Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Car of Juggernaut: The Story of Jane Johnson and Her Chocolate Ants

“Don’t run over the ant family!” 11-year-old Jane Johnson yelled at her 12-year-old friend and neighbor, Raymond Rocky.

“What? They’re only ants! Who cares? I like playing with your wagon,” he said, rolling down her driveway.   

The brightly painted red wagon was Jane’s birthday gift from Raymond, but she thought he liked it more than she did. 

“You have to remember the little people!” Jane said, scooping up the family of ants into the palm of her hand. “Did you know there are such things as fire ants and honey ants?” she said, studying the ants she was holding. 

“And I love the beetles, and lady bugs, and grasshoppers,” Jane said, scouring the driveway for more insects. 

“Your wagon is like the Car of Juggernaut,” Raymond said. “It crushes anything in its path! Like a steamroller!”

“Don’t you have any mercy?” Jane said, pushing him out of her wagon onto the pavement and taking back her wagon. “This is my gift. You’re not running anybody over anymore!” she said, making sure she didn’t hit bugs with the wheels. 

As Jane walked inside her garage, she shut the large, rolling door with the push of a button and put her wagon away. “Mom! I need to start an ant farm!” Jane said. “Raymond is trying to run over all the ants with my wagon.”

“How many insects do you think large, heavy trucks run over in a day? Jane, there is no ant farm,” her mom said. “When we back out of the driveway with the cars, don’t you think we hit the ants? Better than them eating us!”

“But my wagon is reckless and unstoppable!” Jane said. “It’s almost like a battering ram to those poor, little insects. According to our science teacher, insects are animals with six legs. They have a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton.”

“Well, just go in your room, and do your science homework for the night,” Mrs. Johnson said. “You’re bugging me!”

“I have to think of a way to save the ants in the driveway,” Jane whispered to herself. “I would never run over my dog.”

Pepper, Jane’s tiny black and white dog, barked and jumped on her bed, licking her hands where the ants crawled. 

“Yuck! Don’t eat them, Pepper,” Jane said. “Maybe the way to save the ants and start a farm is to cover them in chocolate! I did once hear of chocolate-covered ants, but I’ve never tasted them. At least this way, they can hide in the sugar, and people won’t step on them. This is the best solution that I can think of right now . . .”

So, during the middle of the night, when her parents were fast asleep, she snuck into the kitchen and got all the chocolate out of the refrigerator: chocolate syrup, chocolate butter, chocolate bars, chocolate pudding, and chocolate powder. 

Then she dilly-dallied into the driveway and spread as much chocolate as she could over the insects, especially the ants. She worked on the chocolate driveway until the wee hours of the morning, until she decided to take the last bits of chocolate and cover the strawberries in the refrigerator. While eating the strawberries, she considered that her parents’ cars might get chocolate on their tires. 

“Hope the chocolate doesn’t cause a problem for the cars,” she whispered to herself. 

As she slipped back to her bedroom, she shut her eyes until the sun shined through the bedroom windows.

“Jane! Did you eat all the chocolate last night? What a midnight snack!” her mom called down the hall. 

“Sort of! Did Dad leave for work already? Maybe he should take the bus today!” Jane said. 

“Why would I do that?” her dad said, popping his head in her bedroom as she woke up for the morning. 

“Just in case chocolate gets on the tires!” she said, yawning and sitting up in bed. 

“What?” her dad said, moving the curtain and looking out the window to the driveway. “Why is there chocolate all over the driveway?” her dad said in a strong tone. 

“I just didn’t want the ants and insects to get run over, and I thought they might be considered special if they were covered in chocolate,” Jane said, noticing that she had chocolate on the ends of her hair in tangles. “Then the ants will never be run over by my wagon or anything else!”

“Who in the world gave you this idea?” her mother said, getting out a bucket of water to rinse the driveway. 

“No! Don’t do that,” Jane said. “Maybe the driveway could just be the chocolate ant farm. I think they have started to build a little hill by the side of the grass. They really need a nice home. What would we do without ants?”

“I will tolerate the chocolate ant farm until it rains,” Jane’s father said, biting his lip and holding back his anger. 

