Palo Alto Weekly 35th Annual Short Story Contest
Teen Honorable Mention

Sour Purple Pomegranates

by Ayda Diril

Author Bio

Ayda Sena Diril is eleven years old and lives in Menlo Park. She goes to Synapse School and will be entering sixth grade next year. She has a little sister named Revna who is very sweet--and slightly annoying. She is very interested in philosophy and loves nature and animals, especially ladybugs (they’re so cute)! Ayda really enjoys arts and crafts, especially drawing and crocheting, and she likes to play piano. She also loves to read--and reread--books. Her favorites include Harry Potter, The Little Prince, and The Penderwicks. She enjoys writing, mostly fiction and fantasy. When her mind has time to wander off, she is either making up a song, thinking of a new story, or wondering what Ethan and April will be up to next!

Inspiration

My inspiration for this story started a few years ago, when my cousin and I took a trip to Ayvalık, a small town next to the beach in Turkey, to visit our grandpa. Some events in the story are actually based on true experiences my cousin and I had on our trips to Ayvalık. For example, the argument at the beginning of the story was based on an argument we actually had, one that was hilarious to our parents. We were too young to see how funny it was and too busy fuming at each other, but I look back at it and laugh now and then. I thought it would be a good addition to the story. We also once found an unripe pomegranate in the woods and ate it at home, since we were both surprisingly partial to all things sour. It was not purple, however, and sadly, there was no Nessie guarding it.

Our story begins with two people different in every aspect except for the magnitude of their separate opinions and ideas. You would be surprised to hear that they were cousins. April, who had olive skin and brown hair, was a very creative person, and loved to read, write (though she sometimes spent half the time she was writing tidying her pencils), and draw. Some of her friends would say that she got into arguments on purpose, just to have a chance to test her debating skills. Ethan, on the other hand, who had curly blonde hair, loved to play video games and watch television. He was very sensible, and he could not stand any kind of nonsense.

One day the two, at seven years old, were squabbling in the car on their way to their grampa’s apartment complex next to the beach. They went every summer, and every time they’d found a new adventure. But the way that they had to take to get there was very tedious. It was a one-hour flight that led up to a day-long drive. Of course, you get bored on long drives. And carsick. What better way to cheer yourself up than to throw insults at your companion?

Anyway, it started with Ethan telling April that he would punch her in the eye so hard that she would cry for a week. This was rather pathetic, as they were both in car seats and Ethan could obviously do no real damage (not that he could otherwise), but this was not clear to either of them, and the unprovoked remark angered April, so nevertheless, the argument moved forward.

"I’m gonna throw balls at you!" April yelled.

"Well… I’m going to throw darts at you, then! Poison darts, ha!" Ethan shot back. And so on. I am going to stop right there, because I do not want to bore you with the rest of the ten minutes that were spent screaming threats at each other. The parents were in the process of being driven insane. So let’s skip to what an out-of-breath Ethan said to April, some time later.

"I’m going to go to your room, mess up the bed, and steal everything except the dolls, which I am going to rip up with my teeth!"

This was too much for April, to whom tidiness was an important virtue. She was about to let out a great wail when an idea struck her. "And I’m," she said nastily, "going to tie you to a tree so you can’t move, take your shoes off, put my hardest shoes on, and STOMP ON YOUR FEET SO YOU HAVE A BOOBOO!"

There was a long pause.

"Can we be friends again?" Ethan said meekly.

When this event was over, they were happily holding hands (just barely, because they were in different car seats) and listening to the music that was playing in the car. They were quite used to this thing, yelling and getting mad at each other and then making up. It happened at least once a day.

It was soon announced that they were finally at Grampa’s house, and this was greeted by a shout of joy from everyone in the car.

When they got out, the first thing that greeted them was a beautiful meadow, at the center of which a bunch of huge flower bushes resided.

"It’s beautiful!" cried April.

"We come here every year," Ethan said, rolling his eyes. "It’s not like you haven’t seen it before."

"Well, it still is," said April firmly.

Ethan sighed. "I suppose. You want to go explore? There are some woods over there that I swear we haven’t seen before!"

"I’m positive that I have seen them," April frowned. "Anyway, we have to say hello to Grampa first, I’ve missed him so much!"

And so they skipped, hand in hand, to one of the towering buildings of the apartment complex. Their grandpa lived on the top floor.

"Race ya!" laughed Ethan.

"Hey, no fair! You got a head start!"

So it went, until they came to the top floor, wheezing and out of breath.

"Do – you – want to – ring the doorbell – or should I?" Ethan gasped.

"We should wait for our parents," April replied. Then she scowled. "They are so slow! Why are they always making us wait?"

"I dunno. Oh! Here they come now!"

The parents were indeed in sight, but were inching closer at such a slow pace that Ethan felt the obligation to kick all of them from behind, which didn’t work at all.

"Ethan!" his mother scolded.

April’s dad laughed. "Okay, are you ready to see Grampa?"

"YES!!"

April’s mom reached out to ring the doorbell.

"Ding-dong…" the doorbell rang.

A split second later, Grandpa opened the door. He was just as they remembered him: comfortable looking, with a thin layer of grey hair, and just a little potbellied.

"GRAMPA! GRAMPA!" Ethan and April chorused, quickly rushing to hug him.

"Heh! My favorite grandchildren!" their grandpa exclaimed, opening his arms.

Ethan and April entered the house, looking fondly at the place that they remembered from every summer. It had a lot of comfy couches and armchairs, and a television that was blaring with the weather forecast. The walls were covered with photos of their grandpa’s friend and family. April even spotted one of she and Ethan holding hands. She glanced at the window, and cried, "It’s sunny, it’s sunny! Please pretty please may we go out and play?"

"Okay," said Ethan’s mom. "But be back by noon, for we will all go out to the beach!"

April squealed. "C’mon, Ethan! Race you downstairs!"

"Again?" Ethan groaned, but a few seconds later they were sprinting out of the house.

"Those two," Ethan’s dad said, shaking his head.

"So, are we gonna explore the woods now?" Ethan asked.

"Sure!" April said, skipping over to where Ethan was pointing. They started walking in.

The woods were pretty at first, with squirrels rustling in the branches of the tall trees that arched overhead, and mushrooms scattered around the forest floor. April gleefully pointed them out. However, the deeper they got, the more ominous the forest seemed. The shadows that were casting shade whenever the cousins were tired were now cruel, ugly monsters. The sun no longer offered it’s reassuring warmth and glow. April started to shiver. "I-is that… a lion?" "Don’t be silly!" Ethan replied, but the idea still spooked him. "We should turn back."

A

pril couldn’t agree with the idea more. "C’mon," she said.

But the more they twisted and turned into other paths of the wood, the more desolate their situation became. "I… I think we’re lost," April told her cousin.

"No, we can’t be lost! We’re going to the beach today! And I am so hungry!" As if on cue, his stomach rumbled.

"Well, if you don’t want to be lost, let me lead!" April insisted.

"No! We all know you don’t know east from west from nouth from sorth!"

"You don’t even know what one plus one is!"

And so it went. They were bickering so loudly that all of the "lions" there must have heard them, but they didn’t care. The familiar passion was already rising in them.

"You don’t know a death cap from a candy cap!" April shouted.

"What’s that supposed to mean!"

"You wouldn’t know!"

"If you yell at me one more time, I won’t try to save you if the lion that I just saw tries to eat you!"

"We agreed you hadn’t seen a lion! And you wouldn’t even be able to save me from an imaginary one if you tried!"

"I would too!"

"You wouldn’t! I would defeat it myself!"

"You wouldn’t! I would!"

"Oh yeah? You would be too busy hiding behind me!"

"I would not! You would!"

"I would not!"

"Oh yeah you would! You only care about yourself!"

"Well, you only care about that new electric train that you were begging your mom to get back at home!"

"I wasn’t begging. I asked her politely. And when I do get that train I will not share it with you!"

"I don’t care! I’d rather read than play with a cheap train."

"IT’S NOT CHEAP!"

Suddenly, the ground rumbled.

"Did our yelling do that?" Ethan whispered.

"No… don’t look now, but look behind you."

Ethan slowly turned around. In front of his eyes was a huge figure. It’s sleek scaly body, glinting orange and yellow and green, was big enough to wrap around and completely cover any of the tall redwood trees surrounding them. It raised its head and wings, staring at them from above. A dragon.

Ethan was frozen in shock. Never had he expected something like this to happen. Never in his life.

People were always complimenting on how mature he was. "Ready for the world, is this one!" his dad always said. For he never had given in to fairy tales, insisting to anyone who thought otherwise that they were not real. Of course not. How could they be? What a notion! Dragons and pixies and elves, existing in this world? Nonsense. But here he was, staring straight into the eyes of a dragon. He was petrified.

Meanwhile, April was taking a very different point of view. She had always believed that dragons and fairies and witches were real. They had played a part in all of the poems and stories she had written. She was not surprised at all by the huge creature glaring at her. Nor was she intimidated by it. She had the opportunity of a lifetime, and she wasn’t about to let it slip through her fingers.

"Mr. Dragon! Hey, Mr. Dragon! I’m so glad to meet you!"

"What are you doing?" Ethan hissed, finally regaining his senses. "Run!"

April ignored him. "Mr. Dragon!" she called again. "I’m a friend! Come on down!"

The dragon finally turned to her. "I’m no Mr. Dragon, Sis," It said. April stared. But, again, she was used to these things. They appeared all the time in her imagination. She caught on quickly enough. "Oh! So you’re a lady!" she cried.

"That’s one way to say it," the dragon mumbled. "I notice your brother is being way less talkative than you are."

"Oh! He’s my cousin," April said. "And I think he’s gone into a coma again."

Ethan had, indeed, lost the progress he had regained on his senses and general view of life when he had heard the dragon’s voice. A dragon is one thing. But a talking dragon? A dragon that knew English? A dragon that was, in that moment, talking to his cousin? Why was the world so set on proving him wrong?

He took another look at the dragon, and his eyes rolled back in his head.


He was shook back to reality by a frantic April, who believed that her cousin had some sort of health problem.

"Ethan! Ethan, are you okay?" she cried.

"Yeah… I’ll be okay when dragons become myths again." he replied groggily.

"Oh! I’m so glad you’re alright!"

"Didn’t I just say that I wasn’t—"

"Well, you are now. You were out for five minutes."

"What?"

"Yep. You should see the doctor when we get back."

Ethan almost fainted again.

"Nessie and I have been talking," April rushed on. "She lives in Dracoville—you know, the capital of Draco Patriam—which means Dragon Country—and she’s been telling me all about her adventures—you won’t believe it—she’s practically an outlaw there—recognized by the king himself as a mischief-maker unfit for society—but she’s on the right side, the government there is the dragon version of racist, if you know what I mean—and she and her gang have been rebelling—and—"

"Have I permitted you to babble all of my secrets?" the dragon (or Nessie, apparently) interrupted coolly.

"Oh, I’m so sorry Nessie! Ethan had just passed out and I wanted to fill him in and—"

"That will do," Nessie said. "Anyway, I was about to tell you: I am, as you said, an outlaw there. The king sentenced me to the worst kind of punishment when he found a sentence we had written in ink made from squashed ants—"You don’t own your people; you are responsible for them." Well, he didn’t like it. Picky, I know."

"That was so brave," breathed April. "But what was your punishment?"

"Not was. Is." Nessie corrected. "I am sentenced to forever guard this tree—" she flicked her tail towards a tiny tree that neither April nor Ethan had noticed before—"that bears only unripe fruit. I have no food source other than the horribly sour fruit that is seen on the tree. However, the tree has magical properties. It will grant any human one wish, and one wish only. But it is of no use to me." Nessie sighed. "It’s magic works only on humans. But it is my only food source, so the only thing that I do get from it is it's incredibly sour taste." Nessie crinkled her nose.

"Wait..." Ethan began, an idea dawning on him."If you give me one of those fruits..."

"N0," Nessie snapped. "You do not get a free wish for just being here."

"No, just hear me out," Ethan said. "If I get a wish… I can wish that your punishment would be over, so you’ll be free!"

"Ethan, you’re a genius!" April cried, throwing her arms around him.

"That’s what cousins are for!"

Meanwhile, Nessie looked shocked. "You would really… You don’t mind it being sour?"

"Of course!" Ethan said. "April and I love sour things. We both eat lemons every day!"

"Oh, yes!" April said. "But Ethan eats the skin, and I don’t." She made a disgusted face.

"Bring on the fruit!" Ethan yelled, ignoring her.

Nessie gave him a fruit that looked like a purple pomegranate. After he had eaten some of the inside of it, a voice boomed out of the almost-empty shell. "MAKE YOUR WISH!" it said.

"Do I just say my wish now?" Ethan asked.

"Yes," Nessie said.

"Okay… I wish Nessie were free and that her punishment were lifted."

Suddenly, Nessie gave out a great whoop and threw herself up into the sky. As she soared away, April and Ethan thought that was the last time they would ever see her. That is, until she doubled back and landed across from them.

"You have done me a great favor," she said, her voice cracking and tears filling her eyes. "You will have to be rewarded. I grant you each one more fruit."

Ethan, who had remembered that they were lost, decided to wish them back home. But before the spell whisked her away, April took one last look at Nessie’s majestic figure, finally flying free, and whispered, "I wish that this won’t be our last adventure."

The End.