Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Magic Wishing Eggs

                                           The Magic Wishing Eggs
                                                            By Valerie L. Egar

            A long time ago, a stranger drove his donkey cart into a small village on market day. Bright red, decorated with painted yellow and blue flowers, the cart drew everyone’s attention. The villagers thought the stranger, a tall man with a neatly trimmed beard, looked like a scholar, though no one could say for sure, since a scholar had never visited their town.
            The stranger parked his cart near the market and passers-by noticed the back of the cart was filled with coconuts. “How odd that someone so well-dressed would be selling coconuts!” the villagers thought.

             After almost everyone had seen the coconuts, the stranger took a large blue cloth from under the cart seat and began covering the coconuts, carefully tucking the cloth around them, so the villagers could no longer view what was in the cart.  Curiosity got the best of one onlooker. “I was hoping to buy a coconut to make a cake,” she said. “Aren’t you selling them?”
            The stranger gasped. “Madam,” he said, “these are NOT coconuts.  They may look like coconuts. If you broke one open it might taste like a coconut. But, I repeat, they are NOT coconuts.” He said it in such a way, the woman was embarrassed by her ignorance and didn’t want to ask what they really were.
 The man lowered his voice and whispered, “These are magic wishing eggs. Handled properly, they hatch whatever a person desires. I’m taking them across the river to sell.”
         The woman’s eyes widened. Magic wishing eggs! What could be better than that? “Sell them here!” she demanded.
          The man shook his head. “I can’t. I promised  them to—” He pointed toward the river.
            “Dundershine? “
            “Yes, that’s it,” he replied. “The mayor of Dundershine promised me the villagers would pay the highest price for my magic wishing eggs.”
            “Well,” the woman huffed. “As far as I know you never asked us!” She set out to complain to anyone who would listen. Soon, word spread that their small village had been overlooked and that magic wishing eggs were headed to Dundershine.
            A group of townspeople approached the stranger, who was sitting in his cart, reading a book.
            “I’m a lawyer,” a squat man announced. “I’ve brought some of our finest citizens with me. “We would like the opportunity to purchase the magic eggs.”
            The stranger shook his head. “I am sorry they weren’t covered when I drove into town. I promised them to Dundershine, every single one. Perhaps next year, if I can find some more—”
          “We want them now!” a man yelled.
 “We’ll pay double,” said another.
           “I’m not the kind to break a promise,” said the man.
           “We’ll pay triple,” said the lawyer, “and you won’t have to cross the river or deal with those foolish people in Dundershine. They aren’t very smart, you know.”
            The man sighed. “All of you are so kind. I wish I’d met you before I promised Dundershine the magic wishing eggs. Whatever you desire would be at your fingertips. See my beautiful cart? I have it because of the wishing eggs. My fat donkey, my tailored clothes? All from the magic wishing eggs. I have a beautiful wife, a fine house. I owe everything I have to the wonder of the magic eggs. But, I am a man of my word and I cannot I break my promise to Dundershine.”
            “We’ll pay ten times more than Dundershine!”
            A small tear rolled down the man’s cheek. “Good people,” he cried. “You are making it so hard. I would not, would never go back on my word, but I could help my dear sister with so much money. She is widowed and alone with seven small children—”
            The crowd began to clap.
            “So, I must say yes, yes, you may buy the magic wishing eggs.”
            The stranger unloaded the cart and took the money— a great sum for ordinary coconuts— and hightailed it out of town.
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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author,
Published June 3, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME) 

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Rafaela The Bee Keeper

                             Rafaella The Bee Keeper
                                                By Valerie L. Egar

            Rafaella’s tiny house was at the end of a dirt road. A hand-painted sign that said “Honey 4 Sale” with a crooked arrow pointed the way to her cottage.
            Rafaella had everything she needed to be happy— a good supply of firewood to keep her warm in winter. A soft bed with a colorful quilt. Clean water and a kettle to make tea, flour to make biscuits. Books to read, a journal to write in. A red tabby cat that purred her to sleep every night. Best of all, she had five hives of honey bees that made enough honey for her to sweeten her tea and to sell when people found their way to her door.
            Rafaella’s hives sat at the edge of an ancient apple orchard that blossomed every spring and the bees happily gathered nectar there. Wild roses growing in Rafaella’s garden added spice to the bee’s honey. Best of all, the songs Rafaella sang to the bees as she tended the hives added magic so that people eating the honey received whatever they needed most. Rafaella never knew what that might be, but she learned from experience that people seldom received what they thought they needed.
            A businessman who was impatient to get his projects moving gulped the honey as though it was a glass of water, thinking he needed employees who worked harder and faster. Instead, he was gifted with laughter and a sense of fun. His projects still got done and he was happier.
            A pilgrim who asked for a clear path received a map with squiggles all over it.  “I asked for a clear path,” she complained.
            “Your path is exploration and adventure,” said Rafaella. “It goes everywhere.”
            A man carrying a sack of heavy rocks took a spoonful of Rafaella’s  magic honey, wishing for a wagon to ease his burden. Instead, the rocks disappeared.
            “You needed your burden removed,” said Rafaella, “not a wagon to carry it around with you.”
            The man had never thought about it that way.  Being without the sack of rocks felt a little strange at first. After a while, he agreed he was happier rid of them.
            Curious people from all over started to show up at Rafaella’s door, hearing tales about magic honey that would give them what they needed. Not everyone was happy when they left. Even though Rafaella wrote on the labels, “What you need might not be what you want,” most people thought that didn’t apply to them and were angry when the unimaginable happened.
             A circus lion tamer turned into a lion and learned what it felt like to be in a cage and jump through rings of fire to make people clap.
            A bully turned into gum on the bottom of a shoe.
            A famous actor became just another face in the crowd and learned humility.
            Business for Rafaella’s honey soon fell off. Though she continued to sweeten her tea with it, and generously spread it on warm biscuits, only the bravest were inclined to taste honey that would magically provide what they needed most.
            Would you taste it?

