Jules and the Unicorn (Part 2)

(Click Here for Part 1)

Jules ran as fast as she could, arms pumping, legs reaching. Her whole being taunt and focused. She dodged branches, leapt fallen logs, and slipped around brambles. Her dress snagged, but Jules kept running. Her skirt ripped here and there. She accepted the ruin of her favorite dress. It was nothing compare to rescuing the kidnapped unicorn.

Fire and Earth darted haphazardly along behind her, exclaiming encouragement. Here and there, they passed a strand or two of the young unicorns rainbow hair caught in a bush or snagged on a branch. At the edge of a creek they saw tiny unicorn hoof prints in the mud. Behind them the forest awoke. Noises permeated the woods, and the butterflies, like flying flowers, filled the air with color. Ahead, the forest waited with held breath, and nothing, nothing moved. Even the wind didn’t play in the trees. Only Jules, Fire, and Earth raced through the stillness.

Soon, they skidded to a stop at the edge of a ravine.

Jules spied Toog and the woman on the other side.

“Stop!” Jules held up her hand, as if to stop them by will alone.

They halted.

“Hey Mag,” Toog said. “It’s that little girl. How’d she get free?”

“Better question, where’s Knave?” Mag said.

“He’s dead,” Jules stated.

“And you will be too, dearies,” Fire yelled, “if you don’t let the unicorn go.”

“You tell ‘em, Fire.” Earth shook his fist at the villains.

Faster than Jules could follow, the woman palmed and shot her revolver.

Earth dashed forward. The side of the ravine rose in front of the bullet, which plowed through the dirt and stopped. Jules stepped back, blinking. As quick as the sound of the gun, the ground had moved. Fire touched the small piece of twisted metal and melted it.

“Thank you.” Earth returned the ravine to its normal position.

“Of course, love. I hate metal objects flying around.” Fire snapped his fingers.

Mag gasped. Her whole gun-belt burst into flames and her revolver melted. She danced around trying to put out the supernatural fire. Toog rushed to help her.

“Diversion,” Earth stage whispered to Jules.

Jules moved to start down the edge of the ravine, but Earth held her back, flattened out, and made a bridge. Jules charged across it. She scooped up a handful of dirt and leaves and pine needles, and tossed them in Toog’s face. The man bellowed and pawed at his eyes. He bumped into an oak. Several large acorns rained down on his head. He gave a sharp shriek. The tree cut him short with a quick swipe of a branch. Toog dropped like a pile of logs. Earth waved a hand, trickling with dirt, and the forest floor hid Toog away.

The young unicorn pranced towards Jules, chains clinking. Jules faced the revolver-free woman.

“Well, you’re a sprite-ly lass and no mistake.” Mag rubbed at her face and glanced to the place where the ground had covered Toog. “The woods seem to be on your side.”

“I’m not stealing unicorns.” Jules put her hands on her hips and Fire, flying at her shoulder, did the same.

“Right you are, Jules, right you are,” Earth said. “Isn’t she right, Fire?”

“Indubitably.”

Jules hid her mouth with her hand and whispered loudly, “I don’t know what that means.”

“It means—”

“Watch out!”

Mag charged Jules.

The two tiny fey scattered. The young unicorn reared and neighed. Mag grabbed up Jules and scrambled back.

“Lookie ‘ere, lookie ‘ere forest. I get it. You ain’t wanting me here. Got it.” Mag turned in a circle, addressing the trees. Jules squirmed in her arms, kicking and flailing. “All I be wanting is to leave. You let me go, and I’ll not harm the girl.”

The trees stood silently. The wind didn’t blow their leaves. It didn’t stir up their branches.

Mag spun again.

“Are ya listening to me?”

“I don’t think the forest makes deals, love,” Fire said.

“He’s right.” Earth nodded. “And when he’s right, he’s right.”

Mag paused. She faced the tiny man with the fiery mane and the tiny man dribbling dirt. Jules chomped down on Mag’s arm, but only got a mouthful of dirty cotton. Mag grabbed Jules’ hair and wrenched her head to the side. “The forest needs to make a deal, or I’ll kill her!”

