I lost the Highlights Contest. It wasn't really a big surprise, but I'd sort of hoped they'd at least want to buy my story. They didn't, and there are very few markets that would want it (and most of those don't pay.) Still, I like this story. I want it to see the light of day. It's not the best thing I've ever written, but I don't want it moldering on my hard drive.
So I'm taking the easy way out. I'm publishing it on my blog, so it will at least get a few readers. If you like it, print it out or cut and paste and pass it on. (Just keep my name attached, please!)
The Snallygaster Shell
by Deirdre Mundy
Kevin bounced up and down in his seat. He opened the shiny black box and peeked inside. “It’s so rare, it should be in a museum,” Kevin whispered. He walked slowly to the front of the room.
“What family heirloom did you bring?” Mrs. Jacobson asked.
Kevin swallowed. His hands shook. “This is a piece of a Snallygaster shell,” he said, trying to speak slowly. “My grandfather saw the hatching.” He held the shell up and it sparkled in the sun.
His classmates sat silent and still in their seats. Kevin smiled. They’d never seen anything like Grandpa’s treasure.
Then, in the front row, Bill snickered. Javier snorted. Samantha giggled.
“That’s just a piece of quartz!” Jason shouted. “Only babies believe in Snallygasters!” The whole class hooted and laughed.
Kevin’s cheeks got hot. His stomach flipped. He closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to see all those faces.
He stuffed the shell… no, the rock… into his pocket. He ran out of the class, down the hall, and into the bathroom. He threw the rock into the trash. How could he have been so gullible? Everyone knew that Grandpa told tall tales.
On the bus home, Kevin sat alone and stared at the floor.
Grandpa was waiting on the front porch. “How did it go?” Grandpa asked.
Kevin’s eyes burned. “It was miserable!” He screamed. “Why did you lie to me about that old rock?”
Grandpa frowned. “It’s not a rock – it’s a Snallygaster shell.” He held out his hand. “May I have it back, please? They only hatch every fifty years. It’s the only one I’ll ever find.”
Kevin studied his shoes. “I left it at school,” he whispered. Grandpa’s eyes drilled into him. Kevin bit his lip and hoped he wouldn’t cry.
A strange screech echoed across the yard. “What was that?” Kevin asked. He was glad to change the subject. He looked at his grandfather. The old man didn’t seem angry anymore.
His grandfather’s eyes sparkled. “I haven’t heard a Snallygaster since I was your age!”
“No, Grandpa,” Kevin said, “What is it really?”
“A Snallygaster,” Grandpa repeated. He pointed to a trail in the woods. “That’s the one. It goes up the mountain, to a silver lake. The Snallygaster nests there. You’ll need to go quick. After the screech, it’s only an hour or two until they hatch.”