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

Published  January 28, 2018, Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME)

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Clever Fox

The Clever Fox
                                                      By Valerie L. Egar

            A long time ago, a clever mother fox lived in a den with her husband and eight children.  Though she and her husband hunted every night, keeping eight mouths fed was hard work. By dawn, both were exhausted and the growing children complained they were still hungry.
            All of the animals in the countryside were suspicious of the foxes, which made hunting difficult. The chickens squawked when they saw the foxes and warned the rabbits. The rabbits thumped the ground with their back legs, warning the wild turkeys.  The turkeys flapped their wings and flew into the treetops, screeching a fox alarm to all the other animals in the forest.
Every night the foxes hunted, the animals warned each other. Even though the chickens had nothing in common with the rabbits, and the wild turkeys found
the chickens to be silly, all united to protect themselves from the foxes despite their differences.
            The mother fox thought and thought and because she was so clever, she came up with a plan.
   “La, la, la,” she sang to herself as she walked near the chicken pen, picking daisies. “So sad the rabbits have started stealing chicken eggs,” she whispered to the chickens.
            “That’s not true!” yelled a red hen.
            “Oh, but it is,” said the fox. “They probably haven’t started here— yet.  But on the other side of the mountain, they steal them every night.” 
            For the rest of the day, the hens spoke of nothing else. Maybe it was only rogue rabbits, maybe it was all rabbits, but they agreed that rabbits weren’t chickens and could not be trusted.
            The fox wandered near a field where the clover grew and rabbits liked to play. “La, la, la,” the fox sang to herself.  “How terrible the turkeys are going to rip out all this nice clover to weave their nests instead of using sticks and leaves!” she whispered.
            “That can’t be true,” yelled an old rabbit.
            “Oh, but it is,” said the fox.  “I overheard them talking about it yesterday. ‘Who cares about the rabbits,’ they said.”
            For the rest of the day, the rabbits spoke of nothing else. “Turkeys are like that,” they agreed. “Selfish. Not like rabbits at all. You can never trust a turkey.” They felt angry at the turkeys and were grateful to the fox. “Wasn’t she kind to tell us!” they said.
           “La, la, la,” the fox sang as she walked in the woods. “Be careful friend turkeys,” she said sweetly. “The chickens are jealous of your freedom and are conspiring to cage all of you.”
“Ridiculous!” yelled a hen turkey.
“Is it?” said the fox. “You are free and they are not. You are smart, and they— well, they aren’t. They’re silly. You all think so, don’t you? So, they want to make you more like them.”
What the fox said made sense to the turkeys. Of course the chickens were envious of them.  How kind of the fox to warn them. Chickens were nothing like turkeys and couldn’t be trusted.
That night, as the foxes hunted, the chickens saw them and said nothing. Why should they warn the rabbits, when rabbits steal chicken eggs? The foxes caught several rabbits that night which made the rabbits angry at the chickens for failing to warn them.
“Huh,” the rabbits thought. “The chickens are no better than the turkeys!”
The next night, the rabbits saw the foxes and, because they were angry, they didn’t warn the chickens or turkeys. The foxes dined on turkeys that evening, and
the turkeys’ ire spread to the rabbits. “You can’t trust chickens or rabbits!” said the turkeys.
 With the animals divided and angry with each other, the foxes dined on chickens the following night. A rumor started that the rabbits, not the foxes, ate the chickens, which made the chickens more determined to never, ever help rabbits.

The animals’ hatred of each other grew and the foxes hunted undisturbed every night.
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Copyright 2018 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, distributed or reproduced without permission from the author. 
Published May 20, 2018 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

Friday, April 3, 2020

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 were seeing.”
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)