A Tale of a Girl and Her Boat

by

Mary Cole

16-year-old Marianna Walters looked beautiful and ladylike in her brown dress, with her springy curls pulled back in a neat bun. She had just come from her best friend Chloe's dance recital, and was taking the long way through the field behind her house. Spotting a big, smooth tree stump ahead on the path, she quickened to a run and sat on the rock. Frog Stump, she called it, because the worn depressions formed a frog-face that made you feel like you were sitting on the frog's nose. Perching on Frog Stump in what her grandmother would call a "decidedly unladylike manner," she pulled a sandwich out of her pocket and began to munch. She was in no hurry to get home, because all her aunts and uncles were coming for the annual family reunion.

"Aunt Oscara will probably come first," she mused to herself, "In her ugly little black convertible, bragging about how she's such a star, and then she'll fix her hair, put on new makeup, and hog the bathroom for an hour. And who knows what color her hair will be this time? And then Uncle Howard and Aunt Dolly will probably come next, in a big gold stretch limo." She wrinkled her nose and continued, "And Aunt Dolly will pick a fight with Aunt Oscara about her latest hair color, and then Uncle James will come, and get offended by every other word out of Uncle Howard's mouth and spout Shakespeare to the ladies."

A golden retriever ran up. Marianna absently reached a hand down to pat her pet's head and continued with a giggle, "And, you know, Goldilocks, if I lose one hour of sleep from the squeaky pantry door, I'll superglue it shut!"

Finishing her sandwich, she got up lazily, gave Goldilocks a last pat, and pulled out her neat bun. Curls streamed over her shoulders in soft waves of brown, caught up in the cool breeze. Laughing lightly at the carefree feeling of loose hair, she danced all the way to her house.

Marianna was proud of their house, the best in all of Ebony, Florida. It was three-story, with butter-yellow siding that nearly glowed in the hot Florida sun. There was a wrap-around porch that spiraled all the way up to the top of the house, past each bedroom, all the way to a flat roof where they had an impressive rooftop garden. Flowers bobbed their heads in the breeze all year long, strawberries grew next to the small artificial waterfall, goldfish and koi swam happily in the bottom pool of the waterfall, and vines climbed arches of trellis and crept over the brick wall that lined the edge of the roof. There were waterproof 100% organic material beanbags to sit on around the garden, with little canopies to keep the sun off.

Of course, the aunts found the porch "horrid," the uncles "impractical," and would never admit how clever her Mum, the architect was, to design it.

As she thought about her Mum, she blinked and bit her lip. Her mother, Lelia Walters, had died when Marianna was just two. Some people said it was her own fault, because a house that she had designed collapsed, but Marianna refused to believe them. Mum's buildings were always sturdy.

As Marianna was standing on the front step, lost in thought, Aunt Oscara was coming down the gravel drive, raising a cloud of dust that the wind whisked away in little curly wisps. Marianna didn't notice the convertible until it had parked in the garage, dangerously close to their truck. Once she had noticed it though, she sighed and went politely down to greet the first guest.

A tall, skinny figure slipped out of the car and smiled widely at Marianna, whose mouth dropped open as she did a double take. Aunt Oscara had dyed her hair every color of the rainbow! Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple the colors were all there and with streaks of blond, black, and white mixed it. Even her eyebrows were red and eyelashes purple!

Recovering her manners, Marianna said politely, "Hello, Aunt Oscara, how are you?"

Aunt Oscara laughed merrily and sang, "How do I look, my little Marianna? I'm the star of Rainbow Girl this year!"

Her eyes took in Marianna, with her brown dress, lightly tanned skin, dusty freckles across her nose, and bouncy light brown curls. She giggled and added, "You look like a little sparrow."

Marianna forced a very fake smile. It was going to be a long day.

****

Marianna rushed out to greet the next guest, Uncle James, after showing Aunt Oscara to her room. He was driving a little blue SmartCar, and his bumper was covered in stickers for the Ban of Txt Language 4 the Good of the Gr8 USA Movement and the Environmental Sciences of Global Pollution and Space Junk Committee, both of which he was founder. As he pulled in, she noticed another sticker, one for the International Movement for the Banning of Carbonated Orange Juice. Marianna smiled to herself and went down to greet him politely as she could.