A tiny pebble, polished smooth by a creek, sailed out of the trees and clonked Mag in the head. Her hand jerked to her forehead. She swore, and her grip loosened. Jules ripped from Mag’s grasp. Mag leapt after Jules. The unicorn lowered her head and galloped forward. Mag jerked away from the sharp horn driving towards her face.

Jules hurried back over to the two fey. The unicorn trotted around to Jules’ side, chains still clinking. It hid behind Jules, pressing against her leg, but peeking out around them. Mag, her back to a tree, glared at the four of them.

“I grew up in here, did ya know?” Mag said. “The unicorns and fey never came to me.”

“You’re roots were always shallow,” the tree behind Jules spoke. “You never rested by the water. If the unicorns had come to you, you would have taken them just like you do now. You’d have used the fey’s magic for yourself.”

“My daddy cuts down trees. Is he shallow?” Jules asked, worried.

Mag laughed bitterly.

“Cutting down trees isn’t taking,” the tree explained. “It helps the forest and the forest is here to serve, as is the fey and the unicorns. It’s taking with no thought and only for selfish gain, that is the taking the forest won’t stand. Some things are best enjoyed by watching, not having. Some things serve best when they aren’t chained.”

“Unicorns, for example,” Fire said.

“And us. No chains for us.” Earth added, shaking his head and spraying dirt around.

Meg shuffled her feet. “What will you do with me?”

“That is up to you,” the tree said.

A faint breeze returned to the woods. A jay called his warning call and squirrels scampered through the branches. A large black and yellow butterfly stopped on the tip of the unicorn’s horn. The stillness caused by the unicorn’s capture faded away.

“How’s it up to me?”

“The forest has had enough bloodshed today, but your crimes demand your blood. The forest will take it unless one of these four is willing to vouch for you. If they do, you have to change. If you don’t, the forest will do what it must.”

Fire wrinkled his nose. “Vouch for her?”

“She kidnapped a unicorn, and shot at the girl.” Earth expanded. “She had already killed Jules in her heart.”

Jules studied Mag, filled with conflicting emotion and wondering what the right thing to do was. The woman had earned her death, but watching the forest end her seemed distasteful now that everything had paused.

“Could you change?” Jules asked. “Would you?”

Mag held out her hands and looked at them. She gave a wry laugh. “My only hope in the world is for one of y’all to stand for me? I’m as good as dead. But, like he said, it ain’t like I didn’t earn it.” She dropped her hands to her sides.

The young unicorn cocked its head, studying Mag. Sunlight glistened on her white horn. It glimmered in her rainbow hair and shone on her golden hooves. She moved out from behind Jules’ leg and stepped to the space between them all. The innocent and pure filly, still wearing her chains, examined Mag. Mag dropped to her knees and held out her empty hands.

“I ain’t ever gonna earn your mercy,” she hesitated. “But I’ll take it just the same.”

The unicorn thrust back her head and scratched her own shoulder with her horn. Jules’ gasped and covered her mouth. Silvery blood trickled from the wound. Mag looked from the small drop collected in the unicorn’s fur to Jules and then up at the tree.

“What do I do?”

“Catch the drop,” the tree said. “Blood must be willingly shed to cover the blood you took.”

Mag held out her hands and the drop fell. It collected in Mag’s palm, shimmered, and soaked into her skin. Mag blinked. Tears glimmered in her eyes. She brushed them away with the heels of her hands, and undid the unicorn’s chains.

A cloud rushed in to cover the sun. The unicorn stumbled.

Jules cried out and hurried to the filly’s side. She threw her arms around the unicorn’s long neck. Mag held out a hand to steady the young creature.

Thunder crashed. Lightning ripped the sky. A sharp wind whipped up the leaves. The fey darted to the shelter of the oak. The unicorn shrieked. She rose on her hind legs and pawed the air, knocking back Jules and Mag. A fork of lightning darted out. Mag grabbed Jules and covered her with her own body. The lightning streaked down at them. The unicorn bowed her head and raised her horn. The bolt cleaved the horn in two and shattered it.

The storm passed, as quickly as it had come.

Jules raised her head. Fear gripped her. Was the unicorn dead? Oh please, don’t be dead. Not after finally trusting her, not after getting kidnapped and rescued, not after vouching for Mag. Please don’t be dead.

Mag pulled her up. Jules saw her own fears in Mag’s dark eyes. They turned to the filly. In the spot where the young unicorn had been stood an adult. Her coat was whiter than the snow. Her mane and tail and hooves had all lost their color. Her ears had grown to the side, and instead of a long horse’s face, her face was now shaped like a heart. From her head grew two short antlers with sharp, spiked points.

“She’s a white doe?” Mag whispered.

“What?” Jules asked. “What happened to her?”

“A white doe.” Mag reached out to the new creature and touched her nose. “A white doe be the mother of a white Stag, the most powerful animal in the forest.”

“And it’s protector,” the doe said, her voice soft and gentle. “In your acceptance of my covering and in my willingness to cover you, my horn was split. I will now become the mother of the forest paladin.”

Jules stepped closer, looking for the creature she had befriended. The doe met her gaze and smiling, bent down and nuzzled Jules’ pocket where one last apple lay tucked away. Jules laughed and hugged the new creature.

“Did any of ya know this would ‘appen?” Mag asked, looking from doe, to tree, to the fey tucked in the branches.

“Oh,” Fire waved his hand, “if we tried to hold onto every tiny piece of prophecy and legend, we go mad.”

“Mad,” Earth agreed.

“We leave that to the theologians, love.”

“I didn’t know.” The doe turned her head from side to side, feeling the weight of her new antlers. “But I trusted the King that good would come of my sacrifice.”

“Is this good?” Meg spread her arms, taking in her whole change. “You’re not even close to what ya were. Not close.”

“Neither are you,” the doe said.

Meg paused, then shrugged. “I’m guessing you’re right.” She rolled her shoulders as if feeling a new weight settle on them. “Come on Jules, let’s get ya home before supper. I don’t want your Dad coming after me with that ax of his iffen I can avoid it.”

Jules made her way slowly to each of her new friends. Fire and Earth she gifted with a kiss. The tree with a hug. It warmed under her touch and a faint voice whispered, “Root and water.” Last, Jules approached the new doe. Tears burned Jules’ eyes as she pressed her face into the new creature’s stiff fur. The doe wrapped her head around the brave girl, holding her close.

“You’re marked as a friend of the forest. If you’re ever in need, call us.”

“Will I see any of you again?”

The doe looked up. “Oak? Probably not. But, Fire and Earth have needed a new friend for a long time. They will visit you.”

“Huzzah!” Earth yelled, fist in the air.

“I will come with my son when the first snow falls.”

Jules gave the doe one last hug and turned to Mag. Hand in hand, Mag led her down the path they had so recently come up. Fire and Earth joined them for most of the way home. Jules caught Mag glancing back at the doe until the shining white creature disappeared from view. As they walked home, Jules pointed out the beauty of the forest. Mag exclaimed over things she’d never seen before, never taken the time to notice. Soon they reached a clearing. Jules’ sister came bounding out of the house to meet the tall woman with Jules. Jules introduced Mag to her family, but Earth and Fire had already faded back into the trees. They would wait in the forest until they next time Jules came to play.

Jules watched out her window. Fluffy, silent flakes fluttered down from the sky. The first snow fall. The whiteness hid the grass and edged the branches. It softened the forest and covered everything in a delicate blanket. There! Jules leaned forward, her nose pressed to the glass.

Just inside the trees, a white doe walked. She stepped into the cottage clearing and looked back at the trees. Jules squealed as a young fawn, white as the snow, stepped up beside her. It lifted its head to the sky and caught a flake on its tongue.

Mag, changed by the unicorn’s sacrifice, became a friend of the woods. She bought a new gun, and used her skill to find those lost inside it, to keep out those who would use it without thought, and to guide those who needed its help. The houses built from the trees Mag picked out stood longer and retained their warmth better than any other homes, as if the trees were happy to be used.

Jules grew up and married a man who loved the forest as much as she did. They lived in second cottage near her parents built with the help of Mag, Fire, and Earth. Every winter, when the first snowfall came, Jules would slip from their home and watch for the White Stag. Every year he came. He grew as big as a building, with a mighty antler spread. Jules brought him apples and stroked his white nose. Not many people get to see a White Stag, but each year, this Stag came to Jules.

 

The End

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Jules and the Unicorn (Part 1)

Jules and the Unicorn

A Faerie Story from the Worlds before the Door

By Abby Jones

 

Perfect. Gleaming. The unicorn filly danced just beyond the end of Jules’ reaching fingers. Jules smiled and made a clicking noise with her tongue. The young unicorn’s ears twitched. Hesitantly, she stepped closer. A cool breeze stirred her rainbow mane. The wind frolicked through the orange and red leaves of the forest, lifting, tickling, teasing. It sent shadows dancing over the filly’s dappled fur, and over the girl with out-stretched fingers. The young unicorn gazed at Jules with her dark, wise eyes.

With a small, gilded step, the filly came closer.

She extended her nose and slipped its velvet softness into Jules’ cupped palm.

Jules giggled with delight.

The unicorn danced back, but returned more quickly. She nuzzled the pocket of Jules’ pale pink dress, smelling golden apples. Jules stroked the unicorn’s neck, watching her rainbow mane slip through her fingers. The smart thing sniffed out an apple and ate it whole with noise chomps. Jules giggled again. The filly gave her a gentle nudge with her head. Butterflies fluttered around them. They settled in their hair, like living, bright bows.

With sudden swift destruction, a gun sounded.

Butterflies fluttered away.

The forest stilled.

A net darted through branches and leaves.

The unicorn squeal.

Jules threw her arms around the filly’s neck.

The net settled in a heavy rush across the girl and the unicorn. The unicorn quivered, her eyes wide and rolling. Jules held her close.

Out of the trees bounded three men, who all looked at least half troll or goblin. Wait. One of the three was a particularly hideous women. She bent down eye to eye with Jules. The unicorn tried to prance back, but the net held her fast. Jules clenched her teeth and met the woman’s gaze. Fear flutter all up and down Jules’ spine, but she tried to keep her face brave.

“Ha!” the ugly woman barked a laugh. “Works every time. Use a little girl to catch a ‘corn. Every time.” She straightened. “Come on, boys. Tie ‘em up ‘fore their parents come a-hunting.”

“Yeah…” the uglier of the two men said, picking his nose, “I don’t want nothing to do with no grown ‘corn.”

“‘Urry up then.”

The men reached under the net with manacles for wrist and hoof. Cold iron touched Jules’ skin.

“Don’t you dare take us anywhere!” Jules stamped her foot, fire in her eyes. “My Daddy’s scarier than all three of you. You don’t want him angry with you.”

“Shut it, girl,” said the other man. Mean scars covered his face. His eyes were cold and dark.

Jules clamped her mouth shut. They pulled the net back, rolling it tight. As soon as the weight left her back, the young unicorn shot off for the trees. The manacle pulled her up short, jerking her legs out from under her. She bleated, a frightened animal noise. The forest seemed to lean back from her. Leaves and dirt flew in the air as the unicorn kicked and fought to regain her footing.

“Hold onto her, Toog, you idiot. We don’t want her damaged.”

Toog growled, “I am holding her.”

The woman glared at him and started off into the woods. Toog followed with the filly, who trembled under his rough hands. The mean man grabbed Jules’ free hand. Jules kicked him in the shin. He didn’t flinch, he just slipped another manacle over her wrist. Jules hissed like an angry cat, but the mean man dragged her off into the trees after the others just the same.

Jules’ heart raced. The filly had trusted her, and these people had used that. These people were coming into the forest and taking magical beings and things from it. They were taking Jules away from the magical forest.

