Forgotten Art: Giuliana – Mathilda 2

A reply to: A letter from Mathilda

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Dear Mathilda,

I can’t believe you wrote! I’m so happy. I decided to write¬†this letter by hand, so you can see how happy I am when you read my letters. The circles in the e’s and a’s are really big, right? That’s because I’m so happy!

I told my brother you wrote back.

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“No way,” he said.

“Yes way!”

“A real live Goddess,” he said.

He was impressed.

“Hey, maybe she can do your homework!” he said. “Maybe she can do mine!”

I told him no. You’ve got rules you got to go by. But we were still both really happy. I am especially happy because if I do my tests you set, I will be a real hero.

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You know how in the books the heroes always have magical helpers?

I think I found my magical helper. His name is Jasper, and when I want to know stuff, he asks me questions, and the questions he asks help me discover what I want to know.

I told him I needed to find rocks, plants, and metals. But I didn’t tell him what for. The tests have got to be secrets, right?

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Jasper asked, “Where do you think you’ll find these elements?”

I said I had no idea. Well, I have some idea. I know I could go to the plant store and the rock store and the plumbing parts store and buy them, but one, I have no money. And two, that’s not the way tests work, right? So I’ve got to find them.

Jasper said, “How do you think you’ll discover where to find them?”

By exploring, I said. So we explored the park for a while, but we didn’t find anything.

Then Jasper said, “Sometimes, I read up on things in books when I need to learn more.”

He took me upstairs to the Reading Room in the community center at the park, and we found bookshelves and bookshelves of books!

“Where do I start?” I asked him.

He showed me the geology shelf, the botany shelf, and the shelf with the metal-stuff books.

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I learned a lot about rocks. I wanted to learn about what you said about singing stones, so Jasper showed me the folklore shelf and I read all about singing stones.

There are these big metal-like black stones, I think they’ve made of basalt which means they came from a volcano, only they’re in a place in France where there are no volcanoes! And when they bump each other or when the wind blows through them, it sounds like ringing wind chimes! And no one knows how they got there! But I bet you do!

So, we’re not going to France. But I did also learn about some rocks that we might find in the park in Willow Springs. Jasper said he will talk to my mom and dad to see if he and I can take a field trip there.

He read a lot about plants because he loves trees. I think he wants to marry a tree!

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After we finished research, Jasper asked, “Is there anything else you want to read?”

I could see he was still real into his tree love story book, so I said, “Sure!”

And I found a book about magic and wizards and witches and goddesses. And you know what? It was almost as interesting as your letter, but your letter was way better, because you really are a goddess and a witch and everything you wrote about really, truly happened.

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When we put our books away, Jasper said, “Here! Look at this!” And he showed me his GPS on his phone and it had all these bright dots and when I asked Jasper what they were, he said, “These are known metal deposits!”

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So, even though I haven’t found the metal or the rocks or the plants yet, I have a start!

I, Terseus, accept the tests, O Mathilda!

I am your apprentice servant.

Forever, or for life!

–Terseus

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Whisper 1.28

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Marigold spends half the summer up in the tree house. I smile to think of what a nature girl she is.

“When can I learn to garden?” she asks me.

“Oh, you can help anytime,” I reply. “And when you’re older, you can take over the garden, if you want.”

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On the day we’re heading to the festival, we both wake up early.

“I’m so excited for Summer Fest!” I say.

“Me, too.”

“Everything feels all sparkly shiny!”

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While I clean our breakfast dishes, she heads out and rides her rocking pony.

What spirit she has! I love to watch her play with such abandon. She’s so strong, and, the hero of every game she plays, so brave!

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At the festival, I order lunch for both of us.

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But when I carry our order to the table, I see that Marigold has entered herself into a hot dog eating contest.

She stands before a plate piled high with hot dogs. And next to her, is a tall man with a stomach twice the size of hers.

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I’m not worried. I know Marigold has a hollow leg. I remember the three plates of dim sum she ate at our last party!

And sure enough, she cleans the plate while her competitor is still working on the last six. She is the champion!

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At home that night, she asks me to read her Greek myths.

“Who tonight?” I ask. “Hercules?”

“Perseus!” she shouts.

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I knew she’d choose Perseus. I’d told her that he was my favorite when I was ten. We like the way he tricks the monsters and carries Medusa’s head around with him, turning enemies to stone.

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“I think that to defeat monsters you just need to keep a cool head, right, Mom?” she says. “I mean, that’s all that Perseus does. It’s not like he’s stronger than them. It’s that he knows how to think. That’s because he’s not afraid. Everyone else is like, ‘Oooh! Scary!’ But Perseus is just, ‘Outta my way. You think you’re tough?’ and then he tricks them.”

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She falls asleep before we finish the chapter.

Sometimes I wonder what type of super woman Marigold might grow up to be. I hope she keeps this undaunted spirit, her attitude that she can do anything, and her own brand of bravery well into adulthood. I hope I’m around to see her become a young adult, though, when I’m honest with myself, I realize that it’s not likely. I still feel the same inside as I did when I was not much older than Marigold, but truth-be-told, my friends are passing, one by one, and I know I’m marching in the same line, just a bit further down.

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I was always worried that Dante would lose interest in me as I became old. I mean, he passed when he was young, and I can’t imagine that he’d find gray-haired me all that appealing.

But my worries were for naught.

“Of course I still love you,” he says. “And I love the way you look. I’ve loved watching you grow older. It’s almost as good as being able to grow old along with you.”

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While Marigold sleeps, we sit together in the living room, like an old couple, watching the sky turn gray before the sun brings back the colors. I realize that, for a while now, I’ve been content.

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