Uncle James cheerfully swung himself out of the seat and grinned at Marianna. His curly brown hair was combed neatly and his blue eyes were wide and friendly. Always attempting (and failing) to appear polished, he wore a neatly ironed brown tweed suit that made him look like a professor from 1969.

"Hello Marianna," he said in a pleasant tone, "Have you heard about my latest project? Carbonated orange juice makes your mouth show signs of hedoulsitoromism, and whenever a person drinks it, they ask for seconds, which shows that it is an addictive sub-"

"Yes," interrupted Marianna, "May I show you to your room?"

"Quarters, my dear, quarters," he said pleasantly, not seeming to mind he interruption at all.

Marianna suppressed a giggle and said seriously, "Ah, yes, quarters, not room. I apologize May I take your baggage?" Without waiting for a reply, she reached into the back seat and took out two battered brown suitcases.

"Thank you, Marianna" he said, and as they walked into the house he explained that his fifth master's degree was in Psychopath Behavior and Recognition and how it would benefit him in his study about prune juice links to brain damage and heart attacks. Marianna smiled and nodded, but focused on getting him settled into his guest room as quickly as possible. It was a hard task because they walked past Aunt Oscara's room, from which loud snores were emitting, and Uncle James wanted to wake her up and tell her to start drinking apple-watermelon juice so she wouldn't snore.

Finally she got him settled and rushed back out to the porch to be there when Uncle Howard and Aunt Dolly pulled up. They said they would be there at two- o'clock, and they were always on the dot. She checked her orange watch. It was 1:56, so she sat down on the front step. Goldilocks ran up, chasing a butterfly, but when he saw Marianna he ran toward her, panting.

"Hey Goldi," she crooned as she stroked his neck, "How are you, boy? Huh? You'd better go chasing butterflies some more. You know how Aunt Dolly hates dog fur on her dress." But she let him stay right beside her until she saw a cloud of gravel dust far away, and then she took him to his pen on the other side of the house and closed the gate.

He put his forepaws up on the top of the gate, begging her silently, but she just giggled. "Sorry pal. You'll have to stay there 'til Aunt Dolly goes. And don't you think about jumping out! Now get down." He whined, but obediently put his paws back on the ground.

She ran back around to the front of the house, and by now she could see the gold limo that was kicking up the dust. She took a deep breath, steeling herself for the two most obnoxious relatives.

The limo pulled up to the front step, and two men in purple uniforms stepped out. One opened the door and the other pulled out the baggage. Uncle Howard and Aunt Dolly slid out and stood up. Aunt Dolly was a delicate, aged soul, with fine shoulder-length white curls and wrinkles just beginning to creep over her face. Uncle Howard was older, with a large bald spot in his white hair, and, unfortunately, stupider. All his boyhood had been centered around money, so the rest of his life was too.

Aunt Dolly smiled graciously at Marianna and said, "Hello, dear. How are you? My, how you've grown."

Uncle Howard wasn't so gracious. He harrumphed out a hello and asked her to show him to the suite.

"Yes, of course," Marianna replied, smiling thinly.

She led them to their suite (really just the master bedroom), purple-uniformed men following silently with the baggage. The uniforms gave Marianna the creeps, and she was glad when they drove off in the limo, promising to be back in two days.

Once Uncle Howard and Aunt Dolly had gotten everything to their satisfaction, Marianna trudged down to the living room and slumped, exhausted, on the chair next to the fishbowl. The fishbowl was quite large, it held fifteen gallons of water, and four fish swam about. They were Puzzles, an orange-and-white fish, Finn, a white fish with a big flowy tail, Rocky, a small black fish, and Splash, a big orange fish with a long white tail. Marianna smiled as Splash and Finn explored a pirate ship decoration. Watching fish play always soothed her.

Click-click click-click click-click

Marianna sighed, recognizing the sound of high-heeled shoes coming down the steps. Aunt Oscara appeared in the doorway, with fresh makeup. Her lips were now bright red, her eyelashes heavily coated with mascara, and her eyelids were heavily coated with sparkle dust. Smiling with all her white, perfect teeth, she click-clicked her way to the sofa and sat down gracefully.

"Well," she started cheerfully, "Aren't those pretty fishes! What are their names, Sweetcakes?"

Ignoring the dreaded cutesy nickname, Marianna began politely, "Well, the one in the pirate ship right now is Splash, the in the treasure box is is Puzzles-"

"Sweetcakes," Aunt Oscara interrupted, gesturing toward a bowl of starfruit and kiwi, "What are these darling little fruity things in this bowl?"

