Greetings sports fans! Last night I completed Week Two of my UCLA course, and I think I’m in love. The instructor is hilarious and helpful, and most of all just wants us to write – put it out there – make it happen. Each week we have a homework assignment, and the first one was to re-tell a well-known novel in 1000 words or less. I decided on the following, and am pretty pleased with the result. Next week the class will workshop one of my pieces – nervous and excited, my default settings. Looking forward to the next!
“I’m so bored.”
Alice smoothed her pinafore and gazed at the river.
“I wonder what adventures might await me when I grow up.”
She heard a rustling and a soft ticking. The white rabbit was sharp-dressed and trim. He reached for the pocket watch in his waistcoat and his red eyes went wide with panic.
He leapt as if a beagle were nipping at his ankles, then hopped towards a large oak tree. She shuffled and stumbled behind him, eager to follow the big-eared gentleman down the rabbit hole.
Darkness, a heart-dropping fall, a hollow thud.
She was tired of pulling at doorknobs in the vast hallway she’d landed in, and the key she found was for a door far too small. A sip of what was in the glass bottle might relax her – she’d once had a nip of her mother’s cordial after all.
Another heart-dropping fall, and she was small as a salt shaker. Far too small to reach the key.
The cake was spongey and tart, but she had little time to dwell on it now that she was 50 feet tall. Hopeless and confused, her enormous tears filled the space. A swirl of animals struggled in the torrent of falling water and suddenly she was small once more and swam with them out a tiny door.
The Dodo was a fool. How could you run a race with no winner? But she was wet and cold, and running in circles with a bevy of beasts seemed the quickest way to dry off. Then she caught a white puffy tail in the corner of her eye and chased it, race be damned.
“Who is Mary Ann?”
This was one bossy rabbit, and he must have also been blind, mistaking Alice for his maid when she entered his wee cottage. Who was the Duchess, and why did he need her gloves and fan? She felt a wave of nausea and her limbs creaked and stretched. No, not again! Soon her body filled the home, and the frightened townspeople pelted her with rocks.
“Alright, these mushrooms better work.”
Ragged and twitchy, she came upon the Duchess’ home. The caterpillar she’d met, in his hookah-smoking wisdom, had told her to use two chunks of mushroom to get back to normal height after the village incident. It was like a kitchen experiment – tasting bits of each until she felt like herself again.
Lunch with the Duchess was a nightmare. Too much pepper in the soup, and this cat just sat there the whole time, grinning. And the baby, well…better to not speak too much of it. It wasn’t every day that an infant turned into a squealing piglet before your eyes.
“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”
She was tiring of these confounding riddles and endless tea parties. But again she found herself at the head of a long table, sipping Earl Grey. She longed for boring afternoons with her sister, where they exchanged gossip and nibbled on scones. This host was surely mad (just look at that terrible hat!), the hare was plain irresponsible, and the dormouse was a nervous wreck.
“Off with his head!!”
“Are you KIDDING me?!”
Alice was sure that walking into a garden full of white roses would pose no danger, and definitely not offer her any tea. But no sooner had she pressed her nose against a rosebud than an army of anthropomorphic playing cards marched in with cans of red paint, brushing each flower until they dripped and drooped under glossy lacquer. It was all for the Queen of Hearts, who loathed white roses but apparently loved croquet and delivering death sentences.
She had been here for less than an hour (or maybe not – were any clocks properly set in this Wonderland?), and already the Queen had made her play a game of croquet using mallets that turned into flamingos (inconvenient), ordered the deaths of the Duchess and the Cheshire Cat, verbally abused the White Rabbit, and generally set everyone in a bad mood. Now the Queen was raging against the Knave of Hearts, who was on trial for stealing her tarts. The jury pool was decidedly rodent, with mice and squirrels and lizards directing their beady eyes towards the witness stand, and the mile-high girl who was struggling to sit behind it.
Bravery was surely not a requirement to be a fine lady in the world Alice lived in, but now it was all she had. The trial of tarts had turned into her own, accused of “stealing the air,” by growing tall again. It was time to put an end to this buffoonery.
“OK, listen. Today I’ve danced with a Mock Turtle, smeared jam on a mouse’s nose, and chased a rabbit through this place for God knows why. Everyone grows up and they can’t help it. You can’t banish me because of it!”
“OFF WITH HER HEAD!!!”
Alice easily fought the advances of the Queen’s tiny minions, folding each one like a card. Her arms worked furiously against the onslaught, as some heaved themselves towards her face. She brushed one away, only to open her eyes and see…a leaf? The faces and colors of the courtroom swirled into a muddy brown, and the Queen’s shrill orders became soft and familiar.
“ALICE! You fell asleep in the grass. Come now, let’s go inside and have a cup of tea.”
“Oh sister, I’m afraid I’ve had my fill of tea today. But let me tell you a story…”