Monday, December 29, 2014

The Christmas Tree That Lives Forever: The Story of Annabelle Cunningham and Her Evergreen

Early Christmas Eve morning, 12-year-old Annabelle Cunningham sprang from bed and ran into the living room. 

“Dad, it’s time to get a Christmas tree!” she said at the top of her lungs, hanging her stocking by the fireplace.

Her mother had been in the kitchen baking all morning and would be there all day.

“I don’t want to spend the money. We don’t need a Christmas tree,” her father said, drinking eggnog in his armchair. “Christmas is only one day. I already arranged my Santa Clauses on the living room shelf. That’s enough decorating.”

Her father’s obsession with Santa had started years ago, and he owned every Santa in the county. He had short and tall Santa’s with big tummies, small tummies, red coats, green coats, sacks, and sleighs.

“Yes, we will get a Christmas tree and decorate it, whether you want to or not!” Annabelle said.

“Fine, fine, but the Christmas tree is coming down the day after Christmas–lights and all,” her father said.

“Try to remember that your father never had Christmas growing up,” Annabelle’s mother whispered to her. “He doesn’t know how to celebrate it. Now just go get a Christmas tree and try to be kind to him.”

Annabelle threw on her winter jacket, wool hat, and boots, and headed to her father’s green pick-up truck. As she waited for her father in the front seat, she admired her mother’s red and green holly bushes.

Earlier in the week, Annabelle had hung a wreath on the front door and strung garland on the porch. Her father meandered to the truck with his brown jacket, slammed the door shut, and started the engine. 

“The truck probably won’t make it to the Christmas tree farm,” her father said, pulling out of the driveway. “The roads are slippery. I spent all morning shoveling the snow from the driveway, and you never know when you’ll hit ice.”

Annabelle hummed “O Christmas Tree” to herself on the car ride, ignoring her father’s humbug. “That’s my tree!” Annabelle said, jumping from the truck as her father pulled up to the Christmas tree farm. She pointed to the largest Christmas tree in the lot and ran to its side in knee-high snow.

“How did I let you talk me into this?” her father said, shaking his head as he got out of the truck. He swung an axe over his shoulder and kicked the snow with his feet as he walked toward Annabelle.

“Timber!” her father yelled as he swung at the base of the tall, plump evergreen tree. 

“Let me help you with that!” said the manager of the Christmas tree farm. He wore heavy work gloves. 

As the tree fell on its side, he grabbed the trunk and pulled it all the way to the pick-up truck on a sled.

“I can’t believe you made me cut down a Christmas tree!” Annabelle’s father said, handing the manager a wad of cash. The manager threw the Christmas tree on the back of the pickup truck and tied it down with ropes. 

“Scrooge was visited by three ghosts because he was so stingy,” she said to her dad, climbing in the front seat. Annabelle hummed “O Christmas Tree” all the way back to her house, remembering Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

When Mr. Cunningham stopped in the driveway, Annabelle swung open her door and ran to the evergreen.

“I’m going out back to chop wood for the wood stove. Two days from now I’ll be chopping your tree,” her father said.

“This will be the Christmas tree that lives forever!” Annabelle called to him, climbing on the back of the truck. “My beautiful evergreen Christmas tree is not going to burn in your stupid wood stove in the basement!” she said.

“Oh, let me help you with that, honey,” Annabelle’s mother said, walking out the front door with her gardening gloves. Annabelle and her mom pulled the tree into the living room and propped it up on its side until they attached a tree stand. 

Then Annabelle watered the tree stand and carefully arranged the red tree skirt at the base of the evergreen. As she strung caramel popcorn and cranberries through a needle, she watched “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on TV. 

“Sam the Snowman saves Christmas!” she said, singing along to “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and “Silver and Gold.”

“I feel like I’m saving Christmas,” Annabelle said, eating a few more popcorn than she strung on the string. 

By dinnertime, Annabelle had perfected her Christmas tree with every type of decoration imaginable. She hung toy soldiers, Christmas balls, snowflakes, tinsel, angels, white and colored lights, and a star on top.

The Christmas tree stood proud and tall all Christmas Eve day and Christmas Day without losing a limb. It hovered over presents as they were wrapped and unwrapped and re-wrapped to give away to someone else. Of course, Annabelle would never give a Christmas gift away, but Mr. Cunningham was another story. 

Since he was too stingy to buy Christmas gifts in the first place, he re-wrapped presents given to him to give away. One year, Mr. Cunningham re-wrapped the gift that Annabelle gave him to give back to her—a singing reindeer head. 

She felt sad that her dad didn’t keep the gift and hid it under her bed for the annual holiday season. Since the singing reindeer head could be programmed to say anything, Annabelle had it greet her neighborhood friends. Similar to the Christmas tree, her father thought the reindeer made too much noise and frequently took out its battery. 

“I’m throwing the Christmas tree in the wood stove first thing tomorrow morning,” her father said, turning off its lights. 

“You are not burning my Christmas tree to a pulp!” Annabelle said, throwing up her hands. Then her father moaned, grabbed his axe, and went in the back yard to chop wood until his hands bled. Her mother went into the kitchen to bake another pie or cake or cookies for the neighbors. 

“I’m going to save Christmas once and for all,” Annabelle whispered to herself after her parents left the room.

Early the next morning, before her father woke up, Annabelle carried the tree into the front yard. She planted the Christmas tree with all its decorations right in front of the house for everyone to see. 

Then she ran an extension cord from the garage to plug in the shining Christmas lights. 

