Jules, Ellie, and the Gray Girl


One beautiful, wind-swept afternoon, Jules and Ellie met a little girl going gray. Not a comfy, rainy day gray, nor a strong uniform gray, but a sickly-yellow gray.

The going-gray-girl sat boringly on a swing just barely swinging. She didn’t reach for the sky with her toes. She didn’t imagine she flew. See, this was the problem: the going-gray-girl lacked imagination and imaginary friends to share her daydreams with.

Quite differently, completely opposite, Jules bounded around the playground full of energy from the five mini-cupcakes her auntie had bought her for her birthday. Up the slide she went. Or, in her imagination up from the bottom of the ocean (which was the ground) she swam until she burst out into the air (the top of the slide) with a flick of her pinky-diamondy tail. Fellow mermaids, Zalina and Aloha, swam at her side.

(Jules had twenty-one other imaginary mermaid friends, all their names ending in –ina: Tina, Zina, Nina, Bina, Cina, Dina, Fina…etc.)

At the top of the slide, Jules’ tail disappeared and fairy wings (pink-diamondy-sparkly) grew from her back. Jules grasped the hand of Jacey and Lina, her imaginary fairy friends, and flitted about the fairy forest sprinkling fairy dust. Once the dust had been liberally shared, Jules left her fairy friends and rejoined all her mermaid friends with her three human imaginary friends in tow, Joelle, Lunia, and Sally. Jules lived a rich imaginary life. She practically glowed with all the imaging going on.

Ellie, fueled by several cupcakes herself, swung from bar to bar of the jungle gym, rushed up the stairs, two fingers pointing out and the rest wrapped around each other. She made shooting noises before diving down the slide. Or, in her imagination, she infiltrated the base of the evil fairies that only wore black. She aimed her imaginary gun, ready to capture their Queen. No! They spotted Ellie and now millions of evil black fairies were after her. Quick! Down the garbage chute. Ellie escaped only to realize she’d left Ellie, her imaginary fairy friend, behind in the castle.

(Yes, it’s confusing having the same name sometimes, but they don’t mind. Usually Ellie and Ellie just yell their location, instead of their names.)

Rushing around to the start of the jungle gym, Ellie made her way back inside the evil Queen’s lair. Imaginary-Ellie had to be saved.

While Ellie didn’t have the plethora of imaginary friends which Jules did, she did create very elaborate rescue plans every time Imaginary-Ellie was captured, which was often. Her imagination-fed glow equaled her sister’s easily.

While wonderful adventures were being enjoyed by Jules and company, and Ellie and Imaginary-Ellie, the going-gray-girl just sat. She didn’t even push with her feet to swing a little higher. A squeal of laughter from Jules and Ellie as their two imaginary worlds collided in a shower of glitter and explosions didn’t even raise the going-gray-girl’s hanging head. It hung lower and lower with no imagination to lift it up.

It was after they separated their two imaginary worlds and Jules helped Ellie rescue Imaginary-Ellie, that the sisters noticed the going-gray-girl for the first time.

“Oh! Look everyone, that little girl looks so sad.” Jules pointed across the playground. “Let’s invite her to play.”

Down the slide and to the swings everyone slid, swam, or flew.

“Hi!” Jules and Ellie said together, all smiles.

“We’re playing with our imaginary friends,” Jules explained and then proceeded to introduce and describe each of the mermaids, fairies, and just humans gathered around her. As she talked the going-gray-girl only went grayer and droopier. Finished, Jules asked, “Would you like to play with us?”

The going-gray-girl slipped from the swing. “No thank you.” Her shoulders slumped, her head dipped, and her feet shuffled.

“Do you have any imaginary friends?” Ellie bent over trying to look the going-gray-girl in the eyes.

“No,” she whispered.

Jules and Ellie gasped.

“Everyone needs imaginary friends!” Jules exclaimed. “Otherwise, who do you play with when your real friends are gone?”

“Who do you tell stories to at night when you can’t sleep or you’re scared?” Ellie asked.

“I don’t need imaginary friends,” the gone-gray-girl said softly. “They don’t exist. I don’t need them.”

The two sisters glanced back at the tangle of slides, stairs, platforms, poles, tubes, and tunnels. To them, the bright plastic had been the ocean filled with glittering fish, sea turtles, and twenty-three giggling mermaids. To them, it had been a forest filled with butterflies, mushroom circles, and fairies. It had transformed to a frightening castle all in black which required a complicated rescue mission to traverse. The playground became so much more than just a playground, they became so much more than just little girls.

“How boring.” Jules shook her head.

Ellie turned. “Ellie’s in trouble again.” She made her hands a gun and took off for the playground, which had reverted back to an evil castle.

“She’s not real,” The gone-gray-girl said flatly, eyes on the ground. “None of its real.”

Ellie stopped. She looked from the playground to the girl and back, frowning.

“It doesn’t matter if they’re real or not.” Jules said. “They’re our friends.”

“That’s just stupid,” The gone-gray-girl said.

Jules and Ellie’s mouths fell open.

“That’s not a nice word.” Jules put her hands on her hips, her eyebrows raised.

“And it’s not stupid.”

“Ellie!”

Ellie clapped her hand over her mouth, awed at her own audacity.

“It is stupid. Only babies play with things that aren’t real.”

“You’re a sad little girl and I’m sorry for you,” Jules said. She took Ellie’s hand and returned to the playground. Through fits and starts they rebuilt their imaginary world. Soon, they were squealing, screaming, and racing around the playground.

Ellie had just completed a daring rescue of the fairy Jacey with the help of Imaginary-Ellie and Jules, who was now a pirate, when she looked out at the swings. The gone-gray-girl still swung like a limp dishrag, but an older girl with a mean smirk headed for her.

As the two girls watched surrounded by imaginary friends holding their breath in horrified fascination, the mean girl pushed gone-gray-girl right out of her swing. Plop! She landed in the sand. The mean girl towered over her waving a fist under her nose.

“To the rescue!” Jules raised her fist to the sky pretending it was a sharp hook.

“Arg!” Ellie agreed in her best pirate growl.

They took the fastest slides to the ground and bounded to the swings.

“Leave her alone, you big meany!” Jules bent down beside the gone-gray-girl.

“Yeah. You go away and leave us all alone, meany!” Ellie, eyes bright, got right in the mean girl’s face.

“Why should I?” The mean girl glared at Ellie.

Ellie made a little fist. “If you don’t, I’ll bop you on the nose.”

“I’d like to see you—”

Ellie bopped her on the nose.

The mean girl gasped and clamped her hand over her nose. Ellie stepped closer. The mean girl roared and ran away.

Jules whooped. The going-gray-girl smiled.

Ellie and Jules helped her to her feet. Jules wrapped her arms around the going-gray-girl. Holding her in a tight hug, she whispered, “I’m sorry. Are you okay?”

“I’m okay,” the going-gray-girl said. “Why did you come save me?”

“Well, we’ve saved Imaginary-Ellie several times today,” Jules explained, “so it was nice to save someone else.”

“But you were so brave. What made you be so brave?”

Ellie smiled. “We have imaginary friends and imaginary stories that we play. We’re brave all the time.”

“You should try it,” Jules said.

The going-gray-girl squinted. She screwed up her face and held her breath. She puffed out her cheeks and her ears turned red.

“Oh,” she whispered. A smile spread across her face. “Oh.”

“What? What is it?” Jules and Ellie said.

“This is my imaginary puppy. Her name is Imagine. She is brown.”

“Nope.” Jules said. “Not brown. Use your imagination on Imagine.”

The grayish-girl sighed and closed her eyes.

