Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Magellan the Mouse

Magellan the Mouse
By Valerie L. Egar

Momma Mouse had six babies, but right from the start, she recognized one was very different from the others. Five fell asleep after a bedtime story. The sixth one stayed awake asking questions. Why did frogs turn into princes and not mice? Why didn’t Red Riding Hood know the wolf wasn’t her Grandma?
Before his eyes opened, he crawled out of the nest to explore.  Frantic, Momma Mouse found him stumbling around the attic near a hole that would have carried him who knows where. She scolded him, carried him back to the nest and decided to name him Magellan after the explorer.
When Magellan’s eyes opened, he spent hours discovering every nook and cranny in the attic. He found a small hole to enter an antique trunk and had fun nibbling on some old newspapers and a woolen blanket. He sunned himself in a patch of light that shone through the attic window. He played tag with his brothers and sisters, frolicking back and forth across the floor.
“Shh!” his mother warned.  “The people don’t know we’re here.”
Magellan and his brothers and sisters grew quickly. Each one of them found a spot in the attic to make a home and raise a family, but not Magellan. “I want to see the world,” he declared.
His mother wasn’t surprised, but she worried. She explained as best she could about cats and people, traps and hawks. The attic was a safe place for mice, but the outside world wasn’t safe at all. “Come back any time,” she told Magellan and hugged him. With that, Magellan scrambled between the walls to find out what was beyond the attic.
He fell with a thump and when he landed, found himself in a room so bright, the light almost blinded him. He liked the feel of soft carpet under his feet. Slowly, he walked along the baseboard, sniffing the air. He heard voices and took cover under a bureau.
Magellan peeked out from beneath the bureau and saw a bare foot the length of  twenty mice. Humans were huge! He watched the feet walk back and forth and heard cloth rustling.  The next time he saw the feet they had shoes on. The room fell quiet.  Magellan stepped out from underneath the bureau and looked around.
He climbed onto the unmade bed.  The covers felt warm. “Mmmm, nice.”
He bounced up and down on the pillows.
Magellan felt hungry and decided to see if there was anything good to eat anywhere.
He skittered down the hall, though the living room and into the kitchen. He noticed a big bowl of food on the floor filled with crunchy treats, perfect snack food. He jumped in the bowl and started to nibble. It was delicious, better than anything he’d ever tasted.
 Magellan looked up and saw two green eyes staring at him. He froze.  If he didn’t move, would the cat leave him alone? He saw the cat’s tail twitching.
The telephone rang. Just as the cat turned its head, Magellan flew out of the bowl and dived behind the kitchen cabinet. Safe! That was close.
He found a hole in the wall behind the cabinets and climbed through it to another place in the house.  “This place smells funny.” The floor was cold concrete. Shelves lined the walls filled with tools and paint cans. “I don’t like it in here.” Magellan looked for a way out and squeezed under a door.
Green grass as far as Magellan could see.  Sun warmed him. He ran through the grass and into a garden. Daisies towered over him. The scent of roses tickled his nose. He nibbled a few seeds he found.
All of sudden the sky darkened and fat drops of rain poured down, pelting Magellan. Lightning flashed and thunder boomed. Cold and wet, Magellan ran for the house and squeezed back under the door.
Magellan made his way back to the attic, carefully avoiding the cat. “I have seen the world,” he announced to his family. “Interesting as it is, I can tell you, there’s no place like home.”
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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published August 10, 2019 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, September 23, 2019

