Monday, January 30, 2017

Zilla the Pirate

                                       Zilla the Pirate
                                                            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 she saw, 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 ropes and raised the sails.Truffles squawked,  “Would Madam like lemon in 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. “Ewwww!”

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 train 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 Reilley sisters are not good tippers” and “Quiet! Chef Henri is making soufflé.”

 Zilla sighed. She loved Truffles, but it seemed a pirate’s life was not cut out for them. She decided to open a café, 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 over the door, “Zilla’s Cupcake Café.”

      The first customer ordered a chocolate cupcake and a medium lemonade. “Yo ho ho, landlubber!” screamed Truffles.

       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 Café” 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 occasions, 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.

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

Lost and Found

                                                         By Valerie L. Egar

“OK, your turn at bat!” Jaden yelled.
    Jaden and Tyler took turns pitching and hitting in a one-on-one baseball game. Tyler pitched ten times, giving Jaden ten chances to hit the ball. Then, it was Tyler’s turn and Jaden pitched. They didn’t run bases or keep score, but both of them knew when a hit looked like a home run.
            Tyler raised the bat. Jaden pitched a good one. Whack! The bat struck the ball and flew high into the air, far from Jaden’s reach. The boys watched it arc and fall behind the run-down picket fence in the overgrown McAllister yard.
        No one lived in the old McAllister house. With its crooked shutters and rickety porch, the house looked like it could star in a scary movie, and all the neighborhood kids avoided it.

            “What are we going to do now?”
            Jaden shook his head. “We need to get the ball.”
            “What about the story your brother told you?” Jaden’s older brother said the house had a ghost that watched from the attic window.
        Jaden shrugged. “I never know when he’s teasing. C’mon, let’s look for the ball.”
            It wasn’t going to be easy. The yard, long abandoned, was overgrown with wild raspberry bushes and thick clumps of high weeds.  It was hard to see where the ball might have landed. Walking among the raspberry bushes to look would be impossible, with thorns tearing at the boys’ skin and clothes.
            “Do you think it came this way?”
            “I don’t know,” said Tyler. Both of them looked at the field where they’d been playing and then the yard, trying to gauge where the ball might have landed. “How about by the porch?”
           Jaden nodded. He’d rather not go closer to the house, but the weeds were fewer there and he thought the ball flew that way. They walked towards the porch, and bent to look under a few scraggly bushes that grew by the railing. Nothing.
        “Careful!”  Broken bottles and other debris were scattered about. Finding the ball seemed hopeless.  The boys sat on the rickety steps leading to the front door. “What do we do now?”
           Jaden shook his head. He didn’t know. He felt sad, but didn’t want to let it show.  How would he play ball with Tyler if the ball were lost?
“Siss, siss, siss!” All of a sudden, they heard faint hissing.
Tyler jumped, and so did Jaden. “What’s that?” The noise stopped.  Curious, the boys peered under the porch. It was dark and hard to see. Neither of them wanted to put his hand under.  What if it was a snake? They heard the hissing noise again. Jaden thought he saw movement.
“I’ll run home and get a flashlight!” said Tyler.
When he came back, he shone the light under the porch. Nestled in a pile of old rags, the boys saw five kittens, eyes still closed.
“Where’s the mother cat?” asked Jaden.
Just then, they saw a white cat scurry under the porch.
“That looks like Mrs. Perkins’ cat, Lily!” said Tyler. Mrs. Perkins had been looking for Lily for a week and had posted signs all over the neighborhood.
“You found her!” Mrs. Perkins exclaimed when she opened the door. Tyler handed Lily to Mrs. Perkins.
Jaden stood behind him, his sweatshirt in a little bundle. “We found these, too.” Wrapped into a warm nest, Mrs. Perkins saw five kittens, eyes still closed.
“Oh my,” said Mrs. Perkins. “I had no idea.”
“Look,” said Jaden. He held his hand close to the kittens. “Siss, siss,” they hissed.
         “That’s how they protect themselves,” she said. “If you were a predator, you might be scared away.” She reached for an envelope.  “You did a wonderful thing finding Lily and rescuing her kittens,” said Mrs. Perkins. “Here’s the reward.”
        “Oh!” said the boys in unison. They’d forgotten about the reward, twenty-five dollars! More than enough to buy a new baseball, and ice cream at Dairy Delight.

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         Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission form the author.  Published January 22, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).    


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I Wish I Had a Polar Bear

I Wish I Had a Polar Bear

                          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 hold 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 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 every day 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 to try 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 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!

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Copyright 2015 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. Published in  Journal Tribune Sunday on  August 25, 2015 and Making it at Home on October 1, 2015.                       .

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Secret Cat

The Secret Cat

                                                                   by  Valerie L. Egar

   When Uncle Tasher said he was bringing her a cat he’d found in Egypt, Julie wondered how he managed to bring it home on the airplane. Then, she wondered how he persuaded her parents to allow a cat in the house. She’d asked for a kitten over and over and they always said, “No!”
 Julie couldn’t wait to see it, but when Uncle Tasher arrived, all he carried with him was a small painting of a black kitten with large yellow eyes. Julie thought she might cry. It wasn’t what she was expecting at all. She wanted a real cat, not a picture of one.
“Let me hang the picture for you,” said Uncle Tasher. Julie pointed to a place on the wall in her bedroom. While he hammered the hook into the sheetrock, he explained that he bought the painting from a mysterious man in a crowded bazaar. “He assured me it’s magic, Uncle Tasher said. “Just wait until tonight.”
Julie rolled her eyes. Uncle Tasher was always making jokes.
       That night, when the moon shone on the picture, the cat’s eyes seemed to glow. Julie thought she saw its head move, but maybe it was a shadow from the tree outside her window. She stared at the painting and watched, fascinated, as the kitten stood and stretched. Then, with a great leap he jumped onto her bed.
          “Oh my!” Julia said. She scratched him under the chin and he purred happily.
           “Do you need something to eat?” she whispered. She wasn’t sure whether magical cats needed food and water. She sneaked into the kitchen and got a tiny cup of water and a piece of cheese, but he didn’t want any. Instead, he explored the room, rolled a few pencils off her desk and batted at the cord hanging from the blinds. Then he settled on the windowsill, bathing in the moonlight.
        “You need a name,” said Julie. She tried to remember some of the Egyptian names Uncle Tasher mentioned. He’d talked about kings, queens and ancient gods and goddesses, but Julie couldn’t remember any of them. She loved his description of a boat ride on a river called the Nile, and that’s what she decided to call the kitten.
       When Julie woke up, Nile was gone. Julie glanced at the painting. There he was, still and quiet.
           Never had Julie been so anxious to get to bed as she was that night. She didn’t ask for a second bedtime story. She didn’t say she was thirsty.
         When she put the light out, she stared and stared at the picture. At first it seemed like nothing was going to happen. Then, Nile’s tail curled and he yawned.  A great leap and he was on the bed, purring and rubbing his head on Julie’s face.
        Julie wiggled her toes and Nile pounced on them. Julie giggled.  She fell asleep with Nile curled beside her on the pillow. When she woke, Nile was gone, back inside the painting.
    Every night Julie and Nile played and enjoyed each other’s company. Every morning, Nile was back inside the picture frame, silent and still.
  One day Mom vacuumed the bedroom carpet as Julie dusted. Mom noticed what seemed to be cat hair on the deep blue rug. She was puzzled. “Can’t be,” she said.
Julie looked at the picture on the wall and the mysterious little cat winked.
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Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published in the Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, Maine) on May 8, 2016.