Welcome to “The Fish in Jonah’s Puddle (To Say Nothing of the Demon).” This is a book I’m writing chapter-by-chapter on this blog, and you are on chapter six. (You can read the rest of it here.) Having said that, you do not have to read the earlier chapters to have a good time. You will have fun jumping in at any point.
Here’s a couple of characters to keep in mind: Jonah is a boy whose parents were eaten by a demon. He’s trying to get them back. Stuart is a talking salmon who popped into a puddle in Jonah’s backyard via an interdimensional rip. He’s guiding Jonah from his aquarium riding in Jonah’s red wagon. Humphrey is Jonah’s friend. He’s a troll with a bow tie. Calisto is also Jonah’s friend. She’s a harpy. And the last time we saw them all, Jonah had fallen down the wrong interdimensional puddle and seen a universe being born.
Here we go!
Jonah popped out of the puddle and nose-dived into the mud and grass, his arms and legs sprawling out to each side. The red wagon came down with a clang beside him, luckily on all four wheels. Stuart swam down towards gravity as the water around him leapt up to defy it. Groaning, Jonah climbed slowly to his feet, wiping mud and debris off himself as he stood. Then, almost as an afterthought, he finally pulled the goldfish bowl off his head with a pop.
“Jonah!” Humphrey cried, lumbering toward his friend. “Are you all right?”
“Why I should scratch out your eyes for a stunt like that!” Calisto yelled, fluttering up into the air. “Do you have any idea what you just put us through?”
Jonah only gasped in reply, trying to catch his breath.
“Well,” Stuart said, shaking his scaly skull. “That was definitely. . . an experience. Now I hope you see, though, why I told you to wear a goldfish bowl. And why I said we had to be exceedingly careful where we stepped –”
“That. . . was. . . AWESOME!” Jonah said, grinning wildly as he bounced up and down. “Let’s do it again!” Jonah whipped around, his legs coiling for the spring back into the puddle.
“No, no!” Stuart said. “The other puddle, Jonah! The other puddle! At least it leads into an actual world!”
Jonah sighed. “Oh, fine.” Looking back, he saw that Humphrey’s monstrous hand was only inches away from his collar. As he stared it down, though, Humphrey slowly lowered it again.
“Shall we then?” Humphrey rumbled.
“Sheesh, Humphrey, I wasn’t really gonna do it,” Jonah muttered. Then he grabbed the handle on Stuart’s wagon and pulled it over to a nearby puddle. He stopped. “Is this the right one?”
“That would be the one,” Stuart said, only a little exasperatedly.
“If you daren’t mind me asking,” Humphrey said, “Where precisely will this particular portal deposit us?”
“We are going to see a dear friend of mine to seek advice,” Stuart said. “In fact, it was her I was calling on directly before I was sucked over to this world. Her name is Ms. Finch, and I believe she can help us.”
“Ms. Finch?” Calisto said. She licked her lips. “That sounds almost as delicious as fresh salmon.”
Jonah snapped a scowl back at Calisto. “Sounds good, Stuart. I’m sure we’ll all be on our best behavior when we meet your friend.”
“What did I do?” Calisto said. “You eat chicken: what’s the difference? Finch, chicken, they’re all birds.”
Stuart sighed. “Are you certain she should come with us?” he whispered to Jonah.
“I have excellent hearing!” Calisto growled.
“Calisto is my friend,” Jonah said. “I want her to come. And she won’t eat Ms. Finch. Right, Calisto?”
“Fine,” said Stuart and Calisto.
“Well let’s proceed,” Stuart said. “There’s a demon we have to stop.”
“Lead the way,” Humphrey said.
Jonah jumped into the puddle, and pulled Stuart along with him.
* * *
The four travelers popped out into a cozy, mildly moist sitting room. A soft tinkling chime sounded as they emerged, but that almost seemed an organic addition to the room they now found themselves in. Jonah blinked. After the last dimension he’d visited, this was certainly different.
“Hmm,” said Humphrey. “Lovely!”
