Sunday, March 26, 2017

Eli's Shadow

                                                Eli's Shadow
                                                         By Valerie L. Egar

Some shadows walk politely in front of the person they belong to, and others obediently follow behind, but everyone knows a shadow is not supposed to run off by itself. A good shadow jumps when its person jumps, dances when its person dances and sleeps when its person sleeps.
Eli’s shadow refused to do what shadows do. If he climbed a tree, his shadow stayed at the bottom and took a nap.
        When Eli walked to school, his shadow wandered into the woods to play with leaf shadows and left Eli to struggle through his arithmetic all by himself.
         Eli’s mother asked him to run to the neighbor’s house to borrow a cup of sugar. His shadow stayed home and watched TV.
         Worst of all, when Eli slept, his shadow slipped away and caused all kinds of mischief.
         Who opened the gate and let out Farmer Tyson’s cows?  Eli’s naughty shadow.
          The shadow picked all of Mrs. Thorne’s lilacs, woke sleeping babies and made dogs howl. The worst part of all is that Eli got blamed!
        “I hate him!” Eli said.  “All he does is get me in trouble!”
Eli didn’t know what to do. His mother tried gluing his shadow to the bottom of his feet, but when he put on his socks and shoes, the shadow scrunched close to his body and neither of them could move.
His mother glued the shadow to the bottom of his shoes. That didn’t work either.  When Eli took his shoes off, the shadow ran away, dragging the shoes behind him.
One day, Eli’s teacher sent a note home from school. “I’m afraid Eli’s shadow wandered into the boy’s room when we were having a spelling test,” the note said. “I found water all over the floor and toilet paper wrapped around the sink.”
“Enough!” said Eli’s Dad.  He bought a plane ticket and sent the shadow to live in a jungle far, far away.
The shadow liked the jungle. He hung from the trees with monkeys and slept in the shade of a banana tree. He bowled with coconuts. But, after a while, he missed Eli. They’d been born together, after all.
For a short time, Eli was happy to be without his troublesome shadow, but he grew pale. He couldn’t eat. He wasn’t interested in playing. Part of him was missing.
“Oh my,” the doctor said when he saw Eli. “Where’s your shadow? Did you have a shadowectomy?”
“I sent it away,” said his father. “It was always wandering off, causing trouble.”
         “I hated him,” Eli said. “He was bad.”
         “He kept wandering off because you didn’t like him,” said the Doctor.“You never got to know him and make him your friend.”
          The Doctor sang a beautiful song that woke the shadow and called him back to Eli. Faster than the speed of light the shadow returned, lured by the doctor’s song.
          Eli didn’t realize he’d be happy to have his shadow back, but he was. The shadow was equally happy to see him. Eli got to know him better and after that, they stuck together.
When Eli hiked to the top of a mountain, his shadow hiked with him. They admired the view, the colors richer and more beautiful because they were together. Everything was better for Eli now that they were friends and they lived happily ever after.

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

Published March 26, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME). 

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Convenient Marriage

 A Convenient Marriage
                                          By Valerie L. Egar

     Once upon a time, a very long time ago, the King of Xan warred with the King of Dacquet. Soldiers burned towns, salted fields so nothing would grow, and destroyed great libraries. Many soldiers and citizens of both kingdoms suffered from the lengthy war and died.
     Years passed and the kings forgot why they were fighting. Their treasuries were depleted and their kingdoms in shambles. They decided to make peace.  The King of Xan had a son, Prince Eldreth, and the King of Dacquet, a daughter, Princess Ishmere.  To maintain the peace, they agreed their children should marry.
   When Princess Ishmere heard, she cried.  All her life, her father said people from Xan were barbarians, beasts with foul breath and hooved feet. Her tutor whispered they snarled like vicious dogs. They ate food a person from Dacquet would never touch— dragon’s toes! The Princess locked herself in her room and wept.
Prince Eldreth was no happier about the marriage. He knew all about people from Dacquet.  The women had pig noses and snorted. They were clumsy and dropped things. No wonder—they had hairy bear claws for hands. Worse, they ate food a person from Xan would never eat— griffin’s wings. The Prince thought about running away.
That night, the moon was full. Its light poured into the Princess’ room. A wise old woman appeared, drawn to the Princess’ sorrow.  
“What would you have me do?”
“Turn me into something that repulses the Prince, so he sends me home.”
The old woman nodded and with a wave of her hand, the Princess was transformed. 
She became exactly what the Prince imagined: a clumsy girl with bear claw hands and a pig’s nose, with an appetite for griffin's wings. 
The same night, in Xan, the Court’s magician went to the Prince’s room. “What would you have me do?” he asked.

