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Sunshine and Daisies

Copyright Michael Rains 2009

Betwixt the burning sun so high


And silent depths of earth below,
That's where little daisies grow.

CHAPTER ONE - "A Chapter of the Story."

This story is true. Really!! It's about true things!! Well you'll see what I
mean.

I guess I should tell you about Sunny Mary. Well first of all she lives next
to Ponygirl's ranch. I'm not sure how big her ranch is. I think it ends at the
scientific station, where she keeps some of her pajamas in case you have to stay
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over for the night like I did. If this doesn't make any sense to you, that's okay!!!
Just keep reading anyways because it's a nice story.

It all started when I was on vacation as a kid. We went on a car trip to


some hills that were covered with wild, brushy grass. I was walking over the
hills, in a straight line because I didn't want to get lost. I was very bored as you
can imagine. Eventually I came to an old burned down house with rusty bean
cans and stuff. But you can only watch rusty bean cans for so long before the
wind starts to get to you. So I went, on over another hill, and there it was. A big
crevice full of tumbleweeds.
I looked off into the mountains, and there was what looked like an
official-type government building or something. I was very bored at this point,
so I decided that jumping into a crevice of spiky tumbleweeds and trying to get
to a distant building was the only logical choice to make!!! It was either that or
go back and watch the pretty hills and eat lowfat cheese.
I looked down into the crevice. It wasn't very deep at all, and I could
probably stomp through quickly, I thought. I was wrong. I jumped down, and
soon I was up to my waist in tumbleweeds and bushes until I couldn't move.
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Even worse, I couldn't possibly back up.


Looking up at the building, somehow I knew that if I got there, there
would be something very interesting inside. I knew that I would have to stay
the night, which I did, and I would have to borrow some pajamas, which
fortunately Ponygirl kept there just in case. But I didn't know yet that it would
be her pajamas, or that there was such a person as Ponygirl. What I also didn't
know was that I would have to borrow her toothbrush too, which was kind of
gross except that they dunked it in a jar of blue stuff first that made it taste
funny.
The pajamas had little hearts and horseshoes on them and she laughed
too much when she saw me wearing them I think, but I did feel sheepish. I still
remember looking out the huge windows that I had been looking at when I was
stuck in the tumbleweed crevice, looking down from up in the scientific station
at the dark hills that warbled with black windyness.

CHAPTER TWO - "The Second Chapter."

"I think Two is a nice number," Sunny Mary said once. I remember
when I first saw Sunny Mary. It was after the morning I was at Ponygirl's ranch.
After Ponygirl finished feeding her ponies and taking her morning ride, she said
that we should go visit a neighbor, which we did. I remember going up the
slanted street to Sunny Mary's house. It was a very bright, bright day, but the
sun didn't scorch at all, it only made you feel it had just come out the moment
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before. Sunny Mary's house was up at the top of the street, on the right side, at
number three and two halves. It had windows with shutters and looked just like
a dollhouse except that it was real.
Sunny Mary threw open the shutters at the top window just as we walked
by and smiled at us just like she always does. She had two long, sunny braids
and a freckled, dimply face.
"Hello!!" she said with glee. "Won't you come in? I just washed my face."

Sunny Mary sat at the table in her house and smiled at us. Her braids had
two new red bows on the ends of them, and she had just washed her face. For a
while she talked with Ponygirl about how her ponies were doing, and we all had
a cup of sherry. After a while she stood on the table because we weren't using
it, she said, and she liked standing on tables anyhow, she said. Ponygirl decided
she should have a turn, so she stood on the table and said that it was rather fun
after all, although she wouldn't have thought of it on her own. After that they
sat down again.
I looked out the window and then Sunny Mary looked at the wall. She
asked if I would like to have a try at the table, but I decided not to. Sunny Mary
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didn't get mad, but just smiled very quietly and said nothing at all.
I learned that the bushes were very nicely trimmed because of the
gardeners. They were chainsaw zombies from the netherworld. They had been
blown up because of bounty hunters who went there to steal things, but Sunny
Mary had found them and patiently, patiently stitched them back together, piece
by piece. They only trimmed the bushes at night when she was asleep, and they
already knew how to use a chainsaw. If you are wondering how Sunny Mary
found the zombies when they were rotting in bits in the netherworld, then that
is okay.
"They were all in little bits," she said cheerfully. "But I picked them up in
a basket and brought them home."

"They were awfully squishy, but I got my needle and thread and sewed
them back together."

I asked of course if I could see them, but she said they wouldn't come
out of the shed during the day of course. If you think Sunny Mary is a little
loopy, it's only because you haven't met her yet. She's just very kind.
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CHAPTER THREE - "In which the weasel appears in an offhand manner."

Every morning when Ponygirl wakes up, she braids her black hair and
has a bowl of porridge. Then she feeds the ponies carrots and sugar mash and
takes them for a morning ride before the sun is really up. Mostly she doesn't
wear a dress, only pants and a blue shirt.
Some days she goes down to the scientific station and sees how the
Instruments are doing. They have all kinds of little numbers on them, not too
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many or it would get confusing. I wasn't actually there that long during my visit,
I'm only telling you so you'll know.
I suppose you wonder what Ponygirl's ranch is like. Well imagine that
you were reading a story about it, and you could imagine it, with the sun just
rising up in the foggy distance between the hills and trees, and that on the other
side of the words, far, far away, it was there, as if you were listening through a
scratchy old radio speaker with the volume turned just too far to hear anything
more than a whisper. Mostly I don't think I need to write more about it,
because you already know what it would be like somehow, don't you?
I suppose you're wondering how I got out of the tumbleweed crevice,
aren't you? Well maybe I'll tell you later, but anyhow it's not important to the
rest of the story, and it doesn't add much to the excitement, to tell the truth.
But I promise I won't come in in the last page and say that I never got out after
all because this isn't that kind of a story.
I suppose you must be wondering also about Jack. I'm sure you didn't
even know until now that there was Jack in the story, but he's such a ragscattley
character I'm sure you've wondered about it without knowing it at some time or
the other.