“Snow will water you until it rains,” Annabelle said to the Christmas tree, watching the neighbors gather round.

“Are you kidding me?” Mr. Cunningham said, walking out the front door with his axe. 

“Put the axe away!” the neighbors said to Mr. Cunningham. “It’s only the day after Christmas.”

“The electric bill to light this tree is going to be enormous!” Mr. Cunningham said, slamming the door.

“It’s going to be Christmas all year long, and that’s the only way it’s going to be!” Annabelle said. Her father sighed, looked at her and the neighbors in utter disbelief, and went back inside the house.

From then on, Annabelle decorated her evergreen as the seasons changed throughout the year. She hung glass hearts at Valentine’s Day, four-leaf clovers at St. Patrick’s Day, Easter eggs at springtime, American flags at the Fourth of July, Jack-O-Lanterns at Halloween, and Turkeys at Thanksgiving. Annabelle celebrated Christmas all year long, and so did her Scroogey father, even if he didn’t like it.


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

Dedicated to my dad, John Waters, who likes to drink eggnog, read Dickens, collect Santa Clauses, plant Christmas trees in the front yard, and re-gift singing reindeer heads.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Lewis the Christmas Bear: The Story of a Teddy and His Girl

There once was a brown bear named Lewis who was sewn together by Mrs. Santa Claus. Of course, this was a very special bear, and Mrs. Claus only had time to make one bear like him a year.

“Love is sewn in every stitch of your fabric,” Mrs. Claus said to Lewis, patting his tummy. “Now go find the children who need you the most on Christmas Eve,” she said with a chuckle.

No one but Mrs. Claus, not even her husband, knew that she had sewn magic healing power into his nose. If Mr. Claus knew that she had done this, he would insist that she do nothing but make healing teddies. Mrs. Claus had a laundry list of essential duties to keep the toy factory running and prepare for Christmas. She even had to clean up after the elves that tended to leave projects half-finished and unpainted.

Between the hustle and bustle, she hardly had a moment to have a cup of tea or a Christmas cookie. However, she knew that the world needed at least one magic Christmas teddy a year to spread healing.

Any child who had sickness or loneliness would only have to hug Lewis and be well. If Lewis rubbed his nose on a child’s cheek, magic healing tingles would go from the child’s head to toes, and the child would be healed by morning, good as a new bouncing ball. 

On Christmas Eve, Mrs. Claus snuck Lewis into her husband’s big, crimson toy sack.

“There is a special someone waiting for you,” Mrs. Claus whispered to Lewis.

She winked at him as she tightened his bow tie and brushed his fabric one last time. Then Mr. Claus grabbed his sack and swung it over his shoulder on the way to his sleigh.

“Ho, ho, ho! I can’t keep Rudolph waiting any longer,” Mr. Claus said, kissing Mrs. Claus on the cheek. 

As the sleigh took off into the crisp, snowy air, Lewis peeked at Rudolph’s shining nose. Peeking a little longer than he should have, Lewis almost fell from the sleigh into the night sky. He grabbed the tassel on the red bag and pulled himself back into the sack, only to be crunched by a soldier. 

“Ouch!” Lewis said. “I’m only a teddy bear. Please be gentle with my fluffy body.”

One house after another, Mr. Claus jumped down the chimney, and Lewis remained stuffed in the bag. Mr. Claus picked a train, puzzle, doll, or even a picture book for the children in each of the homes. 

When Mr. Claus grabbed Lewis, he looked at him and said: “Ho, ho, ho! Aren’t you last year’s model? How did you get in here anyway? I can’t give you out again this year. Merry Christmas! Ho, ho, ho!”

Despite Lewis’ tender cotton skin, Mr. Claus shoved him back into his large red sack. Lewis sat on the bottom of the sack, wondering if he would have to wait until next year to meet any children. Rubbing his tummy, he felt like he had failed Mrs. Claus, who had carefully crafted him.  When Mr. Claus landed on the last roof of the night, it appeared to be a large building with many rooms.

As Mr. Claus crawled from the fireplace, Lewis spied from a hole in the sack, realizing it was a hospital ward. From the corner bed, Lewis heard a girl crying and praying: "God, please send your angels to heal me. My family is so sad that I am sick at Christmas, and they don’t know what to do. Please help me feel better.”

Lewis didn’t wait for Mr. Claus to take him from the sack and give him to the pale-sickly girl. He pulled himself up the side of the red bag an inch at a time until he finally reached the top. The teddy bear jumped from the sack, tiptoed over to her bed, and crawled into her tiny arms. As starlight shone through the window, her tears covered his body, but slowly she started to feel better.

“My name is Lewis,” the teddy bear whispered to the girl as he rubbed his velvet nose on her cheek. “My nose is full of Christmas magic that makes all children feel better,” he said to his girl. Her body tingled from head-to-toe, and she became warm all over, like a big cup of cinnamon apple cider. “You’re going to feel a lot better in the morning,” Lewis said to her, wrapping his arms around her.

“My name is Bernice. I'm 10 years old,” she said to him. “I already feel better, much better than I have in days.”

By the time Mr. Claus finished passing out the toys to the children in the ward, Bernice was fast asleep. Mr. Claus climbed up the chimney and returned home to Mrs. Claus with an empty pack and tired reindeer. In the morning, doctors and nurses gathered at Bernice’s bedside with raised eyebrows. 

