Danny's Story

5. in which danny receives a most unexpected birthday gift

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“Danny,” said her grandfather, holding out his hand. She placed her hand in his hand, and found that his was warm. “You are now a young woman. A beautiful, intelligent, strong young woman.” He smiled, and squatted down. “I’m so proud of you.” He hugged her (the raven leaped from his shoulder with a rasp). Then, he gestured with an open palm. “I want you to have this.”

“This…place?” she asked.

“Kind of,” he said. He stood. The raven settled down on his shoulder again. It seemed to eye Danny with its glistening black eyes. “Danny, do you know what I did when I was alive?”

“You drove Grammie bananas,” she said, glancing at the huge bird nervously, but still mischievous. Then, she said, “You fixed dolls.”

He laughed. The raven on his shoulder startled slightly; it flared its wings, croaked, and puffed its feathers. “Yes, and yes. But,” he said. “I was also a book hopper.”

“You hopped into books?”

“Yes,” he said. “I traveled into the worlds that books created. Let’s walk.” He offered her his hand again, and the raven took off from his shoulder. She hesitated, then took his hand, and they began to wade through the grass. The breeze was cool, and the air was dry — nothing like Florida. The grass “shooshed” in it. It tickled her as they walked.

“For every spark of an idea,” said her grandfather, “For every dream that is dreamt. For every thought that is thunk. For every word that is written…a world is born. An infinite number of worlds is born.”

“The multiverse,” she said.

“Yes! There are many gateways into these worlds, into these universes. Dreams are one of them. Books…are another.” He glanced at her and smiled warmly.

“When I was your age,” he continued, “I was given the gift to travel through books into the worlds beyond them. It was given to me by my grandfather, as it was given to him by his grandmother before him.”

She thought for a moment. “It’s like a recessive gene.”

“Oh?”

“Yes,” she said. “It skips generations.”

He laughed, and squeezed her hand. “Is that what they teach you in school now? Back in my day, we learned how to fashion sticks and rocks into hatchets, and the discovery of fire was the news of the day.”

“Was not!” she giggled.

“Sure it was! Now, it’s the Human Genome Project.”

“Quantum physics,” she said.

“String theory,” he said.

“What’s that?” she said.

He smiled.

They walked for a few minutes until they came to the edge of the grass. There, they stood at the top of the seashore, looking down on a long, empty beach that stretched to either side of them, and on a wide, endless, jeweled ocean.

“So, what do you think?” he asked after several moments.

“I think it’s pretty,” she said.

He laughed and “tsked.” “Silly!”

She smiled. “I think I’d like it. To book hop.”

Her grandfather grinned at her and placed the tip of his index finger to her forehead. “It’s yours.”

And so Danny came to have the gift of walking into books.

When she returned to her world later, she found that no time had passed since she had gone away. She was still standing in the corner near the clothes machine — which smelled of soap — holding the book. The cake was still smashed at her feet. Her grandfather was gone.

Now when she smelled clothes detergent, she thought of her grandfather, and of an empty island world, and of birthday cake.

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Christie “Iamba” Bailey

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