Monday, August 28, 2017

Bluko the Astronaut Makes a Friend

                    Bluko the Astronaut Makes a Friend
                                             By Valerie L. Egar

            Bluko lived on the moon in a space colony with his parents, Nika and Roanne. When he wasn’t in school, he zoomed around the stars in a space ship that was exactly his size. Bluko explored as far as his tiny spaceship would go, and knew several short-cuts to Saturn, where to find the best space rocks and to always look both ways before crossing the Milky Way.
            One day, Roanne asked Bluko if he would like to deliver some fresh cinnamon muffins to Grandpa Crawfus on Asteroid 260.  Grandpa was a prospector, mining gold in a remote canyon. Whenever Roanne got a fresh delivery of cinnamon from planet Earth, she always made muffins and sent Grandpa several dozen.
            “Of course, I’ll go!” said Bluko. He loved seeing Grandpa, and besides, Asteroid 260 was right next to Neptune’s moon, Galatea. Bluko knew that Galatea was the only place to find rare Luna Septus rocks and he wanted at least one for his collection.
            “No short cuts and no detours,” said Roanne.  “I want you to go straight to Grandpa’s house and come straight back.”
            “Aw, Mom.”
             “No ‘Aw, Mom’,” Roanne said. “I don’t want you meeting any Martians, so no short cuts and no detours!” People in the moon colony didn’t know much about Martians and were afraid of them.
            Bluko stashed the muffins under his seat, locked the hatch on his spaceship and zoomed off.  He set his destination for Asteroid 260 and was soon well on his way, speeding past Mars. As he passed Galatea, the moon shone brightly.  “How long could it take to find just one Luna Septus rock?” Bluko thought. He took the ship off automatic pilot and steered it towards the glowing moon.
            Bluko guided the space ship to a rocky field and gently lowered it into a clearing. He popped open the hatch and scrambled down to search for the rare Luna Septus rock, hoping its green glow would catch his eye. Back and forth he walked, without any luck.  Meanwhile, the delicious scent of cinnamon muffins drifted into the atmosphere from the open hatch of the space ship.
            A Martian appeared from behind a large boulder. “What do I smell?”

     Bluko was frightened, but answered, “Cinnamon muffins. I’m taking them to my Grandpa.”
            “If you dilly-dally, they’ll be cold by the time you get there,” said the Martian.
            Bluko hopped in his space ship and headed for Grandpa’s house. “Gosh,” he thought. “Martians don’t seem so bad.”
            Bluko found Grandpa in bed. “I’m so tired,” Grandpa said. “Just put the muffins on my nightstand and run along.”
           “Strange,” thought Bluko. “Grandpa always puts the muffins in the freezer and wants to talk.” Bluko looked closely at Grandpa.
            “Grandpa, what big eyes you have!”
            “Yes, all the better to see you.” Grandpa never said things like that.
    “Grandpa, your ears look bigger.”
            “Yes, all the better to hear you.”
            “Grandpa, your mouth looks bigger, too.”
            “All the better to eat these delicious muffins!” With that, he shoved all the muffins— two dozen!— in his mouth. “Yum, yum, yum!”
            “You’re not Grandpa! You’re a Martian! Where’s Grandpa?”
            Bluko heard noise under the bed and found Grandpa hiding.
“Dang it, Martian,” said Grandpa, “if you wanted some cinnamon muffins, why didn’t you just ask? ”
            The Martian belched.
            Grandpa opened the freezer door. Stacks of muffins crowded the freezer. The Martian squealed.  Bluko put a dozen muffins in the solar heater to defrost them and Grandpa poured three glasses of moon milk. They ate and laughed. Bluko taught the Martian how to say “Another muffin, please” and the Martian gave Bluko a rock from a planet Bluko hadn’t heard of.
“Follow me home,” Bluko said. He couldn’t wait to introduce Mom to his new friend.

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Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. 
Published October 2, 2016 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).