“This is Imagine, my white puppy. She has silver wings.”

Ellie cheered.

“Nice to meet you, Imagine,” Jules bent down and held out her hand.

“What’s your name?” Ellie asked.

“I’m Emma. Does Imaginary-Ellie need rescuing again?”

The three girls raced to the playground, swam through the ocean, flew through the fairy forest, and arrived at the Evil Queen’s black castle where all the mermaids and Imaginary-Ellie were suffering in captivity. Emma, with Imagine at her side, preformed some very heroic acts which Jules and Ellie loudly applauded. The last little bits of Emma’s grayness floated away as little by little she imagined more and more.

 

The End.

Red and Mr. Wolf

(Courtesy of Pinterest.)

The Bunsen burner’s blue light heated the water, boiling it, turning it to white steam. The steam rose and rose and rose up the pipe. First one gear, then another spun. Slow, slow, slow, faster, faster faster. The spinning gears spun belts which spun more gears until a large gloved hand poured Grammie a cup of warm tea.

“Mmmmm.” Grammie snuggled back in the pillows, her hands wrapped around the floral tea cup. “It’s a hug in a cup.”

Red grinned. She tugged on her hoodie and slipped her wrench back in her basket. “Well Grammie. It looks like all it needed was a bit of tightening up, some oil for the gears, and some more gas in the burner.”

“You’re so smart. I don’t know what half of that means.”

Red shook her head and gave the Official Tea Automaton 1000 one last look over. “Remember to call me on your vid next time, instead of using your headset, okay?”

“Of course, dear. I just don’t like the vid because then I have to make sure my hair’s neat.”

“Grammie.” Red leaned in over the old woman. “I love you. Your hair doesn’t have to be perfect. You’ve been sick, you know?”

“That’s no excuse.” Grammie tucked a gray curl back in her bonnet.

Red’s vid chimed. She held her wrist up to eye-level and pressed the accept button. “Hey, Mommy.

“Are you almost done helping your Grammie?” Mommy looked away from the screen, disappeared, and reappeared with Red’s baby sister, Blue, squirming in her arms.

“Yep.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Mommy raised the dangerous eyebrow.

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Okay. I want you to head straight home. Don’t talk to strangers.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Red frowned. She knew better than to talk with strangers.

Kissing her Grannie good-bye, Red hurried out. Her basket of wrenches, nuts, and bolts banged against her knee. Crisp orange and yellow leaves blew across her path. Heavy dark clouds flew across the sky. Red tugged the ties of her hood to keep out the wind and skipped down the sidewalk. As she came around the corner of her street she saw Mr. Wolf in his top hat, stomping her way. His cane poked the ground with every other step. Poke. Poke. Poke. Red imagine the ground didn’t like to be stabbed by Mr. Wolf’s cane. Poor, poor ground.

Red stepped back behind the large old oak at the corner hopping Mr. Wolf hadn’t seen her.

“Out of my way,” Mr. Wolf snarled pointing his ugly old cane at Red, “or I might just have you for dinner.”

Red shook in her boots. She ran around to the back of the tree.

“Boo!” Mr. Wolf jumped at her.

Red screamed and ran all the way home never seeing the toothy grin on Mr. Wolf’s face, nor the angry look Joshua Woodsman gave him from behind his white picket fence.

Mommy had hot chocolate waiting when Red rushed in the back door. The warm chocolate with three white marshmallows floating in it drove scary Mr. Wolf right out of her mind. Safe in her warm home, Red forgot about the man with the cane, as little girls do.

Early the next morning, Red’s vid chirped. Wiping sleep from her eyes, she saw Grammie on the screen.

“Good morning, baby bear,” Grammie said.

Red moaned something, still trying to wake up.

“Exactly! It’s just beautiful today. I’ve made some cookies and my Tea’s not working again. Can you come fix it?” Red rolled out of bed, strapped her vid on without turning off the screen, and hurried down stairs to ask Mommy. Grammie squeezed her eyes closed, quite motion-sick. The mother and daughter and grand-daughter conferred, and with Mommy’s permission, Red was on her way.

“Don’t talk to strangers!” Mommy yelled as Red flew out the door.

A light sprinkle of rain showered down on Red. She tugged her hood up and splashed through the puddles as she raced down the street, basket of tools in hand. At the corner, by the oak, she stopped and took a deep breath. The air tasted wet and woody, with a hint of burning leaves. A thin trail of smoke rose from Joshua Woodsman’s back yard. Red peeked over his fence. The boy in camouflage, rake in hand, stood beside a pile of leaves. Small orange and yellow flames flickered here and there, accepting their offering of the tree’s once-green foliage.

“What are you doing?” Red called over to Joshua.

He glanced up at her. “Mom asked me to burn the leaves before I go hunting.”

“Is it fun?”

Joshua looked at the fire and smiled. “Of course. “

The smoke circled into the air. Red squinted. Had she caught the flash of a top hat through the smoke? Or the soft tap of a cane on the wind? Last night’s fright surfaced in her imagination with more teeth and claws than reality.

“Why, good morning dear children.” Mr. Wolf appeared from around the corner, unusually cheerful. “Where are you going, Red, on this wet morning?”

“Grammie’s Official Tea Automaton 1000 broke again.” Red shifted from one foot to the other. Why had he stopped to talk with them?

Mr. Wolf raised a sharp eyebrow. “Again?”

“Yesterday it kept making cold tea.” Red saw Joshua frown at Mr. Wolf out of the corner of her eye.

“Today?”

“It spit cold water in Grammie’s face.”

Mr. Wolf laughed. “She may need to invest in the Tea 1000.1.”

“Isn’t that the one you invented, sir?” The way Joshua said ‘sir’ made it sound impolite.

“I keep telling her that,” Red said quickly before Mr. Wolf could snarl at Joshua. “Gotta go.”

“You know my dear,” Mr. Wolf leaned down, now eye to eye with Red. “There are some beautiful yellow and orange flowers over in the park, just down the road. Why don’t you pick some for your lovely Grammie before you go fix her Tea 1000. Old ladies love flowers.”

Red hesitated.

Joshua frowned.

Mr. Wolf grinned, his teeth white and gleaming.

“Than-thank you, Mr. Wolf. I’m sure she’d like that.” Red dodged around him and ran up the road towards the park. Grammie would like some flowers, and, more than that, it got her away from Mr. Wolf. Red ran faster.

The damp park, dripping with the silver rain, boasted a plethora of fall wild flowers. Red forgot creepy Mr. Wolf again as she rushed here and there selecting the best offerings of the wide field. Soon her tools lay buried under handfuls of yellow, orange, and burgundy buds and a few spectacular leaves. Red paused and checked her vid.

“Oh!” She realized she was quite late. If she didn’t hurry Grammie would vid Mommy and Mommy would vid Red and Red would be in trouble for not going straight to Grammie’s house. For the second time that morning, Red ran. She ran back up the street, back to the corner with the oak, down the road, into the forest and the little path that led to Grammie’s house. There it was! No vid yet. Maybe Red wasn’t in trouble today.

Warm light gleamed from Grammie’s cottage windows. Steam billowed out the side chimney, white and welcoming and promising cookies.

“I’m here Grammie, and I brought you flowers,” Red proclaimed as she hurried in the front door without knocking.

“Oh, what a good little Granddaughter you are, Red,” Grammie, sounding hoarse, said from her room.

Confused, Red stepped into the dim bedroom. Grammie laid back on her pillows, hidden in shadows.

“Are you sick again, Grammie? You sounded fine this morning.”

“Come closer, little Red, so I can see you. My eyes are weak.”

Red moved to the side of the bed and started. “Grammie, why do you have whiskers on your chin?”

