Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Adventures of Merrill Thermopolis (Master Class 06)

This week's prompt from Professor SAM can be used anywhere in our writing. I love that kind of freedom. I have been thinking about this line for several days now, mulling whether I wanted to tilt it in an unexpected direction, or play it out like the grisly scene that came into my mind first. If you want to know which I chose, continue reading:

The Adventures of Merrill Thermopolis

There was nothing that Merrill Thermopolis was afraid of. He had been to the pyramids in Egypt, to the far edges of Siberia, across the Atlantic ocean on a boat, and in a helicopter to the rainforest. Merrill's father took him with him on many of his business trips. His father was a scientist, and an engineer, and one of the people that was called most often for problems that seemed to be difficult for others. Last summer they had gone to Zimbabwe to deal with the Gwehava dam's inability to have water drawn from it. It seems there was a rather large snake blocking one of the pipes, and every time they turned the pumps on it shorted out and shut down. The community was very superstitious and shortly after they arrived Merrill overheard the locals discussing a snake that would take the shape of a mermaid to keep the water from moving through the Gwehava dam, in Gokwe. It made him very curious.

Merrill never did get to see the mermaid snake, but while he was in Zimbabwe he came across a two-headed snake that was slithering across the deck of a home that he was staying at. He imagined it might be the mystical mermaid snake, confined to this body when it was on land. He wondered if that was why it had two heads, one was really a snake, and the other might be the mermaid. Never before had he encountered a two-headed snake, and everything he had learned about snakes said to grab them just behind the head so that they were unable to bite you, but a snake with two heads made that a more challenging task. Before the snake could reach the small child scooting around in his walker, Merrill carefully snuck up on the grey skinned snake and reached out with both hands to grab it behind the heads. With the snake in both hands and the tail trailing a few inches behind him, he found his father.

"Father, I saved a baby from this snake, but now that I have it in my hands, how do I let him go without getting bit?" he asked as he showed his father his capture.

"Where did you…" his father's words trailed off as he grabbed the long stick with a grasp on the end of it and handed it to Akashinga, then picked up another and they both took hold of a head at the same time and placed it in a large bucket.

"It was going to eat the baby whole father!" Merrill said before his father could explain the dangers of snakes in Zimbabwe.

Along with Merrill's adventurous spirit came an ample imagination. It was not uncommon for him to exaggerate the adventures he had while he was waiting for his father to return home. An experiment with the magnifying glass on a leaf, might become the hole he burned into the side of a huge tree while he was hunting for wild game.

Racing through the sliding glass door, Merrill came to a quick stop at the dining room table where his father was investigating some kind of metal. "Father, you will never believe what I saw just now" Merrill said "out of breath, he dropped both arms to his side, still gripping the knife in his left hand" (Daniel Alarcon), as he slumped over the back of the dining room chair.

Turning his attention to his son, Merrill's father asked him "What did you just see young man?" as he tousled the hair atop his head, and removed the knife from his hand.

"I saw a leopard drag a crocodile out of the river. I watched the crocodile get up on a little bit of sand in the middle of the river, and just as he did, this leopard came out of the water like a ghost and snatched him up in his mouth!"

"What were you doing by the river Merrill?" his father asked.

Merrill's eyes looked up and to the left, like they did when he was getting ready to make something up. "Well father, I wanted to collect some of the madhumbe root that Dakarai showed me, and that's where it was."

"Merrill, do not get so close to the river again. There are many dangers in Zimbabwe that you are unfamiliar with, and I do not want that crocodile to think that you are his next meal."

His big brown eyes gazed up at his father, while his mouth agreed to listen, you could tell that another adventure was just waiting for the hour he had to map it out, while his father was working. "Okay, father, no more river walking" Merrill said. He walked away with his hands in his pockets, and as he turned the corner, into the hallway that led outside, he pulled a map from his back pocket, and unrolled it. "There are lots of places to go that are no where near the river" he said to himself.

There are some things that cannot be expected of a young adventurer, one of them is a lack of creativity with the boundaries that are given. Even if a child is a very good child, and listens to their parents all the time, there are going to be things they want to investigate that will lead them into territory that might be dangerous. It is far better to teach them how to survive while they are on their own, than to expect them to listen to every word said.

Images used in this blog are either mine, or come from Morguefiles unless indicated otherwise.


  1. Two-headed snakes, mermaid snakes, leopards and alligators.. I love the scene.. exotic. And, of course, how true is the moral.. teach children how to take care of themselves.. let them have their adventures, live their lives, learn lessons.. nicely done, k.

    1. Steph, thank you for reading and responding. This one felt like it needed more to it, though I was not sure what or why. I appreciate your feedback.

  2. The story is really interesting and I love the way you manage to keep the focus on Merrill despite all the other things going on within the story. Paragraph 13 is really....strange. It confuses me every time I read it. Seems like there's something missing. There's an absence of commas, which over all doesn't confuse anything, I just noticed they were missing. I never really understood what was so dangerous about Zimbabwe. You establish the characters well, but there does seem to be something lacking through the story. Maybe it's lacking plot? I can't quite put my finger on it either, but you're right, there's something off about this one. It needed a bit more I think to really understand what's going on and to bring the moral at the end home. The creativity flows in abundance here--mermaid snakes, two-headed snakes, leopard pulling a crocodile out of the water! All very imaginative, which fills the story with the richness we are accustomed to reading from you.

    1. Thank you so much SAM for the helpful feedback. I think I will pull this (and missing commas are horrid to me LOL) and work on the plot, it might be that in my haste I missed some really important information. I feel like it needs to be longer too. Thank you again.


I appreciate your comments, and constructive criticism is welcome!

“To bring anything into your life, imagine that it's already there.”

- Richard Bach

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