When I was a little girl, I spent a lot of time in my head, making up all kinds of stories. There was one character who was not fleeting, and whose presence became part of a series of stories I told my sisters, and then my campers at sleepaway camp, and then my children, who are now teenagers.
My niece just turned seven yesterday, and her mother asked that for her birthday present, I write something for her. Exactly the sort of personalized and difficult request I would make on another, it was quite daunting to have the same assignment. It's been ages since I made up a story on the spot, but this task ended up memorializing the Mu on paper, and I'm so glad it's finally been done.
As my boyfriend, Chris, reminded me this morning, even though we change and grow older, pieces of our childhood selves remain with us. I always loved leopard print leggings, and who would ever guess that my son would come up with the name, Psychotic Leopard? So unusual, and yet so fitting. Sic.
Anyhow, this week's piece is the Evelyn's 7th birthday story, and has allowed my much younger self to carry on.
EVELYN MEETS THE MU
Once upon a time there was a little girl named Evelyn, who loved to be outside. She lived in a warm climate where lemons grew, and trees flowered all year long. Frogs swam luxuriously in the pond behind her house, and often the tails of lizards would tickle her face in the morning, so she awoke every day with a smile.
Every day, Evelyn’s would explore her neighborhood with her two tiny dogs, Ingrid and Lucy. Her favorite time to go outside was late afternoon, just before dusk, when it wasn’t so hot.
One evening in mid-April, Evelyn decided to take the dogs out as usual. The air smelled delicious, as it had just rained, and fog rose off the hot cement of the street. Everything felt so mystical.
Evelyn listened to the crickets beginning to rub their wings together in anticipation of the night, the hum of lawn mowers in the distance, and then she heard something different. It was kind of a rustling sound coming from up ahead. Could it be a monkey up in the tree? She had never seen one in the wild, but had always wanted to, imagining that one might escape from Costa Rica and climb all the way back to Florida, to live in the tree outside her bedroom window. She would feed it fresh bananas for breakfast every day.
“Mu, mu, mu, mu, mu.” A plaintive voice, very faint, called from a mass of palm fronds in front of her. Lucy halted and sat on her haunches, looking around. Ingrid circled back and forth impatiently. Evelyn stood still.
And there it was again. “Mu, mu, mu….” She came closer, and noticed a couple of broken coconuts on the ground.
“Shhhhhh,” she told the dogs, wrapping their leashes around a nearby tree, as she didn’t want to frighten whatever it was, and tiptoed up to the largest coconut shell, which was rocking ever so slightly, looking inside. A pair of big brown eyes in the face of a tiny, three inch baby cow peered up at her, pausing in its chewing.
Evelyn felt like her heart would melt; it was so cute! “Who are you?” she asked, never having seen anything like it before. “Mu, mu!” it answered, and she squatted down slowly to get a better look. The little animal climbed out of the shell, approached her, and leaned one foot against her knee.
“What are you doing?” asked Evelyn.
“Mu, mu, mu!” It offered some of the white fruit up to Evelyn.
“No thank you,” she said, enchanted. “Can I hold you?”
“Mu, mu, mu, mu, mu!” crowed the little creature, as it tried to climb into her lap. Evelyn reached one hand gently under the Mu’s belly and lifted it up to her chest. It was so soft and warm. The Mu settled against her and closed its eyes. Evelyn felt so cozy; she did not want to ever put the Mu down.
“Where did you come from?” she whispered. The Mu slowly opened its eyes and looked deep into hers. “Do you have a mommy?”
“Mu, mu, mu, mu, mu,” it said, furrowing its brow.
“Do you want to come back to my house with me and Lucy and Ingrid?” The Mu’s eyes lit up with glee, as Evelyn grabbed the dogs’ leashes and nearly galloped back to her house.
“Mama!” she called, slamming open the front door.
“Too soon for ice cream,” called her mother from the bedroom. “Wait until after dinner!”
“No, that's not it! Come down and look what I found!” She went into the kitchen and placed the Mu on the counter next to the sink, where it shook itself. “Are you thirsty?”
“Mu, mu, mu!”
She looked in the drawer with the cutlery, and located the tiniest spoon she could find. It was the one that she used when she was a baby. Walking over to the sink, she turned on the faucet every so slightly, getting the tiniest drop of water. Then she carefully brought it over to the little animal and held the spoon up to its lips. The Mu closed his eyes and sipped happily.
Just then, her mother walked into the kitchen. “What is that?” she asked.
“I’m going to call it Mu,” said Evelyn, “because that’s the sound it makes, and it looks like a baby cow, doesn’t it?”
“You know what? I've heard of those!” her mother exclaimed. “My sister had a friend named Emily when she was little, and she had one.”
“Tell me!” begged Evelyn.
“Well, from what I remember, it was a really rainy day and Emily found her Mu under a pine tree. This was up in New York where the weather is much colder, and the Mu was shivering so Emily took it home and gave it a bath in a teacup.”
Evelyn laughed. “Do you think that this is the same one? It looks like a baby!”
“I'm not sure,” said her mother. “Hers never grew any bigger than that. But I remember Emily had Mu for a very long time, and they had a lot of adventures together.”
“Do you think that I could maybe keep Mu as a pet, too?”
“We already have two dogs, Evelyn…”
“I know, I know, but I will take good care of it. See how responsible I am!”
“Let me think about it,” said her mother. “In the meantime, I think it's time for you to start getting ready for your recital. Go get dressed.”
“Can I bring Mu into my room?”
“Sure,” said her mother. “Just don’t make a mess. We have to leave in ten minutes.”
Evelyn held Mu close as she skipped down the hallway into her room. There was a big beautiful chambered whelk shell on her dresser that she had found at the beach and she placed Mu inside it while she got her outfit ready. Mu stayed in the shell for just a couple of seconds, and then wanted to investigate. It sauntered dangerously close to the edge of the tabletop, so Evelyn decided to put it down on the floor because she was afraid Mu might fall. Once down, Mu looked around Evelyn's room, at all of the photographs and the artwork adorning its walls. “Mu, mu, mu!” it said, impressed.
Evelyn’s classmates had been practicing their dance routine for weeks, and she was so excited for their first performance that evening. She had a major role, because everyone always complimented her on being such an amazing dancer, especially for someone so young. For this show, she got to be a fairy princess, and wore a special pink costume with a fluffy tutu skirt and matching purple butterfly wings. The teacher even let her wear lipstick!
Evelyn's mom and dad sat in the front row, Mu curled up in her mother’s palm. As the room grew dim, a spotlight shone in the center of the stage. Then the music came on. Evelyn shimmied out, and danced through her routine perfectly, sashaying so the wings looked as though she were about to take flight. Everyone in the audience cheered and clapped and through the crowd, she could hear a tiny voice crowing, “Mu, mu, mu, mu, mu!” and it made her all warm inside.
There was a bake sale at the intermission, and Evelyn's mother let her get a brownie and two chocolate chip cookies. Mu nibbled on one, and Evelyn gave it a tiny sip of milk.
The show didn’t end until almost 10 pm, and both Evelyn and Mu were exhausted. It had been a very long and exciting day. Everyone got back into the car for the ride home, and the two of them fell asleep in the back seat. Even the sound of the garage door opener did not wake them up, nor did her mother’s arms around her as she carried her into bed, depositing the slumbering Mu next to her cheek on the pillow, where they both slept soundly until the lizards came in for morning tickles.
Do you have a character you created as a child? Would love to hear about it! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share!
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