“No,” Jules whispered.

The mean man gave the chains a yank.

“No!” Jules planted her feet and stopped. The man tugged the chains again. Jules stumbled. She grabbed a young oak tree and wrapped her arms and legs around it.

“No!”

“Knave,” the woman called from up a ways, “don’t get separated.”

Knave jerked Jules. “Come on, girl.”

Jules pressed her face to the tree, ignoring the sharp pain in her wrists and arms as Knave snapped the manacles. When Jules didn’t let go, Knave came closer. His dull eyes lit up. He raised his hand.

Jules shrank back.

The tree she clung to suddenly batted Knave away like he was nothing more than a pesky fly. Knave flew through the air, crunched against the trunk of a mighty pine, and crumpled to the ground. The forest floor curled up over him, and he disappeared from view.

Butterflies fluttered back down into Jules’ hair.

Mouth agape, Jules stared at the tree. The dryad—who lived in the tree, that lived in the forest, that lived in the world—bent down, cupped Jules’ face in rough hands, kissed her forehead, and said, with a voice like wind in the leaves, “Root and water. Save the young unicorn, save the forest. We will all help you.” The dryad faded back into the tree with a wink.

Jules frowned. Who would help her?

“Hello love.” A tiny man, with a fiery mane, dropped down from the tree. He hovered in front of Jules on flickering wings. “Young Oak here,” he patted the trunk of the tree, “said—”

“Old really,” a voice rumbled from the ground under Jules’ feet. She stepped back, the manacles clanking. Another tiny man, formed from dirt and seemingly always in danger of dribbling away, flew up beside the first.

“Yes, well, Old Oak here,” the fiery man patted the tree again, “says you need help.”

“Of course she does, Fire,” the dirt man said. “Look at them there chains on her pretty little wrists.”

“Right you are, right you are, Earth my love.”

Earth hid his mouth with his hand and whispered loudly to Fire, “Do you think you can work with that iron, Fire?”

Fire also hid his mouth with his hand and loudly whispered, “Well, my dear, I think I can—”

“Please!” Jules interrupted. “We can’t save the unicorn if we just stand here.”

“Rude.” Fire stuck out his tongue at Jules.

Earth scratched at his bald, dirty head. “But not wrong.”

Fire put his hands on his hips, rose in the air, and huffed.

“Don’t mind him,” Earth said to Jules. “He’s melodramatic, he is.”

The dryad reappeared with a sigh. He reached out with two great roots, broke the manacles from Jules’ wrists, and disappeared back into the tree. She rubbed her red skin. The cold, heavy iron had made her wrists ache.

“Thank you.” Jules pressed her hand to the bark of the tree.

It warmed under her fingers. “Root and water.”

Jules nodded and hurried away after the unicorn, sending the butterfly tumbling through the air.

“Come on, Fire! An adventure!”

“Tally ho!” yelled Fire, and the two fey followed after Jules.

Part Two Coming Soon!

Finley’s First Birthday Faerie Story

 

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Finley’s Birthday Bear
A Faerie Story from the Worlds before the Door
By Abby Jones

Once upon a time, the word went out through all the land that a baby was to be born. It sifted through trees to the Land of the Lost. It reached the Unicorn Woods. The rock dragons heard it and trumpeted for joy. The proclamation twitched the ears of a white fox. Out on the ocean, the word past from ship to dragon-headed ship, and even old bears and white daisies heard it. But the news mattered most to one big family: Great Gran, Grampa and Grammie, their five children, their five children’s spouses, and all the cousins rolling around on the floor. A new baby. A new baby. A new baby! “Nine nieces and nephews isn’t quite enough,” the oldest Auntie said. “I think we could use at least one more.”

Everyone agreed.

Then began the big wait.
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One special, significant morning, a new baby opened her small dark eyes. She blinked up at all the faces leaning in over her. They smiled. The baby frowned. She didn’t know these faces. Tears flooded her eyes and her lip bulged with a cry.

“Finley?” A voice she recognized came from the mouth of a red headed girl. “This is our family!”

The baby searched the faces again. They cooed and said her name. The voices. She recognized all the voices. She’d heard that man boom when he said “Bruce” before. She’d heard those ones singing on Sunday. The faces went with voices she knew well. They were loud, teasing, laughing, long conversations, books being read, and Christmas songs sung. They were love. They were her family.

From the general clamor came the sound of little Remi and Imogene, baby Finley’s sisters. They leaned in close and felt her tiny toes, her little hands, and her nose. They wondered at their new sister, at the magic of having a baby to touch and smell and teach. Their Mama smiled down at them. “She’s here.”

“She’s here!” Imogene shouted.

“She’s here!” Remi mimicked as best she could.

“Remi, let’s go get our gift.” Imogene took Remi’s hand and darted off down the hallway. They tumbled into their room, dug under their bed, in their closet, in their reading tent, and finally found a small package in their doll house. It was wrapped in paper they’d colored, but mostly tape. Brown fur poked out here and there.

With a squeal, they charged back into the crowded, but hushed living room. Poking and prodding their way back to their Mama’s side, they handed the gift to Finley.

“You’ll have to open it for her. She can’t yet,” Mama said.

Imogene handed the present to Remi. “You open it for her.”

Remi tugged and tugged on the tapped paper, but couldn’t rip it. She passed it to Daddy. He made quick work of it with his pocket knife. Oh so gently, Remi spread the paper apart reveling a brown, baby bear. She lifted it out of its sticky bed and presented it to Finley.

Finley’s eyes focused on it. Her little legs kicked. Her tiny fist wiggled.

“I think she likes it, girls.” Mama nestled the bear in next to Finley.

“I think she does!” Imogene crooned.

“Well, she is Finleybear,” Daddy said. “Of course she likes it.”
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The little bear, freshly born from its package, blinked his little eyes and smelled with his nose. He smelled Finley and thought her the best smell in the room full of smells. Happy nestled in beside her, the bear went to sleep. Finley and the bear, both so young, fresh, and new, slept while their family tended to Mama, and their bigger family visited with food and treats. They woke to new days and new abilities until one day they could sit up, grab hold, and even recognize people in the wider world. Each day Finley grew bigger, and her bear grew braver. He was her stuffed animal, and as such, it was his job to keep away bad dreams and make the covers safe. Each night he curled in close to her and watched over her while she slept. Night watching is a big job, but Tock, as they called him, didn’t mind.

Sometimes, when rainbows came out, Tock would take Finley to watch the real bears’ weddings. She would hold him close and peek through the underbrush. He made sure she wasn’t seen. The real bears don’t like people to watch their marriage days.

Over the years, Mama patched Tock up. Once his tail came off. Finley had dragged him through the house by it, screaming and laughing after her sisters. Both his ears and one eye also had to be sown back on. By the time Finley no longer needed Tock, he looked quiet shabby. But Tock smiled. Each worn spot, each miss-matched stitch, each loose limb proved he’d been a good guardian.

One day, Tock slipped away to find a quiet spot. He’d felt the calling of Holiday—the magical place stuff animals go to when their owners no longer need them—for several days, but he wanted to make sure Finely would really be fine without him. He watched her and watched her from the dresser where she’d stuck him months ago. She hadn’t picked him up once since then. He hadn’t slept in her bed or guarded her dreams. They’d had no silly adventures since long before he started sitting on the dresser. Yes, it was time. He was wearily to his bones. It was time to go to Holiday.

Tock slipped away one night, leaving a kiss on his dear, grown Finley’s cheek. He walked through the shadow of the moon to a tiny door that opened on the backside of a waterfall. Tock shook water droplets from his coat as he stepped out into a field. A happy, babbling brook rolled down on his right and wide rolling hills ran away on his left. Holiday. It was a good land. A good place.

“Hello!” called a yellow bear in a red shirt. “Welcome to Holiday. Have you seen my honey pots?”

With one glance back at the door, back at his Finley, Tock tumbled off to help the silly old bear find his breakfast.

The End

 

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.)