Thursday, April 30, 2009

30 Days: "The Icing on the Cake"


from: Leona and Me, Helen Marie

by Lu Ann Brobst Staheli

“Watch me, Leona. I’m Miss Tarantula, mysterious tight rope walker of Madagascar!” I lifted my arms for balance and started across the wooden beam in the barn loft, one foot in front of the other, imitating the lady we’d seen at the circus in New Albany. After reaching the wall, I made a little curtsey, trying to pull my overalls out like they were the net skirt the trapeze artist had worn.

“Magnificent, Helen,” Leona said, mimicking a ring master. She held onto a joist about thirty feet away from where I’d ended my trip across the barn.

“With my eyes closed this time,” I said.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” she said. Leona was nine, two years older than me, and liked to pretend she was in charge.

“Watch me. Watch me,” I said, closing my eyes and turning around on the beam toward the way I thought I’d come. My bare toes gripped the rough edges of the wood.

“Helen Marie Heffner, you stop right now.” Her voice sounded just like Mama’s when I’m gonna get in trouble, but I took a step. Then another. On the third one, there wasn’t a beam under my foot. My eyes flew open and my legs peddled the air, like a character in the comic papers, trying to find a way to stop falling.

“Le—o—naaa!” I screeched. Hair blew across my face, covering my eyes. Seconds later, I landed on the hay mound below, air whooshing from my lungs. My heart crashed against my ribs. Sweat pored down my forehead like a humid Indiana afternoon. I lay still a minute, hoping I hadn’t broken any bones.

“Are you okay?” Leona asked. I could see her standing above me, still on the beam. Her voice sounded miles away.

When I could breathe, the strong odor of hay made me sneeze. All ten toes still wiggled and my elbows worked. My heart had stopped pounding. I thought the grin would split my cheeks wide open. I wiped my face, scratching at my nose a second before yelling, “Yaaa—hoo! That was the most fun I’ve had all summer. I gotta do it again.” I jumped up and ran toward the loft’s ladder.

Leona must’ve decided if I could fall unexpected and live through it, then she had no reason to worry. She scurried a little ways down the beam, gave a swan-dive, and hollered, “Look out Kitty Hawk. Move over Orville and Wilbur. Here I come.” She made a little humph sound when she landed.

I took my second leap more gracefully. Who needed a net? Morning chores forgotten, I lost track of how many times we jumped. Leona had just pirouetted on the center of the beam, and I was waiting my turn to jump when Papa spoke.

“What in the Sam Hill do you two think you’re doing? Get down from there right now.” His voice said there was to be no foolin’ around. He stood with his legs planted, his arm raised into a fist he shook toward where we stood.

I was standing near the ladder and got two steps down when I heard Leona. “Here I come.” She flew into the air, swooping into the hay one last time.

Papa looked like an angry bull, but he took her hand all gentle-like and pulled her from the stack. Golden spikes poked from her braid, and she was covered with dust. “You’re gonna suffocate in there,” he said, his voice now quiet.

Leona took a couple of limping steps toward him. She tried to hide her pain from Papa, but I knew she had a kink in her leg. She rubbed the muscle to work it out. He pulled her close, into a squeeze like to break a bone. When he looked my way, I scrambled down the ladder. “Come on, Helen. Let’s see what your mama says about this stunt.” He held his hand out toward me, and I hurried to take it.

Once inside the kitchen, Papa told Mama what he’d seen. “Jumpin’ off the beams into the hay mound, big as you please. Sometimes I don’t think either one of ‘em has a lick of sense.”

“Now, Lew,” Mama said as she pulled us each into a squeeze.

She was the nicest woman I knew—better than any of the old grumpy women at church. She was extra special protective of us, especially me, because I’d had rheumatic fever last winter. Mama had lost two babies since I was born, and she didn’t plan to lose either one of us because we decided to do something foolish.

“Leona, you should have known better,” Mama said, her voice just like Leona’s had been when she told me not to walk on the beams. “You know Helen isn’t supposed to do anything strenuous. You’ve got to be more careful of your baby sister.”

I didn’t tell Mama that I was the first one to jump. And I wasn’t a baby, but she worried so much, I had to mind my P’s and Q’s. Good thing I had Leona to keep me from being bored from here to 1923.

My big sister looked toward me, but the only thing she said was, “Yes, Mama.”

Papa calls us his pretty little sweethearts, but Leona Mae’s the pretty one. She has long blonde hair with ribbons tied into braids that Mama plaits new every morning. My coal black hair is straighter than a board, chopped off just below my chin. The bangs were perfectly straight when Mama cut them, but you’d never know it. I have a way of shoving them off my forehead that leaves them sticking straight up, drenched—especially in the summertime.

Mama finished hugging Leona to her side and reached again toward me. I snuggled up, trying to wrap my arms around her waist. I felt her leave a kiss on the top of my head before she pulled away.

“At least you’re both alive.” I heard her sigh. After a minute, she said, “Lots of chores to do today. I’ve got to get busy.”

Papa reached out to give us both a hug, then he pulled a cap on. “I’m going down to the church. Puttin’ on a new roof before Sunday.” He looked me straight in the eye, then turned to Leona. “No more walking on air, girls.”

“Yes, Papa,” we both said at the same time.

I had every intention of being good, but Leona didn’t last much past noon. Mama had baked a cake for dinner, one of those fluffy white cakes that used lots of eggs and milk and butter and tasted so rich that it slid down your throat smooth-like, flavorful all the way to your stomach. She was putting the finishing touches on the icing, all white and swirly, when Leona wandered into the kitchen, where I'd been watching since Mama mixed the batter.

“Is that cake I smell?” she asked. She closed her eyes and sucked air in through her nose loud enough for us to hear. “Heavenly.” She plopped onto a stool and started picking through the bowl of nuts sitting on the counter. She pulled out a big nigger toe and popped it into her mouth.

I loved watching Mama cook, but Leona couldn't wait to taste. She didn't see the sense of watching anyone bake.

"Don't need to watch the hen lay the egg to know it's gonna be my breakfast," she told me more than once when I'd begged her to stay with me. Off she'd go, always with some scheme in mind, like fishing for snapping turtles with bacon fat, or hopping backwards on one foot over to the school.