“Mr. Claus brought Lewis the Christmas Bear to me last night. Lewis told me I would be well," Bernice said. No one knew what to say, especially Bernice’s parents who cried tears of joy at her complete healing. “I’m going to share Lewis with all the children in the hospital ward, so they can feel better, too,” she whispered to herself.

By Christmas evening, Lewis had rubbed his magic nose on every child’s cheek in the hospital ward. Bernice had made sure that all the children were well and kept the Christmas magic in his nose a secret from the grown-ups. 

The day after Christmas, she went home with Lewis tucked in her knapsack, promising to feed him rice pudding. “Do you have a sweet tooth? My mom makes the best cinnamon rice pudding. It doesn’t take long to make.”

"Thank you very much indeed. I would like to have a tummy full of pudding," Lewis said, patting his stomach.

Every month after that, Bernice visited the hospital ward with Lewis, rubbing his nose on children’s cheeks. She was so glad to be his girl and for him to be her teddy; she would love him forever.


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

Dedicated to author C.S. Lewis for his baptized imagination. Inspired by Lewis' "The Horse and His Boy" and his love for rice pudding.

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Turtle Who Became a Princess: The Story of Starfish that Fell Straight from Heaven

Once there was a turtle that had a very heavy shell. She wore the shell on her back everywhere she went. It was there since the first day she was born. Everyone told her that she needed it to protect herself. More than anything, she wished she could get rid of it. Then one day the turtle met a mermaid on the beach. 

“I was once a turtle, but lost my shell on the ocean floor,” the mermaid said. “Some days, I wish I had it back. It’s easy to hide in a shell.”

“I would give anything to lose mine,” the turtle said. 

“Well, if that’s the case, swim to the bottom of the ocean,” the mermaid said. “Any turtle can change if he or she wants to change . . . Eat as many starfish as you can, and you’ll surely lose your shell.”

“Why starfish?” the turtle asked, wondering what made them special.

“Long, long ago, starfish fell straight from heaven in a meteorite shower,” the mermaid said. “Since they were once shooting stars, they hold great and mighty magic . . . but you must be warned, there are sharks in the ocean who want their magic, too, for evil reasons.”

“It can’t be that hard. How many starfish does a turtle have to eat?” the turtle asked. 

“I wanted to become a princess, but gave up,” she said, flopping her mermaid tail on the ground. “At least I tried, but I wasn’t determined enough and only ate enough starfish to become a mermaid. Being a mermaid is better than being a turtle, but if I had legs . . . then I’d be able to run and climb. Instead, I’ve been stuck in the ocean my entire life, never to walk on the sand.”

“Then I’ll eat as many starfish as I can, and I’ll never give up!” the turtle said.

So, the turtle dove into the raging ocean waves, remembering the mermaid’s fate. Despite the fierce ocean, the turtle swam to the sea floor in search of the pointy fishes. She ate one sparkling starfish after another, even when she wasn’t hungry. When the sharks came swooping past to eat the starfish first, the turtle hid in its shell.

After the turtle ate every starfish in sight, she paused, wondering why she still had her shell. Then she saw one last starfish from the corner of her eye and dove to catch it.

As she caught it in her mouth, a shark chomped on one of its many pointy legs. Scared of being eaten by the shark, the turtle wanted to swim away and forget her dream. Looking at its great white teeth, the turtle remembered its promise to the mermaid to never give up.

With all her strength, the turtle wrestled with the shark and wished to shed her shell once and for all. The last thing the turtle wanted to do was die in the mouth of an evil shark. 

Then a sudden gush of water sent the turtle spinning across the ocean floor with the starfish in its mouth. The wave sent the shark spinning in the other direction, giving the turtle enough time to eat the starfish. She swallowed the starfish, and then stared in the direction of the shark. As she looked the shark straight in the face, a light rose from her back, blinding the shark.

The light was so strong that it broke off her shell, and she grew a human body with long arms and legs. She used those arms and legs to swim as fast as she could to the top of the sea. When she got to the shore, she stood up straight and tall, running to the mermaid.

“I’m free of my shell! I never gave up. I ate every starfish on the ocean floor!” she said. Her long blond hair blew in the wind, and she breathed deeply. 

“I’m sure I’m a princess. Now I must find my prince,” she said, sighing.

“Or maybe he’ll find you,” the mermaid said, nodding to an admiring sailor docking his boat. “Tell him your name is Princess Yeruti and that it means turtledove. Your shell became almost like wings—to free you to soar for your dreams.”

“Beautiful lady, would you like to ride the waves with me?” the gentleman called. 

“Yes, I would like that very much,” the princess said to the suitor.

“I will never forget you,” the princess whispered to the mermaid. “Thank you so much.” 

Princess Yeruti and the handsome sailor set off into the sunset, hand in hand. She tried to tell him that she was once a turtle, but he never believed her for a second. 


Copyright 2017 Jennifer Waters

Friday, November 21, 2014

Angel Food Cake Ice Cream Truck: The Story of Celeste Peterson and a Crowd of Strangers

“Oh no! The ice cream melted!” said the father of 11-year-old Celeste Peterson. 

On the warm December day, John Peterson leaned against the door of his rainbow-painted Ice Cream Truck. It sat in the driveway of his brown brick home, dripping with desserts. The wiring in the freezer had frizzled and left him with nothing but a river of cream and sugar. 

“I’m the Ice Cream Truck Man! My ice cream can’t melt away,” he said, adjusting his red-striped hat. Celeste shrugged her shoulders, licking two melting popsicles at once. 

“Now I have nothing to sell to the children today,” Mr. Peterson said to Celeste.

“It’s already harder to sell ice cream in the winter. It’s usually so cold outside!” he said, enjoying the winter sunshine. “It’s going to cost me a bundle to pay to fix the freezer. There will be no money left for Christmas gifts.”

Every Saturday afternoon, neighborhood children gathered at his truck when they heard its jingle. 

“Well, Dad, the next best thing to ice cream is angel food cake,” Celeste said. “Angels eat angel food cake. I think there might even be angels in the cake . . .”

“Angels in the cake? What are you talking about, Celeste?” her dad said, mopping up the truck.

“I’m going to make you angel food cakes, so you can sell them and pay to fix the freezer!” she said. “We’ll still have money left for Christmas gifts. Maybe we’ll meet some angels if we fill the truck with cakes.”

Celeste ran into her father’s kitchen and pulled the mixer from the lower cabinet. She mixed into the bowl the main ingredients: sugar, flour, egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Then she sent the mixer arms spinning, whipping the batter into a thick mixture. She took her rubber spatula and tasted a mouthful of the batter. 

“Umm! Yummy!” she said, sticking her nose into the mixer’s bowl. “No wonder the angels like to eat angel food cake. It’s so good that I feel like becoming an angel.”

She scraped the mixture into baking tins and placed them in the warm oven. When the angel food cake finished baking, she made sure that her father ate the first slice.

“Dad, come have a piece of cake!” Celeste called to him from the window. He had spent most of the day fiddling with the broken freezer in the ice cream truck.

“It’s wonderful!” Mr. Peterson said, sitting at the kitchen table eating a large slice of cake.

“Next weekend, we’ll sell enough angel food cake to buy a new freezer,” Celeste said.

“Who’s going to buy angel food cake from an ice cream truck in December?” her dad said in a weary voice.

“Mom would say that the angels are going to buy it. It’s angel food,” Celeste said. “Since she’s with the angels, she’ll send angels to buy the cakes,” the child said, thinking of her mom in heaven. 

Mrs. Peterson had passed away last Christmas, and Mr. Peterson had been heartbroken ever since. “I’m still going to try to fix the freezer, Celeste,” Mr. Peterson said, finishing his dessert. “Your mom would like the angel food cake; just try not to overdo it,” he said, looking at Mrs. Peterson’s picture.

“Dad, I never overdo anything, but I might have to take the week off from school,” Celeste said. 

“Your teacher will never agree to you taking the week off from school . . . will she?” he said.

“She might, because I’m baking my own miracle for the angels to come!” she said. “If I bake enough angel food cake, angels will come to help us from every part of heaven.”

Just in case Celeste was right, Mr. Peterson grabbed a pad of paper from the side desk and scratched out a quick note.

“Mrs. Rogers, Celeste has a stomachache and can’t come to school this week,” her dad wrote. Then he scribbled: “She ate too much sugar. I’m sure you understand. Yours, Mr. Peterson.”

He knew it was better not to argue with Celeste, because she would do what she wanted to do anyhow. Mr. Peterson put a stamp on his letter, popped the letter in the post, and kept tinkering with his truck.

The next day, Mrs. Rogers, Celeste’s sixth-grade teacher, called to inquire about Mr. Peterson’s letter.

“Mr. Peterson, why did you write me a letter in the mail? Most people in this century use the telephone! What’s that daughter of yours up to now? She always has some sort of magical idea in her head!” Mrs. Rogers said. 

“Celeste has just been so excited about Christmas that she ate one too many angel food cakes,” he said. “It sort of went to her head if you know what I mean. But don’t you worry about her. Merry Christmas!” 

Before Mrs. Rogers could argue with him, Mr. Peterson hung up the phone and pulled the cord from the wall. 

He stared at the angel on top of their Christmas tree, hoping Mrs. Rogers would not show up at his front door. During the next week, Celeste set about making enough angel food cakes to fill the entire ice cream truck. Mid-way through the week, Mrs. Rogers appeared unannounced, pressing her nose against the kitchen window.

“What are you doing in there, Celeste?” Mrs. Rogers said. “I don’t believe for one minute that you’re sick!”

“Of course, I’m sick!” Celeste said, putting the blender on high and turning up the Christmas carols on the radio.

“If this behavior continues, you’ll be expelled from school!” Mrs. Rogers said. “Or you’ll at least be suspended.”

“Good! Then, I can stay home and make angel food cakes,” Celeste called to Mrs. Rogers through the window. 

As a peace offering, Celeste slipped an angel food cake through the kitchen’s pet door, wrapped in aluminum foil.  

Mrs. Rogers grabbed the cake and stomped off in disgust: “I’m calling your father as soon as I get home!”

“Too bad! He pulled the phone cord from the wall,” Celeste said, singing “Angels We Have Heard On High.”

Despite Mrs. Rogers’ protest, Celeste added red and green food coloring and icing to the cakes. She even added Christmas colors of white whipped cream, red strawberries, and green mint leaves to the desserts. 

Then she carefully stacked the finished cakes one by one on top of each other in the truck. Every now and then, the cakes toppled over, and Celeste had to dust them off and restack them. On Friday night, while Celeste restacked the cakes with her dad, Mrs. Rogers came up behind her in the driveway.

Mr. Peterson put a bag on his head and hid in the ice cream truck, ducking beneath the counter next to the broken freezer.

