Wednesday, September 23, 2015


Lewis is a magic teddy bear that can bring healing and happiness to any child who hugs him. Now if only Santa Claus would take him out of the bag on Christmas Eve and give him to a child so he can fulfill his special mission.

There once was a brown bear named Lewis who was sewn together by Mrs. Santa Claus, with magic healing power in his nose. Any child who has sickness or loneliness would only have to hug Lewis to be well and happy. But at one house after another, Lewis remains stuffed in Mr. Claus’s big red bag because he thinks Lewis is last year’s model. Lewis wonders with a sigh if he will have to wait until next year to meet any children. On the last roof of the night, Lewis spies from a hole in the sack and realizes they are in a hospital ward. After jumping from Santa’s sack, Lewis tells a sick 10-year-old girl named Bernice that he has Christmas magic healing power in his nose. In the morning her parents cry tears of joy at her complete healing. By Christmas evening, Bernice makes sure that Lewis hugs all the children in the hospital ward, sharing the Christmas magic in his nose. She keeps the magic a secret from the grown-ups and promises to visit the hospital ward with Lewis every month, rubbing his nose on children’s cheeks. She is Lewis’ girl, and he is her teddy.

Once upon a time, there was a brown bear named Lewis who was made by Mrs. Santa Claus. No one but Mrs. Claus knows that she has sewn magic healing power into his nose. Mrs. Claus has a laundry list of essential duties to keep the toy factory running and prepare for Christmas, but she knows that the world needs at least one magic Christmas teddy a year to spread healing. Any child who has sickness or loneliness would only have to hug Lewis to be well and happy. 

On Christmas Eve, Mrs. Claus sneaks Lewis into her husband’s big, crimson toy sack. At one house after another, Mr. Claus jumps down the chimney, and Lewis remains stuffed in the bag. He thinks Lewis is last year’s model. Lewis sits on the bottom of the sack, wondering with a sigh if he would have to wait until next year to meet any children. The last roof of the night is a hospital ward. Lewis hears a girl crying and praying. The teddy bear jumps from the sack, tiptoes over to her bed, and crawls into the pale, sickly, 10-year-old girl’s tiny arms. Lewis tells her that he has Christmas magic healing power in his nose. Her body tingles from head-to-toe, and she becomes warm all over, like a big cup of cinnamon apple cider. In the morning, doctors and nurses and her parents gather at Bernice’s bedside, full of joy at her complete healing. 

By Christmas evening, Lewis has rubbed his magic nose on every child’s cheek in the hospital ward. Bernice makes sure that all the children are well and keeps the Christmas magic in his nose a secret from the grown-ups. The day after Christmas, she goes home with Lewis tucked in her knapsack, promising to feed him rice pudding. Every month after that, Bernice visits the hospital ward with Lewis, rubbing his nose on children’s cheeks. She is so glad to be his girl and for him to be her teddy; she will love him forever.

Copyright 2022 Jennifer Waters

Series of Lewis the Christmas Bear stories:

1.     Lewis is sent to the rest of the world through Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, and he arrives in a hospital ward to help heal a sickly British girl named Bernice. Then he spreads Christmas tingles through his nose everywhere he goes, trying to bring healing to the world. 

2.     Lewis builds an igloo in Bernice’s front lawn, and he explains it’s his new home-away-from-home. Bernice’s family and the neighbors would rather he live inside Bernice’s house like everyone else in the neighborhood, especially because his little castle will melt during the summertime season. 

3.     Eager to give gifts during the wintertime lull, Lewis wraps random things in Bernice’s parents’ house and gives them away to neighbors and friends. Bernice’s parents try to explain to Lewis that it is no longer Christmas, and they want to get their belongings back, but they aren’t very successful at reclaiming their possessions. All-the-while everyone has a good laugh, and Lewis continues to heal everyone he meets with tingles in his nose. 

4.     Trying to be helpful, Lewis cooks rice pudding in Bernice’s kitchen, and he makes a terrible mess, breaking kitchen dishes and burning the pudding. Bernice’s parents are very upset, but instead of fighting with Lewis, they teach him to cook the rice pudding properly, so he can eat it anytime he wants, not just Christmas Eve. 

5.     Lewis discovers a London toy store with Bernice, and he is sure that Mr. Claus made all the toys in the store, and he is temporarily captured by the toy store owner who insists that Lewis is for-sale, but then Bernice rescues Lewis, and they decide to never go into a toy store again. Instead, Lewis is determined that the toys are given to the children of the world for free, so he asks Mr. Claus to take the toys back from the store and give them to children mid-Christmas season.

