Friday, September 25, 2015

Something Missing on Dad's Birthday

Snicker. The blog is named after him.

        by Valerie L. Egar

    The Randall children surprised Dad with breakfast in bed for his birthday. Christie, who was twelve and allowed to cook, made pancakes. Ten-year-old David microwaved bacon. Nicholas was seven and wasn't sure what to do.

     "You can pour Dad a glass of orange juice and carry it to him," said Christie.

     Dad ate every drop of his breakfast. He said the pancakes were delicious and the bacon crisp, exactly the way he liked it. He drank the orange juice and said it was extra sweet.

     Nicholas knew Dad enjoyed his breakfast, but all he got to do was pour juice out of a carton. He wanted to do something special for Dad and he didn't think pouring juice was enough. 

     When Dad came downstairs, he saw presents. He opened a pretty red, white and blue tin to find chocolate chip cookies Christie made. "Mmmm, delicious!" he said as he tasted one.

     David had placed something in a brown paper bag and taped the bag shut. Dad pulled at the tape and took out a birdhouse David had painted. "This is great!" Dad said. "I heard some wrens the other day and I think they will like this house very much."

     Nicholas had wrapped his present in the Sunday comics and it looked colorful and bright. Dad opened the package and found a picture Nicholas drew of a man in a blue truck. Nicholas' Mom helped him put it in a frame he'd found in the attic.

     "That's you, Dad," said Nicholas.

     Dad smiled. "It  looks just like me." He put it on his desk. Nicholas knew Dad liked the picture, but he still felt as though something was missing. Somehow, the picture wasn't enough.

     That afternoon, the family went to a baseball game. Dad loved watching his favorite team, but so far, the season hadn't been a good one. "We've got to cheer them on said Dad. Every time the team made a good play, Dad, Christie, David and Nicholas yelled as loud as they could. 

     When the game was over, Dad was all smiles. "I've never heard anyone cheer as loud as you kids. You helped them win."

     Nicholas had yelled so loud, so often, he didn't have much left to his voice. He knew the win made Dad happy, but even that didn't feel like enough. Something was still missing.

     When they arrived home, Mom made Dad's favorite dinner. Mom asked Nicholas not to say, "Eww, gross" when she brought it to the table. Nicholas thought not making any comments might be a kind of present too, so when Mom surprised Dad with the biggest lobster ever, Nicholas quietly ate his hamburger. Staying quiet, hard as it was, didn't seem like enough.

     When Nicholas went to bed, Dad came to tuck him in. "Thank you for making my birthday special, Nicholas."

     Nicholas hugged Dad. "I love you very much, Daddy."

     Dad's eyes brightened and Nicholas knew he'd finally found the something that had been missing.

Published in The Sunday Journal Tribune June 28, 2015. Copyright 2015 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or distributed without permission from the author.


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Zilla and Truffles at School

Snicker. The blog is named after him.

                 by Valerie L. Egar

     When summer ended, Zilla hung up her chef's hat, closed Pirate Cafe and got ready for school. Summer had been exciting. At the beginning, she and Truffles, her parrot, tried the pirate's life. Then, because of Truffles' restaurant experience, they settled down and opened a cupcake cafe.

     Zilla sold millions of cupcakes while Truffles entertained customers saying, "Yo ho ho, landlubber," and "Walk the plank, matey." Even though the cafe was successful, they still yearned for the open sea and the thrill of buried treasure.

     It isn't easy for anyone with a pirate's heart to settle down to school books and rules. Because Zilla had captained a pirate's ship and ran a cafe, she was used to making rules and not very good at following anyone else's. Truffles never waited his turn to speak, but said whatever he wanted when he felt like saying it. 

     The first few weeks of school were hard. Though the teacher, Ms. Bracey, made generous allowances for pirates, she made it clear that Truffles could not refer to anyone, especially the principal, as a "scurvy dog." She advised Truffles that only polite language was used in school.

