I wrote this short story for the competition I’m in. My assignment was to write a comedy involving an apprentice and a strict diet. This story is lovingly dedicated to a wonderful little guinea pig named Cookie.
(c) 2020 All Rights Reserved
Taste the Rainbow
When little Polly gets a chance to become a magician’s
apprentice, her life becomes much more colorful.
“And now I shall make a bunny rabbit appear in my hat,” the magician boasted. He waved his hat around. “Abracadabra, hocus-pocus!” A fluffball fell from his hat.
My classmate, Bubba, hooted from his seat to my left. “That’s not a rabbit. It’s got no long ears.”
I still remember how offended I was. “Who cares if he’s not a rabbit?” I yelled. “He’s magical anyways!”
“Magic’s stupid. It’s all fake,” Bubba replied. He folded his arms across his chest and sneered. “You only believe in it ‘cause you’re a girl.”
Our teacher shushed us and faced the magician onstage.
My face felt red and I kicked my feet. “Magic is so real,” I yelled. “And that’s a magic animal, whether you know it or not.”
“Polly!” Mrs. Thurston glowered at me. “Pay attention.”
I huffed and faced forward.
The magician chuckled a little. “For my last act, I’ll need someone to be my special apprentice. This person will—” All of our hands went up, and his voice was drowned out by a chorus of pick-me-pick-me-pick-me-pick-me–me–me–me–me.
The magician’s eyes landed on me, and I dared to hope I’d get picked. But then his gaze left me, and I felt invisible. “How about you, son?”
My arm fell in heavy defeat as my classmates cheered on Bubba.
Bubba raced onstage to join the magician. Jealousy ate its way through my heart in a way that hurt from the inside out.
“Starburst here needs someone to care for him over the weekend,” the magician said. He placed the animal into a small cage. “How would you like the honor?”
Bubba recoiled. “I ain’t taking care of that furry freakshow. No, thank you.” He jumped off the stage and took his seat.
My hand shot up before anyone else in our class could react. This time, the magician chose me. I jumped up and joined him onstage, elated. He handed me some pet food and told me to make sure Starburst had water to drink. “There’s just one more important thing,” the magician added. “Starburst is on a strict diet. Under no circumstance may you feed him… any of these Skittles!” He waved his hand, and a bag of Skittles candy appeared. He handed it to me. “These candies are for you alone. Understand?”
“Yes. Gee, thanks!” I pocketed the Skittles, set down the pet food, and slid my finger into Starburst’s cage. He chirped and nibbled on my finger. I couldn’t tell which sort of animal he was—a guinea pig, a hamster? But it was love.
At dinner that night, Uncle Moe belched. It was nasty.
“Gross!” I squealed.
“Polly,” my mom snapped. “If you can’t be nice to Uncle Moe, then you can go to your room.”
He wasn’t my uncle, but I refused to call him Dad, or even Stepdad. The compromise became “Uncle Moe”.
I stormed upstairs, deciding I’d spend time in my room with Starburst. He was in his cage, eyeing my unopened bag of Skittles.
“Don’t get any ideas, Starburst,” I told him. “The magician said you’re on a strict diet. No Skittles for you.”
Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp? Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp! He stood on his hind legs and pointed at the candy bag.
I considered it, but then shook my head. “Un-huh,” I said. “No candy for you. I promised. Eat your pet food. It looks yummy.”
Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp? Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp! He was about a foot tall and seemed way too big for his cage. Maybe I could let him out of the cage to play for a while. As soon as I freed him, he scampered over to the bag of Skittles and hurled his clawed body around it in a bearhug.
“Starburst!” I scolded. “Get off the candy.” I grabbed him, and he immediately released his hold on the bag. Back into his cage he went, and I checked the latch. “Bad Starburst.” I waved a finger at him. “Cut that out.”
Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp? Chirp-chirp-chirp-chirp! He motioned toward the candy.
I picked up the bag of Skittles and tore it open. Eating a handful, I murmured, “Mmm. Yummy.”
Starburst threw a fit, screeching and pulling at his hair and jumping up and down. His poor head kept hitting the top of the cage.
“Well,” I decided, “I guess one piece wouldn’t hurt.” I selected a red one and slid it into his cage, careful to set down the bag of candy way out of his reach.
I sighed. I had some homework to do, so I figured I’d better get to work. I walked toward my desk.
“Thank you for the candy, love. I was so afraid you’d never feed me and that I should perish from hunger, old and alone and miserable. Might I have another soon? Perhaps an orange one?”