Marianna bit her lip to keep herself from retorting something rude. Thankfully, a knock on the door saved her from replying. She ran over and opened the door. Marianna's twin brother William was standing in the doorway. He was average-height and skinny with brown hair trimmed short and blue eyes.

"Hey Gill," Marianna said, using William's nickname, "How did fishing go?"

"Great," he said mildly, "I already put my tackle away in the fishing shed."

Ant Oscara looked up from the bowl of fruit and said, "Tackle? Do you play football? Poor skinny boy, you'll get crushed! I must speak to your father about this. George sometimes just doesn't know anything." She punctuated her statement with a loud tsk-tsk-tsk.

Gill scratched his head. "I think Dad likes for me to fish, Aunt Oscara."

Aunt Oscara frowned, puzzled, but before she could remark, Uncle James thumped his way loudly down the stairs. Aunt Oscara smiled and said charmingly, "Oh James, how nice to see you again. You know, you really must find yourself a new suit. Black suits are so much more becoming to a professor of four master's degrees and three Ph.D degrees!"

Uncle James laughed. "My dear Oscara, you really mustn't worry yourself about me. Father Time loves to fly, so I enjoy every minute I can with such fair ladies."

"Is that from Shakespeare?" Aunt Oscara queried.

"No. I said that."

They both broke into a peal of laughter, and Marianna rolled her eyes.

Uncle Howard and Aunt Dolly walked quietly in. "Oscara, James," Aunt Dolly said, "How charming to see you again. Oscara, you really must decide on a hair color. Such worldly colors are not becoming to young ladies." Aunt Oscara opened her mouth to retort, but Marianna rushed in in the nick of time.

"Father is on an all-day business trip, and he won't get back home until very late, so he suggested that Gill I mean, William and I take y'all on a ride in one of our small tour crafts."

Everyone murmured approval, so Marianna pulled out a list of their boats and passed it around.

"The Pearl Oyster, The Betty Lou-Anne, The Sunshine Girl...." Aunt Dolly murmured as her gloved finger moved down the list.

"The Royal Swan sounds gorgeous!" Aunt Oscara remarked.

"Yes, yes!" Aunt Dolly said happily, "Oh Howard, do please say yes!"

Uncle Howard mumbled something that sounded like yes.

Mariana squirmed. "Well, The Royal Swan right now, is, um, uh, how about The Sunshine Girl?"

Aunt Oscara replied bossily, "No, Marianna, dear, we want The Royal Swan."

Marianna sighed. "All right, fine. Come on Gill, let's show them The Royal Swan."

"OK!" Gill said, "Wait, The Royal Swan is " Marianna dug an elbow into his side "OOF!" and smiled at the shocked Aunt Dolly sweetly. "What Gill MEANS, is that The Royal Swan would be fine. Right, Gill?" Gill smiled sheepishly and nodded.

Marianna led them down to the dock and past a few beautiful tour boats. The Pearl Oyster had a pinkish-white shiny paint with a salmon-colored canopy to keep the rain and sun off. The Betty Lou-Anne was brown all over, and the Sunshine Girl was a vivid butter-yellow with a blue canopy painted to look like the sky. Finally, she reached The Royal Swan and turned around to face the others with a wide, fake smile.

"Here it is!" she announced. You could have heard a pin drop.

The Royal Swan may have once been beautiful, it its red and white paint had dulled to dirty pink and grey. The battered canopy had large holes in in it, and just barely enough fabric to support the little bell that hung in the center. The bell was a dirty little thing, with a lumpy rope pull-cord. The seats were hard, and the motor barely worked.

"Well, everybody on board!" Marianna said cheerfully. She hopped lightly on and took her place at the front, at the wheel.

Aunt Oscara asked timidly, "Is it... safe?"

Marianna smiled and said confidently, "Oh, she's a fine craft. A little aged, maybe, but she's a solid craft."

Uncle James energetically hopped aboard, and offered his hand to Aunt Oscara. She took it and stepped nervously aboard. The floor beneath her high-heeled sandals sagged slightly, and she let out a little screech and hurried to a seat. Uncle Howard gingerly came aboard next, and helped Aunt Dolly aboard.

Gill hopped on last, taking a running jump onto the boat that rocked the whole craft. Aunt Oscara screamed, and Marianna looked reproachfully at Gill. Finally Marianna put in her keys and started the motor. Uncle James told Aunt Oscara that it sounded like a motorcycle with a head cold.

