Monday, November 27, 2017

Big Trouble in Santa's Workshop!

Big Trouble in Santa’s Workshop! 
                                                     By Valerie L. Egar

Fire engines were missing their ladders. Toy pigs clucked and hens oinked. Baby dolls didn’t have diapers. Andre, the elf in charge of quality control in Santa’s workshop, found defects in the toys coming off the workshop assembly line. Christmas was too close to be making mistakes. What was going on?
Andre checked the assembly line. Elf Quentin usually snapped ladders on fire trucks. Quentin voiced the stuffed animals, clucking and oinking into a recorder. Quentin diapered the baby dolls. Quentin was not doing his job.  
Santa asked Quentin to come to his office. When Quentin knocked, Santa invited him in and asked him to sit. Large windows looked out upon the snow and reindeer pranced in a white field. The sight filled Santa’s heart with joy. Quentin scowled.
“What’s the matter?” Santa asked.
“This place stinks!” Quentin cried. “I’m tired of snow and listening to Christmas carols all year. I’m tired of making toys. I want to do something important.”
Santa’s lips pursed as he assessed the little elf.  “Toys are important and bring children joy,” he said. “What would you rather do?” Santa hoped Quentin would ask to help feed the reindeer or say that he wanted to learn how to operate the Global Positioning System that guided the sleigh around the world on Christmas Eve.
“I want to live in Hollywood and be a famous actor,” Quentin said.
Santa sighed. “Are you sure?”
Quentin nodded. “I can’t wait to leave.”
Santa gave Quentin money and Mrs. Claus packed a basket of food. “Mrs. Claus and I will miss you,” Santa said. “You are always welcome to come back.” Santa gave him a jolly hug, spun him around and when Quentin opened his eyes he was in bright sunshine, staring at a palm tree.
         Quentin ambled to a newsstand and glanced at a newspaper to discover where he was. Hollywood Gazette. Yes! No more snow for him!
          He was too short to see over the crowd rushing past on the sidewalk. “Watch out, squirt!” somebody yelled. Quentin stepped out of the bustle.
            “Look at those pointed shoes,” a man laughed.
            “And those funny ears!” a woman giggled. “Those can’t be real.” She walked up to Quentin and pinched his ear.
            “Ouch!” Quentin cried. “Stop that!”
             Quentin had no luck finding work with the movie studios. He heard excuse after excuse: too short, not handsome enough, no parts for real elves, not even for Christmas movies. Computer animation created all the elves a movie needed. He walked along the street, staying close to the shop windows, so he wouldn’t get stepped on. Beautiful Christmas trees and twinkling lights lit the windows. Happy voices singing Christmas carols drifted out to the street. Quentin began to feel homesick.
            “No,” he thought. “I like the sun. I’ll sit on a park bench and think about other jobs I might like.”
            After a few hours, Quentin noticed his skin was bright red and hurt— he was sunburned. He wished he had some nice cold snow to roll around in.
A little boy wandered up and smiled. “You’re an elf, aren’t you?” the boy said.
            “Yes,” said Quentin.
            “Wow!” The boy called his friends over.
            “Do you help make toys?” one of the children asked.
            Quentin nodded.
            The children started to cheer. “Thank you!” “You’re the best!” “We love you!”
            Quentin was embarrassed. He didn’t think he deserved much credit for the work he’d been doing.
            “I bet you came to ask what we want for Christmas,” one of the children said.
           Quentin didn’t know what to say. He realized how much he missed the North Pole, Santa, the other elves, and his job making toys. Maybe being famous wasn’t as important as doing a job that brought others happiness. “Yes,” he said. “Tell me what you’d like for Christmas and I’ll take it back to Santa today.”
            Quentin wrote the children’s requests down. When he finished, he found Dasher waiting for him. He grasped the great reindeer’s antlers and held on tight as he flew home to the North Pole.
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
 Published Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME) November 26, 2017.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Prince Avar's Transformation

                                        Prince Avar’s Transformation
                                             By Valerie L. Egar