Mystery Woman

Mystery Woman
                                                By Valerie L. Egar

            Brianna lived on the twelfth floor of an apartment building in the city. She was clever and curious and just a tiny bit nosy. She knew the woman in 1203 was a night nurse because she noticed her leave in the evening dressed in scrubs. The couple in 1211 had a new baby boy. Brianna saw the balloon announcing his birth.  When she walked down the hall and heard violin practice from 1208, she concluded the man who lived there was a musician.
            Only one tenant on the 12th  floor baffled her. A woman had moved into 1210 recently and lived alone. She had long black hair and didn’t wear much make-up. She wore clothes Brianna liked— long flowing dresses and dangly earrings, faded jeans with baggy sweaters and lots of bracelets
Unlike the other tenants, she didn’t leave for work in the morning and not in the evening either. When Brianna went to the park in the afternoon, she often saw her sitting on a park bench. One day she even saw her climbing the ladder to the slide, even though she was too old for that!
           The woman went to yoga on Saturdays— Brianna saw her get on the elevator carrying a yoga mat. She went to the farmer’s market afterwards, because she came back with net bags filled with vegetables and fruits. But, other than the few things Brianna observed, the woman was a mystery that piqued Brianna’s curiosity.
“Hello,” Brianna said to the woman one afternoon as she stepped onto the elevator. “I live in 1213.”
            The woman looked confused.
            “Down the hall from you. I’m Brianna.”
            “Nice to meet you,” the woman replied as the doors opened and she headed for the mailboxes. Only then did Brianna realize that the woman hadn’t mentioned her name.        
            Brianna began to suspect the woman might be a spy. Spies didn’t mention their names, did they? And, a spy would be a much more interesting tenant for the twelfth floor than almost anyone else. Maybe sliding down the slide was a signal to someone watching through binoculars. Maybe she passed messages to other spies at yoga, or the farmer’s market.
            Brianna’s suspicions were confirmed when she popped open a fortune cookie after Friday night’s take out Chinese dinner. “Upset the raven and risk all,” her fortune read. Brianna didn’t even know where to find any ravens, much less upset them. Unless— it didn’t mean a bird.  Maybe it was a code name. Raven, a perfect code name. And who had black hair like a raven? The mystery woman.
           Brianna’s heart raced. She wasn’t scared, just excited. Here she was in the middle of a spy story. All she had to do was watch and be careful. Never did she think  a summer on the 12th floor of her apartment building would be so exciting.
            Brianna found reasons to stroll past the mystery woman’s apartment every hour or so during the day. She heard music playing, but not much else. When she went to the mailroom and saw a package for apartment 1210, she tried to read the return address, but the doorman shooed her away. She only caught the mystery woman’s name: Ruth Bevins.
            “Aha! Ruth starts with an ‘r’ and so does raven. More proof!”
            Brianna googled the name, something she’d learned to do in school. Ruth Bevins’ website was at the top of the search. Brianna clicked on it eagerly.
Artist. Award winning illustrator of over 20 books, many of which Brianna had enjoyed.  
Living near an artist who illustrated books was even more exciting than living near a spy. And of course, it explained everything. Ms. Bevins worked from home, drawing and painting all day.
The next time Brianna saw Ms. Bevins, she whispered, “I really like your books.”

Ms. Bevins smiled and invited Brianna to visit and Brianna happily did.
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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be distributed, copied or reproduced without permission from the author.
Published August 3, 2019, Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, September 16, 2019

Museum Cat

                                                        Museum Cat
                                                     By Valerie L. Egar

