Maggie and the wish fish, p.1

Maggie and the Wish Fish, page 1

 

Maggie and the Wish Fish


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Maggie and the Wish Fish


  Also by E. D. Baker

  The Tales of the Frog Princess:

  The Frog Princess, Dragon’s Breath,

  Once Upon a Curse, No Place for Magic,

  The Salamander Spell, The Dragon Princess,

  Dragon Kiss, A Prince among Frogs

  Fairy Wings

  Fairy Lies

  Tales of the Wide-Awake Princess:

  The Wide-Awake Princess, Unlocking the Spell,

  The Bravest Princess, Princess in Disguise,

  Princess between Worlds

  A Question of Magic

  The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker:

  The Fairy-Tale Matchmaker,

  The Perfect Match, The Truest Heart

  Magic Animal Rescue:

  Maggie and the Flying Horse

  This book is dedicated to my father, who taught me how to fish and gave me beautiful memories of drifting on a river with fishing poles in our hands. And to Quackers and Fromage, who taught me so much about eccentric wildfowl.

  Contents

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  About the Author

  Chapter 1

  Maggie’s stepmother, Zelia, swished a long stick through the hot, soapy water. She scooped out a tunic and dropped it into another tub. Cool water splashed Maggie’s face.

  “That’s the last of the laundry,” said Zelia. “Rinse the rest of those things. I’m going inside to make lunch. After you’ve hung everything on the line to dry, you may come inside to eat. Be sure you don’t drop anything. If you get something dirty, you’ll have to wash it again.”

  Maggie nodded. “I’ll be careful.”

  Once a week, she had to help with laundry. Her stepmother had lots of children to take care of, so there were always things to do. Maggie had been busy ever since her father had gone to the far side of the forest to cut down trees a few weeks before. She wished she knew when he’d be back.

  Maggie reached her hands into the tub of cool rinse water and pulled out one of the twins’ shirts. After wringing out the water, she hung the little blue shirt on the line. As it dripped, the dirt below turned into mud.

  Maggie was very careful not to drop anything. She carried the clothes without letting them touch the ground. She hung them so they wouldn’t slip off the rope. Her clothes got wet, but the laundry stayed clean. She always left her special journal of magical creatures somewhere safe on laundry day.

  When lunch was ready, Zelia called all the other children inside. Maggie wasn’t finished with the laundry so she tried to work faster. All that work made her extra hungry.

  Maggie was hanging the last tunic when she heard a sudden whoosh of wings. Five flying pigs soared over the treetops. They landed in the mud under the dripping laundry. Oh no! Maggie thought. The pigs splashed and played in the mud. “Go away!” she shouted. “Stop that!” The pigs splattered big globs of mud all over the laundry. Maggie would have to wash everything again!

  She tried to chase the pigs away, but they flew into the air. Chasing each other between the hanging laundry, the pigs splashed even more mud on the clothes.

  Maggie wasn’t sure what to do. Part of her loved watching the pigs fly, but they were going to get her in real trouble. She tugged on her special unicorn tip. If only it worked on pesky flying pigs!

  “Get out of here!” she shouted. When that didn’t work, she threw rocks at the pigs to scare them. The pigs finally flew away.

  Just then, Zelia came outside and saw Maggie throwing rocks. She did not see the flying pigs. “What are you doing?” she demanded. “What did you do to the laundry?”

  “I was chasing off some flying pigs,” said Maggie. “They got the laundry muddy!”

  “Flying pigs? Ha!” said Zelia. “Maggie, your lies are getting bigger every day. There is no such thing as a flying pig!”

  “But the pigs were here!” cried Maggie. “They flew away right before you came outside.”

  “I saw you throwing rocks at our clean clothes, but I didn’t see any pigs!” said her stepmother. “Now you have to wash everything again yourself.”

