Chandra sprinted through the woods behind her house with the swiftness of all the sprites she had read about in her storybooks. The tiny spines of blonde hair on her legs shone in the early spring sunlight. She felt enchanted. By what, she knew not, nor did she care. Chandra only knew that the day was beautiful and that somehow she had to capture a sliver of it to remember forever.
The little girl, the one of fairytale long hair and large, serene eyes, normally struck the adults in her life as strangely ambitious. Her heart wanted to conquer all.
Over tea one afternoon, Chandra’s mother chatted with her sisters and neighbors about how much her daughter wanted to visit the moon. Scores of sugar cookies sat on platters set on the table.
“Doesn’t every kid?” the sisters and neighbors said, shrugging their shoulders and sipping their tea. One or two of them nibbled on their cookies, sending flakes of sugar flying to the floor.
“But Chandra wants to kiss it. She wants to hug it—no! Embrace it. Love it.”
“Oh, you know what they say about the moon. Maybe she just likes cheese,” one sister teased, “C’mon, stop being so poetic.”
But Chandra’s mother was no poet. A pragmatic woman who arranged the contents of her kitchen cupboard alphabetically and never once tried a new recipe, she sighed at Chandra’s odd behavior. She did not understand the girl who aspired to draw crayon portraits of everyone in the many countries and kingdoms she promised herself she would one day see. She did not understand why anyone would ever want to leave the comforts of the routine they knew in their homes.
Chandra’s father, too, lacked the sentiments of a poet. He kept only one photograph in his house and that was the picture taken on his wedding day. (Of course, the picture’s true purpose in the home was questionable, as the frame covered up an unfortunate stain on the wall.) Chandra’s father denounced religion, ate only five different meals, and, since the age of twenty, always appeared about ten years older than he actually was. He rarely smiled.
With such bland parents, no one could determine the source of Chandra’s overwhelming curiosity and vivacity. At every moment, she seemed thrilled just to breathe, as if even the common air contained some kind of sparkling magic.
“Chandra does not walk,” her kindergarten teacher once mused, “She dances with the angels.”
And that day, that beautiful day in early spring as she ran through the woods, Chandra again danced with the angels. She twirled in and out of the trees, beaming. The sounds of songbirds filled her ears and, despite how close her home lied to a bog, she saw more butterflies than mosquitoes regardless of the reality.
The girl hopped from toadstool to toadstool, careful not to stomp upon them. She had barely grazed one with her tiny toe before she proceeded to the next. After jumping from one to another in a row of toadstools, Chandra softly landed on a patch of dewy moss that moistened her doll feet.
Chandra paraded a few steps forward, admiring the aroma of daffodils and crocuses. Their colors wove in and out of her field of vision as they competed with the colors of honeysuckle and tulips several yards in front of her. But the child’s peaceful stroll was soon interrupted. She stumbled and fell face down, her small nose sliding into the soil.
She gasped. Right before her rested a bone. Chandra sat up and seized the bone to inspect it. The bone was dark ivory with flecks of gray, like the surface of the moon. It was part of a pony’s jaw. Chandra shook the jaw and the teeth nestled in it shook to make a morbid kind of music. They clicked and clacked against each other. Even after the music ended, the teeth moved a bit. Chandra wanted a tooth.
Faster than a sparrow, Chandra ran to a tree stump and banged the jawbone against it. The teeth shook but none of them shook loose. Chandra banged the jawbone again and again and again until one of the teeth popped out. The girl shrieked, took the tooth into her fist, and knelt down to the ground. She burrowed her fingers into the dirt and buried the tooth. Frantically, she searched for a rock and then patted it on top of the mound she had created. Any passerby might have mistaken it for a pet cemetery.
The next day, Chandra returned to the site of her buried tooth bearing a tin watering can from her hobby vegetable garden. Chandra hummed as she showered the mound and hummed as she whirled back home. Again, the sun shone.
Chandra returned to the mound everyday, swinging her tin can back and forth as if it were a sack or ragdoll. And everyday, she poured water over the mound, blew a kiss intended for the tooth, and left.
Days passed. Weeks passed. But Chandra always faithfully watered the tooth. Sometimes she spoke to it, apologized for putting it underground where it could not see the sunlight. The tooth never responded but Chandra knew that it listened to her. She was, after all, its mistress and teeth are loyal.
Spring roared in full bloom, overflowing with flowers and bees and baby animals. Chandra felt more mirthful than ever. Terribly excited, she galloped home from school one day in late April. Chandra cut through the breeze, took shortcuts through the bright green hedges, and finally made it home. Even faster than before, she dropped down her books and picked up her watering can. Then she dashed into the woods.
“Horsey, horsey, horsey tooth!” she cried as she scampered through all the ripe foliage. “Horsey, horsey, horsey tooth!”
The girl scurried across a fungus-covered log, a pile of boulders, and a field of Japanese stilt grass before she reached her destination. Her monkey eyes searched for the rock that marked her sacred ground and then scuttled over when she found it.
But the rock had been pushed over.
“Horsey…” she whispered. She knelt down.
The teeniest snout nudged out from the soil. Chandra stroked it for a moment, just to feel its silky velvet. The snout completely emerged from the soil. Then the eyes and ears pushed forward.
“Go on, horsey,” Chandra whispered, a slight strain on her voice after all of her fervent crying.
The pony pushed through in a single thrust, revealing its palm-sized body. It was the deepest of brown, like the depths of the soil from which he had grown. He threw his little head to shake out the knots and clumps of dirt in his mane. Then the pony whinnied as quietly as a mouse squeaks.
“You’re even more precious than I imagined,” Chandra gushed. She scooped up the pony in her hand and rubbed its flanks against her flushed cheeks. “But how will we ever get to the moon if you’re too small for me to ride?”
The pony neighed highly and shrilly.
“But I know just what to do.”
Chandra drenched the pony with the sloshing contents of her watering can. Its neighs became progressively louder as it, too, expanded in size. In a matter of seconds, the pony was just as large as any.
Chandra wrapped her arms around the pony neck and then jumped onto its back.
“To the moon!”