“Turn me into something that horrifies the Princess, so she runs away.”
The magician turned the Prince into exactly what the Princess expected: a foul smelling, hooved beast that snarled, whose favorite meal was dragon’s toes.
When the Prince set eyes on the Princess in her wedding dress, he wasn’t shocked by her hairy bear hands or pig’s nose. After all, she was from Dacquot.  She was exactly what he expected and he didn’t send her home.
The Princess was prepared to meet a smelly barbarian with hooved feet and that’s what she saw when she met Prince Eldreth. After all, he was from Xan and  she couldn’t expect better. She wasn’t frightened and didn’t run away.
 After the wedding, the Prince and Princess hardly saw each other. The Prince, embarrassed by his stench, stayed in his part of the castle, listening to music and remembering how he danced before he had hooved feet.
The Princess, embarrassed by her clumsiness and ugly hands, stayed in her part of the castle, listening to music, and remembering how much she loved to sing before she snorted like a pig.
One day, the Prince started down the castle’s circular staircase, singing his favorite song. He couldn’t see the Princess at the bottom.
 Walking up the stairs, the Princess thought about the dances she enjoyed when she lived with her father. She couldn’t see the Prince at the top of the stairs, and she twirled to imaginary music.
As he rounded a curve, the Prince glimpsed the Princess and saw how gracefully she moved. Even her heavy hands gestured beautifully. For the first time, the Prince saw Ishmere as she really was. With that, she transformed into the smart, graceful young woman she was.
At the same time, the Princess heard a fine singing voice and looked up to hear the Prince singing her favorite song. “He can sing?” she thought. For the first time, she saw the Prince as he really was and with that, he changed back into the kind, noble young man he was.
After that, the Prince and Princess put aside everything everyone told them about people from Xan and Dacquot. They ruled their kingdom in peace and lived happily ever after, discovering more about each other every day.

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Copyright 2017  Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. 
Published March 19, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Miser's Punishment

The Miser’s Punishment
            By Valerie L. Egar

            Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a wealthy man lived in a fine mansion in a bustling city.  He had everything he needed and more— bedrooms filled with gilded furniture, even though no one ever visited, food to feed many, though he always dined alone. Everyone knew he was stingy. “Oh, he wouldn’t throw a diamond to a star to help it twinkle,” the fruit seller said.
            “Nor give the moon a piece of silver to make it shine!” agreed the butcher.
            “He’s such a miser, he’d deny the sun the gold to make it glow,” said the baker.
            A star, the moon and the sun, overheard the comments and were angered. They were each generous with their light and held it back from no one. The star twinkled in the night sky with other stars and inspired people to write songs. The moon glowed silver, lighting forest paths at night for people and animals. The sun’s rays nurtured trees and flowers, making them grow. Who was this human who would dare deny them? They decided to test him.
            The following day, the star, disguised as a girl, knocked on the rich man’s door. Though her smile sparkled, her clothes were poor. “Please, sir,” she said sweetly,  “would you donate to the Star Fund? It will help—”

The miser scowled and shook his head. “No!” he said. “ Go away!”
          The next evening, the moon tried. She went to his door disguised as a woman. Long silver hair fell to her waist and her eyes shone blue as the oceans she so powerfully moved.
The miser opened to her knock. “What do you want?”
         Her pale hands held a bowl that shone like the finest pearls. “Will you donate to the Moonglow Fund? No donation is too small.”

            “Go away!” shouted the miser.
            “Not even one piece of silver?” the moon asked.
            “Not even a copper penny!” said the miser and slammed the door.
            The next morning, bright and early, the sun banged on the door. With his red hair and cheerful smile, he reminded most people of happy summer days.
            Once again, the miser opened the door. “Another begger?”
            The sun smiled widely and tried to warm the miser’s heart. He held a bright yellow bowl in his tanned hands. “Would you care to donate to the Sunshine Fund?”

