Last Modified: Mon Mar 12th, 2012 6:14 PM
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Once upon a time, long, long, ago, I was only a child of eight years. I lived at a lighthouse with my grandfather--he ran the lighthouse. I loved my funny, sweet old grandfather more than anything. I loved the way he played with me. I loved the way he cradled me when I was sad. I loved the way he called “Lucy, girl, dinner’s ready!” every evening when it was time to come inside. I loved the way he laughed and talked. I just loved him.
It all started one early-summer evening. I was out collecting see shells, and the sun was just starting to set over the deep, blue ocean. I was expecting Grandpa to call me in soon, but after waiting half an hour I decided I’d just go in anyway. Maybe dinner was running late and I could help with something. But when I walked inside and looked into the kitchen, Grandpa wasn’t there. Now I was getting a little worried. Grandpa was always in the kitchen at this time. Had something happened to him? I raced through the house, calling “Grandpa?” increasingly frantically in every room I passed.
10 minutes later, I found him laying in his bed, breathing hard.
“Grandpa?” I called, and then I spotted him, “Grandpa! What’s wrong? Where have you been? Are you okay?” Now the words came tumbling out of my mouth. The tension in my stomach began to ease as I realized that Grandpa was still there, and I began to calm down. His next words dispelled any kind of relief I might have felt.
“Quick Lucy,...get...the local...doctor,” he wheezed. Then his eyes rolled up and he fell unconscious.
* * *
I was standing in Grandpa’s room, panting. I had sprinted to the doctor’s, and rushed him back to the house, all the while telling him that Grandpa was sick and help help help and please hurry and now that he was here and I had done my task, I sat back in a comfortable arm chair. But I sat on the edge of the chair, muscles tensed.
The doctor used a variety of odd-looking instruments, most of which I didn’t recognize, and studied Grandpa, brows furrowed.
“ Is he okay?” I asked tentatively.
“ I can’t say for sure, sweetheart,”he replied. At his words a wave of apprehension overtook me. He must have noticed, because he added hurriedly, “ But he’ll be okay for now.”
“Does he need to go to the hospital?” The doctor, Dr. Green, glanced back at Grandpa.
“Yes. Home remedies might not be enough in this case.” My heart sank. This would mean that Grandpa’s conditions were bad, but now that my mind started to clear from the panic I’d felt earlier, I realized what it would mean if Grandpa were gone. I had no living relatives--my father had died in war and my mother in childbirth.
The doctor had started laying Grandpa on a stretcher and was preparing to take him to a waiting chariot. Then he would be driven back to the doctor’s, all the way back on the mainland.
“Come on, little girl. You can stay in his room until he gets better,” Dr. Green said. I hopped into the back of the chariot and leaned my head disconsolately against the window. Soon the chariot started moving and I could see the ground rolling away beneath me.
The next morning, I woke up in Grandpa’s hospital room. It was neat and tidy, but it had almost no furnishings--just Grandpa’s bed and a small table with two chairs. Grandpa had been asleep all afternoon, and eventually I had drifted off myself. now I could see that his eyes were open.
“Grandpa! You’re awake!” I cried happily. Grandpa moaned softly.
“My leg...it feels like it’s on fire!” Grandpa said through clenched teeth.
“Your leg? What’s wrong with your leg?” I asked. Grandpa didn’t answer. Then something on his arm, protruding from the thick, cozy patchwork quilt caught my eye. It was small, only about the size of a dime, but it scared me to death anyway.It was purple and greenish, and it look like a cross between a welt, a burn, and a blister. And I thought it was absolutely repulsive. I screamed, covering my eyes and turning away. Soon I heard pounding footsteps and the doorknob turning.
“Is everything all right? What happened?” It was Dr. Green. “Lucy?” I pointed to Grandpa’s arm, still turned away.
“His arm...” I trailed off, unsure of what to call the thing. Dr. Green glanced at Grandpa’s arm. His face darkened and he walked swiftly over to Grandpa’s bedside.
“My leg, my leg...” Grandpa moaned. He reached to scratch at his arm, but Dr. Green gently stopped him. Then he pulled back the quilt to reveal Grandpa’s left leg. It was a swollen, purple and greenish lump. I stared at it for a second, transfixed, and then the spell was broken and I buried my head in my arms, crying.
“Dr. Jenkins, you’d better send for someone more qualified than I am. I’ve never seen anything like this,” He called to his assistant. A second later the door opened and Dr. Jenkins appeared.