6.     Lewis visits a library with Bernice, and he reads stories about other famous bears, and he insists that a book must be written about him to spread Christmas cheer. So, he sets about writing a picture book about himself. The librarian doesn’t accept the book at first, but then she gives up when he brings her some rice pudding as a bribe, and Bernice promises to bring extra friends to weekly story-hour.

7.     Lewis learns to play the piano in attempt to play Christmas carols for holiday sing-a-longs. So he practices the piano day-and-night, and Bernice’s family has to wear ear plugs and sleep with their heads under the pillows. Once Lewis starts playing the piano, he won’t stop for anything other than eating rice pudding. He also sings along with his piano playing. His singing is sometimes off-key, but he is sure he is ready for Christmas sing-a-longs during the upcoming season. 

8.     Eager to keep Christmas all year long, Lewis decorates Bernice’s house and insists that the decorations not be taken down. Any decorations that Bernice’s parents take down, Lewis puts them right back up until Bernice and her family give up. They decide that it’s easier to go along with Lewis’ enthusiasm instead of arguing with him. They just ask if he could at least rotate the decorations to the proper holiday season, according to the normal calendar year. 

9.     Lewis turns on the TV for the first time to find all kinds of troublesome programs, but he enjoys the 24-hour Christmas music station, which he now plays constantly and recommends to all his new friends with his own advertising campaign. Bernice introduces him to the pop songs on the radio, but he thinks they are boring compared to holiday jingles. 

10.  Lewis mistakes the washer and the dryer as devices that he can use to wash and dry himself. He invites the dogs and cats in the neighborhood over to give the machines a try. His favorite is the dryer because it is so warm and cuddly, and he can fluff himself up and look his best, tying a red Christmas ribbon around himself when he is clean. When he asks Bernice to try hopping in the washer and dryer, her parents have a fit, and Lewis is banned from using the machines again. 

11.  Lewis borrows the family car and takes a spin through the London neighborhood, accidentally denting the bumper and getting ticket the police. Bernice’s parents think she decided to drive the car illegally, and she is grounded until Lewis humbly apologizes for his wrong doing. He promises to get them a new bumper for Christmas and pay the police fine.

12.  Lewis explores London as a tourist and gets stuck on the clock hands of Big Ben. He goes round and round the clock face until the British police free him and send him home to Bernice and her family who had been looking for him all day. He simply explains that he was counting the minutes until Christmas. 

13.  Lewis goes grocery shopping with Bernice and her mom, and he enjoys the dessert section too much, eating up the whole aisle, thinking it was a pre-Christmas feast, and Bernice defends him to the grocery store owner until her mother can calm the owner down and write a check for the gobbled-up desserts. 

14.  Lewis opens the ice box for the first time and loves it so much he wants to sleep there because it reminds him of the North Pole. Bernice’s family can’t get him to sleep in a bed with a pillow again, and they are worried that he will freeze to the ice box with the ice cubes and frozen meat. After getting a bit frost bitten, he warms himself with the hair dryer and cuddles with Bernice. 

15.  Lewis bonds with the new family dog that he tries to ride like a Christmas reindeer. He even dresses him in antlers and a Christmas sweater until Bernice explains that a dog is not a reindeer and Lewis, and her new dog must be friends. 

16.  Almost lit by a birthday candle, Lewis bursts out of a birthday cake for Bernice at her 11th party, telling her that birthdays are the closest thing to Christmas, and he plans to help celebrate birthdays all year long. 

17.  Lewis dumps bubbles into the bathtub and hops in for a soak when he forgets to turn off the faucet and water runs out the bathroom into the hall. After looking at the mess, he decides it’s never too soon to clean up for Christmas. He undertakes a huge house cleaning, and Bernice’s family is shocked and thrilled at the results.

18.  Lewis rides the Tube, asking the passengers what they want for Christmas, especially the children, because he says that their requests should be filed with Mr. Claus by the end of summer at latest. He gets kicked off the Tube for soliciting, but he thinks he’s done enough good to spread the word. 

19.  Lonely, Lewis writes Mr. and Mrs. Claus a long letter, explaining that London is more difficult of a place than he expected, and if Mr. Claus could bring some back-up friends during the next Christmas Eve run, Lewis would very much appreciate some help in England. He done all he can do but feels that Bernice and her family might be more enthusiastic about celebrating Christmas if Mrs. Claus could send him some friends. In the meantime, he starts Christmas shopping for Bernice and her family. 

20.  After much turmoil with a terrible winter storm that almost cancels Christmas, Mr. Claus arrives at Bernice’s house late on Christmas Eve with new five friends for Lewis and Bernice that were handmade by Mrs. Claus: a Christmas girl bear named Joyful, a Christmas donkey named Rascal, a Christmas lamb named Kindness, a Christmas dove named Blue Eyes, and a Christmas elephant Big Ears. Although the sleigh ride was tough, Lewis welcomes his new friends with rice pudding around the fireplace with Bernice and her family.