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Well Jack and his wolves live in the woods by Ponygirl's ranch. Also
there's a weasel. The wolves are awfully terrible and the weasel is terribly clever,
but Jack is both. In fact he's so terrible and clever, that terribleness and
cleverness themselves can't face him, if that makes sense, so he isn't really
terrible and clever in the way you might think. If that makes sense. If it doesn't,
then that's okay because I'm sure you know what I mean.
The reason Jack and his wolves (and one weasel) live in the woods is
because... of a lot of things that would take time to explain. But mostly now
they patrol they borders of places like Ponygirl's ranch and keep the lords of
darkness away.
I think it's story time, so sit in a circle. Once there was a place kind of
like Ponygirl's ranch, only it wasn't a ranch and not as nice. Someone lived there
kind of like Ponygirl but not exactly. Then the lords of darkness came
wandering through the land, probably for about two miles to be exact, as the
weasel squirms. They were about three times as tall as any person, with long
horrible blackcloaks and shadows that went in every direction including up, and
terrible weapons that could knock over a tree.
The someone who was like Ponygirl and the others there didn't know
what to do. They weren't really ambitious. Mostly they hadn't ever even tried to
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tame a dog, much less anything bigger. But fortunately Jack was camping in the
woods in about the same place they were heading through.
Jack usually packs a nasty sawed-off shotgun, so when they came
stomping on his little campfire while he was trying to have a weenie roast he
sent them packing back to the stygian abyss as if they had just remembered an
urgent dental appointment. Jack was never one to dice words with strange
horrible things that tried to ruin his breakfast.

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CHAPTER FOUR - "A breathe of fresh air."

After my visit to the Scientific Station, and then a day at Ponygirl's ranch,
and the visit to Sunny Mary's house, they thought I should go home soon or my
parents might worry. So we went to the Scientific Station and decided to call
the Technologickers. Ponygirl put her braids behind her back and looked at the
crisp numbers on an Instrument. She turned a few knobs a little this way and
that. It wasn't as hard as you might think to understand what she was doing for
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some reason.
Soon they came. It was night by now, and Sunny Mary had to get back to
her house soon to check on the zombies and make sure they were cutting the
hedges correctly. For some reason they liked doing obtuse shapes instead of
rectangular.
Then the Technologickers were there. First there was a light from the
sky, like a bright airplane or something, and then it shimmered down to the
floor in the room through the skylight. It was like the dull, empty light of a gas
station, only there was a pure clearness to it that was otherworldly.
They stood there, one in the middle with a pair of yellow glasses on, and
one hand raised in a backwards-looking salute that was very respectful
somehow. He had a simple set of clothes - shirt, pants, jacket, but they looked
different, I couldn't tell why. There was a woman with a full uniform on the
left, and on the right another man with a similar uniform. I could tell they were
asking me to come.
So I stepped in among them, and then we were gone for a moment.
Then I was standing with them outside my house, and I went and rang the
front doorbell.
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But before the Technologickers came, I saw something at Sunny Mary's


house and asked her about it. It was a musicbox, a cheap purple leather box
that opened to a turning ballerina. The little tinny tune played, so happy and
sweet.
She said there was a sad story behind it. Now, if I was a proper author
trying to write a story with good character development, I would probably say
something here about how "her face was sad at the memory". But actually she
was still as happy when she said that it was a story about her and Ponygirl.
Perhaps I'll talk more about it later.

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CHAPTER FIVE - "Cat's eye."

After the Technologickers brought me home, I didn't hear anything from


my new friends. However the next Saturday my mom dragged me over to her
friend's house to help watch their kids. She looked after the baby, and I
watched the toddler. Mostly he sat in the sandbox in the backyard and tried to
find ways to pour sand on himself.
It was actually pretty boring and I wondered what everyone was doing
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right then. Probably Sunny Mary was standing on her table and giggling because
it was such fun.
Soon the toddler hit some kind of snag in the sandbox and began
grunting with frustration, trying to dig something out of the sand. I brushed the
sand away, trying to show him how to do it properly, and there was some kind
of old junk buried there. It looked like that thing that finds wallboards behind
the wall, with the two buttons on it. I figured it probably didn't work by now on
account of all the sand.
I pushed the buttons anyways. If you're bored enough you'll do anything.
Then I looked up and the Technologickers were there.

"Hey! I didn't know this thing would call you," I said.

"It doesn't," the middle one said. "It's just a wall stud finder. We just
picked up the frequency."

"Have you come here to take me back to the Scientific Station?" I asked.
That was a good guess. I had read about this stuff.
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"No. You should stay here for now. Someone needs to watch Jimmy,
right?"

"Oh," I said. "Well, we could take him along!!"

"Maybe when he's older," he said. "Right now we're just reminding you
to make sure Jimmy doesn't eat any marbles."

Then he held up a hand in the weird backwards salute.

"Eat marbles?"

"Right," he said. "Glory to the Highest," he continued.

"And glory to the Son," the other two said, saluting as well.

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They were gone, and I was left with Jimmy.

