A Scary Request is one of many short stories that have spun from Cindy Davis’ novel Zipacna’s Legacy. As an author and psychic, she strives to help adults connect with this sometimes-confusing always fast-paced world. As children, we often have questions our elders cannot answer. We wonder about the person in the corner of the bedroom that no one else can see. Or why something we dream about comes true a day or so later. These aren’t things to fear. They are normal. They are part of your awakening.
A Scary Request
Jade twirled in circles, her pink flowered sundress spreading in a big hoop around her. Faster and faster she spun, higher and higher the skirt flew. Her dark pigtails, that Mommy put in a few minutes ago, whirled just like her dress. The pink ribbons tied at the ends looked like the handlebar streamers from her bicycle. She turned so fast the tips of her hair slapped her cheeks. It hurt a little but not enough to make her stop. But now she was dizzy and felt like tipping over. Jade stopped spinning and fell over anyway. She lay in the dirt giggling. The clouds were puffy and white like cotton balls. The sky was so blue, just like the shirt Daddy had on this morning. The thought made her frown because Daddy slammed the screen door when he went out. He and Mommy had a big fight. Grampa Zipacna took Jade away, so she didn’t know what the fight was about. He told her not to be bothered by it, that sometimes adults have trouble figuring things out.
“Just like me! I sometimes have trouble figuring things out,” she said.
“Yes, just like you.”
What she didn’t say was that she asked lots of questions to help figure out the things in her head. Confusing things that, no matter how long or hard she thought, just did not make sense. Like: why did she hear voices in her head? Who were they? Why couldn’t she see anyone? At first she’d been really scared and went to ask her parents.
Mommy didn’t want to talk about it; she said, “Just ignore them and they will go away.” Which made Jade even more scared because they must be something bad. When Daddy came home she’d sat in his lap and asked him, which made Mommy sad like she thought Jade didn’t believe what she said. Daddy told her the voices were spirit guides, and be sure to ask lots of questions, and then listen carefully for the answers. But this only added more questions to her mind.
If what Grampa said was true—that adults have trouble figuring things out—it explained why nobody had answers for her. It must be that her questions were too hard. After all, when she asked her friends, they looked at her strangely and walked away. So she learned to keep the questions inside her head.
Grampa Zipacna poked her foot with his boot. “Come on, let’s make some mango cookies.”
Jade flung herself up from the dirt. Grampa brushed the leaves from her braids and the back of her dress. She skipped ahead of him toward the house making her shoes dusty all over again. That’s when she noticed Mommy sitting on a red bench under the live oak tree. Grampa had told her the name of the tree and it made her giggle. “What does a dead oak tree look like?” she asked, and he said “Firewood.”
He gathered flour and sugar from a high-up cabinet, eggs from the fridge, and a heavy bowl that looked big enough for her to climb inside, from a cabinet near the oven. “See this?” he asked, “Your grandmother made it in a ceramics class.” He dragged a chair to the counter for her to stand on. Then he laughed as it thumped on the counter.
“What is funny?” Jade asked.
“It was Gramma Sacniete’s first project. She didn’t realize the teacher was going to glaze it and send it home with her. She thought she’d shape it and then scrunch it up and start over.”
“Like I do with my Play-Doh.”
“Right. Next time you visit, I will have some here for you, and you can scrunch it all you like. For now, can you get the smallest blue canister for me?” He pointed to a cabinet near the sink.
She gathered it from where he said and handed it to him, making sure to shake it first, as if it was a Christmas present. “What’s in here?”
“I love—“ She wrinkled her nose. “I don’t think I know what they are. Can I have one?”
“Of course.” He popped one from the container and into her open mouth.
“It’s good. Can I have more?”
He handed her three then gave her a giant spoon to stir the batter.
“Grampa, what was Gramma’s name again?”
“Sacniete. It means white flower.”
“You know that’s your middle name, right?”
Jade felt her face scrunching into a bunch of wrinkles. “It’s my middle name?”
“Yes, Jade Sacniete Waempo.”
“Oh.” She remembered one day her friends were making fun of Rosanne’s middle name. It was something like Caprice, and they were all laughing. Gee, would they laugh at the name Sacniete. It was another thing she wouldn’t mention to them, even though she thought it sounded pretty.
Grampa slid a big tray of cookies into the oven.
“What should we do now?” she asked. “Do you have any dolls?”
He laughed and helped her down from the chair. “I think I’m fresh out of dolls.” He washed his hands, dried them on a red-checkered towel, and knelt in front of her. His face was all-serious—not like his cookie-making face from a few minutes ago. “There is something very important I would like you to do for me.”
She hopped up and down, clapping her hands, anxious to do anything to help. After all, he made cookies for her.
“Before we talk about that, though,” he said, “I have something I want to give you.”
Jade followed him into the bedroom—the only bedroom in this small house. While they were here, Mommy and Daddy were sleeping on the pullout sofa, which was cool. But even better: she got to cuddle on a big chair on the porch, with a yellow and white quilt made by the grandma-she-never-met who gave Jade her middle name. Very cool.
The bedroom was dark and it smelled like those green leaves Mommy used when she made spaghetti sauce. Grampa went to the window and pulled up one shade, but made a mistake and let go of it too soon. It flip-flapped around and around. Jade giggled.