I was sitting in the hot summer kitchen, aggravated by the heat from the wood stove. Beads of moisture dotted my forehead, but I didn’t care. I was watching Mama. This cake was the kind for special occasions—even more special than birthdays. Mama never baked a cake like this for herself.

"Just too much hard work to make it a celebration," she would say.

"Now girls," Mama said when she was done. "The cake is for dinner tonight."

"Are we having company?" we both said at once.

We loved to tease Mama, telling her company was coming when there wasn't any. She’d look around and start picking up the house. Then she'd send us to wash our hands and faces, but we just laughed.

Mama looked sternly at us both. She wiped the excess flour from her hands onto her apron, gathered up the dishes, and carried them to the basin. "I don't want to find that either of you has decided to whet your appetite. I've got to see to the wash." She started out the back door toward the clothes line.

I could see two stark white sheets flapping in the breeze. Their ghostly forms and loud noises used to scare me. I once thought the devil himself was after me when I took an evening trip to the outhouse and Mama had forgotten to take the sheets in for the night. Now I was used to hearing the snap of cotton blowing dry.

Once Mama was gone, Leona whispered, "Want a lick of the icing?"

"You heard Mama," I said. I tried to sound like I meant for Leona to leave it alone.

"Yeah, but she won't even notice."

"Oh, yes she will."

Before I could stop her, Leona swiped a finger across the platter and held out creamy icing toward my mouth. I shook my head and she popped the icing into her own mouth.


"You won't get in trouble." Leona spoke the words over her shoulder as she dashed from the house. “Mama will know it was me.”

I took a second to slide my chair under the table—no use giving Mama another reason to be upset. After our trouble in the barn, I got to worrying that Mama was already counting naughty-or-nice, even though Christmas was four months away. There was a certain china doll I had my eye on.

I went to the back door. Mama stared after Leona, then she glanced toward me. I knew she was going to ask what was going on, so I took off at a dead run, my heart pounding in a funny rhythm. I heard Mama’s voice echo after me.

"Hell—en! Helen Mar—ieeee! Le—oooo—na Mae—aaaaaa!"

When Mama discovered what Leona had done, would she think I had touched the cake, too? "Leona Mae Heffner, you get back here," I shouted as loud as my voice could carry. "I ain't gonna take no paddlin' for you, and I ain't gonna give up that china doll I want, neither."

Leona laughed as she galloped across the field of new-mown hay. I tried to keep up, but as hard as my legs pumped, I couldn't. I puffed air like Papa trying to light his cigar. I was plum worn out, so I stopped in the middle of the field. I thought my lungs were gonna burst.

“Dang your hide,” I said, almost a swear. “I wanted that china doll.”

I’d ruined my chances last Christmas when I told Mama, “I won't eat that stupid old hash," she’d made for dinner. I got sent to my room hungry. I deserved not getting the doll then.

Would Leona ruin my chances this time? I saw her fly on down past the school yard and toward the pond, her laughter still echoing behind her. After a minute, I walked toward Wennings General Store, wiping the sweat from my eyes. I didn't want to get home before Leona did. I decided I'd just sit a spell at the store, knowing she’d stop there on her way home.

Wennings is a favorite place for both us girls. Not only do they have the best selection of penny candy around, they have the only selection of penny candy. Hancock Chapel is nothing more than a crossroad, seven miles from the nearest town. We were stuck with Wennings, but we have another reason for stopping there.

Aunt Ethel helps behind the counter whenever she's visiting from Newport. She's always so happy to see us, she slips us a little treat. Aunt Ethel is the prettiest thing with soft, curly hair and pink cheeks and dresses in the latest styles. She’s lived in the south longer than we have, and she has the most bea—u—tiful southern accent. I love to listen to her talk, especially when she follows our stories with, "Sure 'nough?" like she doesn't always believe us. I suppose she has reason not to. The stories can be pretty wild, especially the ones Leona tells. Mama says Leona’s imagination is like to get her in trouble some day, as if it hasn’t already.

Thinking about Aunt Ethel made me wonder if her visit was the reason Mama made the cake. I stood up and gingerly peeked my head into the store, squinting in the near-dark to see if she was behind the candy counter. She wasn't, far as I could tell, so I plopped back down on the porch step to wait for Leona, then I heard my name.


I craned around to see who was calling me, but I couldn't tell at first which direction the voice was coming from. The sun was bright around me, and looking inside the store had seemed dark by comparison.

"Helen, is that you?"

Papa. I was in trouble now. Before I could run off, I felt his big warm hand touch my shoulder. He stood in the doorway, towering over me as I sat huddled on the porch. I could see the shadow of his cap across the floorboards.

"Helen, what are you doing sitting out here on the porch all alone?"

"Just waiting for Leona." I kept my voice steady, trying to sound as innocent as I was.

Papa looked back into the recesses of the store for a minute. "I didn't see her . . . "

"She's not in the store," I said. "She ran off toward the school yard, I guess."

"And left you behind?" He chuckled. "That's not very nice for a big sister to do."

I breathed a sigh of relief. Papa didn't know about the icing. "What'cha doing at Wennings, Papa?"

"We've got a special guest coming from Louisville, and we want Ethel to join us."

That piqued my interest.

Before I could say anything more, Papa stooped down and gave me a peck on the cheek. "See you soon, Little One."

The special guest wasn’t Aunt Ethel. That counted out Uncle Herb, too. Mama had said company, but she hadn't said they were from Louisville. No wonder she was so worried about her cake being perfect. Would the guest be one of Papa’s acquaintances or family?

I figured since Papa was on his way home, he must have seen Aunt Ethel, so I stood up, brushed the dirt from my overalls and went inside the store. It was much cooler there, away from the August sun. The ceiling fan swooshed the air into what might almost count for a breeze.

Aunt Ethel was helping Mrs. Bigler with a bolt of cloth, so I busied myself looking at trinkets—glass bead necklaces, silver plated bracelets, and brooches made with glued on seed pearls. After a few minutes, Mrs. Bigler finished her purchase, leaving me alone with Aunt Ethel, who slipped me a stick of hard candy from the counter.