Copyright 2022 Jennifer Waters

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Man Around the Corner: The Story of Coral Graf and a Homeless Cardboard Box

“Here’s your daily cup of coffee,” nine-year-old Coral Graf said to The Man Around the Corner. 

Since the summertime, Coral had been giving The Man Around the Corner a cup of coffee from her family’s Jewish deli. When he moved into the neighborhood in his cardboard box, it was warmer, but the wintertime had been frightful.

“Thanks, Coral. Don’t be late for school. Run along,” The Man Around the Corner said, sitting in his cardboard box. He pulled his scarf around his neck and shut the door to his small home on the New York City street corner. 

Snowflakes fell from the winter sky and blew into his box in sudden gusts, causing him to shiver. 

“I’m worried that the snow is going to soak through your cardboard box,” Coral said, giving him her pennies.

“Now I can go buy soup for lunch,” he said as she dumped the change into his open guitar case.

Every day, The Man Upstairs dropped pennies through the heating vent in Coral’s family apartment. The pennies collected in her tin can under the vent, and Coral promised The Man Upstairs to give them away. Coral knew that even a gift as small as a penny had the ability to change someone’s circumstance for the good.

“I don’t understand why other people are not giving you money,” Coral said, peering at The Man Around the Corner. “The change in your guitar case is mostly from The Man Upstairs. What is wrong with everyone?”

“I’ll see you on your walk home from school later today,” The Man Around the Corner said, coughing.

“Okay, but I don’t think soup is going to be enough for you to eat. We’ll talk about this later,” Coral said.

After school when Coral was walking home, she came across a man with a bullhorn, and his voice carried for blocks.

“No more bullets,” he yelled, as he protested gun violence in public schools and asked for stricter regulations.

“Where did you get that speaker? Can I borrow it, please?” Coral said, grabbing it from the protestor in the snowstorm. 

“Hey! I didn’t say you could have my bullhorn! Fine, keep it. Maybe your voice needs to be heard,” he said, shouting.

As Coral approached The Man Around the Corner, she spoke into the bullhorn, and it reached her parents’ windows. 

“Give to The Man Around the Corner! Give now! Stop walking past him, pretending that you don’t see him!” Coral said.

As Coral protested with her bullhorn, snowflakes stacked on the sidewalk. “Soon I can build an igloo,” she said.

“Is that Coral?” Mr. Graf said, opening the apartment window and sticking his head out the window in the snowstorm.

“The Man Around the Corner needs your help! I gave him my pennies from The Man Upstairs,” Coral announced. “The rest of the neighborhood needs to contribute, so he can move from his homeless cardboard box. I am living with The Man Around the Corner until the neighborhood moves him from his current home. You can put your pennies in his guitar case. I don’t want to hear any more excuses from anyone. Give!”

“She is absolutely not living with him!” Mrs. Graf said, grabbing her winter coat and food from the refrigerator.

“Coral, I’m sure your mom and dad won’t let you live with me,” The Man Around the Corner said, sneezing. “Several people are angry that I’m even taking up space on the street corner, but I have nowhere else to go.”

“I can’t believe that people would walk past your cardboard box,” she said, tossing her book bag in his home.

“What are you studying in school? I learned this stuff years ago,” he said to Coral, paging through her math book.

“If The Man Upstairs ever gave you anything, you’d keep it for yourselves,” Coral said through the bullhorn. “You are selfish and mean. You need to think about other people and their lives and feelings.”

“I’ve met The Man Upstairs, and he does give me wads of cash when I’m hungry,” The Man Around the Corner said. 

“Really? I’ve never met him in person,” Coral said to The Man Around the Corner. “We talk through the heating vent.”

Thanks to Coral’s tenacity, spare change and dollars bills piled up in The Man Around the Corner’s open guitar case.

“Well, we’re making progress,” Coral said, counting the money that fell into the instrument casing.

Then Coral looked up to see her mother and father standing in front of her with a tray full of food from the family deli.

“Coral, what in the world are you doing?” Mr. Graf said, handing The Man Around the Corner a brisket sandwich. 

“We can hear you all the way down the street from the apartment,” Mrs. Graf said, holding a bag of desserts.

“He can’t live out here in the cardboard box anymore. Can he come home with us?” Coral said to her parents. “We’ve been getting more donations in the guitar case, but I think he needs a job at the family deli.”

“Yes, he can come home with us,” Mr. Graf said, looking at his wife with compassion. “It’s too cold outside.”

“Maybe he can help your dad in the deli with the meats,” Mrs. Graf said. “We always need help with the display case.”

“Good! You can stay with us until The Man Upstairs gives you enough pennies to move into your own place,” Coral said, hugging The Man Around the Corner. “We’ll have fun! I watch cartoons on Saturday morning and eat desserts.”

“Thank you so much, Coral,” The Man Around the Corner said, crawling from his soggy cardboard box. 

“I knew my pennies were enough to change even the worst situation,” Coral said, walking back to her warm apartment. 

As Coral’s parents and The Man Around the Corner walked with Coral in the snow, she looked at her empty tin can, knowing it would soon be full again.


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Sequel to "The Man Upstairs: The Story of Coral Graf and Pennies from a Tin Can" (1/3/15), "The Man Downstairs: The Story of Coral Graf and Her Missing Pennies" (7/13/15), "The Man Next Door: The Story of Coral Graf and the Neighborhood Pennies" (8/5/15), and "The Man Across the Street: The Story of Coral Graf, a Hanukkah Miracle, and the Landlord with a Cigar" (9/10/15).

Dedicated to my grandmother, Augusta Renner Graf Waters. 

The Man Across the Street: The Story of Coral Graf, a Hanukkah Miracle, and the Landlord with a Cigar

“Why doesn’t The Man Across the Street have the Hanukkah candles burning in his window?” Coral Graf whispered.

She sat with her feet propped up on a family bookshelf, eating her third fried cranberry sauce jelly doughnut. 

“Doesn’t he celebrate miracles?” Coral said, watching him from her Upper East Side New York City apartment.

“Thanks, I like my Hanukkah gift, Dad,” Coral said to him, playing with her hand-painted set of dreidels.

As she grabbed the family binoculars, she watched her neighbor eat burnt rice and beans without any pastries for dessert. 

“I think he’s been having trouble paying the rent for a while,” Mr. Graf said to her nine-year-old daughter. 

“Everyone knows the miracle of Hanukkah! The oil burned for eight days! Maybe he needs extra money for candles. Tomorrow, I will take him pennies from The Man Upstairs so he can light a menorah for the holiday,” Coral said. “It’s almost like paying the rent. If the oil could keep burning, then there will be enough money to pay the rent.”

“Honey, that’s very thoughtful,” Mrs. Graf said. “Just make sure to watch out for the landlord. He smokes a nasty cigar.”

Coral grabbed her tin can from underneath the apartment’s heating vent where The Man Upstairs dropped pennies. He had been dropping pennies for so long that Coral got used to his generosity and knew the power of small miracles.

Of course, The Man Upstairs expected that Coral would always give her pennies away to help others. In the morning, Coral went by her dad’s Jewish deli and bought a box of double chocolate glazed doughnut holes.

She grabbed a couple extra breakfast treats from the glass display in the front of the deli and shoved them in her pockets.

“What if The Man Across the Street doesn’t own a menorah?” Coral asked herself. “My pennies will have to multiply!”

Then she rang the buzzer for the apartment of The Man Across the Street and waited for him to respond. Instead of talking through the speaker, he opened the window and called to Coral: “Come on up kid. Good to see you!”

He buzzed her through the door, and she walked up the stairs to his 10th floor apartment with her tin can full of pennies. When she got to the door, she knocked while finishing a pumpkin pie rugelach and Hanukkah marshmallow dreidels.

“Just thought I would stop by for a visit,” Coral said, as The Man Across the Street opened the door.

“Where are your parents, kid?” The Man Across the Street said, looking over her shoulder for Mr. and Mrs. Graf.

“It’s Hanukkah, but they’re still at work. I’m off from school,” Coral said, handing him the box of doughnut holes. “I wanted to give you my tin can of pennies from The Man Upstairs so that you could buy candles to burn.”

“Thanks, kid. I’ll go get candles today. Since you have so much time on your hands, you can come with me,” he said. “There are still seven nights left of Hanukkah. Do you own a menorah?” Coral said to The Man Across the Street.

“I’ve got my family menorah under the bed,” he said to her, sighing. “But I haven’t had money to pay rent for months. The landlord is furious at me, and I’m afraid that he’s going to come after me with his nasty smelling cigar.”

“Well, I definitely have enough money in my tin can for candles. Then you have a menorah . . . Maybe if we burn the menorah in the window, the landlord will see the miracle, and the rent will get paid,” Coral said, scheming in her head.

“Sure kid, whatever you think,” The Man Across the Street said. “Let’s go get some candles at the Dollar Store.”

As Coral and The Man Across the Street walked down the stairs, the landlord happened to be walking up the stairs. 

“What is the awful smell?” Coral said, sneezing and wheezing. “It’s sure smoke up my nose . . .”

When Coral and the landlord with a cigar met face to face, she had no choice but ask him to put out his large cigarette.

“Who lit that awful thing for you?” Coral said, grabbing it from him and snuffing it out beneath her heel. “We’re going to the Dollar Store and buying candles with the pennies from The Man Upstairs to celebrate Hanukkah.”

“Good for you. Don’t you live across the street? Go back over there!” he said, trying to light another cigar.

“I’ll put that one out for you, too!” she said, grabbing the cigar and smashing it against the wall. “My Nana died of lung cancer. Why do you smoke such awful things? You should only ever light candles, not cigars.”

“Your rent is due. It’s way late. Pay up,” the landlord said to The Man Across the Street. “And you owe me two cigars.”

“Don’t you know about Hanukkah? The oil didn’t run out. The rent will get paid,” Coral said, holding her nose. 

“Let’s go, kid,” The Man Across the Street said, nudging Coral down the steps. “Don’t say another word.”

When Coral and The Man Across the Street got to the Dollar Store, Coral bought nine blue candles. The duo walked back to the apartment building, hustling to avoid the landlord and his nasty cigars. 

“I’m doing this for you, kid,” The Man Across the Street said, setting up his menorah in the window. 

“I’m leaving the rest of the pennies for you,” Coral said, dumping them next to the menorah. “Rent will be paid.”

After dinner that night, Mr. Graf read the Hanukkah prayers while lighting the candles in their window.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us in life, sustained us, and brought us to this moment,” he read, while Coral watched The Man Across the Street light his own Hanukkah candles. 

“How lovely,” Mrs. Graf said, watching their neighbor as he ate double chocolate glazed doughnut holes.

“Tomorrow morning, please give this to The Man Across the Street,” Mr. Graf said, handing Coral a check. 

“The rent is getting paid!” Coral said, watching more pennies drop from the apartment’s heating vent into her tin can. “It’s the miracle of Hanukkah. The oil never runs out! Just like the pennies from The Man Upstairs keep overflowing.”


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Sequel to "The Man Upstairs: The Story of Coral Graf and Pennies from a Tin Can" (1/3/15), "The Man Downstairs: The Story of Coral Graf and Her Missing Pennies" (7/13/15), and "The Man Next Door: The Story of Coral Graf and the Neighborhood Pennies" (8/5/15).

Dedicated to my grandmother, Augusta Renner Graf Waters.

Velia Velius and Her Magic Cube: The Story of Hidden Superheroes

This is the story of Velia Velius, the hero.

She defeated enemies as monstrous as Nero.

At first, she was the shiest of girls.

She hid behind her pigtails and curls.

The town of Apollo where she had her home

Made her feel more like a tiny gnome.

Her parents said she wouldn’t amount to much.

She said, “I can already jump Double Dutch!

Why do you say such nasty things?

Don’t you want me to grow my own wings?”

Her friends at school were nothing but bullies.

They said: “You’re weak and have the woolies!”

Her thick glasses covered her face,

No earrings or lipstick or fancy lace.

“I know inside me is a superhero!

But my confidence is an absolute zero.”

At age ten, she studied more than she should.

She tried to learn things for the common good,

To bolster her faith in the future-to-be.

She would overcome what she could not see.

Really, she needed a long red cape,

To soar and let the real her escape.

After she finished sewing a costume,

She sprayed it with a flowery perfume.

Her true self would have to come out!

No one would hide her, without a doubt.

She would be brave, strong, and sure.

Shyness would finally have a cure.

Now she would need a gimmick,

Something no one was able to mimic.

She put her smarts into a magic cube

That started in a small test tube.

The cube itself was like a puzzle,

Something that a dog would nuzzle,

But when Velia threw it against the wall,

It almost became a cannon ball.

Its many colors were like the rainbow.

Its puzzle more fun than a game show.

The cube transformed whenever she pleaded.

The nifty square was whatever she needed.

“I need superhero vision with ease.

Vision at night, like an X-ray, please!”

So, the cube changed into magic glasses.

Then Velia was able to help the masses.

She could see what others could not.

She dealt with evil right on the spot.

The glasses shot beams of ice or heat

And didn’t back down ‘til the task was complete.

She could move people and nasty creatures

By aiming the cube at their crooked features.

It became her wings when she had to fly.

She flew across the Eastern night sky,

Jumping from buildings with the breeze

And rescuing cats that were stuck in trees.

The cube could alert her higher senses.

The techno-square raised her defenses.

When she held it in her right hand,

It made her stronger than all the land.

It warned her when danger was near

And gave her speed instead of fear.

It looked up figures and complex facts

And didn’t let info slip through the cracks.

It made her invisible when she had to disappear

And increased the hearing in her inner ear.

At times, it would duplicate her being—

Two places at once can be more than freeing.

At school, she would twist the nifty square,

Pretending it was a game with flair.

Its aura made people tell the truth.

Her teacher said: “Velia, you’re a sleuth!”

No one knew it was her secret friend,

That helped her transform and transcend.

She told her friends the colors had to align.

The game ended when the cube would shine.

Then she’d mix up the colors once more.

To Velia, the puzzle was never a bore.

One day, a villain entered her school.

The blue giant stomped just like a fool.

He broke the windows and smashed the ceiling.

He sent the students and teachers reeling.

“My name is Mammoth, and I hate kids!

Your short-lived lives are up for bids!”

Velia knew just what she needed to do.

She became the superhero that flew.

“Go back to where you came from, Giant!

Your attitude is bad, rude, and defiant!”

Mammoth grabbed Velia, but she was quick.

She slipped away, and her skin was thick.

She could have been squashed like a bug.

Instead, she shook off the shady thug.

The students who bullied Velia were stunned.

Why had she been ridiculed and shunned?

Everyone had thought she was the least.

Then Velia landed in front of the beast.

She spoke to the cube: “Knock him dead.

Smack him right in the middle of his head.”

The multi-colored cube flew like a stone.

Mammoth groaned and dropped like a drone.

“What a superhero!” the whole school cheered.

Her strength and courage were to be feared.

Her parents heard of what happened at school,

And they looked a little bit like the fool.

“Our daughter did what? Did she punch his gut?”

Other than that, their mouths stayed shut.

Now Velia was the hero with power and strength.

She kept no-good creatures at arm’s length.

Her cube stayed with her at all times,

And she stopped all sort of law-breaking crimes.

Her picture was on the cover of magazines,

And she was only in her younger teens.

When she was older, her story was well known

For the bravery, valor, and fight she had shown.

She brought justice to all near and far,

As a brilliant, bright, and shining star.


Copyright 2015 Jennifer Waters

Monday, September 7, 2015

Hoops Time: The Story of Johnny B. Good

“Johnny B. Good drives in for two points against Washington and Lee,” the Lehigh College school newspaper read. “The Washington and Lee Generals fell to the Lehigh Mountain Eagles by a score of 81–75 Saturday night at Grace Hall.”

Number eleven—Johnny B. Good—was a business student at Lehigh College on basketball scholarship. He really didn’t know much other than basketball. It was his first love, his only love. 

“Johnny, it was a great game,” Nancy Jones called to him. Her father Robert Jones, the President of the Lehigh College Board of Trustees, ran the school. 

An intellectual pursuing a graduate degree in education, Nancy had had a crush on Johnny since their freshman year and always tried to get his attention. She even tried out as a cheerleader, but didn’t make the team, because she had no coordination. 

Behind the scenes, Nancy asked her father to be supportive of Johnny. Trying to be supportive of his adored only child, he arranged for a full basketball scholarship to Lehigh College. When people weren’t looking, her father made sure Johnny passed the tougher courses, like Calculus. A bit on the unethical side, Nancy had even been trying to get her father to give Johnny a new car from the college’s sponsors. 

“I just wish Johnny would notice me,” Nancy sighed, sitting in the bleachers at a game. From a distance, she could see his mother, waving pom-poms. Much like he did Nancy, Johnny took his mom for granted, and he hardly acknowledged her support. Most people were sure that Johnny was angry at his mother for quite some time ago divorcing his now-deceased father. 

“Now, we all don’t have to concentrate on rebounding and can get downcourt,” he told the press after the game. “When you are a winner, the spirit is really great. When I came to the varsity, I had to learn to make stronger moves to the basket and shoot over people. With several teammates gone, I have to score more out of necessity. The loss of experience has also caused me to take on more responsibility.”

A loner, Johnny waved and smiled at Nancy and kept talking to the media. 

After the game, he spent hours on end strategizing with his teammates and coaches for the next game, watching team videos and drawing out defense plays. 

“Delaware, Rider, and Lafayette will be the toughest teams, although everyone will be out to beat us,” he said to the team. “We are ahead so far this season, and the guys want to win.”

Although Johnny liked to travel to away games, he enjoyed the home games the most, because they always had the most fans. 

“For example, they scheduled an away game against Rider the day after finals. Everyone was tired and worn out from studying, no one felt like playing, but we had to go,” he said in another interview. “Because our court is so different, we have a distinct home court advantage. In a few years, it will be almost impossible to beat Lehigh at home.”