Grammie pulled back. “All old ladies have whiskers.”

“Grammie? Why are you wearing a top hat?” Red’s heart hammered in her chest. “You’re not my Grammie!”

Mr. Wolf sprang out of the bed, grabbing for Red.

Red stumbled back tripping over his cane, spilling her basket of tools and flowers. He lunged for her. Red hit him with her favorite wrench and bolted into the kitchen. Mr. Wolf caught her hood and yanked. Red smashed her fist down on the Tea 1000’s lever. The automaton spit cold water in Mr. Wolf’s face. He sputtered and Red broke free. She darted for the front door just as it opened.

Joshua Woodsman raised his rifle and shot Mr. Wolf dead.

A muffled thump sounded from Grammie’s bedroom.

Red and Joshua shared a glance and hurried to check the noise. They found Grammie stuffed in her own closet with her own sock stuck in her mouth. She gathered both children close and covered them with embarrassing kisses. Using Red’s vid, they called the police and both their mothers.

Soon the house was in a flurry. The Tea 1000 spit cold water on everyone. Flowers and tools littered the floor. Mommys hugged and hugged and admonished and hugged again. Red and Joshua were bundled up, they must be in shock, and given cup after cup of hot chocolate. After answering all the mustached policeman’s questions, they were sent home.

Poor Grammie had to endure another day of the Tea 1000’s bad manners until Joshua walked Red to her house the next day and Red, armed with a wrench, fixed him. Grammie wasn’t too upset. The Tea 1000 had spit in the evil Mr. Wolf’s face, after all.

The End

A Texas Brothers Adventure Story

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Courtesy of Grandpa.

 

Grammie straightened up from her garden, stretching her back.

“I’m getting too old for this and miss my helpers,” she said to the sky.

Grandpa hefted out a load of old cardboard boxes to use as mulch. “It’s a lot quieter without the kids, for sure, but maybe it’s time to work with the new generation.” Before Grammie could decide if that was a good idea or not, Grandpa whipped out his phone and summoned two of his grandsons: Bruce and Jude.

In a few minutes, their mommy dropped them off.

The clear spring sun shone down on the early rising flowers. The cold wind nodded their yellow and pink heads. Bruce and Jude looked at the fresh dirt, the compost, and the garden hoes, rakes, and shovels.

“What are we doing?” Bruce hurried up and pulled a shovel out of the pile.

Grammie rested  her hands on her rake’s handle. “We’re going to lay all that cardboard out, soak it, and cover it with compost. Wanna help?”

“Sure!” Bruce said.

Jude took his thumb out of his mouth, smiled, and babbled excitedly.

Gardening is an adventure when you’re five and almost two!

Following Grandpa’s instructions, Bruce carted out a big cardboard box while Jude dragged one behind him. Grammie took it and placed it just right.

Back and forth, back and forth, Bruce and Jude tromped with the boxes.

“Enough!” Grammie shouted.

Grandpa uncoiled the house and sprayed.

Water, water, water everywhere! Bruce and Jude splashed. They skipped through the puddles. They hopped from one to one to one as the cardboard wilted. Grandpa held the hose up like a fountain. Squealing, Jude ran through the sprinkles.

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Courtesy of Grandpa.

 

“Compost!” Grammie grabbed up a shovel and handed it to Bruce. Grandpa got a rake for Jude.

Working up a sweat, Grammie, Grandpa, Bruce, and Jude scooped, scraped, hoed, harrowed, dug, and threw fresh new dirt still littered with egg shells, vegetable ends, and rotting leaves over the cardboard.

“Look!” Bruce pointed. A small tan gecko raced up out of Grammie’s compost pile. Bruce dropped his shovel and jumped after the swift lizard. Jude watched, wide-eyed, dirty finger in his mouth.

“I caught it!”

Bruce held out his hand to Grandpa. The gecko leapt off into the bushes.

“Oh…” On Bruce’s palm rested a small, wiggling brown tail.

Bruce flinched, dropping it.

Jude bent down. Bruce bent down. They studied the tail.

It wiggled.

They both stepped back.

“Did it lose its tail?” Grandpa asked.

“Yes! Why did it lose its tail?”

Jude grunted and pointed. Gingerly, Bruce picked the tail back up.

“Lizards drop their tails so they can distract you and make their escapes,” Grammie explained.

“And it worked.” Grandpa smiled. “Now back to work.”

Many hours later, Grammie, Grandpa, Bruce, and Jude sat on the porch enjoying a cold cup of water while they waited for the boys’ mommy.

“Bruce?” Grandpa asked. “You didn’t put that lizard tail in your pocket did you?”

“No, I left it in the dirt. I’ll go get it. Then I can show Mommy.”

“How about you just tell her about it,” Grandpa suggested. “She’ll like to hear about it better.”

Bruce nodded. “I can tell her the story, for sure. Mommy doesn’t like bugs and lizards in the house.”

Jude smiled, reached in his pocket and said, “TAIL!” Out came the brown stump.

“Mommy won’t be happy with gardening day,” Bruce said.

The End

A Texas Cousins Adventure: First Christmas in Greenhome

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Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

 

The trees were trimmed and the halls decked. Good Christian men and women rejoiced, and all the stockings were hung on walls and over fireplaces in several homes. A few days before Christmas, nine cousins gathered together to cut out snowflakes and draw pictures with Grammie while eating more sugar than their mommies really approved of, but it was the holidays. Cookies, fudge, and pie filled the house.

Tired, slightly grumpy, and played out, they gathered around the lighted tree for a story:

Once upon a time, Aunt Abby started, there was a little town east of Fort Worth called Greenhome. It sat out in the middle of flat Texas plains surrounded by a hedge of white roses that bloomed year around. A tall tower stood near the gate in the Hedge with a loud bell ringing and ringing from its tippy-top. An old olive tree guarded the way into Olive Hall where boys and girls ate three meals a day.

See, the boys and girls in Greenhome were orphans. They had no mommies and no daddies. They were all alone and they didn’t know anything about Christmas.

“That’s so sad.” Imogene frowned.

Remi and Shannon nodded in agreement.

“I’m glad I have a Mommy and a Daddy,” Jules stated.

“I have a Mommy and Daddy too!” Ellie shouted with her eyebrows raised.

“And I bet all of you know about Christmas?” Aunt Abby asked.

“Yes. It’s when we get presents,” Bruce said.

Joshua grinned. “Lots of presents.”

“And toys,” grunted Jude.

“And,” Constance said. “It’s about Mary and baby Jesus.”

“Sunday school answer.” Grandpa interrupted from the couch.

They didn’t know, Aunt Abby continued, that the King had come. They didn’t know he had humbled himself so that peace could come between him and sinners. They didn’t know about Christmas. They didn’t know that what was important about a babe in a manger wasn’t the sheep and the donkeys, but that God, who created everything, became man to save the worst people in the world just like he’d promised.

“What did they know?” Constance hugged Shannon sitting in her lap.

Well, these children in Greenhome were very special children. They weren’t just orphans. They were also specifically chosen to live in Greenhome.

“Were they the kind people?” Jules asked.

“I bet they were very brave,” Bruce guessed.

“I bet they were very obedient,” Ellie joined in.

Joshua and Jude waited with Imogene and Remi to see what made these children so special.

Nope. They weren’t kind, obedient, or even brave. They lied. They stole. They hit and kicked smaller children. They were horrible, awful children. They were children who were so bad that they were about to be thrown in prison.

But! Just as the prison gates opened, the adults from Greenhome came. They paid the cost for all the children and then adopted them into their homes.

“Oh yuck!” shouted Ellie. “I wouldn’t want those bad boys and girls in my home.”

