By John Thomas Tuft

“Has anyone ever written a story just for you?” Paul looked into the eyes of his little girl, Sydney. “Well, it would have to be like a storybook story,” she said with a very serious expression. “And it should feel like home.” Paul thought about that a moment. “An adventure that feels like home?” The girl nodded. “All good stories are adventures that feel like home.” He sat down beside her, considering, as parents like to do when they don’t know what else to say. Sydney reached up and pulled his ear down closer. “And,” she whispered, “you should be able to hear it even when you whisper it under your breath. That’s how you know it is a good story. It’s like a secret prayer.”

“Okay,” Paul ventured, “Once upon a time…” Sydney shook her head. “Wait, wait, wait. Are there going to be kids going on a long journey? Will there be talking animals? With swords? They should all have swords. Swords mean adventures with kings and queens and horses. Tell me there will be horses, Daddy.” Paul sighed. “Okay, there will be horses.” “And they have to be going a weird direction,” Sydney hastened to add. “They go west or north for adventures, south or east if they’re trying to get back home, okay?” Paul started again. “Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted to find the Treasure of Tomorrow. And since tomorrow must start where the sun goes down, she figured she must journey to the west to find the Queen of Tomorrow, who rules where the sun rests and tomorrow begins. Then she could get all of tomorrow’s treasures and have them for today.”

This was met with an exasperated sigh and a roll of the eyes. “You didn’t say her name. And it can’t be Sydney because it a story for me, not about me. Got it?” Paul nodded. “Got it. Her name is Sybil.” A raised hand stopped him. “That would be a good name for a dragon. This story has dragons, doesn’t it?”  Sydney yawned, then got a serious look. “Daddy, do you think I’m pretty? Make this little girl beautiful.” Daddy swallowed hard. “Okay, her name is Ellen, and she is beautiful. And she has a pet dragon named Sybil who goes on adventures with her.”

Sydney yawned again. “Don’t forget the horses. And swords, they need swords. Well, maybe not Sybil the dragon cuz she breathes fire.” Sydney propped herself on one elbow. “Are there going to be boys? I bet me and Sybil will have to rescue some boys. They are being bullied because they don’t look like the other kids, and we’ll use our swords to rescue them. We can do that, right Daddy?” Paul nodded, a faraway look in his eyes. “Yes honey, you can do that. I know I was rescued.” Sydney studied his face for a quiet moment. “Daddy, did you ever know that every time before she goes out, Mommy looks in the mirror, gives it a funny look, and shakes her head. Why? Don’t make Ellen prettier than Mommy, okay?”

Paul bit his lower lip. “I won’t, I promise. Ellen is a very kind and wise little girl who wants to help people. She and the dragon, Sybil, set out for the west. They get some horses so the boys they rescue will have something to ride.” Sydney blinked slowly. “Make them wild horses, Daddy. They have to catch wild horses who help them find the swords they need when they fight their way to the Queen of Tomorrow.” Paul nods. “Anything else?” Sydney ponders this. “Some of the horses can talk. They tell about wild things they have seen. Have you seen wild things, Daddy?” Paul tries to wave that inquiry off. “What will the queen be like?”

“Have you seen wild things, Daddy?” He nods in silence. “Did you fight them with a sword? Do you have a sword, Daddy?” Paul reaches out and strokes her hair. “I do now, my dear. I do now.” Sydney yawns again and closes her eyes. “This is a good story, Daddy,” she murmurs. “It’s like looking for Narnia.” Paul leans over and kisses her cheek. “I’ll leave your sword under the bed for tomorrow. Now go to sleep. While you are sleeping, I will whisper the rest of the story under my breath. Just for you. That’s how you know it is a good story. It’s like a secret prayer.”  

Words are magic and writers are wizards.