The casket was lowered slowly and I wiped away the last of my little tears.
I can’t believe grandma was gone. It seemed like just yesterday when she sped into town on her little red scooter and brought scones and strawberry jam for me, mama and papa. She was wearing her hiking boots. I remember those boots. They were red with yellow laces and the thick spiky heels. Whenever she wore them we all knew she had been for her breathing walk. That’s what she called it. She liked to take solitary walks in the woods with nothing but her walking stick. Dad warned her about the bears and bobcats. It’s not that grandma didn’t listen. It’s just that she always seemed to know something the rest of us didn’t.
It all started ten years ago when grandma went on a 13 day tour of Delhi in India. She took a plane to Varanasi to witness the worship of Ganga Aarti. She took a boat to see some meditation rituals along the river. She even took a bus to see the old abandoned city of Sikri. She was an adventurer unlike me. I was turning 16 in the fall of this year and nothing remarkable had ever happened in my life.
Since then grandma has been to Egypt, Morocco, Denmark and Rome. She really liked Rome so she went twice. She always came back with the most amazing stories. She would always have the nicest trinkets for me. I cherished these. I knew I didn’t have what it took to be an adventurer but I secretly dreamed. Grand ma gave me that hope.
I honestly don’t know what came over grandma. She was always so reserved before that. When I was a small child, grandma used to hobble on her cane. She made flat tasteless scones that we all packed to carry home for later. She listened to music from a hundred years ago and she pretty watch wobbled around in her garden every day. She seldom spoke and I was always afraid to be left alone with her. She was like a shell of a person back then.
Today, we buried grandma. I always thought it would be her arthritis that would take her but in the end we just found her in her bed with a peaceful smile on her face. Beside her bed was a long letter. Dad said it was a kind of a Will. But how did grandma know she was going to die? What is death anyway? Grandma was the most lively person that I knew. Two years ago when I broke my leg, grandma visited me every weekend that she was not travelling and pushed me around in my wheelchair. She said I was a pirate ship and she was going to wheel me to new treasure. She was like that.
The casket was finally lowered. The final flowers were cast in. It was time to go.
I stood at my door and looked at the red and yellow box on my bed. It was the thing that grandma had left to me in her letter. I hadn’t the nerve to go through the box yet. The loss of grandma was still stinging my heart. No more pajama parties with her in this very room. She used to flick the flash light on and off under the sheet tent while she told scary gory stories. I would get so scared that I spilled my popcorn all over the tent.
But something was calling to me in that box, or at least that’s how it felt. I took a step forward and hesitated. What was in the box? I wanted to know but…
I sucked in a chest full of air and pressed myself forward. The box contained a number of items jumbled up. There were some papers with writing on it. I guessed they were letters of some sort. Then there were a few trinkets. I had never seen these before. They must have been from grandma’s trips. Then I found something peculiar at the bottom of the box. It looked like a small statue of a man. He had a bulging stomach and his hands were in a prayerful position below his shin. His head was tilted down like in prayer . I picked it up and looked it over in my hands. It was by far the most interesting thing in the box. There was something about it. There seemed to be a crown on the little statue head with a jewel of some sort. The jewel was the only part that seemed dusty. I started to rub it and something happened.
A red spark of light shot out from the jewel. I jumped back and dropped the statue back into the box. I shook myself intensely. Before I could decide whether to pick up the statue again, I heard mom’s voice.
“Time for dinner Joey. Come down.” My room was in the attic loft. I made my way slowly down.
“What was that flash of light?” I couldn’t seem to get it out of my head.
There were guests still hanging around the house. I could swear they were here for the free food. How people could eat after a funeral baffled me but that was just one one of those things about old people. But not grandma. She had gray hair but she wasn’t old…not anymore. It’s strange but it’s true. Grandma used to be old and back then I didn’t like her much. But grandma got young again. She really did. Sometimes I thought she was even younger than me.
Last spring grandma and I did something extraordinary. We planted a flower patch. It wasn’t just a patch. I think it was bigger than the whole Parley High School football field. How could one person, or two do it? That’s just what Grandma can do. It wasn’t the size of the field. I couldn’t guess that we could plant a whole field of flowers. It was the way we planted every day.