“Me either.” Jules crossed her arms.

“Awww,” Aunt Abby said. “But see, that’s what Christmas is really all about. Jesus came and paid the cost for sinners who believe in him and then adopted them into his home. See, even though the children didn’t know what Christmas was they had experienced all the magic of Christmas already.”

“So, did they find out about Christmas?” Bruce wanted to know.

“Why yes they did!”

“How?” Imogene leaned forward.

“That’s another story. Would you like to hear it?”

“YES!” Nine cousins agreed.

“Let’s try again, and no interrupting,” Aunt Abby instructed.

From the tallest to the shortest, biggest to littlest, all the cousins scooted closer around their Aunt.

Once upon a time, a long hot summer faded into a wet fall around Greenhome leaving puddles in the streets and leaves in the gutters. Children studied history and math with no end in sight. In a house in the back near the Hedge an old man grunted as he sat down. He knew winter was coming and had spent all day gathering fuel to keep warm against the wind and snow. In his big chair he rested, alone and lonely. His wrinkled boots sat near the fire and his battered hat hung on a hook. His knurled hands ached, and his bushy white mustache hung limp around his mouth too tired to curl up around his face.

Someone knocked on his green front door.

“Who is it?” he called grumpy at a disturbance so late in the evening after a long day.

“It’s Soul.” A clear voice answered.

Grumbling, the old man climbed to his feet and made his way through his messy house to the door.

“What do you want? Can’t you see it’s dark out?”

“I need you, Claus.” Soul held up a lantern lighting up his bald head and bright eyes.

“What for?” Claus didn’t like the sound of that. Need? He didn’t want to be needed. He wanted to go sit in his chair.

“He’s not very nice,” Imogene said.

“Shhh.” Constance hushed her.

“Shhh.” Joshua hushed Constance.

“Be quiet.” Grammie ended the argument before it started.

“I have a boy that needs to be saved before he gets sent to prison,” Soul said softly.

“What? Me?” sputtered Claus. “I’m an old man Soul! What would I do with a boy under foot?”

“You’ll feed him and let him play with those snow globes you’re always making. Someone needs to play with them.”

“No. A boy from the prisons will only break my snow globes.”

“He’s selfish,” announced Remi who had just learned the word ‘selfish’. She caught Grammie’s eye and quickly shut her mouth.

“He might, but you could teach him to make more.”

“Go bother someone else.” Claus started to shut the door.

Soul stopped him, hand on the doorknob. “There is no one else, and I’ve chosen this boy to be saved.”

Muttering, murmuring, grumbling, complaining, and whining, Claus put back on his wrinkled boots and his battered hat. He slipped into his old sheepskin coat and stomped out to the shed in his backyard. Old Tell, his longhorn bull, turned his head and stared at him with one eye while he chewed his cud.

“Come on, you old monster,” Claus said. “Soul says we have to go save a boy.”

Old Tell flicked his tail and backed out of his stall so Claus could hitch him to the wagon with a bell-covered harness.

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Cold night air gathered in the dark around Claus as he flicked the reigns and drove Old Tell towards the prison. Bells jingled and jangled. Claus hunched down and wished anyone other than himself had been sent to pick up some wild urchin who probably didn’t even know how to eat or speak properly. Why him? He wondered. Why would anyone, especially Soul, send an old man to save a boy?

Late in the night, he arrived at the prison with a ringing twinkle of happy bells that only grated on his nerves.

“Who’s there?” The prison warden called.

“It’s Claus. Soul sent me to save a boy about to be sent in.” His voice came out muffled from his numb lips and frozen scarf.

“Come on down.” The warden waved. “I’ll take you to him.”

Claus stumbled from the wagon, patted Old Tell, and stepped into the warden’s well-lit and warm office.

“Here he is. They say his name is Haze.”

A tall little boy with a cut by his eye and a bruise on his cheek stumbled into the room. He straightened up and made fists of his hands. His clothes were too small, showing ankles and wrists. He looked skinny and hungry and cold.

Bruce leaned in closer. “I had a cut like that.”

“Yes, you were my inspiration, now be quiet.”

Something in Claus cracked. All his grumbling and complaining mocked him. He had a warm home, work to do, a nice fire, warm boots, and Old Tell with his bell-harness. He had friends like Soul and little Ms. Carolyn who lived next door and baked him pies. He had all that and more and he complained because Soul asked him to help a little boy with nothing.

The crack grew until all his selfishness shattered down around him. Claus knelt down in front of the lost little boy and held out his hand.

“My name’s Claus. Would you like to come live with me?”

A puzzled look came over Haze’s face. His eyebrows wrinkled. His fists relaxed.

“Claus? Like Santa Claus?”

“Santa Claus? Who’s that?”

Haze reached under his threadbare shirt and pulled out a small red book. On the front was an old man in a red sleigh being pulled by eight reindeer.

“Santa Claus brings presents to children,” Haze recited, “in honor of the greatest gift given to mankind: salvation.”

“I’ve never heard of Santa Claus.” Claus paused shocked to realize that that one little red book may have made Haze richer than he ever could be. This little boy had a story about salvation, and what did Claus have? Nothing but wanting to be left alone. He was a selfish old man. Wiping a tear from his eye, Claus said, “Will you come home with me? I have snow globes you can play with, and a little room you can have. We’ll get you some boots and Ms. Carolyn can make you a pie.”

Haze’s eyes widened. “You’re my Christmas present. I never got a present before. Why would you give me one?”

“Because the salvation you talked about is given to people who don’t deserve it.”

Haze threw his arms around the grumpy old man. Claus stumbled back not sure what to do with a hug. Then slowly, he wrapped his arms around the little boy. “And I think you’re mine.”

Nine cousins cheered.

Grammie smiled, a twinkle in her eye.

Claus bundled little Haze up in a blanket and hurried out to Old Tell. With many a jingling bell they drove back to Greenhome. Haze told Claus all about Christmas, Santa, Presents, and the real Christmas Story. They reached Claus’ home as the sun rose on a crisp white morning. Haze smiled. Snow edged the gingerbread house and smoke curled up out of the chimney.

“Today is Christmas day!” Haze flipped to the back of the book and showed Claus the calendar.

“Then come on!” Claus jumped from the wagon like a man far younger. “Let’s give someone a gift in honor of our gift of each other.”

The two hurried into the house where Claus chose his favorite snow globe from a high shelf.

“What is it?” Haze gazed at it in wonder.

Claus turned it upside down. Snow swirled around an oak tree and a pine, settling on their limbs. Beneath them a man walked carrying a lantern and an umbrella.

“It’s a snow globe, my lad. And we’re going to go give it to Ms. Carolyn right now.”

And that is how Christmas came to Greenhome. In going to save a little boy who needed him, Claus was saved as well. He gave out many gifts that day, and by the next Christmas, he was called Santa Claus and had married Ms. Carolyn, who became Mrs. Claus.

Haze had many rough days as he learned to live in Greenhome, because, if you remember, he wasn’t a nice little boy. He’d been about to be thrown in prison when Clause rescued him, when he was shown grace. But he always had a friend in grumpy old Claus. Haze grew into a strong and good man, and he always celebrated Christmas with a full heart remembering the year Santa Claus came and gave him the greatest gift of all: salvation.

One day, when he was much older, Soul came to him with news of save several little boys about to be thrown in prison. Just like Claus had done for him, Haze saved those kids and was the better for it.

The End.

“Well,” Aunt Abby asked, “what did you think?”

“Who did Haze save?” Bruce bounced up and down on his knees.

“Well, that is a whole other story.” Aunt Abby ruffled Bruce’s hair.