I froze. Starburst and his cage were behind me. I slowly turned around. He grinned and gestured to the bag of candy.
I gasped. “What?”
“Yes, another candy would be delightful, dear heart. Please give me another?”
I stared at him, dumbstruck. “You really are magic!”
“Of course, and allow me to prove it. Which superhuman power would you like?”
“I dunno. I… I guess I wanna be invisible!” I said.
He snapped his claws. “Look in the mirror, love. You aren’t there.”
I walked over to my full-length mirror. Starburst was right. There was no reflection of me. I could still see my body beneath me, just not in the mirror.
I turned to look at Starburst. Why was he chirping again? He gestured wildly toward the candy, so I selected an orange Skittle and gave it to him. He chomped on it with his pointy teeth. “Thank you, love. My voice has returned. Now, be a good lassie and go enjoy being invisible.”
“But what if I—”
“You’ll figure it out. Off you go.” He waved toward the door.
Okay. I left my room and wandered downstairs, taking soft steps to hide my presence. Mom and Uncle Moe were still eating dinner. They didn’t react as I entered the kitchen.
“It’s been hard on her,” Mom explained. “Her dad pretty much abandoned her.”
“Yeah, but why does she see me as the enemy?” Uncle Moe said. “She acts like I’m the bad guy.”
“I don’t know,” Mom said. “She’s probably afraid you’ll leave her, too.”
I can’t move. I can’t breathe. How could Mom know I feel that way? Like Uncle Moe was going to leave us anytime, because that’s what daddies do? A tear dripped down my cheek.
“I wish I could get her to trust me,” Uncle Moe said. “I don’t like fighting with her all the time.”
A feeling of guilt heavy as a winter blanket weighted itself onto me. I turned and went back upstairs, walking as quietly as possible. I shut my bedroom door behind me.
I selected a yellow Skittle from the bag and slid it into Starburst’s cage. He chomped down on it.
“Did you enjoy invisibility, love?” Starburst asked. He waved a clawed paw at me, and my reflection returned in the mirror.
“No.” I burst into tears.
“Oh my, such an emotional display.” He clung to the front of his cage. “What could be the matter?”
I glowered at Starburst. “I don’t like Uncle Moe. He’s a stinky poopy-head.”
“Oh, heavens above,” Starburst replied, “so am I. And you’ve been feeding me Skittles, of all things. What were you thinking? Phew!” He waved his claws in front of his face. Rainbow gas puffed up from his behind. “Sorry. He who dealt it smelt it, as they say.”
“Ew!” I clutched my nose. “That’s disgusting! No more candy for you, Starburst. Gross.”
“Fair enough, but I become quite flatulent when I’m not fed.” He farted again, loud and obnoxious, and produced more rainbow gas. “Did you know that humans are the only nonmagical animals who have butt cheeks with which to audibly fart? Oh, other animals can fart, but they can’t be heard. But within my magical species, we have been bred with butt cheeks to rival any human’s.” He kept farting. It sounded like an old-fashioned pencil sharpener destroying a pencil.
“Ohhh! You stink!”
“Yes, I do stink, and so does Uncle Moe. But tell me, child, when was the last time you smelled your dad?”
I glowered. “Mind your own business, Fart-burst.”
I woke in the middle of the night after a nightmare about a scary magician. Starburst was awake, and he stood watching me from inside his cage. Something felt wrong, and then I realized that I could hear crying down the hall.
“Make me invisible again,” I whispered.
“Oh. Okay. Hold on.” I climbed out of bed and found the candy. This time, I fed Starburst a green one.
“Thank you, love,” he said, after chomping it up. He waved his claws at me, and my mirror reflection vanished.
I opened my door and tiptoed over the carpeted floor. I’d heard Mommy crying a lot lately. Now I could find out why she’d been sad.
But when I reached the living room, I saw that the crier was Uncle Moe. He was sitting on the sofa in his flannel pyjamas, sobbing his eyes out. I walked closer to him but didn’t know what to do. Mommy showed up, got a sad look on her face, and sat next to him on the sofa. She wrapped her arms around him. “It’s okay, it’s okay,” she said.
“They’re never coming back,” he sobbed. “Damn that driver and his cellphone.” Saliva pooled in his mouth. “Texting while driving should be outlawed.”
“I know.” Mommy held him and rocked him back and forth.
I returned to my room, closing my door behind me. Starburst waved a claw, and my reflection returned.
“Did you enjoy being invisible, love?”
“He never told me,” I wailed. “Who was he talking about?”
“His family—his wife and daughter. They were killed five years ago,” Starburst said.
I wiped tears off my face. “How’d you know about it?”
“I’m enchanted, my lady. I’ve been bred by a long line of magicians who’ve been careful to preserve my magical lineage—and my butt cheeks—from one generation to the next.”
“I want to be a magician.” I plopped onto my bed and peered at Starburst.
“And you shall be, love. You shall be.” He farted turquoise.
I woke on Saturday morning to the dawning awareness that yesterday couldn’t have been real. I played it over in my mind before opening my eyes. Then I took a peek, and sure enough, there was a caged animal in my room.
Starburst was sound asleep. I rapped on his cage, but he kept snoring and farting in stinky rainbow puffs. Gross.
My mom opened my door. “Good, you’re up. Hurry and get dressed. You’re going to the park with Uncle Moe. And don’t give me any lip. Just give it a chance, okay?” She grimaced and frowned at Starburst but didn’t comment on the stench.
As Uncle Moe drove, I gazed out the window. He parked his truck, and I climbed out.
“Which way do you want to walk?” he asked.
I shrugged and pouted. Then, relenting a bit, I pointed to my right.
“All right,” he said. “Let’s go.”
The oval walking path was crowded, and we kept having to dodge joggers. “So, Polly,” Uncle Moe said, “I just wanted to rap to you about things. There have been a lot of changes. Is there anything I can do to help you adjust?”
Hmm… sounded like adult-speak to my suspicious ears. “Do you believe in magic?” I asked.
My question seemed to startle him. “Of course. Do you?”
I nodded. “Starburst’s descended from a long line of magical animals.”
“That’s fun,” Uncle Moe said. He forced a grin. “What sort of magical stuff can he do?”
I shrugged. “He farts rainbows. And he’s made me invisible a few times.”
He squinted at me in the bright sunshine. “Do you feel invisible?”
“Sometimes,” I admitted. I stopped walking and pointed to a nearby basketball game. “See that man with the number thirty-three shirt? That’s my dad.”
“Seriously?” Uncle Moe followed my gaze. “Oh my gosh, that is Danny. I’m sorry, Polly. I had no idea he’d be here.”
I didn’t ask how he knew my dad’s name. I shrugged. “Who cares? Mom said he doesn’t see the world around him. He won’t even know we’re here.”
Uncle Moe shot me a look of disbelief, but we kept walking, and sure enough, my dad didn’t see us.
“Sometimes I wish he’d died years ago,” I tell Uncle Moe. “Then he wouldn’t have left me on purpose, but on accident.”
“That hurts too, though.” He started to sniffle.
“I’m sorry,” I said.
I took his hand and pulled him along. “Look, I guess I won’t leave you, okay?” I said. “Either on purpose or accident. Not if you stay with me.” I smiled at him. He smiled back.
When we got home, I was excited to see Starburst again. I raced to my room. He was awake now and gesturing to my candies. This time, I slid a purple one into his cage.
His ears and tail twitched. “Ah, you’ve fed me the last color,” he said. “This is the final time I’ll be able to speak to you, love.”
“But I have more candy!” I insisted.
“We shan’t waste our time arguing.” He waved a claw at me. “You’ve passed the apprenticeship exam, and you may indeed become a magician when you grow up.”
“Yay!” I jumped up and down.
Starburst’s eyes twinkled. “Once you’re of age, the right people will find you. In the meantime, I trust you’ll ensure that Bubba will care for me next weekend,” he said.
I nodded. “Is he going to become a magician too?”
I fought off tears. “Oh, Starburst, come back! Talk to me again!”
But he’d lost his voice.
I shake the long-ago memories from my head and focus on the here and now. After I finish up this performance, my husband, Bubba, and I are going to have dinner with my parents.
“I need an apprentice,” I tell the audience. “It has to be someone special.” Everyone’s hands shoot up. I choose Timothy, a little boy who needs some extra confidence.
I give Timothy strict instructions about Molasses’ care as he reaches through the cage to pet Molasses. “Can I be a magician when I grow up?” he asks. He’s missing a tooth.
“You bet,” I say. “The first thing to do is take care of Molasses. Remember, he’s on a strict diet, so don’t feed him any… of these Skittles!” I wave my hand and manifest a bag of candy.
“Gee, thanks!” Timothy beams. “I won’t.”
I wink at Molasses, who’s descended from a long line of magical animals. He winks back.