Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Merchant and the Vine

                            The Merchant and the Vine
                                                By Valerie L. Egar

            A long time ago, a rich merchant, Samir, owned a store filled with wondrous objects from all over the world. Turquoise and saffron silk adorned his shop window, silver wind chimes tinkled in his doorway, gold and red lacquer boxes invited customers to take a closer look. His store was popular with people near and far and Samir grew richer and richer.
Samir dreamed of expanding his shop. Late at night, he envisioned owning the whole street. Both sides, all his! Never did he wonder where the baker might go, or where people would buy their fruits and vegetables, or how the village would manage without its tea shop. He only thought about how rich he would be.
One day a mysterious man walked through the village and stopped at Samir’s store. He fingered the soft leather slippers and admired brass candlesticks that shone in the sunlight.
            “You have a very nice shop,” said the man.
            Samir nodded. “Thank you.”
           The man reached into his pocket and took out three bright red seeds. “These are for you,” the man said. “Plant the first seed in front of your shop.  It will grow a tree taller than any around. People will see it from miles away and know where your store is.”
            “Thank you,” said Samir.
            “The second will grow a beautiful red rose bush. Plant it near your door. Its blooms will fill the air with fragrance and invite people into your shop.”
            Samir nodded. “This man is very good for my business,” he thought.
            The man handed him the third seed. “I cannot predict what this one will grow. Whatever sprouts shows what’s in your heart.”
            Once again, Samir thanked the man. He waited until the dark of the moon and planted the seeds.
            Surely they were magic, because by the end of the next day, the seeds had sprouted and matured. A tall pine, higher than the tallest building, stood in front of Samir’s shop. It was visible from hundreds of miles away and would make finding his shop easy.
            Next to his door, a bush covered with roses red as the finest rubies bloomed with a scent so pure, people would surely wander up to the front door and walk into the store.
           The third seed sprouted a vine that snaked up and down the street, knotting itself around every building, except Samir’s. Wanting to own everything up and down the street was in his heart, and that is what the vine showed.

Soon, the whole village was at Samir’s door. “Your vine is a nuisance!” the people yelled. “It covers our doors and windows, creeps into our houses and wraps itself around our tables and chairs.”
“It was twisted around my cow this morning!” yelled another. “I had to untangle her from it.”
Samir shrugged. “Trim it back. How a plant grows is how it grows.”
All day, men and women who should have been tending their stores, baking bread or serving tea chopped at vines. Only Samir’s store was open, but business was terrible, even though his new roses were inviting. People in the village were too busy working to notice them. People from far away left the village quickly when there was no place open to have a cup of tea or buy a sweet roll.
            That night, Samir spent a lot of time thinking. Maybe it was the fragrance of the roses, or the thin peel of moon shining through the tall pine, but Samir’s heart started to ease.  All the shops in the village attracted people—  if Samir’s shop were the only one, even if it was huge, few people would visit. Without the tea shop and the fruit seller, the apothecary and tailor, no one would come to the village at all.
           In the morning, the villagers awoke to find the vine no longer encircled their homes and businesses. Instead, it wound itself into a leafy canopy that arched over the street and shaded people from the hot sun. Butterflies fluttered around the hanging golden flowers.
Samir opened his shop and smiled. It was going to be a beautiful day.
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar, may not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. 
Published October 29, 2017 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME)

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Halloween Flying Canoe

                                           The Halloween Flying Canoe
                                      By Valerie L. Egar

            In the great Northern woods of Maine and Canada, everyone knows that with the right magic, an ordinary canoe can fly.  Nine year old Dennis was familiar with the stories, his Grandfather had told him about flying canoes often. Dennis looked at the silver canoe stored in the garage. If he could figure out how to make it fly in time for Halloween, he could zoom through the air with his friends and they could double, maybe even triple the amount of candy they got.
They’d start trick or treating in their own neighborhood, then hop in the canoe and fly to Portland. If they finished Portland early, they could try another town or two— Kennebunk, Biddeford, Saco.  Dennis wasn’t sure how far they’d go, but he knew by the end of the night, they’d have a lot of candy. All he had to do was figure out how to make the canoe fly.

