A Sweet Misery

Strawberry Sally was a very good little girl. Though she played with her dolls and entertained her stuffed animals with tea parties, everyone knew that what she really wanted to do was go outside and climb trees. But, as the obedient child that she was, she stayed in her castle bedroom as instructed.

“But, darling, little girls just don’t climb trees,” her mother said. “It’s best if you stay inside and be good, just for a few more months. Then, and just maybe then, we’ll let you outside to climb. Until then, I’ll send in the doctor to give you a massage every day to help you relax.”

A few more months seemed like an eternity to Strawberry Sally. She started arranging blocks around her room in tall structures and had her dolls climb them. She used her curtain rod in place of a trunk and was often found scaling to the top of it clinging on, her legs dangling below her, before getting caught by her maid, who panicked frightfully.

“Strawberry Sally! GET DOWN HERE RIGHT NOW! Don’t slip, don’t slip,” she’d say. “Your parents would never forgive me if you were to fall before you were ready!”

“Ready for what?” Sally thought aloud.

“Oh. Ready for real trees of course. Just be patient, and in a week’s time, you’ll be able to climb outside,” the maid said.

So, Strawberry Sally waited and waited and played and played.

A few Bluebirds came chirping at her window a few days before Tree Climbing Day. She tweeted with them, asking them to fly across the yard and show her the tallest tree in the forest. That would be the one she would go to first. A few of them flew off a few yards away and perched on the branch of a mighty oak.

“Oh, yes! That’s to be my first climb, most definitely,” Sally said to them smiling.

The days passed, and it was time for her to head out into the yard, a brave smile smacked on her face. Just as she was about to leave the entryway of the castle, she was stopped by her maid, who “just wanted to inspect” her before she went “running off.”

Sally was patted down here and there, as if the maid was searching for something.

“You are quite plump now, Miss Strawberry Sally.”

“Well, maybe if you’d all let me climb trees earlier, I’d have been in better shape.”

“Oh, no, you are perfect just like this. Now go along, have fun. I’ll be nearby if you need help. Climb as high as you like, now, okay?”

Strawberry Sally sprinted to the oak she had seen earlier and climbed up, and up, and up, and up. She couldn’t believe how agile she was after being stuck inside for so many years. Even some of the Bluebirds flew over to watch her.

“You’re my only friends,” she said to them as she reached the highest branch she could.

She surveyed the yard and her castle for a few minutes until it felt time to descend. Only, she hadn’t thought much about getting down. She realized that the branches were too far spread for her to easily maneuver her way to the ground.

“Help!” She called, waiting for her maid to come rushing outside. Sure enough, out she came, along with Strawberry Sally’s parents. They even had a tarp with them.

“How thoughtful,” Strawberry Sally thought.

“We knew this would happen, Dear. Now just walk out to the end of that branch and jump. We’ll catch you with the tarp!” her mother said.

So, Strawberry Sally walked out and looked one last time to her Blue Bird friends who had followed her along the tree branch, looking nervous and excited. She looked below, saw the outstretched tarp, and took a giant leap to the ground, the air rushing around her.

Midway down, she saw that the tarp had been laid down by her parents and the maid. It was now just like a blanket on the ground instead of a safety net. Before she could fathom much else, she hit the grass hard and felt bursts all over her round body.

“Oh, how wonderful! We did it just perfectly this time!” said her father, who pulled three large spoons out of his back pocket, handing them to both his wife and the maid. “Let’s get the butler to bring out the mason jars, and we’ll get her all inside them now while she’s fresh. We’ll add sugar later, yes?”

“I think this is the best one yet,” the maid said as she dipped her finger where Strawberry Sally’s leg used to be, licking it and smiling. “We waited until she was just ripe enough.”

“We’ll have the most delicious jam in town this year. I’m sure we’ll win the ribbon at the fair,” her mother said.

“Of course we will!” her father said.

And Strawberry Sally closed her eyes, realizing that she was raised in safety only to be thrown from a tree and bottled for jam. The last sound she heard was the excited twittering of the Bluebirds as they fluttered down to where she lay.

Writer: Caitlin Orr is a writer of quirky short stories and a lover of wonder. She lives in California with her lovely dog Cornelia.

Artist: Jess Johnson is a multi-disciplined artist and graphic designer enthusiastic about adding photography to her creative palette. She also runs a design studio in Fullerton where she passionately pursues artistic projects.