  Maggie sighed. “I know,” she said. She knew she shouldn’t argue. She’d only get in more trouble if she did. Zelia stomped back inside as Maggie took all the clothes off the line again and put everything back into the soapy water. She scrubbed and scrubbed until her hands were sore. When each item was clean, Maggie dropped it into the tub of cool water. She rinsed and rinsed, then hung the clothes on the line.

  Maggie was finally about to go inside for lunch when she heard the whoosh of wings again. The pigs were coming back! Maggie grabbed a stick and waved it in the air as the pigs circled around the laundry. “Go away!” Maggie shouted until her throat was sore and the pigs finally flew off.

  Zelia came outside again. “Why were you shouting this time?” her stepmother asked.

  “The pigs came back,” said Maggie.

  “Stop lying!” Zelia told her. “You can have something to eat when you learn to tell the truth.”

  Chapter 2

  The next day, Maggie woke before the sun came up. Zelia had taken away her bed a few days before. Her stepbrother Peter slept on it now. Maggie slept in the loft with some of the other children. She shared a mattress with her stepsister, Jenny, and the twins, Timmy and Tommy. When Maggie sat up, the straw-stuffed mat tress crinkled. One of the twins muttered and rolled over. Maggie slid off the bed as quietly as she could. She held her breath as she climbed down the ladder. Tiptoeing out of the cottage, she shut the door behind her.

  If she’d waited any longer, Zelia would have woken up and found something for her to do. But Maggie couldn’t stay at home today. She needed to go see Bob, the stableman in charge of magical animals. He would know what to do about those flying pigs.

  Maggie started down the path as the sun was coming up. She spotted a doe leading her fawn, and a heron wading in a pond.

  Maggie turned onto the road leading to the castle. She passed a gnome tending his mushroom garden. “Hello!” she called.

  “Hello, yourself,” he replied.

  Maggie glimpsed fairies sipping dew from flowers. “Good morning!” she said, waving. The fairies giggled and waved back.

  Out of nowhere, she saw someone—or something—coming toward her.

  Maggie remembered the troll that had once chased her. She darted from the road and hid behind a thick tree trunk. A mother manticore strolled past with her three cubs trailing behind her. When the manticores were out of sight, Maggie returned to the road. She looked both ways, but no one was coming.

  Maggie passed the old ruins and then the mill. Finally, she passed the castle and saw Bob’s cottage.

  Bob was in the stable, feeding the animals their breakfast.

  “Look who’s here!” said Leonard, the talking horse. “You’re up early. I haven’t even had my grain yet.”

  “Hi, Leonard! Hi, Bob! I’m sorry to interrupt, but I need to talk to you, Bob,” said Maggie.

  “Is everything all right?” Bob asked her.

  “Not really. I’m having trouble with flying pigs,” Maggie said.

  Bob nodded. “I’ve had a lot of trouble with flying pigs myself. Here,” he said, handing her his journal. “You should find what you need to know in this.”

  “What about my grain?” asked Leonard. “I’m starving! Why am I always the last one to get breakfast?”

  Maggie giggled. Leonard was as fat as a tick and looked like he’d never missed a meal.

&
nbsp; Bob sighed. “The last to eat and the first to complain. You know, I’ve been thinking about putting you on a diet.”

  “Never mind,” said Leonard. “There’s no need to get nasty!”

  Chapter 3

  While Bob finished feeding the magical animals, Maggie sat on an overturned bucket and looked through the journal. Leonard munched his grain, twitching his ears each time she turned a page.

  Flying Pigs

  Most common wing colors: white, gray, pale blue, speckled black, spotted pink

  Behavior: often travel in clusters of at least three pigs. Rarely seen at night. Believed to nest high up in tall trees. Rarely observed sleeping.

  Bad habits: eating plants they shouldn’t, rooting up gardens, smearing mud on things. This is particularly troublesome when they appear in large groups.

  Habitats: muddy riverbanks; muddy fields after a heavy rain; mud anywhere; cornfields; apple orchards; barley, alfalfa, or clover fields; around beehives; well-shaded forests

  Ailments: prone to sunburn and skin conditions such as excessive dryness and rashes. Often get hoof rot from wet mud. Wallowing in mud may cause damage to wing feathers.