"Here we go!" hollered Gill, and Marianna let out a little whoop. Aunt Dolly let out a little tsk-tsk-tsk.

The boat lurched out of the dock with a series of rapid jerks before it got into a comparatively smooth path.

"Everybody has their seat belts on, right?" Marianna hollered over the noise of the motor. Aunt Dolly summed up their thoughts with a simple, "What seat belts?"

Gill examined the seats and said matter-of-factly, "Well, it looks like the seat belts wore out."

Aunt Oscara raised a red eyebrow and said, "Well, what are you going to do now?"

Gill pulled a coil of rope out of a little metal box, and passed out pieces of rope. "Tie yourself on."

Up front, Marianna tried not to giggle as they tied themselves to their seats with Gill's help.

Uncle James said something that sounded Shakespearian about how he would rather be on a bad ship with fair women than a fine vessel by himself, which made Aunt Oscara giggle.

What none of them saw was a girl in a blue bathing suit with red-gold hair spying on them from the bushes, or swimming after their boat. Her name was Claudettica Abner, Marianna's worst enemy. They were too busy tying themselves on to notice when she swam up and unscrewed the fuel tank cap.

The course that the tour took ran parallel to the shore during the first half and then it went a little farther out returning, through what Marianna's father called "Dolphin Pathway" where dolphins occasionally swam.

Not quite halfway through, Marianna's voice was fading. She hadn't remembered talking this much last time she led a tour!

She cut the motor and handed the keys to Gill. "Your turn," she said, "My voice needs a break."

Gill took the keys, bouncing up and down and jabbering, "Do I really get to be a tour guide? Really? Wow! I get to be a tour guide!"

Aunt Dolly frowned. "Please, dear boy, don't carry on so," she said primly.

Gill scratched his head. "Gee, Aunt Dolly, I'll drop whatever I'm carrying if you want."

He dropped the keys, which skittered along the slippery surface of the floor and fell with a PLOP into the water.

"GILL!" Marianna screamed in exasperation, "What have you done?" Gill shrugged. "Why's everyone so mad at me? All I did was drop what I was carrying just like Aunt Dolly told me to!"

Aunt Dolly gasped. "I did no such thing, dear boy, how dare you state such a falsehood!"

Uncle Howard joined the fight. "Dolly did no such thing, stupid child, you dropped the keys because you are clumsy!"

Gill retorted, "But Aunt Dolly said-"

"No I didn't-"

"Yes you-"

"QUIET!" Uncle James hollered. Everyone stared at him; he was usually not the yelling type. "We need to get back to the house. Now." He pointed to the horizon, and the color drained out of everyone's face.

****

Marianna woke to the pleasant smell of fried fish with mangoes.

She opened her eyes, but her vision seemed foggy. All she could tell was that she was lying in some sort of forest, near a small fire. And her forehead felt like it was on fire.

A voice came from behind her, "Good! She's awake!"

A pair of high-heeled sandals stepped in front of her nose. The legs bent, and a pair of green eyes looked into hers.

"How do you feel?" asked the voice.

She tried to mutter, "Where am I?" but her throat was to dry.

"Of course," said the voice understandingly, and she felt something cool in her hand. She looked down and saw a glass of water - water had never looked so good! She drank it slowly, as the voice told her, and her vision cleared, just a little bit.

"Where am I?" she croaked.

The voice let out a little laugh - a familiar laugh. "I don't know," it said.

"Who are you?" she asked next. The voice didn't think that was funny at all. "Why, Marianna, I'm Aunt Oscara!"

It all made sense now green eyes, high-heeled sandals, and the familiar laugh. "Where's everyone else?"

"Exploring, sweetcakes. This is a little island, apparently undiscovered. Over that way" she gestured to the east "there's a lagoon of sorts, and beyond that, two little islands. We were lucky to find fresh water on one of them."

Marianna groaned and sat up. Her knee hurt something awful! "What happened?"

Aunt Dolly smiled sympathetically at her as she said, "There was a storm, remember dear? And a nasty piece of wood hit the canopy pole, and the whole thing went down on us. That was when we pretty much gave up trying to do anything, and huddled under the canopy. It must have hit you on the head, because we found you unconscious when we landed here."

"And The Royal Swan?"