            “I would not,” said the miser. “I would care to go back to sleep!”
            “Wouldn’t you like to know what the Sunshine Fund does?” the sun asked.
            “I don’t care if it makes the sun shine in the sky,” said the miser. “Go away!”
            The star, moon and sun brought their complaint about the miser to the Supreme Council, a court of the highest order.
           “A star twinkling doesn’t move him,” said the star.
           “He denies the moon and the creatures that benefit from its light,” the moon argued.
“Not one drop of sunshine enters his cold heart,” the sun said.
The charges were serious. What to do with a man so stingy he wouldn’t give even a penny for the sun’s rays, silver moonlight, or the happy twinkle of a star?
“Turn him into a frog,” yelled one Councilor.
“An insult to frogs!” said another. “Frogs love sunshine, the moon and stars.”
“A mole?” suggested another.
“The blindest mole loves the warm sun on its back, especially in the spring.”
“A rock. A rock would suit.”
“Not! Rocks hold the sun’s warmth for lizards and nothing looks better in moonlight than a mountain.”
It seemed everything in nature appreciated the sun, moon and stars more than the miser.
The wisest Councilor spoke.  “If a rock loves the rays of the sun and the miser does not, if a deer appreciates the light of the moon and he does not, if a child wishes on a twinkling star and he cannot, isn’t the miser a most unhappy man?”
The Council considered. There was nothing in the world the miser could be turned into that was worse than what he already was, and so they left him a lonely miser for the rest of his days.

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published March 12, 2017,  Journal Tribune Sunday, (Biddeford, ME). 

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Potter and the King

      The Potter and the King
                                     By Valerie L. Egar

Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a potter lived in a modest hut near the river. She used clay she found by the edge of the river to make bowls and jugs for oil and water. She decorated them with paintings of plants and animals. Everyone agreed that her pottery was beautiful, the finest in the kingdom.
            One spring day, as the potter sat painting pots and singing, a messenger on a white horse galloped up.  He handed the potter a letter, sealed with wax. She opened it and read, “You are commanded to appear before the Royal Court to make pottery decorated with paintings of the castle for Princess Sabra’s wedding.”
            “Hmm,” she thought. “An invitation would be much nicer, and what happened to the word ‘please’?” She looked at the messenger. “Tell His Majesty, thank you very much, but it’s time to plant my garden. Other potters will be pleased to make pottery for the princess, I’m sure.”
            The messenger’s eyes widened.  “The King commands you,” he said. “You aren’t allowed to say  ‘no’.”
           The potter resigned herself to going. She’d heard the King had beautiful gardens. She might see peacocks or fine horses. She gathered a supply of clay, paint and paintbrushes, fresh clothes, hitched her small donkey to a cart and followed the messenger to the castle.

  How beautiful the castle was from a distance! Set high on a hill overlooking the valley, its white marble gleamed in the sunlight. 

As the potter drove closer, she saw wide golden gates and beyond them, lush gardens thick with flowers. As the gates opened, the messenger turned to her,  “You can’t drive that rickety, old cart here! Go around back!” He galloped in, leaving her to find her own way.

            The potter’s trusty donkey labored up a dirt road that wound its way to the back of the castle. How different it looked from the front!  The windows were boarded, the yard full of rubbish and broken glass. A shack stood under a dead tree and a rough man pointed the potter towards it.  Damp and musty, thick with cobwebs, the shack was nothing like her happy cottage on the river.
            The potter woke the next morning and began working. Day after day she labored, and as each day passed, she grew more homesick. She longed for the song of the river that slipped past her door, for the whisper of the breeze through the forest, for the bright flowers that grew in her garden. She missed seeing blue birds in the

nearby field and dragonflies flying among the water lilies in her pond.  Everything around her was ugly and left her heart feeling heavy.
           After two months of steady work, she finished. Hundreds of plates, dozens of bowls and jugs of all sizes lined the shelves in the castle’s basement. Not once had the King come by to ask if the potter needed anything. Not once had the princess sent a sweet cake or a pot of hot tea to the potter as she worked.
The King and the Princess came to the basement to view the dishes. “They’re ugly!” the Princess screamed. Drab brown and grey, the paintings on each showed the back of the castle with its broken windows and rubbish filled yard.
            The King was furious. “I ordered paintings of the castle!” he yelled.
            “Yes,” said the potter, “and this is the castle I saw from where I stood.”
            The potter’s words pierced the King’s heart. He was ashamed. He paid the potter generously for her work, beautified the back of the castle, stopped using the word ‘command,’ and finally learned to say ‘please.’ Best of all, he threw open the front gates of the castle to all of his subjects, whether they were riding a fine horse or driving a donkey cart.
            The spoiled Princess thought her father had gone mad and moved with her Prince to another Kingdom.
             The honest potter returned to her modest cottage and joyfully made pots for the rest of her days, singing as she painted.

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published March 5, 2015 in Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).