The Guardian of the Key
Rain Boots crept out the back door of the blue two-story house and slid off the porch. She hid herself in an overgrown patch of onion grass and waited. The wicked agents of Crumb Curtis could be hiding anywhere. The slimmlers in particular liked to hide in the coils of wisteria on the back fence, wilting the pink blooms with their hot, oily breath.
“The only thing to do,” she said as she munched a blade of onion grass, “is wait.”
Twenty silent minutes passed, and Rain Boots wondered if Crumb Curtis had grown tired of searching for the greenstone key. But Crumb Curtis knows how to strike just when you doubt him most.
Suddenly, a small flock of rattlecrows dove down from the roof behind Rain Boots, who twirled around to face her noisy foes. The birds laughed and chattered as they hovered around her.
“The greenstone!” one bird sang as his strange little feathers clacked about her head. “Cack-caw! The greenstone key!”
The others cack-cawed in agreement, but Rain Boots paid them no mind. Before the bird could take a breath she plucked the slingshot from her satchel and donked his head with one of her tiny, smooth stones. She fired at each bird in turn and the noisy creatures scattered, only reforming their flock once they were well above the rooftop.
Rain Boots narrowed her eyes and stuffed the slingshot back in its place, quite satisfied with her work. Her narrowed eyes did not notice, however, that one rattlecrow had stayed back from the attack. Noisy though he was, the sly bird flitted from window to window, looking for a gap or a glimpse or a tell-tale sign of just where that greenstone key was hidden. Only when he misjudged his distance from the house and his wing banged a window pane did Rain Boots look his way.
“Iris’s window!” she thought. She plucked a rock from her satchel and hurried a throw. She missed the bird badly, but being discovered he pumped his wings and sailed off to join his brothers. He sang his shrill song as he flew, teaching them what he had learned.
“Oh, Iris,” Rain Boots said, her little plastic mouth bending into a frown.
“MOTHER!” a girl shouted she flung the back door wide open.
The girl, Mackenzie, was the older of the two sisters who lived in the blue two-story house. She was quite proud of her oldness, especially since she had turned nine only days before.
“Iris left my doll outside again!”
Mackenzie snatched Rain Boots from her spot in the onion grass and dashed through the back door.
Mackenzie’s mother peered up from her Home Repair Handbook as her daughter marched into the kitchen and held Rain Boots up as evidence if Iris’ guilt.
“Sweetie, you don’t care about that doll,” Mom said. “So what if Iris plays with her?”
“It’s my doll,” she grumbled as her arm dropped to her side.
Rain Boots was indeed Mackenzie’s doll. She was, in fact, Mackenzie’s least favorite doll: a cheap doll from a cheap store given as a seventh birthday gift from a cheap aunt. No one even remembered what Rain Boots’ original name was, including Rain Boots herself. Iris called her Rain Boots because of the too-tight yellow boots Mackenzie had foolishly jammed onto her doll’s feet; boots which clashed with her mismatched plaid skirt and green and pink polka dotted pajama top.
In the two years Rain Boots had lived in the blue two-story house only Iris had ever taken her from the bottom of Mackenzie’s toy box. Only Iris had played with her, brushed her hair, and served her tea. Mackenzie owned Rain Boots, it’s true, but Iris was the one she really loved.
Still, as always, Rain Boots ended up in Mackenzie’s hands. Mackenzie bounded upstairs and down the hall toward her room. Rain Boots risked a glance into Iris’s room as they passed. As far as she could tell, everything was still in place. Rain Boots barely had time to feel relieved before Mackenzie’s closet door flew open and she found her self flying into the toy box. She bounced off the side and plunged to her usual spot at the very bottom. There she relaxed and thought about the third shelf of Iris’s bookcase, where, hidden beneath a mass of costume necklaces and plastic jeweled rings, lay the greenstone key.