"Hey, no marbles," I said, taking a sandy cat's eye from his chubby
fingers.

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CHAPTER SIX - "After the fact."

If you were like me, you would expect that I would think my visit with
Ponygirl was strange. But when you're there at her ranch, it seems very normal.
In fact I didn't think of it that much during the rest of the week. I spent time in
my room and even went to my friend Chester's house. But nothing seemed that
different. I always thought that when those kind of things happened like in
books that it would change everything, that everything would be happy and
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magical forever, or at least I would be a different person who would suddenly


start standing up to the class bullies or whatever.
It was Easter vacation actually, and I only had a few days left. I would try
pressing random buttons on things, but nothing happened. I began to miss
Sunny Mary's house, even though all we did was drink Sherry. I wondered why
I would meet the Technologickers and then they would abandon me for no
reason. Something was very wrong. What was their purpose in showing up at
all?
But I still didn't know. I watched some cheesy reruns the night before
school was supposed to begin, but they weren't that interesting.

School was okay the first day back. I didn't pay attention as usual. It's not
that I'm a bad student, I just get B's and C's. I even tried drawing a picture of
Ponygirl's ranch but it didn't look the same at all. It just looked stupid, like a
regular place.

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CHAPTER SEVEN - "Dina's Happy House."

Do you know about Dina's Happy House? Probably not, because no one
else does either, really. But you should. Have you ever woken up in the
morning, and saw the sun shining through your window, and thought, "wow,
there must be a place just like that, only everything is just like that square of
light on the floor." Well Dina lives in a yellow house surrounded by beautiful
flowers. She has a white watering can, and every day she goes and waters all the
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flowers. You may ask, "How can she do it every day, because it's never night at
Dina's Happy House?" But she does anyways, and doesn't mind if you ask that
question. She waters the flowers every morning.
Dina is always happy, but she only got upset once. A salesman came to
the door selling cookies once, but she didn't want them and the salesman was a
bit rude in saying goodbye. She slammed the door in a huff and went to sit in
her favorite chair. But then she remembered she hadn't watered the flowers yet
that day, so she hummed a little tune and got the white watering can and forgot
all about it.
Actually her house used to be white, but then she had it painted. Some
people still think it's white, and they'll show you a painting of it, but it's actually
yellow now.
You may think that Dina is Sunny Mary's little sister, but she's not. Molly
May is. She's actually Sunny Mary's niece, and she's eight years old already. If
you want to buy a cake for her next birthday on May 1st, be sure to put a big
nine on it because she thinks that nine is very grown-up and sophisticated
indeed, and send it to 111 Bright Flower Lane.

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CHAPTER EIGHT - "The Family Tree."

As long as I'm bothering to tell you about Dina, I might as well explain
the rest of the family. As I said, Dina is Sunny Mary's niece, and Molly May is
Sunny Mary's little sister. Dolly Daymore is her older sister. Their cousin is
Alice Adams, but they all think that she's ridiculous and besides she lives on the
alien planet on the side of a mountain full of walkways and staircases. Mostly
they don't visit Alice Adams unless they have something to talk about, in which
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case they go there with the technologickers and then Alice Adams makes dark
green tea and they sit on a huge rug and they all talk for five hours like they
were best buddies.

I didn't find all this out until much later in my story though, but I'm just
telling you now in case I forget it later. I was still stuck at home in school,
wondering where the technologickers were.

The reason I wondered about the technologickers was that I didn't


understand their technology yet. It has to do with resonance. Let me explain.
If you take a frog out of a pond and put it in a tank, it will still keep
being a pond frog and hop around looking for bugs because it doesn't
understand that it's not in the pond anymore. You can even put it on a board
meeting table and it will still hop around looking for water and trying to catch a
bug because it thinks it's in a bigger pond.

The crummer was definitely out of time and place when it hid in Dina's
hall closet.
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CHAPTER NINE - "A visit from the closet."

The technologickers did come back, but not in the way I thought they
would. I thought that if I did badly on a test and stubbed my toe they would
come to encourage me but they didn't. Life was kind of slow after visiting
Sunny Mary's house, and I didn't laugh as much at the cheesy movies on late
night TV anymore. I tried looking out of my bedroom window and seeing if I
recognized part of the mountains so I could find it again, but I couldn't find any
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match.
I remembered how clean Sunny Mary's room was so I tried to get my
room clean also. She had a pink pillow cover but of course I wasn't going to get
one so I just straightened out my Batman pillow cover the best I could. I tried
putting all my junk in the closet but it got too full. It was hard work. Of course
Sunny Mary had cleaned her room dozens of times before it got as clean as it
was when I saw it, but I didn't know that.
I guess I was so restless that I actually flipped through some of my
textbooks and I must have learned something from it, because I got an A on all
my next tests.
Then I went home and pinned the tests on the wall and sat on my clean
bed. It was quiet in my room without all the mess, and I wished there was a way
to make it livelier. I went and got out my calculator and pressed some buttons
at random. The technologickers appeared then, kind of moseying out of my
closet in a very serious way.
"Hello. I see you use your closet more now." said the middle guy with
yellow glasses and a regular outfit. The others in their official uniforms said
nothing.
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"Hey, I've been waiting for you to show up," I said, not too unkindly. It
was hard to be mad at them when they were finally here.
"Actually we've been waiting for you. It's eleventy o'clock. We went here
but then it took you a while to get to us. I wondered when you would finish
cleaning your room."
As usual, their comments left me wondering but somehow I couldn't
argue.
The middle guy tilted his head behind his opaque yellow glasses, his
expression still calm.
"It wasn't going to be eleventy o'clock until you finished cleaning your
room, of course."
"So should we go to Sunny Mary's house again?" I asked, a bit more
eagerly than I wished.
The guy in the middle looked amused, even though his expression hadn't
changed.
"Later we will. At Twelve-ty o'clock. But keep up the good work. We'll
be needing your skills then."
And then they kind of moseyed back towards the closet door.
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"Wait? What kind of skills? What are you talking about?" I spurted out.
They turned and stood in a line. The middle guy gave the weird
backwards salute and they all stood still. A dull, otherworldly light came from
behind them, out of the closet.
"You know. Your skills." the middle one said.
They were gone.