     Ms. Bracey separated Zilla and Truffles during math lessons when she saw Truffles whispering answers in Zilla's ear. He had memorized the multiplication tables easily and Zilla still struggled with them.

     Over and over, Ms. Bracey reminded Zilla and Truffles to raise a hand, or a wing, and wait to be called on before talking in class. Over and over, she reminded Zilla that even pirates follow directions.

     Soon it was time for Ms. Bracey to select someone from the class to be a hall monitor. When students went to the cafeteria for lunch, the monitor made sure no one pushed or ran. 

     Zilla liked the bright red hat monitors wore and hoped Ms. Bracey would chose her. She'd practiced saying, "Walk, don't run" in the mirror so many times, even Truffles could say it.

     When the time came, Ms. Bracey chose Ellis, a quiet boy who followed all the rules. Zilla didn't think anyone would even hear him say, "Walk, don't run." Zilla was disappointed.

     One day, Ellis was absent and Ms. Bracey needed someone to fill in for him. Zilla raised her hand and didn't shout. Truffles sat quietly on her shoulder. Ms. Bracey noticed how much they had improved and decided they could take Ellis' place for the day.

     At lunchtime, Zilla stood at the end of the hall with Truffles on her shoulder. As classes were dismissed, the halls filled with students on their way to the cafeteria. "Walk, don't run," said Zilla in a loud, clear voice.

     "Walk, landlubbers," screeched Truffles.
     All of a sudden, the fire alarm sounded. Ding! Ding! Ding! The halls were crowded and some of the smaller children looked frightened. 

     Zilla didn't know whether it was a drill or a real fire, but she knew exactly what to do. 

     "Walk to the nearest door and leave the building," she said calmly. Truffles left her shoulder and flew back and forth over the children. "Walk," he said. "Don't run, landlubbers."

     Zilla pointed the way to the nearest exit. As the alarm continued to clang, she said over and over, "Walk, don't run." Truffles helped by flying back and forth, showing the way to the door.

     Zilla didn't leave the hallway until the last child was out of the building. When she left, Ms. Bracey was right behind her. They saw a fireman with a stopwatch. 

     "That's the best drill this school has ever had," he said. "It was the fastest and the safest."

     Ms. Bracey said, "We can thank Zilla and Truffles for that. They knew exactly what to do."

     At the next school assembly, the Fire Chief presented Zilla and Truffles an award for leadership. 

     "Pirates know how to get things done," said Zilla and with that, Ms. Bracey had to agree.

Published September 13, 2015 in The Sunday Journal Tribune. Copyright 2015 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

We Lived in a Tree House

Snicker. The blog is named in memory of him.

       by Valerie L. Egar

     We lived in a tree house all summer.

    The tree house was high in an oak tree, with a view of the mountains. A skylight, cut into the roof, shone moonlight and starlight into the house. Every night was a pajama party: we stayed up late and made wishes on falling stars. We listened to a hoot owl calling in the distance.

     We lived in a tree house all summer.

     When we wanted to sit, we straddled a strong branch that curved through the middle of the house. It felt more like riding a horse than sitting. We ate picnic style, with a cloth spread on the floor and slept on the floor, too, cuddled in sleeping bags.

     We lived in a tree house all summer.

     We climbed a rope ladder into the house and always pulled it up into the house after us. No grown-ups, big sisters or little brothers allowed!

     We lived in a tree house all summer. 

     Mom brought us sandwiches and snacks in a basket, but sometimes we found our own food. We picked wild blueberries and after dinner, ate them for dessert. 

     "Would you care for more?" I'd say to Tyler as though we were at a very fancy party.

     "No, thank you," Tyler said. "Really, I couldn't." Then we'd laugh and eat some more. 

     We lived in a tree house all summer. 

     Some days, we pretended the tree house was a ship, adrift in the ocean. Pointing to the mountains, Tyler yelled,"Land, ho!" and we'd wonder what we were going to find when we anchored. Other days, we made believe the tree house was a castle. On those days, our sister Lila was an unwelcome messenger from another kingdom.

     "Stop spraying me with the squirt bottle!" she screamed. Then she'd retreat and tell Mom.

     We lived in a tree house all summer. 

     We made friends with a crow who had a nest in the tree next to ours. The crow watched us for hours and we watched him, too. He was smart and quickly learned that when the cellophane on a package of peanut butter crackers crinkled, he'd soon have a treat. We always shared with him.

     We lived in a tree house all summer. 

     Some afternoons were lazy and we curled up and read books. If it was raining, the sound of the rain on the roof was comforting. We didn't want to go outside. We had everything we needed in our little house.

     We lived in a treehouse all summer, but summer was over too soon. 

     As September neared, we felt the evenings growing cooler and saw the goldenrod blooming in the fields. A few leaves turned orange, warning that fall was coming. 

     We moved out of our treehouse when school started. We swept it out and said good-by to the crow and to the tree, which felt like a good friend.

     Mom said, "Welcome back to civilization." We returned to our soft beds and school books, but at night, our dreams were of summer and of our simple life high in a mighty oak tree.

     Published in The Sunday Journal Tribune, August 30, 2015 and in Making It At Home, October 8, 2015. Copyright 2015 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced with permission from the author.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

If I Had a Polar Bear

Snicker. The blog is named in memory of him.

          by Valerie L. Egar

     If I had a polar bear, I'd name him Blueberry, because after polar bears, blueberries are what I like best.

     On Saturdays, Blueberry and I would stroll down Main Street and window shop. I'd point out the red bike in Mitch's Bicycle Shop and he'd look at the smoked salmon in Gourmet World. Everyone would take pictures of us and post them on Facebook. 

     After our walk, we'd stop for ice cream at Dairy Delight. I'd order vanilla for both of us and ask the server to please put his in a dish. I don't think a polar bear can manage holding a cone, but I'd give him a taste of mine.

     If I had a polar bear, I'd bring him to school. I'd tell him to be very quiet when the teacher talked. At lunchtime, he'd know to wait in line without pushing, even when pizza was being served.

     All the bullies would stay far away from us. If they wanted to make friends with him, I'd say, "Maybe. Blueberry has to think about it, he's very particular."

     If I had a polar bear, I'd ask Coach Simmons if he could be on the soccer team. A polar bear would be a great goalie and maybe our team would win for a change. I wonder if team shirts come in extra-extra-extra large?

     If I had a polar bear, I would tell him my secrets and he would keep them, not like my big-mouth friend Jenna who told everybody in school about my pants ripping in the back when I bent down to pick up my pencil. 

     If I had a polar bear, we'd take a trip to the Arctic every year to visit his family. We'd dog-sled across the tundra with presents of herring and salmon lashed onto the sled. I'd remember to bring a good supply of peanut butter and jelly so I wouldn't be hungry. I think fish is icky.

     If I had a polar bear, we'd swim in the lake everyday in the summer. If he used my inner tube, he'd pop it with his sharp claws, so I'd ask Dad to get him something nice he could use as a float, maybe a big log. Better yet, maybe Dad would let him float on top of the canoe.

     If I had a polar bear, we'd go to the fair together. I'd buy him a funnel cake. If he liked cotton candy, I'd buy him that, too. I don't think he'd like to ride on a Ferris wheel, but he might like the merry-go-round. If he did, I'd stay next to him so he wouldn't be scared.

     If I had a polar bear, my friends and I would play hide and seek with him in the winter. With all the snow, he would be hard to find and that would make us laugh.

     If I had a polar bear, we would talk to the president and the United Nations about preserving the places polar bears live. Blueberry would convince them to do what's right with his polar bear smile and his big paws.

     If I had a polar bear, he would hug me at night and I would fall asleep nestled in his sweet warm fur. 

     I wish I had a polar bear!

Published August 23, 2015 in The Sunday Journal Tribune and in Making it at Home, October 1, 2015. Copyright 2015 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.