Coming of Age Inspirational Adventure

The Sunday I first met the author I had my heart set on finding a Cowardly Lion. Sandy had her heart set on a Barbie “The Movie” Doll instead. On Sundays, after church, Sandy and I would run down to the Big Toy Store. But, this Sunday, Sandy kissed me on the lips. And this was where all the trouble started.

I was cast in the role of the Cowardly Lion in Mrs. Anderson’s school play based on The Wizard of Oz. After that incident at rehearsal where I froze up and forgot my lines, all I wanted to do was be courageous and not make a fool of myself—if I Only Had the Nerve. I only had a few dozen lines, but that wasn’t the problem. The problem was everyone staring at me quietly with those big expectant eyes waiting for me to deliver them. The thought of freezing up again had me scared to death.

If I could find the Cowardly Lion, I knew it would help me to get into character. Somehow, I knew if I had that figurine, I could pull it off and make Mrs. Anderson proud. You see, it is funny if the Cowardly Lion gets frightened by his own shadow and jumps or if he says “put ‘em up, put ‘em up… I’ll fight you with one paw tied behind my back… I’ll fight you standing on one foot” but then runs away or if he’s scared of a little mouse and cowers by the side of the road. But it isn’t funny at all if the Cowardly Lion just stands there frozen, like I had on Friday’s rehearsal, like a dumb mute, and if everyone laughs at him. That isn’t funny—it’s pathetic. Anyway, like I was telling you, there were no Cowardly Lions at the Big Toy Store on Sunday, just Barbie and Ken dolls as far as the eye could see.

Sandy was wearing a pink checkered skirt suit and strap top with a pink seashell necklace like Margot Robbie wore in the movie. She was also wearing make-up, especially lip gloss. She had become obsessed with lip gloss and was always asking her aunt Mariah to get her some when she went out. She would use up a whole bottle in just a few hours. I don’t know what she did with it. Maybe she was drinking the stuff.

When we were standing outside the store before heading home, Sandy was very excited, because she had found her toy. I had not. She pulled it out of the bag and looked up at me pointing at the doll, and said, “you know that Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling never kissed in the movie? Right?”

“I didn’t know that—I haven’t seen it.”

“Girlfriends and boyfriends have to kiss. That is what makes them a real couple.”

“Ohh,” I said. It seemed logical enough. What did I know about it? I was eleven. Sandy was standing there staring up at me with a weird look on her face.

Sandy grabbed me by the straps of my backpack and kissed me full on the lips, making a little mwah noise as our lips smacked. She giggled after and re-applied some lip gloss. Then after pursing her lips, her mouth broke out into a huge smile, and she went running down the road ahead of me skipping and giggling. And calling back, she said, “hurry up, silly.” I’m not going to lie, I was excited and afraid at the same time—I didn’t know what to make of it.

That was when I met the author.

“Psssttt—over here.” It was a girl’s voice. Not like any voice I had ever heard before. It was loud. Like the voices of the characters in a movie theater. It stopped me in my tracks. I looked around to see if anyone else had heard it. But the stroller moms and the teenagers by the 7-11 were all carrying on like normal. Sandy was halfway up the block, still skipping and giggling.

“Yeah, you Simon. I’m over here. Come down the alley.”

I looked around the corner of the alleyway but didn’t see anyone down there.

“That’s it, come down here and I’ll tell you what to do.”

I started walking down the alley, but I was feeling scared. I was feeling like I had in rehearsal with Mrs. Anderson when I forgot my lines, and everyone was talking at me and laughing. It had felt like the feeling of being trapped in a nightmare and unable to wake up. But there was a touch of something else—something that heightened my senses—a feeling that made me feel braver and that made me want to go on and find out what was happening. But, I couldn’t help thinking—what if it’s a trap? What if something really bad happens?

“You’ll have to come to the end of the alley. That’s it. Now you see that brick wall? The one with the ivy on it? Go ahead, just walk right through.”

I did as the voice said. I was bracing for a goose egg on my forehead, but I decided to be brave and try to keep my nerve. And you won’t believe it, I went right through the wall!

I was standing on a keyboard of a computer, staring up at a strange looking girl, high school age. But she was enormous. Ten times the size of Sandy and me. She was wearing shiny clothes made of silks and jacquard brocade with silver and golden threads. Her caramel skin and dark features looked like no one I had ever seen. And there was a shimmering glow coming off her skin. The light of the whole room was like that, filled with a hint of glittering stardust, like the flakes that float in light beams. I was in her bedroom. But the colors and everything were richer. There were colors I’d never seen in my world.

“You’ve been a bad Simon,” she said. “I don’t like what you are up to with Sandy. I don’t like it one bit. No more kissy face with Sandy, you hear me?”

“Ughh. That. Eww. That wasn’t my idea.”

“Well, no more of that, you hear? Promise me.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Jiselle, silly. I’m the author. You are in my story.”

“Where are we?”

“In my room.”

