Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Spider and The Christmas Tree

                                The Spider and the Christmas Tree

                                             By Valerie L. Egar
                                 Inspired by a German Folk Tale
             A teeny spider, Itsy, lived on the ceiling in the corner of a snug cottage with her Mom and Dad. From the top of the ceiling, Itsy and her family watched the human family come and go. They saw three children, a boy and two girls, go to school each day, their back packs heavy with books. They watched as the mother rushed out of the door shortly after to work in the bakery. They saw the father amble outside, coffee mug in hand, on his way to his shoe repair shop.
            Once the humans were gone, Spider School was in session. “Do I have to go?” Itsy asked. “I think I sprained my leg.”
 “Which one?” Mom asked and looked her over. “You’re fine. Off to school!”
Itsy slowly walked across the ceiling to Spider School. Ariel was showing off, spinning a delicate web that covered most of the corner. Tark and Zoom raced each other by dropping from the ceiling on spider thread to see who got to the floor first. Itsy sat quietly and watched. The teacher, Ms. Spindra, soon appeared.
“Yesterday’s quiz on flies of the world was a great disappointment!” she announced. “Only Itsy named them correctly.”
“But she can’t spin a web,” said Ariel under her breath. “That’s what spiders do!”
Zoom laughed, too. “Her last web looked like a tangled ball of yarn.”
Itsy wished she could just disappear. Everything they said was true. Though her mother said her weaving skills would improve with time, they hadn’t. Her legs went one way and the thread another, until she got herself knotted in the middle and had to yell for help. On another day, she managed to start weaving and thought she was doing well, but instead of a web, she'd woven a ladder.
 “Look,” Tark laughed. “Itsy built a fire escape.” Itsy didn’t feel like a real spider at all.
That night, the human family brought a tall fir tree into the house. They strung lights on the tree and decorated it with shiny balls and glass icicles.
“May I go see it?” Itsy asked.
“No,” Dad said. “People are frightened of spiders.”
“How about when they go to sleep? Please?”
 “I think it would be all right when the people sleep, don’t you?” said Mom.
He nodded. “All right, but you’ll have to be very careful.”
When the house was quiet, Itsy dropped from the ceiling and onto the tree. She started to explore.
 The tree was beautiful. A red bird on one branch, a little soldier with a crooked smile on another. Each branch held a different treasure and Itsy wanted to see every one. Up and down she went, around and around, branch to branch. She was so busy exploring, she didn’t pay attention.
All of a sudden she heard a noise. “Oh no!” She looked through the branches and saw a jolly man with twinkling eyes dressed in red.
“Someone’s been working very hard,” Santa said. “How beautiful you’ve made the tree!”
Itsy looked around. Beautiful spider webs adorned the tree, top to bottom and glistened silver. She looked for Ariel, Tark, and Zoom. With surprise, she realized she had spun the beautiful webs.
“You’ve done a magnificent job, little one,” Santa said, “but I think it best if people don’t realize spiders share the house. Do you agree?”
Itsy nodded.
Santa waved his hand and a few webs became a delicate lace tablecloth on the dining room table. Another wave and a few more webs became sugar frosting decorations on cookies. He snapped his fingers and webs of frost glittered on the windowpanes.  
Only one web remained, near the top of the tree. Santa turned that one gold and it shimmered near the top.
 Itsy was asleep when the family woke up. She didn’t hear them ooh and ahh over the beautiful web near the top of the tree and all she and Santa made together, but Itsy didn’t mind. She knew she was a very gifted spider and that made her very happy.

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published December 17, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Christmas Catastrophe!

Christmas Catastrophe!
                                            By Valerie L. Egar

            Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins lived at the North Pole, a mile from Santa’s workshop. They raised reindeer, grew Christmas trees, and were good neighbors to Santa and Mrs. Claus. Every year, Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins invited them for Christmas dinner, knowing they were exhausted from months of preparing for Santa’s toy deliveries on Christmas Eve.
When Santa asked Mrs. Jenkins what she wanted for Christmas, a kitten was at the top of her wish list. A very tired Santa returned from his trip around the world and stopped at the Jenkins’ house. He carried a basket tied with a big red bow to the door.
            Mrs. Jenkins peeked in the basket. Three furry faces looked up. “Oh, they’re so sweet!” she cried.
            “I stopped at the shelter and I didn’t want to leave any behind, so I took all three,” said Santa.
            “Thank you!” Mrs. Jenkins said. She named the tabby Tic, the black and white one Tac and the red kitten Toe. The three snuggled together in a sun patch and fell asleep, tired after their long ride in Santa’s sleigh.
            “See you and Mrs. Claus later,” Mrs. Jenkins said.
             Mrs. Jenkins bustled in the kitchen, making stuffing for the turkey, while Mr. Jenkins worked in the barn, feeding the reindeer. Mrs. Jenkins heard a noise and peeked in the living room. The kittens were playing race and chase! Toe was in the lead with Tic and Tac close behind. Up, over the back of the couch, round and round the Christmas tree, across the carpet.
            Toe leaped to the mantle and skittered along the narrow shelf. Crash! Glass angels hit the floor and broke. Ceramic snowmen flew off the shelf and smashed.
            The noise frightened Tic. His tail puffed out like a fat brush and he scrambled across the room and jumped on the windowsill, knocking the potted Christmas cactus to the floor. Kaboom! The pot smashed and moist dirt spilled all over the carpet.
            Tac was frightened, too. She scrambled into the kitchen.
            “Oh my!” said Mrs. Jenkins. She sighed. She knew the kittens were just being kittens. They didn’t know any better, yet. She swept up the glass and wrapped it carefully for the garbage, vacuumed the dirt on the carpet, and repotted the Christmas cactus. She looked around the living room. Much better, but where were the kittens?
            “Kitty, kitties,” she called. Nothing.
            She walked into the kitchen.  The fat turkey she was about to stuff before the kitten ruckus started, sat in its roasting pan in the middle of her large table. Three kittens stood next to the turkey, nibbling on it with their tiny kitten teeth. “Shoo!” she shouted. The kittens scattered. Mrs. Jenkins put her head in her hands. “Now what will I make for Christmas dinner?”
            Just then, Mr. Jenkins came in. Mrs. Jenkins pointed to the turkey. “Looks like Santa brought you poltergeists not kittens,” he said.
            They heard more noise from the living room and hustled in to find Tic hitting an ornament on the branch of the Christmas tree with his paw. Toe wrapped his paw around a cranberry garland and pulled. Tac eyed the tree and

raced up the trunk. Tic and Toe followed. Higher and higher they climbed. The tree wobbled left, then right, then crashed to the floor.
            Mr. Jenkins set the tree upright and Mrs. Jenkins put the ornaments that hadn’t broken back on. Once again, she vacuumed the carpet. The tree listed a little to the left, but would have to do.
            Finally, the kittens were exhausted and fell asleep.        
            Mrs. Jenkins popped frozen lasagna into the oven, made a salad, and put the chocolate layer cake she’d baked in the pantry and shut the door tight.
            When Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived, Santa carried in a tall pole wrapped with rope. It had cubbyholes and platforms with dangling toys, everything kittens like. “A cat tree!” Mrs. Jenkins said. “Exactly what we need!”

“And just in time, too!” said Mr. Jenkins as the kittens woke up. “Santa, you saved our Christmas!”
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission form the author.
Published December 10, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, December 4, 2017

Mission: Secret Santa

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. She rang the door bell and ran away. Mrs. Brewster opened her front door and found a big plate of warm cookies.
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.”

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published December 3, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, November 27, 2017

Big Trouble in Santa's Workshop!

Big Trouble in Santa’s Workshop! 
                                                     By Valerie L. Egar

Fire engines were missing their ladders. Toy pigs clucked and hens oinked. Baby dolls didn’t have diapers. Andre, the elf in charge of quality control in Santa’s workshop, found defects in the toys coming off the workshop assembly line. Christmas was too close to be making mistakes. What was going on?
Andre checked the assembly line. Elf Quentin usually snapped ladders on fire trucks. Quentin voiced the stuffed animals, clucking and oinking into a recorder. Quentin diapered the baby dolls. Quentin was not doing his job.  
Santa asked Quentin to come to his office. When Quentin knocked, Santa invited him in and asked him to sit. Large windows looked out upon the snow and reindeer pranced in a white field. The sight filled Santa’s heart with joy. Quentin scowled.
“What’s the matter?” Santa asked.
“This place stinks!” Quentin cried. “I’m tired of snow and listening to Christmas carols all year. I’m tired of making toys. I want to do something important.”
Santa’s lips pursed as he assessed the little elf.  “Toys are important and bring children joy,” he said. “What would you rather do?” Santa hoped Quentin would ask to help feed the reindeer or say that he wanted to learn how to operate the Global Positioning System that guided the sleigh around the world on Christmas Eve.
“I want to live in Hollywood and be a famous actor,” Quentin said.
Santa sighed. “Are you sure?”
Quentin nodded. “I can’t wait to leave.”
Santa gave Quentin money and Mrs. Claus packed a basket of food. “Mrs. Claus and I will miss you,” Santa said. “You are always welcome to come back.” Santa gave him a jolly hug, spun him around and when Quentin opened his eyes he was in bright sunshine, staring at a palm tree.
         Quentin ambled to a newsstand and glanced at a newspaper to discover where he was. Hollywood Gazette. Yes! No more snow for him!
          He was too short to see over the crowd rushing past on the sidewalk. “Watch out, squirt!” somebody yelled. Quentin stepped out of the bustle.
            “Look at those pointed shoes,” a man laughed.
            “And those funny ears!” a woman giggled. “Those can’t be real.” She walked up to Quentin and pinched his ear.
            “Ouch!” Quentin cried. “Stop that!”
             Quentin had no luck finding work with the movie studios. He heard excuse after excuse: too short, not handsome enough, no parts for real elves, not even for Christmas movies. Computer animation created all the elves a movie needed. He walked along the street, staying close to the shop windows, so he wouldn’t get stepped on. Beautiful Christmas trees and twinkling lights lit the windows. Happy voices singing Christmas carols drifted out to the street. Quentin began to feel homesick.
            “No,” he thought. “I like the sun. I’ll sit on a park bench and think about other jobs I might like.”
            After a few hours, Quentin noticed his skin was bright red and hurt— he was sunburned. He wished he had some nice cold snow to roll around in.
A little boy wandered up and smiled. “You’re an elf, aren’t you?” the boy said.
            “Yes,” said Quentin.
            “Wow!” The boy called his friends over.
            “Do you help make toys?” one of the children asked.
            Quentin nodded.
            The children started to cheer. “Thank you!” “You’re the best!” “We love you!”
            Quentin was embarrassed. He didn’t think he deserved much credit for the work he’d been doing.
            “I bet you came to ask what we want for Christmas,” one of the children said.
           Quentin didn’t know what to say. He realized how much he missed the North Pole, Santa, the other elves, and his job making toys. Maybe being famous wasn’t as important as doing a job that brought others happiness. “Yes,” he said. “Tell me what you’d like for Christmas and I’ll take it back to Santa today.”
            Quentin wrote the children’s requests down. When he finished, he found Dasher waiting for him. He grasped the great reindeer’s antlers and held on tight as he flew home to the North Pole.
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
 Published Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME) November 26, 2017.