"The ship is how do you say it? Only good for salvaging material. It'll probably never go out to sea again."

Marianna sighed and went back to sleep.

****

Gill leaned tugged at the engine of The Royal Swan, trying to clear all the debris out. It was hopeless pieces of driftwood had jammed themselves firmly in and seaweed hand entangled itself with several gears. Sighing, he wiped his hands with wet sand to clean them and trudged back to their little camp. It wasn't much of a camp, just a fire and a few makeshift tents. The tents were simply lean-to style with blankets draped over them.

"Well?" prompted Uncle James. Gill told him about the hopeless condition of the engine.

Uncle James frowned and muttered, "So we're stuck here, with no means of communication, with a boat that doesn't work, rickety tents, on an island shaped like a smiley face!"

"Smiley face?" Marianna said groggily. Everybody wheeled to stare at her they didn't know she was awake! Aunt Oscara hurried over and handed her some water. "Drink slowly, dear."

Marianna sipped a little and repeated, "Smiley face? We're stuck on Smiley Island?" In her confused state, she didn't understand why everyone was laughing.

"I guess so, Sweetcakes," Aunt Oscara said.

"How are you, sis?" Gill asked worriedly. Marianna croaked, "My head hurts, my knee hurts, I can barely see, and I don't remember anything about a storm."

"Normal symptoms of concussion," Uncle James chipped in quickly, "You'll remember in a few days. Gill er, William - may I speak with you?"

"Sure, talk."

"No no, no, over here." Uncle James pulled him away from camp. Aunt Oscara watched as he spoke quietly to Gill, whose expression changed into shock until he finally blurted out loudly, "But that means she might-" Uncle James shushed him and pulled him farther away out of sight.

When they returned they both had big dumb fake toothy grins plastered all over their faces.

She shook her head sadly, (what terrible acting!) walked over to them, and whispered, "Wipe those big dumb fake toothy grins off your faces before anyone else sees them! What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" Uncle James said, but with a serious face.

"Yeah! Nothing!" echoed Gill with a slightly bigger big dumb fake toothy grin.

Uncle James relented with a little sigh. "I lied. Marianna might die if we don't get her to a hospital. We need to get her shelter first can you fix up something better than blankets?"

Aunt Oscara nodded, green eyes wide. "I can sew something up from the old canopy from The Royal Swan to make something and I can get Dolly to help."

"Great. Gill, we need to explore this island some more. If I can find some leaves from the Menngamaties Moufus plant, I could make a medicine that would help your sister."

Gill stared at him. "How do you know all this stuff, Uncle James?"

"I have a Ph.D in Survival Medicine. It helped me greatly with my project for the banning of salamander slime as eyelash enhancer."

****

"I've changed my strategy, Gill."

Gill looked at Uncle James, confused. "I thought we were looking for the Manngamatous Moufaties plant and not playing chess!"

Uncle James groaned. "No no no. Instead of helping Marianna but keeping her on the island, I'm going to try to get her off the island to a hospital. We don't have a boat, and we can't make one with the materials on this island, but we can send a message to other boats. Find me all these things."

He handed Gill a list, which he promptly began to read. "Hmmmm. Copper wire wire, batteries, a radio, alcohol, glass jars, tin can, and a mid-to-high frequency cyndraconial vibrator/resonator-" he paused and looked up. "What's a mid-to-high frequency cyndraconial vibrator/resonator?"

"Well, it would be like a Morse Code tapper, or a small bell."

"Oh."

Aunt Oscara and Aunt Dolly, back at the beach, busily sewed away at the tattered canopy, which was beginning to look whole again. The rips were slowly coming back together, and where there were pieces of fabric missing, they patched with Uncle Howard's red handkerchief. They had also washed it with Aunt Dolly's Magical Clean-All so that it was shiny red again.

"You know," Aunt Dolly mused, "Perhaps the rest of the boat would look nicer if we cleaned it with my Clean-All." With that she took the bottle in her gloved hand, walked over to the craft, and generously dumped it all over. The result, was, well, magical. The dirt and caked seaweed began to peel off revealing gorgeous shining red, and the grayish revealed white with delicate lacy swirls like a swan's wing.

"Wow." Aunt Dolly said, and went back to work on the canopy.

****

Gill grasped a basket full things Uncle James wanted and jumped into the lagoon. Swimming with strong strokes, he walked up the beach of one of the tiny "eyes" of Smiley Island, the one on the right. There was barely enough room on the island for Uncle James' table full of stuff.

