Thursday, December 22, 2016

Mission: Secret Santa

         by Valerie L. Egar
When Jason and Dawn walked to the bus stop on a frosty December morning, they saw their neighbor, Mrs. Brewster, struggling to carry logs from the woodpile into the house. Mrs. Brewster was older than their Grandma and lifted one small log at a time, walked it to the porch, and then walked back to the woodpile for another. She looked cold and getting enough wood for the day was going to take a long time.
Jason whispered in Dawn’s ear and her eyes lit up. “Yes,” she said. “That sounds like fun!”
            That evening, just before dark, Jason and Dawn piled all the logs neatly on the porch, just outside Mrs. Brewster’s door. They worked quietly and quickly because they wanted it to be a surprise. When they finished, all the wood Mrs. Brewster needed for the winter was right outside her door. They couldn’t wait to see what happened the next morning when she saw what they’d done.
            Jason and Dawn timed their walk to the bus stop just right.  As they passed Mrs. Brewster’s house, her door opened. She stepped out, looking glum, then noticed the perfectly stacked wood on the porch. “Oh!” she cried. “How wonderful!” Her smile warmed Jason and Dawn all the way to school.
          “Let’s think of some other things we can do,” said Dawn.
       When Mrs. Brewster drove to the store on Saturday, Jason and Dawn were ready. They had a good supply of Christmas decorations their family no longer used. They wrapped a garland around Mrs. Brewster’s porch rails and hung a bright wreath on the front door.  They trimmed the fir tree in the front yard with shiny Christmas ornaments, a suet bell for the birds and a popcorn garland they’d made.
            They waited for Mrs. Brewster to come home. Her eyes widened as she stepped from her car. Slowly, she walked to the little tree and touched its branches. Her face beamed when she saw her porch.
            Soon the phone rang and Jason ran to get it.  “Did you see who decorated my porch and yard?” Mrs. Brewster asked. 
“Santa?” said Jason.
Mrs. Brewster laughed. “Well, if you see him, tell him thank you.”
The next morning, Dawn baked chocolate chip cookies. Mrs. Brewster came home from church to a big plate of warm cookies at her front door.
   When it snowed later in the week, Mrs. Brewster walked outside to find the snow swept off her car’s roof and windshield.
  A beautiful home-made potholder mysteriously appeared, tied to her door knob.  The next day, she found a catnip mouse for her kitten, Binky. A few days later, a few pieces of chocolate candy and a bag of kitty treats.
      On Christmas Eve, Jason and Dawn crept to Mrs. Brewster’s house to leave their last secret Santa surprise, a small pine tree they’d dug in the woods and potted. They’d decorated it with cut snowflakes and silver tinsel. The tree leaned a little to the left and they worried it wasn’t as pretty as other trees, but it was the best they could do.
            When they got to the door, they saw a big envelope that said, “To: Secret Santa.”
            The children left the little tree by the front door, took the envelope, rang the doorbell, and ran.
            When Mrs. Brewster opened the door, she found a Christmas tree that was just the right size for Binky and her.  She put it on the table in front of the window in her living room and smiled.
            The children opened the envelope as soon as they got home.  It said, “ Thank you so much Santa, for sharing the gift of love. Merry Christmas.”

Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May no be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.   Like the story? Like my author's page, Valerie L. Egar, visit my website,, share the story with your friends on FACEBOOK. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Christmas Mouse