“It had better rain tomorrow,” Mrs. Johnson said, turning on the radio to hear the weather forecast for the week. By the time the rains came, the ants had built up a castle in the driveway, never to be washed away.

“Don’t you touch those chocolate ants, Raymond,” Jane yelled at him. “They are way too special to be squashed.”

Jane only rode her wagon through the halls of her parents’ home with Pepper, where she was sure there were no ants. As for Raymond, he still ran over everything in his path, unless Jane stopped him first, which was often. 


Copyright 2016 Jennifer Waters 

Oak Apple Day: The Story of Apple Bopping and Bum Pinching

“It’s Oak Apple Day,” said 10-year-old Poppy Marigold, during lunch at Kensington Park Gardens Primary School.

Each year, the British celebrate Royal Oak Day on May 29 in celebration of King Charles II’s birthday. At risk of being stung with nettles or pelted with bird’s eggs by her schoolmates, Poppy wore an oak apple round her neck. She even tucked sprigs of oak leaves in her pockets, to make sure that she was adequately dressed for the day. 

As tradition had it, if a student didn’t wear a costume in celebration of King Charles II’s birthday, they were to be pinched—pinched in the bum, that is. So, Poppy emphasized her extravagant Oak Apple costume on the holiday.

“I feel like King Charles II, almost like when he hid in an oak tree to escape enemy soldiers. Don’t you?” Poppy said.

Her classmates, Alastair Glover, Duncan MacGregor, and Fergus Laird sat in front of her at lunch with other students. Despite their oak apple costumes with flower and oak-leaf decorated sticks, none of the boys said anything to her. She wanted to pinch them in the bum for their bad attitudes. By now, each of them should’ve kissed her more than once. 

While waiting for her prince to kiss her, she imagined herself in the Grimm Brothers’ tale of Sleeping Beauty, which she often enjoyed as a bedtime story. She read the passages to herself, trying to be patient, dreaming that she was Little Briar Rose about to be kissed. Finishing her lunch, Poppy was sure she was in love with each of the three adorable boys in her class.

“I’ve got to come up with a plan,” Poppy said, pinching each of them in the bum on the way to throw out her trash.

The large Oak Tree outside the Kensington Park Garden Primary School was about to help her be kissed, she thought.

“Ouch!”  the boys said as she pinched their bums. “Don’t pinch us, Poppy! We’re wearing our apple costumes!” 

“The Heart of Oak Friendly Society Parade on Sheep Street starts at three o’clock,” the year six teacher Miss Bartles said.

“Finish your lunches, so we can decorate Maypoles with oak boughs and flowers for the parade,” the teacher said.

Then the entire year six class lined up and walked back to their classroom with paper apples hanging from the ceiling. 

Before lunch, Miss Bartles hung a large wreath on the classroom door with staves decorated with wooden oak apples. 

During the annual Heart of Oak Friendly Society Parade, people danced around the Maypoles, wearing oak leaves.

“This year, I’m going to sneak up the Oak Tree, and drop apples on Alastair, Duncan, and Fergus,” Poppy whispered. 

More determined than ever, she remembered reading Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince, knowing that love is a wonderful thing. So, when no one was looking, she stuffed her dress pockets and backpack with apples from the lunchtime display.

“If I hit the boys in the head, they will surely pass out, and I can run and kiss them before they wake up. If one of them wakes up when I’m kissing him, it will be true love, and everyone will know it. It has to be why King Charles II had Oak Apple Day in the first place. I hate wearing this apple around my neck. What a headache! An apple is not a necklace.”

In previous years, Poppy’s classmates gathered oak twigs with oak apples on them and tried to sell them to parade-goers. The children jeered at anyone who refused to buy the oak twigs, chanting, and singing in rhymes at them. 

She said: “This is almost like when Mr. Williams refused to buy my oak twig. So, I bopped him in the head with it!”

At half past two, when Poppy had finished making her Maypole, she slipped out of the classroom to the bathroom. 

“Please Miss Bartles, I need to go to the loo,” Poppy said, carrying her backpack. “I must tinkle in the toilet!”

“Mind your manners, Poppy!” Miss Bartles said. “Hurry along now . . . and be back in five minutes.”