“What the...” Suddenly I felt very angry. These were doctors! It was their job to heal people and they couldn’t heal my grandfather.
“You don’t know what it is?” I asked incredulously, “You can’t help him?” Dr. Green looked at me sadly.
“Lucy, I’m the local doctor. I can heal every day things like colds and broken bones...but this? This is completely out of my field. I’ll have to call an expert, and we’ll just have to hope he knows what this is,” Dr. Green gestured towards Grandpa. There was silence for a few moments, and then I felt my cheeks reddening. Maybe I had judged too quickly.
“When can the expert get here?” I asked
“ We don’t know yet. I’ll go find out now,” Dr. Jenkins replied.
Five minutes later, Dr. Jenkins returned. he had a satisfied look on his face, and I was hopeful. Maybe something good had finally happened. “Dr. Brassfield, who is an expert in viruses and diseases like his one is actually visiting relatives near here. He’ll be here in a few hours,” Dr. Jenkins reported happily.
“Yay!” I cried gleefully, “ Now Grandpa can get better!” The doctors smiled at me.
“I hope you’re right, Lucy,” Dr. Green said.
* * *
Since I had to stay at the doctor’s anyway, Dr. Green had invited me to dinner, but since we were waiting for Dr. Brassfield, we decided to eat in Dr. Green’s office. Dr. Green had had his wife bring dinner. We were just finishing up our delectable fried potatoes when there was a sharp rap at the door.
“Come in,” Dr. Green called, hastily getting up from his office chair. Dr. Brassfield walked in, looking slightly rushed. He was tall and lean, and he had dark, short hair.
“Good to meet you. I assume you’re Dr. Green?”
“Yes. Thank you so much for coming. Would you please see Lucy’s grandfather? He’s just over here,” Dr. Green directed Dr. Brassfield into Grandpa’s room. “I must warn you, he’s in bad shape,” Dr. Green added. As we walked into the room we all tried not to gag. The air was very stuffy and it had begun to smell rancid. The weltish things must have an odder.
“Oh my...” Dr. Brassfield said quietly as he took in the stench and Grandpa’s mangled leg.
“Do you know what it is?” I asked eagerly, “Can you fix him?”
“Whoa, not so fast,” Dr. Brassfield said, smiling, “First this things first. Let’s get him cleaned up.” Dr. Green and Dr. Brassfield carried Grandpa to a bathtub on a stretcher, and gently lowered him onto a sitting position in the tub. Grandpa moaned slightly and muttered something, and then he was silent again. The two doctors began cleaning, and Dr. Jenkins, who had accompanied us to the bath made a shoeing motion.
“You should go to bed, Lucy. It’s been a long day,” he said. I had to agree, it had been a long day, and I was utterly exhausted
“I think I will. Goodnight, everyone,” I said as I turned to leave, but then a though struck me. In all my fear and excitement, I had forgotten to thank these doctors for all their time and efforts. “And thanks for everything.” The doctors smiled at me.
“It’s what we do,” Dr. Green said.
* * *
The next morning, I awoke to rain pelting against the single window in Grandpa’s hospital room, and the wind howling outside. For a moment, I was very confused trying to remember why I was here, but then I looked over and saw Grandpa’s welts (more and more had been popping up the previous day) and I remembered. Then I wished I could forget. I huddled closer into my blankets and closed my eyes. A loud bang! sent them flying open again as Dr. Brassfield came running into the room, slamming the door open as he came. In one hand, he held a thick book held open to a page near the end, and in the other, he held a magnifying glass. He bent down to examine Grandpa’s leg with the magnifying glass while comparing it to the book.
“Lucy, I’ve found it!” he exclaimed, straitening up. “I’ve found it!”
“Hooray!” I yelled, jumping p from my blankets. I started jumping p and down, relief flooding me. Then I noticed that Dr. Brassfield had become suddenly very quiet. He was reading the page in his book. He looked up, his face grave.
“Lucy...,” he began. I felt fear filling me.
“Yes? What’s wrong?”
“The book says...there isn’t...well...Lucy, there’s no cure,” he said in a rush. He looked at me apologetically, and then he turned away and sat dejectedly in one of the chairs. my mouth went dry. I stared at the book Dr. Brassfield was holding, completely shocked and completely terrified.
“Are you sure?” I asked, “ You can’t do anything? You’re just going to let hm die?” It hadn’t been mentioned, but I know in my heart that Grandpa would not survive on his own.