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CHAPTER TEN - "My skills are needed."

I finally found out what skills the technologickers were talking about. For
the next few weeks I kept my room clean and flipped through my textbooks.
Sometimes I even read the whole page. It was hard to pay attention when I
knew the technologickers were coming back at twelve-ty o'clock, but I tried not
to get impatient. I wondered what kind of skills they wanted. Maybe I should
study karate, or learn code-breaking, I thought. I tried checking out some books
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from the school library but I wasn't very good at karate or cryptography, as I
learned it was called. At this rate they would never show up again.
I tried pressing the buttons on my calculator and sitting on my bed but I
just got some weird calculations going.
I went and got a snack and came back. The technologickers were there,
and the middle guy with yellow glasses was looking at a drawing on my wall. He
looked at me.
"That's a nice picture of Sunny Mary. You should show it to her."
I didn't think it was a good picture. It was basic and flat looking, and I
had penciled it ten times before getting it right. It showed her cheerful smile
and two braids with red bows on them sticking out of her head.
"It's a bit basic and flat looking, but you captured the essence well," He
said. "That's always very important for any kind of art."
"So are we going to Sunny Mary's house?" I asked.
"Actually we should meet up with Ponygirl at the Scientific Station
soon," he said. "She's pretty busy today."

They stood in the usual grouping and the clear light came edging through
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my window. I went and stood with them and then we were gone.

Ponygirl was looking at the Instruments, her black braids thrown behind
her back. She seemed in a hurried mood, although not tempermental at all.
"Hi," she said to me when we appeared, and then went back to looking
busily at the simple, crisp numbers.
She turned a knob a few clicks one way, and then turned and motioned
for us to follow her. We went down a side stairway that went down a few floors
to the ground level, and then walked to Ponygirl's ranch quickly. Once we
reached the front door of her house, she went off quickly on her own towards a
fenced area and the technologickers and I went inside.

It was still neat and clean inside. There were decorations with horses on
them in some places, and a table with a red checkered cloth over it. I followed
them down a hall and it led to a room. I assumed it was Ponygirl's room, even
though the bed was unmade and some pajamas were thrown across a chair.

"You know how to clean your room, right?" the middle guy said.
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"Um, yeah!!" I replied, mystified.

"Well Ponygirl has some urgent hoof splinters she needs to attend to
today, so it would be good if you could help keep things clean while she's
busy."

I realized that this was what they meant about my skills. Considering that
we had zapped across a hundred miles by alien technology, it seemed like a very
strange request, but I didn't argue.

They left, and I went to fold the pajamas. They had little hearts and
horseshoes on them and I recognized them as the ones I had borrowed before.
I folded them up and put them on the dresser, and made the bed. Also I picked
up some random things from the floor and tried to put them back as best as
possible. It wasn't that difficult, actually.

Afterwards we all had some cinnamon muffins with icing in the kitchen,
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and it was getting towards noon. Ponygirl came back in to get some things
once, but was gone quickly again.

"Thanks for your help," the middle guy said. "It meant a lot to Ponygirl."

I wanted to ask why their space-age technology couldn't zap everything


into place, but I didn't. Afterwards we went to Sunny Mary's house, and
although the climb up the hill on Sunburst Avenue was long, I never felt tired
or burned under the bright, bright sun. Sunny Mary opened the shutters at the
second story window, and smiled down at us cheerfully. She had little red bows
on her braids as usual, and her freckles shone brightly on her cheeks.

"Hello!" she said happily. "I just made us some more sherry."

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CHAPTER ELEVEN - "Because Sunny Mary likes eleven better than ten."

The technologickers left. Sunny Mary and I had some sherry, but she
didn't try to stand on the table. Then she sat and smiled for a while, but I didn't
feel like saying anything. Finally, she said, "Would you like to see the house?"

The rooms on the first floor were pretty straightforward. There was
tasteful, bright wainscoting in some rooms, and leafy green or yellow dot or
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blue or light red wallpaper on the walls. There was a spare bedroom with a
poofy bed and a window open to the sun, and something like a sitting room
with two chairs and a small table, and of course the kitchen where she kept the
sherry. Upstairs there was her room and a work room for making small things
and a purple bedroom with lavish purple curtains and a striking purple
wallpaper. She showed me the little cheap musicbox again, with the ballerina
and a tinny tune. Ordinarily, I might say, "now what?" because there were no
more rooms to look at, but I didn't think of it then. It didn't matter somehow.

I asked her about what the story was behind the musicbox that she
hadn't told me yet. She smiled at the memory and sat in a purple chair, and held
the musicbox in her hands on her lap. Then she started telling the story.

