Monday, December 24, 2018

Santa and the Pirates

                                Santa and the Pirates
                                                    By Valerie L. Egar

            As Christmas grew closer, the pirate crew on the Skull and Cross-Bones felt glum. They knew Santa kept track of those who were good and, as pirates, they never made it onto the good list. No Christmas for them.
            Captain Scruff noticed the crew's gloominess.  “What’s wrong with all of you?”
            Pirate Sneed raised his hand. “Do you think Santa might visit if we put a Christmas tree on the deck?”
            “We could decorate it with seashells.”
            “Seaweed tinsel.”
            “And a shiny star on top.”
Captain Scruff’s face turned bright red.  He shook his saber in the air and  yelled, “We is pirates! We is BAD! Santa don’t like BAD. And, pirates don’t like Santa!” With that he broke into his favorite Christmas song,
                No presents, no singin’, no Christmas tree
                        Mischief and mayhem’s the life for me.
                        Proud to be a pirate! Nasty, stinkin’ seadog!
                        Oh, ho, ho.

                        We top Santa’s bad list every year
        Thievin’ and connivin’ far and near.
       Proud to be pirates! Nasty stinkin’ seadogs!
       Oh, ho, ho.

       If we found Santa, we’d walk him down the     plank,
      Steal all the presents, laugh as Santa sank!
      We’re proud to be pirates! Nasty, stinkin’ seadogs!
     Oh, ho, ho.”

The Captain looked at his crew and caught Rook and Brinks wiping their eyes. “Is you two crying?”
“I’m remembering my Mum’s gingerbread,” whispered Rook.
“I’m thinking about my stocking filled with candy and little toys,” sniffled Brinks. “I had one every year. Until I became a pirate.”
The whole crew started to chatter, remembering special presents and happy songs, homemade cookies and twinkling lights.
“Enough!” shouted Captain Scruff.  “New rule— NO TALKING about Christmas. NO THINKING about Christmas. NO REMEMBERING past Christmases. Understand? Back to work scurvy dogs!”
But, no matter how many rules Captain Scruff made, he couldn’t keep the crew from dreaming about Christmas. He couldn’t keep the crew from longing for the feeling inside some people call “Christmas spirit.” And, he couldn’t keep himself from thinking about Christmas either.
When they visited a town, Sneed found himself carrying packages for a young mother whose hands were full. Brinks stopped by the local humane society and left a bag of pirate’s gold to buy food for the animals. Rook noticed litter in the park and spent an hour picking it up. Even Captain Scruff snuck off and bought a ton of books for a school library. The weeks leading up to Christmas were filled with pirate kindness and good deeds.
Not one of them expected anything in return. They were pirates after all, and pirates they would remain. Once the new year started, they’d be back to thieving and conniving. But, for the time being, they enjoyed the surprised smiles from people who expected only trouble from pirates. They felt warm inside from the “thank yous” they heard. When they were offered mugs of hot chocolate for stringing lights on a tall Christmas tree in the village square, they almost cried.
On Christmas Eve, the pirates went to bed.  From the ship, they listened to distant singing in the village.  Sneed thought he heard sleigh bells, but then he fell fast asleep.
In the morning, Rook found a small package at the foot of his bed. “Santa?” He unwrapped it. A pocket watch! Now he’d know when to go on duty.
Sneed unwrapped a game of checkers and Brinks a sturdy pair of boots. Every pirate received a gift from Santa, even Captain Scruff who opened a small package to find a new spyglass. Maybe they weren’t entirely bad, after all.
The cook was in a cheerful mood with his crisp new chef’s hat. He roasted a turkey and made three different kinds of pies. Despite the presents, no one knew whether the Captain still forbade any mention of Christmas.
Captain Scruff stood and raised his glass. “I’ve written a new verse for the pirate’s Christmas song,” he said. “No walkin’ the plank for Santa. I’ve taken that verse out.”
“Let’s hear,” the crew shouted.
            We’ve got the Christmas spirit head to toe
           And wish everyone a Merry Christmas even   though
          We’re pirates! Nasty stinkin’ sea dogs.
          Oh, ho, ho!
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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published December 22, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Santa and The Halloween Witch

                                       Santa and the Halloween Witch
             By Valerie L. Egar

            The letter sat on Santa’s desk for days. He’d read it a few times and asked the manager of his workshop, Elf Olaf to read it, too. Never had Santa received a letter quite like it.
            Dear Santa,
            I didn’t write you a letter last year, because I thought you would know what I wanted for Christmas and I like to be surprised. Big mistake!  
You brought me a doll, dressed in an evening gown. I hate dolls.
Red boots. I don’t wear the color red.
Craft supplies to make smiley faces to hang in my window. I hate smiley faces.
Last year was a disaster, so I thought I’d better write to tell you what I would like for Christmas this year. I don’t expect everything, and I wouldn’t mind a surprise gift, but not if I’m going to hate it.  Please bring:
Green slime. Lots, please.
Bats, live ones. They will have a very good home in the attic.
Bale of cobwebs, spiders included.
Small black cauldron. (I’m not old enough to use the big one.)
 Broom with training wheels.
Craft kit to make rubber lizards.
Gummy worms.
Black cape, size 10.
Black boots. (I wouldn’t mind patent leather).
Thank you so much.
                        Garnet, Halloween witch in training
P.S. Our house is haunted, but the ghost won’t bother you.
“What do you think?” Santa asked Olaf.
“No to the bale of cobwebs. Can’t have spiders crawling into other children’s toys.”
Santa nodded.  “Yes, that would be quite a problem.” Santa read the letter again. “I suppose that means no to the bats, too.”
Olaf hung his head. “I know bats do good work, Santa, but I think they’re creepy. I don’t think any of the elves would volunteer to catch a few, even if you asked.”
Santa looked sad.
 “I’ll call the Tooth Fairy, Santa. Perhaps she can slip a bat or two under the pillow the next time Garnet loses a tooth.”
 “Great idea!” Santa looked out the window, distracted by the reindeer frolicking in the snow.  Reading the letter again, Santa tapped his fingers on his desk.
           "Can we deliver everything else on her list?”
            “I’m having training wheels put on a broom right now,” agreed Olaf. “I found a small cauldron at the back of the warehouse. A bit dusty, but Elf Mags is dusting it off.”
Santa’s eyes twinkled. “Poor little witch. She was so disappointed last year, I’d like to give her a nice surprise. What else might she want? Olaf, please find something special for Garnet.”
            Though Olaf said, “Yes, Sir!” he wasn’t convinced he was the elf for the job. He had no idea what might surprise a little witch at Christmas. He consulted with Elf Reese.
            “Do you think one of those pointy witch hats would be a good surprise?”
            Reese frowned. “Absolutely not! They went out of style YEARS ago. Only older witches wear hats. Young ones wear flowers in their hair or nothing at all.”
            “A book of fairy tales?”
            “Nothing happy in those for a witch child.  Definitely not.”
            Olaf was at a loss. He didn’t know what games Garnet might enjoy. Dolls were out. A stuffed bat or dragon didn’t seem right for a girl who wanted real bats and spiders. Santa wanted him to find a special gift and he couldn’t think of a thing.
Olaf wandered to the North Star CafĂ© for a mug of hot chocolate. “Extra whipped cream, please.”  He sat at the table and stared at his cup.
            His friend Noelle walked in. “Why so glum?”
            Olaf explained about needing a special gift for Garnet.
            “I’ve the perfect gift!” Noelle exclaimed and urged him to come out to her truck.
She opened the door. Inside was a black kitten with yellow eyes Noelle had just taken in for the North Pole Animal Shelter.

“This is Jinx,” and she’s ready to be adopted to a loving home. No better gift for a little witch than a black cat.”
And that is exactly what Garnet thought when she discovered Jinx on Christmas morning. 

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be distributed, copied or reproduced without permission from the author.

Published December 15, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Sounds of Christmas

The Sounds of Christmas
                                                By Valerie L. Egar

            Winter has arrived.  I hear it when I’m very quiet and listen.
            The fireplace crackles, warming the house. Snow taps on the windowpanes and wind howls through the trees. Walking outside, my boots crunch in the snow. If I reach up and break an icicle off the shed roof, it snaps. When I hit the other icicles with it, they shatter and sound like breaking glass.

            I hear a cardinal calling and a wild canary tweeting at the birdfeeder.  A neighbor’s dog barks. A big snowplow rumbles along the street clearing snow. Snowmobiles zoom in the nearby field.
            Christmas is getting closer. I close my eyes and hear it. The electric mixer whirs. Bowls and cookie sheets clatter in the kitchen. The oven door opens with a quiet click. Ding, ding, ding! The timer rings to say the cookies are done and the oven door clicks open again.

            Time to decorate the Christmas tree! Mom wrapped a few ornaments in tissue and the paper crinkles as they’re unwrapped. An ornament shaped like a bell jingles. Another plays “Silent Night.”  Oops!  I dropped a glass one by accident and it smashed on the floor. That isn’t a nice sound. The vacuum makes a lot of noise sweeping it up.
           When Christmas gets even closer, every TV ad yells “Christmas Sale!”  I shop with Dad and Christmas carols play in every store, even stores for auto parts. Our doorbell rings often with the delivery person leaving boxes I’m not allowed to open.
            Wherever I go, I overhear people talking about Christmas. “What should I get Uncle Frank this year?” “Do you want to help me wrap?” “Don’t forget, Santa’s watching!”
            Christmas is a few days away. Mom streams Christmas music all day and dances around the house.  When we go out at night, Dad drives down streets we don’t usually drive on to see outdoor Christmas decorations and we sing. At home, popcorn popping means we’re going to watch a good Christmas movie.

            The day before Christmas has extra special sounds.  Our teacher saying, “See you next year!”  Mom and Dad’s car doors slamming— they’re home early!  Announcements over the loud speakers at the train station when we pick Grandma and Aunt Carmela up.  So many people are travelling, the station is noisy. Grandma exclaims, “You’ve grown!” when she sees me.  Aunt Carmela asks, “How are you doing in school?”
            On Christmas Eve, Grandma reads me “The Night Before Christmas” and because I like my book about turtles, she reads that to me, too. I go to bed really, really early, but I can’t sleep, so I open my window a tiny bit and try to hear Santa’s sleigh bells. I think I do, but they’re still far away. A car honks and our neighbor’s cat meows to go inside.
When I wake up, it’s 5:00.  The only thing I hear is the clock ticking. No one is up yet. I run down the stairs and see presents under the tree. I yell, “Come see! Santa was here!”
Mom, Dad, Grandma and Aunt Carmela trudge downstairs. The sound I remember best after that is tearing paper and happy laughter and for some reason, a few loud yawns.

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published December 8, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME). 

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Santa's Surprise Vacation

Santa’s Surprise Vacation
                 By Valerie L. Egar

Every year when Santa arrived home from delivering toys on Christmas Eve, he was exhausted. The elves helped the reindeer out of their harnesses and fed them, while Santa made his way to the house and tumbled into bed. Most times, he didn’t even have time to take off his boots before he fell fast asleep.
After a long nap, he awoke to a festive meal with all of the elves. Mrs. Claus was a wonderful cook, but without a good amount of Christmas magic, she would never have been able to serve Santa and hundreds of elves their favorite meals and dessert, because everyone favored something different.
Though Santa enjoyed turkey and Mrs. Claus’ delicious stuffing, the elves’ tastes varied. Spaghetti and meatballs, grilled hotdogs, buttered noodles, pot roast, fried chicken— only with magic was Mrs. Claus able to satisfy everyone.
After dinner, Santa always went to his office and started planning for the following year. “Honey, there’s plenty of time. Relax,” Mrs. Claus said. But, it was impossible for Santa to relax at the North Pole. Looking at snow from the window, he thought of sleds and snowboards and calculated how many he should make for children next year. Walking through the workshop, he sketched plans for new stuffed animals and began designing video games.
 Mrs. Claus knew that Santa needed a rest after all his work and that he would relax only if he was someplace other than the North Pole. She talked to the elves and they made a plan for a surprise vacation. When Santa came home from delivering toys and fell asleep, the elves wrapped him in a warm blanket and carried him to an airplane Mrs. Claus hired. Most of the elves climbed aboard too, leaving only a few faithful elves to take care of the reindeer and keep the house fires burning so it would be warm when they returned home.
When Santa awoke, he found himself on a beautiful tropical island in the middle of the ocean. The elves had decorated palm trees with twinkle lights and hung tinsel garlands on the bushes. A huge fir tree the elves hitched to the top of the airplane stood in front of the house, decorated with crystals that sparkled in the bright sun. 
Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves had the island all to themselves, except for a flock of pink flamingos that wandered back and forth on the beach. The white beach sand glittered like snow and it wasn’t long before the elves were jumping waves and playing water tag. “C’mon in, Santa! The water’s warm.”
Mrs. Claus handed Santa a pair of red swim trunks and one of the elves inflated a big inner tube. Santa floated on the water, enjoying the sun until the elves decided splashing Santa would be fun. Hundreds of little hands splashed water in Santa’s direction. Mrs. Claus could hear the elves giggling from the porch where she sat, enjoying the view.
 For two weeks, Santa swam, slept in the sunshine and read all the mysteries and fantasy novels he’d been meaning to read. The elves climbed trees, developed a taste for coconut milk, and built sand castles.
When they arrived back at the North Pole, everyone was tan, rested and ready to get back to work. Best of all, Santa had an idea for a new toy— a cuddly fuzzy coconut.  “The elves liked them so much,” Santa said. “And you can play catch with them.”
Mrs. Claus shook her head. “You already have cuddly soccer balls and footballs. What about a cuddly pink flamingo?”

Santa smiled. “What a good idea!”

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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published December 1, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).