The furniture was doused in floral print and cozy white. There were splashes of warm cherry wood smeared across the floor and up the arms of the chairs, and a magnificent grandfather clock stood at attention against the far wall. The room would have looked right at home in everyone’s favorite grandmother’s house.
“Oh, Stuart!” a voice cried. “You’ve returned! And you brought company!”
Everyone turned toward the voice. Calisto and Jonah cocked their heads.
“That. . . is not what I was expecting,” Calisto mused.
Ms. Finch was just under six feet tall. She was wearing a yellow floral apron over a white sundress. Her skin was a lovely light purplish brownish grey, and her head was an octopus.
“Hello, Loretta!” Stuart said. “It is absolutely wonderful to see you again! I am sorry to say, though, that we haven’t come calling for conversation. We have a rather pressing situation to attend to that I was hoping you might help us with.”
“Oh, you don’t say!” said Ms. Finch, the beak under her tentacles clacking softly. “Well have a seat, all of you. I will return presently with refreshment.” Then, turning, she disappeared again.
Jonah rolled the aquarium carefully over the throw rug while Humphrey took a seat in a ponderous arm chair and Calisto fluttered up onto a couch. Stuart cleared his throat.
“Jonah, if you look to your left you will see a pond with a waterfall,” Stuart said. “Would you mind terribly putting me in there?”
Jonah looked to the left. Sure enough, not far from the puddle they had come through was a pond in a vast white granite bowl, a fountain gently pouring into its depths. “Oh, sure, Stuart.” He pulled the wagon over to the basin, then, gingerly picked up his friend and set him in the water.
“Ah, exceptional!” Stuart exclaimed, taking a minute to stretch his fins with a quick flit around the pond. “That aquarium was starting to cramp up my tail!”
Jonah looked down into the pond, and realized it didn’t end at the floor where he had expected. It was incredibly deep, almost like it was actually the mouth of an underwater cavern. Or a world unto itself.
“Refreshments!” Ms. Finch called, her voice lilting across the room. “First tea, and then cakes!” She handed a sizable cup and saucer to Humphrey, saying, “Here you are, tall, dark and handsome.” She winked, and the green of Humphrey’s cheeks darkened three shades. Humphrey muttered his thanks, shifting in his chair as he raised the cup and took a sip.
Ms. Finch chuckled and turned to Calisto. She offered her a bowl of tea. “I thought this might be more to your liking,” she said, setting it on a side-table.
“Why thank you,” Calisto said. “That is. . . very thoughtful.” She cleared her throat, which made Jonah smile. Calisto was clearly feeling awful about having discussed eating Ms. Finch mere minutes before.
Finally she handed a regular cup and saucer to Jonah, and placed a cup with a fantastically curved glass straw on a lily pad beside Stuart. Both thanked her profusely, and with a warm “you’re welcome” she walked over to another armchair and sank deep into it with her own cup of tea.
“Now,” she said. “To business. What brings you all to my sitting room today? Tell me everything, Stuart. After the last time you were sucked away I was left with the deepest sense of dread and amazement.”
Stuart started by introducing them all, and then he set about telling their story. As he did Jonah took a tentative sip of his tea.
It was absolutely delicious. His eyes widening, Jonah chugged the rest.
Ms. Finch chuckled. “There is more in the pot, dear.” Jonah didn’t have to be told twice.
“. . . And so at the last we came here, seeking your counsel,” Stuart said.
“My,” said Ms. Finch. “That is a grave situation indeed. You have my deepest condolences, Jonah.”
“Thank you,” Jonah murmured.
“Hmm,” she said. Her wide, circular eyes narrowed in thought. Then they closed.
“I didn’t think octopuses had eyelids,” Jonah whispered.
“Well she’s not an octopus, now is she?” Stuart replied. “She is, however, a very adept prophetess.”
“I see something, Stuart,” she said.
“What is it, Loretta?”
Ms. Finch’s eyes opened again. “Toy Land.”
That’s it for now! Thanks for reading, and be sure to share it if you liked it!
Also, my new book “The Complete Cancer Diaries” is now available at Amazon. You can get a copy right here. Have a great week! =)