Sunny Mary and Ponygirl used to live in the houses they lived in now.
Sunny Mary had gone shopping with her Aunt one day into town and saw the
musicbox, and she wanted it more than anything. Ponygirl still lived at her
ranch, but it was very run down and she was very poor and it was rather a
shabby place compared to Sunny Mary's house. Ponygirl used to come over to
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visit and play with Sunny Mary because her Aunt knew Ponygirl's Aunt, and
Ponygirl also talked about the musicbox that she wanted to buy.
On Christmas morning, Sunny Mary went down to the tree. Ponygirl was
also there for Christmas to visit with her Aunt because her house was a poor
place to be on Christmas morning. Sunny Mary saw a gift wrapped up for her in
just a certain size, and she knew what it was. As they opened their presents,
Sunny Mary finally reached to open the gift. It was the musicbox. She was so
delighted that she opened it at once and heard the tinny tune. But Ponygirl was
very sad and started to cry a little, but Sunny Mary didn't care that much. She
took the musicbox and put it in the purple room, and danced around it,
listening to the tinny tune again and again.
Ponygirl was very sad for the rest of the day. She moped over the
stuffing and didn't talk.
Finally, Ponygirl was getting ready to leave and picked up her box of
presents. There was a crude wooden horse in it, some cheap apple perfume,
and a stocking with penny candies. Then Ponygirl was gone.
Finally Sunny Mary went upstairs again to see the musicbox, but it was
gone. She threw a fit and pounded at the floor that it wasn't fair. She kicked the
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chair and stuck out her tongue at the pillows and sniffled. But somehow she
couldn't stop thinking of Ponygirl's sad face over the Christmas stuffing and her
little box of toys. Then she felt something very strange. She sniffed and curled
up her face as horrible as she could, but try as she might she couldn't help it.
She felt happy. Finally she tired out and grew quiet. She looked at the empty
table where the musicbox had been.
Ponygirl came to visit again the next day, and her Aunt bustled in with a
very cross look, shooing Ponygirl ahead of her. Ponygirl held out the musicbox
to Sunny Mary and tried not to cry, but it didn't work. Sunny Mary looked at
the box, and then took it. Then she held it out to Ponygirl, who looked up with
a confused look, as if she was looking at something from another world she had
never seen before.
Eventually, they took turns with the musicbox, until it no longer
mattered anymore. Even now they gave it back and forth as a kind of habit, and
it would go back to Ponygirl's house tomorrow again, Sunny Mary said at last,
still sitting in the chair and smiling.

Then we went and had some more sherry, and generally laughed at
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stupid things and did nothing for a while. Then the technologickers came back
into the kitchen where we were.

"Did you bring the picture you drew?" the middle one asked.

"No, I forgot," I said, feeling stupid. Then I had an idea.

"Hey, can you zap it over here?" I said. "Like, with your technology?"

The middle guy tilted his head behind his glasses. I think he was smirking
a little.

"Just be sure to bring it next time. Sunny Mary would be glad to see it."

Ordinarily I might think that Sunny Mary was already happy all the time
anyways so it wouldn't, but I knew what he said was the truth.

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Then we went outside. It was beginning to get to twilight, and Sunny


Mary needed to go check on the zombies and get them ready to trim the bushes
on the East side of the house that night.

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CHAPTER TWELVE - "The weird kids next door."

Back at home again, I tried not to let my room get too messy again. I
even drew another picture of Ponygirl's ranch, and this time it seemed a little
better, but it still didn't look anything like it. My drawing skills were nicely basic
at best.

I was recruited to watch Jimmy the sand-eating toddler again next


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Saturday, and my mom took me over to help as she watched the other kid.

It was bright as usual in the sandbox, and I had to be quick to keep


Jimmy from downing unearthed marbles like they were sourballs. Two kids
with red hair looked over the wall as if they were standing on something, and
grinned at us as if it was very funny.

"Hey, what are you doing in the sandbox?" the older one said. She
could've been my little sister, and her younger brother looked over at me and
waited for an answer.

"I'm keeping him from eating all the marbles. There's so many of them,"
I said.

The sister grinned again, impishly. "Hey, why don't we help? We always
watch Jimmy."

46

Soon they came over to the backyard, and my mom waved at them
nonchalantly.

"I think I'll tell a story," the sister said. "One time there was a beautiful
unicorn," she said to the toddler in an awestruck, crooning voice.

"It lived in the silver woods. It had three gems hidden away. One day a
little man stole one of them, but the unicorn didn't see them. Then a prince
came through the forest and caught the little man, and gave the gem back to the
unicorn, who let him have a sip of water from the hidden stream it knew about
to help him on his journey. He was taking a message to another kingdom. But
on the way an owl swooped down and took the message, and he had to go and
climb a huge mountain to get it back. Then the owl was sorry, and went to live
in a hollow tree stump. But the unicorn told him to cheer up. The end."

All the while the brother didn't seem very interested in the story. He was
busy fiddling with his shirt.

47

"What about the zombie?" he said in a plaintive voice.

"Hey Sunny Mary has some zombies," I said before I thought about it.
"They trim the bushes."

"That's funny," the sister said, almost giggling. "Why do they do that?"

"I want to see the zombies," the brother said with gusto.

I thought about it. "They won't come out of the shed during the day, of
course."

"Who's Sunny Mary?" the sister asked, giggling again.

It turned out we were staying a long time, so eventually we all went in the
house so as to not get sunburned.

48

"Maybe I'll call the technologickers," I said to the weird kids. I found a
cheap calculator with a real estate agent's picture on it and tried pressing
random buttons.

"Does that call the technol... technnn... whatever people? It looks like a
calculator," the sister said, amused.

"No, they just pick up the frequency," I replied.