“So, I’m a character? Like in Mrs. Anderson’s play? I’m not a real boy?”

“That’s right Simon. And bad things happen when characters start getting crazy ideas in their heads and don’t listen to their author.”

“This doesn’t make any sense. If I’m a character… if you created our world… then we could only do what you tell us, right? You can make me do whatever you want.”

“Well Simon, it isn’t that simple. Those are not the rules. You see, I made this story for my little brother Leonard—the whole story is for him. He’s in a school play himself. Can you guess which one? And I made Sandy to be your playmate. But, ever since that cornball movie came out, Sandy has been getting all kinds of ideas. She runs around singing, Come on Barbie, Let’s Go Party all day long like a broken record. It’s exhausting. You really have to watch out for Sandy, she’s up to no good. And Warner Brothers is the one that’s at fault, if you ask me. Someone should file a class action lawsuit against these people—it is like a plastic, spray-tanned, pheromone parade for these girls.”

“I didn’t really like it when she kissed me, but it isn’t that weird. There are kids in our class that fool around. It isn’t like we are children or anything.”

“Well, I’m jealous and I don’t like it. You are my character. Not Sandy’s.” 

“I just really want to do well in the play. It’s like, I’m afraid what people will think. I don’t know why, really. And I just need something to do it for, you know? Like something I can focus on instead of focusing on the fear.”

“What are you afraid of?”

“That’s the thing—I don’t really know—everything, I guess. Like I’m afraid something bad will happen and I just keep thinking of everything that could go wrong or what people will think and it makes me feel like a statue—like I can’t move at all.”

“Well, this business with Sandy can’t help things. You are the protagonist. Not Sandy. Plus, I don’t want Leonard getting any bright ideas, you know? He’ll be making googly eyes at some girl and school, and it will lead to no good. He’s too young and innocent for that sort of thing. The poor kid will get his heart broken.”

“But wait. If you are the author—if this is all in your imagination—then why can’t you just write and make Sandy stop?”

“You are so dense. It doesn’t work like that. It’s like God, right. God made us. But he doesn’t tell us what to do. He gives us dreams and desires and makes us who we are, and sure, there’s a script, and he puts obstacles in our path. But that’s it. Then we have to decide what to do. I made Sandy to be your playmate. She’s supposed to tag along. I made her to want a friend, since her parents are divorcing, and she feels lonely a lot of the time. And I put caring and protective traits into you, so you’d befriend her and watch over her. So she wouldn’t have to endure all that trauma alone. But I didn’t tell either one of you what to do or how to feel. And this Barbie has got into Sandy’s head and now she thinks she wants her playmate to be her boyfriend and God forbid, live in one of those horrid pink Barbie’s dreamhouses. You see. It is a disaster.”

“So, what do I get if I do as you say?”

“You want to have the courage to pull off your lines at the play don’t you?”

“More than anything.”

“Well there, that settles it. I can make that happen. I can make you kill it on stage and have the entire audience eating out of your hand.”

“Hmmm—I don’t believe you. You just told me you can’t make Sandy do what you want or feel how you want. How are you going to make me, then? What if I still get stage fright—what if I make a terrible fool of myself--”

“You little brat! All you think of is yourself. I made you. Remember. I am the author. I have more than a few tricks up my sleeve. You don’t have to worry about how I ply my craft. If I say it’s done, it’s done.”

“But how can I believe you?”

“Put me to the test.”

“Ok. I’m going back to the alley. And then I am going back to the Big Toy Store. When I get there, make sure there is a Cowardly Lion figurine on the shelf for me—with the Badge of Courage and everything—and a full size medal I can wear with my costume—all in the box.”

“Done and done.”

* * *

There it was on the shelf, gleaming like the golden ticket. The figurine was perfect. It had the green crown, the lion’s mane, the upturned eyebrows, the whiskers, and the badge of courage. She did it! I ran out of the store and bumped right into Sandy. She pursed her lips, and I put a hand out to stop her.

“Hold it, hold it—none of that.”

“But what’s wrong Simon?”

“No, it’s nothing. Hey. Did you ever get the idea like maybe we are characters, like in Mrs. Anderson’s play and someone else is writing all of this.”

“That is the most ludicrous thing I have ever heard. If you don’t like me Simon, just say so. Don’t change the subject and go on talking crazy. You are the worst!” Sandy’s eyes were wet with tears and she went running back down the road, leaving me with my prize—the Cowardly Lion—but this time there was no skipping or giggling—she ran fast and hard all the way home.

“Psssttt, over here.”

Moments later, I was back standing on Jiselle’s laptop.

“You told her? You TOLD HER!”

“What did you expect me to do, she is my friend. It isn’t polite to lie to people. Don’t be so but hurt. She didn’t even believe me.”

“That wasn’t part of our deal.”

“Well, then, take back the deal if you want. You haven’t proven anything yet. So, you can make a figurine appear in a toy store. Big whoop. Amazon can make one appear at my door. And they don’t claim to be some author-person who controls the world. You yourself said you can’t make the characters actually do what you want. Some author you are. You’ve got to prove to me that you can actually influence real events—you’ve got to make Sandy stop liking me—stop liking me like a boyfriend.”

“I can’t… well, maybe, maybe… I don’t know. I’ll try. Let’s see what happens.”

“What is this place anyway?”

“It is a world of creators. Everyone here works, but instead of real jobs, we all work on inventing new worlds. I’m a writer. Then there are thespians like Leo. And there are filmmakers, musicians, painters, sculptors, and every possible kind of artist you can think of. Some of my favorite are the glassblowers and the other artisans. They create some of the most wonderful things of all.”

“Well, what happens if you die? Or if you get sick? You know. What happens to my world then?”

“Oh, don’t be a worry wart. It would just go right on as if nothing happened at all. That’s the problem, you see—created things can never be uncreated—that is why one must be so careful when giving life to a new world.”

“Like, you don’t want to make a place that people wouldn’t want to live in, right?”


“I get it. Well, good job on that. I mean, our world is pretty great and all. Keep up the good work.”

* * *

“Let’s start the Haunted Forest scene again. Flying monkeys are coming in. Take your spots everyone. Get your lines ready! Action!” Mrs. Anderson said.

The blue faced winged monkey props are dropped down by some stage grips and I take my place, but I notice that Sandy is still sore from earlier in the day and won’t look at me. As six kids dressed in winged monkey costumes come out, one each to restrain me, Tin Man, and Scarecrow, the other three whisk Sandy away, hoisting her a few feet off the ground with pulleys and taking her off stage. And I feel bad.

“Cut,” Mrs. Anderson says.

Later, while resetting for the next scene, I go and talk to Sandy. “Hey, I’m sorry for what happened before—if I upset you.”

She is applying lip gloss in a little stage mirror in the back and pretending not to be terribly interested in what I have to say.

“You’re just like Ken in the Barbie Movie. You’re a big traitor. A coward!” she says, turning to me with a look that says she means it. Then she says, with unexpected kindness, “I hope you do well with your lines an all.” But she follows it up with, “Now skat. I can’t even look at you.”

“I’m really sorry Sandy,” I say and I walk away.

“Psssttt, psssttt over here in the prop closet.”

“Yeah, what do you want now?”

“I did it. You see. She’s done with you.”

“Some hero you are.”

“Why are you upset? Our plan is working.”

“I feel bad for Sandy. You know, she is rooting for me to remember my lines—she didn’t have to do that.”

“You feel bad. I thought all you cared about was your big theatrical debut. Killing it with your lines. Remember?”

“I don’t think we should talk anymore,” I told her, crossing my arms for effect.

“You little ingrate. I hope you bomb the opening.”

And that was the last time I heard from Jiselle. I don’t know if she died or moved. Maybe she did, but things just kept on going. I was leaning toward her laptop broke and she couldn’t write out stories anymore, so the stories just had to write themselves. I’m not an expert or anything, but it might be something like that. I never had the feeling after that like someone else was telling me what to do at least—I can tell you that for sure. Except for Sandy, of course. There was no end to her bossing me around.

* * *

I walked up to Sandy in the dressing area. She was still applying lip gloss and looking at herself in the mirror, even though we were done for the day.

“You want to get out of here—go get some snacks and do something?” I asked.

“You sure?” she said, looking up at me.

“Yeah, it’ll be fun. Whatever you want to do. I’ve been a jerk.”

“Whatever I want to do! Re-aal-llly!” she said, and I immediately regretted saying it.

She jumped up and said, “this is going to be so great, so, so great! We are going to play with my new dolls. I’ll be Barbie. You’ll be Ken. Come on Barbie, Let’s Go Party!!

She was incorrigible. Just bonkers. But she was my friend. 

The strangest thing was that I completely forgot about my stage fright after that and it never came back, not once, to this very day. I just remember the ones I don’t want to let down—like Sandy—and do it for them.

July 23, 2023 17:37

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


Mary Bendickson
18:12 Jul 29, 2023

Very creative. Nice take on your inspiration. Welcome to Reedsy.


Show 0 replies
Jonathan Page
16:44 Jul 29, 2023

I got inspiration for this story from the novel "The Indian in the Cupboard" by Lynne Reid Banks. I remember reading that story as a boy and being engrossed in the friendship between the protagonist Omri and the Iroquois Indian--Chief Little Bear. There is a bit of character reversal in that tale, as Little Bear initially imagines that Omri is a god, but quickly learns he is only an ordinary, but giant boy and commences bossing him around and controlling the narrative. There is a turn in the story when Omri's friend Patrick gets him a cow...


Show 0 replies
Mike Panasitti
21:45 Aug 03, 2023

Very creative. I'm not sure I've read this sort of story within a story before - where characters interact with another character who is the author of the nested narrative. Well done, and welcome.


Jonathan Page
17:49 Aug 17, 2023

Thanks Mike!


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.