Gill held up the basket, "Boy, it was sure a fight to get Uncle Howard to part with his radio! He wanted to listen to the stock market all day long and he was in a bad mood because his stocks dropped. So I have everything but the whiskey and the frequency vibraconial cyndraresontator or whatever. Where am I supposed to find alcohol or a vibra-cyndra-cona-whatever?"

Uncle James chucked. "Ask Uncle Howard if he has any alcohol. I recall him saying he never goes anywhere without his Top-Quality Bubbly Alcoholic Beverage."

Gill nodded and swam back to the main island as Uncle Howard began to assemble a jumble of jars, wire, and coconut. He had also hand-picked a few things from The Royal Swan's engine to help him with his contraption. He looped the wire through the last bottle as Gill came back with a bottle of Top-Quality Bubbly Alcohol.

"Good!" he said, and poured it into a few of the bottles as Gill rambled on about how Uncle Howard is so mad because he thinks he's personally supplying half his stuff for a contraption that's going to blow them all up. "All we need now is a cyndraconial vibrator/resonator. Hmmm."

Gill yawned and said, "Why don't we go have some dinner? Aunt Oscara was making fish and mangoes with banana souce."

Uncle James nodded wearily and they started toward the main island.

Back at the beach, Aunt Oscara took the dirty, lumpy, bell off the canopy and examined it. Turning around in her professionally manicured fingers, she shrieked as a lump chipped her otherwise-immaculate manicure and threw it away. What she didn't notice was a tiny glimmer of blue where her fingernail chipped.

Just then, Uncle James and Gill walked up and asked her what was the matter.

"The bell on the canopy CHIPPED my fingernail!" she shrieked.

"BELL?! Where?" Uncle James and Gill chorused. She pointed to where she had thrown it and watched confusedly as they grabbed it and sprinted over to the small island, dinner forgotten.

****

"So that's going to send a SOS message out for us?" Gill asked skeptically as his eyes went form one end of the contraption to the other. It started with two wires going out of a battery, running through a bottle filled with Top-Quality Bubble Alcoholic Beverage and saltwater, through a slightly dismantled radio, after which one stuck straight up like an antenna while the other Uncle James and hooked up to the bell.

"Yup," Uncle James said "And our latitude and longitude."

He carefully tapped out Morse Code on the bell.

Anxiously, they waited for a few minutes before the bell began to vibrate again, and Uncle James scribbled Morse Code on the sand.

"What's that?" Gill asked curiously.

"A response," came the reply, "It says, 'What in the wide blue ocean is this? A joke? You're standing on open sea lad, there's no island there.'" He promptly began tapping away again. Within minutes, another reply came. "Well unless the ocean hiccupped there's nothing there buy aye I'll come. SOMEONE IS COMING!" he yelled happily and started running toward the beach. Gill rolled his eyes and followed.

****

They all stood on the beach of the main island, except for Marianna, who was sitting down woozily on what remained of The Royal Swan, staring out at the ocean. Far as eye could see, the blue ocean stretched for miles.

"We've been here for hours! Where is he?" Gill yelled, stamping his foot in annoyance.

A voice boomed across the island coming from, seemingly, nowhere. "Hello, m'lads and ladies!" The voice was amplified and distorted by some sort of megaphone.

Startled, they whirled around, looking for the person connected to the voice.

"Up!" The voice said, laughing

They looked up and saw a very small greenish-blueish-brownish aircraft and two odd-looking things on the bottom, called floats.

"It's a seaplane!" Uncle Howard said, "I invested in their business once."

It slowly descended down to the ocean, where it landed on its two floats and slowly made its way closer. When it was close enough to see inside, they saw a man with a bushy red beard and a Fighting Irish baseball cap. Uncle James was insulted - his alma mater was their rival Alabama - but it was a trifle feeling compared to his relief.

Marianna was confused. Why was this plane coming? Weren't they going to take The Royal Swan home? Getting up, she took a step and promptly tripped over the bell. Remembering how Father loved the little bell, she slipped it into her pocket. She got up then and, boat forgotten, stared as the plane pulled up to the island and they began to splash their way over and climb in. She followed her brother, only half knowing why, and climbed in. She noticed that the man in the pilot seat seemed nice, and that the seat she was on was comfy. Suddenly content, she fell asleep.