Monday, August 21, 2017

Rescue Kitten

Rescue Kitten
                                      by Valerie L. Egar

Leo saw the kitten right away. He was nestled under a bush by the entrance to Pioneer Village and meowed loudly. Black with golden eyes, the kitten had long fur and a bushy tail. Leo bent and patted his head. The kitten kept mewing.
“He’s hungry,” said Leo.
Mom kneeled on the sidewalk to look. She reached under the bush to pet him. “He looks young, barely old enough to be away from his mother.”
“We need to get him something to eat,” said Leo.
“Let’s see the museum, first, OK?” said Mom.
They were on vacation and had flown from Portland, Maine to Denver, Colorado the week before and spent days sightseeing. Driving through Nebraska’s rolling hills, they saw a herd of wild buffalo and a colony of prairie dogs. In South Dakota, they viewed presidents’ faces carved into Mt. Rushmore. So far, it was a great vacation.
Today, the plan was to visit Pioneer Village. They looked forward to seeing a log cabin, old print shop and general store. The village also displayed antique cars, trucks, tractors and fire engines, everything Leo liked to see. Mom paid the admission fee and they started to walk around.
“Do you think the kitten will be there when we leave?” Leo asked.
“Yes,” said Mom.
“He needs food,” said Leo.
“We’ll get him food before we leave,” said Mom.
“He’s hungry now,” said Leo.
Leo wasn’t interested in the old fire trucks or the trains displayed in the barn. He was worried about the kitten.
“Let’s get the kitten something to eat and come back in,” Mom said. At the museum’s cafeteria, they ordered a hamburger.
“Plain,” Leo said. “Kittens don’t like ketchup.”
They broke the hamburger into tiny pieces and the kitten gobbled it up. He started to purr and rubbed on Leo’s leg. Then, he walked back under the bush for a nap.
Pioneer Village was full of wonderful things to see and do. Leo and Mom enjoyed an ice cream soda at a counter in an old fashioned drugstore. Leo pretended to drive an old fire truck. Before they knew it, it was time to go.
The tiny kitten was curled up, under the bush, sleeping.
“We have to take him with us,” Leo said. “We can’t just leave him here.”
 “Maybe he belongs to somebody,” Mom said.  She didn’t think so, though. She went back inside and asked.
The woman at the admissions counter rolled her eyes. “People leave kittens here all the time.”
“That’s wrong!” said Leo, and Mom agreed. “We have to take him.”
Mom sighed. “We’re far from home. We came here on a plane.”
“Cats fly on planes,” said Leo.
“I know, but—”
Leo was determined. He looked at Mom. “It would be wrong to leave him here.”
Mom knew Leo was right. Pioneer Village was on a highway and if the kitten walked into the road, he’d get hit by a car. Whoever owned him should have never left him to fend for himself.
“OK,” Mom said. “We’re headed back to Denver, maybe we can find a shelter that will take him and find him a home.”
“Or, he can come home with us,” said Leo. Mom didn’t say anything. Before the car was out of the parking lot, Leo started calling the kitten, “Little Critter.”
That night, Mom found a motel that allowed pets. They stopped at a convenience store and bought cat food. Mom made a make-shift litter box from a cardboard box. Little Critter romped around the room and climbed the drapes. Leo giggled. Worn out, the kitten slept in the bed next to Leo.
 “Little Critter would love to ride on a plane,” said Leo as they drove towards Denver the next day.
 Leo said, “He’s little, I don’t think he’d eat very much, do you?”
“Little Critter would love Maine,” said Leo. “I bet he’s never heard a loon.”
Mom laughed. She’d grown to love the little black kitten, too. “You’re very persuasive,” she said. “I’ll call the airline as soon as we get to Denver.”
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. 
Published August 9, 2015 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Our Day at the Beach

Our Day at the Beach         
                                                      By Valerie L. Egar

                        I’m up at seven, but Sally doesn’t want to wake up.  I shake her a little. Then, a little more. “It’s beach day!” I shout.
                       “It’s Monday.”
                        “That’s right and we’re going to the beach. Wake up!”
    She opens one eye and her foot pops from under the covers. “OK, already!” She’s thirteen and I’m only ten, so you’d think she could get herself up.
    When I go downstairs, Mom is making sandwiches and packing them in a cooler. Dad is sipping coffee.
“Pour yourself some cereal, honey.”
“We should be on the road by now.” Someone has to say it, why not me?
“We’re fine,” says Dad. “Eat your breakfast.”
 He starts lugging everything we need to the car— beach chairs, umbrella, towels. Mom’s tote filled with sunscreen, sunglasses, her book, a radio. Another tote with a Frisbee, ball, pails and shovels, even though I told them I was too old to dig in the sand.  

“We’re bringing Sally’s, too,” Mom said. “You never know.” I know. Sally is NOT going to use a pail and shovel.
Dad gets everything in the car and then Mom carries out the cooler. Uh oh. He didn’t leave room for it. He starts re-arranging things and I check on Sally. In between bites of cereal, she’s painting her toenails. She sees my dirty look.
“They’ll dry on the way down.”
I’m ready. I’d sit in the car, but it’s too hot with the windows up and Dad is still making everything fit. I sit with our Maine Coon Cat, Buster and tell him why he can’t come, too. “You’d think it was a big litter box, and nobody would like that.”
Finally, everybody’s ready and we’re off. It’s morning rush hour and a lot of cars crowd the highway.
“The traffic will thin soon,” Dad says.
“Hon, you think we could stop for a quick bathroom break?”
Soon we’re at the Grab and Go. Mom’s in the restroom, Sally’s thumbing through celebrity magazines and Dad’s wolfing down a sausage biscuit and more coffee. I point to my watch. We are definitely behind schedule. Way behind.
Back in the car, I watch for signs that say how many miles to Red Fern Beach. I don’t see any.  “Are we close, yet?”  The third time I ask, Mom tells me to please not ask again.  I whisper in Sally’s ear and tell her to ask, but she won’t do it.
 At last we arrive! I have my bathing suit on underneath my shorts and t-shirt, so I’m ready.  Sally and Mom have to change.  I walk to the beach with Dad and hear the waves and smell the salty air before I see the ocean. When I get to the top of the hill, I finally see water. I help Dad find the perfect place to set up, close to the water so I can play in the waves. Dad says I have to wait for Mom and Sally before I can go in. What’s taking them so long!
Mom is finally back and she slathers Sally and me with sunscreen. Dad walks us to the edge of the water. For the rest of the day, I jump waves, gather shells and dig in the sand.  I bury Dad’s feet and  Mom’s, but Sally doesn’t let me bury hers because of her fresh blue toenails.  I’m glad Mom brought the shovel and pail. We didn’t need the Frisbee though, too much wind.
I eat two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a handful of cherries for lunch. Dad walks us to a concession stand and buys us ice cream.
I know it’s time to go home when the sun is low in the sky, a ton of sand itches inside my bathing suit, and Mom says, “No more shells!” I found enough clam shells to fill a bag, plus three scallop shells and another one that’s small and pretty, but I don’t know its name.
Sally falls asleep on the way home, but not me! Dad’s on vacation all week. I ask, “Can we come back tomorrow?”

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published August 13, 2017 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME)