Mandy Meets the Goblins (Part 2)

” A goblin, of course,” said Rocky. “As a young lady like yourself should know already.” This puzzled Mandy. A lady? She, a lady? And how would she know what goblins looked like, anyway? The look on her face must have mirrored her thoughts, since Rocky spoke up again. “Well, maybe in this, this country you’re in, they don’t teach young ladies how to recognize goblins.”

“No, they don’t,” Mandy confirmed. “I’ve only ever heard about goblins in the picture books that Miss Turner has up at the school, and in those, goblins are big and really mean. You’re not mean, are you?” She’d already realized he wasn’t big.

“No, no, not at all!” Rocky looked shocked at the very thought. “We’re like… like… What is the word for someone who makes wishes come true?”

“A genie?”

“No, that isn’t it. A longer word. I cannot remember it.”

“A fairy godmother?”

“Yes!” Rocky beamed at her. “Goblins are like fairy-godmothers!”

Mandy took another good look at him. He really was quite green, and apart from the horns on his head, his skin seemed kind of strangely prickly looking too. He definitely didn’t look a thing like any fairy-godmother from the picture books.

“So,” she began slowly, thinking hard. “You’re here to make my wishes come true?”

“Well, it’s like this,” Rocky began. He tried to stand up again and fell over, so Mandy lifted him off the pillow and onto her bedside table where he could stand. “Thank you,” he said. “It’s like this,” he began again. “Goblins can’t exactly do that. Not exactly. No, what we can do is help you make a wish – only one wish, mind – come true.”

“But how does that help?” Mandy was disappointed.

“If you make a wish come true, it’s much more special than just having it come true all on its own, isn’t it?”

“Not really,” now she was getting angry. “I don’t care if it’s special, I just want my sister to stop being sick!”

Rocky jumped, with surprising speed, onto Mandy’s face and, feet on her chin, he held to pieces of her hair in his hands and leaned back so she could see his face properly. “Shush! Do you want your parents to wake up?”

Mandy shook her head, and Rocky along with it. She was a bit afraid of him now. He was very fast, and even though he hadn’t been mean, exactly, he’d been quite strict for a creature that was as tall as her hand. Once he’d jumped off her back onto the table, she whispered, “I’m sorry.”

“No need to be sorry,” he said briskly. “We’ve just got to get started. You’ve told me your wish already, right? You want your sister to get better.”

Mandy nodded vigorously.

“Let’s get started then!” He rubbed his hands together, and started bouncing around the room at incredible speed, dropping things into Mandy’s lap. By the time he’d finished, Mandy had in her hands a get-well card her sister had written for her when she was small and had gotten chicken-pox; a scarf that Mandy was trying to knit for her sister; a shoe that had been a hand-me-down to Mandy from her; and finally, a bouncy ball that they’d played with together.

“Um, what do I do with all of this?” Mandy asked.

“Look here – your sister gave you a card when you were sick, a shoe when you needed one, and a ball when you needed a friend to play with. You started to knit this scarf almost a year ago, but I can tell,” here he nodded wisely, “I can tell that you haven’t touched it for months.”

“I know, it was just too hard,” Mandy started to explain. And then she stopped. And then she thought. Her sister had stuck by her when she was growing up. But Mandy hadn’t visited her for weeks now, scared of what she’d find. She and her twin had used the neglected chores as excuses to stay away, but maybe their parents would have left the invalid’s room if she’d had someone else to sit with her for a while. But they couldn’t, since Mandy and her brother were so scared of seeing their big, strong, beautiful sister just lying there, listlessly.

“But,” Mandy began, as if she’d thought aloud. “But even if I finish the scarf, even if I sit with her, how will that make it better?”

“Maybe it won’t. But maybe it will. Maybe she misses you, eh?” Rocky stretched both hands over his had and held onto his horns. He swayed back and forth, smiling, and then, with a sudden, rushing noise, he was gone. A whisper remained in the air after him – it told Mandy that if she needed a little help, she could call on the goblins.

Mandy was never quite sure if she’d dreamed that night or not. She did, however, start going to her sister’s sickbed. She insisted on opening the windows and letting in sunlight and air. She forced her parents to leave and do some chores themselves. She knitted her scarf, sitting on the edge of her sister’s bed and getting tips from her on what she was doing wrong.  She got her twin brother to make up jokes and tell them to their sister and make her laugh.

She spent time with her. And neither Mandy, nor her sister, ever forgot that.

Ella’s Grandma [A Short Story]

Roberta Marshall put her head down on her desk and wept. The tears flowed freely from her heavily made-up eyes and created black streaks on her cheeks. She wasn’t thinking about her make-up, though, and nor was she wondering how to conceal her reddened eyes. In fact, Roberta Marshall wasn’t thinking about anything very practical.

After a few more sobs, a rational thought did spring into her mind. She thought to herself I’m being unreasonable.

A few minutes later, she went further.  I’m being stupid.

The tears didn’t stop flowing, though. She felt a grief that went deep in her, piercing some of her most precious memories. She felt as if her whole childhood was about to disappear.

Eventually, the torrent flowing from Roberta’s eyes came to a halt, and she lifted her head up from her arms. She looked around her big office and was glad to see that the door was closed. Shakily, Roberta reached for her telephone, dialed a number and waited.

“Hello?” a soft voice answered.

“Mom?”

“Roberta?” the voice became incredulous. “Are you crying, Honey?”

“Not anymore, but I was.” Roberta’s voice, still thick from her recent crying jag, replied. She spoke again, a plea in her voice. “Mom, do you have to sell the house?”

Silence, almost a physical silence, came through from the other end of the line. Roberta could feel it weighing upon her. After what seemed like an eternity, Roberta’s mother heaved a sigh.

“Oh, Honey,” she breathed. “Yes, we have to sell the house. It’s not practical for us to live there these days. Your father really has a difficult time on the stairs and it’s simply not worth it to rent out the place.”

Roberta already knew all this, of course, and she felt guilty forcing her mother to go into the painful subject again. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. She remembered thundering up and down those stairs with her brother. She remembered breakfasts in the big kitchen and birthday parties in the backyard and, later, arguments about curfew in the cozy den. Now it would all be gone. The tears threatened to overwhelm Roberta again, but she swallowed the lump in her throat and spoke into the phone again.

“Sorry, Mom. I don’t mean to make this harder on you,” and after a moment’s pause, she began again with a cheerier voice. “And anyway, you and Dad will be closer to Devin and me now, and you’ll get to see Ella more often.”

“Exactly, Honey. This can be a good thing,” her mother answered bravely.

“Ella will be happy to see her grandma more often, that’s for sure,” smiled Roberta as she spoke. After a few more minutes of falsely cheery talk about Ella’s toys and diapers, Roberta hung up the phone.

The tears began streaming out of Roberta’s eyes even as she collected herself and began to work again. She would cry on and off for days, but eventually, she learned how to cherish the memories of the big house and reconcile herself to the reality of losing it. At least, she always comforted herself, Ella’s happy that her grandma can babysit her sometimes.