A Girl Who Stood by the Brook
Written in January 2004
One day a girl stood by a brook. She was reading a book about a foot. She shook and the book landed in the middle of the brook. She put up her hood and got her fishing pole. She made sure the hook was sharp. She got it! Her mother came by to tell her I wanted to cook some chocolate for my little book saver.
The good news is, my storytelling skills have exponentially developed since I wrote this little tale sixteen years ago; although, some “sixth sense” I have for this former version of myself tells me that even in January 2004, I could have done a better job on this, but I was merely eager to crank out a story for my homework assignment to be done with it.
Delightfully, this story’s vocabulary words seem to have an “oo” sounding theme (brook, foot, shook, book). I am both amused and appreciative of its brevity, because the shorter and less detailed my childhood stories are, the more I can insert my sarcastic imagination into the gaps.
First of all, I’d like to admit that as a child, I had a mild obsession with the name “Brooke.” Several of my stories featured characters named “Brooke,” and in fact, I’ve already shared an Aged Anecdote with such a name, entitled “Brooke and Money.” And although in this vignette, the brook is referring to a creek or a gentle river, it’s appropriate that this word still made its way in here, and as a vocabulary word, at that!
“The Girl Who Stood by the Brook” begins with a young woman, presumably a girl I imagined was named “Brooke,” although this is not canonically mentioned and is merely reader speculation. Our protagonist is standing near a brook, which is a place I imagine most children enjoy spending time. When I was a kid, the woods were a magical place for me, teeming with possibility and adventure. I loved going to the forest to use my imagination, which I think is why so many children have felt drawn to the woods, especially in literature. (Bridge to Terabithia, anyone?)
Next to this brook, the young protagonist is reading a book about a foot. At first read, this seems fine and rhythmic within the story, but as we begin to visualize this, the silliness unfolds. This girl is described to be standing, and yet she is engrossed in a book——why is she not sitting, while reading the book, in such a peaceful setting? There are a few interpretations I have hypothesized regarding this: either the ground is wet from a recent rain and the girl did not want to get the seat of her pants wet, she is a highly alert agent who must be ready to run at any moment that a threat poses itself and so by standing she will have a quicker reaction, or she is a robot who does not consider comfort but only function.
Not only is she reading while standing, but she is reading a book about a foot. So my further hypotheses are: she is studying orthopedics because she dreams of becoming a foot doctor, she is actually reading a book about a famous undercover spy named the Foot and learning his elite ways of foot-fighting technique, or she is reading a user’s guide to the foot because she is having a difficult time mastering control over her new robotic foot and needs further help.
Apparently, whichever foot-centric edition she is reading, it is shocking enough to rattle her, thus causing her to startle and accidentally toss said book into the brook. Or, to further credit the secret-agent theory, perhaps unwritten was that a noise shuffled through the woods behind her, and because of her rapid reflexes, she over-reacted to the unknown sound. Or, she became quite frustrated with how simple it should be to dictate what one’s robotic foot does, and, having struggled with it quite a bit herself, tossed the book in a short-circuited rage.
But, as soon as she realizes her mistake, this girl gets serious and springs into book-from-brook-saving action. (Perhaps she can credit her ability to think swiftly while under pressure to her doctor-training, her secret-agent-training, or her robotic programming.) She puts up her hood, which means she’s either tapping into a superhero persona or blocking out peripheral distractions from her concentration, and she grabs her fishing pole, which must have been her previous activity before the book-reading. Before casting her line, she gives the fishing hook a double-check to ensure it’s razor sharp, which, as I am now a responsible adult, makes me question how wise it is to entrust such a sharp object to an unsupervised little girl. But, perhaps she’s well-trained with sharp weapons such as knives and swords, and so a fishing hook is child’s play to her.
Then, without any climactic hoopla whatsoever, the girl immediately catches the book with her fishing pole and reels it in, on the first try.
Mother comes by at that exact moment to praise the young girl and say that she will “cook some chocolate” for her little book saver, which quickly concludes the tale——-but I am not so easily convinced of this simple tale.
The mother’s timing is somewhat impeccable; the author includes no transitions or indication of passage of time, so the story reads as though the mother pops out as soon as the girl catches the book; this means that the mother was nearby even before the book-dropping incident occurred. So what I believe, is that the girl heard the mother rustling around in the woods behind her, and perhaps these noises scared her, causing her to drop the book.
But further, does one truly “cook” chocolate? This strange phrase that the mother mentions raises even more suspicion. Is this code for something more? Is “mother” actually the girl’s trainer, perhaps not even blood-related at all? Maybe “the Mother” is what all kid agents-in-training call their mentor, a code name in itself? And it could be that it was no accident that the Mother scared the young girl, but it was all actually a part of a training procedure to test the protagonist’s reaction——and she passed, so now the “chocolate” shall be “cooked,” which is code for a formal ceremony in which the agent levels up in their training roadmap.
And why does the girl even have a fishing pole if she is at a brook? Brooks are typically light streams of water flow, and would most certainly not contain marine life for which a fishing pole would be necessary to catch. Was the young girl merely using it as the only tool she could muster, for self-defense or survival? Had she maybe been traveling for many days on her own, and had used it to fish in a nearby lake, while on this solo quest?
However, we must also consider the Foot Book: if a regular book falls into a brook, even if it is retrieved, won’t the pages still be muddy and wet, text smudged, words illegible henceforth? The book would be effectively rendered useless. Was there something in this book that the Mother did not want the young agent to read, and to prevent her from discovering this information, the Mother sabotaged her endeavor to learn?
The author of this story is clearly skilled in the art of leaving the most crucial information unsaid. After intense analysis, I believe that the author most certainly wrote the young girl as an independent young agent with a book containing highly confidential information, a book that the Mother could not allow the young girl to read, otherwise, her own life would be in danger at the cost of what she knew and the people who would be willing to hunt her down to get it. And thus, for fear of being watched and monitored by the enemy, the Mother made it seem as though the young girl dropped the book and ruined it, but actually, the Mother will be able to restore the book (which is why it was still worth saving) and “cooking chocolate” is their code for a life-or-death situation. That all being said and done, it now seems glaringly obvious that this is actually just the beginning of a thrilling adventure!
What? You didn’t pick up on all that, too?
I’d also like to give a super big “Thanks!” to my mom for hooking me up with the amazing photographs in this post. She so sweetly saved all of our childhood stories and artwork, and she’s always got my back when I text her things out of the blue, like, “Hey mom, do you have any kid pictures of me by a brook?” and she sends me absolute gold. Hope you enjoyed them!
Thanks for reading!
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