"Papa says you're to come to dinner tonight," I said, as I licked the striped peppermint. "We're having company from Louisville."

"Sure enough?" Aunt Ethel asked.

"Yep. Do you know who it is?"

"Sure enough," she said, but this time I could tell she meant yes.

I waited, but inside I was bursting with impatience. Aunt Ethel wiped off the counter top and straightened a few items, but said nothing. Unable to control my curiosity any longer, I asked, "So, who is it?"

"It's a surprise," she said, with a smile.

"I don't like surprises."

"Then I guess you don't have to come home for dinner."

"Ahhhh! You know I want to. Mama's made a special cake and everything." That reminded me of the trouble I expected when Leona and me got home. My face fell and Aunt Ethel knew something was bothering me.

"What's the matter?"

"Oh, nothing," I said, hoping to delay the truth as long as possible.

"Something wrong with the cake?"

I never could keep a secret from Aunt Ethel. She always seemed to know when either Leona or me was stretching the truth. I knew I might as well fess up.

“Leona . . . I mean . . . we . . . ,” I stammered. “Well, Mama's not gonna be too happy that some of the icing is gone from that fancy cake."

"You two snitch a little lick before dinner?"

I smugly answered, "Leona."

Aunt Ethel started to laugh. "I always thought that girl was just the spitting image of Lewis. Your papa used to get a swat across the tail from Ma for doing the same thing."

"He did?" I could hardly believe Papa would do anything to earn a switch.

"Sure enough," she said. "He’d make Ma so mad when he couldn't keep his fingers off the cake."

"Who did?" Leona asked from the doorway.

"Papa," I answered, happy to see my sister returned at last. "He used to eat the icing off the cake, just like you."

"No!" she said in awe as she entered the store and walked toward us.

I tried to mimic the timbre of Aunt Ethel's voice. "Sure 'nough." Both she and Leona laughed at my imitation.

"Then I guess Papa can't get too mad at me for this one," Leona said, smiling. "We've got proof positive right here in you, Aunt Ethel. Want to come home with us for dinner so we can use you as a reminder?"

"She’s already coming to dinner," I said. "To see the company all the way from Louisville." I took another lick of the peppermint in my hand.

"Louisville," Leona said, her eyes growing wide, taking in the importance. Louisville was over thirty miles from Hancock’s Chapel.

"Yep, Louisville. Aunt Ethel knows who it is, but she won't tell." I pulled my mouth down into a huge frown, hoping to encourage her to give us a hint.

"Can't. It's a surprise," Aunt Ethel said, handing a stick of candy to Leona.

"You know I like surprises," I said, and Aunt Ethel laughed.

"We'd better get going before Herb gets there and there isn't a lick of icing left, or cake for that matter," Aunt Ethel said. "He's just as bad as you and your papa, Leona, when it comes to icing on the cake." She called toward the back of the store to let Mr. Wenning know she was leaving, then took my hand in her left and Leona's in her right, and we were off down the dusty road toward home. We chattered and giggled and sang all the way, happy to be with her, but it wasn't nearly long enough before we arrived.

"Helen," Mama said as soon as I stepped into the front door. Leona was a half a step behind me, still not across the threshold.

"Yes," I said, swallowing hard.

"You and Leona need to go outside and wash up. Go on with you now."

Aunt Ethel went into the house. We scurried around back to the pump, splashed water into the bucket, and furiously scrubbed our hands.

"You think she knows?" I asked.

"My cake!" Mama yelled the second the words left my mouth. My stomach dropped.

"She knows," Leona said. "I guess we might as well go face her."

I figured we’d get a scolding at the very least like Leona got this morning because of me. Hand in hand, we approached the back door to the kitchen, our heads bowed, stopping at the door frame to wait for the lecture. Nothing happened. After a second I realized Mama was standing in the kitchen, chuckling. Hesitantly, I looked at Leona and then toward Mama.

Then I saw them. Standing on the other side of the cake, each with a finger packed with icing, stood Papa, Uncle Herb, and Grandpa Heffner, all the way from Louisville. Their sheepish grins proved they were caught in the act of swiping a lick of Mama's special icing.

"What am I ever going to do with all you children?" Mama laughed as she reached over to hug Grandpa.

Aunt Ethel gave a knowing smile to Leona and me before she gave us both a big hug and whispered, "I told you your papa and Uncle Herb couldn't stay away from the icing. You got away with it this time, Leona Mae."

I could almost feel myself holding that china doll.

Copyright 2009 by Lu Ann Brobst Staheli; author retains all rights to the story

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

30 Days: "Imagination"


By David Hulet

“Outside! NOW!” Mom yells as Jaymz and I scurry into the backyard.

No sooner has the latch clicked on the back door than Jaymz is expressing his dismay to me. “Man, Ritchie! What are we gonna do now? I wanted to play your Nintendo Wii. That’s the only cool thing you have to do at your house since you don’t have a laptop or a PSP.” He surveys my backyard grimly. “Now we’re stuck out here cuz your mom isn’t feeling well. What is there to do out here besides absolutely nothing?” Jaymz sits down dejectedly on the steps.

I put a smile on my face and walk to the middle of the yard where I pick up two sturdy sticks, then take one over to Jaymz. “Richie, what am I supposed to do with this?” He asks me, taking it in his left hand.

“En garde!” I say enthusiastically, going into a fighting stance.


“En garde.” I repeat. “Fight me.”

“But it’s just a stick,” he replies.

I sigh in frustration. “Jaymz, you gotta use your imagination and pretend. C’mon, just try it.” I beg. “Pretend it’s a sword.”

He pushes himself up off the steps and takes a pace forward, hesitantly. I can tell he’s still not sure about this. Then suddenly he lunges, and I barely have time to parry. We begin to circle, sticks locked, and my smile grows. “Just imagine we’re two high seas adventurers locked in the heat of battle. I’ll be the pirate captain whose attacking your vessel and trying to steal all your loot.”

“Loot?” Jaymz asks dismayed.

“Yeah, you know, like money and treasure.”

Jaymz frowns and attacks me again. “Nay!” He declares, finally smiling. “You’ll not be getting your paws on me loot!” I laugh at his silly accent and we sword-fight some more.

When that gets boring, we move to other adventures, and soon Jaymz finds my backyard is full of possibility and adventure. With my jump rope we lasso wild animals and put them in our circus show. With my bandana and a bag I become a robber and he chases me as policeman. With an empty bottle we mix up magic potions and try to poison one another. In the sandbox we build an ancient civilization. On the swings we’re fighter pilots saving the world from alien invasion. Then we go out front and ride Big Wheels as race car drivers zooming to the finish line.

We’ve just finished the Indy 500 when Jaymz’s mom arrives to pick him up. My mom comes out and sees our huge smiles. Putting her hands on her hips, she asks, “What have you two been up to? It sounded like you were having a lot of fun.”

Jamyz nods, grinning crazily. He looks at me and says, “Yeah! I didn’t know using your imagination could be so fun.” As he climbs into his mom’s van, Jaymz looks back at me and says, “Tomorrow, I get to be the pirate.”

Copyright 2009. David Hulet. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

30 Days: "The 99th Sleep Sheep"

The 99th Sleep Sheep
Shauna Leggat

1-2-3 Times were hard.
4-5-6 Not just anyone could land a job as a Sleep Sheep these days.
7-8-9…and if they did, they were certain to be on impeccable
…22 here goes…light lift, passé
…42 softly, now…petite relevé
99?…Christia-a-a-n! Oh, where’s that bla-a-a-a-ast-ed sheep?

“One for a-a-a-ll and all for o-o-o-ne!” Sleep Sheep Number 99
crashed through the sleeping child’s dreams with a swoop of his sword
and a whoosh of his cape.


100 Swedish Sleep Sheep from the land of the Midnight Sun,
Jobs perfectly executed; their wool impeccably done.
Their bedtime charges sound asleep for yet another night
Till #99 screams into their dreams, delivering a waking fright.

“How did he-e-e ever land this job?” Whispered 23.
“I heard his m-a-a-ma-a-a came from high breeding,” replied 24
under her breath.
“Well, no d-ou-ou-oubt he had connections,”said 76.
“That’s what I call a bla-a-ack sheep,” hissed 77.

They were right. Chris Beaumont, Sleep Sheep #99, was sorely out of
place. As the rank and file of Sleep Sheep deftly danced their way
through dreams of the world’s dozing children in soft pastels and
satin slippers, 99 stood out like a hang nail on a hoof.

“He’s gonna get it now!”
“It’s about time. He makes us all look ba-a-a-d.”

“99, Report!” blasted Sergeant Chechetti. “What in the name of
the Northern Lights do ewe think eue’re doing?”

“It’s Dumas, Sir, Alexander Dumas. I read at night, and well, I
love his creativity, his imagination, and especially his Musketeers.
D’ar-ta-a-a-agnon. So bold and wild and, and …liberating! I feel
their escapades. They Da-a-ance through my mind, and, it’s ballet,

“Last week it was Quixote-- the windmills nearly blinded that Jordan
kid; the week before it was Twain, Huck Finn and his raft, and your
Mississippi got Wolfie a whopper of a paddling! How was his mother to
know the difference between river water and bedwetting? Probably scar
the kid for life. I have no choice but to put you on proba-a-a-tion.
99, Recite the creed.”

Yes, Sir.
1. It is and honor and privilege to be selected as a Swedish Sleep
2. The great State of Slumber counts on us to lull minds through
3. An uncluttered mind + a rowdy number = deficient slumber.
4. Excessive action during REM destroys the Doze, causing the nose
to snore no more.

“And the fifth?”

5. Focus, Sir. I need to focus.

“That’s correct. Ewe’re a Dozeologist, 99. A
Cat-Napster, a Slumber Number with an vital job to do--leaving our
clients mindlessly musing, simple siestas, ganz geschloffen. Take some
time off—a little Rest and Repose. Catch ewe’re own forty winks,
99, and pull ewe’rself together. Otherwise, you leave me no choice.
It’ll be bed curtains, lamb chops, 99-cent McMutton menu. Get my

With heavy heart and drooping tail, Sleep Sheep #99 nodded, turned and
sheepishly exited Chechetti’s stall, tears welling in his eyes.

(500 WORDCOUNT-oops! Here’s what happens: 99 gets into dance and
opera; becomes #100, Kids wake motivated, creative, alert, focused and
imaginative for the day. Position is EVERYTHING)

In the 100th spot, Christian Beaumont leapt into their dreams

And with a cape and a rose, half a mask on his nose,
Grand Jete, Relevé,
Batement, Developé…
And a voice that resounded from our sheep far from grounded,


Children everywhere awoke that morning, exited, motivated, ready for
dreams to come to life.

100 Swedish Sleep Sheep from the land of the Midnight Sun,
Jobs perfectly executed; their hooves impeccably done.
Bedtime charges wide awake-Dawn ends another night.
100 ignites waking dreamsCreativity Streams
Imagination and she-e-ear delight!

Copyrighted by Shauna Leggat, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

30 Days: "Fairy Clothes"


By Larisa Hobson

Princess Freda hated clothes, especially if they were fancy. The only dress Freda could be persuaded to wear was a plain cotton gown.

The King and Queen were horrified by Freda’s lack of fashion. Clothing styles were never simple in Showler. The Queen’s elaborate clothing always set the trend for the entire kingdom.

The Queen often criticized Nurse Neva for not taking advantage of Freda’s vast wardrobe, so Neva would try every bit of clothing she could onto the princess. Freda found the lace scratchy, and the material itchy. The colors and patterns made her dizzy, and the decorations just got in the way. Soon Neva and Freda would be frustrated to tears. Then Freda would escape to the large courtyard garden that led off of the nursery. The Princess loved the beautiful trees, the soft grass, and the fragrant flowers there. But most of all she loved the fairies that attended to the gorgeous garden. The garden fairies were not normally fond of humans, but they loved Freda.

After one dreadful dress-up session, Freda flopped down among the flowers and complained to a small white daisy, “You don’t have to wear clothes to be pretty, so why do I?” She looked across the garden and noticed a flurry of fairies tending to a withering bush. The fairies’ glistening wings formed hypnotic patterns that moved slightly, like leaves in a soft summer breeze. Freda’s mind caught hold of an idea.

