Monday, November 26, 2018

A Special Christmas Present

A Special Christmas Present
          By Valerie L. Egar

Elka lived on the sixth floor of a ten story apartment building.  It wasn’t a fancy building with a uniformed doorman standing at attention at the front door, ready to hail a taxi. It was a plain brick building, older than most, across from a small park, around the corner from a falafel shop.
Elka liked where she lived because she loved the people in the building. Ms. Micelli lived on the seventh floor and taught at Elka’s school, always offering to help if Elka didn’t understand something. Mr. Harnanian, the superintendent, didn’t yell when he discovered Elka flushed the pimento and olive cream cheese sandwich her aunt made down the toilet and he had to unclog it. The Olson family down the hall always had a new baby to see and hold. Her best friend Alia waited to walk to school with her everyday, even when Elka was running late.
Mrs. Brinker, who lived in the apartment next door, was a special friend. When Elka’s mother worked late, Elka visited Mrs. Brinker. Mrs. Brinker had a huge television with all the cable channels and didn’t mind watching cartoons or kids’ movies. She laughed as hard as Elka at cartoon characters and cried with Elka if a movie animal died. She taught Elka how to play canasta and rummy. She never scolded if Elka added the scores wrong by mistake.

Elka loved listening to Mrs. Brinker’s stories about growing up in a small village in Denmark. She told a funny story about a nasty rooster who chased her around the farmyard, and another about a cow who came when she whistled. But, most of Mrs. Brinker’s stories were about snow. How beautiful the trees looked, their branches laden with snow. How the lights of the tiny village sparkled in the snow. The curtains of green and pink from the Northern lights reflected on the snow, her mother waking her late one night to see the wondrous display.

“I skied to my friend Maja’s house and to school. Every day, I glided over the snow until spring came. Most people liked to see the flowers popping up. I did too, but I still missed the snow.”
“Do you still like snow?” Elka asked.
Mrs. Brinker smiled. “Yes, I do, but I can’t do too much any more, except look at it outside my window.” She indicated her wheelchair. “No more skiing for me.”
As Christmas approached, Elka tried to think of a gift for Mrs. Brinker, but no matter how hard she tried she couldn’t think of a thing. She didn’t have much money, and Mrs. Brinker seemed to have everything she needed.
The day before Christmas, Elka woke and looked out the window. Glorious beautiful snow! She got dressed to go to the park and play when she had an idea. If she made a snowman, would Mrs. Brinker be able to see it?  She looked out the window and frowned. Unless it was huge, it would be hard to see from the sixth floor. Then, Elka had a better idea.
She searched the kitchen cabinet and found an aluminum pan her mother used to bake sheet cakes. She ran to the park and piled snow in the pan. While she was still outside in the cold, she made three small snowballs and placed them on top of each other, making a small snowman. She spread snow around it, so it looked like it was in a snow covered field.
She took two licorice drops from her pocket to make eyes, and a red cinnamon candy for his mouth. Two old pencils made arms and a scrap of felt from her craft supplies a hat. Done!
Elka rushed to the elevator and pushed the button for the sixth floor. She knew the snowman wouldn’t last, she had to hurry!

“Merry Christmas!” Elka shouted when the door opened.  She put the snowman in the center of the table. Mrs. Brinker put her fingers in the cool snow  and pet the snowman like it was a kitten.  She smiled at her wonderful Christmas present and at Elka, who made a perfect gift.
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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed with our permission from the author.
Published November 24, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, November 19, 2018

