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An Original is Worth More than a Copy

“Be yourself Katarina. An original is worth more than a copy.” I remembered my grandmother’s wise words, as I kneaded a mound of smooth Kolache dough in our bakery kitchen.

“Well Babicka,” I thought, “I’ve tried this advice for two years, and I still don’t have any friends.”

When I was 12, my family and I moved from the Czech Republic to New York City, to help my widowed grandmother, Gizelle, run our Martinek Family Bakery. My older sister, Anika, fits in perfectly because she’s outgoing and talented. Ruda, my older brother is also popular, since he’s athletic and strong. I remain an outcast, for I am shy and only good at baking.

“Ahh, this batch looks wonderful,” my mother praised as she entered the kitchen. “Run along now, don’t be late for school.” Reluctantly, I pulled off my patchy apron, bid my family farewell, and followed my siblings outside, wondering how many taunts about my hand-me-down clothes I’d have to endure today.

“Ugh, what a stupid outfit!” Nasty remarks like these rang in my ears, and I was sick of hearing them. At least I was safe from the teasing in my cramped attic bedroom. A star twinkled as I gazed out my open window above the tall city buildings. Closing my eyes, I wished, “Keeper of the Stars, please make me popular. I’ll give anything to have friends again.” Sighing, I climbed back in bed, soon falling into deep repose.

“Katarina, wake up!”

“Whozzair?” As my eyes focused, I spotted a little man, about six inches tall, standing on my windowsill, smirking. “Who are you?” I demanded.

“I am Dimplebuska, the wish granter,” he announced, leaping to my bed and bowing deeply.

“But…”

“My dear girl, I am extremely busy, so let’s make this brief. Do you wish to be popular?”

“…Yes, but – ”

“Let me make you a deal,” Dimplebuska interrupted. “I’ll make you popular if you give me your secret Kolache recipe.” My heart sank. “You said you’d give anything for friends, Katarina!” He did have a point…and no one would have to know.

“It’s a deal!” I agreed. Dimplebuska rubbed his hands together. “Excellent!”

Once I told him the recipe, he leapt back to the window, snapped his fingers, and disappeared. But little did I know that while I slept, Dimplebuska traveled to all the bakers in town and whispered the secret Kolache recipe in their ears while they dreamed.

“Hello, Babicka!” I chimed as I came twirling into the bakery.

“Goodness, you must have had a good day at school!” she replied as she hugged me. Babicka was right. What a day it had been! It seemed like everyone wanted to be my friend now! I had gone from being a “nobody” to the most popular girl in school. Silently, I thanked Dimplebuska for granting my wish, but at dinner, my father looked grim.

“There were absolutely no customers today!” While the rest of my family exchanged worried glances, I shrugged.

“Maybe people weren’t hungry for Kolaches. It’ll be better tomorrow.”

Yet, as my cheery mood continued, things were looking worse for the bakery.

“The strangest thing happened,” my father announced. “All the other bakers are making our Kolaches, saying the recipe was whispered to them in a dream! Now everyone is buying from them instead of from us!” I gasped. This couldn’t be! I rushed from the table to my room. I had to get Dimplebuska back- but how? Suddenly my door opened. Babicka entered and sat next to me.

“Katarina darling, what’s wrong?” My lips quivered.

“Oh Babicka,” I sobbed, “I’ve made a horrible mistake! It’s all my fault that business is bad!” Tearfully, I confessed what I’d done. When I finished, she cupped my chin in her hands.

“When I came here,” she explained, “I made your mistake, and I nearly went broke.”

“But how did you fix things?” I asked. “How can I?”

“Tonight, you must wish that all the bakers forget the Kolache recipe. Dimplebuska will grant your wish and everything will be normal.” Babicka instructed.

“Thank you for understanding.” I smiled.

“You may not be popular after tonight, but remember: be yourself…”

“I know, Babicka, an original is worth more than a copy!”

The following week, I hurried home from school, but this time I wasn’t all alone.

“This way!” I called excitedly, leading the way through the bakery and into the kitchen, where my mother and Babicka were just icing a warm pan of Kolaches.

“Hello Katarina! Who’s with you?”

“This is Penelope, the new girl in my class. She just moved here from Chicago,” I announced.

“How would you girls like an after-school snack? Katarina made this fine batch of dough this morning!” Babicka offered, handing us each a steaming, oozy Kolache. As Penelope and I bit into the sweet, cherry filled pastry, she grinned.

“Mmmmm! Katarina, you really are the best Kolache maker in the whole world!”