“Will you tell it?” Joshua gave her his best smile.

“Sometime soon.”

“Happy Christmas,” Imogene said softly.

“No, it’s Merry Christmas!” Jules corrected.

“Merry Christmas!” shouted all the cousins.

“And God bless us, every one.” Grammie gathered everyone into a hug.

The End

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My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

 

Thanksgiving 8: A Texas Cousins Adventure

Courtesy of Google.

Courtesy of Google.

Today, I’m thankful for all my wonderful, super intelligent, cute-as-can-be nieces and nephews: Jules, Constance, Bruce, Joshua, Ellie, Imogene, Jude, Remi, and soon to be Shannon. My brothers and sisters have some really great kids and I love them so much. This story and all the others are for all y’all!

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Once upon a time, three nephews and six nieces, hurried over to Grammie and Grandpa’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving. They gathered into the warm home with many trampings, stampings, and hollerings. Boots, sweaters, and scarves piled around the front door while aunts and uncles, and mommies and daddies carried in many dishes of sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries, and pumpkin pie, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin pie!

Soon everyone settled in with mugs of coffee to wait for the turkey to finish cooking. Toys filled the living room, laughter and sarcasm rang through the rafters, and a roaring fire warmed several backsides.

Suddenly, a loud voice broke through the holiday cheer: “I don’t like these toys.”

Then someone else said: “I’m tired of waiting to eat.”

Two little complaints opened the flood gates.

“Go away, I don’t want you to play with me.”

“I want to watch a movie. I hate playing with trains.”

“Why do the girls have to be here?”

“Why won’t the boys go away?”

“I don’t want turkey for dinner.”

“I don’t want pumpkin pie.”

“I’m hot!”

Complaining, complaining, complaining. Nothing was right. Everything was wrong. No one was getting what they wanted.

Grammie gasped and stormed into the living room, her eyes blazing.

“Stop this right now!”

Nine cousins cowered. Grammie frowned hands on hips. “It’s Thanksgiving Day! Today we’re supposed to be thankful, not complaining.”

“What is being thankful?” Remi asked tears in her eyes.

“Everyone up on the couch.” Grammie sat down in the middle and the cousins climbed up around her.

All the mommies and daddies, and aunties and uncles gathered around the edges of the room smiling to each other. They remembered when Grammie had frowned at them as children.

“Did you know complaining is wrong?” Grammie asked.

“Wrong?” Bruce crossed his arms. “Why is it wrong?”

“Because it is saying in your heart that God is not good and the Bible says He is good. Instead of complaining, we’re supposed to be thankful. Let’s try it.”

Silence. Not one cousin had one reason to be thankful.

“I’ll start.” Grammie smiled. “I’m thankful for all of you and all of you being here today. Not everyone gets to be with their family on Thanksgiving, but I do. I’m very thankful.”

“I’m thankful for you Grammie!” Jules hopped up and gave Grammie a hug.

Now, everyone wanted to join in in being thankful.

“I’m thankful for horses, and books, and my baby Shannon,” Constance said.

“I’m thankful for movies and tractors.” Bruce uncrossed his arms and smiled.

Joshua jumped off the couch and grabbed up a dinosaur. “I’m thankful for dragons and swords!”

Ellie looked from Jules to the dinosaur and back. “I love Jules!” she shouted joining in the Grammie and Jules’ hug.

“Remi! Mommy! Daddy!” Imogene chanted excited by all her cousins yelling.

“I think Imogene is thankful for her family,” Aunt Abby said.

Jude growled and held up a fireman’s axe.

“And I think Jude is thankful for Vikings,” said Uncle Jason.

Everyone looked expectantly at Remi and Shannon. The two little girls stared back at their large, loud family. They grinned and gurgled.

“That means they’re thankful for pumpkin pie.” Aunt Emily translated.

“Now do you understand being thankful?” Grammie asked. “Instead of seeing what you don’t have, you need to see what you do have. You need to see all the ways God has been good to you. They far out-weigh all the things you don’t like.”

“Thanksgiving Day.” Bruce spread his arms wide. “The day we’re thankful for all God has given us!”

‘And God bless us, every one!’” Grammie said.

“Silly Grammie.” Jules kissed her cheek. “That’s Christmas.”

“I’m thankful for Christmas,” Aunt Liz and Aunt Abby and Uncle Matt said in unison.

Several family members groaned.

The End.

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Texas Cousins Adventure Story: Happy Endings (Part 2): The Story

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

(Part 1)

Curled up together while the autumn storm raged outside, nine cousins listened to Aunt Abby’s story:

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Once upon a time, a ghost named Bruce haunted an old abandoned barn out in a cow pasture. He liked the barn with its old tin roof and gray pine-board walls worn down by wind and rain. He liked the old field with its tuffs of grass and wild flowers in the spring. But, Bruce was lonely. Haunting an old barn and scaring away kids was all good and fun, but sometimes he wished the kids would stay. He wished they’d run and scream with him instead of away from him.

One day, a brown and white puppy dog came sniffing around the barn.

“Hello!” Bruce called, floating up.

The puppy raised its nose from where he’d been sniffing a pile of trash and growled at the ghost.

Bruce darted back in the window of the barn. After waiting a moment, he peeked out. The puppy barked again. Bruce flew up through the floor to the dangerous second story. He counted to five: 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Peek.

Bark! Bark!

Hide.

After several more attempts to not be barked at involving the gutters, the empty trough, and a blue glass bottle, Bruce realized they were playing hide and seek. He thought and thought for the best place to hide from the puppy. The old watering can? The fox hole in the barnyard? The chicken coop?

He tried each one and every time, bark! bark! the puppy found him.

Around and around the barn the ghost and the puppy raced. Here! There! Under! Over! In! and Out!

“Jude! Oh Jude!” a Princess shouted.

Bruce and the puppy came to a sudden halt.

“Jude? Where are you?”

The puppy gave a cheerful yip and raced out of the barn and into the Princesses arms. She cuddled him up and he licked and licked her face.

“Where have you been, silly dog?”

With a giant wiggle, the puppy escaped her hug. He tugged on her beautiful pink dress leading her back to the barn yard.

Bruce wisped through a wall. Playing with the puppy had been fun, but if this Princess swy him it’d be all back to screaming and running away. Bruce decided to hide for real and wafted all the way up to the very tip top of the barn.

“What is it Jude?” the Princess asked.

Jude barked at the ghost. Nothing. He barked again. No ghost.

Suddenly, an orange and brown owl, hooting indignantly, darted from the top of the barn. She spread her wings and gracefully swooped around and around the princess until she lighted on the ground.

“He’s hiding up there?” She pointed with her wing.

“What?” the Princess said unsurprised by the owl’s ability to talk. She was, after all, a very wise and round owl why shouldn’t she speak. “Who are you?”

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“I’m Imogene the Owl. Jude wants you to meet his new friend, Bruce the ghost, but Bruce is hiding at the top of the barn.”

“Why?”

“He’s sure you’ll be afraid of him.”

“I’m not afraid! My fairy god-mother, Ellie, made me unafraid of everything.”

The owl blinked her two large eyes at the Princess. She never ceased to be amazed at the silly gifts fairies gave their charges. “Very well, I’ll go tell him.”

“I’ll come too,” the Princess said.

She hiked up her very full skirt and tromped into the barn with Jude at her heels.

Imogene shook her head at the silly, unafraid Princess, beat her wings, and flew back up to the roof to speak with Bruce before the something bad happened.

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The floor creaked and groaned under the Princess’s every step as she made her way to the stairs leading up into the gloom. Several boards were missing, but being brave, she climbed over these with Jude under one arm until she reached the dangerous second floor. A shaft of weak light fell across a ladder on the other side of the room.

“We must climb that ladder!” The Princess exclaimed.

Jude sniffed the floor. He didn’t trust it one bit, but the Princess hurried across.

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Up in his hiding spot, Bruce listened to Imogene as she told him about the Princess’s fairy curse. Maybe, just maybe this girl could be his friend if she wasn’t afraid of anything.

A scream sounded from below.

Jude barked: hurry hurry!

Oh no! Bruce flew down from the top of the barn passing through walls, floors, hay, dust, nests, and droppings.

“Princess!?” he shouted.

Then he saw her feet dangling through the dangerous second floor. Dirt covered her perfect glass slippers and a cut bled on her knee. The boards had given way under her as she tried to reach the ladder. Worse yet, her scream had woken Joshua the Dragon who slept under the barn. He loved Princesses most of all for dinner and he was very hungry when her yells woke him from his long autumn nap.

Bruce charged through the floor and stopped in front of the Princess.

“Hush! Hush.” Bruce pressed his finger to his lips. “You’ve woken Joshua up.”

“Who’s Joshua?” The Princess asked between gasps as she tried to keep from falling through the hole.

“He’s the dragon that lives under the barn.” Bruce tried to grab her hand but he kept floating right through her.

“What’s a dragon doing here?”

“Waiting to eat people.”

“Oh dear.” The Princess wasn’t afraid of Joshua the Dragon, she was far more worried about trying to explain to her parents how she ripped her dress and then got eaten. They wouldn’t be happy with her. “You have to find a way to help me up.”

Bruce zipped around and around thinking who could help. Think. Zip. Think. Zip.

The Princess slid further down into the whole.

Joshua the Dragon growled and climbed towards her.

Jude barked and barked chasing after the zipping, thinking ghost only to run back and bark at the dragon, and then tug on the Princess’s sleeve.

“I’ve got it!” Bruce flew like the wind out of the barn.

Faster and faster he floated. Bruce passed through trees, houses, and even a cow until he came to the creek where the water nymph, Constance, lived.

“Constance!” he called. “Help! Help!”

Out of the creek, rose a silvery girl with long locks of hair that flowed behind her when she swam. In her arms, a little nymph boy with big eyes sucked on the empty shell of a snail.

“What is it Bruce?”

“The Unafraid Princess fell through the floor and woke Joshua up and now he’s going to eat her!”

“That silly dragon always forgets he swore to stop eating princesses years ago.” Constance set the little nymph boy down. “Stay here Rook, until I get back. And no teasing the fish!”

Together, Bruce and Constance hurried back to the barn, passing back through trees and houses, though Constance made him go around the cow, instead of through it, much to the joy of the cow. Back in the barn, Constance, with the help of Jude, pulled the Princess up through the hole and onto boards that were safer.

“Just because you aren’t afraid,” Constance said. “Doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make wise decisions. Didn’t Ellie the Fairy explain that?”

POP!

As Constance said her name, Ellie appeared.

“You called?” she said.

Joshua roared. The whole barn shook.

“My goodness. What is that?” Ellie peered down into the whole.

“That is Joshua the Dragon, which your Princess woke up because she’s not afraid of anything.”

“Well, not exactly—” the Princess started to explain, but Ellie loudly interrupted.

“Why would you go and do something like that?”

“I didn’t mean to wake him up.”

Joshua spread his wings and flew up into the room breaking the dangerous second floor to bits. Ellie fluttered out of the barn with the Princess who was still not scared. Constance grabbed up Jude and hurried out of the dragon’s way with Bruce behind them. Interrupted from her afternoon sleep by all the racket, Imogene came to see what had happened.

“I smell a tasty Princess!” Joshua snapped lashing his tail. “And I’m HUNGRY!”

Everyone stared at the big green dragon.

“No.” Bruce said. “No. You can’t eat her.”

“Why not?” Joshua growled. Smoke drifted up out of his large nose.

“Cause she’s my friend. And her dog is my friend.”

“Isn’t Imogene the Owl your friend, and Constance the water nymph, and Ellie the Fairy?”

Bruce looked around at not just the Princess and Jude, but also at the others gathered to help him.

“Don’t forget me!” a small voice said. “I’m your friend too.” Out of the barn fluttered a small moth with wild hair.

“Hello Remi,” Joshua said. He blew a soft puff of air at her to help her over to Bruce.

“Thank you, Joshua,” she huffed quite out of breath.

“All of you are my friends?” Bruce said.

“Of course!” Ellie shouted.

“But I’ve felt so lonely.”

“Maybe it took the unafraid Princess to remind you that you have lots of friends,” Constance said.

“Are you really going to eat me?” The Princess reminded them of why they were all here.

Joshua opened his big great mouth. Rows and rows of teeth gleamed in the sunshine. Smoke billowed up out of his throat.

“No.” He clamped his mouth shut. “No. I just remembered I promised not to eat any more Princesses.”

The unafraid Princess ran over and gave him a great big hug.

“I knew there was nothing to be scared of.”

Jude barked.

“He thinks that since we’re all here, we may as well play a game of hide-and-go-seek.” Bruce translated.

“We should!” Ellie yelled.

The dragon, nymph, fairy, princess, moth, owl, and puppy darted back into the old barn while Bruce closed his eyes and started to count.

The End

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A Texas Cousins Adventure: Happy Endings

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Once upon a time the sun didn’t rise. Dark clouds blew in over the flat Texas plains with booming thunder and bright flashes of lightning. The wind shook Grammie and Grandpa’s little house. Hobbes, the Lab, laid his head on his paws inside his dog-house waiting for the storm to pass. Clyde, the donkey, stuck his nose deep in his trough of hay thankful for a place to escape the rain.

Aunt Abby sat in the living room next to the fireplace with four rowdy nephews and five pretty nieces gathered around her. Cups of juice and mugs of hot chocolate and coffee filled everyone’s hands.

A loud clap of thunder made the cousins jump. Remi and Rook screwed up their faces ready to cry.

“Aunt Abby,” Constance said. “Can you tell us a story?”

“I think a story is a great idea.” Aunt Abby sipped from her mug. “Stormy days are perfect for stories.”

“Will it be a scary one?” Bruce asked.

All the cousins turned to Aunt Abby to see what she would say. She pondered for a minute.

“You know Bruce, all good stories have scary parts, but the best of stories have happy endings. The very best story of all time had very scary parts: Jesus had to die to save his people. But! He rose again from the dead. See, it has to be scary before it can be happy.”

Joshua frowned. “Why?”

“Because than the happy ending means more. If it’s just happy all the time we would all take it for granted. Aren’t cookies better after you’ve had to eat all your veggies? Wouldn’t you get tired of cookies if that’s all you ate all the time?”

“No,” all the cousins chorused together.

Aunt Abby giggled. “I think it’s just the way the world is. Christmas is more special once a year in winter than all the time. Jesus could only defeat death if he first died. Aslan could only save Edmond by dying. Nemo only appreciated his dad after he lost him. It’s just the way the world works. Happy endings are best after scary parts.”

“I don’t like the scary parts and Mommy says I have to fast-forward when Aslan dies,” Bruce said.

“Yes.” Aunt Abby nodded. “There are different levels of scary and I promise this story won’t be too scary. Just a little scary.”

Ellie leapt to her feet. “I’ll be brave.”

“Me too!” Imogene jumped up.

“Too!” shouted Remi grabbing Imogene’s hand as she stood up.

Jude growled and joined the girls. Not to be outdone, Bruce, Julie, Constance, Joshua, and Rook all came to their feet.

