Found this short story hidden away in my computer; I have a vague memory of writing this from a group of Pinterest prompts. Hope you enjoy!
“No, it’s really not that complicated. He’s a bad person.” She was hard to believe when she was covered head to toe in glitter.
I sighed. I’d reached the point a long time ago where nothing Gretel did really surprised me anymore. “Come in.”
She would’ve come in whether I wanted her to or not, but at least the invitation made me feel like I had more control over the situation.
She rocketed straight through the entryway and into the living room.
“What did he do this time?”
Gretel threw her hands on her hips, her SpongeBob SquarePants skirt shivering at the impact. “He stole my Tim McGraw cd.”
“You don’t even like Tim McGraw.” I stared at my poor glitter-covered carpet.
“But I liked having the freedom to pop it in the cd player and complain about it.”
I shrugged. “Well, there’s no use in complaining about it. You know what the prophecy said.”
She stomped her foot. Half of the time, I couldn’t figure out if she were three or twenty-three. “Yeah. Written on a bathroom wall—IN. SHARPIE!”
“How does that make it any less untrue?”
Gretel pounced on the couch, legs assuming crisscross applesauce midair. She really was three years old. “All good prophecies are written with a quill pen on a scroll. Not a three dollar marker from Walmart.”
“Get off my couch. There’s already a glitter trail on my floors.”
She lost her aggressive demeanor for a second. “Sorry; I just came from a birthday party for a six-year-old.”
The conversation lulled. All I could hear was my eighty-year-old roommate shuffling around upstairs.
“So, what do we do now?” Gretel finally asked.
I paused. “Bring him here.”
“He’ll never come.”
Gretel looked past me. “Hi, Mr. Edward.”
“Don’t dodge the question.”
“He really is there,” Gretel murmured, before adding, “I kinda . . . I hit him.”
Gretel sniffed. “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”
“Shakespeare!” Edward yells from behind me.
I snorted. “Bring him here. If you can’t get him, I will. But I need him in this house within 24 hours.”
Gretel was back on my doorstep within three hours.
I had Mr. Edward all situated in the living room with his plain black coffee, extra watery like he liked it. After graduating college, finding a job hadn’t been as easy as I thought it would. Mr. Edward had known me and my parents since forever, coming over every spring to assist my plant-killer mother in planting lilacs and strawberries that wouldn’t die as soon as they saw her terrifying, chloropyll-havocing face. He’d heard about my situation, chatted with my parents who were all-to-eager for me to not end up inhabiting their basement like some bell-less Quasimodo, and ba-da-boom.
I had a house.
And Gretel? No one really remembered how they met Gretel. She was just one of those people that’s in everyone’s lives, eccentric as a discoball and free as a cat.
I opened the door halfway through her doorbell rendition of the Hallelujah chorus.
“Yo,” she said, jabbing a finger towards the guy behind her. “Got him.”
The kid was near descriptionless, except for the fact that he was wearing a bird mask.
“Do you always have to wear that?” I asked him. “It freaks me out.”
Gretel fluttered past me, stopping just a moment to lean over to me and whisper, “I know, right?”
As I escorted Bird Boy into the living room, Gretel yelled, “Do you have any Papa Sam’s?”
That’s what she calls Uncle Ben’s rice. I’ve told her, like, thirty times that it’s not Papa Sam but she can’t ever remember.
“I didn’t know this was a luncheon,” I said.
“It’s in the pantry, sweetheart,” Mr. Edward called back. Traitor.
“I’m gonna make us some, if that’s okay.”
“Sit,” I command Bird Boy. He sits. Mr. Edward glances over, sizes the boy up, and nods.
“I’ve heard of wearing a brown bag over your head, but I’ve never seen a bird mask before.”
“Mr. Edward, this is Ambrose.”
Mr. Edward hit the bottom of the chair three times before it pops out of its reclined position. “Nice to meet you, son. These kids are good. They know what they’re doing.”
To mom and dad, Prophecy Hunter isn’t really a well-paying job. It’s not even a real job. I’ve stopped trying to explain to them what I do. I’ve forever been stumbling across prophecies, which means I’m the ill-fated person who has to find that Chosen One.
Once, just once, I’d like to be the Chosen One. I’d like to be the one everyone’s clapping for.
I want to save the world.
But it doesn’t work like that.
Mr. Edward retired from being a Prophecy Hunter just three years ago. He makes a good mentor but goes to bed at, like, six every night.
“Ambrose!” Gretel called from the kitchen. “Do you mind coming in here for a second?”
I guess her fight with him over the country cd has been forgotten for now. I was a little hurt she didn’t call me, but I remind edmyself we’re purely business partners.
Bird Boy immediately got up and walked over to the kitchen. Don’t ask me how he could even see where he was going through his dark mask. As he moved, the world flickered a bit. I blinked multiple times. Reign it in.
Mr. Edward’s eyes watched me and he looked awfully alert for an old person nearing his 90s. “Is it happening again?”
I shook my head. “I’m cured. I swear.”
It’s like he was seeing something I wasn’t. I dismissed his gaze. Sometimes prophecies went wrong. Sometimes the Chosen One turned against who he was, and then Gretel and I were just in the way. I still was recovering from our last accident.
“Caslon! Assistance, please!” I moved much too quickly at Gretel’s command. When I got to the kitchen, Bird Boy had a pot in each hand and then one on his head.
“What’s he doing with all those pots and pans?”
“Another piece of the prophecy,” Gretel announced as she stirred her rice. She had a taco-print dishtowel slung over her shoulder. I still saw glitter sparkling from her hair as she moved. “I didn’t expect it, but it just appeared.”
She gestured to a ladle set out next to Bird Boy. Etched into the metal, as if had been there for thousands of years, were the words: “He will wear a mask of flight and, with weapons of metal, will free the world.”
I grabbed the handle of the pot and turned it around so she won’t smack into it and cause a mess. “I doubt it means pots and pans.”
“Well, I do.”
“Gretel, I know you don’t like to do things in a . . . normal way.” That was part of her charm. Perhaps why we’d been chosen to be Prophecy Hunters together. As much as I was by-the-book, she slashed down stereotypes and normalcy with a sword made of Skittles and, apparently, pots and pans. “But weapons of metal are guns or even knives. I’ll even excuse a toaster, maybe. But a skillet?”
She hopped up onto a counter daintily and flung a cupboard open. “Just trust me on this one, okay? How many bowls do we need?”
“I’m not really hungry.”
Gretel frowned and shifted her body weight to get down from the counter.
But something happened.
It was like slow motion. All I knew was that one moment Gretel was on the counter, the next she was on the ground, moaning, surrounded by shards of glass.
Bird Boy darted to her side immediately, but I yelled at him to go find a broom or something.
“What happened?” Mr. Edward yelled. I didn’t answer.
“Gretel? Gretel, are you okay?” I’ve dropped down to my knees. She moved her lips a tiny bit, but nothing came out. “Gretel? Gretel, you better wake up or Tim McGraw’s gonna be really upset.”
She snorted a tiny bit, and I smiled despite everything.
“What year is it?”
“1968, you dweeb.” I grinned. That was the year the Beatles released Blackbird, her favorite song.
“Who’s the president?”
“Lucille Ball.” Someone came up behind me and started sweeping. “My head kills. I think the creative portion of my brain has leaked out. It’s okay; maybe you can salvage some of it and use it to better yourself.”
She rubbed the back of her head and, when her hand came away, there was a bit of blood on her hand.
I reverted to humor, maybe to cover the panic overwhelming me. “Don’t bleed on my floor.”
“It’s not your floor, it’s Mr. Edwa—ow.”
I asked Bird Boy to get the gauze from the top right cabinet. “Stop talking.”
“Mr. Edward! I need your help.” Three days before he became a Prophecy Hunter, Mr. Edward received his PhD. His doctor knowledge helped many times in his pursuits as a Hunter, and I’d never before been so grateful for his “wrong” life calling.
The old man waddled into the kitchen and assessed the situation.
“She was climbing on the counters again,” I told him.
“Tattletale!” Gretel shrieked.
Mr. Edward sighed. “I told you not to how many times?”
“I can’t help I’m a chipmunk-sized human. Didn’t ask for it, but I can usually—”
I interrupted. “I swear, if you say one more word, I’m going to duct tape your mouth shut.”
“We need to get you to the hospital to make sure you didn’t get a concussion,” Mr. Edward said. Gretel shrieked, and I was scared her head was hurting.
“No! Please no. I hate hospitals. I’m scared of them.” Her eyes were panicked. I wondered if she was being a drama queen, but she honestly looked terrified. “Mr. Ed, can’t you do something?”
