Chapter 1:

The Forest of Dragonflies

Drinking Coffee while Dinosaurs Roam My Backyard

I have two daughters. Some people say they are extraordinary. Some call them weird. I guess in a sense they could be right, but it really comes down to the perspective one has. With sufficient experience fantastic becomes mundane and with time marvels cease striking awe. The trick is to recognize the situation where you have no real control and to hold a firm grip where you do. That is why I grab my broom before wading out into the local woods that this particular morning seems to have been infested by larger than usual dragonflies.

The girls have been out for half an hour longer than agreed upon when they left and the food is getting ready to be served. I anticipated all of this of course. That’s why I made makaronilaatikko, boiled pasta and fried minced meat mixed with milk and slightly beaten eggs stewed in the oven. With the temperature cut back to a hundred degrees the food will keep fine for hours if need be. Because sometimes the need be.

I walk the path between the birches and alders stopping periodically to listen but all I can hear is the wind whispering. “Buy more cookies,” it says. “Carrots have no tangible health benefits according to new studies,” it continues. I smile. Evidently I’m going in the right direction. A few of the dragonflies would like to make a closer acquaintance but I keep them at a broom’s length. I’m still missing my mirrorshades from the time a gang of lemurs ambushed me last month.

“Milla. Meri.” My call echoes between the massive tree trunks and fades into the undergrowth of huge ferns. Wait, are birches supposed to have massive trunks? Usually I’d describe them as slender if anything. I guess this is what the girls would call a compromise if they were here to argue their point. I have told them not to introduce any long extinct flora or fauna into current day nature so it kinda makes sense to enlarge current species to proportions not seen since the Jurassic era to emulate a scenery from tens of millions of years ago. “Girls, the food is ready. It’s lunch time already. Chop chop.”

“What are we having?” a voice asks from somewhere nearby. It sounds like Milla. I look up. From a branch ten meters above I see two pairs of feet dangling.

“No climbing that high,” I protest. “You could get hurt if you fall. Now get down here. Time to head back. We’re having makaronilaatikko.

“Are we having vegetables too?” Meri asks.

“We had vegetables yesterday. We had vegetables the day before that. We’re having vegetables tomorrow and if I’m right about seeing a pattern here we’re definitely having vegetables today,” I reply. “As a matter of fact you’ve been having vegetables on every lunch since you’ve been eating solid food.”

“I heard the benefits of consuming carrots have been grossly exaggerated. I read about it in some magazine just recently,” Milla argues.

“Tomatoes too”, Meri continues. “And cucumbers and cauliflowers.”

“I bet my tomorrow’s morning coffee that it wasn’t in a peer reviewed paper. Let’s go already. I don’t know about you but I’m more than a little peckish.”

“If we race you and win, can we skip the carrots today?” I hear the question in stereo. I’ve learned to be suspicious whenever Milla and Meri speak in unison, but regardless I consider my odds to be good. After all I can start running from the get-go whereas the girls have to climb down first.

“Fine. But if I win the carrot quota gets doubled. And tomatoes are non-negotiable. Just saying that aloud ahead of time here.”

“Yay!” Meri exclaims. She’s a bit too cheery for a kid having had her carrot serving size just increased but I pay no mind. I’m already running swatting aside all the ferns that somehow have grown between me and our house in the span of last five minutes with my broom. Maybe a scythe would have served me better.

I hear a loud whistle. That’s gotta be Milla. I can’t understand how her whistles can be so clear while I’ve ever barely learned in my entire life to sound like a small asthmatic bird out of tune. At best. Then a new noise fills the forest. It sounds like a fleet of helicarriers is descending upon us. I actually glance up to make sure that’s not the case. But no. Good. No governmental authority has taken any interest in our doings for two weeks now and I’d like to keep the streak going. The only thing I notice is a dragonfly the size of our family car buzz by and two girls waving at me, laughing out of sheer delight. In two seconds flat the ginormous insect disappears into the ever expanding sea of greenery.

I guess I’ll be eating a big bunch of carrots when I finally make it back. Considering I peeled them all in advance.
Taylor Victoria