Monday, February 27, 2017

The Liar and the Bees

The Liar and the Bees
            By Valerie L. Egar

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a kind farmer and his wife lived with their two children on a small farm near a winding river. Though they were not rich, they had a gentle brown cow for milk, a flock of red hens for eggs and a fertile field to grow wheat. They maintained a hive of bees at the back of the garden and the wife planted extra flowers for the bees around the cottage.  An apple tree provided sweet apples for pies and cider and shaded the family on hot summer days.
            The family was content. “Surely, we are very fortunate,” thought the farmer.  His wife listened to the bees in the apple blossoms and smiled, thankful for all they had. The children, a handsome boy and winsome girl, threw feed to the chickens and milked the cow, without a care in the world.
            Their neighbor, a cheerless man with a run down farm, envied the family’s happiness. “Oh, it’s easy to be content when you have a fat cow, chickens, a fine field and flowers blooming,” said the sour old man. “I’d like to see how well they’d do if they had nothing!”
           Not two weeks later, the old man travelled to the nearby village to buy a pig. Stopping by an inn for lunch, he noticed a man in workman’s clothes sitting quietly by the fire. The King often disguised himself and mingled with the people to hear what they thought of him.  The old man recognized the King and saw an opportunity to meddle with the family’s happiness. In a voice loud enough for the King to hear, the old man declared, “ I am so ashamed! I live next to people who curse our worthy King and call him names. They have a fine farm and should be grateful, but they are not.  Surely there is no place for people like that in this Kingdom.”
            The King took notice and not a week later, soldiers arrived at the farm with a proclamation banishing the family from the Kingdom. They stripped the apples from the tree and dug all the potatoes and carrots from the garden. They loaded bags of harvested wheat onto a cart. One soldier loaded the chickens into a cage and another led the cow away. They lifted the beehive from the back of the garden and tied it onto the cart.
            The family was left with nothing and they sat down and cried.  The wife packed the last loaf of bread and a rind of cheese into a basket. Holding hands, they began to walk to a new Kingdom, hoping they would find people kind enough to give them what food they could spare as they journeyed.
            Meanwhile, the bees in the hive grew agitated. If there is anything a bee cannot stand, it’s a lie. They left the hive one by one as the cart jiggled down the road.  They gathered in a swarm and flew to the old man’s house, waiting on a gnarled tree for him to come outside. 

When he did, a bee stung him on the nose.
            “Ow!” he yelled. Another stung his shoulder.  Then, his knee. “Ow! Ow! Ow!”
            The Queen bee buzzed near his ear and the old man was surprised to find he could understand her buzzing. “Truth! Truth! Truth!”  Each time the Queen spoke, a bee stung him.  With the bees pursuing him, he jumped on his horse and galloped toward the castle.
            The King was furious when he learned the old man lied about the family. He ripped up his proclamation and ordered their property restored.  Soldiers found them camped near the river, sharing their last piece of bread, grateful that although they’d lost everything, they still had each other.
             The King banished the liar from the Kingdom and to make amends, he gave the family the old man’s disheveled farm. The farmer made the old farm beautiful by planting an orchard of apple trees and building more hives for his faithful, truth loving bees. 
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission.
Published February 26, 2017 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME) online edition.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Happy Tower

                                                           The Happy Tower
                                                                                        by Valerie L. Egar

                             Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a sweet and beautiful baby girl was born to a King and Queen.  They loved their little girl so much they wanted to protect her from every hurt and sorrow.  The King thought about all the things that might make his beloved daughter cry— scraped knees and bee stings, nasty words, arguments. 
          “I never want her to be sad,” said the King. “She will know nothing but happiness for all of her days and will never shed a tear.”
                  “Oh yes,” the Queen agreed.  “We will keep her safe from everything that might make her cry.”
                  The King and Queen designed a beautiful glass tower for the Princess next to the castle. 

Sunshine and moonlight shone through the glass and danced on the white marble floors. Scented flowers and fruit trees grew in the conservatory. The happy scent of cinnamon cookies constantly wafted through the air.
            The Princess enjoyed her tower home. She delighted in the beautiful flowers that bloomed in the indoor garden, but never saw one fade or fall from the stem. Every night as she slept, a team of gardeners exchanged fading plants for new, so the blossoms were always fresh. No one wanted her to cry if a blossom withered.
                   She had a rollicking red kitten named Angus that made her laugh, but as the kitten grew, it too was secretly replaced at night with an identical kitten. The King and Queen feared the Princess might be sad when the kitten grew up and stopped climbing the curtains.
                Though the tower was a happy place, the Princess was bored. Aside from playing with Angus, there wasn’t much to do.  She didn’t have a bicycle or skateboard because she might fall off, scrape her shins and cry. She had no books to read, because some of the best stories bring tears. She didn’t have any friends, because even a best friend sometimes makes you cry.
            The Princess looked at the valley and the silver river from her bedroom and wondered what it was like to be outside. She had never felt grass on her bare feet or a snowflake on the tip of her tongue. She never saw a parade or smelled salt air at the edge of the ocean. She never had someone to share a secret with. She felt sad.
                   One day the Queen came to the Princess’ bedroom and found her crying.  “Oh no!” She was ready to fire the entire staff. Someone had made the Princess cry!
                  “What’s the matter?” the Queen asked. “Who caused these tears?”
                 “You and Daddy,” said the Princess. “You keep me locked in here all the time! I want to go outside. I want friends. I want to climb trees and roll down hills.  I want to ride a horse—”
                  “There are so many sad things in the world,” the Queen said. “Things that will make you cry.”
                  “But I’m sad now,” said the Princess. “I think there are things that will make me happy, too.”
                  The King and Queen relented and unlocked the glass tower.  They laughed with the Princess as she ran in the grass and climbed to the top of a tall tree. She skinned her elbow roller skating and cried for three minutes. The King thought he might die hearing it, but as soon as her elbow was bandaged, she went skating again.
                  For the first time, the Princess saw the petals of the flowers fall and seed pods form. She watched her kitten Angus grow into a beautiful cat. He didn’t climb curtains anymore and became a handsome, calm companion.
                Best of all, the Princess had friends. Sometimes they laughed, sometimes they argued, sometimes one of them said something mean enough to make the Princess cry. But everyone knew how to say, “I’m sorry,” and the Princess was happier with her sometimes tears than she ever was living in her perfect glass tower.

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. 

Published February 19, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).


Monday, February 13, 2017

Dear Diary

Dear Diary
                                 by Valerie L. Egar

Dear Diary,
I am bored, bored, bored.  Nothing interesting ever happens around here. Mom says I should think of something interesting. When I’m bored, nothing is interesting. She should know that, I think.

Dear Diary, 
            Ugh! It’s too cold to be outside and there is nothing to do. I finished reading my library books and did my homework and now I’m bored. I gave Skittles some kitty treats, but he’s bored too. I can tell.  Mom says I should think of something to do.  I don’t know why she doesn’t have any ideas. Maybe she’s bored too.

Dear Diary,
            Maybe today I’ll just make a list like the ones I always see in Mom’s magazines. Here it is: Things I Really Really Don’t Like  (Mom says ‘hate’ is a bad word or I’d use that).
1.     Brussels sprouts
2.     Mean people
3.     Mosquitoes
4.       Grandpa’s beard
5.     Plaid
6.     Being bored!!!!
I still can’t think what I am supposed to do to not be bored. Mom is no help at all.

Dear Diary,
Mom suggested I make a list of things I like.  She says that’s more “positive,” whatever that means.
Things I Really Really Like (I’d say love, but Mom says love is for people and pets).
1.     Glitter
2.     Koala bears
3.     Australia
4.     Strawberry ice cream
5.     Skateboarding
6.     Not being bored, which I still am!!!!
Dear Diary,
            I told Mom about the list of things I like. She said, Why do you like Australia?
            Here’s why— koala bears live there. So do kangaroos and fruit bats that look like foxes and hang upside down in trees. I’d like to see that.  People surf all the time because they have big waves. 

             Right now, it’s summer there and I would like that because I could go outside and wouldn’t be bored.  People are never bored in Australia, there’s so much to do. I think when I’m older that’s where I’ll live.

Dear Diary,
            I’ve turned my bedroom into Australia! I put all my koala bears and my kangaroo on the shelf over my bed. I hung my stuffed fox upside down underneath the shelf to pretend he’s a fruit bat. Mom gave me magazines and I cut out pictures of surfers and a bird that lives in Australia called an emu and hung them up.
            I went online and learned there’s a coral reef off the coast of Australia called the Great Barrier Reef. It’s over a thousand miles long and people scuba dive there, so I’ve hung pictures of tropical fish and people scuba diving on my walls, too.
            Australians speak English, but they use a lot of words we don’t. In school today, Joan told Mira her sneakers weren’t ‘cool’ and hurt Mira’s feelings. I told Joan that was a lot of “piffle,” which means nonsense. She didn’t say anything after that!  Then I said the sneakers looked “bonza, fair dinkum,” which means they looked excellent, honest.  Now everybody is trying to talk like they’re Australian, too.
           Tomorrow when I go to the library, I’m going to get books about Australia.
P.S.  I’m not bored anymore.


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Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or distributed without permission from the author.  Published  February 14, 2016,  Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Dog's Guide to Humans

                 A Dog’s Guide to Humans 
                                                           By  Valerie L. Egar

A speech for the Midnight Howl Convention by Professor                    Max B. Vanderwoof:

Ladies, Gentlemen, Honored Guests:
      As a noble canine, you no doubt encounter a variety of animals— cats, squirrels, rabbits, birds. Depending on where you live, you may also see turtles, skunks and perhaps a moose or bear. I have addressed a dog’s relationship to these animals in my bestselling book, Skunks Stink! I turn today to address the most interesting animal in a dog’s life, the human.  
            Your human companion loves you, feeds you, walks you and plays with you. You are an important member of their family. Humans often speak of  “training the dog.”  You have, no doubt, learned what they call “commands”— “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come.” That is all very well, but I am here to tell you today that it is your obligation to train your human. Properly training your human will ensure abundant treats and lots of toys. You will assume your rightful place as leader of the household.

           All of you know how to wag your tail. Tail wagging is the best reinforcement for appropriate human behavior. It makes humans feel that they have done something good and that you love them. Get a treat, wag your tail. Hear the leash jingle, wag your tail.  Show enthusiasm!  The more your tail wags, the more your human will do, so use it to your advantage.

            You have every right to expect table scraps and last bites of a sandwich. When people are eating, they tend to think jumping at the table and barking is annoying. Tail wagging in this situation is not recommended. Any of these behaviors may get you exiled to another room. Instead, sit quietly and watch them eat. Make your eyes big and a little sad. Every now and then, lick your lips. Few can resist this ploy.  Wagging your tail to say “Thank you,” is advised once they relent. It reinforces them and they are likely to feed you from the table again.
            It is very important for people to have schedules and it is your job to make sure they stick to one. Your meals cannot be random. An expectation that your dinner will be served at the same time every day is perfectly reasonable. If your person is occupied and loses track of time, pace back and forth by your food dish. Nudge your person with your nose. Most humans are smart and will understand.

 If your person is not home in time to feed you, make certain when he or she walks in the door, they IMMEDIATELY attend to your food. Licking an empty food dish and looking sad works very well in this instance. That should keep your human timely for at least two weeks.
          Vacations. At least once a year, sometimes more, people go on trips and sadly, many do not take their dogs. Should you be placed in a kennel or have a dog sitter while your people are away, you must not greet them effusively when they return home. Pretend you have forgotten who they are.  Try to look thinner by holding your stomach in. Ignore them. More than likely, they will give you lots of treats, buy you toys and take you for rides.  They may even consider vacationing with you next time they go away.

            Finally, when your people are not home, don’t be afraid to sleep or play on  any of the places you are not allowed when they are watching. People seem to take great delight in hiding cameras around their house and when they see you jumping on the bed or sleeping upside down on the couch, all they will do is post the pictures on the internet for their friends to see.

            I leave you with this thought: you can train your humans.  Do it well and a car ride and a game of Frisbee is only a tail wag away.

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission form the author. Published February 5, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).