animals don't talk on the moon

Unedited early sample:

Dr. Mylow Taller was an inventor of great things. Things like a toaster-oven that made hard-boiled eggs or sticky shoes that let you walk straight up the side of a mountain or the huge mirrors perched on North Peak and South Peak that meant it was always summertime in the little valley of Guarenswell. He was proud of these things and he loved what he did but he would always say (with a twinkle in his eye) that the greatest thing he ever invented was his little girl, Annie.

Annie Taller was a tiny thing with shocking green eyes, a spray of brown freckles across her nose, and a too-big skirt held up with a piece of yellow twine. Her chestnut hair was always a frightful mess and her fingernails were often dirty but that was because she had lost her mother in The Blizzard That Took The Goats and she was always too busy exploring with her best friend, Remington, to care about silly things like barrettes and nail brushes.

Guarenswell had one long street called Only Main and Annie lived in house Number 3. It was at the north end, on the west side and like every other house on Only Main it was a door set firmly into the side of the mountain. She loved their door. It was periwinkle blue, the very same colour her mother wore in the tiny photo that sat opposite the clock face in the silver pocket-watch she kept safely in her deep skirt pocket.

Seventeen crooked steps led up up up to the Taller’s blue door. They had more steps than most because the snow had always been deeper at the north end of the valley. At the other end of Only Main, house Number 48 had only one little step but Annie knew they didn’t really need it at all, they just wanted a proper place for their welcome mat.

She didn’t remember what it was like to live in a valley full of snow. She’d been terribly young when The Blizzard That Took The Goats also took her mother. She had been in the wheat sling, kept warm in a woven cocoon that hung on the handle of the cast-iron stove, sound asleep while beyond their door the tempest raged. All the Guarenswell babies slept in that manner. It was deliciously cozy for them and it wasn’t strange at all. It was perfectly normal.

Papa told the story every Sunday night while she clutched the pocket watch and watched the memories roll over his soft face. It hurt her a little—somewhere deep inside her feeling parts—to know her mother was swept away while she dreamed through it all like a caterpillar.

“Your Mam was all the way down at Number 45. That was the school, you know. Oh, she was a brilliant teacher, your mam was. Her day had just ended and she was on her way home. There was this great roar outside. A wave of snow, the likes of which had never been seen before nor since, came pouring in from both peaks at the same time, rushing down Only Main until both waves crashed into each other with a sound of thunder. Anything beyond our door was lost.”

“And the goats, Papa?”

“Ah, the poor goats. Yes. They were lost, too. All the other animals were safe and warm inside because it was nearly dark, and, as you know, we always bring them in at nighttime. But the goats? Goats were made for mountain living and had no love for our stuffy homes. Dear child, I wish you knew the joy of their milk. And the cheese! Oh, Annie! Their cheese is like heaven on your tongue.”

“But we have the cows, Papa. There are the cows at Number 17.”

“Yes, you are right. But their taste lacks the richness of the goat. You’ll see, my dear. Someday the goats will return.”

“And my mam, too?”

“No, child. Sometimes gone really means for good.”

In her most secret thoughts, Annie knew they all lived in caves but they called them houses because ‘cave’ was much too barbaric a word for such noble mountain people. Their homes were actually quite lovely, despite being carved from solid stone, so she didn’t mind so much—though when she talked to Remington, she always called their house ‘The Third Cave’.

Their walls were buffed shiny smooth and the floor was covered in throws of fleece (thanks to Number 13’s sheep) and the Taller home was warmer than most because they were very close to the volcano that boiled and bubbled deep inside North Peak.

They had no fear of the volcano. It had been that way since the first people had come to live in Guarenswell. Long, naturally formed tubes ran beneath most of the village, carrying rivers of lava among the beehive network of tunnels, bringing warmth and garbage disposals to each home (for their trash bins opened down into the boiling rivers, easily ridding them of any unwanted bits).

Annie’s bedroom was perfectly round. She had a perfectly round window above her perfectly round bed that looked out on Only Main. Her father mounted a mirror to allow her a full view (for windows set in stone could not be made to open) and she liked to keep it angled so she had a clear view of South Peak. Water cascaded down from the top of South Peak to the lake below, causing great splashing and waves that never quieted, even in the driest of seasons. A special pump built by her father brought fresh water to every home through special pipes mounted along the side of the mountain.

Behind the waterfall was a cave they were allowed to call a cave and in it was a pool warmed to near steaming from a deposit of lava that rested beneath. It was a place she liked to visit often, especially after a particularly dirty time in the garden. Remington, however, did not share her love of the warm water. Like any other pig, he was much happier rooting in Number 50’s radishes, though more than once, Mrs. Turnbuckle ran him off with a corn-husk broom.

Everyone in Guarenswell knew how lucky they were to have an inventor like Dr. Mylow Taller among them. And Annie knew how lucky she was to have an inventor like Dr. Mylow Taller for a father. She was reminded of it every time she used the Shwishka to peel carrots from Number 4 or the BubbleHUB to give Remington a bath. She also knew it every time he wrapped his extra long arms around her and squeezed until she squeaked. She didn’t squeak because it hurt, she squeaked because he laughed whenever she did it and his laugh shook through him like an earthquake and she felt it in her chest like a tickle and that would make her start laughing too.

Annie loved to laugh. It stopped her from being sad about her swept-away-mother.

Yes. No one was as lucky as Annie to have a father like Mylow Taller.



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© Alanna Rusnak