“Child, what in the heavens have you been doing?” Mrs. Rogers said. “Home economics doesn’t start until seventh grade, and then you start with something small like garlic rolls or chocolate chip cookies. Where is your father?”

“I’m making food for the angels,” Celeste said. “Don’t you believe in angels, Mrs. Rogers?”

“I believe we have to start home economics class in the sixth grade,” Mrs. Rogers said, taking a cake from the stack. 

“Make sure you come back tomorrow morning, Mrs. Rogers, when the angels come to buy cakes!” Celeste said.

“I’ll be here, but unless you plan to grow angel wings, you better pass your math exam next week!” Mrs. Rogers said.

When Saturday morning finally came, it turned out to be a beautiful December day with an inch of snow. 

So many strangers, including Christmas carolers, visited the truck that Celeste knew they were angels. Customers from everywhere bought angel food cakes for their families, friends, and neighbors. Even Mrs. Rogers bought an angel food cake for her husband to enjoy for dessert that evening.

“Celeste, get your derrière in my classroom bright and early on Monday morning!” Mrs. Rogers said.

“Yes, Mrs. Rogers, thank you for your business,” Celeste said, as she counted every nickel in the cash drawer.

Her father made so much money from the cakes that he bought a new truck instead of fixing the broken freezer.

“I’m naming this the Angel Food Cake Ice Cream Truck,” Mr. Peterson said, displaying a picture of Celeste’s mom.

“I told you the next best thing to ice cream is angel food cake,” Celeste said, eating the cake with ice cream. 

On Christmas morning, there were enough presents beneath Celeste’s tree for everyone in the neighborhood. From then on, Celeste and Mr. Peterson sold angel food cake with ice cream and never lacked a thing.

Celeste told everyone it was because her mother sent the angels from heaven—who had their cake, and ate it, too. She even hung a sign on the new truck that said: “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

Dedicated to my grandmother, Dorothy Moyer, for her love of angel food cakes.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Orchestra's Tale: The Story of Giuseppe the Violin and Johann the Flute

Giuseppe the Violin and Johann the Flute are sick of sitting on the shelf. Years ago, famous musicians Giuseppe Tartini and Johann Sebastian Bach played the two instruments for adoring crowds. 

When retired Conductor Franz Melodia of the Luneburg Symphony Orchestra lost his funding, he could no longer put on performances for the community. 

Even his son, George, had become more interested in his electronic instruments and never played the Violin and the Flute. “Dad, I like my electric guitar,” he said. Sadly enough, if Franz could not get the Orchestra back on its feet, he would have to sell the instruments and work at the local butcher shop.

“I hate pork,” Franz said. “Pork chops, pork loin, bacon bits, pork rib, pork leg, and glazed ham. I feel like I’ve been chopped!” 

Each time Franz tried to talk to his son about learning to play Giuseppe and Johann, George put on his earphones and drowned out his father. 

“What did you say, Dad?” George said, turning up the volume. “I can’t hear you.”

Despite the Orchestra’s bleak future, Franz kept Giuseppe and Johann on his living room mantle, hoping for a financier for the Orchestra. 

Giuseppe and Johann had been sitting on the mantle for so long that dust built up in the instruments’ crevices. 

“I want to scratch an itch,” Giuseppe said, “but I can’t even do that from this shelf . . .”

“I can’t imagine how the rest of the Orchestra feels shoved into that closet,” Johann said. “Clara must be out of tune with worry . . .”

Months ago, Franz boxed up the other instruments and put them in his hall closet, including: Pablo the Piccolo, Ole the Oboe, Robert the Bassoon, Richard the Double Bassoon, Fanny the French Horn, Peter the Trumpet, David the Trombone, Antonio the Tuba, Sebastian the Saxophone, Wolfgang the Viola, Ludwig the Cello, Libby the Double Bass, Amy the Piano, Elizabeth the Harp, Arcangelo the Timpani, Frederic the Xylophone, Sergei the Cymbals, Mischa the Triangle, Gustav the Snare Drum, Niccolo the Bass Drum, Augusta the Tambourine, Ruth the Maracas, Joan the Gongs, and Jennifer the Chimes. 

Only Clara the Clarinet had broken out of her box to come visit Giuseppe and Johann on the shelf. “My love,” she said to Johann, kissing his mouthpiece. “But I must go before Franz finds me . . .” Once upon a time, she and Johann played gorgeous duets and were madly in love ever since their first solos. 


As time passed, Giuseppe and Johann decided that they would have to organize the return of the Luneburg Symphony Orchestra by themselves.

“Synthesized music is not going to destroy the Orchestra,” Giuseppe said.  

“Clara can’t live in the closet anymore,” Johann said. “True love demands that we are together.”

“When Franz and George take their annual summer vacation, we’re organizing a revival of the Orchestra,” Giuseppe said. “And that is the final note.” 

After Franz and George packed their bags for Blue Mountain Lake, Giuseppe and Johann snuck the Orchestra out of the closet to the Luneburg Symphony Concert Hall.

One at a time, the instruments slipped through the Hall’s backstage door and waited in the wings. Despite the exhausted instruments, Giuseppe demanded the Orchestra perfect enough material for an entire concert.   

“We are an Orchestra, and we are going to sound like one!” he said. “Without musicians to play us, we will play ourselves.”

At first the Orchestra sounded terrible, trying to pluck their own strings and play their own notes, but Giuseppe and Johann said: “Practice makes perfect.” 

