Natasha Hirschfield

Chapter 1 : Beware of  Where You Wander 

We all sat on the rug in Madame Freya’s tent, me, my rotten stump of a brother Ilo, and my fussi-bussi sister Eden. Madame Freya was long and thin like a dragonfly and was wearing a flowy purple dress and a funny looking robin’s-egg hat.

“Now children,” Madame Freya the fortune teller crooned, her gossamer wings glittering in the sunlight “hold out your hands.” 

All the elves did as they were told. Even Ilo and Eden. They do anything they’re told, but not me. I was braiding the tassels lining the edge of the rug.

         “Tansy, do you want to get your palm read?” Asked Eden. I glared at her. “Fine.” I grelched.  

         Earlier, my big bossy sister had refused to share her candied goosegrass and when I accidentally stole a piece, she told mama Amber and I got in trouble! To make matters worse, Mama Amber didn’t believe me when I told her it was an accident.

The Fortune Teller ran her fingers along the creases in my brother, Ilo’s palm and squinched her eyes shut. “You were the one who planted invasive rocks in the crystal garden.” Madame Freya winked at me. I stopped braiding the rug. And he blamed me? 

 Madame Freya picked up Eden’s hand. “I know you’ll do anything for acorn muffins and a glass of dandelion milk.” 

Eden frowned.

“Hah!” I snorted “She knows you too well. You wouldn’t last a day without your dandelion milk!” 

Madame Freya checked her watch. “I was supposed to Scuttle Scoot out of here five minutes ago. I’m booked for Nigel’s birthday party in the next log over.” 

“What about Tansy?” Ilo asked “Aren’t you going to read her fortune?”

“Yeah what about me?” 

Madame Freya took my hand and turned it over “Keep still or I’ll put you in my robins egg.” She winked. “Oh no.” The fortune teller’s face was pale.

“What is it?! I don’t want to go back into an egg!” I yanked my hand away 

Madame Freya smiled and lifted the leather flap to the tent. "Fun times lie ahead of you Tansy, but beware of where you wander. Hoggins and spoons may sing sweet tunes. They’ll beckon you into a trap, but Tansy my dear. I’ll make this quite clear. You mustn’t be foolish as that. They’ll gobble you up like a beetle kabob or boil you into a stew, I’m warning you now as to give you a clue. Be careful Be careful whatever you do." And then, with a toss of her golden curls, she vanished. 

“Wait, Come back!" I called after her, running out into the forest of poppy stems “What’s a Hoggin?” but Madame Freya was gone. 

Eden straightened my fluffy moss crown. “Stop.” I pushed her away “I liked it the way it was.” 

I harrumphed and galloped into the bustling festival of crickets, mist, and music. I was going to find Mademe Freya.

   Jim the toad, an unenthusiastic musician, sat on his stool in the middle of the Twilight Gloritt festival, wheezing into his leedlepiper. He was playing the accordion the last time I saw him. His walnut shell tip bucket was stuffed to the brim with zotrobes and his slimy toes were poking out from a hole in his leather shoes. 

  “Jim, did you seen a lady who’s tall like a beanstalk run through here? She’s wearing a flowy purple dress and little red shoes the color of fire ants. Have you seen her? Have you seen her?” 

 “She’s over there!” Squealed Nigel, Jim the toad's little nephew “Talking to Gertrude the snail.”

And there she was. Fire ant shoes and all. “Mademe Freya,” I yelled and flailed my arms “I need to know about the Hoggins!” I pushed through the crowd. Where was she? She was standing here a minute ago. “Come on Gertrude, give me a ride. I have to catch up to Mademe Freya.” Gertrude waved her antennae and oozed away. 

I forgot about Mademe Freya for a while. I smelled bay-leaf pancakes so I scampered up to the food table. Hundreds of aromas filled the air. Crispy spider web dipped in pansy nectar, Sautéed cricket meat, dried hibiscus petals, sunflower tarts, and succulent jelly. And there was Eden, stocking up on her favorite acorn muffins just as Madame Freya predicted. “There she is!” Eden called, pointing fingers.

"Tansy, It's getting late" Ilo wandered up, eyeing my bulging pockets of oak sap hard candies "Lextra’s tired and hungry. We’re gonna start heading home."

  "Your grasshopper can wait Ilo."

  "We're going NOW. Unless you're planning on walking home alone in the dark."

  "Fine then I will! Or I’ll walk with Madame Freya once I’ll find her."

  "You're being a little dimquat."

  "Well, you're being a BIG dimquat!" I clamped my lips over what I might have said next. Just then, Mama Amber walked up with a bag of groceries.

  "Tansy, you do not call your brother the d word!" Mama amber raised her eyebrows. 

  "I wouldn't have even known that word if Ilo hadn't called me it FIRST!"

  "I still don't allow that kind of language in my family." Mama Amber tapped her fingers against her leg “Besides, we should start heading home. Papa Elias is making fennel broth and pickled algae for dinner and it’s getting late." 

“And Lextra needs feeding.” Ilo added

  "My ballet flats are still at Mrs. Thimble’s!" Eden whined, Batting her lashes "Can we pick them up on the way home?"

  "No! I don't wanna stop there!" I slumped onto Mama Amber’s leg 

  "I asked Papa Elias to pick them up. Let's all cooperate, shall we?”

      Mama was doing that thing again. Where she tries to make everyone happy and it never works. Eden was doing that other thing where she jumps and points her toes and spins her skirt. She looked ridiculous. Why can't she just choose a hobby that's actually cool like... making shoes for lizards or even making sunglasses for slugs? Anything would be better than boring old ballet!

  "Well I’m staying here until I find Madame Freya. She ran away without telling me about the Hoggins.” I grumbled

"We’re leaving. If you get on my shoulders, I might let you tell that story you love about when you were a baby." Ilo said. 

“I’m finding Madame Freya weather you like it or not!” 

“As luck would have it, I saw Madame Freya at the Pinecone Brittle stand and invited her for dinner tomorrow night. I’m sure she can answer as many questions as you want then.”

“She likes pinecone brittle too?”

“I think you’ll find that you two have more in common than you think.” Mama Amber winked like Mademe Freya 

“Like what?” I croaked

“Mama will tell you if you get up here already.” Ilo bent down. I grabbed onto his neck and pulled myself up.

From high on my brother’s shoulders, I could see the whole Glorritt Festival. 

“And now for my story…” 

About the Author: Natasha Hirschfield is a 14-year-old artist from San Anselmo, California who is passionate about visual art, sculpture, kinetic art and creative writing. She hopes her art awakens people’s curiosity about the world around them and brings them joy.  Natasha’s visual art has been chosen as part of two different international, juried exhibitions at The San Francisco Walt Disney Family Museum.  She hopes that her creations inspire people to connect more deeply with the natural world and with each other. You can see more of her art on Instagram: @nashayart. *Note: check out Natasha's visual art in Issue Five of Girls Right the World!