  Favorite foods: corn, apples, barley, alfalfa, clover, stolen fruit pies

  What to do to prevent flying pig infestation: flying pigs do not like shifting light patterns or bright, contrasting colors. To shoo them away, flap a brightly colored cloth in the air. To keep them away, hang strips of brightly colored fabric from a line strung between two poles.

  Beware of flying pigs that appear to be thinking. They are smarter than they look.

  Bob came back just as Maggie finished reading the journal entry. “Thank you for showing this to me,” she said, handing the journal to him. “I think I know what to do now.”

  Chapter 4

  Leonard and Bob gave Maggie a ride home. Maggie told them about seeing the manticores, but they didn’t see any new magical creatures.

  “You can drop me off here,” Maggie said when she spotted the path leading to her cottage. “I don’t want you to waste any more time!”

  “Are you sure?” asked Bob. “It isn’t that much farther to your cottage.”

  “I’m sure,” said Maggie as she slipped off Leonard’s back. “I’ll be fine.”

  “See you around, short stuff,” said Leonard, and started off at a trot.

  Maggie hurried down the path toward home. Her stomach grumbled, reminding her that she was very hungry. When she came across wild raspberry bushes, she stopped to pick some and filled her basket with berries.

  After eating her fill and picking enough for everyone in the family, she started walking again. It was still early morning.

  Maybe her stepmother wouldn’t be too mad that she’d left without asking. Maybe she hadn’t even noticed that Maggie was gone!

  When Maggie reached the cottage, Zelia was taking fresh bread out of the oven. “Where have you been?” she asked when Maggie stepped inside.

  “I was out picking raspberries for everyone,” said Maggie. She dumped the berries into a bowl. When her stepmother wasn’t looking, Maggie borrowed her bright red shawl. Maggie couldn’t wait to try out the tips about chasing away flying pigs that she’d learned from Bob’s journal. She also wanted to prove to Zelia that she wasn’t lying.

  Maggie went behind the cottage to the spot where she and Zelia usually did the laundry. Hoping to attract the pigs, she poured water on the dirt, turning it into mud. When Maggie heard the whoosh of wings, she grabbed the red shawl and flapped it at the flying pigs.

  “Stepmother, come here!” she cried. “The flying pigs are back. I want you to see them.”

  Zelia walked outside, but the flying pigs were already gone.

  “This nonsense again? And what are you doing with my shawl, young lady?” cried Zelia.

  “I borrowed it to chase away the flying pigs,” Maggie told her.

  “There are no flying pigs!” shouted Zelia. “And borrowing without asking is stealing, which makes you a liar and a thief. No supper for you tonight, Maggie!”

  “But I wasn’t stealing! I didn’t lie!” Maggie cried. “Why won’t you listen to me?”

  “I don’t listen to liars!” Zelia said and stormed off.

  Maggie’s throat felt tight as she held back tears. She’d never felt so alone before.

  Chapter 5

  The next day, a storm passed through, bringing wind and pounding rain. Peter didn’t take his sheep out that morning because of it. After the storm passed and the sun came out, he dug worms out of the mud and announced that he was going fishing.

  His mother handed him a big basket. “Take Maggie with you. She can help carry the fish home. Here, Maggie,” she said, handing her a smaller basket. “You can pick more berries while Peter is fishing.”

  Maggie took the basket and followed Peter out the door. They hadn’t gone far when he handed her the big basket. “Here, you can carry this one, too,” he said.

  Maggie sighed. She was tired of doing Peter’s work for him.

  As they walked, Peter swung the long stick he used for fishing. He whacked flowers blooming on the side of the path. He knocked leaves from trees. He even tried to hit a passing sparrow. Afraid that he might whack her next, Maggie dropped back to follow him from a safe distance.

