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Splash of Sunlight

Cinka’s birthday wish is granted—in a very peculiar way

“Happy birthday, Cinka!” said Cinka’s teacher, Mrs. Reynolds. “I know it was your birthday yesterday, but it was Saturday, so the class will celebrate today. You’re early as usual, so while I prepare, you can have some free time.”

“Thanks!” replied Cinka.

She didn’t feel like reading, so she got out a piece of paper and some colored pencils. The only thing she wanted as a birthday present was a dog, preferably a puppy, but her parents only said, “Maybe one day,” or, “We’ll think about it,” whenever she asked. The best she could do was make pictures of her dream puppy and look at them a lot. She chose her favorite color of brown and started with a cute puppy face. She kept drawing and even drew a background with a dog bed and food and water bowls. Shadows make things look realistic, but when Cinka tried to draw them when she was younger, they just looked like blobs. Because of that, she left the shadows out.

Cinka took a step back from the table and looked at her picture. The tail of the puppy gave a little wag, but that must have been her seeing things. She rubbed her eyes and the shadows seemed to deepen. Wait. Shadows? Cinka hadn’t even drawn shadows! She closed her eyes and counted to ten. That was better. Everything was back to normal. She started drawing an oak tree with spreading branches, and this time there were no weird shadows. The picture felt incomplete, so Cinka quickly made a line of ants before she went to the bathroom. When she got back, class had started.

“Put your drawings in your folder and get a dry-erase board before you join us,” said Mrs. Reynolds.

As Cinka sat at her desk, she felt something wet near her ankle. When she looked down, her dream puppy was pawing at her leg. The puppy gave a little yip and tried to jump into her lap.

“Todd, stop making animal noises right now or I am going to have to send you to the principal’s office,” said Mrs. Reynolds.

“It wasn’t me, honestly! I know I did it yesterday but—” protested Todd.

“GRRAF RAF RAF RA—”

Cinka covered the puppy’s mouth and raised her hand.

“Can I go to the bathroom?” she squeaked and ran out of the classroom with the puppy tucked in her arms before the teacher gave her permission.

It was as if the animals in her picture had walked right out of the picture and into the classroom.

After she locked herself in a stall, she sat the puppy on the floor and stared at it. On the one hand, she was elated that she finally had a pet, but on the other hand, she was worried: Where had the puppy come from? And what was she going to do with it? She couldn’t bear to just leave it in the bathroom, but what would her teacher say? What would her parents say? Cinka checked her watch. It would seem suspicious if she hid any longer. She headed back to the classroom with the puppy and stuffed him in her jacket, which had been tied around her waist. When she got back to the classroom, she pretended she needed something in her backpack but instead zipped the puppy inside the bag with a gap for breathing. When she turned towards the board, she saw a little line of ants crawling up her teacher’s leg.

“Uh, Mrs. Reynolds, there are some, uh—”

“EEK! ANTS!” shrieked Mrs. Reynolds. She started jumping up and down like there were ants in her pants—probably because there were. While Mrs. Reynolds was freaking out about the ants, Cinka took out her art folder. She had a sneaking suspicion that the puppy and the ants in real life might have something to do with the animals in her picture. Sure enough, when she opened her folder, the backgrounds were the same, but the animals were gone. It was as if the animals in her picture had walked right out of the picture and into the classroom.

After Mrs. Reynolds had finally gotten rid of the ants, it was already time for art. Cinka thought to herself that if she had to draw anything, she would leave out the animals just in case. When she arrived at the art room, the art teacher announced that today they were doing self-portraits. Cinka sat at her favorite seat and listened to the teacher talk about how to draw noses. They each had a mini mirror so they could look at themselves, but Cinka couldn’t draw while looking at it. When she was done with the portrait, it was almost the end of class, so she quickly put it in the hand-in box without looking at it. After she cleaned up her supplies and was about to leave class, the teacher pulled her aside.

“Cinka, you’ve never done anything like this before, so I’m not angry at you. But why did you hand in a blank piece of paper?”

Cinka glanced around and saw herself walking out the door. She barely had time to process what she saw, and the teacher was waiting for her answer. Panicking, she came up with an excuse.

“Oh, that must have been Todd playing a prank!” she replied. “I saw him take a piece of paper out of the hand-in box and put a blank sheet in!”

The art teacher looked relieved. “Okay. I’ll have a talk with Todd about that. Thanks for telling the truth,” she said.

Cinka felt guilty because she was lying about Todd, but she couldn’t think about that right now. She had no idea what she had seen, and the only explanation was that some other girl who looked kind of like her had walked out the door and Cinka had been so flustered that she thought it was herself. But as she got closer, she realized that the girl didn’t look kind of like Cinka, she looked almost exactly like her. Wait—not almost—exactly like her.

Cinka’s one thought at that moment was: I knew it! The bubble monsters came, but they can’t trick me!

Cinka couldn’t remember when or where she had heard about bubble monsters—or even if she’d heard of them at all. By now she thought that they were just something she had made up when she was very little, but if she were honest with herself, a tiny part of her still believed in them and was scared of them. Bubble monsters could make themselves look exactly like you, and then they ate you all up! The only way to defeat them was to look into their eyes and say “bubble.” Cinka knew they couldn’t be real, but right now she was so panicked that she wasn’t thinking clearly. She ran up to the girl and looked straight into her eyes, still half expecting her to look different from the front.

“Bubble!” she whisper-yelled at the monster wearing her face, because she didn’t want to attract attention. Surprisingly, the monster-that-looked-exactly-like-Cinka didn’t disappear like it should have but jumped really high and then whirled around like it was looking for something.

“Wait, the bubble monsters are here?!” the monster cried. “Where are they?! Aaah—”

Cinka’s mind raced. Bubble monsters could not say “bubble,” which meant . . .

“Shhhh!” shushed Cinka. “I thought that you were a bubble monster. But if you aren’t a bubble monster, then what are you? Wait, are you me?

“It sure seems like we’re the same person! We can’t let anyone see us together. I’ll hide somewhere and you stay in line.”

Coming to an agreement with yourself was surprisingly easy.

“OK, but make sure you take the puppy. It’s in my backpack next to my cubby. Wait for me in the library and we’ll figure this out. While you’re waiting, you can do my homework!”

“Okay!” agreed the other Cinka as she rushed off.

Original Cinka went to lunch with the rest of the class but left early to sneak into the library. The librarian was also on her lunch break, so she wasn’t in the library. Cinka, wondering if she’d imagined the whole thing, was half expecting that the other Cinka wouldn’t be there. But there she was.

“Hi! Did you finish the homework?” asked Cinka.

“Yep. And I was thinking . . . all the animals you drew came to life, and so did I—”

“So it must be all living things that I draw,” the original Cinka finished. “We should probably do some kind of test just in case all of the animals and stuff were a coincidence.”

“I think you should draw something small. If you draw a dragon or something, who knows what could happen! It has to be something harmless. And it might not work if I draw it, since I’m technically a drawing,” said Cinka 2.

Cinka 1 got out a piece of paper and drew a mouse head. She wasn’t good at mouse bodies and just drew a dress to save time. She and Cinka 2 stared at the paper, hoping to see the transformation take place. They must have spaced out at some point, because when Cinka took a second look at the paper, the mouse had disappeared.

“Where did it go?” she said, jumping up and looking for it.

“There!” shouted Cinka 2. The mouse was running across the bookshelf with some pins and a pink ribbon and squeaking, “A dress for Cinderelly! A dress for Cinderelly!”

“You drew one of Cinderella’s mice?” asked Cinka 2 in disbelief.

“Well, I didn’t mean to,” Cinka argued. “I just drew a dress, and I guess it looked like one of the mice from the movie. But that doesn’t matter. We have to catch the mouse before someone sees it running around in clothes!”

Cinka 2 ran after the mouse, keeping track of it while Cinka 1 looked around, trying to find something to trap it with. Finally she found a big pitcher that the librarian usually filled with water and ran over to join Cinka 2. Cinka 2 put her hands around the mouse to keep it in one place while Cinka 1 put the pitcher down over it.

“Poor Cinderelly,” squeaked the mouse.

“That mouse is way too concerned with Cinderella and not concerned enough about itself,” said Cinka 1.

“But now we know that the animals definitely came from your drawings,” said Cinka 2. “That means that the big question now is how they are coming to life.”

“And why have they started doing it today?” added Cinka 1.

“Wait, do you remember our birthday wish yesterday?” they both asked each other at the same time. That made them both start laughing.

“It was to have amazing lifelike drawing skills and get a puppy!” said Cinka 1.

“Whoever grants birthday wishes must have taken that a bit too literally,” said Cinka 2. “But at least you have the puppy.”

“I have an idea of how to get rid of the animals!” said Cinka 1. “I need to draw a wish-granting creature and wish the drawings and my power away.”

“But not the puppy!” said Cinka 2. “And make sure that you don’t draw an evil sorcerer or genie or something because they might try to take over the world.”

“How about the fairy godmother?” Cinka 1 suggested. “She seems pretty harmless.”

“I know Cinderella is your—no, our favorite movie—but I don’t really like it . . . whatever. But after this, don’t draw anything else from Cinderella.”

“Okay,” replied Cinka 1. She got out another piece of paper and started drawing the fairy godmother. “There. Done. Now all we have to do is wait for her to come to life.”

“I think there’s no point trying to watch it happen,” said Cinka 2. “It’s like how a watched pot never boils— it’s only going to happen when we aren’t looking.”

They both went to browse in the same section of the library. They kept picking the same books and bumping hands, and just as they were about to reach for another one, they heard a friendly voice say, “Now, I can’t help you if you hide.”

“It’s the fairy godmother!” they both whispered at the same time. Cinka 1 slowly stepped out from behind the bookshelf with a mix of excitement and anxiety. Cinka 2 was right behind her.

“Oh, there you are!” said the fairy godmother. “What is it that you need?”

“Well,” started Cinka 1.

“Oh no, don’t tell me—you need tidier hair!”

“What?!” exclaimed Cinka 2.

“And you too!” said the fairy godmother. “Now where did I put that wand?! It must be somewhere. Aha! There it is!” The fairy godmother pulled her wand out of her hat, grandly cleared her throat, and started to sing:

Ohhhhhhhh, salagadoola,

menschica boola,

bibbidi bobbidi boo.

Put them together and what have you got?

Bibbidi bobbidi boo!

As she sang, Cinka’s hair twisted up and danced about to the movement of the fairy godmother’s magic wand, as if the fairy godmother were conducting her hair. The books on the bookshelves joined, floating up in the air and dancing for another verse, and with the final “boo!” they fell lifeless on the floor. Cinka 1 looked at Cinka 2’s hair and flinched.

“Uh, your hair looks like—”

“I know, I know. Your hair looks like a crazy version of Cinderella’s hair too,” said Cinka 2, rolling her eyes. “But we have other things to worry about. The fairy godmother still hasn’t granted your wish. And I think she’s going to do another spell!”

“Oh dear, What a mess! I think, to clean these messy shelves, I’ll conjure up some—oh, where did I put that phonics book?” said the fairy godmother.

“Phonics book?” said Cinka 1, confused. She and Cinka 2 glanced at each other apprehensively.

“Yes, for some reason Cinderella thought that my rhymes weren’t very good,” the fairy godmother harrumphed. “So I got this phonics book to help. But I can rhyme fine by myself. Aha, here it is.

I think to clean up these messy shelves,

I’ll conjure up some little elves.

Bibbidi, bobbidi, boo!

Six tiny elves appeared and started trying to pick up books that were three times their size.

“That’s too slow,” said the fairy godmother. “It’s this phonics book that’s messing me up. I’ll have to try again. Since you have made such a big mess . . .

We made a mess?” said Cinka 1 indignantly.

The fairy godmother ignored her and continued: “. . . you’ll have to get a nice new dress!” With that, Cinka 1’s clothing turned into a simple pink princess dress. Cinka 2 snickered a little but stopped when Cinka 1 glared at her.

“Not enough, but I haven’t finished the spell yet!” said the fairy godmother. She rapped her wand against her hand a few times, took a big breath, and sang, “Bibbidi!” The dress got a layer poofier and grew some ruffles. “Bobbidi!” It got even poofier and now had little sparkles around the edges. “Boo!” There was an explosion of lace and glitter, and Cinka 1 looked down to find herself wearing an elaborate, over-the-top Disney princess dress. She tried to imagine going back to class in this getup. Cinka 2 covered her mouth with her hands, but she couldn’t stop herself from laughing this time.

“I don’t see what’s so funny,” said the fairy godmother over Cinka 2’s laughter. “It did work.” And sure enough, the library was actually cleaner than it had been before.

“Excuse me!” said Cinka 1. “Can you just let me say something?”

“Of course!” said the fairy godmother, a little miffed. “I always let you say something. I never interrupt!”

The Cinkas rolled their eyes but told her a shortened version of the story, starting with the puppy.

“And then we drew you because you are so awesome at granting wishes. We knew you were the one for the job.” Cinka didn’t really think that, but a little flattery never hurt.

“Thank you, dear,” said the fairy godmother. “That will be a complicated spell, but I can manage it. Just to be clear—you want me to get rid of all the animals you drew, and myself, and also make this unusual power of yours go away. Is that all?”

“And make me disappear,” added Cinka 2.

“What?” said Cinka 1.

“We’re exactly the same,” explained Cinka 2. “The fairy godmother will just be joining us back together again, not killing me—or you—or us . . . but you get the point, right?”

“I guess so,” said Cinka 1 reluctantly. “I’ll miss you a lot.”

“Me too.”

The fairy godmother cleared her throat. “Shall I do the spell now?”

“I, uh, well. I don’t know,” Cinka 1 said, suddenly uncertain. “I know that was the whole point of drawing you, but think about all the other things I could draw—like a genie who grants wishes, or a kitten that never gets bigger, or Peter Pan.”

“But think about what could happen if you drew Peter Pan,” said Cinka 2.

“You’re right,” agreed Cinka 1. “Wait, Fairy Godmother, could you leave the puppy out of the spell? Please?”

“All right,” said the fairy godmother. “Oh, but like all dreams, your hair and dress won’t last forever. They will disappear at the stroke of the teacher’s pointing stick.”

Cinka thought that was silly but was relieved the dress wouldn’t be permanent.

“Goodbye,” she said to Cinka 2. “I will really miss you.”

“I’ll miss you too,” Cinka 2 replied. “And the puppy.”

They both smiled.

The fairy godmother took a deep breath and started the whole “salagadoola, menchica boolla” song. When she reached the last part, she sang:

But the thingamabob that does the job

is bibbidi bobbidi boo!

The fairy godmother, the mouse, and Cinka 2 all vanished, and Cinka 1 was alone in the library with the puppy, wearing her silly Cinderella-style dress. She sighed and picked up her backpack with the puppy in it. Cinka 2 had found some dog treats in the librarian’s desk, and the puppy was still munching on them. She figured she could tuck her backpack just outside the classroom door so that she could keep half an eye on the puppy if need be. Hopefully the treats would keep him quiet.

She headed back to the classroom and wondered what in the world she would do when everyone saw her in this dress. Best case, she would be laughed at and remembered as the girl who wore a princess dress at school. Worst case, she would get in big trouble for coming in late wearing a costume. Luckily for her, all of her classmates were turned toward the board where Mrs. Reynolds was writing some equations. Now all Cinka had to do was get the teacher to wave her pointing stick, but it was too late. Mrs. Reynolds had picked up the chalk and put the stick on the desk closest to her—Todd’s desk. Cinka watched him not-so-stealthily pick it up and turn away from the board to present his prize to his classmates. When he saw her, his mouth dropped open in surprise.

The fairy godmother, the mouse, and Cinka 2 all vanished, and Cinka 1 was alone in the library with the puppy, wearing her silly Cinderella-style dress.

“ABLUGUM!” he yelled with a grand gesture of the stick. The second the stick finished its arc, Cinka’s dress vanished with a poof and her hair fell back into its normal half-ponytail. All of her classmates and Mrs. Reynolds turned towards Todd.

“I mean, look at her dress!” he corrected himself. Mrs. Reynolds narrowed her eyes.

“Todd, I don’t know what you are yelling about, but if you disrupt the class one more time, I’ll have a talk with your parents. Cinka? Where were you?”

“Um . . .”

“You know what? Never mind, just take your seat. But no more disruptions, do you hear me?”

“Yes, Mrs. Reynolds,” they both chimed.

*          *          *

“Hi, Mom!” called Cinka. She had just gotten home and had decided that she might as well tell her parents about the puppy and get it over with.

“Hi, sweetie,” said her mom. “How was school?”

“It was good. But I have to show you something.” Cinka slowly took the puppy out of the backpack. It licked her face and then sniffed her mother. As if deciding by smell that she was worthy of attention, the puppy jumped onto her lap and curled up.

“What a cute puppy!” said her mother. She started petting it and called Cinka’s father.

“What a cute puppy!” he echoed.

“So we can keep it?” asked Cinka.

“Of course!” said her mother. “Just one thing. Where did you find it?”

“It’s a long story.”

Rose Fischer
Rose Fischer, 12
Colorado Springs, CO

Paige Bean
Paige Bean, 12
Leawood, KS

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