I Wish I Had a Polar Bear

If I Had A Polar Bear
                        by Valerie L. Egar

If I had a polar bear, I’d name him Blueberry, because after polar bears, blueberries are what I like best.
On Saturdays, Blueberry and I would stroll down Main Street and window shop. I’d point out the red bike in Mitch’s Bicycle Shop and he’d look at the smoked salmon in Gourmet World. Everyone would take pictures of us and post them on Facebook.  
After our walk, we’d stop for ice cream at Dairy Delight. I’d order vanilla for both of us and ask the server to please put his in a dish. I don’t think a polar bear can hold a cone, but I’d give him a taste of mine.
If I had a polar bear, I’d bring him to school. I’d tell him to be very quiet when the teacher talked. At lunchtime, he’d know to wait in line without pushing, even when pizza was being served.
 All the bullies would stay far away from us. If they wanted to make friends with him, I’d say, “Maybe. Blueberry has to think about it, he’s very particular.”
If I had a polar bear, I’d ask Coach Simmons if he could be on the soccer team.  A polar bear would be a great goalie and maybe our team would win for a change. I wonder if team shirts come in extra-extra-extra large?
If I had a polar bear, I would tell him my secrets and he would keep them, not like my big-mouth friend Jenna who told everybody in school about my pants ripping in the back when I bent down to pick up my pencil.
If I had a polar bear, we’d take a trip to the Arctic every year to visit his family. We’d dog-sled across the tundra with presents of herring and salmon lashed onto the sled. I’d remember to bring a good supply of peanut butter and jelly so I wouldn’t be hungry. I think fish is icky.
If I had a polar bear, we’d swim in the lake every day in the summer. If he used my inner tube, he’d pop it with his sharp claws, so I’d ask Dad to get him something nice he could use as a float, maybe a big log. Better yet, maybe Dad would let him float on top of the canoe.
If I had a polar bear, we’d go to the fair together. I’d buy him a funnel cake. If he liked cotton candy, I’d buy him that, too. I don’t think he’d like to ride on a Ferris wheel, but he might like to try the Merry-go-Round. If he did, I’d stay next to him, so he wouldn’t be scared.
If I had a polar bear, my friends and I would play hide and seek with him in the winter.  With all the snow, he would be hard to find and that would make us laugh.
If I had a polar bear, we would talk to the President and the United Nations about preserving the places polar bears live. Blueberry would convince them to do what’s right with his polar bear smile and big paws.
If I had a polar bear, he would hug me at night and I would fall asleep nestled in his sweet warm fur.
        I wish I had a polar bear!

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Copyright 2015 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be reproduced, copied or distributed without permission from the author.

Published August 23, 2015, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, November 12, 2018

Puppy Huxley, Chew, Chew, Chew!

                                 Puppy Huxley, Chew, Chew, Chew!
                                           By Valerie L. Egar

Layla lingered at the cage, gazing at the oversized puppy with black and golden fur who looked at her eagerly. One ear stood straight up and the other flopped down. He held his tail high in the air and it curled over his body like a question mark. “Are you sure he’s a puppy?” At five months old, the young dog weighed fifty pounds and stood tall as her school desk.
“Look how big his paws are. He hasn’t grown into them yet,” Dad said.
        “What kind of dog is he?” Layla asked.
The shelter’s adoption counselor smiled. “I’d guess a little collie, mixed with some golden retriever and maybe a hint of German Shepherd.”
“Sit,” Layla said. The dog sat. “Good boy, Huxley,” said Layla.
Layla nodded. “I saw the name in a book I read.”
 Huxley went home with his new family, but not before they stopped at the pet food store to buy puppy chow and a nice squeaky stuffed frog for Huxley to play with.
 Huxley liked his new toy, but he was curious and had to find out how it made noise. He held it down with one paw and tore at it with his teeth. Soon the stuffing and the plastic squeaker were on the floor. He carried the unstuffed frog to Layla. “Oh, Huxley!” she sighed.
Huxley liked discovering new things to chew. Mom brought in bags of groceries. Huxley stuck his head in every bag when Mom wasn’t looking. He found a box of tea bags, carried it to his dog bed and chewed it open. Tea smelled nice, but Huxley didn’t want to eat it. 
Dad hung pictures in his office and left the hammer on the floor. Huxley thought it looked a little like a bone. He carried it to his dog bed and chewed on the handle. Yuck! It didn’t have much flavor. Dad found the hammer decorated with tooth marks.
A bottle of water looked very interesting and it was easy to carry when Huxley grasped it by the top with his teeth. He carried it to his dog bed and gnawed on it. Eww! It made his bed wet.
The vacuum made too much noise. Huxley fixed it by chewing the electric cord off.
Magazines had wonderful scented paper perfume samples inside. Huxley loved how they smelled. Too bad he had to tear up the whole magazine just to get to them out.
 Huxley found a feedbag of nuts and dried fruit his family bought to feed the woodpeckers. Huxley put his head deep into the bag and gobbled the woodpecker food. It was delicious. “Are you a woodpecker?” his family asked. “That’s not for you, Huxley.”
When his family forgot to shut the closet door, Huxley explored inside and found piles of shoes. They had funny looking spiky sticks on one end and looked hard to walk on. They were made from leather though and rather tasty. He chewed a red one, a blue one and another that was an odd shade of brown.
“Good thing I don’t wear high heels anymore,” Mom said. “You’re helping me clear the closet, Huxley.”
Layla found him with a canister of oatmeal, the lid chewed off and oatmeal sprinkled all over. “Oh, Huxley,” Layla said. “When are you going to grow up?” 
Huxley’s family went to the store and bought lots of chew toys for him—fancy ones shaped like bones and rubber ones they stuffed with treats. Maybe, just maybe, he would chew on his toys instead of things he wasn’t supposed to chew, like table legs and TV remotes. Huxley enjoyed his new toys, but he was still a puppy and now and then, he still decided to taste something new.
“Oh, Huxley! Not my science homework!”