“Lucy, you’ve got to understand. There’s just nothing we can do,” he shrugged helplessly and looked up at me. “I’m sorry. I did my best, Lucy, but sometimes things just happen and there’s nothing you can do to stop them.” As his words sunk in, I realized that’s I’d been very unthoughtful.
“You’re right I guess...I’m sorry I said what I did.”
“It’s all right, Lucy. It was a shock for you.”
Tears filled my eyes and cascaded down my cheeks. I ran out of Grandpa’s room, out of the main office, out into the street, out all the way back to our lighthouse, and out to the rocky beach.
There I sat down and cried and cried. The waves lapped about my feet and I realized that I would soon be in an orphanage, far, far away from here. More tears rolled down my face, and my entire being was so miserable, I didn’t even notice the figure standing beside me. When I did, I jumped with surprise--not only because of its sudden appearance, but also because it was not at all human or animal or anything I’d ever seen before. It was about a foot tall, with bright green hair flowing down to its waist. It had green eyes, too. The eyes were what I noticed most. They were large and cold and they gave me the creeps.
“Your grandfather will die within the week. You know that, don’t you?” It said in a silky, cunning voice.
“Ye...Yes,” I stammered.
“Do you want to help him?”
“Of coarse!” I answered immediately. “Do you know the cure? Can you heal him?”
“I know the cure. Of coarse I know the cure. It is an herb at the bottom of the sea. I will turn you into a fish so that you can go get it, and I will even deliver it for you, but if you become a fish, you will be a fish for seven years.” The sea witch finished with an evil grin, and I shuddered. Seven years? I thought, I’d be 15 when the spell ended and I could see Grandpa again. But if I don’t, Grandpa will die! I knew what I wanted to do, but I was frightened. But I was a brave girl, and I would save my grandfather no matter what.
“It’s a deal. I’ll write a note explaining everything, and you can deliver that as well as the herb, “ I paused moment, then added, “So what does this herb look like, anyway? Here, you can draw it on this,” I said, pulling a piece of scratch paper and a pencil from my jacket pocket. It took the paper and quickly drew a triangular leaf on a stringy stock.
“This is what it looks like. Now write your little note quickly, or I might lose my patience and let your grandfather die,” It said. I hurried to use another corner of the scratch paper. On it I scrolled
Dear Grandpa, Dr. Green, and Dr. Brassfield,
I found a cure to Grandpa’s illness, and it will be delivered with this note to Dr. Green’s office. I won’t be back for seven years. No time to explain further. I love you Grandpa!
“Here’s the note,” I said, handing it to the sea witch. It snatched it, making no reply. I shuddered again as her tiny hand contacted mine. Even though It was so much smaller than me, I felt as though I were a speck of dust in comparison to It.
“Hurry and get you herb, or you Grandpa might be pushin’ daisies when you get back!” It cackled, “Fair badly stupid girl, you’ll be a fish for seven years!” It swept its arm in a wide circle and suddenly I was swimming in the ocean, a scaley, little fish.
I swam down and down, to the very depths of the ocean, searching everywhere for the herb. Then I spotted a thin, green strand, growing out of the rocks with pointed leaves. There is was! I’d finally found it! With this, I could cure Grandpa! I thought happily. Then I remembered that I still wouldn’t be able to see him for another seven years, and my momentary joy faded. I plucked up the vine in my mouth and headed back to the surface. At least I didn’t have trouble finding the herb. I thought glumly.
When I reached the surface, the sea witch was waiting.
“That’s the one,” It said, grinning wickedly. “I’ll bring it straight to your silly Dr. Green.” I watched her saunter off towards the town and though I was sad that I wouldn’t see my beloved Grandpa, at least he would live and someday I would see him again. I love you, Grandpa. I thought. I would have laughed and cried at the same time, but a fish can do niether.
* * *
Back at Dr. Green’s office, Grandpa sat up in bed. He was almost healed and ready to go home, but he was sad because he could not see his darling little girl. He was proud of her, though. She had been brave, and she had saved him. He smiled. I’ll always love my Lucy. He thougt.
Seven Years Later
Lucy stepped onto the shore. She was a beautiful young girl of 15, and she was the happiest person on earth. She ran up to the small lighthouse of the hill that sloped gently up from the ocean beach
“Grandpa! Grandpa!” She called joyfully. Grandpa was sitting on the small porch watching the ships when he heard her calling. It’s Lucy! My Lucy! He ran down to greet her, and the two of them looked at each other and smiled.