       By Valerie L. Egar

          On Christmas Eve, just before Daniel and Sara went to bed, they put three oatmeal cookies and a glass of milk on the dining room table for Santa. They’d made the cookies earlier that day, mixing plump raisins and cinnamon into the oatmeal batter.  They knew Santa needed a snack as he worked all night delivering toys.
“What about the reindeer?” Daniel said. “They must need something to eat too, don’t they?”
Sarah agreed. But what might a reindeer eat? They looked in the refrigerator and decided that two carrots and an apple would be tasty treats for Santa’s team. They put them on a plate next to the cookies.
After midnight, when everyone was asleep, a little mouse crept from under the cellar door into the house. He was grey with a tiny white blaze on his chest and long whiskers that made him look wise.
The family had no idea the mouse slipped into the house every night to look for scraps of food. Though the family was much neater than the mouse would have liked, he could usually find a few good things to eat— a corner of toast the vacuum missed, a stray cracker in the cupboard.
As the mouse slipped into the dining room, his pointed nose sniffed something delicious. The scent grew stronger as he neared the table. Sugar? Raisins? He shimmied up a table leg and thrilled to the sight of three fat oatmeal cookies.
He nibbled the edge of the first cookie, delighting at the hint of cinnamon. Then, he tasted the second cookie. Maybe it would taste different. He bit into a raisin. “Mmmm!” Raisins were delicious. He thought he’d try the third cookie and took a big bite of oats. He was still chewing when he heard a swoosh near the fireplace.
The mouse stood perfectly still as he watched a jolly man in a red suit emerge from the fireplace, carrying a sack. Santa carefully arranged presents under the tree and the mouse realized, too late, that the cookies he nibbled were meant for Santa. How he wished he hadn’t tasted all three! He glanced at the carrots and apple. Maybe he should have nibbled them instead. The reindeer probably wouldn’t have minded, but he understood people never ate what a little mouse touched.
The mouse quivered by the cookies, too afraid to run, just as frightened to stay. Slowly Santa approached the table. What would he say when he saw his cookies were ruined?   
Gentle eyes looked at the tiny mouse. “Hello little friend,” Santa said. “I see you’ve been enjoying some cookies.”
The mouse looked sorrowful as Santa sipped the milk. “Those look delicious. Are they?”
The mouse nodded.
“Good,” Santa said. “Make sure you finish them.” He rubbed his belly. “Mrs. Claus put me on a strict diet and this apple will be a perfect snack. The reindeer will enjoy the carrots.”
Three whole cookies? The little mouse could hardly believe it!  He stood up and looked at Santa.
“Well, I know you’ve been a good mouse,” said Santa, “and it is Christmas.” Santa reached into his pocket and took out a few almonds. “Here, you might like these, too.” With that, Santa disappeared up the chimney and the little mouse spent the rest of the night eating the cookies and almonds, making sure wasn’t a crumb left  when Daniel and Sara awoke in the morning.
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Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.



Sunday, December 4, 2016

Phoenix Takes a Walk

Phoenix, fast asleep, after his long walk.

       By Valerie L. Egar
         Every Sunday afternoon, Emily’s beautiful Siberian husky, Phoenix, took her for a walk through Bloomfield. Phoenix knew the town very well and pulled Emily all the places he wanted to go.
       The town’s restaurant, Honeycomb, was Phoenix’s favorite stop and that’s where he went first. Emily had to run to keep up. Phoenix stood outside and smelled the delicious aroma of steak sandwiches and cheeseburgers. What was that scent he couldn’t quite recognize? Ah, pancakes with maple syrup from the morning. Mmmm.
       Phoenix wished that once, just once, Emily would open the door and allow him to go inside, but he contented himself with looking in the windows as he passed by. People pointed at him and smiled. He knew they were admiring him.
Sometimes, people came out of the restaurant carrying bags of leftovers. The bags were called “doggie bags,” so why didn’t they give them to him? Phoenix was always disappointed. Although people said hello and pat his head, no one shared their doggie bag with him.
         After they passed the restaurant, Phoenix visited Tracey’s Gift Shop. Tracey painted beautiful scenes on Christmas ornaments and sat at a table working  when
she wasn’t helping customers.  Phoenix knew if he stared in the window long enough, she would notice him and come outside. Sure enough, Tracey spotted Phoenix.
          “Aren’t you a beautiful boy?” she said. She rubbed him behind his ears and he wagged his tail.
          Next stop was the park in the center of town. Phoenix liked inspecting the trees and walking in the cool grass.  Usually his friend Roger was in the park on Saturday afternoon with his two dogs, Faith and Willow. Phoenix was always excited to see them. He looked around. They weren’t by the water fountain.  Not next to the park bench behind the oak tree. Not in the park at all.  Too bad.
          Phoenix pulled Emily up the hill to the fire station.  On Sunday afternoon, crew members washed the trucks and one of the men usually carried a dog biscuit in his back pocket for Phoenix. Today, though, the trucks sat in the driveway shiny and clean with a troop of boy scouts inspecting them. The Fire Chief was explaining the parts of the truck and how they worked.
          “Look, a husky!” one of the scouts yelled.  Soon the whole troop surrounded Phoenix to pet him.
         “May I take some pictures?” the Scout Master asked Emily.  Each boy wanted a picture with Phoenix.
        When they finished, Emily said, “Are we done? I’m getting tired!” but Phoenix had one more place he liked to go.
          Phoenix pulled Emily up the hill to the Franklin’s house. Mr. and Mrs. Franklin were sitting on the porch. Mr. Franklin was reading the newspaper and Mrs. Franklin was peeling apples to make a pie.
  “Why, if it isn’t Phoenix!” Mrs. Franklin said. “I’ve been saving something for you.” She put down the apple she was peeling and went inside the house. Soon she came out with a small bag.  “We went out to eat last night and we brought the leftovers home for Phoenix.”
Emily politely said, “Thank you,” and Phoenix wagged his tail and jumped high in the air he was so happy. Finally, a doggie bag!  It smelled delicious. He couldn’t wait to see what was inside.
When he got home, he ate the leftover steak the Franklins gave him and fell asleep, content with his perfect Sunday walk.
Like the story? Feel free to share it on Facebook. Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.  Published December 4, 2016 in The Sunday Journal Tribune.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Thanksgiving Table Gives Thanks