Every day we planted two new varieties. Grandma taught me about dandelions, chrysanthemums, Nasturtiums and Violas. I asked her why we planted two types each day. “One represents me and the other represents you J.” I smiled. “Well how come we don’t just plant them all in one day?” I asked her. Grandma laughed. “There is only so much we can plant each day J. Then we can watch those things grow. Because we planted daily, we can see them blossom over time. That makes life pretty.” Then she would smile up at the sky.
“I don’t understand Grandma. Won’t they all die anyway?”
Grandma laughed again. She was the only one who ever laughed at me in a friendly way.
“Yes my dear. They will. But between the time they begin to grow in the soil to the time they die and return to the soil, they will blossom and radiate their glory to the world.”
I didn’t get it then but maybe now I do. Grandma was always saying stuff that I didn’t quite understand but it always felt good to hear her say it. She was like the flowers in that field. She blossomed and radiated her glory to the world. I was glad to have been a part of that.
“Do you want chicken or beef honey?” Mom was standing with a plate in her hand ready to dish up something from the array of food on the dining table.
I was shaken from my daze. Food was the last thing I wanted.
“Mom, do you know about the stuff in the box grandma left for me?”
“No honey. She just mentioned in her letter that it was important for you to have it.”
“Well, I just saw…” I started but didn’t get to finish.
More neighbors approached the table and mom tried to assist them.
Oh how I wished grandma was here. She always listened. I turned and ran back upstairs.
“Joey...” mom called after me.
I slammed my door and locked it.
“I hate you all! Greedy neighbors, stupid mom- you never listen when am talking! I hate you All!”
The tears came in droves. I couldn’t stop them. I wailed and wailed. I screamed and I shouted. There was no holding back. My switch was flipped.
I don’t know how long I slept for. I don’t know when I fell asleep. The lights were still on and I stared into the glow until I couldn’t see anymore. Then I closed my eyes again.
There was a bright red flash of light in the room. I saw it clearly. I really did. My eyes were closed but I saw that red flash of light. My eyes flew open and I looked around the room startled. It was bathed in a red glow and I could see the source. The light was coming from the box that was now at the foot of my bed.
I should have been scared but I wasn’t. The light was pulling me in. I reached for the box and opened it up. I was engulfed in that bright red light. It was so much light that I had to cover my face. I sat like that on the floor beside the box for a long time.
Soon I could feel something different. The red glow was gone but there was a warmth around me. I lowered my arms slowly and then opened one eye and then the other.
I wasn’t in my room anymore.
I was in a forest. The trees were tall above my heads. They looked like the type of trees we used for Christmas. The ground had a light frost on it and patches of green shrubbery. I stood up and looked around. There was no one there. It didn’t occur to me to panic yet.
“So, you’re finally here.” A voice said.
I whipped around looking for someone.
There was no one.
“I’ve been waiting for you.”
I whipped around again. Now panic was setting in.
“ha ha…Don’t get your neck in a kinky twist. I’m up here.” The voice said.
I looked up. Then I saw him…or it.
Sitting on a low branch of a Christmas tree was a large white owl having a thick gray streak over his right brow. He looked at me and I looked at him.
“Hi Joey. It’s nice to meet you.” He said warmly.
I tried to talk but no words came out.
“Oh this?” He said pointing to the gray streak over his brow. “I was born with it. Nothing I could do about it so I just live with it.”
I tried moving my mouth to get some words out. Nothing.
The owl looked at me questioningly. Then he looked himself up and down. Then he looked at me with a more puzzled look.
The owl was still looking at me puzzled. He scratched his gray patch brow.
“You….you can talk!” I finally said.
The owl stopped scratching his brow and looked at me dumbfounded. “That’s what you’re all chocked up about? The fact that I can talk? You do see that I’m Owl don’t you? And not just any owl. I am Majestic Owl.” His voice went up an octave on the last part.
“Well we don’t have much time so you’ll just have to get over your shock quickly.” The owl said.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“Haven’t you been paying attention. I am Owl and you are Joey. Is that…Is it clear now?” Owl asked.
I nodded almost automatically.
“Good. Well, we don’t have much time. You are late already. Grandma said you would have been here several hours ago and you did trigger the door…but for some reason you did not ….”
“Wait, you mean my Grandma. You know my Grandma?” I was shocked and excited.
“Well of course I do Joey. That’s why you’re here. She passed the gift onto you.”
“What gift? Where is Grandma?
“The gift, though gifted to you, can only be passed on if you pass the test. And as for grandma, she passed and flew with so many colors that she has gone on to another dimension to share her radiance.”
“Dimension?” I asked puzzled.
“Oh you will learn soon enough. These dimensions are like other worlds similar to yours but very different from yours. There are many more dimensions than the one you are from.” Owl said.
“Will I get to see Grandma again?” I asked urgently.
Owl looked at me almost as intently as I was looking at him. “Joey that’s going to be up to you. Grandma is a very special person. If you prove to have the same qualities as her, there is nothing that will be impossible for you.”
“What do I have to do?” I asked.
“You have to pass three quests Joey. You are late coming and so you only have until the dawn hours arrive in your world.”
“How long is that?”
“It’s three hours Joey.”
“I’m ready!” I said. I was determined to make grandma proud.
“There are three situations that will be placed here before you. You must decide what to do in each. In the end you must explain why you did what you did.”
I looked down at my hands and my feet. ‘A quest? I wasn’t particularly good at anything…’
I looked up in the Christmas tree to tell Owl…but he was gone.
I looked behind me and then all around. “Owl?” I whispered.I cupped my hands around my mouth, “Owl!!” I shouted. There was no answer but I disturbed a few small birds that I now saw fluttering away in the air.
The panic feeling was returning.
I started to run. I didn’t know where to but I had to. Soon I was coming clear of the forest and a beautiful meadow was in front of me and all around. I ran into the sunshine. It felt warm. Then I looked down. I was running through a strawberry patch.
I stopped running. Grandma loved strawberries. I picked one up and tasted it. The sweetness exploded in my mouth and I thought of strawberry jam grandma used to make. Suddenly I started picking strawberries like a mad person. I stuffed them in my pockets and filled my shirt tail. I looked up to see how large the patch ran. Then I saw it in the distance. There was a cottage.
It looked like grandma’s house. I ran up to the cottage and pushed the door in. It opened easily. It was warm and cozy just like Grandma’s. In the kitchen I found a table and lots of jars. I pressed the strawberries in a bowl like grandma used to and I filled the jars. Soon I had three beautiful jam jars. I smiled.
I walked out behind the cottage. There I saw two rows of freshly turned earth. There was a box of seeds nearby and I couldn’t help but look through it. There were nasturtiums and Violas like the ones grandma loved. I chose those two and began pressing seeds into the warm earth. No sooner had I pressed the seeds in did they start to grow. It was nice. I smiled.
I started to head back to the woods. Perhaps I could find Owl. That’ when I saw him. It was a brown floppy eared dog. He was moaning and licking his paw. I ran up to him and patted his head. He seemed friendly but he was so thin and sad looking. I wandered if he might like some Jam. The brown dog licked my hand but continued to moan. “I see. You hurt your paw didn’t you?” I asked him. I looked around quickly for a piece of wood. I found one at the back of the cottage along with a small red wagon with a yellow pull handle. I took both. I ripped my shirt tail and used it to secure the dog’s paw to the piece of wood. Then I gently placed Browny in the wagon. He cooed but seemed to trust what I was doing. I pulled him along. We both smiled.
Suddenly I was back in the forest.
“You are a special one.” I heard Owl say.
I looked up and he was back in the Christmas tree.
“How…?” I started to ask.
“I would like to ask you…” Owl cut me off. “…why did you smile after you made the jam?”
At first I was surprised at his question. Then I remembered.
“It was because I had something to share with mama and papa. It was something grandma did that made us all happy.
“You came across two rows of earth and planted in both rows. Why not just one?”
“Planting in one row was going to be just that…one row. But planting in both was creating a field. It would give more glory.” I said.
“Hmm….” Owl nodded again.
“You were on your way back to the forest and met a distraction. Why did you stop?”
“How could I leave him there? He was hurt but he was so unhappy too. Maybe it was just a chance that was in that moment to give him a little joy that he could treasure.”
Owl nodded again.
“But how do I get back home Owl? When does the test start? And are you going to disappear on me again?”
Owl laughed long and deep.
“My dear Joey. Like your grandma before you, you Indeed have what your world needs and other dimensions will benefit from. Welcome to the secret of the ages. You will go on many great adventures and from this time forth, you will begin to see even your world for all the majesty and glory it holds. You will be the radiance for someone else in your lifetime and because of you, they will find their light.”
Owl looked at me and I looked at Owl. We both smiled.
Now I knew grandma’s secret too.