Claire walked along the edge of the burblemarsh, listening to the zangers creak out their painful melodies. She had always hated this place, with its greenish-orangish mud, its drab weeping trees, its irritating insects, and its foul mustardy smell.
Every year her father made her come and spend three weeks at her grandmother’s house, right in the middle of the burbliest part of the burblemarsh. Every year she promised herself that she would stay inside the house the whole time and read books and pretend that she was someplace beautiful for the summer. Every year, after a week or so alone in the house with her grandmother’s non-stop nagging, Claire finally escaped outside to take a walk. Every year, she regretted that decision as soon as she laid eyes once more on the burblemarsh.
What a thoroughly nasty place, she thought. Why would her grandmother want to live here?
A few steps ahead she could see a scraggly tree bending down over the bubbling marsh mud. The tree was quite ugly, but it was slightly less repellent than the rest of the scenery, so Claire decided to go and sit in its shade for a while, close her eyes, and try to imagine that it was really a lovely Laurelash tree like they had back home. When she reached the tree, however, she found that she did not want to close her eyes. Growing out of the muck at the base of the sad little tree were seven gorgeous blossoms. Each one was a different color: riotous red, eye-popping pink, spectacular scarlet, outrageous orange, sunny yellow, sparkling violet, and beautiful buttercup.
Claire could not stop staring. It was hard to believe that such radiant flowers could be growing out of that sticky, oozy goo. In fact, Claire didn’t believe it at all. In all the years she had been coming here, she had never seen anything bright and cheery in the burblemarsh, much less the loveliest flowers she had ever imagined. Someone must be playing a trick on her. Claire reached down to touch the flowers.
“No, no! You musn’t touch!” squealed a little voice. “They aren’t ready yet!”
Claire jerked back and hit her head on a branch. “Ouch!”
“Don’t touch the branch either!” warned the voice. “It’s just about to catch on.”
Completely confused, Claire looked around to see who was talking to her. After a couple of minutes, she finally noticed a very short, lumpy creature with blotchy red and brown fur and strange forked ears. She’d never seen anything like it.
“Don’t mean to be rude,” squeaked the creature, “but look!”
Claire looked where spindly finger was pointing. The branch she’d just hit her head on was slowly beginning to glow. The glow spread up the tree, and soon it looked as if the whole tree were burning from the inside. Blossoms pushed up out of the glow, blossoms that looked exactly like the ones in the mud below. After a few minutes, the glow faded, leaving behind a tree that no longer drooped, but shone with golden bark and a load of spectacular blooms. Without even meaning to, Claire reached out a hand to touch it. She had completely forgotten about the strange creature.
“Not yet! Not yet! Wait til it has the chance to spread!”
Claire turned her stare back to the creature. “Who are you?”
“Me? I’m Urd. I’m the gurgle of the burblemarsh.”
None of that made any sense to Claire. “Did you say you’re the…gurgle?”
Urd nodded. “I’m the gurgle of the burblemarsh.”
“You live here then?” Claire couldn’t keep the note of pity out her voice.
“You don’t like it here,” observed the gurgle.
“How could anyone like it here? It’s so horrible and ugly.”
“Is it?” asked the gurgle, gesturing at the glorious blossoms in the muck, at the tree, and at the grass which was currently undergoing the same transformation that the tree had.
“Did you do this?” asked Claire.
“I gave it the tip. It looks especially wonderful this time, don’t you think?”
“It is wonderful,” said Claire. “I’ve never seen anything wonderful here before.”
“Naturally not,” said Urd. “This hasn’t happened in eighteen years.”
“Of course. It takes that long for the burblemarsh to be ready.”
Claire was speechless as she watched the glow spread from grass to trees to ragged shrubs to oozing mud. Soon she was surrounded by glittering gold and extravagant color. It was like the best dream in the world. Claire wanted to look and look forever. She wished she didn’t have to blink. She was so enraptured with the world around her that she didn’t even notice that Urd gave a little chuckle as he disappeared through the thick grass, now waving in a happy little breeze.
When the transformation was complete, Claire walked slowly home, finding new wonders as every turn. It wasn’t until she reached the garden gate that she saw her grandmother standing outside her front door with a radiant smile, looking twenty years younger.
“So now you know,” Grandmother said.
“You wait eighteen years for this?” asked Claire quietly.
“It’s worth the wait,” said Grandmother. “Don’t you think?”
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