Early every morning, he climbed into the canoe and tried a few magic words— Abracadabra! Shazaam! Dosedoh! Nothing.  “I command you to fly!” Dennis  said a few times with a very firm voice. He thought he felt a little quiver, but that was just his imagination.  Words alone were not going to do the trick.
Perhaps, like Harry Potter, he needed a magic wand to make the canoe fly. He walked in the woods and found a nice straight oak branch. He waved it in the air and it felt just right. Later that day, he waved the wand over the canoe. “Up! Up!” he yelled. His dog Spark jumped, but nothing else happened.
Maybe it took more than one person to make a canoe fly. Dennis had wanted to surprise his friends Karl and C.J. with his Halloween idea, but since it wasn’t working, he decided to tell them about his plan and ask if they had any ideas.
“I think canoes only fly at night,” said C.J.  “You’ve tried during the day.”
“Good point.”
Karl frowned. “That is a good point, but some kind of energy has to make it fly,” he said.  “What lifts it into the sky? What keeps it there? That’s what we have to figure out.”
Dennis shook his head. “You’re thinking about it like it’s an airplane that has engines and runs on fuel. Magic lifts it up and magic keeps it in the sky. We’re looking for the magic.”
The next night, the boys dragged the canoe into the yard. They sat in it and concentrated on flying high over the treetops. Dennis waved his wand and C.J. said  magic words. Nothing.
“Maybe we need paddles?” said Karl.
“Good idea.”
They tried again, this time, paddling the air briskly. Nothing.
They were disappointed. “Halloween is magical,” Dennis said. “Let’s give it one more try on Halloween.”
 After trick or treating in their neighborhood on Halloween night, the boys once again pulled the canoe from the garage and hopped inside with their bags of candy.  C.J. and Karl paddled the air while Dennis said the magic words. Whoosh! All of a sudden, they were off, high above the treetops. The canoe floated gently on a light breeze and the boys let it drift.
The lights below were beautiful. They were high enough to see ships in Portland harbor and flashing lights from lighthouses along the coast, red and blue neon in shopping centers, car lights along the turnpike. 

Above them, thousands of stars twinkled and a slice of moon looked like a smile. The boys stared, enchanted.
The canoe drifted quietly among wispy clouds, circled back to the house and quietly landed, just  as C.J. and Karl’s mothers arrived to pick them up.  Not once had the boys thought about interrupting their magical ride to do more trick or treating.
“Was that real?” Dennis whispered to C.J. and Karl before school started the next day. The boys nodded, and the three promised never to tell anyone.  Words couldn’t capture the wonder of the sky high canoe ride and no one would believe them anyway.
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published October 22, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).  

Monday, October 16, 2017

Locked Out!


                                     Locked Out!
                                                   by Valerie L. Egar

            Everybody in the Randall family was in a hurry to leave the house. Saturday night was pizza night and everyone was hungry. “I’m starving!” Emily said.  She stood in the driveway next to the car impatiently waiting for her brother and her parents. What was taking so long?
            Her brother shuffled out of the house a few minutes later, carrying his phone. Chad was texting, no doubt talking to his girlfriend. He leaned against the car, staring at his phone, paying no attention to Emily.

            “Mom!” yelled Emily. “Dad!”
            Mom poked her head out the door. “Be there in a minute! I’m looking for the coupons for free soda with the pizza.”
            Emily rolled her eyes.  Mom always had coupons, but she never knew where they were.
            Dad stepped out of the front door, looked at the sky, then turned to go back into the house. “Sorry guys, I need to shut the windows, looks like rain. I’ll only be a minute.”
            Ugh! It always took so long for her family to get in the car and go.
           Mom finally popped out of the door smiling, coupons in hand. “Found them!”
          Dad stepped out of the house, locking the door behind him.  “You’ve got the keys, honey?”
Mom froze.  “No. They’re on the kitchen counter.”
Mom, Dad, Emily and Chad walked to the side of the house and looked in the kitchen window.  The ring with the car key and house key lay in the middle of the counter.  Mom couldn’t drive the car without the key. They couldn’t get into the house to get the car key without the house key.  They were locked out.

“Let’s not panic,” said Dad. “I’m sure there’s a way in.” All of them circled the house. Chad tried the back door. Locked.
Mom looked at the windows. All were shut tight.
“Doesn’t Mrs. Bitner have a key?” Emily asked.
Dad brightened. “Yes! Good thinking.”
Chad and Emily walked down the street to Mrs. Bitner’s house, but she wasn’t home.
“Oh dear,” Mom said. “I think she said something about spending a few days with her daughter in Connecticut.”
Dad shook his head. Things were not looking good.
“I’m hungry,” Emily said. “Really, really hungry.”
“I promised Cara I was coming over after dinner,” said Chad.oo“We’re working on a project together.”
They walked around the house again. “Maybe we should break a window to get inside?” said Mom.
Dad shook his head. “Not unless we really have to.”
“Look,” said Emily. “How about the cellar window? It looks open.”
The cellar window was old, a bit rusted and no longer locked tight. Dad tugged on it and it pulled open. The problem was that it was very small. Too small for Dad or Mom to fit through and too small for Chad, too.
“None of us will fit,” said Dad. “It’s not going to work.”
“I fit!” said Emily.
Dad hugged her. “But you don’t like the cellar. Too many creepy-crawly things. That’s what you always say.”
Emily took a deep breath. True, she didn’t like creepy-crawly things— centipedes, millipedes, spiders. All seemed to dwell in 

the cellar. But she also knew she was the only one who could do it.  “I can do it, Dad. I know I can.”
“Are you sure?” Mom asked.
Emily nodded.
“OK,” Dad said. “Once you’re though the window, step onto the workbench and then the floor. Go up the stairs and unlock the front door.”
Emily scrunched herself through the window. She didn’t like the musty cellar smell and held her breath. She felt a web on her face and hoped the spider was some place other than the web. Her eyes adjusted to the dark and she quick-stepped up the cellar stairs. She opened the front door and smiled. Victory! She’d done it!
Mom, Dad and even Chad hugged her. “Look in the mirror,” Chad laughed.
Emily saw cobwebs in her hair and a smudge on her nose. She washed her face and brushed her hair.
“You are brave, Emily!” said Mom.

“Are we ready now?” Emily said.  “I am very, very hungry!” 
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published October 15, 2017 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, October 9, 2017

Orissa, The Queen of the Forest

                                            Orissa, Queen of the Forest

                                                                             By Valerie L. Egar

     A young girl named Orissa lived at the edge of a great forest with her mother and father. She was eleven, with long, red hair.  In the spring and summer, Orissa picked meadow flowers and wove them into wreaths to wear in her hair. Daisies and honeysuckle, yellow poppies and Queen Anne’s lace crowned Orissa. She loved wearing flowers in her hair.
            One morning, Orissa’s mother gave her a metal pail and asked her to go into the forest to gather berries. Orissa skipped down a dirt path into the forest singing,
                  Raspberries, blackberries, ripe and sweet,
                 Tonight we’ll have pie to eat!
As much as Orissa liked flowers, she liked her mother’s berry pies even more.
   Orissa slowed when she enter the forest. She admired the 
mottled white bark on the birch trees and took a deep breath to smell the clean scent of pine. She listened to the cuckoo’s call and the shill cry of a hawk. Warm sun filtered through the leaves and made lacy patterns on the forest floor.  Orissa sat in the velvety moss underneath the trees to rest and listen to the birds for just a moment.  Soon she fell asleep.
Orissa woke with a start and found a bright blue eye staring into hers.  A tall woman wrapped in a blue cape lifted her to her feet. “At last! The Queen of the Forest!” The woman pointed to Orissa’s flower crown.
Orissa shook her head. “No,” she said. “I’m a little girl.”
“Ha!  You can’t fool me,” said the woman “I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday. You’re the Queen of the Forest.” The woman smiled slyly. “Now that I’ve caught you, give me all the gold you’ve hidden.”
Orissa frowned. “Only leprechauns hide gold.” Orissa looked at her empty pail and how high the sun was in the sky. She was anxious to pick berries or there would be no pie after supper.
         “Wait, maybe I have my creatures mixed up,” the woman said. She scratched her head. “Pearls. I want all your pearls!”
Orissa rolled her eyes. “I’m not sure, but I think mermaids have those.”
“How about diamonds? Rubies?”
“Where would I find those around here?” Orissa said.  “This is the forest!”
The woman’s eyes narrowed and she looked at Orissa’s empty pail.  “Oh, you’re a clever one, trying to trick me. What’s the pail for?”
         The woman laughed. “Magic berries! That’s why you look so young. Why I bet you’re over a hundred years old and you don’t look a day over ten.”
           “I’m eleven,” Orissa said.
           The woman cackled. “And I’m only twenty-one. Ha! I can’t wait to eat some of those magic berries. ”
            Orissa shrugged. “If you help me fill my pail,” she said, “I’ll show you where the berry patch is. You can have as many as you can eat today.”
            “I understand,” said the woman. “They’re only magic when the moon in full. Tomorrow they won’t be magic anymore.”
            “No,” said Orissa. “I leave enough berries for the birds and the bears.  They enjoy them, too and people shouldn’t be greedy.”
            “Right,” said the woman. “You’re the Queen of the Forest. I should have expected you’d say that.”
            The woman quickly helped Orissa fill her bucket with sweet ripe berries and Orissa sang her way home. A pie was soon baking in the oven.
            The woman stayed in the berry patch and gobbled berries until her fingers and lips were stained and her stomach was full.  Since she expected the berries would make her younger, she was careful not to eat so many that she turned back into a baby. She thought being eighteen or nineteen again might be nice and that’s what she hoped for.
When she looked in the mirror the next morning, she wasn’t even one day younger. She was so angry, she stomped her foot. For the rest of her days, she told anyone who would listen how the Queen of the Forest tricked her.
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar.  May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published October 8, 2017 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).