Nancy was always the first one to show up at the away games, taking pictures and waving the orange and blue team flag. Even when Johnny’s mother didn’t show up for the away games—rain, sleet, hail, or snow—Nancy drove her dilapidated Toyota to every game and made sure Johnny knew it. 

“Go, Johnny, go! Johnny, you better be good!” she cheered, waving her orange and blue pom-poms. 

On February 4, 1970, as the team captain and center player, Johnny earned the free throw record for nineteen foul shots in one game while playing Muhlenberg University. He was also one of Lehigh College’s 1,000-point scorers, scoring 1,099 points from 1969 to 1971. On February 13, 1971, he scored his 1,000th point. 

“I didn’t realize I was nearing the 1,000-point mark until late December when Coach Heckman informed me,” he said to the media on the court after the game. “It was nice to reach such a plateau but it is no big thing for me.”

“He was tremendous out there on defense during the Muhlenberg game,” Coach Heckman told the press. “John is the first one on the court at practice and one of the last to leave. He gives it 100 percent all the time.”

“Congratulations, Johnny! 1,000 points!” Nancy cheered, as she hung the banner for him across the Lehigh College basketball court. 

Johnny nodded, unimpressed by Nancy’s generous gesture.

“Maybe I should just give up,” Nancy said, sliding down the concrete gym wall in tears. “He’s so full of himself and not at all interested in me.”


After graduating from college, Johnny went to the Philadelphia Trojans in the National Basketball Association’s first round pick.

“He’s so arrogant,” Nancy said, watching him on the TV news as he sprayed champagne on his new coach. “He never appreciated anything my dad did for him.” 

Everything went fine for Johnny in the NBA—or so it seemed until Johnny threw the ball out-of-bounds in overtime during a tie in the playoffs of the first season. As he threw the ball out of bounds, he tore his Achilles heel and had emergency surgery to repair it. 

Now an assistant professor at Lehigh College, Nancy cried a bucket of tears from her apartment couch, watching the news report about Johnny. 

Despite everything, she still loved him.  

When the phone rang, she answered it, hoping it was Johnny.

“Nancy, get over Johnny,” her father said on the phone. “He’s only using you.”

 “Dad, I have to go, I’m listening to the news,” Nancy said, hanging up the phone. 

“Although the surgery repaired Johnny B. Good’s heel, and he is able to walk, he will never be able to play basketball again,” the TV sports reporter said on the 6 o’clock news. “If he were to run or turn wrong on his heel, he might damage the tendon for good and never be able to repair it. His days as an NBA player are finished in an early retirement.”


            At first, Johnny thought he might try to be an on-air sports caster, but he didn’t have a broadcast journalism background and would have to take an unpaid internship to start the different career. 

            “You want me to work for free as an intern?” Johnny said to the local news station’s manager. “Don’t you know who I am? I have the foul shot record at Lehigh College.”

            “This is journalism, Johnny, not basketball,” the station manager said. “Grow up.” 

After a failed attempt at working as a sportscaster, Johnny tried teaching business and history classes at a local community college. 

“This is so boring,” Johnny said, handing out the graded term papers to his bewildered students. “I probably failed too many of you, but you aren’t taking my class seriously anyhow. Don’t you know who I am? You should be honored to have me as a professor.”

After he erupted at the students, the college fired him without severance pay.

“What am I going to do now?” Johnny said, looking at his collection of trophies and newspaper articles from his days at Lehigh College. 


As a last resort, when Johnny was just about to move home with his mother, Robert Jones, the President of the Lehigh College Board of Trustees, called.

“Do you want to coach basketball for Lehigh College, Johnny?” President Jones asked. “Our coach has suddenly become ill with cancer, and many of the players have already quit for the season as well. Due to lack of experience, the assistant coach is not up for the job. This was Nancy’s idea. Even if it’s only for a season until we can find a permanent basketball coach, it might work out for both of us.” 

“Well, I might have to think about it for a while,” Johnny said, looking at his old jersey.

“Johnny, I’m sorry for your sports injury and wish you had a long career in the NBA, but coaching the Lehigh College team seems to be a perfect fit.” 

After a moment of silence, Johnny agreed to take the job.

“Yes, President Jones, I believe you’re right,” Johnny said, grabbing his stopwatch and starting to sketch out defense plays for the team. 


As Johnny arrived to practice on the first day, he stared at the trophies and plaques in the glass case outside the Lehigh College basketball gym, wondering who would break his records.

“How am I supposed to train a team to break my own records?” he said, kicking the wall. “I worked so hard . . .” 

When the team showed up late in their old sneakers and suits, he threw his clipboard against the wall and left for the local bar. 

“This isn’t worth my time,” he yelled at the freshmen that had never even heard of him.

The next morning, when he dragged himself into the gym for practice, he found Nancy standing in the corner of the gym, shaking her head. In spite of all her efforts to get him a job, Johnny was about to blow it again. In front of Nancy, he lectured the team on the rigorous training they would have to endure to become champions.

“I am not training losers,” he yelled. “If you are going to play for me, you are going to win, or I am not coaching the team. I dare anyone to try to break my foul shot record, as though any of you are good enough. I had an NBA career and wish I would have it back, but since I ripped my Achilles heel, I am stuck with you. Or you are stuck with me, either way, so you might as well make the best of it.”

The team sat in silence, staring at Nancy, knowing that she was their only hope. Since she was trusted and liked by the college staff, Johnny would surely listen to her. 

“Before class in the morning, you will run sprints,” he chided. “Then, after class in the evening, you will practice dribbling, passing, shooting, and dunking. You will spend hours studying offensive and defensive strategies. I am recruiting other college students for the missing positions that the team needs. No one is immune from being cut.”

Nancy rolled her eyes and headed off to her father’s office, asking for mercy for Johnny again. If she could only find a way to explain to Johnny that he wasn’t God—not even a basketball god—then maybe Johnny could succeed for the first time in his life. 

“Dad, try to give him another chance,” Nancy said. “Sooner or later, the goodness in him is going to surface. He’s a champion on the court. He just has to be a champion in real life.”


When Lehigh College basketball team faced their first season game, Johnny boarded the students on the bus, listening to his old team, the NBA Philadelphia Trojans’ game, on the radio. 

“Turn off the radio,” he said to the bus driver. “I just don’t want to hear it.”

After yelling at his half-rate college team through the entire basketball game, Johnny finally gave up. In the last minutes of the game, he got himself thrown out on a technical foul for cursing at the referee. “This team stinks!” Johnny said. “I don’t want to be their coach.”

The team lost by 25 points and missed almost every foul shot.

“Maybe Johnny could just realize that he could have made them better,” Nancy said to herself as the buzzer rang. “I think he made them even worse . . .”

Despite all his stupid behavior, Nancy still loved Johnny. 


The next night after practice, she stopped by Johnny’s home to boost his confidence. 

“I asked my father to give you the benefit of the doubt,” Nancy said to Johnny, as he sighed. “The season is just starting, and the team can only get better. If you could only believe that you and your team are good enough, then you just might be. Championship awaits you, and all of Lehigh wants you to win, especially me.” 

“There is no way Lehigh can develop a good team if the current academic and financial trends continue,” he said to Nancy. “Grace Hall with its handful of fans does not psyche me at all; if anything, I get depsyched. It was just not built for basketball. After last year’s winning streak with the old coach, people began to expect too much from Lehigh. Now since we started to lose, people will stop coming to games. It’s hard to play without support.”

“But Johnny, I’ve been supportive,” Nancy said. “I’ve been supportive of you for years. You’re going to have to fight to be a real champion—on and off the court. This is what brings meaning to winning any basketball game. Why don’t you try being friends with the players on the team instead of bullying them? Maybe then, they’ll start winning.”

“Maybe you should try coaching the team,” he said to Nancy. 

Nancy cried walking to her car, thinking that Johnny would never change. 


As the autumn rolled into the winter and Johnny grew into his role as coach, Johnny started to realize that Nancy was right. He began to treat the team with more respect, trained them harder, and consulted them on decisions. Nancy’s advice kept rolling through his head: “If you could only believe that you and your team are good enough, then you just might be . . . If you could only believe that you and your team are good enough, then you just might be . . . If you could only believe that you and your team are good enough, then you just might be.”


“I guess I got a second chance,” Johnny said to Nancy one day after practice, grabbing her and kissing her. “And it was all because of you . . .”

Little by little, the team got better, and so did Johnny at coaching. 

By the spring, Lehigh College had its most successful basketball team ever. Even though no one on the team broke Johnny’s foul shot record, it became the goal of his players during each game. Everyone sat on the edge of their seats during the basketball games, to see who would finally break Johnny’s record. 

“I would have never been able to do any of this without you, Nancy,” Johnny said to her. 

Of course, many months later, even though President Jones protested, Johnny won big when Nancy agreed to marry him. He became a winner for the rest of his life, knowing that the game was not just about him, but he had to be a team player, and he and Nancy made a good team. 

Copyright 2020 Jennifer Waters

Dedicated to my father, John Waters, who holds the individual record at Lehigh University for free throws made in a single game: 19 free throws, John Waters vs. Muhlenberg (19-20), February 4, 1970.