“Shall we all be brave together?” Aunt Abby asked.

“Yes!”

A loud clap of thunder startled everyone. They looked out at the storm raging around Grammie and Grandpa’s house. Lightning brightened up the dark day for a second. Another crash of thunder shook the windows.

“Shall we all be brave together?” Aunt Abby asked again.

“YES!” Nine cousins screamed jumping up and down, up and down.

“What is going on here?” Grandpa yelled appearing suddenly in the room.

Nine cousins and Aunt Abby screamed in fright and hugged each other.

“You scared us Grandpa!” Jules said.

“I scared you??” Grandpa smiled.

“It is a scary sort of morning.” Grammie came up behind him. “Is Aunt Abby going to tell you a story?”

“Yes,” Constance said, “with only a little bit of a scary part so we can have a happy ending.”

“And I’m going to be brave.” Ellie pointed at herself and grinned.

“Me too,” everyone else said.

“Good.” Grandpa sat down. “I’ll listen to the story too.”

“I’ll hold your hand in case you get scared.” Remi took Grandpa’s hand.

“Do you know what Grammie says about stories with scary parts and happy endings?” Aunt Abby said. “You know, ‘those best of stories’?”

“No, what do you say Grammie?” Jules pranced over to Grammie and took her hand. Her eight other cousins gathered around Grammie.

Grammie sat down taking Jude into her lap. Imogene snuggled down on one side of her and Ellie on the other. The older cousins arrange themselves cross-legged in front of her, and Constance pulled Rook close.

“Stories, good ones, let us practice being brave before we have to be.”

The nine cousins looked questioningly at one another and then back at Grammie.

“What does that mean?” Joshua said what they were all wondering.

Grandpa explained. “There will be things in your life that might be hard, or scary, or sad. But if you’ve read the The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe you can remember that Aslan beat the witch, ended winter, and Christmas came back. You can remember brave King Peter and brave Lucy and that can help you be brave.”

“And,” Aunt Abby said. “You can remember how even after being so mean and selfish, Edmond was forgiven. That will help you have courage when you need to ask someone to forgive you when you’ve been mean.”

“I want to be High King Peter,” Bruce said.

“I want to be Lucy,” Ellie said louder.

“Yes!” Grammie clapped. “We can practice being brave with them when they go through the wardrobe, and when they have to fight the White Witch, so that when it’s our turn to be brave we’re prepared.”

Bruce stared into the fire for a minute. “Aunt Abby? I don’t mind if the story you tell has a scary part.”

“I promise it will have a happy ending afterwards.”

“Well, tell the story!” Jude exclaimed.

Grammie and Grandpa moved closer to the fire. Jules, Constance, Bruce, Joshua, Ellie, Imogene, Jude, Rook and Remi filled laps and gathered close up on different sides. Outside the thunder boomed, boomed, boomed. The lightning flashed. The wind howled around the eaves. No one gave it a second thought because inside they were warm and comfy. The fire burned brightly. The hot chocolate warmed them, and Aunt Abby began her story:

“Once upon a time . . .”

(To be continued)

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My newest and most beautiful little niece is here! Love you Remit! (Picture stolen from Liz.)

My newest and most beautiful little niece is here! Love you Remi! (Picture stolen from Liz.)

A Texas Cousins Adventure: Being Bored, or Home School Bad Words

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

Once upon a time, the plague struck and everyone got sick. Jules and Ellie, Constance and Joshua, Bruce and Jude, Imogene and Remi, and even Rook and Aunt Abby. Everyone got sick.

Grammie strapped on her apron, put all the pillows and blankets on the couch, and made all the cousins lay down. Nine children and one grown-up had their temperature taken, water refreshed, essential oils applied, and hot tea drunk.

“I’m bored,” Bruce announced once everyone was settled in.

“Me too!” Ellie agreed.

“No!” gasped Aunt Abby. “Don’t say the B-word!”

Jules propped her head up on her elbow. “The b-word? What’s that?”

“It’s a bad word,” Aunt Abby explained. “Like the s-word.”

“What’s the s-word?” Bruce said.

“Stupid.”

Imogene and Jude’s mouths dropped open.

Constance rolled over on her tummy. “I thought the s-word was Shut Up.”

“Sometimes it is.” Aunt Abby coughed and closed her eyes.

“Are you sick?” Bruce asked.

“Yes. Aren’t you?”

“Yes. So is Jude.”

Joshua frowned. “Aunt Abby, why is bored a bad word?”

“Cause when you say you’re bored, Mommy gives you chores to do.”

All the cousins grimaced.

“That is bad,” Constance said.

“What are we supposed to do, then?” Rook asked.

Remi nodded in agreement pulling her stuffed dolly closer.

Aunt Abby sipped her hot tea. “Well, Uncle Price always says, ’boredom sets into the boring mind’.”

“What does THAT mean?” Jules said.

Ellie took a sip of her tea and so did Imogene watching Aunt Abby closely.

“It means that if you’re bored it’s cause your brain is boring.”

Bruce flopped back on his pillow. “My brains not boring.”

“Mine either,” Imogene and Ellie both said at the same time while flopping back on their pillows too.

“Then think of something to do.”

Jules sighed dramatically. “I can’t and it’s making us all say the b-word over and over.”

Constance straightened Remi’s blanket. “She’s right.”

Aunt Abby closed her eyes in thought.

“You could tell a story,” suggested Imogene.

Aunt Abby shook her head and pointed at her throat.

“We could play chase?” Bruce threw out next.

Aunt Abby groaned.

“We could eat a snack?” Ellie smiled.

“My tummy hurts,” Joshua said.

“Me too,” everyone else said.

“I know!” Aunt Abby sat right up.

“What!!??” Jules, Ellie, Constance, Joshua, Bruce, Jude, Imogene, Remi, and Rook all said at once.

“The best way to avoid the bad word and get well as quickly as possible is to build a fort.”

Everyone completely agreed.

With Aunt Abby directing, books were gathered to hold the ends of blankets and pillows were stacked to make walls.

Grammie came into her rearranged living room with everyone hidden under the fort and said, “What happened in here?!”

“We’re getting better!” Remi declared.

“I see that.”

“And we’re not saying any bad words and we don’t need any chores,” Jules clarified.

Aunt Abby snorted.

Grammie hesitated. “I’m glad you’re not saying any bad words and I wasn’t coming in with chores, but to see who might want to watch a movie or color?”

The nine cousins glared at Aunt Abby.

“I though you said she’d give us chores,” Jules said.

“No. I said your Mommies would. Grammies always bring good things.”

“That’s true,” said Joshua.

THE END

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

 

Swings and Lawn Mowers

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

Jules

Once upon a time, a little girl with flowing hair and a bright smile held a baby bunny in her hands. Her Daddy had found the bunny lost in their yard. The little girl stroked his extra soft fur. She cuddle him close to make sure he wasn’t scared.

With help from her Mommy, the little girl made the bunny a soft home and fed him lots of carrots. But, her Mommy said they could only keep him for a short time. See, the bunny was wild and wild bunnies have to live in the wild. The little girl was sad but she understood. She knew the bunny had to go home. So one bright morning, the little girl let the bunny go back into the deep grass. She let him go.

“Don’t forget me,” she called to the bunny as he hopped away. And the bunny never did.

Constance

Once upon a time there was a girl who kept a bookmark in a special place in her special book. She kept her most favorite picture marked so she could look at it anytime she pleased. And this special place, you ask?

This special place was a picture of a golden horse who could fly. The horse could bound over buildings. The horse could soar through the clouds and follow rainbows. Two best friends loved the golden horse, and the girl with the bookmark hoped that one day she could find her own magical horse and her own best friend

One day, one perfect day, she did.

Bruce

Once upon a time, a little boy with blond hair and blue eyes had a birthday. On his very special day, the day the whole family celebrated his birth, his Grandpa and Grammie made him a swing.

Now, this swing was hung in a great oak tree. His Grandpa and Grammie came over on a special trip just for him, just to hang it.

The little boy was so pleased. He loved his swing. Almost every day he climbed up on the flat board, took hold of the ropes on either side and pushed up off the earth. Higher and higher he swung, pumping his long legs and laughing for joy. Back and forth, back and forth the swing swung make believing the boy could fly.

Joshua

Once upon a time, a boy with a wonderful smile got a new pair of shoes. They weren’t like his other sneakers. They weren’t like his boots. They weren’t like his Sunday shoes or his sandals. They were magical shoes. Magical? Yes. With every step the boy took, his shoes lit up. Lights flashed across the back and sides.

Hop. Hop. Hop.

The boy bounced through the house watching his shoes flash.

With these new sneakers the boy could run faster, jump higher, and do great deeds of daring much to his mother’s great delight, for they were magical shoes.

Ellie

Once upon a time, there was a little girl with blonde curls who delighted in everything. She loved the old hole in the parking lot. She loved her Sunday School teacher. She loved her Mommy. She loved her Daddy. She loved her Sister. She even loved the bathroom.

There was nothing in the world that the little girl didn’t find amazing. Bugs, rain, mud, coloring, singing, duck-duck-goose, Simon says, running, Grammie, Grandpa, everyone and everything was worth seeing and doing and that’s just what she did.

Imogene

Once upon a time, there was a little ginger girl who lived out in the country far away from busy city streets and hustle and bustle. She lived with a tangled mess of a dog and a cat, tall weeds, trees and other neighbors’ pets. She lived where the bugs grew big in the summer and the old barn always needed to be explored again.

Every few weeks, her Daddy would drive the big old mower out and cut the grass back to a manageable height. The ginger girl was fascinated by the big old mower. She ran from window to window on her little legs watching her Daddy mow, watching the bugs fly out of the path, watching the grass blow away.

When, oh when, would she be old enough to mow, too?

Jude

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who loved to smile. He smiled at his cousins. He smiled at his mommy and daddy. He smiled at Grandpas, Grammie, aunties and uncles. He smiled at everyone. But, most of all, he smiled at his big brother. He also growled and hollered with his big brother. He thought everything his big brother did was awesome and to be immediately copied to the best of his ability. And who wouldn’t with a cool big brother like his? Who wouldn’t smile?

Rook

Once upon a time, there was a little boy who tasted food for the first time. Now, this little boy’s Momma was a wonderful cook and she’d been waiting and waiting for the day he could try food for the first time. One day, he did. And oh how magical the world seemed them. Not just a world of color and light, night and dark, nor just a world of hard and soft, warm and cold, but a world of sweet, bitter, sour, salty, savory, lumpy goodness…and peaches were his favorite…though chocolate wasn’t bad either.

Remi

Once upon a time, there was a little unborn girl. Safely growing inside her Mommy, she listened to her sister, her parents, her dog and cat, her loud cousins (there seemed so many of them), her aunts and uncles, and her grandparents. She listened to them sing. She listened to them pray. She listened to the words of love they spoke to each other every day.

One day soon she would meet them all face to face. She would see them all and she would touch them all. One day she would feel and know the love she only now could hear.

…and they all lived happily ever after…

Bruce swinging with Grandpa Ronnie!

Bruce swinging with Grandpa Ronnie!

 

Work In Progress: Teddy Bears

. . . Last time in Teddy Bear . . .

(Might I suggest you read Tock as if Martin Freeman were his voice actor? That’s how he sounds in my head.)

Chapter 1

photo by evindrews

photo by evindrews

Where was she? Tock rubbed his scratched, dark, plastic eye and tried to make out where he was. Had he been left outside? That didn’t seem likely. She hadn’t been outside in several months.

“It’s awful sunny,” he grumbled pushing himself up on his feet.

“The clouds are so fluffy and is that a rainbow . . .” he trailed off.

“No. No. This is all wrong. All wrong. It can’t be. No,” he said, all in a painfully slow rush. He plopped down on his tail. “No. I can’t be here.”

Tock wished he could close his one scratched, dark, plastic eye, but he wasn’t any doll with blinking, batting eyelids. He was a Teddy Bear, eyes open! Guarding, protecting . . . the thoughts caught in his cotton-stuffed mind.

“Nope. Don’t believe it. There’s been some mistake.”

The grass around him danced in a teasing wind and a creek bubbled cheerfully behind him. He didn’t want to be cheerful. He didn’t want to dance. He couldn’t. Not if he was here.

“Hello!” someone called.

From behind a bush covered with baby pink flowers tottered a gray koala bear wearing a diaper followed by a cheetah, a bear made entirely of fabric with no fur or real clothes at all. Everything was printed on his fabric, even his eyes.

“Hello,” the koala bear said again waving her paw.

Tock whipped his good eye and pushed up out of the thick grass ready to get some answers.

“You’re new,” purred the cheetah gracefully stalking beside the other two, “very fresh.”

“New?” Tock said. “Where am I?”

“Why, you’re in Holiday of course. I’m Baby Bear by the way,” said the koala. “And this is Charlie the cheetah and this is Just Bear.”

“No. No. I’m not and I don’t care about your stupid names,” Tock said “How do I get home?”

“That’s not nice,” Charlie the Cheetah drawled.

“Get home?” Just Bear said. “No one knows. This is Holiday.” He stressed the last word.

“You don’t understand,” Tock aid. “You don’t. I can’t be here. My child,” he choked on the words, “my child is sick.”

A sorrow so deep, so vast as to be unhealable, shown in the plastic and fabric eyes of all the stuffed animals.

“Oh,” Baby bear said softly. “Oh. How horrible.”

“It’s not, it’s not. No. There’s been a mistake.”

“There’s never been a mistake before,” Charlie said, each word drawn out and lazy.

“Well, there’s been a mistake now,” Tock said. He brushed past the three greeters and started towards a path heading east. “Who’s in charge around here?”

“In charge? No one’s in charge. This is Holiday,” Baby Bear said as if that should explain everything to Tock.

Tock growled. He growled in frustration. He growled to dam up the great ocean of sadness about to overwhelm him. He knew he should be here, and if he shouldn’t be here that meant his child was alone somewhere. All alone. And scared. He had to get back. His Lórien Jay was alone. The path wasn’t far, but would it take him back to here.

“We should take him to the Originals. They’ll know what to do,” said Just Bear behind him.

“Yes, but it’s so far,” Baby Bear said.

“Please, please take me,” Tock said turning back to the other three stuffed animals. “My child is sick.”

Tears filled Baby Bear’s eyes. “But there’s never been a mistake before.”

“Would you bet your child’s life on ‘never before’?” Tock asked taking her worn gray paw.

“Our child grew up,” Charlie said.

“And if she hadn’t grown up and out grown you?”

Charlie sat down in the thick grass under the perfect oriental blue sky and licked his paw. “I’d do anything necessary to get back.”

“Let’s go,” Just Bear said.

Charlie lopped off towards the path leading the way. His long tail twitched behind him while Baby Bear and Just Bear followed behind him. Tock glanced up at the sky with its fluffy clouds on the other side of the rainbow. He made a fist of his furry paw and pointed it at the sky.”

“I’m coming, Lórien Jay. I’m coming,” Tock swore refusing to believe she didn’t need him anymore.

. . . to be continued . . .