So, the Orchestra played until they overcame their problems, and Bach’s Sonata in G minor sounded especially spectacular. Days later, when Franz and George returned from their vacation, Franz found his closet door open.

“Oh me! Oh my! The instruments are missing! Giuseppe! Johann! Where are you?” Franz cried, reaching for the phone. “Police! Get over here quick. Someone stole my Orchestra.”

“Finding an Orchestra of instruments is not going to be a priority,” the police officer said. “I have real criminals to catch!”

“I will offer a reward!” Franz said. “$2,000 to the person who finds them!”

“Are you sure the instruments are really worth $2,000, Dad?” George said, after Franz hung up the telephone.

“If I get those instruments back, I’m keeping the reward money,” he told George. “I’m selling those stupid instruments to the highest bidder and putting the past in the past.” 

In the meantime, the Orchestra hid out at the Concert Hall and advertised their upcoming Sunday afternoon show. 

“We’re never leaving the stage again!” Giuseppe said to Johann. “Never ever!”

Walking to the butcher the next morning, Franz was befuddled to find a flyer for the Sunday concert. 

“I’m buying two tickets to the Luneburg Symphony Concert Hall show,” he mumbled. “I’m going to find out who stole my instruments.”

As the Sunday performance began, Franz shifted in his seat, astounded to find his instruments playing themselves on stage to a sold-out show. 

Clenching his program, Franz could hardly sit still until the performance finished, holding George by his suspenders to keep him from rushing the stage. 

“You can’t interrupt the show, Son!” Franz whispered. “It will only make things worse.”

“But Dad, how did Giuseppe and Johann get up there without us?” George said.

“Son, I had no idea what the Orchestra was capable of performing,” Franz said, tearing up. The pitch-perfect show ended to a standing ovation with several rounds of applause.

“Do you know who that is, George?” Franz said, almost passing out when he recognized audience member Jonathan Bach II, a long-lost relative of Johann Sebastian Bach. 

Bach II clapped from the front row with his wife and three children.

“The Violin! Superb! The Flute! Divine!” Bach II cheered, taking the stage. “I will finance the Orchestra, refurbish the Concert Hall, and conduct the performances. These are my family’s instruments. They are my inheritance! Solos for Giuseppe! Duets with Johann and Clara!”

“Maybe I should learn to play the Violin and the Flute after all,” George said, curling up in his chair.

“The Orchestra has come back to life!” Franz said, running to Jonathan and hugging him in tears.

From then on, Giuseppe and Johann played beautiful music, and the whole world knew the Orchestra’s Tale.


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters

Dedicated to my great-grandfather, Robert Moyer, who played the clarinet in Brown's Church Band, and dedicated to my grandmother, Augusta Renner Graf Waters, for her Conservatory Violin.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Puppet Master: The Story of Puppets That Pulled the Master’s Strings

Once there was a Puppet Master who lived at 432 Oakwood Lane in Fantasyland. The Puppet Master’s latest creations were the characters from Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” 

At the end of the month, he would present the show at the local concert hall with an orchestra. He liked to hold rehearsals for his children every week, practicing for the upcoming event. His small blue and yellow puppet stage with a red curtain stood at the front of his workshop. Painted chairs sat in front of the stage for his two young children, Elizabeth, and Timothy.

More than any other performance, the Puppet Master had planned perfection for this show. He chiseled the faces of the lead characters with great detail and painted them with care. Then he attached the strings to their hands, legs, and body with just enough glue.

“Come to my workshop this afternoon for a practice show . . .” he told his children.

“Yes, Father,” Elizabeth and Timothy said, giddy with excitement for “The Magic Flute.”

They loved their father’s puppets more than almost anything, even store-bought toys. In fact, he had made them each a puppet that resembled their own features. Elizabeth liked hers so much, that she hardly played with it. It only hung on her bedpost. 

However, Timothy played with his so much that the strings needed to be replaced. When the afternoon’s show began, the Puppet Master had the main characters in each hand. He pulled their strings, moving them left and then right again, adjusting their heads. Behind the puppet stage, the Puppet Master mimicked voices for the characters. 

As the story went on, Elizabeth noticed that the puppets were not following her father’s directions. He would pull their hands in one direction, and they would move their feet in another. Even lesser characters like the three child-spirits, which were almost angels, did not obey. 

“Father! The puppets have minds of their own,” Elizabeth said, standing up abruptly. 

“Yes, father, I think they are purposely not doing what you want,” Timothy said. The Puppet Master stopped the show and look closely at his unruly creations. 

“Well then, we will practice another day,” he said, ushering his children to their mother. He placed his wooden characters on his workbench with their strings tangled in a mess.

Then he fell asleep sitting on his work stool, unsure how his creatures had minds of their own. When he woke up, he found himself tied with strings to his workbench, not able to move. 

“Elizabeth! Timothy! Come quickly! My puppets have bound me to my workbench!” he called. The children ran into their father’s workshop, stunned at the web made by the puppets. The wooden puppets sat lifelessly on the workbench as though they had never moved an inch.

“How did this happen, Daddy?” Elizabeth said, snipping the chords with a scissor. Timothy untangled the chords between the Puppet Master’s feet, so his father could stand up.

“Father, maybe we will have to make friends with the puppets,” Timothy said, scratching his head.

“We really don’t want them to do this on the night of ‘The Magic Flute’ performance,” he said.

“It’s quite a pickle, isn’t it?” the Puppet Master said, stretching out his arms and legs. “Maybe I will try to teach them their parts, so they can perform the roles themselves. Apparently, they don’t like taking my instructions, even if I planned the show to perfection.”

So, the Puppet Master taught his puppets everything he knew and never pulled their strings again.


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Taffy and Skippy: The Story of a Girl Who Asked the Tooth Fairy for Help

Once there were twin poodles named Taffy and Skippy, who always got into trouble. They dug in the neighbors’ flower gardens, ran into traffic, and ate the mail. 

Taffy had black fur, and Skippy had white fur, and together they looked like a Dalmatian. Seven-year-old Marie Moyer put them on short leashes and kept them close to her. 

“Sit!” Marie would say to the twins, who did the exact opposite of what she said. She still loved them anyway and hoped that they would soon learn obedience. She washed their fluffy coats and gave them tasty dog food and even human food. 

Then one day, they pulled so hard on the leashes that the leather cords snapped. Since Taffy and Skippy were stronger than Marie, she couldn’t catch them. The dogs dug under the white backyard fence and ran off into downtown. 

“Oh no!” Marie cried, grabbing her red bicycle, and pedaling after her twin poodles. “Stop!” she yelled at the poodles as they almost got hit by a truck. 

She slammed on her bike brakes, only to hear police sirens from the Dog Pound van. Taffy and Skippy barked at the nasty man from the Dog Pound with the net. 

“Wait!” Marie said. “My poodles! Don’t take them! Stop! The leashes broke!”

Before Marie could stop him, the man from the Dog Pound scooped them up in his net. He threw the poodles in the back of his van, slammed the door shut, and drove off. 

“Now I have to pay the pound!” Marie said, pedaling back to her home to get her piggy bank. When Marie arrived at her house, she grabbed a hammer from her dad’s workbench. She took it into her bedroom and slammed it on the top of her piggy bank. 

The piggy bank fell apart into many pieces and out came $23.00. She shoved the money into her pocket and pedaled to the Dog Pound as fast as she could. When she got to the Dog Pound, a crooked sign hung on the wall saying: “$12.50 per Dog.”

“I need two dollars fast!” Marie said, scratching her head and wondering where to get the money. “The Tooth Fairy to the rescue!” Marie said, remembering how the Tooth Fairy brings one dollar a tooth.

She had many baby teeth in her mouth that could be loosened sooner than originally intended. When she got back to her house, she threw her bike on the driveway and ran into the bathroom. She wiggled her two front teeth as hard as she could, back-and-forth and back-and-forth. When she finally got the teeth free from her mouth, she ran to her dad and smiled. 

“What happened to your teeth?” he said, holding her face with shock. 

“I have to get Taffy and Skippy from the pound!” Marie said, showing her dad her teeth.

“Why didn’t you just ask me for the money?” the father said, staring at her toothless smile.

“Well, I thought I would ask the Tooth Fairy! He pays a dollar a tooth,” Marie said. 

“The Tooth Fairy!” the father said. “Here’s $25. Go get those crazy poodles!”

Marie looked at her front teeth in her hand and felt silly for pulling them out. 

“Thanks Dad,” she said, kissing him on the cheek. “I should have asked you first. I was just going to write the Tooth Fairy a letter, explaining the problem . . .” 

“A letter! You were going to write the Tooth Fairy a letter about those dogs?” the father said. “Just put your teeth under your pillow tonight for the Tooth Fairy. I’m sure she’ll leave you two dollars. Your permanent teeth will grow in eventually . . .”

Marie ran into her bedroom and placed her teeth in her tiny Tooth Fairy pillow under her big pillow. Then she ran out the front door with her father’s money to get Taffy and Skippy from the Pound. She hoped people would understand why she was missing her front teeth when she smiled. Surely someone must have asked the Tooth Fairy for money in emergencies other than Marie.


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Dedicated to my mother, Darlene Waters, and her dogs Taffy and Skippy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Sandbox Giant: The Story of a Sister and Brother Who Wanted to Build Castles

Once there was a sister and brother who liked to play in the sandbox in their backyard. Their father had built the sandbox, and it was much better than digging in the dirt. They used their scoops, shovels, and pails to build castles and sculptures galore. 

Until one dark night, a thunderstorm came that was unlike other thunderstorms. It shook the house, and the lights went out; there was no electricity for hours, only candles. The mother told the children: “We should go to sleep early tonight. The sun will come out tomorrow.”

“I’ll try to sleep,” the sister said, crawling into bed, counting backwards from one hundred. Her brother was already fast asleep on the couch, as if he had never even heard the storm. 

Even though the sister tried to sleep, the storm raged outside the sister’s bedroom window. She was so scared that she ran down the hall to sleep next to her brother on the couch.

“Something’s not right! What are we going to do?” she said, waking her brother.

“What? It’s only a storm. Go to back to your room,” he said, squashing her with a pillow.

As lightning struck, he rolled over on the couch and pulled his blanket over his head. The girl climbed back into her bed, hoping the storm would end and the sun would rise. Sure enough, the next morning, the sun was shining strong and bright, not a cloud in the sky. The two children headed to the sandbox with their shovels and pails.

“Where did these come from?” the girl asked, looking at sandy footprints in the grass.

“Oh, it was just the storm last night,” the boy said, filling up his pail with moist sand.

As the girl put her feet in the sand, a fierce wind blew through the tree behind her. The sky became black, and a loud clap of thunder filled the heavens. Then the sandbox began to swirl and whirl, pulling the boy into its grip until he disappeared. 

Out of the sandbox came a very large monster made of sand that roared and growled. His face looked just like her brother, but it wasn’t him at all. The creature loomed high above the sandbox, almost as strong as brick-and-mortar.

“What happened to my baby brother? I want him back!” the girl yelled. The Sandbox Giant reached for the girl, but she escaped his grasp.

 “Momma, come quick!” she yelled, but her mother was inside cleaning the house.

“What do you want with my brother?” the girl cried, throwing her shovel at the monster.

“I want him to stop playing in the sandbox where I live!” the monster growled. 

“You don’t live here! My father built this sandbox. Go back where you came from!” the girl yelled. 

From the corner of her eye, the girl noticed the garden hose in the bushes. She dove to grab the hose, hoping she could melt the Sandbox Giant with water. As she grasped the hose, the monster lunged for her and almost caught her waist. Before he could strangle her, she sprayed the water in his face. The Sandbox Giant tried to cover himself from the stream of water. 

“No!” the monster screamed, as it slowly shrank in size. 

“Take that! Go back into the sandbox! I want my brother back!” the girl yelled.

“Honey, why are you yelling?” the mother called from the kitchen window.

“My brother is missing,” the daughter yelled to her mother, still spraying the monster with water.

“Oh, he’s just hiding,” the mother said. “Come out, come out wherever you are . . .”

When the girl turned back around, her brother was sitting in the sandbox building a castle. “What happened to you?” she said. He looked just like himself, and the awful monster was gone. 

“Nothing. What are you talking about?” he said as the girl curled the garden hose into a pile. The girl shook her head, knowing that she could never explain to anyone what she saw.

She was so glad to have her brother back and hoped to never see the Sandbox Giant again. Every stormy night until the end of time, she worried something might be wrong, and only she would know it. At least she knew how to get rid of the Sandbox Giant; he might’ve been big, but he wasn’t that strong.


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Tiny and the Magnificent Elephant: The Story of A Very Large Grocery Bill

Third grader “Tiny” Tina wanted to join the circus, or at least watch a few shows. After all, her mother had told her the circus was coming to town to perform in a big tent. Of all the animals, the elephants were supposed to be the largest and the most fun.

Since everyone laughed at Tina for being three inches shorter than she should be at 8 years old, Tina decided if she had an elephant for a pet, then everyone would be nice to her. So, her plan was to befriend the largest elephant in the circus as her new pet. Certainly, her mother would understand, since she was the one who told her the circus was in town.

When the elephants arrived on the train in the train yard, Tina knew it was her big chance. She waited until late the next night, crawled out her window, and headed for the train tracks. As she approached the train yard, she noticed a very small opening in the broken fence. Miraculously, she was able to slip through the tiny opening and run to the elephants. 

Most people wouldn’t have been small enough to fit through the opening. Not “Tiny” Tina, she was about as big as a peanut that elephants ate with their curly snouts. She was so tiny that no one even noticed her in the train yard, because she didn’t make a sound. As Tina approached the train car, she saw a purple tail sticking out the door. She climbed up the steps on the train car and tugged at the tail until the elephant woke up.

“Come home with me! I could use a new pillow at night,” Tina whispered to the elephant. “We could go for walks through the fields in the day, and you could lift me to pick apples from the trees.”

“Do you have a big backyard?” the elephant asked in a deep voice. 

“Yes, in fact we have a whole acre where we could play!” Tina said.

“I’m tired of riding bicycles for cheering crowds. I don’t like standing on my head,” the elephant said. “I especially don’t like balancing balls or jumping through rings of fire. You’re much nicer than the nasty Circus Trainer who cracks his whip at us.”

The elephant roared and stamped his feet on the train car, shaking the entire train on the tracks.

“Yeah! Hooray!” Tina said, pulling the elephant’s tail again. “I think I will name you Charley, the Magnificent Elephant! We’ll be best friends!”

Charley swung open the train door with his snout and lifted Tina on his back. He stomped out of the train car onto the ground, waking up all the other animals. The purple elephant looked left and then right, and the Circus Trainer was nowhere to be seen. 

“Where are you going?” Tina said, grabbing Charley’s flying ears. “My home is three blocks down the street.”

“The rest of the circus animals are coming with us!” Charley said. “I can’t leave them here alone.”

One by one, Charley shook loose the rest of the animals on the train, and Tina held on tight. By the end of the night, the circus animals were behind Charley in a straight line. The circus marched two-by-two down the street: unicorns, horses, lions, giraffes, and tigers. 

Then came the camels, kangaroos, monkeys, seals, ostriches, leopards, llamas, and grizzly bears. When the circus reached Tina’s house, all the animals except Charley crept quietly into the backyard. 

Instead, Charley slipped through the window of Tina’s bedroom and landed right on her bed. Then Tina crawled through the window and climbed on Charley’s back—he was softer than a pillow. Two seconds later, the entire bed crumbled onto the floor, causing a crack in the wall. 

“What’s going on in here?” Tina’s mother ran into the bedroom crying. “Oh my gosh! There’s an elephant in the room! Where did he come from?”

“I just set him free from the circus. All the other circus animals are in the backyard, too!” Tina said. Tina’s mother peered out the bedroom window to find the animals munching on her vegetable garden.

“Can we keep the circus animals? Please! They really need a home with a nice family,” Tina said.

“Oh, I suppose . . . I should have never told you the circus was coming to town . . .” Tina’s mother sighed. “Maybe we could sell tickets and get our money back because it’s going to be a very large grocery bill.”


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters