by Susan Bruck
“Blessings on our good lunch!”
“Oh, no, not soup again.”
“Santiago, this is magic soup. It’s made from the vegetables from our garden.”
“Yuck! I don’t like it. Besides, there’s no such thing as magic.”
Mama just smiled and hummed a little tune as she went to get her bowl of soup.
Santi liked working at the community garden, well except for seeing old Mr. Kelly who always pinched his cheek. But he didn’t want soup. He watched the steam rise from the bowl. Then he looked again. Something else was moving. A fairy, orange with feathery green hair, sat on his spoon, fanning herself with her wings.
“Hi,” she said. “I’m a carrot fairy. My name’s Zanahoria, but my friends call me Zany””
“Do you know what kind of magic made your vegetables grow? It takes a whole community to make a garden.”
“I know all about that. We go to the community garden. There’s lots of people there.”
“True. It takes lots of people, but there are lots of other beings who helped your garden grow. Like me and some other fairies, and the gnomes, too, of course.”
“Come on, I’ll show you. We’ll go back to spring.”
“But my mom…” said Santi.
“She won’t even know we’re gone. We’ll go in fairy time and be back in the blink of an eye. Come on! It’ll be fun. I promise.”
“Um…ok….I guess,” said Santiago.
Then he was in the garden, but it wasn’t fall anymore. It was the end of winter. The lot where the gardens were now was filled with trash and bricks left from the hotel that had been torn down. He looked more closely and saw gnomes sitting around a fire and roasting marshmallows.
Then there were lots of people there. Santi and his mom weren’t there yet, but lots of others came. They picked up the bricks and trash. The gnomes cheered, although the people didn’t seem to notice. The gnomes helped loosen bricks that were stuck in the dirt and pushed pieces of trash so the people saw them. When the people left, the gnomes danced around the empty lot.
Next came two big trucks. One had a lot of dirt and the other had wood and other stuff to build the garden beds. The gnomes grabbed their shovels and started digging.
“Look more closely,” whispered the carrot fairy. Santi was startled. He had forgotten she was there. When he looked again, he saw that the gnomes putting their shovels into sacks and what looked like glitter was flew all over the garden.
“The magic is starting,” said Carrot Fairy.
Santi remembered the next part. He had helped build the garden beds. He even got to pound in some nails. He saw old Mr. Kelly winking at one of the gnomes who was sprinkling the glittery stuff on the dirt. It was right next to Santi’s. The gnome winked back. Santi had been right next to them, but never saw a gnome.
He watched everyone planting seeds, Then everything became totally dark and quiet.
“Hey,” said Santi, “What happened?”
“This is where the magic really starts,” said Zanahoria.
“But I can’t see anything,” said Santi.
Zany made a little carrot shaped light.
“Where are we?” asked Santi.
“In the heart of the seed. Now be quiet. You don’t want to wake the baby.”
Zany held up the light, and Santi saw a tiny carrot all curled up. It was cozy and warm where they were. And very quiet. Santi realized that they must be beneath the earth.
“That’s right,” said Zany. “This little seedling is tucked into the earth, resting until the time is right”
Santi felt warm and safe, too. Maybe he could curl up for a few minutes, too.
But Zany told him to pay attention. Soon he felt water dripping.
“It’s coming from Mr. Kelly’s watering can,” said Zanahoria.
She washed the baby carrot with a tiny washcloth.
Soon the baby started to stir. The room grew warmer.
“It’s mid-day, and the sun is making the earth nice and warm. Just right for waking up.”
“Here,” she said to Santi. “Make yourself useful.”
She handed Santiago a spoon. Santi took it, but just stared.
“Gather some water,” she said.
He gathered a few drops in the spoon.
“Well, don’t just stand there. He’s thirsty.”
“Oh, sure,” said Santi, although he didn’t see much of anything in that dark place.
He held the spoon over by what he thought might be the carrot’s mouth. Soon he heard slurping.
“That’s a good baby,” said Zanahoria.
Santi fed the baby more water, while Zany poked some holes in the seed. The tiny carrot grew. It burst out of the seed.
Light penetrated the dark soil.
He watched some tiny little gnomes guide the little carrot’s roots, spreading them out, making them comfortable. The roots grew fast and deep.
“Reach for the light,” Zany whispered to the little carrot.
“Reach for the light,” she said.
And he did. Santi watched the white stalk turn to green as fairies poured buckets of sunlight over them. He watched the frilly leaves grow toward the sun and dance in the breeze. He felt the carrot drink in the air and water and sunshine and grow orange and sweet beneath the ground.
As he glanced around the garden, he saw the same thing happening all over—plants taking the earth, air, sunshine and turning it into beautiful, delicious plants. He saw gnomes working hard and more fairies than he could count. Besides that, he saw the worms, butterflies, flies and all sorts of insects helping care for the soil. He saw birds carry away some of the seeds. He saw Mr. Kelly tending the plants and smiling.
Then it struck him. This was all magic! It was magic how the plants grew. It was amazing how all those wonderful things—earth, air, sunshine, water—all were transformed. It was amazing how all those usually unseen creatures cared for each and every plant in this garden and everywhere.
“It should be cool enough to eat now,” said Santi’s Mom.
“What?” asked Santi.
He was back at the kitchen table, and Mom was just sitting down.
He looked all around, but Zany was nowhere to be seen.
But when he looked at his bowl of soup, he was pretty sure he saw her reflection winking at him.
He took a little bite. It tasted like earth, air, water and sunshine all mixed with magic. It tasted delicious.
“How is it?” Mom asked.
“You know what?” Santi replied. “This is the Zaniest soup I’ve ever eaten. I like Magic Soup.”
I published the first part of this story way back in May, which was when I started my Children’s Book Academy class on Picture Books. I was so busy with that that I didn’t work on any more first drafts.
But I want to finish my 52 first drafts, even though it will end up taking a little more than 52 weeks.
Also, there probably won’t be any new illustrations for a while. About a week and a half ago, I slipped in some mud and fell and broke my right wrist.
It’s even hard to type. Plus I’m getting ready to start the new school year with my mixed age kindergarten class–I am so thankful to my wonderful colleagues for helping me set up my room. Besides typing with one finger, I can’t use my right hand at all, which makes it hard to do many things.
But enough kvetching. I hope you enjoy this rambling story–future ones will probably be shorter.
And thanks for stopping by!