Written By K. G. McAbee
Illustrated by David and Ellen Walters
It was a cold Saturday, and Wire Dog and Ellen were lying on Ellen’s bed. Outside, little dollops and streaks of snow sat, forlorn, under bushes and beside trees. Not fresh, clean snow, fun to run and fall down in; not crisp, hard snow, fun to sled and slide on; not even deep, white, fresh snow, that Ellen’s mother would scoop up, add milk and sugar, stir and give to Ellen and Wire as snow ice cream.
No, this snow had been on the ground for two weeks and was trying very hard to be gone. But, because the old snow had piled up and then melted, the ground was soggy and muddy and no fun for walking and playing on. Ellen sighed. Wire Dog gave a half-hearted wag of his curly tail then echoed her sigh.
Ellen had already done her homework for Monday. Wire Dog had helped her with her math, since all dogs are very good at arithmetic. She had even cleaned her room without her Mom telling her to. Wire Dog helped with the cleaning too, by picking up his own toys and putting them in the small green basket where they were stored.
Then the doorbell rang.
“Probably the mail,” Ellen sighed.
“Ellen!” came her mother’s voice from the bottom of the stairs. “Abigail is here!”
It was almost as if an electric charge had run through Ellen and Wire Dog. Both leaped off the bed and raced each other down the stairs. At the bottom stood Ellen’s best new friend, Abigail the Bookworm.
But Wire Dog was worried. Abigail didn’t have her backpack! He remembered her first visit, when so many books had fallen out of Abigail’s backpack that Wire thought they’d never stop.
Then Wire breathed a sigh of relief and wagged his tail. Out of the depths of Abigail’s big, puffy red coat, she pulled a slim yellow volume.
“I got a new book for my birthday!” yelled Abigail, dancing around so hard that her glasses almost flew off. “It’s called A PRINCESS OF MARS and I read it last night and I’ve just got to tell you both absolutely everything about it!”
Well, Wire Dog had been pretty excited until he heard the word ‘princess’. He’d seen some movies with princesses in them and he didn’t think too much of the species. They seemed to have far too many fancy dresses and to spend too much time putting them on and then dancing. How interesting could that be in a story?
But, after Abigail, Ellen and Wire Dog had settled down on the thick rug in Ellen’s room, with orange juice and apples for the girls and dog biscuits for Wire, he found out just how interesting a princess can be…
“Once upon a time,” Abigail began, as she always did, “back in the 1800s, there was a captain in the army of Virginia called John Carter. After a big war was over, John moved out west to prospect.”
Prospecting, Abigail explained, meant looking for gold or silver to dig out of the ground.
“He found a rich vein of gold,” Abigail continued.
“He had gold in his veins?” asked Ellen, looking at the thin blue lines in her arm.
“No, a vein in the ground, a collection of ore, that’s rocks that had gold in them.”
“Oh, I see,” said Ellen. “And then what happened to Captain Carter?”
“Well, he was on the run from some men who wanted his gold and he hid out in a cave. Then, the strangest thing happened!”
“What?” asked Ellen.
“Woof?” asked Wire Dog, jumping to his feet; he wanted to be ready in case Captain Carter needed his help.
“Captain Carter got whooshed to Barsoom. Barsoom is what the people who live there call Mars. He didn’t know how, he didn’t know why, but suddenly he woke up and he was on Barsoom. And Captain Carter found out, because he grew up on Earth where the gravity is stronger, that he could jump very high and run very fast and pick up really heavy stuff.”
That would be handy, thought Wire. He could jump up onto high counters and get yummy snacks whenever he wanted them.
“Captain Carter meets some green people called Tharks. They have four arms and they’re nomads. That means they travel around all the time instead of living in one place,” Abigail explained. “I’m not sure I’d like that much,” she continued. “Packing and unpacking all my books every day or two—well, just imagine!”
Wire Dog eyed his basket of chew toys, felt how comfortable Ellen’s rug was, not to mention her bed, and thought he wouldn’t care for being a nomad either.
“Then one day, the chief of the Tharks, Tars Tarkis, who had become friends with Captain Carter, captured a beautiful princess named Dejah Thoris.”
Wire Dog put his paws over his head. Here it comes, he thought. This Dejah Thoris is going to ruin the story by changing her clothes all the time and wearing lots of rings and necklaces. And dancing.
“Dejah Thoris, instead of having four arms like the Tharks, only had two and looked very much like humans, only her skin was bright red. She was from the city-state of Helium and wanted to get back home to her people. Like most people of Barsoom, she wore mostly armor and a sword and was a very skilled fighter.” Abigail closed her finger on her place in the book and said, “I like that, don’t you, Ellen? Dejah Thoris is smart and beautiful and strong. She does stuff! She doesn’t just sit around.”
Wire Dog said a soft ‘woof’ of agreement. Maybe this princess was going to be all right after all.
“Well, Captain Carter helps Dejah Thoris escape and they go back to Helium. But another city-state called Zodanga attacks Helium. So Captain John Carter calls his friends and allies the four-armed green Tharks to help, and the city is saved, yay! And Dejah Thoris falls in love with Captain Carter, and he falls in love with her.”
“Well, of course!” Ellen sighed. “They’re perfect for each other! Both of them are smart and strong. They live happily ever after, of course.”
“Well…” said Abigail. “Not exactly.
Wire Dog sat up straight. He’d been so interested in the story, and Abigail had told it so well, that for a few minutes he’d felt he was on Barsoom with Captain Carter and Dejah Thoris, the Princess of Mars. He’d even forgotten the slushy snow and dreary day.
“Woof woof?” he asked, which as everyone knows is dog language for ‘what happened to them?’
“Captain John Carter and Dejah Thoris live happily together…”
“I knew it!” yelled Ellen.
Abigail held up her hand. “…happily together for nine years. Then something bad happened to the Atmosphere Plant. That’s the machinery that keeps the air fresh on Barsoom so everyone can breathe,” she explained. “So of course, John Carter goes to investigate. Dejah Thoris wants to go with him, but she’s going to have their baby and can’t go. But John runs into trouble in the Atmosphere Plant and finds he can’t breathe. Then, after who knows how long, he wakes up.”
“Whew!” said Ellen. “So the air is okay on Barsoom, then?”
“John Carter wakes up—on Earth!” Abigail said, slamming the book shut so hard that Wire Dog jumped.
“But what happened to Dejah Thoris and all the Tharks and their baby and…” Ellen began.
Abigail held up her hand. “We don’t know…until we read the next book in the series. I hope I get a copy soon!”
Wire Dog hoped so too! The End….for Now.
The Story that Abigail told to Ellen and Wire Dog is from the original A Princess of Mars, a science fantasy novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the first of his Barsoom series. It was first serialized in the pulp magazine All-Story Magazine in February–July, 1912. Full of swordplay and daring feats, the novel is considered a classic example of 20th-century pulp fiction. The story is simply retold here by K G McAbee and we thank her for recalling it for us. Look forward to more classic summaries in future Wire Dog stories.
About the Author:
K.G. McAbee has had several books and nearly a hundred short stories published, some of them quite readable. She writes steampunk, fantasy, science fiction, horror, pulp, westerns and, most recently, mysteries; her ‘Dyed to Death’ won the prestigious Black Orchid Novella award and appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. She’s a member of Horror Writers Association, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers and is an Artist in Residence in Literature with the South Carolina Arts Commission.
About the Illustrators:
Ellen created Wire Dog when she was just 9 years old, but as often happens, she grew up! Sadly with growing we sometimes lose some of the magic that accompanies childhood imagination. But with the recent renewed interest her little creation she has decided to once again try to recapture some of that childhood magic by re-learning to illustrate children’s stories. Her father, David is also trying to learn the difficult art of illustrating the world of imagination which is more difficult than most people care to admit except those daring enough to try it. Because of this experience, Ellen and David appreciate even more the many contributions of stories and illustrations in this series. Please keep them coming.