Palo Alto Weekly 34th Annual Short Story Contest
Third Place Teen

Puddles and Pirates

by Avni Nath

Author Bio

Avni Nath lives in Los Altos, California with her parents and brother. She attends Blach Intermediate School, where she enjoys chatting with her friends and checking out books from the library. She loves to read, and spends her free time reading, daydreaming, and listening to Disney music.


My inspiration for my story, "Puddles and Pirates", came to me one day in my Creative Writing class. I was brainstorming ideas for a new story, and I knew that it was going to be something to do with rain and magic. After talking it over with one of my friends in the class, we determined that there were to be puddles. And suddenly the idea hit me! Puddles that were portals to other realms, and a girl who traveled through these worlds, never able to settle down.

Judge Comments

When placed in the context of the recent lockdown, the alienation and isolation portrayed in this story seem real and grounded even while set in a fantastic and humorous world


I land on my butt in the middle of a rainstorm, icy needles of rain piercing through my formerly warm and dry clothes. Thoroughly drenched within ten seconds, I groan. I really need to work on my landings.

I don't get up right away, drinking in the familiar surroundings. Freezing rain drops from the dark grey clouds, making my body numb. The wind howls, blowing my hair in such a way that it is tangled within seconds. Whichever direction I look in, I see miles upon miles of empty land. And puddles. Their reflections distort the stormy sky, their shimmering subtle enough to pass as a trick of the light. Not that there's much light here.

But I know the truth. The puddles are magical. They're portals into other worlds, worlds drastically different from where I came from. Each puddle takes me to a distinct place, never taking me to the same place twice. And I'm never allowed to stay.

I sigh. Sometimes it gets lonely, never being able to make friends, never being able to settle down. My world is other people's worlds. My life is other people's lives. My home is other people's home. Nothing is truly mine. Nobody truly knows me.

I groan as I stand up. By this time, I can't feel my toes, or my nose, or my ears. As I shake myself off, I glance around. I know that it doesn't matter what puddle I pick, but for some reason I always choose very carefully.

I reach my arms to the sky and stretch my back. I stroll through the pouring rain, stopping at a puddle the size of the bedroom I had as a kid. I stare at it for a second, gazing at the reflection of the sky, then step forward so that I am right at the edge.

As I take a deep breath, I hop forward. Right when the splash is supposed to come, I feel my feet start to tingle. My body plunges into the puddle, and when I appear on the other side, I am falling onto a sunny beach.

When I gaze around, I see a perfect paradise. The turquoise sea is calm, the waves gently lapping at the shore. Warm, white sand gleams bright underneath the blazing sun. Palm trees sway in the balmy wind. I grin. This is just what I need. A few days of soaking in the sun. A break from the adventure of other worlds.

While I shuck off my raincoat and boots, I settle myself down in the sand. Watching the horizon, I think about how absolutely horrible it would be if a ship full of pirates suddenly appeared.

I lay down and let my mind wander as the sun dries my clothes. Filling my lungs with a deep breath of the tropical air, I close my eyes and drift off to sleep.


"Avast ye landlubber! Ye will cooperate or else ye will be run through with me pointy sword."

I jolt awake, and scramble back when I see the tip of a sword waving around in my face. A pair of scratched, worn boots stand right in front of me. I slowly drag my gaze upwards and I find myself looking at a small, chubby man with an unruly beard and an eye patch. Groaning, I lie back down and ask myself why this always happens.

"Are ye listening, ye scurvy dog? Git up!"

I rise to my feet and put my hands in the air. "I surrender, okay? No need to get all grouchy!"

Glancing around, I see a whole crew of pirates have surrounded me. People with peg legs, hooks for hands, and beards that hide their entire face. They look like they got their clothes from a costume shop. If I didn't know better, I would think that I was at a pirate-themed "shindig". This is going to be an eventful few weeks.

The pirate that woke me up guides me toward a large pirate ship that is sitting on the beach, 50 feet from the gentle waves lapping the shore. I have no idea how they got it up on the sand, but I'm assuming there was magic involved. The ship is made of polished oak, and is as big as a football field. The three masts carry large, cream-colored sails that look like they have been patched up more times than anyone could count. The crows nest towers above everything else, and I have to crane my neck to see the Jolly Roger waving from the top. Across the side, it says "The Bloody Dagger". Normally I would be a little nervous seeing that name, but after seeing the crew it just seems like a joke.

I'm led up a ramp and pushed down next to the mainmast. As the one-eyed pirate leaves, a girl around my age brings some rope to tie me to the large piece of wood. Her hair is bright blue, a shade darker than the sky, and her eyes are an enchanting golden color, filled with secrets, lies, and shadows. She wears a tattered leather jacket and knee-high black boots. At her waist is a belt with many sheaths holding an assortment of weapons, including daggers, swords, and cutlasses. If it hadn't been for her short height, I would have thought that she was much older.

Pulling my hands behind me, she takes a rope and ties it securely around my wrists. Then the girl winds the rest of the rope around the mast and around me, again and again, until there is just enough left for her to tie a strong knot.

The short, pudgy pirate comes back and says to her, "Diane, question the little bilge rat."

Diane sighs as she turns back to me, as if she has something better to do. She gets right down to business, so there's a definite possibility that she does have something else she needs to do. "Why were you here? That was the Sea Daggers' territory and you were breakin' every rule in a pirate's handbook."

"You don't have a pirate accent!" For some reason I'm really surprised by this fact.

Her face hardens. "Answer the question, little girl."

Rolling my eyes, I ask her, "Do you want the truth? Or do you want some made up story that will make much more sense?"

Diane narrows her eyes. "The truth."



"That's how I got here."

"Obviously! You were on an island in the middle of the Tiveranne Ocean with no other boats in sight. The only way you could possibly have gotten there was with magic. So you're gonna tell me how you got here or else I'll make you walk the plank." By the time she is finished ranting, Diane is pointing one of her very sharp swords right at my nose.

"Okay, fine! I'll tell you how I got here!"

I scooch back as far as I can and take a deep breath to get ready for a long story. "Once upon a time, there was a completely ordinary girl with a completely ordinary life. And she was bored. She was always waiting for an adventure to sweep her up and whirl her to a faraway land where life was exciting. But nothing happened.

"On the day the girl turned thirteen, something strange happened. One minute she was walking down the hallway to the kitchen, and the next she was in the middle of a giant storm. All around her was a giant expanse of land with puddles as far as the eye could see." Diane's eyes go wide, as if she just realized something, but I forge on. "Trying to figure out where she was, the girl wandered around through the cold, pelting rain. She avoided the puddles, remembering what her mother had always told her about not jumping in puddles.

"However, she stumbled and accidentally fell in one. But instead of getting even more soaked, she found herself in the middle of a medieval world with castles and knights and kings. A nice family found her and cared for her, despite her eccentricities. She slowly grew accustomed to her new home, no matter how much she missed her own world. After exactly a month, the magic whisked her back to the stormy world. After a few more puddles, she figured out that they were portals into other people's worlds. And so the girl was destined to a life of roaming through these other dimensions. Destined to a life wandering through places she doesn't belong."

As I finish the story, I notice that the whole crew has gathered around me, listening to my story. Peering up at Diane, I find her staring intensely at me, like she's waiting for me to finish. Now that I realize it, they're all gazing expectantly at me. Then I realize I forgot something. "Oh! If you hadn't figured it out, I'm the girl from the story. All of that happened three years ago, and now one of the puddles poofed me here."

"This shouldn't be possible," says a quiet voice.

I startle when I recognize it as Diane's voice. "What do you mean?!"

"I thought I was the only one."

"I have no idea what you're talking about." I'm extremely confused now.

She says it so quietly that I almost miss it. "The same thing happened to me."

I can feel my jaw go slack and my eyebrows practically reach my hairline.

Because I've finally found a person who knows what it's like, who's been through what I've been through.

I've finally found a person who understands.

I'm not alone anymore.