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published December 31, 2017, Journal Tribune Sunday (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Moon Egg

                                                           The Moon Egg
                                                         By Valerie L. Egar

Of all the animals in the forest, only the Blue Jays knew the latest gossip. Like the town criers of olden times who shouted news from street corners, cries of “Jay, jay, jay!” alerted all the birds and animals to gather for an announcement.
“Fox has discovered a great treasure!” Jay cried from the top of an oak tree.

 “It is small and round like the moon, and though it does not move, it has a beating heart,” shouted another.
All the animals waited expectantly to see Fox’s treasure, and Fox soon appeared. He gently placed a small silver disc in the clearing. The animals gathered around to take a closer look.
“Indeed, it is round like the moon,” observed Squirrel, “and smaller than a horse chestnut.”
“Silver on one side,” said Otter, who touched it gingerly. “But the other side has a design at the edge of the circle with two lines pointing at the design. Might it be a young turtle?”
Turtle moved forward and examined it. “Not a turtle,” she pronounced. “Definitely not.”
 “Maybe it’s a baby moon,” said Mourning Dove. Most of the animals thought her a bit daft, but since they had no idea what it was, they shrugged.
“It’s alive,” said Fox. “Listen.”
“Is that a heart beat?”
 “It doesn’t sound like a heart,” said Bear.  “My heart goes thumpa-thumpa. That goes ti-ta,ti-ta, ti-ta.”
“Well, you’re a grown bear!” said Fox. “Not a baby whatever.”
“But it doesn’t move,” said Wolf, prodding it with its foot. “Animals move.”
“Not if it hasn’t hatched yet,” admonished Mourning Dove. “If it’s an egg, we need to keep it warm.”
“I’m not giving it up,” said Fox. “I found it.”
“We can take turns,” said Bear. They decided each animal would keep the egg warm in shifts of one hour each until it hatched.
The first day proceeded without incident.
On the second day, Wolf began to wonder whether the moon (or whatever hatched) would belong to him if it hatched when he was keeping it warm. Fox wondered the same thing.
“What if it something delicious hatched?” Bear thought. “Would the animals share with each other?”
The animals began bickering. Squirrel tried to change her time with Fox because she noticed the egg glowed in the dark and she liked  watching it at night.
        Wolf thought Bear was putting in too much time minding the egg and planned to steal it. Mourning Dove felt bitter that animals from miles away showed up wanting to help when she’d been working from the beginning.
            The bickering turned fierce and soon the animals were arguing. “I’ve put in the most hours!”  “My fur is warmer than your thin feathers!” “I found it and it’s mine!” The howls and growls could be heard all over the forest. They argued so long, they forget about warming the egg. When they finally remembered, the ti-ta, ti-ta, ti-ta inside had stopped.
            “You killed it!” shouted Fox to Bear.
            “Me? Mourning Dove started the argument!”
            “Did not.” The fighting resumed.
            The Jays sounded an alert for Owl to put matters to rest. Owl was a wise judge and esteemed by all the forest animals for her wisdom. She swooped in and took her post on the branch of an ash tree.

            “These beasts have murdered my moon baby,” the Fox cried. “At least I think it was a moon baby. But whatever it was, they’ve killed it!” He held up the round silver disc all of them had been keeping warm.
            Owl looked at the round object, turning it over in her talons.
            “It’s heart was beating until the fighting started,” yelled the Jays.
            “All Bear’s fault,” whispered Mourning Dove.
             “Silence!” screeched Owl. She viewed them sternly. “This is called a watch. Unlike us, humans have no sense of time and need something to tell them when to eat and sleep.”
The animals started to giggle. “Imagine not knowing when to eat!” “I sleep when I’m tired!”  Soon they were laughing so hard, they’d forgotten their anger.
Owl dropped the watch in the nearby lake where it sank to the bottom and sparkled for the fish.

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published November 4, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME)