Ginger’s Marble by Erik Gustafson
Ginger is a tomboy and her favorite thing to do is climb trees. Her golden blond hair is always in pigtails and she dresses in jeans and t-shirt most days. The eight year old wouldn’t stand for the cute dresses all her other friends wore. In fact, she preferred to play with boys but her parents steered her toward girls her age whenever they could.
There are two large apple trees in her backyard and she has climbed them both a thousand times.
All she has wanted for Christmas and her birthday for the past three years is a tree house nestled in one of the apple trees. Her dad, Bobby, probably would have built her a tree house by now but mom is set against it. Still, Bobby tells his daughter he will build one for her someday.
Until that day, she climbs and perches in the limbs and straddles branches. The first branch is too high to reach so she wraps her arms and legs around the trunk and shimmies up until she can reach the first branch then swings up. After that, climbing is cake. She has made it about half way up each of the trees and her goal is to climb all the way to the top.
Today she is leaning between the main trunk and a limb that almost stretches to the other tree when she notices something odd by the next branch up.
She pulls herself up and sits on that branch. Ginger looks down at the yard and the top of the back porch roof and realizes she has set a new record. She can even see the fake pond with real turtles her neighbor has behind his privacy fence.
“Ginger!” The girl spins around and scans the yard below. She doesn’t see her mom anywhere.
“I’m ok mom!” she hollers down.
“Ginger,” the voice came again but it was softer. Almost as if the voice was right there in the branches with her. Somebody hiding among the thick rows of leaves and twigs. There is no way someone could be up here, she muses.
She spots what she climbed up this extra branch for in the first place: it was a small cavity in the bark. A tiny hole in the tree, about the size of an eye patch.
Ginger leaned her face up to the hole. “You in there, Mr. Squirrel?” She saw a shadow coated pine cone just inside the opening. She reached in and pulled it out to examine it. She wondered what a pine cone was doing this high in an apple tree.
She leaned out from the limb she was sitting on and held the cone between her fingers. She watched the spiral cone drop to the grass below.
She looked back in the small crevasse and something twinkled off the sunlight. She inserted her small hand into the hole and felt around. She felt sticks poking her and heard the rustle of leaves. Her palm grazed over something smooth and she closed her hand around it.
Ginger opened her hand and was looking at a red marble about the size of those pop-in-mouth tomatoes that her grandpa grows and she loves so much. The red glass seemed to have clouds inside of it.
“Cool!” she held the marble close to her face as she explored the puffs of red inside the glass. The clouds shifted and swirled around in the marble. She blinked hard in disbelief. Had it moved? She wondered.
The marble rolled along the groove between two of her fingers and fell over her fingertips.
“No!” she tried to catch the marble but it fell fast.
From her height, the marble looked like a red eye staring up at her from the ground.
Ginger climbed down the tree as fast as she could to retrieve her treasure. She sat at the base of the tree rolling around the marble in her palm, watching the red storm inside surge and rage. There was a bright flash from deep within. She thought it was a miniature lightening bolt. For an instant, the flash even made the rosy clouds light up.
“Ginger,” she heard her name a third time and now she was sure it was coming from inside the marble.
“Is somebody in there?” she asked, holding the marble not two inches from her nose.
The red cloud drifted and shifted in the marble and spread. A red haze oozed from the marble and floated around. Ginger breathed in and the red smoke went up her nose and she coughed.
The girl sat there perfectly still for an hour. When she blinked her eyes were crimson colored. She dropped the solid black marble in the grass and arose. She was starving like never before. She had to eat something immediately.
The little girl marched across her back yard, pig tails bouncing, then down concrete steps past a flower garden and onto the back porch.
Once inside the porch, she heard herself growl. She thought it was just her stomach growling but she realized that she had made the growling sound. So hungry.
She pushed the back door open and waked into the house and through the kitchen. She opened the fridge door but nothing looked good. Then on the bottom shelf she spotted a plate with raw hamburger defrosting. Her hunger overwhelming her, she squatted down and grabbed a fistful of the ground beef and shoved it in her mouth.
She chewed and moaned, swallowing huge chunks of the soft meat. Pieces of hamburger were falling down her front and sticking to her face. Before she knew it, the entire plate of meat was consumed but she was still hungry. In fact, she more hungry than before.
“Ginger what on earth are you doing?” her mom shouted standing in the doorway.
Ginger looked up at her mother through grisly red eyes, salivating.
Copyright 2011 Erik Gustafson