****

The voice came to her like someone speaking from miles away.

"Marianna... Marianna.... Marianna!"

Her eyes flickered open. She was in a room with walls of white, on which nice paintings of mountains hung, and there was a nice chair next to her bedside. More importantly, a tall man with dark brown hair and brown eyes was in that chair.

"Father!" she squealed. She tried to reach up and hug him but felt a stab of pain. She looked down and saw some sort of tube - probably an IV - connected to her arm.

"What happened?" she asked, "I remember a plane, or was it a boat? And a red beard, and a smiley face in the ocean. Am I going crazy?"

Her father chuckled. "No, Marianna, you just had a nasty hit on the head. It gave you the worst concussion anyone in this hospital ever saw."

"And the aunts and uncles?"

"Gone, but you can see Aunt Oscara on TV." He switched on the TV in the corner.

Aunt Oscara appeared, with bright red lipstick and her rainbow-colored hair. Her dress was long, white, and shimmery. She was walking down a red carpet with a sign that said "OSCARS." Marianna laughed - Aunt Oscara at the Oscars! As she watched, Aunt Ocsara accepted a trophy for "Best Comedrama Performance" for Rainbow Girl.

She stepped gracefully up to the podium and said, "Thank you very much, but I would like to make a statement of protest."

She stepped away from the podium over to the life-size Oscars statue and declared loudly, "By the time I was done with Rainbow Girl, I thought it was the worst movie ever produced, so I've gone into imitations instead of acting."

She grabbed a handful of hair, pulled, and a wig fell away from her head. The hair under the wig was blonde with bangs. She plunked the wig on the head of the Oscars statue, and said with a fake southern accent, "Howdy folks! Just so you know, me and my thousands of ex-boyfriends are Never, Ever, Getting Back Together!"

Marianna nearly died laughing.

****

The old blue pickup truck rattled slightly as they drove into the garage. Marianna smiled. Home had never looked so sweet.

She went right to her room, where she began dancing to her favorite songs. It had been such a long time since she had really had fun like that!

After humming softly to Owl City's Vanilla Twilight (That song always made her think of Mum) she went down into the living room and watched her fish swim.

Reaching down into the pockets of her favorite brown dress, her fingers brushed up against something. She pulled it out and examined it. It was that bell, the one Father liked, but there was a strange bit of blue under the dirt. It looked almost like a- no, it couldn't be.

She got a dull butter knife from the kitchen and slowly chipped away at the dirt around it. Slowly, she dirt came off to reveal a sparkling blue stone set in some sort of black metal. She rubbed at the metal with a polishing cloth, and the black rubbed away to reveal shining silver! She stared at it, mouth agape, and began to run out the door, almost colliding with a bewildered Gill who had just come back from fishing. She ran all the way to the dock, where her Father was working on The Royal Swan. Breathlessly, she gave it to him and said, "Jewel... silver... dirt... chipped... wow!"

He had it taken to a jeweler, who told them that it was made of silver and sapphires, and there was a small inscription on it that would make it ever more valuable. It read, "Given to Mr. President Lincoln on the date of his birthday February 12 186o."

It was sold at an auction a few weeks later. When Marianna asked how much, her farther just said, "Enough to buy Smiley Island and start a tourist service!"

Aunt Dolly started selling her Magical Clean-All on a national level. America loved it and her, and she became a beloved figure, nicknamed "America's Favorite Auntie."

Uncle Howard remained his usual harrumphey self.

Aunt Oscara became famous as an imitator, and earned millions as the Official Taylor Swift Imitator for birthday parties and such.

Uncle James started his own line of medicine, starting with apple-watermelon juice as a snoring tonic.

And Marianna stuck around in Florida, helping her father run the Smiley Island Tourist Escape. It was the most popular place in Florida for tourists to get away from crowded beaches and have the time of their life, as there was a size limit for how many tourists they let onto the island at once.

And finally, The Royal Swan became the most popular tour boat around. People loved the red canopy with funky stitching designs (The same canopy Aunt Dolly and Aunt Oscara repaired) and the pretty lacy swirl patterns. It had been fitted with a new engine, and tourists liked to imagine they were flying on the back of a swan over the water. As Aunt Dolly once said, "Nothing is well unless it ends with a bang... or maybe it was a nice breeze that puffs no foul wind... or perhaps... oh whatever."

LPH Writing Class stories 2012-2013