Grampa Zipacna opened the closet. From a way-up shelf he took a wooden box like the ones her new shoes came in. He set it on the bed. She climbed up and sat with her legs crossed to watch him open it with a tiny key he got from the top drawer of the dresser.
He said he had something for her. What could it be? His hand disappeared inside the box. She peeked around the top but couldn’t see anything. A long black strap dangled from his big fingers. Something beautiful hung at the bottom: two beautiful greenish feathers and two bluish green stones—her favorite color. She touched the feathers with one finger.
“These are from a quetzal bird.”
She repeated the unusual word.
“A quetzal is a symbol for goodness and light. Do you understand the meaning of the word symbol?”
“Yes. It means…something important.”
He smiled and patted her leg. “Just right. And these two stones are called jade.”
“Just like my name!”
“Yes, exactly like your name.”
He slipped the strap over her head. It was long and it hung down almost to her tummy. He offered to make it shorter but she wouldn’t let him take it off. And she
couldn’t stop looking at the beautiful feathers.
“Now I have something important for you to do.”
It took a few minutes to explain because Jade asked a lot of questions. Soon she realized that what he wanted wasn’t just something important, it was very important. And also, it was scary. Grampa wanted her to do something she had never done before in her whole life.
Suddenly fear took over her whole body. Her eyes wanted to cry. “Grampa, I-I don’t think I can...”
He put a finger under her chin and lifted until she was looking into his eyes. “Remember something, Granddaughter, you can do anything you set your mind to—anything. No matter what anyone says. All you have to do is believe you can.” He rose from the bed, closed the box, and put it back in the closet.
She climbed from the bed, still hesitant. Jade squeezed her eyes to keep the tears from coming out, and followed him through the kitchen to the back door. The cookies smelled wonderful and she didn’t want to leave the house.
He gave her a nudge on the backside. “You can do this, baby. Remember how important it is.”
Jade said “Okay” and went outside. She let the screen door slam just to make sure Grampa was aware how uncomfortable she felt. She glanced back at him in case he’d changed his mind.
Mommy was still sitting under the giant tree in the side yard. Her legs were crossed and her hands folded in her lap. She didn’t move when Jade slammed the door.
Her mother’s shoulders were shaking; it looked like she was crying. Jade hated when Mommy cried. She had been crying a lot in the past week, even before they came here. Jade frowned. She didn’t remember her parents fighting until this morning. What made her mother cry all week?
Jade gazed down at her dusty black patent leather shoes. She swiped the toe of each on the back of the white ankle socks with lace all around the top she’d gotten especially for this trip. Her feet felt rooted to the dirt path leading to Grampa’s huge yard.
Something was wrong with her mother. Not the crying part—the part that made her cry. For some reason Jade thought it was more than a fight with Daddy. And it seemed important to figure it out before going any further.
The screen door squeaked a bit behind her. She didn’t have to look to know Grampa did that to encourage her—to let her feel his strength. Jade didn’t really understand what was going to happen but she knew it was very important for her mother. And for some reason, Mommy wouldn’t accept this ‘important’ thing from Grampa.
Just to prove she was still going through with it, Jade took a tiny step. As she moved, she realized what had been wrong: usually Mommy had a pretty pink light all around her body (it always made her laugh when Jade said so). Today, there was hardly any pink at all. It was…Jade didn’t know the name of the color, but it was almost as if the pink light had got dirty. Like the color of the toes of her shoes a minute ago.
Jade must have made a sound because her mother turned around. Although she suddenly felt sad and hesitant, Jade pushed a smile onto her face and forced her feet to skip forward over and over until she got to the bench. Then she let her legs go loose and flopped beside her mother. Their arms touched. Something like electricity—when she scuffed across the carpet—went up her arm and down her body. Jade pulled away because it wasn’t a good feeling. And she didn’t like the picture that went into her head. It was a picture of her mother with all her skin the color of Jade’s dusty shoes.
Mommy wiped her hands across her face. She pretended to be brushing away some bugs, but Jade knew it was tears. She moved over on top of her mother and, just like when she was really small, crawled into her lap so they were face-to-face. She laid her head on her mother’s shoulder, clasped her fingers behind her neck, closed her eyes and then concentrated real hard, just the way Grampa said.
Jade lay against her mother, listening to her heart go thump-thump thump-thump. All around birds tweeted. A far-away cat meowed. A car beeped. The smell of cookies came in her nose and made her stomach rumble.
After a while, Grampa Zipacna came with a pot of tea for him and Mommy. And he gave Jade a giant cookie from the pocket of his brown plaid shirt. It was wrapped in a pink napkin. Pink? In Grampa’s house?
Suddenly Jade was exhausted. Nibbling the cookie, she climbed from Mommy’s lap and went inside to her bed-chair on the porch. Before lying down, she looked out at Mommy and Grampa. Something was different. Mommy wasn’t crying any more. That was good. But there was something else. The color that was around her mother a while ago—that dusty-shoe-color, was gone. It had changed back to pink. For a moment Jade wondered if she’d made a mistake about it all. But something inside told her no; whatever Grampa asked her to do…that was the reason the light around Mommy was all pretty pink again. Jade lay on Grandma’s quilt and closed her eyes, the last of the delicious cookie crumbs sliding down her throat.