Sunday, October 28, 2018

Too Many Rocks!

                                                            Too Many Rocks!
                                                            By Valerie L. Egar

            When Lily Amelia Merriweather grew tired of her glamorous life in the city, she packed her evening gowns and high heels, the pictures from her world travels and her little dog, Noodle. She drove to the country and bought a farm. A very rocky farm. Everywhere she looked, she saw rocks. Grey rocks flecked with white and yellow.  Others striped with pink.
            Rocks clunked against her shovel as she planted flowers. Some, the size of duck eggs, a few big as pumpkins. “Too many rocks!” she complained.

            Noodle hid behind rocks when he didn’t want to come inside. Lily Amelia walked up and down calling his name, hopping he would sneeze so she could find him.  “Too many rocks!” she declared.
            Her high heels caught on rocks when she walked to the mailbox and she fell, tearing her lace evening gown. “Too many rocks!”  Lily Amelia wrapped a few rocks from the garden in the torn dress and slipped them into the garbage can.  Gone!
           She looked around the house.  She tucked rocks in the ruffles of her purple evening gown and out they went! She stuffed rocks in the toes of her high heel shoes and tossed them.  Lily Amelia filled pillowcases, crystal bowls, baskets, vases and umbrella stands. When she loaded her suitcases with rocks, she was glad they had wheels. Lily Amelia threw away so many rocks, she had nothing left in her house to put them in.
The house was bare. Lily Amelia stood on her porch and looked. Grey rocks flecked with white and yellow. Others striped with pink. Lots of them, everywhere.
That night Lily Amelia sat on the porch and looked through the photo albums of her travels. The Great Wall of China. Stonehenge. The  Egyptian Pyramids, Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Taj Mahal. “Hmmmm.”
The next day, Lily Amelia built a neat rock wall at the edge of her field.  Then she built a tower. When she climbed the steps and looked out from the top, she could see the ocean far away.
She used the prettiest rocks to turn her house into a castle, and added a stone fountain in front. Then she made a smaller castle for Noodle and built a small fountain in front of that, too.
            She made a rock garden  at the edge of a field with a splendid sun dial she carved from stone.
            And, because she was getting to be very good at building things from rocks, she made a pyramid in the back yard just for fun.
         People driving by slowed down when they saw all she had done. She invited them in for a tour.
            Soon busloads of people were coming to see Lily Amelia’s Rocky Haven Wonderland.
            They took pictures of the view from the top of the tower.
            They took pictures of Noodle in his dog castle.
            They picnicked next to the pyramid and set their watches by the sundial in the garden.
            They admired the grey rocks flecked with white and yellow and the ones striped with pink.
            And, when they went to the gift shop, they always bought a few rocks to take home as souvenirs.

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published October 28, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).


Monday, October 22, 2018

Maddie and Ms. Thumblebuster

                                    Maddie and Ms. Thumblebuster
                                                                      By Valerie L. Egar

            Maddie talked to trees.  That wasn’t  unusual— more than a few people say a word or two to trees, usually under their breath.  “Pretty flowers,” or, “Wow. You’re beautiful.” But Maddie insisted that when she talked to trees, the trees talked back. They had long conversations.
Needless to say, most adults didn’t believe Maddie. A few thought perhaps she’d been dropped on her head when she was a baby.  Others called her “imaginative” and “fanciful” and agreed she’d soon outgrow it.   But her real problem arose when she became a member of Ms. Thumblebuster’s fourth grade class. 

Oh, Ms. Thumblebuster was tough! She ate uncooked oats for breakfast and texted in capital letters.  She loved numbers and measurements and facts, no matter how trivial. On the first day of school, she held a banana in one hand and a strawberry in the other. “Which one is a berry?” Everyone except her nephew Ralphie pointed to the strawberry.
“Ralphie gets an ‘A’!  Technically, a banana is a berry!” she shouted triumphantly. She loved the word ‘technically.’
When Ms. Thumblebuster overheard Maddie telling the other girls that she talked to the willow tree in her backyard and the tree yearned to be a ballet dancer, she put Maddie in the corner. “No lies in this classroom! Facts only!”
“But,” Maddie insisted, “that is exactly what the tree said.”
“Trees DO NOT talk!” Ms. Thumblebuster shouted. “You will stay after school today.”
When school was over, Ms. Thumblebuster  told Maddie to write, ‘Trees do not talk’ one hundred times. Maddie did as she was asked, but as she wrote ‘Trees do not talk,’ she whispered to herself, ‘to Ms. Thumblebuster.’ Maddie had a feeling Ms. Thumblebuster wouldn’t hear a tree talking even if it shouted as loud as she did.
As the school year progressed, Ralphie was not only his aunt’s pet, but also the class bully. Pushing, shoving, calling names, taking lunches, kicking backpacks, Ralphie was a