49

50

CHAPTER THIRTEEN A new kid moves in next door.

However the technologickers didnt pick up the frequency on the


calculator. The weird kids had to go home after begging for some ice cream,
(which they got) and I was left to go home again.

Chester called me but I didnt feel like talking very much. I wasnt in a
good mood for some reason. It wasnt anything really, you just feel that way
51

some times, you know?

I got up in the middle of the night to get a snack, and I opened the fridge
door. The little fridge light was very bright, and it started blinding my eyes so I
had to cover them. Then the light was very pale and hollow and scientific
looking, and I knew they were back.

Hey? Are you guys in the fridge? I asked, covering my eyes.

No, came the middle guys voice, but it almost sounded like he was
talking from a speaker or something. But I could still imagine his yellow glasses
and calm expression.

We had to use the lightbulbs filament as an intergalactic transponder,


vibrating it with sub frequencies to produce sound, he said very simply.

Look, do you see the kitchen timer on the stove? he said.


52

I looked in the darkness, but the fridge light was bright enough.

Yes.

Well could you set it to twelve minutes and thirty one seconds? he said
politely.

Why? Will you get here when it reaches zero? I said.

No, we just need to calibrate its frequency. We dont want to end up


inside your VCR.

I blinked at the light but didnt say anything else. I went over and set the
timer, hoping the little beeps wouldnt wake up my parents.

Okay, he said after a second. Hold on.


53

Then I was somewhere else, and it was crisp and cold and dark even
though I was still in my pajamas. It took me a moment to see where it was,
because it was nighttime. I was on the street outside Sunny Marys house. The
technologickers were there also, and the middle one had a little box with an
antenna sticking out of it. He put it back in his jacket.

Hey, what are we doing here? I said, going over to them.

A new neighbor has moved in next to Sunny Mary, one of them said,
the woman next to the middle guy.

They started going down the street to the house next door, and I could
see a little light on, up in the top window. Someones car was there in front. A
little later a red-haired girl came out the front door and took a big suitcase out
of the car, and kind of dragged it along hurriedly to the front door again. She
didnt look very happy.

54

She just moved here from Pensance, the middle guy said. She didnt
really want to leave.

I couldnt imagine someone not wanting to move to Sunny Marys street.


The front door slammed in a bothered way, and then Sunny Mary was there
with us. She had a nice yellow dotted pajama robe on.

Whats that noise? I said.

Its the zombies, Sunny Mary said. Theyre trimming the backyard
tonight.

The chief technologicker spoke up again. Sunny Mary, could you go


help Suzie Strawberry unpack in there? She seems to be having a difficult time.

Sunny Mary nodded and went along towards the other house. I didnt
remember in the dark what it really looked like.
55

We should really go check on the zombies for her, The woman said. I
think theyre trimming the gardenia into a trapezoid again!

So we went to the backyard, through the side gate and not through the
house. The zombies were there, trimming things with their chainsaws.

Sunny Mary got them electric chainsaws instead of gas-powered


because theyre quieter, the middle guy said. Some of the zombies didnt like
it, but theyll get used to it.

Didnt the zombies ever attack people? I asked while watching them
timorously. They used to live in the netherworld!

Well, one time they got into an argument, but Sunny Mary just scolded
them and sewed their arms back on, he said. She told them that she was very
disappointed in them and that they should try better, of course.

56

It was hard to believe that zombies would listen to anyone. Soon enough
it was time to go over to Suzie Strawberrys new house though, and we walked
out the side gate and over to next door. We went in the front door and up the
stairs to the top room, and we could hear someone yelling and arguing the
whole time.

Finally we went to the upper room, and Sunny Mary was sitting on the
bed looking unhappy, and Suzie Strawberry wasnt doing that great either.

And then I didnt even get to say goodbye to her, and how can you tell
me it will all be okay? Suzie screamed, trying not to wipe tears out of her eyes
and stamping her foot in a firey way.

Sunny Mary said something more, in her voice that was nice to hear as
honey, as usual. I didnt say it would all be okay today, but you will probably
like it here!! she said, smiling kindly.

57

No!! No I wont like it here!! Suzie said, her red braids tossing as she
shook her head. She was wearing a very red gingham dress and red striped
stockings. I didnt know really what to do, except stay in the doorway.

You dont know what its like, Suzie went on, and then she couldnt
help but sobbing despite her best anger. You dont know, when I had to leave
all my friends behind, and Ill never see them again.

Sunny Mary didnt say anything else or get up, but just looked at the
floor sadly. Suzie was sniffling and didnt stamp her foot anymore.

The technologickers and I went downstairs quietly, and there were more
voices speaking upstairs, more softly now, but we couldnt hear what they were
saying.

Why did Suzie Strawberry have to move here? I asked them in a


hushed voice.

58

Her foster parents couldnt keep her anymore, the middle one said
quietly. It didnt seem like a very satisfying answer. Even he seemed a little less
unconcerned than usual.

We went out into the dark street, and started back to Sunny Marys
house.

59

60

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

We went in the front door, but then there was someone in the kitchen. It
was a very nice old man, in an elegant grey suit. He was not crotchety or weak
looking, just rather distinguished.

He pulled a watch out of his pocket on a chain, and looked at it for


hardly a moment. Then he leaned back in his chair calmly and stared out the
61

window, folding his arms.

Suzie Strawberry is having problems adjusting, the middle guy said to


the man in the suit.

I know, the old man said with resignation. But shell come around,
he said, smirking over at us with a good humour. I kind of liked him already.