  After they reached the lake, Peter walked down to the shore and cast his line while Maggie started looking for berries.

  “You won’t believe how many fish I’m going to catch!” Peter announced. He pulled in his line, but the worm was gone. He put on another one and cast again. Maggie stumbled upon a lush blackberry thicket and began to fill her basket. She popped one into her mouth and bit down. The taste was refreshing but the seeds got stuck between her teeth.

  An hour later, Peter had caught only two tiny fish. Meanwhile, Maggie’s basket was almost filled to the top with delicious, ripe berries.

  Peter started casting and pulling his line in faster. He used up almost all of his worms . . . and yet he didn’t catch any more fish.

  Maggie thought he looked angry, so she moved farther down the berry patch and closer to the lake.

  A fish jumped in the lake near Maggie and left a big circle in the water.

  “Why don’t you try over here?” she called to Peter. “I just saw a really big fish!”

  Peter laughed. “Yeah, right. You don’t know anything about fishing!”

  He cast his line once more, but it came back without a fish again. Peter was scowling when he stomped over to Maggie’s spot. He cast his line where she had been standing and felt a tug right away.

  “Look at this!” Peter shouted as he pulled in a very big fish. He smiled and glanced at Maggie. “I knew this was a good spot!”

  Maggie squeezed her lips shut so she wouldn’t say anything. Not a lot surprised her anymore. She was used to Peter taking the credit for the good things and blaming her for the bad.

  The fish wiggled and thrashed on his line. Peter unhooked it and handed it to Maggie. “Put it in the basket, then come back for the next one. I’m going to catch lots of big ones now.”

  The fish stopped squirming as soon as Maggie held it. She was carrying the fish to the basket when it suddenly said, “Let me go and I’ll grant you a wish.”

  Maggie’s eyes grew large and her mouth dropped open. “You can talk!” she said.

  “It’s not as unusual as people think,” said the fish. “Let me go and I’ll grant you a wish.”

  “What kind of wish?” Maggie asked.

  “Whatever you want,” said the fish. “But first you have to let me go.”

  Maggie thought of all the things she could wish for. Getting her old bed back would be nice. So would having enough to eat. But belonging to a nicer family would be wonderful! Yes, that’s what she wanted more than anything. Besides, should they really eat a talking fish?

  Maggie carried the fish to the lake. “Shouldn’t I tell you my wish now before you swim away?” she asked.

  “I need to
get back in the water!” the fish said, gasping. “Hurry! I can’t breathe!”

  Maggie quickly let the fish slip back into the water and watched as it disappeared into the murky depths.

  “Wait, don’t you want to know about my wish?” she called after it.

  But the fish didn’t come back.

  “I wish to be part of a nicer family!” she said in a quiet voice so Peter wouldn’t hear her.

  There was no sign of the fish, not even a ripple in the water where he’d been. Maggie was sure she’d been fooled.

  Peter was whistling when he rejoined Maggie. “We need to go home now. It looks like it’s going to rain. I don’t think I’ll catch any more fish anyway. But at least I caught that big one. It should feed everyone tonight. Mother will be so proud of me! Hey, where is it?” he asked, looking into the basket.

  “Um, I let it go,” said Maggie. “It was a talking fish.”

  “You what?” shouted Peter.

  “It said it would grant me a wish if I let it go. I was going to wish for something for the family.”

  “That was our supper! Fish don’t talk! I’m telling Mother what you did.” Peter snatched the big basket from her hand and stomped off toward home without Maggie.

  Maggie sighed. “I’m sure you will,” she said to herself, thinking about how she wouldn’t get any supper again. She was so tired of falling asleep hungry when she was just trying to do the right thing!

  Chapter 6

  Maggie couldn’t blame Peter for being angry. She was angry, too! The fish had lied and tricked her into letting it go. Zelia would have been so happy if she had seen that fish! Now they didn’t have supper and Maggie didn’t have a wish because she had actually believed a talking fish.

 
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