Thursday, August 8, 2013

Root Bound by Tanya Karen Gough

Chapter One: Creaks & Squeaks

They’d started moving at dawn, Emma curled up half asleep in the front seat, her father at the wheel. They’d been driving for hours and hours in the hot autumn sun along a plain, open highway that never seemed to change. Nothing to see but miles of farmland and small, dilapidated towns, most not much bigger than three or four ramshackle houses with a corner store at an intersection, followed by more seemingly endless flatlands and scraggly trees. The only thing keeping her awake was the ukulele poking her playfully in the ribs.

Town farmland farmland farmland town.

Grass grass tree grass grass cow tree grass town.

The landscape repeated on itself endlessly, droning past while the sun beat through the window. She struggled to stay awake, but the heat and the monotony tried hard to get the best of her.

The car didn’t help, either, with its puttering exhaust and that funny clunking sound it made every few seconds like syncopated jazz back beat:

Clunk, chug–a–lug, chug–a–lug. Clunk, chug–a–lug.

Then there was her dad improvising softly hummed tunes while he drove:


They continued on their way; the farm country outside the window maintained a form of visual harmonics:

House, house, cow–tree, house, tree, cow–cow.

By the time the city appeared in the distance, she was half dazed, and between the warm sun and her drowsiness, she no longer knew what was what. The sudden shift in the otherwise unchanging landscape seemed strange and unnatural, as if they had chanced upon a magical kingdom. Oz maybe, or Xanadu, or Olympus.

“Dad? Where are we?” she mumbled, not quite sure if she was awake. His voice floated back in the sweltering heat.

“Almost there, sweetheart. We’re almost there.”

From a distance, the city was all glass and steel and stone fortresses, surrounded by a moat of highways flowing with a steady stream of cars. But the magic peeled back as they approached, revealing a harsher reality. Shiny glass and reflective steel gave way to poor tenement housing and old, rickety train tracks. Rows of laundry on clotheslines flapped crazily in the wind like streamers, crisscrossing the space between the fatigued buildings, seeming to hold them together and keep them upright. But then she blinked, and for a moment she saw them as regal banners welcoming her, and the crooked antennae on the rooftops flanked them like regimental soldiers in glistening armour.

The highway landscape quickly began to repeat on itself too:

Houses, clotheslines, children, cars, cars.

She snuggled into her seat and watched the buildings pass.

Houses, clotheslines, children, cars, cars.

Bored, she picked up a storybook that was wedged between her leg and the car door.

It had been her mother’s book, wonderful, big and heavy, with a well–worn cardboard cover and chock–full of folktales and legends from places all over the world. Greek and Norse mythology, folktales from Asia and Africa, even ghost stories and fables. She had read it cover to cover a hundred times, until the spine was all wobbly and the pages faded with use and years of accumulated fingerprints and smudges. Her father smiled.

“Hey, that’s a great book! Want me to tell you how it ends, or do you want it to stay a surprise?”

Root Bound

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Genre - Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure

Rating – G (ages 10+)

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