Then someone else came in from the back, probably from the backyard.
He had a pair of pruning shears and looked kind of like an Arabian bandit from
an old movie, except quieter and not as important. He must be a hired servant,
I thought. But then the old man smiled at him fondly.

The time will come soon enough, the old man said to the Arabian,
who must be a gardener, of course, I thought. He said it like it was an old joke
they shared that had been said a million times before, but was still funny
anyways. The gardener nodded and smiled, a few teeth showing on his homely
face.
62

When is our little friend going to get here? the gardener said in his
eastern accent. If he wasnt so gentle he would be quite ugly, I couldnt help but
think.

Hell get here when he is needed, of course, the old man said. He
always does.

A little bird flew in the window and landed right on the table, bobbing its
little head for a moment and then sitting very still. The old man put a hand out
on the table and wiggled a finger, and the bird hopped along to him. Then he
very, very gently picked up the bird and brought it close to him. He took a
finger and petted the bird so reverently and said something.

Yes, Suzie Strawberry is quite upset, the man said.

The bird made a nice sound.

63

Im sure you will, the man purred nicely. Im sure you will.

The little bird bobbed its head as he petted it, and looked around the
room curiously. It made another little noise, and the old man stretched out his
hand and the bird flew off out the window.

Parry was always partial to orphans, the gardener said with his thick
accent. Then the old man looked at me as if he was a close relative of mine.

I see you got an A on your last test, he said bluntly, pulling a piece of
paper out of his pocket and unfolding it in a business-like way. Keep up the
good work. You have a lot more in you.

Uh, okay, I said, not sure how he had gotten ahold of my test paper.

Come and visit more often, he said, smiling in a fatherly sort of way.
64

He looked at his watch again for a split second and then got up. The gardener
followed him out the front door, smiling at me as he went past in a jolly, toothy
way.

They were gone.

Who was that? I said to the technologickers.

Who was who? the middle guy said, looking around. He could be kind
of weird.

The guy with the watch, and the gardener who... I started.

Didnt you recognize them? he said, smirking. It was the king and his
father. And your father also.

The king of what? I asked stupidly.


65

Everything, the middle guy said smugly. Of course. And dad is right.
You should visit more often, he said in a didactic way.

I wasnt sure how to visit them, since they were so very important. It
would probably be another strange journey, sometime when I wasnt expecting
it. The middle guy seemed to see my thoughts through his yellow glasses.

He doesnt need to pick up any frequencies from your calculator, he


said. Just take time for him. Hell be there.

I didnt know what to think of this. But it seemed like the sun was
starting to come up. I didnt know I had been there for so long. Sunny Mary
came in through the door quickly, but not in a rush.

Suzie Strawberry is asleep. Shell be okay, she said. Oh, I should go


open the shed! The zombies will all be waiting! she said, and then after getting
a cinnamon roll she went towards the backyard.
66

You should get back to your house, the technologicker woman said.
Your parents would miss you.

67

68

CHAPTER FIFTEEN A secret.

When I woke up in the morning, the sun was shining in my room.


Everything seemed normal again. But I knew that Suzie Strawberry was
probably still adjusting to her new home.

Like I said before, when you are at Ponygirl's Ranch or Sunny Mary's
house, it seems like they have always been there forever and ever, being a nice
69

place to be. But they haven't. Actually those places used to be not quite as nice.
Like I said, Ponygirl cleaned her room dozens of times before it got as clean as
it is now. However if you ask Dina at her Happy House, she will probably tell
you things are always sunny. That's because she's only eight years old, and
doesn't remember what it used to be like. So how did these places get to be so
wonderful.

I wondered also until a fateful day when I learned the secrets behind
these things. Behind the Technologickers, and Dina, and even Alice Adams.
But first let's have a story about Dina's Happy House, just to begin things.

Like I said, the Crummer was out of time and place when it hid in Dina's
hall closet. Plus, it got the closet floor all messy by dropping crumbs from its
fur everywhere. Mostly Dina never even used the hall closet except to hold her
jacket and pink boots for when she would go for a walk, so she wouldn't get
dirt in the house. She would leave the boots by the door, then brush them off
and take them to the closet again, when she was done walking.

70

However, this time she opened the hall closet, and there was the
crummer, all covered with crumby fur and trying to hide behind nothing,
because of course Dina was wearing her jacket. At first Dina screamed and
dropped the boots. Then she called Dolly Daymore on her pink rotary
telephone, and told her about the crumb-covered closet monster in her hall
closet. Dolly Daymore giggled and said not to be such a goose. She said to just
give it some crumbly cookies and let it take a bath in the swimming pool, of
course.

So Dina lured the Crummer out with some shortbread and had it sit on a
chair to eat. Then the crummer took a bath in Dina's swimming pool, although
she knew it would be hard to clean later. Dina wouldn't buy a pool skimmer
because "they look like weird bugs".

Well anyways, if you see a house far away some day, and there's a pool in
the back with some decorative potted plants around, and it's just far enough
away that it looks kind of like a perfect dollhouse without the grubby
ordinariness of other houses... anyways, that's the swimming pool the crummer
71

used. And if you could fly directly across to the pool, you might go in the house
and then Dina would give you some cookies also. Although Dolly Daymore
might be there also, and they wouldn't have shortbread this time. And if you
went out the front door of Dina's house, and went down Bright Flower Lane,
who knows what kind of weird and wonderful things would be there. Of course
if you told Dina that, she would just roll her eyes because she lives on Bright
Flower Lane every day and it is very nice indeed, thank you.

72

CHAPTER SIXTEEN Another secret.

