Monday, March 28, 2016

Emily Finds A Way

Husky Phoenix, who inspired the story.

by Valerie L. Egar

“Can dog fur be used for anything?” Emily wondered as she brushed Phoenix, a  beautiful black and white Siberian husky. He was shedding his winter coat and long strands of white wooly fur lay in heaps on the floor.
In the Randall family, almost everything was recycled or repurposed. When Mom peeled vegetables, she saved the skins for the compost heap. Dad made a sturdy garden bench from an old bed he found in the attic. Grandma took the  t-shirts Emily outgrew and made a snuggly quilt. If everything had a use, what could she do with Phoenix’s fur?
            Emily swept the fur into a large shopping bag and went to the kitchen to ask  Mom.  “Can we add Phoenix’s fur to the compost?”
            Mom shook her head.  “That wouldn’t work. I can’t think of a thing to do with dog fur except throw it away.”
            “Dad, can you think of anything useful I can do with Phoenix’s fur?”
             Dad thought for a moment and smiled. “We’ll can build a science lab in the barn and clone a Franken-husky for Halloween.”  Then he laughed. Dad was always joking.
            Emily asked Grandma. Grandma fingered the fur and considered Emily’s question.  She said, “Some people knit scarves from their dog’s fur, but even though you have a bag full, you would need a whole lot more than that.”  Then Grandma added, “You’d also need to spin the fur into yarn first.”
            Emily thought that sounded like an awful lot of work. She felt discouraged, but she wasn’t going to give up, at least not yet.  She stuffed the bag in her closet.
            When she walked to school the next morning, she saw Mrs. Jenkins decorating her lilac bush with thread and small strips of fabric. 
            Emily couldn’t think of any holidays that were coming up. “Mrs. Jenkins, what are you doing?”
            Mrs. Jenkins stopped and smiled. “I like to sew, Emily. All winter, I save scraps of fabric and thread to put out for the birds, so they have something warm to line their nests.”
            Emily thought for a second and had an idea. “Do you think birds might like Phoenix’s fur for their nests?”
            “I don’t know for certain,” said Mrs. Jenkins, “but if I were a bird, I’d like it.”
            After school, Emily took the bag of fur into the back yard and stood by the spruce tree she’d helped her Dad plant last spring.  It had grown and now, it was almost her height. She took tiny clumps of fur and placed them on branches all over the tree until it was entirely covered. When she was finished, the tree looked like it was decorated for Christmas, with white snow at the end of every branch.
Emily went inside and watched the tree for a long time from her bedroom window. No birds. Maybe it wasn’t such good idea after all. When she told Mrs. Jenkins, she said, “Give it time, Emily. Birds have to discover the fur is there.”
When Emily came home from school, she threw her books on the kitchen table and ran outside to see if any of the fur was missing. Emily thought some of it was gone, but she wasn’t sure. Maybe it just blew away.
On Saturday, Emily woke up early.  She looked out her window and saw a robin in the spruce tree. It took a small clump of fur in its beak and flew away. Then, a small brown sparrow appeared and it pulled some fur off the branch and flew away.  Her idea worked! Emily smiled and rubbed Phoenix’s head. “I knew your fur could be used for something,” she said. “It’s helping keep baby birds warm.”

          Published in The Sunday Journal Tribune, April 10, 2016. Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar, may not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. Like the story?  Share with your friends on Facebook and like my author's page, Valerie L. Egar.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Be Careful What You Wish

Snicker. The blog is named after him.

   by Valerie L. Egar

Scully threw a book across the room. “Too many words to read!” he said.  “And, too many letters in the alphabet. I’d change that if I could!”
          An elf appeared in a poof of confetti. “I can help. What letters do you want to eliminate?”
       Scully thought for a moment.  “Definitely x, z, and q. I don’t see much use for k, either, it’s awfully hard to write.”
            The elf snapped his fingers. “Gone! From now on, no words with those letters for you.”
            “Cool!” said Scully.
            “Any others?”
            “Y isn’t very useful.”
            “Sure you want to get rid of y?” asked the elf.
            The elf snapped his fingers again and Scully became Scull. “Are you OK with that?” asked the elf.
            Because y was gone, the only reply Scull could make was, “Es.”
           “We’ve eliminated letters from the alphabet, but you also said there were too many words.” The elf fished around in his pocket and pulled out a golden letter s. “From now on, when you speak, every word must begin with s, except little in-between words. That will cut down on words, for sure.”
            Scull tried to say, ‘OK,’ but since that didn’t start with s, nothing came out. After a moment, he said, “Swell.”
            Scull’s troubles began in school the next day. 
            The new music teacher asked his name.
            “Don’t be smart!” she said.
            Lisa spoke up and said, “Scully.”
            The teacher asked each student which instrument they would like to learn. Scull was eager to learn the guitar, but he could only say an instrument that began with s. Saxophone wouldn’t do, since he tossed x out of the alphabet. “Sitar,” he said.
            “Smart aleck. Go to the principal’s office,” said the teacher.
            The principal, Mrs. Quigley, was rather forgetful of students’ names, but expected to be addressed as Principal Quigley at all times. 
            “Who are you?” she asked.
“Scull, Sprincipal suigle.” Not having a q or y was quite a problem.
         “Principal so ugly?” Principal Quigley’s eyes flamed red. She didn’t write a note to Scull’s parents. No. Instead, she wrote a book, with pictures and graphs showing the likelihood of bad things happening in Scull’s future if  he didn’t straighten up.
            Lunch was no better.  Scull looked at the pizza and said “Spia,” but the lunch lady didn’t understand and dished out a bowl of spinach.  Scull had forgotten about pizza when he got rid of z. Now he wished he’d chosen a different letter.
            He took his spinach and sat with his friends. Usually, they talked about baseball, but Scull couldn’t talk about his favorite player, Bix  Kruckshank.  The most he could say was that last evening’s game was ‘sweet.’ That made a few of the boys giggle.  
Then, Ryan asked if Scull would help him clean a chicken coop after school.
“Sno!” said Scull.
“Snow?  It’s sunny outside.” Scull realized he didn’t have a word for ‘no’ that started with s.
            That afternoon, when the class learned about animals in Africa, Scull couldn’t say zebra, and called it a “striped steed.” The class laughed so hard, the teacher rapped on the desk to restore order.
            “Very creative,” she said.  “But ‘zebra’ would have been better.” She pointed to a picture of a lion. “And this is?”
            “Simba,” said Scull.
            The class roared.
            For the second time that day, Scull was sent to the principal’s office.
           “Hello, Skeleton,” Principal Quigley said. “What have you done now?”
            Scull thought it was best to be quiet.
            “Silent, eh?”  Principal Quigley took his mug shot and added a few pages to the book she’d written to his parents that morning.
            Scull felt dejected as he walked home. Never had he realized what the loss of a few letters and limiting words could do. He wished the elf would reappear and set things straight.
            When he went home, the elf was hiding in the bushes.  “Had enough yet?”
            Scull nodded.
        The elf snapped his fingers and Scull turned back into Scully.   Just in time, too, because pizza was for supper and Scully wanted extra cheese.

Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.  Published in The Sunday Journal Tribune, March 13, 2016. Like the story? Please share with your friends on Facebook and like my author's page on Facebook, Valerie L. Egar.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Zilla the Pirate

Snicker. The blog is named after him.

             by Valerie L. Egar

     When Zilla decided to become a pirate, she outfitted a fine ship with shiny brass cannons and recruited a hearty crew of sailors. She filled the ship's hold with food and water for the long sea journey, hired a carpenter to build treasure chests and bought paper and colored markers to draw treasure maps. Now, all she needed was a parrot.

     Zilla knew parrots and pirates went together like macaroni and cheese, because in every pirate picture, a big green parrot perched on the captain's shoulder. Zilla set out to find a parrot and hoped it would say things like, "Shiver me timbers," and "Hang him from the yard arm, Bucko." Once she had a parrot, she could set sail.

     Zilla looked far and wide and finally found a parrot with an odd name, Truffles. The shopkeeper assured her the parrot knew how to talk, but seemed reluctant to tell her what the parrot knew to say. Truffles was handsome, with sleek green feathers and rubbed his head against Zilla's cheek in a kind of parrot hug. Zilla loved him immediately, even though she wasn't sure 'love' was a  word pirates used, even for their parrot companions.

     At last the pirate ship was ready to sail. Zilla  stood on deck with Truffles perched on her shoulder and waved her cutlass at the crew. "Batten down the hatches!" she yelled. "Heave ho, you scurvy dogs!" 

     The crew hoisted the sails. Truffles squawked,"Would Madam like more lemon with her tea?"

     The crew stopped working and started to laugh. Zilla glared. "Back to work, sea dogs!"

     "Mr. Maddock slurps his soup," said Truffles. He made a nasty sucking sound. 

     The first mate laughed so hard, tears came from his eyes, "Blimey!" he said. "That's no pirate's parrot!"

     "Parrots don't eat parsnips," said Truffles, "Ewwwww!"

     Zilla tried to restore order by stamping her foot and shaking her cutlass at the unruly crew, but all of them were laughing too hard to get back to work. The ship returned to dock.

     The following week, Zilla tried to teach Truffles to be a proper pirate's parrot. She repeated, "Yo ho ho," "Blow me down," "Ahoy matey," and other pirate phrases hundreds of times. No matter what she said though, Truffles squawked, "The Reilly sisters are not good tippers," and "Quiet! Chef Henri is making soufflĂ©." 

     Zilla sighed. She loved Truffles, but it seemed a pirate's life was not cut out for them. She decided to open a cafe, since Truffles had so much experience as a restaurant parrot. She made chocolate cupcakes with strawberry frosting, orange cupcakes with chocolate frosting and fresh lemonade with just the right amount of sugar. She tinted the lemonade pink to make it pretty and hung a big sign on the door, "Zilla's Cupcake Cafe." 

     The first customer ordered a chocolate cupcake and a medium lemonade.

     "Yo ho ho, landlubber," screamed Truffle's.

     Zilla winced, but the customer laughed. "Pirate, are you?" He left a big tip."

     Truffles talked to the next customer, too. "Walk the plank you scallywag!"

     That customer laughed and also left a big tip.

     Soon, people came from all over, not just to eat tasty cupcakes, but to hear Truffles talk like a pirate. Zilla renamed her business "Pirate's Cafe" and sold more cupcakes than anyone, thanks to Truffles.

     When the wind blew from the west, though, Zilla still dreamed of being a pirate and sailing the open seas. On those days, Truffles sensed her discontent and cheered her up by saying, "Escargot are snails, Madam, you eat them with butter," over and over until Zilla began to laugh.

Like the story? Please like it on Facebook and support me by liking my Facebook page, Valerie L. Egar. Thanks! 

Published in The Sunday Journal Tribune July 26, 2015. Copyright 2015 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.