 problem. Maddie had enough! “See that oak tree,” she said, pointing to the tall tree in the middle of the school playground. “It told me it is going to pelt you with acorns if you keep it up.”
“You’re nuts,” he taunted. “Trees don’t talk.”
“Really? Then how do I know your middle name is Wattles?”
Ralphie blinked. “You saw it somewhere?”
“If that’s what you want to believe.”
That night, Ralphie, had a nightmare about the oak tree running after him, hard acorns hitting his head. Ms. Thumblebuster accused Maddie of bullying Ralphie. “You made him have terrible dreams!” While Ralphie went home to watch movies about zombies and ghouls after school, poor Maddie stayed to write a letter apologizing for frightening him.
“Dear Ralphie,” Maddie began. “I am sorry you had a bad dream about the oak tree on the playground. The tree is not happy with how you act, but it didn’t say it would throw acorns at you. I made that part up.  Trees hate bullies though, and you should stop being one. Sincerely, Maddie.”
“You call this an apology?” Ms. Thumblebuster  bellowed. “You are a very impertinent girl. I-M-P-E-R-T-I-N-E-N-T. Do you know what that means?”
“Yes,” Maddie said. “That you’re probably going to call my Mom.”
Maddie sighed walking home. It looked like it was going to be a very long, awful year.
Every tree along the way offered sympathy. “Don’t lose hope, Maddie.” “Maddie, hearing us is your super-power.”
“But I want you to DO something!” she shouted. “Ms. Thumblebuster is so unfair! Ralphie is awful!”

The trees fanned Maddie with their leaves and whispered tree songs. The willow in the back yard twirled its beautiful long branches in a lovely dance. But they all agreed they couldn’t fix what was wrong with Ms. Thumblebuster or Ralphie. All they could tell Maddie was that there were others like her and that over time, she would find them. Because she trusted the trees, she believed them, but on the days she knew Ralphie was aiming to steal her lunch, she filled her lunch bag with acorns.
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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or  distributed without permission from the author.
Published October 21, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

Valerie L. Egar is an author from Maine, USA. She loves animals, long walks in the woods and her husky, Phoenix.  Follow her on FACEBOOK!

Monday, October 15, 2018

The Owl and The Girl

                                                      The Owl and The Girl
                                                            By Valerie L. Egar

            An owl, named Ilfa, lived in an abandoned hunting lodge deep in the forest. Years of neglect created a hole in the roof large enough for Ilfa to find her way into the house. She made her home in what was once a bedroom, roosting on a cupboard next to a broken bed. Mice fled the straw mattress when they saw her! Except for a quiet spider who patrolled the floorboards, Ilfa had the room to herself.
            Ilfa hunted by starlight, flying over silver rivers. Except for a few summer days when a gentle breeze through the treetops invited her to sleep outside, she took shelter in her tiny room during the day, dreaming owl dreams. (And what might an owl dream? Ilfa dreamed of teaching philosophy at a university, creating a museum-worthy collage with her cast off feathers, and, on hot days, swimming in the cool lake like a duck.)
            One day, Ilfa came home as the sun spread its first rays through the trees. It was autumn and a few of the trees had already lost their leaves. The overgrown grass and fern around the lodge had yellowed. Ilfa slipped through the roof hole, ready for a good day’s sleep.
           Ilfa was taken aback to find her room occupied. A girl lay on the dirty straw mattress, crying.  Hair disheveled, face streaked with tears, she was a pitiful sight. Still, Ilfa felt annoyed. Bad enough to share the lodge with someone, but the girl might have chosen a different room! Ilfa flapped her enormous wings and screeched, hoping to frighten the girl away.
“Oh!” The girl looked at Ilfa. “You’re beautiful!”
“Not easily frightened,” Ilfa thought. “She’s brave.” Ilfa knew the girl had walked through the forest at night by herself to find the lodge and recognized that was much harder than flying over the forest to hunt. Ilsa also saw that sorrow encircled the girl like a shroud, cold and dark. She sighed and closed her eyes. Maybe the girl would be gone when she awoke.
When Ilfa opened her eyes, the sky above was vivid orange from the setting sun. The bed was empty. She twisted her head around to listen. Whoosh. Whoosh. The girl was sweeping. The sound came closer and the door opened.
“You’re awake.” The girl took a few chestnuts from her pocket and placed them in front of Ilfa. “These are for you.”
Ilfa screeched and flew out of the roof hole. “Silly girl doesn’t know owls don’t eat chestnuts!” But, Ilfa was still touched that the girl thought of her. “The girl is kind.”
 When Ilfa arrived home early the next morning, the girl was asleep. The room was clean, the bed reassembled.  The girl had replaced the mattress’ dirty straw with dried sweet grass from the yard. The windows looked clean. “So she’s staying,” Ilfa thought. She stared at the sleeping girl for a long time and saw how sadness weighed her down. Her feet were heavy and couldn’t dance. Her voice was tight and couldn’t sing. Her eyes didn’t sparkle. Ilfa felt sad for the girl and was determined to help.
One evening, when Ilfa was still full from the previous evening’s hunt, she stayed home, roosting on the cupboard. She watched the girl climb into bed and  stare at the stars through the hole in the roof.
“Stars, stars, I wish, I wish…..” The girl started to cry.
Ilfa swooped out of the room and flew high as the stars. “What are you going to do about the girl?” she demanded.
 “We cannot change the cause of her sorrow,” they said.  “But we will help.” They shone their light brightly on the sleeping girl.
When she awoke in the morning, the girl wrote a short poem. She smiled a tiny smile. The next day, she painted a picture.  The day after, she wrote a song.
        After that, she began writing stories. Every experience she had went into her creations. As she painted, wrote and sang, she unraveled the sorrow that had wrapped it around herself so tightly and transformed it into something beautiful and true.

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published October 14, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME)

 Valerie L. Egar is the author of Snickertales. She loves animals, nature and all her Snickertales fans. She lives in Maine, USA.  You can follow her on FACEBOOK by going to her page, Valerie L. Egar.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Half Empty, Half Full

                                                Half Empty, Half Full
                                          By Valerie L. Egar

            Once upon a time, a very long time ago, a husband and wife lived in a modest cottage at the edge of a small village. They had a donkey to pull a cart, a cow for milk and chickens for eggs. When they needed water, the husband hitched the donkey to the cart to draw water from the spring that supplied the village— one large jug for cooking and washing, a huge barrel for the animals to drink and to irrigate the garden.
            One afternoon, as the husband finished his lunch, his wife said, “My dear, the water barrel is half empty. I’m afraid you will need to go to the village well and get more.”       
The man trudged to the water barrel and looked in. “The barrel is half full,” he said. “I don’t know what you saw.”
With that, his wife became angry. She marched to the water barrel and thrust her arm into the empty space at the top. “There is no water here! Half empty!”
Her husband, who had much longer arms than his wife, reached into the barrel and splashed water. “Half full!”
 The argument continued into the night and the following day. “I am right and I can prove it,” the woman shouted. She walked to the village and asked the first twenty people she saw to follow her. She pointed to the barrel. “How much water is in the barrel?”
Some of the people said the barrel was half empty. Others argued it was half full.  Soon the whole town was involved in the fight. People thought the mayor and town council should settle the matter by writing a law declaring whether water barrels should be deemed “half full” or “half empty” when water was at the half-way mark. The mayor and town council couldn’t agree though and they ended up in a shouting match.
Philosophers and mathematicians began to quibble about the meaning of “full” and “empty.” The great philosopher, Teosophigustus, asked whether any water barrel could ever be considered ‘empty’ when the space inside the barrel not occupied by water was occupied by air.  Fellow philosopher Diodibbit, replied, “Well, if that is the case, sir, then everything is always full. But if that is true, there are no halves of anything! And if that is the case, how shall we ever cut a pie?”
People who had been friends for years stopped talking to each other. No one seemed to notice that the village began to look neglected. Life wasn’t as sweet as it had been before they’d started arguing.
On Sunday afternoon, a stranger riding a horse stopped at the small cottage seeking directions. “Ah,” said the husband. “Let me ask you a question.” He took the
stranger to the barrel. Water had not been added , nor had any been taken away. The husband asked, “Half full or half empty?”
The stranger laughed.  “What a silly question!”
“Why silly?” said the wife. “It’s plain to see it’s half empty.”
“And I say half full,” declared the husband.
The stranger continued to laugh. “Your garden is withered and you will have no harvest, but you had enough water to irrigate your garden. Your animals have fled to seek water, but you had sufficient to quench their thirst. You had enough—“ He pointed to the wife. “But you concentrated on what you didn’t have.”
“Ha!” said the husband. “I was right!”
“I didn’t say that,” said the stranger. “Once the garden was watered and the animals taken care of, you would have needed more water, because the barrel would have been empty. She was prudent, looking ahead.”
The husband and wife were confused. “So who was right?”
The stranger shook his head. “Neither was right or wrong. You saw it differently. But arguing about it cost you your harvest and your livestock, not to mention the argument turned your town upside down. In the end, what you called it made no difference. That water was necessary was the only thing that mattered.”

The traveller shook the dust off his feet and pointed his horse in a more peaceful direction.
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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published October 7, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).