“I don’t want to be responsible if you have a concussion and I misdiagnose, honey,” he replies. He glanced at me and nodded. I was closest to her; I had to get her to the hospital, either by convincing her it would be fine or scooping her up and carrying her there myself.
“Concussions are serious,” I said, my logic taking over. Gretel wasn’t a person of logic: she’d be quicker to grab some larkspur or frankincense essential oils and do a dance out on the patio to cure herself. “We need to check it out.”
“Please, Caslon. Please, I hate hospitals; I’ve had bad experiences there.”
I stared her in the eyes and almost gave in for a second. But then, I came back to planet earth. “I’m sorry.”
As we drove down the highway, Gretel got through one raucous verse of Yellow Submarine before she was uncharacteristically silent.
“Are you okay?”
“Honestly, no,” she admitted. “My head is killing me.”
I nodded. My foot pushed down a bit more on the gas.
The nurses wouldn’t let me go with her to her room since I wasn’t family.
She doesn’t have any family, I want to yell. And I don’t really feel like I do either.
But I let her go. She was in too much pain to be scared now.
I sat in the waiting room in between a woman that sneezed like Hello Kitty and a mother screeching at her children to stop chewing on the complimentary copies of Life magazine.
After an hour, I got a little tired of scrolling on my phone. I went up to the nurse at the desk and asked for an update.
She was snacking on some Boom Chicka Pop hidden behind her “old-fashioned” Dell speakers. “Um, I don’t think I can give you that information. They’ll be out soon.”
I called Mr. Edward and gave him and update, then asked how Bird Boy was. He said the kid had taken a seat on the couch with his Papa Sam’s and was trying to mash the spoon of rice into his beak.
It wasn’t working.
Some Chosen One.
I gave Mr. Edward what little information I knew, then hung up.
When the nurse finally came out, I was relieved . . . except for the fact that Gretel wasn’t with her. She pulled me into a hallway which, from watching plenty of movies, I knew was never a good thing.
“She tested positive for a concussion,” the nurse said. My heart dropped. “We’re glad you brought her in or it could’ve been bad.”
She gave me the details on what would have to happen: Gretel would sit in a dark room for a few days until the concussion was definitely gone for good.
No more climbing counters, that’s for sure.
The nurse turned to walk away, but then came back. “Oh, she asked to give me this.”
It was a piece of notebook paper with the words “I’ll Be Seeing You, Billie Holiday” written on it. I took a seat in the waiting room again, then looked the song up on the internet.
I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day and through
In that small cafe
The park across the way
The children’s carousel
The chestnut trees
The wishing well
I grinned as I listened to the hearty, cheerful voice of Billie Holiday. I could see Gretel listening to this, her hair half-brushed, wearing her bright orange jacket and custom-painted NASA sneakers.
She was so dramatic. But perfectly Gretel.
“Well, your dream came true,” Gretel said. It was the first time I’d talked to her since the accident. I was driving her back to Mr. Edwards house to listen to some Beatles and eat some Papa Sam’s (since she never got to eat the one she made).
Gretel grinned. “You’re a hero. You saved the world. Well, not the world. But you saved me. Which is pretty much the same thing.”
I changed the radio station, which had just switched to a talk show. “You’re disgusting.”
We were quiet for a while.
“Thanks for staying with me.” That was probably the most serious sentence Gretel had ever said in her life.
I nodded and adjusted my baseball cap. “You’re welcome.”
“Did you really not leave the whole entire time?”
Those gossip-y nurses. She must’ve overheard. I probably turned M&M red. “The vending machine options were good.”
“Did you find a prophecy written on a KitKat bar?” I heard the smirk in her voice.
“Well. I’m glad to go back to Prophecy Hunting with you.”
The world around me looked a little brighter now. Sure, Prophecy Hunting wasn’t an actual job. I could never put it on my resume. I could never be a normal person. But Prophecy Hunting with Gretel was what I did.
And, she was right. I was finally the protagonist for a couple minutes. Finally the hero.
“Yeah, me too.”
“Oh man!” I glanced over, scared the concussion had come back.
“I have a bloody nose.” She popped the middle compartment of my car open. “I need some napkins. Do you have any here?”
Blood gushed all over the handmade bangles from Indonesia on her arm. Then she shrieked. Good and loud.
“What now? My word! You’re terrifying me!”
She withdrew a Tim McGraw cd.
“You stole it! It wasn’t Ambrose!”
And we argued all the way home, just like we always did.
I really did love being a Prophecy Hunter with Gretel Poe.