on her sides. She had long long legs and could hop almost as far as the moon in one giant swoop. They walked too close to the strange bird and she disappeared. Suddenly, Sonny jumped out from behind a bush. (Grampy had seen him walking along the edge of the green green forest and knew he was safe as long as he stayed nearby.) There he was, right where the strange bird had disappeared and he was hiding a tiny tiny flute behind his back. Grampy smiled because he knew Sonny had been making the beautiful sound they thought came from the strange-looking bird. Gabriella was relieved that her brother had tagged along because he had especially keen eyes, and he found a large hole near where the bird disappeared. He stopped to look down the hole and asked, "Who could live down that hole? Was it a red and yellow snake or was it a huge lion living in a cave or a dragon or a silly old hyena?"
"Why don't we take a look, Gubba?" asked Grampy. "Why don't we just hop into the hole and see where it takes us?" Down the hole Grampy jumped, then Gabriella. They teased Sonny because he took so long to jump. "Come on, scaredy-cat!" they cried. Down he went with them. At the bottom of the long long hole everybody tumbled out onto hot sands of a desert. "Jump up and down, everybody," yelled Grampy. "So you won't burn the bottoms of your feet. Head for the shade of that big tree. The sand will be cool there."
Everybody scrambled over the hot sand saying, "Yipes! yipes! Hot! Hot!" And they reached the shade of the big green tree. "Ooooh!" said Gubba. "Whow!" said Sonny. "Whow, whow, whow!" said Grampy, and he fell to the sand rubbing his sore feet to make them feel better.
Every time the small group left the shade of the big tree, Grampy cried out, "Oh my head hurts, my head hurts!"
"We thought your feet were hurting, Grampy," Gubba and Sonny said all at once.
"No, no," Grampy answered. "It's the sun on my bald head. It burns and I left my cap at home. What can I do?"
Now here was a problem for the group to solve. They couldn't leave Grampy here to die in the shade of the tree, and they couldn't let him scald his head in the desert sun all by himself.
"I know, I know," cried Gubba. "I read in a fairy tale that if you put crocodile tears on a man's bald head, it will surely grow another thick head of hair."
"That's what we'll have to do." answered Sonny, "But where in the world will we find a crocodile? And who will be able to get the tears from the crocodile's eyes without getting our fingers bited?"
"Bitten," exclaimed Gubba, who was a stickler for correct words.
"We'll go back to the big hole and take that passageway we saw halfway down," Sonny exclaimed as he started to run back to the big hole. "It probably goes to a swamp or some wet place, because I saw water dripping when we went by." So the decision was made and they set out for the hole. When they found it, up they went because the hole was now in the sky leading up, not in the ground leading down. It was opposite now. Up they went and found the passageway which was damp with water.
"I was right!" Sonny yelled, and he jumped up and down. Sonny was right but now they had to be very quiet. In they went and soon came to a dark green and yellow swamp, which had water in it. And on the big rock right across from the opening of the passageway was a huge huge crocodile, fast asleep.
"If we go very quietly across the water on a floating log and climb up without even a mouse's noise, we can touch this leaf to the crocodile's eye and he'll think it's only a fly or a mosquito," Grampy said because he was the oldest and wisest.
"Yes, yes," whispered Sonny and Gubba together. "He's used to mosquitoes and flies biting him. Then we can bring the tears back rolled inside the leaf and put them on Grampy's head."
Gubba added, "And rub them in very very lightly. We'll take our log canoe back to the passageway and return home. We have had enough adventure for one day. Grampy will be glad to have a new head of hair. We'll be glad we can get into our own beds at home and dream about our adventure - and I'm glad Sonny came because he helped save us."
The biggest surprise of all came the next morning when everybody woke up to find Grampy with a full head of the reddest hair you've ever seen.