            I have the best job a cat could possibly have. Like my father and grandfather before me, I am in charge of rodent control for the Higgendorf Town Museum, a small museum located on a side street by the canal in our beautiful town.
Glass cases display examples of the lace made here hundreds of years ago. Another room is an exact replica of famous philosopher Erik Rothensburger’s study with his original manuscripts. Paintings of local scenes line the halls and then, there’s a gift shop. It’s tiny, but a very important part of my patrol. No mice nibbling our candy!
I live in the museum office at the back of the building. I rest all day, sleeping in a warm sun patch or near the coal stove when it’s winter. Mrs. Schenk feeds me at noon. Sometimes, when the museum isn’t too busy, she plays with me, dangling a string or rolling a ball across the floor.
When all the visitors are gone and she’s about to leave for the night, she opens the office door and lets me into the museum. “Time to patrol,” she says.
I stretch and walk slowly into the museum. I don’t want to look like some scatterbrain cat that doesn’t know what he’s doing. I sniff the baseboards in the lace room, check the heating grates. No evidence of mice.
In the philosopher’s study, I look under the desk. I sit on his chair and then the windowsill. On moonlit nights, the light shines on the desk and I like to think a person might be inspired to great thoughts looking out the window at the moon.
I hear the tiniest sound and cock my ears. Someone jiggling the front door? I peek around the corner and see a shadow. Someone is trying to get in!
            Though I’m only in charge of rodent control, no one is going to take anything from the museum on my watch! I think quickly and creep into the lace room. I jump to the top of the glass display case and wait.
            Soon the door cracks open and a man creeps inside. My cat eyes allow me to see well in the darkness. Although the man carries a flashlight, he looks straight ahead and doesn’t look up. One, two, three…..jump!
            With a loud growl and hiss, I leap from the top of the glass display and land on the man’s shoulders, scratching and yowling. I grab him around the neck and claw his head.
            “Ow! Ow! Ow!” he screams. I nip the bottom of his ear as he runs for the door.
            I guard the open front door for the rest of the night. When Mrs. Schenk arrives in the morning, she quickly realizes there’s been a break-in. “Oh, Randolf! Are you OK?”
            I rub her leg and purr to let her know I’m fine. 
    Not a minute later the police arrive. “We’ve caught the burglar,” the patrolman says. “But we want to know what happened to him. He looked awful.”
  Mrs. Schenk pointed to me. “Randolf  stopped him.”
  I am proud to say I am now an honorary member of the Higgendorf Police and have been elevated to Chief of Museum Security. Mrs. Schenk adopted two kittens for rodent patrol and I’m teaching them exactly what to do.

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                 Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied or distributed without permission of the author.
                    Published September 7, 2019 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

A Day in the Life of the River

A Day in the Life of the River
            By Valerie L. Egar
The first rays of the sun touched the river, cutting through mist rising from the water. The light awakened a Canada Goose nesting on an island. Four goslings followed her into the water and swam downstream with the gander following behind to protect them.

The sun awakened the kingfisher. He darted over the water, looking for a tasty fish to catch.  All along the river, birds chirped and whistled, ready for a new day.
As the sun rose, it dappled the water with gold. A girl and her father stood on the riverbank, fishing. “Early morning is always the best time to fish,” her father said.
“When I caught the trout last week, it was 11:00,” she reminded him. “I could have slept a few more hours.” Her Dad laughed.
         Further down the river, a scout troop paddled kayaks through swift rapids. Negotiating the rocks was tricky, but fun. Water sprayed into the air and the sun turned the spray into rainbows. Everybody was happy when the water calmed and they pulled the kayaks onto the shore to eat lunch.
            After lunch, a few boys skimmed rocks across the water. “Can we go for a swim?” The leader nodded. Swinging from a vine that hung over the water and plopping into the river thrilled them. The afternoon was hot and cold water felt refreshing.
            The river threaded its way past farms where cows grazed near the water. It flowed through small towns. Young couples pushed baby strollers through a park on the waterfront. Children threw corn to ducks. Others sat on park benches and enjoyed watching the water flow by.
            Miles away, the river grew wider and cut through a city. A bridge arched over the water. As evening fell, the city’s lights reflected in the water and shimmered.
            The river grew still wider as it neared the sea. Its banks were sandy and the water tasted salty.  Most of the people near the river were fast asleep, but not the trucker, driving along the highway that skirted the water. He had a truck full of potatoes to drive south.

            The train engineer was awake too. Freight cars headed to distant cities rumbled on tracks next to the river. The engineer glimpsed the moon shining on the water. He yawned, eyeing the dark houses where people slept peacefully.
            From its source high in the mountains to its mouth where it emptied into the ocean, the river sparkled in moonlight. In darkness, animals came to the water’s edge to drink— moose and bear, bobcat and fox. A raccoon searched for mussels, otters played tag.
            Except for the sound of flowing water and an owl hooting now and then, the world was quiet. 

The sun would rise soon enough and a new day would begin. But for now, the river stretched mountain to sea wrapped in moon glow. And, from one dark house, a little face peeked out a window at her river friend before she fell back asleep.

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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be reproduced, copied or distributed without permission from the author.
Published June 15, 2019 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).