Snicker. The blog is named after him 

                 by  Valerie L. Egar

        A hundred and twenty years I’ve been in this farmhouse. Made from wide plank pumpkin pine, I glow in evening sun that comes through the west windows. It’s been a long time, but I still remember the forest, the weight of snow on my limbs, the green scent of spring, summer bird song.

            The stain near the edge over there? A bit of ink spilled from a mother writing letters to a son soldiering in some war. Lots of men on this farm have been called to serve and serve they did, but that left some of the chairs empty and a great sadness in the house.

           The little crack across the top— that’s from an enthusiastic bop with a toy hammer Santa left one of the children for Christmas.  Made from metal, it was small in size but packed a wallop. Ouch!

          My legs aren’t as smooth and well shaped as they used to be.  The chew marks record the family’s history of dogs: a few collies, early on. A beagle who was a pretty good hunter from what I’ve heard. Noble German Shepherd. Then, a black lab who really did a number on one leg. Gosh, puppies like to chew!

            I’ve seen some lean years, years when the farm didn’t yield, when money was short and dinner consisted of thin sliced bread with watery gravy. Other years, my top brimmed with so many home-canned tomatoes, pickles and string beans, I almost groaned.

          I’m proud to be a table. I’m where she puts her prize winning apple pie before she carries it to the fair. I’m where her blue ribbon rests when she comes home, until she hangs it with all the rest she’s earned over the years.

          In the winter, I’m where friends gather, drink hot cocoa  and visit.

   I’m where children roll out cookie dough and cut out gingerbread men.

   I’m where children do their homework while Mom cooks.

I’m where the men warm up with mugs of coffee after a long work day.

I’m where the family gathers at holidays. My favorite is Thanksgiving. They dress me up with a fancy cloth and a vase of chrysanthemums, light candles. They load me with food that isn’t everyday fare: a huge roasted turkey. Ham, too, because a few don’t like turkey. Stuffing with the aroma of sage. Sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, like dessert, except it isn’t.  Mashed potatoes. Gravy. String bean casserole. Cranberry relish. Sweet pickles. Corn pudding.  Brussels sprouts?  Someone always brings them, but I’m not sure why.

Before they begin to eat, each says why he or she is grateful.  One says, “Family.”  Another, “Good health.”  So many reasons to be thankful: “Friends.” “Finding a job.” “Graduating.” “Getting into college.”  The younger ones say things that bring a smile: “I’m grateful for my new kitten.” “Thankful my braces are off, finally!” “Glad I made the football team.”

What they don’t know is that I’m grateful, too. Grateful I’ve been part of the family for generations. Grateful no one decided to opt for a newer more stylish table and push me to the back of the barn or worse, chop me up for the wood stove. Grateful they don’t mind my scars and scratches. Grateful we have another Thanksgiving to share where I can happily shoulder the feast and be part of the stories and the laughter.

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Published November  13, 2016 , The Sunday Journal Tribune. Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. 


Monday, November 7, 2016

Bluko the Astronaut Makes a Friend

Snicker. The blog is named after him.

                   By Valerie L. Egar

            Bluko lived on the moon in a space colony with his parents, Nika and Roanne. When he wasn’t in school, he zoomed around the stars in a space ship that was exactly his size. Bluko explored as far as his tiny spaceship would go, and knew several short-cuts to Saturn, where to find the best space rocks and to always look both ways before crossing the Milky Way.

            One day, Roanne asked Bluko if he would like to deliver some fresh cinnamon muffins to Grandpa Crawfus on Asteroid 260.  Grandpa was a prospector, mining gold in a remote canyon. Whenever Roanne got a fresh delivery of cinnamon from planet Earth, she always made muffins and sent Grandpa several dozen.

            “Of course, I’ll go!” said Bluko. He loved seeing Grandpa, and besides, Asteroid 260 was right next to Neptune’s moon, Galatea.  Bluko knew that Galatea was the only place to find rare Luna Septus rocks and he wanted at least one for his collection.

            “No short cuts and no detours,” said Roanne.  “I want you to go straight to Grandpa’s house and come straight back.”

            “Aw, Mom.”
  “No ‘Aw, Mom’,” Roanne said. “I don’t want you meeting any Martians, so no short cuts and no detours!” People in the moon colony didn’t know much about Martians and were afraid of them.

            Bluko stashed the muffins under his seat, locked the hatch on his spaceship and zoomed off.  He set his destination for Asteroid 260 and was soon well on his way, speeding past Mars. As he passed Galatea, the moon shone brightly.  “How long could it take to find just one Luna Septus rock?” Bluko thought. He took the ship off automatic pilot and steered it towards the glowing moon.

            Bluko guided the space ship to a rocky field and gently lowered it into a clearing. He popped open the hatch and scrambled down to search for the rare Luna Septus rock, hoping its green glow would catch his eye. Back and forth he walked, without any luck.  Meanwhile, the delicious scent of cinnamon muffins drifted into the atmosphere from the open hatch of the space ship.

         A Martian appeared from behind a large boulder. He had red glowing eyes and an enormous mouth. “What do I smell?”

 Bluko was frightened, but answered, “Cinnamon muffins. I’m taking them to my Grandpa.”

        “If you dilly-dally, they’ll be cold by the time you get there,” said the Martian.

        Bluko hopped in his space ship and headed for Grandpa’s house. “Gosh,” he thought. “Martians don’t seem so bad.”
         Bluko found Grandpa in bed. “I’m so tired,” Grandpa said. “Just put the muffins on my nightstand and run along.”
“Strange,” thought Bluko. “Grandpa always puts the muffins in the freezer and wants to talk.” Bluko looked closely at Grandpa.

            “Grandpa, what big eyes you have!”
        “Yes, all the better to see you.” Grandpa never said things like that.

     “Grandpa, your ears look bigger.”

            “Yes, all the better to hear you.”

            “Grandpa, your mouth looks bigger, too.”

          “All the better to eat these delicious muffins!” With that, he shoved all the muffins— two dozen!— in his mouth. “Yum, yum, yum!”

       “You’re not Grandpa! You’re a Martian! Where’s Grandpa?”

            Bluko heard noise under the bed and found Grandpa hiding.

    “Dang it, Martian,” said Grandpa, “if you wanted some cinnamon muffins, why didn’t you just ask? ”

            The Martian belched.

        Grandpa opened the freezer door. Stacks of muffins crowded the freezer. The Martian squealed.  Bluko put a dozen muffins in the solar heater to defrost them and Grandpa poured three glasses of moon milk. They ate and laughed. Bluko taught the Martian how to say “Another muffin, please” and the Martian gave Bluko a rock from a planet Bluko hadn’t heard of.

       “Follow me home,” Bluko said. He couldn’t wait to introduce Mom to his new friend.

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Published October 2, 2016 in the Sunday Journal Tribune. Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.