When Freda returned to the nursery, she was garbed in the most amazing attire Neva had ever seen. The nurse wondered how the dress could shimmer with so many marvelous colors. Then Freda drew closer, and Neva noticed the hundreds of tiny fairies clinging happily to Freda’s gown.

At dinner that night, admiring eyes were all on Freda. Everyone was so impressed by her dress, that she was soon setting the styles.

The tailors tried their best to copy Freda’s fairy clothes. When the fairies formed a polka-dot dress, the people were soon wearing spots, and when the fairies were feeling silly and dressed Freda in zigzags, zigzags became the fad.

Freda was surprised by how light and comfortable fairies were to wear. She liked the soft breeze of their fluttering wings, and the little giggles and conversations that often issued from her dress. She especially loved having friends with her wherever she went.

The Princess was glad that the fairies were with her at her Birthday party. She was excited to sing a special song in front of everyone, but she was also nervous. Wearing an extra fancy fairy dress helped her feel calmer, as she stepped onto the stage to sing. The guests looked pleased while she sang, until they were distracted by a large crashing noise. Several men stood and started for the door, but the fairies made it out of the room first. When everyone looked back at Freda, they found her standing awkwardly in only her underclothes, her cheeks bright red with embarrassment. She ran from the room.

Freda felt so humiliated, that she did not leave the nursery all the next day. Finally Neva persuaded her to attend the formal dinner. The fairies created a sensational outfit, as an apology. But when Freda entered the great hall, she was stunned to see that everyone was dressed only in underclothes, with their cheeks painted scarlet.

Copy write 2009 by Larisa Hobson; author retains all rights to this story.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

30 Days: "Crossing Napoleon's Yard"

Crossing Napoleon’s Yard

By Anji Sandage

Their eyes met, his brown-flecked eyeballs unblinking. He was much smaller than she was, but she also knew that without a weapon she was no match for him. Dena had been in this position before—only this time was different . . . this time, as she desperately scanned the area for a stick; anything to fight him off; she couldn’t see even a decent sized twig within her reach. Her palms began to sweat. Without turning her back, she ever so carefully, slowly, took a step backwards, and then another. He did not move, but looked steadily on, his small head cocked to the side.

A wave of anger briefly swept over her. How could her sisters have forgotten the plan? She backed up more quickly now, ready to turn and bolt the first chance she got. He was rising slowly, getting ready to attack. Quickly she turned; taking one gigantic leap, when suddenly, she tripped, hitting the ground with full force.

Egg collecting was never easy. It was the responsibility of the girls to collect the eggs once in the morning, and again in the evening. Now, this doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, but then again, you have never met Napoleon.

Napoleon was small, that is true, but he was also swift, powerful, and fearsome—a true enemy to any egg collector who crossed his territory. In his mind, his territory was any part of the farm.

Napoleon was a rooster with beautiful iridescent blue and green tail plumage streaming out behind his jet-black body. His eyes were yellow with brown flecks, and he had a blood red comb at the crest of his head that seemed to drip down under his chin to his waddle—he had looked majestic when father had first brought him home. Now he just looked frightening.

Things had not gone as she and her sisters had planned, of course. Not only had the stick been missing, but today Dena had to get the eggs alone.

She raised herself up with her hands, screaming with rage and spitting dirt and blood. She could hear Napoleon’s quick little footsteps getting closer and closer.

“Why couldn’t they just leave the stupid stick by the door?” she screamed, pulling herself to her feet. She Staggered a little, and then saw for the first time what she had tripped over—a three-foot piece of pvc pipe. Grabbing it and turning in one movement, Dena could feel short bursts of air as Napoleon’s wings beat the air. He was attacking! Without thinking, she swung the piece of pipe with full force at the blur of feathers and talons.

Crack! In horror, she watched wide-eyed as Napoleon flew, spinning through the air, landing with a thud next to Mother’s zucchini patch. He hopped right back up and began to run towards her again, his little feet stirring up dust. A flood of relief passed through her as once again she turned to run. At least he wasn’t hurt.

She had only taken two steps when she realized that she could no longer hear Napoleon running. The sound of his footfalls had been replaced by strange thumping noise. Stopping, she slowly turned to see Napoleon thrashing wildly on the ground.

That very evening, mother served ‘mean roster soup’ and everyone, even Daddy, said it was the best they had ever had.

copyright 2009 by Anji Sandage; author retains all rights to the story.

Friday, April 24, 2009

30 Days: "Night Flight"


by Neil Hughes

When it’s hot hot hot, and the day is done,

The lights turn on at the skatepark,

Where the night flyers come one by one,

To take flight in the light of the skatepark.

And I think how we mimic the movements they make,

That we try to fly, in the light of the skatepark.

So I watch the night flyers, while I prepare for my moment,

To take flight in the light of the skatepark.

First the Nighthawks

Bank, swoop, and glide,




And our parents are flying,

In the light of the skate park.

In the bowl

They swoop, bank, and glide,




The bats come next,

With short bursts of speed,


And light

And fast.

And my friends are flying,

In the light of the skate park.

Through the street course

They Ollie with short bursts,


And light

And fast.

The last night flyer--the great horned owl,

With long drawn out strokes,

Rises up on broad wings

To perch on the post for a moment.

Now I am flying,

In the light of the skate park.

I bomb-drop the pool,

Pump down to the bottom.

At the top, I rise up on my board

To stall only just for a moment.

I can fly without wing,


Or wind,

All in the light of the skate park.

Copyrighted 2009 by Neil Hughes; author retains all rights to the story

Thursday, April 23, 2009

30 Days: "Look, Mom!"

Look, Mom!
By Taffy Lovell

Look, Mom!
I see a mouse, furry and gray
Does it know it is Saturday?

Look, Mom!
I see a bird, flying and red
Does it have a bed?

Look, Mom!
I see a dog, all slobbery and brown
Can a dog frown?

Look, Mom!
I see a pig, fat and pink.
What does it drink?

Look, Mom!
I see a cat, soft and white
Where does it go at night?

Look, Mom!
I see a cow, white and black
Does it want my snack?

Look, Mom!
I see a horse, tall and brown.
Can we ride it to town?

Aw, Mom!
I don't want to go.
Have we seen that one, no?!

Please, Mom!
I'm not tired. Please.
I'm not sleepy...zzzzzzzs.

Copyright 2009 by Taffy Lovell, author retains all story rights

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

30 Days: The Prisoner

The Prisoner
by Tiffany Dominguez

The back of the tall uniformed guard was as stiff and straight as the fence behind him. With his cap pulled low over his eyes and his weapons visible on his belt, he seemed on first look to match perfectly the two dozen guards positioned at staggered posts along the perimeter.

But Melia knew differently. When he’d walked by her during the shift change this morning, she’d recognized the deceptively casual walk and mild demeanor.

Had he been sent to save her, or to watch her die? Though she’d made no secret of her love for him, he’d never given her any indication of what he felt.

Without betraying one emotion (after all, she’d been well trained in this), Melia sat down at the loom and began the morning as she usually did. Any sign of slothfulness in prisoners meant a lashing from the guards or restricted food rations. From the first day she’d arrived here, Melia had seen no reason to show defiance. What would it accomplish, drawing such attention to herself?

As her now callused fingers worked the thread in and out, back and forth, she watched the guard out of the corner of her eye. Would he give her a sign?

Three hours later, the bell rang, signaling a water break for the prisoners. As Melia rose from her chair, she found herself staring straight into the eyes of the new guard. He took her arm roughly, as if to hurry her along, but he whispered into her ear, “Do you trust me?”

Melia nodded without hesitation. This young yet seasoned soldier had always served her family faithfully.“Now,” he grunted as he pulled her along to the punishment shed, where the lashings took place. The trail of blood made Melia gag for a moment, but her steps never faltered.
The guard at the door snorted at Melia’s captor. “Always thought that girl was too obedient. Give her a good reminder who’s boss.”

Melia shivered at his harsh tone. She’d seen enough scars on her fellow prisoners to know how little mercy had been shown at this place. Glancing at her captor’s face, she searched it for some sign that he cared for her, that he wouldn’t leave her here to die. But Tristan looked as cold and unresponsive as always.

Once inside, Tristan dropped her arm, took the knife from his belt and tapped on the exterior wall three times. There was a responding tap and then a section of the wall disappeared. The face of a family friend appeared in the opening, a grin on his broad face.

“Hey, princess. Come along. You’re safe now,” he whispered, holding out a hand.Trembling, Melia took it and stepped out into the forest, a free woman for the first time in over twelve months. Once they’d traveled in silence a safe distance from the prison compound, Tristan took her in his arms and pulled her close.

“I’ll always protect you, your highness.”

Copyright 2009 by Tiffany Dominguez, author retains all story rights.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

30 Days: "Writing Homework"

"Writing Homework"
by Will Strong

copyright 2009 by Will Strong; author retains all rights to this story.

Monday, April 20, 2009

30 Days: Almost a Whisper

Almost a Whisper

by Kiirsi Hellewell

She stands in the middle of the clearing, arms stretched to the sky. The gold, rose, and scarlet of sunset have given way to lavender and now blue. She watches as the blue deepens and stars begin to appear.

She shivers as cooler air sweeps over her. She has lived here for so long that she knows every wind as intimately as her own breath.

Now she hears footsteps approaching…hesitant in the growing darkness. They stop right next to her. She stands, silent, and knows they will not see her.

They never do, not really.

Something catches her attention—a familiar tickling, creeping feeling, crawling its way up her skin. She listens.

“Are you sure about this?” Fallen leaves crackle as two people sit. It’s a girl’s voice. “I don’t really see why we had to come all the way out here.”

“Of course, Emily. Don’t worry. Just close your eyes. In five minutes or less your problem will disappear, just as I promised.” The voice is smooth, oily.

The girl shifts uneasily on the dry grass and leaves. “I don’t see how your little ritual can make my problem vanish, Mr. Fle—“

“Simon,” he cuts in. “How will you know unless you try it?”

Above them, she shifts slightly. She has not felt fear or pain or anger in a very long time, has almost forgotten such things existed. But now—at the return of his voice—she feels them stirring deep within her. Memories begin to rise…distant faces…far-off laughter…the touch of a loved one’s hand….

Emily sighs. “You’re right. I’d do almost anything to have this heartache go away.” She closes her eyes.

Simon’s face is triumphant. He raises his hands above her head, holding one on each side, and begins to chant.

She feels more memories swirling. She remembers what she gave up so long ago. She can’t let it happen to this girl, too. She tries to scream, to warn her. But she can’t make a sound.

A wind begins to blow. Between Simon’s hands a cold blue light appears. His smile widens.

She tries harder. She concentrates, pitting her strength against the forces that hold her deep in the earth.

Emily twitches. “I feel weird. What’s going on?”

“Hush,” he whispers. “It’s working.” Emily’s arms and legs lengthen, fingers becoming pointed, branching out.

“Simon?” Emily cries. “I can’t move! Stop! STOP!” Her skin changes, hardening, thickening, darkening. One leg sinks into the soil.

Simon’s laugh rings out. “It’s too late now,” he says. “It’s been too long since I changed someone. My power was low. And you’ll get what I promised—your problem, gone. You won’t even remember your boyfriend.”

Above the struggling girl, she gives one last desperate heave. The ground under Simon opens in one long, wide crack. “What the—no!” he cries. “Impossible!” He begins to fall. A long root wraps around his waist and pulls him down …he is falling…

The blue light vanishes.

The ground closes. The wind stops. Emily stands, shaking. She looks at her fingers. They are covered in dirt. So are her jeans, up to her knees. She rubs her skin. It is soft, normal. She hears something. She looks around.

She is alone. The leaves of the solitary oak tree behind her rustle. It is a quiet sound…

Almost a whisper.

Copyright 2009 by Kiirsi Hellewell; author retains all story rights.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

30 Days: The Cactus and the Armadillo

The Cactus and the Armadillo

By Megan E. Welton

It was Nelson the Cactus’s birthday and all he wanted ever wanted was a friend to share his birthday with. They would sing songs and play games and eat cake and it would be a great time for everyone.

But since Nelson was a cactus, it meant that he was prickly and none of the desert creatures would ever play with him because they were afraid of getting stuck with one of his thorns.

All day he waited patiently for someone to wander near him.

“Spot!” Nelson cried as he spotted the prairie dog. “Spot, it’s my birthday! Come play some games!”

But Spot the prairie dog just wagged his head and went on his way.

“Jack!” Nelson cried as he saw the jack rabbit bounding by. “Jack it’s my birthday! Come and have some cake!”

But Jack the jack rabbit just bounded by without noticing Nelson at all.

Next Nelson spotted Kingsly the King Snake, and didn’t say anything at all. Everyone knows that it’s a foolish thing to invite Kinglsy the King Snake to their birthday party.

“Well then,” Nelson said to himself. “I don’t need others to have fun on my birthday. I will have a party all by myself. And just wait. Everyone will see what a fun time I’m having with my songs and games and cake that they’ll all want to come join in.”

But as Nelson sang, there was no one to sing with him, and a round isn’t much fun with one person.

And as Nelson played games, there was no one to play games with him, and Stick the Cactus with the Needle isn’t much fun with one person.

And as Nelson ate his cake, there was no one to eat with him, and blowing out candles isn’t much fun when there’s no one else to say, “Make a wish!”

Just as Nelson was beginning to give up on his birthday and promising that he would never have a birthday party ever again, Amy the Armadillo came creeping up to Nelson’s hill.

“Nelson!” Amy cried. “Nelson! I’m so sorry I’m late to your party!”

Amy the Armadillo had a hard tough shell, and she didn’t mind Nelson’s thorns.

So the two of them sang and played and ate.

And Nelson had the best birthday ever.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

30 Days: Teenage Warriors

Teenage Warriors
By Yamile Saied Mendez

I wake up and the first thing I remember is the encounter planned for this afternoon. The morning sunshine woke me, and through my lids, I can see the red fire that will bake the city with its all reaching arms. The morning meal must be over by now, but I’m not hungry. The adrenaline coursing through my veins will keep me going. I need a lucid mind, to be alert, to guess the enemy’s next move, to see my adversary defeated.

I raise myself from my damp, narrow bed, taking notice of each muscle, of each limb, of how strong I am, how young, how full of life. I am invincible, immortal.

My brothers-in-arms are waiting for me downstairs. I see them from my window, all young warriors like myself. I join them without hesitation. We have our banners, depicting our colors, blue and gold. Our mothers watch us go, with worry and sorrow etched on their faces. My mother bids me farewell and kisses my cheek. My baby brother tries to convince her one more time to let him come with me, but she won’t budge.

Some girls and women come with us, their faces lit up with anticipation. The tension in the air is an electrical current, pulsing from our hearts, uniting us all in this moment. I paint my face with the sacred colors, mumbling a prayer as my fingers trace the patterns that identify me from the rest of the world. My voice joins that of my brothers in our anthem and battle songs. Even the old men still have the burning fire in their eyes, telling us they’re confident; today we’ll be victorious. A few of my brothers resort to drugs and alcohol to obtain courage and hope. All I need to hear my blood singing in my ears is to see the giant flag dancing in the air, blue and gold, standing out against the background of the brown, living, swelling river that snakes its way behind the field.

The two armies take their places; even the building is chanting with us. Our heroes fight, running, jumping, kicking, flying through the air. Time stands still and rushes forward in a single second. Finally, from my throat a cry joins thousands of others in the primal act of celebration. The giant flag slides down the stadium, and the cry of “GOAL,” of victory, resonates across the universe.

I feel the tears streaming down my face; I wipe them and my hand smudges my battle paint. I look around me, and the sea of people glitters like candle light and sky in the afternoon light.
Our team has won the national cup. For tonight, we are the masters of the world. The city celebrates, and I go home. I promise my brother I will take him to the next game, as once my father took me when I was his age. My team has won; Rosario Central is indeed the center of the universe.

Copyrighted 2009 by Yamile Saied Mendez ; author retains all rights to the story.

PS: Here’s a link to the biggest, greatest, futbol flag of the world. It’s from my home town, Rosario, in Argentina. The city has two Major Futbol League teams, and when they play against each other, the city becomes a battle field. The Rosario Central fans are known as Los Guerreros, The Warriors, hence the name of the story.

Friday, April 17, 2009

30 Days: Bess: A Llama Drama

Bess: A Llama Drama
Lori Nawyn

Young Bess was a llama,
Involved in a drama,
That shocked her sisters
And upset her mama.

She sat by the fence
With a sigh and a pout
Watching her sisters
frolic about.

They rolled in the dirt,
Like the big llamas did.
And in games of Go Seek
They took turns and hid.

"Why my sweet Bess,"
Her mama did say,
"Why won't you go out
With your sisters and play?"

"If I had a chance,
A chance for one wish,
I would choose-I'm sure-
To swim like a fish!"

"Eeeeww!" said her sisters.

"Oh, dear," cried her mama.

"You need to talk
To your Grandllama Pru,
She'll tell you what's proper
For a llama to do."

Grandma looked stern
From her ears to her toes.
The old llama, so wise,
Looked down her long nose.

"Hello, my young Bess,"
Said the weathered Grandllama.
"Talk to me, dear,
Tell me what is the drama?"

"If I had a chance,
A chance for one wish,
I would choose-I'm sure-
To swim like a fish!"

"Eeeeww!" said her sisters, from across the field.

"Oh, dear," moaned her mama.

Grandllama just smiled
And sniffed at the grass.
"Let me tell you what happened,
When I was a lass."

My mama took me
To my grandllama too,
To tell me what's proper
For a llama to do.

"Grandma Amelia,
She told me this,
I'll tell you now so
Don't let your ears miss...

"'A llama should try
To further herself.
Not sit like a lump,
Or a book on a shelf.'

"It's a fact if there's something
That one wants to try,
Better to do it
Than sit 'round and cry.'

"My grandllama, you see,
Was no shrinking violet.
Courageous and strong she
Indeed was a pilot!"

Then, for all to hear,
Said Grandllama Pru,
"With my friend the cow
Do you know what I do?

Afternoons, when everyone naps
I hike-
Round the stream to the barn
Where I get on my bike!"

Bess' mother said, "Hmmm."
Her hoof tapped her chin.
She thought and then pondered
her face grew a grin.

Bess is so happy,
She got her wish.
She swims in the pond,
Friends with the fish.

Grandllama rides by
With her friend the cow.
She pedals her bike
All the time now.

Bess' sisters, in what
Once caused dismay,
Now don their tutus
And study ballet.

The field is quite crowded.
There's a flock of black coots.
Mama plays the harp
And they play their flutes!

30 Days: Buying Baseball Cards


by Scott Rhoades

Me and Pat walked to Marv's Liquors
jeans ripped from sliding into second
until our shins bled
Marv watched us like a cleanup hitter
follows the spin of a curve
Ten packs for a sweat-soaked buck
We never picked the ones on top
everybody knows good cards
hide on the bottom
Didn't want no doubles or belly itchers
liked A's most of all
doubles was ok if they was
Reggie, Rollie, Blue Moon
I had four Dave Duncans
till I traded one to Pat for six Giants
cause he thought he looked like him

Stood by the Black Velvet girl
under the Two Minors at a Time sign
carefully peeled waxy wrappers
Maybe Catfish Hunter's green cap shone
in the Budweiser glow
like the gold ticket Charlie found
in the Willy Wonka chocolate bar
Pat got Joe Rudi
'Oh man, I'll trade you'
'No way Jose unless you give me a whole pack'
I pouted
said 'You're lucky'
didn't trade

Cheeks stuffed with bubble gum
to look like major leaguers
only difference between gum and cards
is the gum doesn't have a picture
Cards split in four stacks
twenty five cards in a pocket
makes walking hard
if you don't want wrinkles or bent cards
We stopped to read the backs:
'Joe Pepitone is in the hair-styling business'

Me and Pat in my room
surrounded by posters and pennants
tried to swap three lousy players
for two good ones
argued like real general managers
Play by play voice faster than Lou Brock
Men faking flu cheered from the bleachers
Our world a big baseball
laced with little boys

Thursday, April 16, 2009

30 Days: Andrew, Are You Grumpy?


By Megan Oliphant

“I don't want to take a bath,” Andrew said.
“Andrew, are you grumpy?” asked his mom.
“No,” Andrew said. He stomp, stomp, stomped down the hall.
“Andrew, are you grumpier?” asked Mom when she helped him into the tub.
“No,” Andrew said, sitting down in the water.
“Andrew, are you the grumpiest?” asked Mom when she poured in the bubble bath.
“No,” Andrew said. He folded his arms.
Mom poured water over his hair and put on a dollop of shampoo.
“Andrew, are you all wet?” asked Mom.
“No,” he said, wiping the water off his forehead.
“Andrew, are you even wetter?” asked Mom as she washed out the bubbles.
“No,” Andrew said from under the washcloth protecting his eyes.
“Andrew, are you the wettest?” asked Mom as she held out the towel.
“No,” said Andrew as he floated in the tub, bathwater tickling his ears.
“Andrew, are you sleepy?” asked Mom as she rubbed him dry.
“No,” Andrew said while slipping on his pajamas.
“Andrew, are you sleepier?” asked Mom as she helped him brush his teeth.
“No,” Andrew said after he spit.
“Andrew, are you the sleepiest?” Mom whispered as she tucked the blankets over his shoulders.
“Yaaaawwwwn,” said Andrew.

Copyrighted 2009 by Megan Oliphant; author retains all rights to the story.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

30 Days: April Fool's Day on the Farm

by Jolynn Rood

Bossy the cow was excited to tell the other farm animals her secret plan. “Tomorrow is April Fool’s day, and I think we should play a trick on Farmer Ron!” Bossy told the farm animals how fun it would be to trade places with each other as an April Fool’s joke.

“That sounds like fun,” said the hen, “I’ve always wanted to be a pig and play in the mud.”

“Ok,” said Bossy, tomorrow the hens will act like pigs, and the pigs like hens.”

The cat said, “ I can pretend to be the dog.”

“Great, and the dog can act like a cat.” That left the ducks to trade places with the cows. The hens hopped into the pigpen, to be ready for tomorrow. The pigs squeezed into the hen house, and the cat slept in the doghouse.

“Ok everybody, tomorrow morning we will surprise Farmer Ron!” yelled Bossy.

In the morning, the pig tried to crow to wake up the farmer. It sounded kind of like this, “Oi R-R-R-R-oink.” Farmer Ron quickly jumped out of bed! “What was that?” he asked his wife.

“Sounds like the rooster is sick,” she replied.

At breakfast the farmer had eggs and oatmeal. Except he didn’t know his wife played an April Fool’s trick on him, she switched the sugar into the salt shaker, and put the salt in the sugar bowl. Farmer Ron put sugar on his eggs, and salt on his oatmeal. He was about to ask her why his breakfast tasted strange. It was to late to ask his wife, she was driving away on the tractor! He wondered why she would be driving the tractor to the post office.

Next he went to the barnyard to do the chores. Farmer Ron couldn’t believe it! Everything was all mixed up! He saw the hens rolling around in the mud! The pigs were in the hen house, and the cat was in the doghouse! He started his chores anyway; first he milked the quacking cows. Then he heard the barking cat, which came over to get her bowl of milk. But the dog was meowing, so he gave the bowl of milk and the can cat food to the dog instead. Farmer Ron decided to give the cat, dog food but she didn’t like the hard, crunchy dog food. The pigs were given chicken feed. The hens didn’t eat the pig slop the farmer gave them. Farmer Ron opened the gate and led the quacking cows, down to the pond. Then gave the ducks hay to eat. The ducks didn’t want hay to eat. Farmer Ron was confused; he went back to the house to think about what to do.

When Farmer Ron left the barnyard, the cows came back in the barn laughing. “We sure surprised him!” said Bossy. All the animals laughed. “Yeah, that was funny, but now I’m hungry,” said the hen. “And I’m not going to eat this pig slop!”

TO BE CONTINUED>>> 500 wd. Limit

Copyright by Jolynn Rood 2009