            Prince Avar was destined to rule the Kingdom of Firth, his coronation was written in the stars. Knowing he would someday be their king, the people of Firth watched him grow. They hoped to see leadership and compassion. They wished for kindness and courage.
Instead, they noticed Avar was fierce and, when he didn’t get his own way, ruthless.  He liked power, but his heart was not tempered with love. He didn’t feel joy. Like most tyrants, he never laughed. The citizens of Firth bemoaned the day when Avar would become king.
Deep in the woods in a lonely part of the Kingdom, an old crone sat at a primitive table and observed Avar in her crystal ball. She knew it was best not to meddle in the affairs of humans and usually, she refrained. Still, Avar’s behavior pained her and she saw terrible destruction ahead if he became king.
The crone had the power to move rivers and crumble mountains, but there was one thing she couldn’t do. She was unable to change a human’s heart— only Avar could change that. Since she couldn’t cast a spell and change Avar into a different kind of person, she did what was within her power. She turned him into a lion.
 The lion was fierce as Avar had been and people ran from him. For twenty years, the lion wandered, King of the countryside, hunting, roaring, proving himself the most powerful of beasts.
But, as Avar began his 21st year as a lion, he found himself circling the city more often, trying to glance in people’s windows to see what they were doing. He began to remember stories his father told him and wished he’d paid more attention. He listened for music and people’s laughter. He didn’t understand laughter. Lions roared and growled. They coughed and sneezed, but never did they laugh.
All this time, the old woman had watched the lion in her crystal ball. She smiled when she saw Avar sitting at the edge of the city watching people. “It’s time,” she thought.
The following day, as the lion wandered through the forest, he came upon the woman. He roared, but the woman was unafraid. “You’re wondering what it will take to become human again, aren’t you?"
Avar nodded. It had crossed his mind more than once.
“Already your heart is changing,” she said.  “You yearn for laughter and companionship. You’re thinking about other people, not yourself.”
“How will it happen?” he asked.
“Sudden as a streak of lightening,” she said. “I don’t know when, but I suspect it will be soon."
 Instead of trying to pounce on the crows in the field the next day, the lion watched them. He noticed their dark feathers gleaming in the sunlight and how one cawed loudly and called the others to eat.
From a distance, he watched a man lift his old dog into a cart and pat its head gently.
Avar began to notice more and more: three children, sharing a bag of candy. A flower blooming between the cracks of a rock. A horse licking its newborn foal. An old shepherd leaning against a tree, face to the sun.
The lion felt fluttering in his chest he’d never before felt.
He continued observing, aware that in all his years, he’d noticed so little. His heart started to fill with the beauty of all he saw around him.
One day, as he lay in the sun, a fly landed on his tail. He tried to swat it, but could not reach the tip of his tail. He stood, and round and round he went, chasing his tail, trying to catch the fly. Faster and faster he spun until he was dizzy. All of a sudden, he was rolling down a hill.
Avar closed his eyes and started to laugh. He laughed and laughed and, as he laughed, his heart pounded harder and harder. All of his fierceness fell away and when he opened his eyes, he was transformed back into a man. His heart was new and worthy of a King who would lead his Kingdom with compassion.
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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced without permission from the author. 
Published November 12, 2017 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, November 13, 2017

Imelda's Perfect Table

                                                      Imelda’s Perfect Table
                                           By Valerie L. Egar

         Imelda and Rihanna were sisters. They lived in a small cottage in a pretty village. They were not rich, but they weren’t poor either.  Rihanna worked as a carpenter and could build almost anything. Imelda had an eye for beautiful things and their little cottage was filled with lovely furniture Imelda bought.
One early morning, Imelda was on her way to the market when she passed a beautiful mansion on the wealthy side of town. The house was so large, their small cottage could have fit inside it with enough room left over for several of the neighbors’ cottages, too. Workmen hauled furniture out of the house into the yard— tall gilt mirrors, chairs upholstered in brocade, carved bureaus topped with pink marble. Imelda was curious. “Why are you taking the furniture out of the house?” she asked.
        “The Mistress of the house is re-decorating,” one said. “She's selling everything.”
            Imelda wandered among the rows of furniture, assessing each piece. The brocade chairs were lovely, but much as she liked them, she decided they were impractical. Their cat, Nero, would surely make short work of the delicate fabric.
           She didn’t fancy oversized portraits of people she didn’t know and didn’t favor pictures of battle scenes, so she passed by the paintings.
            Gilded furniture seemed too fancy for a simple country cottage, but a simple dining table, long and sturdy caught her eye. The wood shone as though it glowed from within. Imelda imagined relatives gathered for holiday meals, the table heaped with pies and cakes. She wanted that table!
            Imelda timidly asked the price and to her surprise, she had the exact amount in her purse. She ran home to ask Rihanna to come with the wagon.
            “Oh Imelda,” Rihanna said when she saw the table, “I don't think the table will fit in our house.”
            “But it must,” Imelda said. “It is made from beautiful wood and we will have many fine meals on it.”
            Rihanna shrugged and loaded the table onto the wagon. It hardly fit, but she managed to get it home.
            Narrow steps led to the front door of their small cottage. Rihanna shook her head. “Imelda, the table is wider than the steps into our house.  We cannot carry it up the steps.”
            “Surely you can build new ones.”
            Rihanna cut lumber and hammered, and soon the steps were wide enough. They carried it to the front door.
 “The table will not fit through the door,” Rihanna said. 
            “Take the door off and perhaps it will fit.”
            Rihanna removed the door, but the table still would not go through, no matter how many ways they turned it.
            “Make a new doorway, “ said Imelda. “We’ve been thinking about buying a new door anyway.”
  Rihanna enlarged the doorway and finally, the table was inside the dining room.
“Now we can eat,” said Rihanna.
“This room is much too small for such a fine table,” said Imelda. “If you made the dining room larger, the table would look much better.”
“Sister,” said Rihanna,“this table is too much work!”
“Nonsense,” said Imelda. “I’m the one who’s going to polish it! And, it's a beautiful table. A perfect table.”
With more banging and hammering, Rihanna enlarged the dining room. She looked forward to finally having a nice meal.
“Not yet,” said Imelda. “Those horrible beige walls do nothing for the tawny wood. We need to re-paint. I’ll help.”  She handed Rihanna a paintbrush.
Rihanna pulled a chair up to the table when she was finished. “Now, what’s for supper?” she said.
 “That carpet has to go,” said Imelda. “I thought it might be all right, but now, when I look at the walls and see how clean and nice they look, the carpet is dreadful.”
Rihanna rolled up the carpet and threw it out the window.

“Finally!” Imelda said. “Everything’s perfect.” She roasted a chicken with stuffing, green beans and mashed potatoes and made apple crisp for dessert. “Our first meal at the table!” she crowed, but Rihanna’s head was on the table. She was fast asleep.
Like the story? Please share with your friends on FACEBOOK and 'like' or leave a comment.
Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or reproduced with our permission from the author.
Published November 5, 2017 Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).