Kat Leonard threw down the gauntlet. Well, actually, Michelle Weber threw down the gauntlet via The Daily Press at WordPress.com, then Kat picked it up and threw it down again. And then I and a few other intrepid writers picked up that gauntlet. Writing challenge: write 1,000 about this image.
Aisha wasn’t supposed to be here. She was supposed to be in the grocery store.
She walked with her mother a few blocks from their apartment to the store. It was such a beautiful summer day. Nice and sunny. Not too hot, not raining. Aisha wanted to stay outside and ride the merry-go-round. She told her mom that she was old enough and besides, it wasn’t far away and she promised to stay there until her mom came back out. But her mom said “No.” Five wasn’t old enough to be playing outside by herself. Aisha frowned and stomped into the store as her mother ushered her inside. It wasn’t fair.
Aisha’s mother offered to put her in the kid seat of the grocery cart. Aisha refused. That was for babies. And it wasn’t the same as riding the merry-go-round. She lagged behind, shuffling her feet along the linoleum, one hand on the cart, as her mother went up and down each aisle with her shopping list, picking items of the shelves and putting them into the cart.
“You want Pop-Tarts, baby?”
“No!” Aisha really did want Pop-Tarts, but she was mad. She wasn’t a baby. She wanted to ride the merry-go-round.
Her mother rounded the corner of the aisle, pushing the cart over to the butcher counter. Aisha peered around the shelf and saw that her mother was chatting with the butcher. She turned around, scooted back up the aisle and out the door. She was outside!
Wondering which of the animals she should ride this time, she walked around the merry-go-round, stopping in front of each one.
There was Winnie-the-Pooh, who Aisha loved for his sweet disposition and soothing voice. And he was nice to everyone and loved honey. She loved honey too. She and Pooh would have such great adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood together, roaming through the forest, meeting all of his friends along the way. And she would make sure that he didn’t get stuck in a tree in his search for honey, or eat too much and get stuck in a doorway.
Then there was the white horse with the yellow saddle, so beautiful and majestic. He had kind brown eyes and a long black mane and, even though Aisha knew it wasn’t real horse hair, she wanted to brush till it was shining and then braid it. She would be a knight in shiny silver armour, riding her faithful steed beside King Arthur. She would be a great sword fighter, rescuing people in trouble and making sure that everyone was safe.
She was very happy to see Jiminy Cricket. He was Pinocchio’s conscience, which meant he gave good advice on what was right and what was wrong. Plus, she liked to hear him sing “When You Wish Upon A Star” and ever since she heard that song, she would find a star to wish on every night. She and Jiminy would sit by the window in Geppetto’s workshop, gazing at the night sky, wishing on stars – and maybe even the Blue Fairy would appear and grant her a wish.
Pooh’s friend Tigger was there too. Not in a bouncing pose, but standing quietly in front of Jiminy. He had a look in his eye, though. Wide-eyed and excited, like anything could happen. It made Aisha think he would spring into movement at any moment. And he had a funny voice that made her laugh. She could jump and bounce too, and they would have a race through the Hundred Acre Wood, laughing and singing at the tops of their lungs.
The giraffe rose above all the others, tall and lean. He reminded her a bit of Melman from the Madagascar movies, but he seemed to be wearing a shirt like a baseball jersey. Aisha just knew that he wouldn’t mind if she wrapped her arms around his long neck in a gentle hug as they rode across the desert and through the jungle in search of lost cities and hidden treasure.
And last, there was the white rabbit, which for some reason Aisha could never figure out, wore a green saddle. He wasn’t wearing a coat or a tie, so he couldn’t be the March Hare from Alice in Wonderland. Maybe he was Pooh’s friend Rabbit. This always made Aisha pause a bit, as Rabbit was a cranky guy and being with someone who was cranky was not fun at all. But this rabbit had a friendly face and a nice smile. Maybe he was the Easter Bunny! She could help him hide eggs and he probably had a roomful of chocolate.
This made Aisha think of chocolate Pop-Tarts. Now she wished she hadn’t said no.
Which one would she choose?
Only. There was one problem. She was by herself and needed other kids – or a grown-up – to help her get the merry-go-round spinning. It wasn’t like the big one she’d been on at the fair. That one had a man pushing a big stick to make it go. This one needed people power.
Aisha sat on the edge of the merry-go-round and waited. Her mom would come out of the store soon. Or maybe some other kids would come.
“Aisha! What are you doing out here?!” Her mom had come out of the store with no groceries.
Or maybe she should have gone back inside.
“I can’t ride the merry-go-round all by myself.” Aisha’s eyes started to fill with tears.
“You had me scared to death. You know you’re not supposed to be out here alone.”
“I’m sorry.” Aisha couldn’t hold back the crying any more.
Her mother’s fear and anger dissolved into relief and gratitude, and she wrapped Aisha in a big, tight hug. “Don’t you ever do that again.”
In the end, they went back into the store, retrieved the cart and finished shopping. They even got Pop-Tarts. Then Aisha got a surprise when they got outside.
“Pick whichever one you want.”
Aisha’s eyes widened. Smiling, she decided.
With thanks to Michelle Weber for posting the challenge and the photo.