THE YOUNG WARRIORS CLUB
Sonny and Abby were silent for a moment, drinking tea and eating apple slices. “So…” Sonny resumed, “you want me to be more frank in telling you what I think. Right?”
“Well, I think you conceal much more than I do. You’ve got a whole picture of what you’re doing that you hide from me, and in that picture are the answers to most of your questions. But you act like I should know more about that than you do.”
Abby stared. “Okay, I’ll bite. Tell me about it.”
“It’s your internal picture… actually it’s more than that. It has a larger reality around and beyond you.”
“What are you talking about?” Abby’s voice rose in frustration.
“Now don’t get all riled up. Let me just ask you… do you remember my father?”
“Of course. He was a part of Sunday School when I was little, maybe seven or eight.”
“And what did he do? I mean, in Sunday School, what was his role with you kids?”
“He ran the Young Warriors Club.”
“And what was that?”
Abby thought for a minute, eating apple slices to keep occupied. Something was very difficult about this line of questioning, but she struggled on. “Mostly he told stories,” she said. “About the Young Warriors Club.”
“But the stories weren’t directly about you and the other kids, were they?”
“No, of course not. They were about the characters, the young warriors, saving the world from evil. Bad people were eating the world, gobbling up forests, rivers, even other people and towns and cities. It was scary. I’ve sometimes thought they’d never allow stories like that nowadays.”
“So who were these characters? Where did they come from?”
“They came from all over. Some from over the ocean, some from the mountains, some from the other side of the world, some even started as bad people but turned out to be good. And they were named after places, like River Girl and Mountain Boy and Land-of-Snow and Over-the-Sea. River Girl, was from here, from Rivergate.
“And what did they do?”
“They banded together to save the world and the animals and the people… I can’t quite remember how they got started, but the Good Fairy helped them. She had some sort of magic. They did things in secret, and won over the hearts of people who were lost, following a bad road. The young warriors built a new road… or… at least they tried to… but – this is the hard part – your father died and the story was never finished.”
Abby tried to blink away the water that was filling her eyes. She was afraid to say more, but became so full of emotion that she couldn’t stop. “I waited every week in suspense, and thought about that story all the time! I just wanted to know how they would do it – or if they could – but suddenly… he died. No one could take his place. There never was anyone like your father. We never found out what happened next.”
“Yes, very true, and I should know… Okay, now bear with me, I know you’re upset. But you left out an important character… the Ghost Girl. Who was she? Where did she come from?”
“She was the daughter of the Good Fairy. She was from all over.” Abby’s eyes teared up again.
“Okay, now tell me, is this story over now? Or is it still going on?”
Abby was sobbing. “That’s not fair!” she cried. “You tricked me! I’ve never told anyone about this!”
“Oh, plenty of people know about it. Many remember. And you should answer my question. Is the story over now?”
“No! No, damn it! It’s just begun. You knew that already, but you had to drag it out of me, lay bare my secrets. Why?”
Sonny was quiet for a minute. Abby’s breathing gradually calmed down.
“I admit,” he said softly, “that I’m a manipulator at times, but you’re able to stand up for yourself. Why do you let me get away with it? I think it’s because I’m responding to your questions.”
“But it’s only a children’s story. I’m not from all over. I’m from here. I’m not the daughter of the Good Fairy, that’s all a fantasy.”
“I hear you. But you’re the one who remembers this in such a vivid way, you’re the one everybody teased – more than teased, I think – about being the Ghost Girl. You’ve carried this experience your whole life, beyond Rivergate to Half Moon High School to becoming Wendy’s apprentice and on to the Church of Middletown. It’s your big picture. And you know perfectly well that it’s not just a children’s story. My father took a legend – or maybe it’s more like a vision of the future – from long ago. He changed it a little to suit the times, what you kids would understand. And you’re making something of this story, or it’s making something of you, or both. You’re the servant of this story, or maybe the steward, or custodian, is a better word.”
Sonny stopped suddenly, gave himself a little shake, and opened his eyes wide. “No isn’t that a coincidence.” He paused, thinking.