I kept this chapter for the last, because to really understand it you would
have to read the other chapters first of course. So if you flipped to this chapter,
don't feel bad, just go back to the other one.

It is a rather serious story I have to write here, but I hope it will explain
some things.
73

As usual, the technologickers vanished after my visit to Suzie Strawberry,


and everything was normal again, as if nothing had ever happened. But I was
used to it. I got another A on my next test, and I took the technologicker's
advice and rambled about it with my dad, the older guy at Sunny Mary's house,
even though I knew it looked like no one was there. But of course he could
pick up the transmission clearly, even if he wasn't technological like the others.
I could almost see his smug grin though, as he leaned back in his chair and
folded his arms, saying, "See? I said there was a lot more in you you didn't
know." I really could.

But then one day, the three technologickers reappeared, in a hurry. I had
never seen them rush anything. Well they didn't rush, they just kind of moseyed
out from behind the vacuum cleaner in a quick way. I was needed again, this
time to help Sunny Mary. The strange, hollow light was there again, and then
we were gone.

I met Sunny Mary just as she was going out her front door. She seemed
74

happy, and was dressed more warmly than usual, even though the sun was still
bright outside. She had a riding cloak and gloves and a basket. "Hello," she said.
"We'll be going in a minute."

We walked down the street a ways, past Suzie Strawberry's house. Then
the technologickers came and the middle guy took out his little box, the one
with the antenna. He fiddled on the dial a little bit in a very serious way, and
then we were gone.

But there wasn't any light. "Don't worry," said Sunny Mary somewhere,
in her nice voice. After a minute, my eyes felt better. I was terrified though.
Somehow I knew there were a thousand miles of rock above me, all crushing
down on the little space of air I was stuck in, wherever that was. The very air
seemed to be gasping and wheezing to breathe, and every now and then a
terrible, faint shudder passed through the place, as if the whole cave was sick.

Once my eyes could see, I wished they couldn't. We were standing in a


small place made of ugly speckled rock. Then I saw it. One one side there was a
75

hole, so black and dim and horrible that I couldn't imagine anything ever being
inside it. I wanted to look away but I couldn't find the strength. "I'll be back in
a minute," Sunny Mary said, and then she kind of crawled through the opening.

I was stuck in one place and couldn't move. She didn't say to follow, and
I didn't. It seemed like a million years slowly ground by, with me just standing
and watching, watching and watching those horrible walls of stone. Then,
finally, like the end of the world Sunny Mary's head came back out, and then
she stood up in the darkness and smiled at me. I thought in the dim light I
could see a small tear in her eye. Then to my relief the grey, hollow light of the
technologickers lifted around us and we were soon back on the street.

I wanted to run and find a tree or a flower or anything and hold on to it


and never let go, to fall on the earth and hold on to the fresh soil and know that
I would never go back to that place again. If the sky was blue before, now it
shone like a thousand perfect marbles in a giant schoolyard game. The wind
was buttery ice cream on my face. The sun was a huge jolly lantern, beaming its
smile on us. I found that I could breathe again.
76

The technologickers looked kind of grim, although they had the same
expressions as always. "How did it go?" they asked Sunny Mary. She smiled
kind of happily, although there was a tremble in it, and said,

"Well, Stunko complained about his feet as always. And Bunky even said
thank you for the cupcakes. And Wumpy was a little less shy."

And then she giggled a little at the memory, and the middle
technologicker actually gave a little smile behind his yellow glasses. But soon
enough Sunny Mary went back in the house, and I followed the guy with the
glasses.

"Why did we have to go there?" I said, still feeling a bit weak. "What is
going on?"

And the guy turned and looked at me, and didn't say anything. Then he
took out his box with the antenna, and turned the dial the other way. Suddenly
77

I saw something in front of my eyes, kind of like a movie but hovering in the
air. There was a place of blinding white, a place where even the whispers
thundered brighter than anything I had ever seen. I saw three brothers walking
in a beautiful place, wearing resplendant clothes and boots of gold, laughing. I
knew somehow that these were Stunko, Bunky, and Wumpy, that they would
be there someday, sometime, somewhere. And then the movie stopped.

"But why?" I said, as we walked. "Why are they stuck in that place right
now?"

The guy kind of tilted his head, as if amused and yet still serious.

"Because no one understands except for her," he said, very matter-offactly. "No one sees their future except for her. No one tells them so except for
her."

Then I went back to my own house, my own room, my own street. But I
later learned more things. Like about the Arabian gardener, the one who was
78

actually the King over Everything. How he had seen some things that might be.
Something in Sunny Mary and Ponygirl and me, and even in Stunko and Bunky
and Wumpy. And how he had to give up everything he had as the King of
Everything, and become just a lowly gardener, so that he could reach for the
dreams he saw about everything. And how people even had killed him once for
his dream, because sometimes there was just no way to do some things without
someone's living blood, given in love. Some stains were just too deep, and some
prices just too costly. But fortunately he didn't stay dead for very long, and now
he got to be King of Everything again. But somehow, someway he still seems
like a gardener sometimes to me, with his toothy smile and his ordinary face, so
that you would never even expect that he actually owns all the things in the
Universe.

But sometimes I still remember a poem that Sunny Mary would sing,
sitting in her chair with her hands folded in her lap, as Ponygirl goes out for her
morning ride and Suzie Strawberry poses for her mirror -

79

Betwixt the burning sun so high


And silent depths of earth below,
That's where little daisies grow.

They grow beneath the warm sunlight,


And send their roots beneath the earth,
And never wonder how it works.

80