“Yes, indeed,” Poppy said, running down the hall to the side door, and then to the nearby Oak Tree after visiting the loo. She quickly climbed up the Oak Tree, hoping that Miss Bartles wouldn’t notice that she went missing. 

After positioning herself on a sturdy tree branch over Sheep Street, she was sure she had good aim at any of the boys. 

“I should have thought of this plan last year,” Poppy said, eyeing the school’s front door and biting into an apple. 

Then, one by one, her classmates walked out in a single file line with their Maypoles with oak boughs and flowers. 

Each of the students wore leaves, and they looked so festive that Poppy almost forgot her plan to drop the apples. 

“Oh, there’s Alastair,” she said, dropping the first apple and hitting his shoulder. The apple splattered on the sidewalk.

“What’s that? A bird’s egg?” Alastair said, looking up in the tree. Poppy hid behind the flowered branches on the Oak Tree. 

“I missed!” Poppy whispered. “I should’ve practiced my aim. Well, there’s Duncan,” she said, dropping another apple.

This time, the apple hit Duncan in the head, but it wasn’t strong enough to knock him out, or so it seemed. 

“Ouch! Who is dropping the apples from the Oak Tree?” Duncan said. “I’m going to have a headache all night long!”

“Fergus!” Poppy whispered. She threw the apple so hard that it smacked him to the ground in a swoop.

“True love!” Poppy said, climbing down the Oak Tree, with apples from her pockets and backpack falling on everyone. 

By the time she reached the sidewalk, half of her class had been bopped with apples in the head, even Miss Bartles. 

“Poppy! What has gotten into you? We are trying to have a celebration!” Miss Bartles said, helping the bruised students.

“You’re mine!” Poppy said to Fergus, grabbing him and kissing him. With his eyes still shut, he did not respond. 

A few moments later, Fergus opened his eyes, looking so shocked and confused that he could hardly breathe. 

“Aaaah!” Fergus yelled moments later. He got up off the sidewalk and ran down the parade route as fast as he could. 

“Wait!” Poppy said, running after him, throwing apples from the sidewalk at his head with good aim.

After a few minutes, Fergus gave up, and Poppy made Oak Apple Day history, when Fergus stopped running and kissed Poppy. He figured kissing her was easier than getting bopped in the head with flying apples, and so the story goes. 


Copyright 2019 Jennifer Waters

Cheese Sunday: The Story of Church Mice and a Stomachache in a Steeple

A long time ago, in the Church of the Holy Apostles in the ancient city of Athens, not far from the Acropolis, lived ten rambunctious mice named Cheddar, Cinnamon, Blueberry, Brownie, Cookie, Banana, Nutmeg, Sugar, Apple, and Apricot. 

They each made their own nest in the rafters, hiding their favorite foods which were gathered from the church kitchen. Every Sunday the congregation enjoyed brunch in the Fellowship Hall after the service, and the mice never missed a meal.  

“Cheese Sunday is soon upon us!” Cheddar chattered in a high-pitched squeak, hoping for a cheese omelet. “I hate that horrid day! It’s the last Sunday before Lent. Then Father Joseph gets rid of all the cheese and eggs for six weeks. What am I supposed to eat until Easter? It’s not fair,” he clamored in a sing-songy voice of hopelessness.

“Well, we’ll just have to do something radical this year! We’ll go into the Fellowship Hall of the Church and take all the cheese on Cheese Sunday! We can stockpile it and ration it off for six weeks until Easter morning,” Cinnamon shrilled, sprinkling spice into the conversation. She always smelled a bit better than the other mice, which is how she got her name.

“Last year, we lived in the attic of the Jewish Deli for six weeks! Maybe we should have stayed there,” Blueberry sounded with a fruity flavor. Although he loved cheese, fruit was a close second, especially berries he could carry on his back. 

“But I do love this old church steeple. Its bell makes such a nice sound. I’d miss it so much,” Brownie squeaked with chocolate lips, finishing a melting ice cream sundae with nuts that she slid all the way from the church freezer. 

“Besides, the Jewish Deli served unleavened bread for days! It’s just so bland,” Cookie yelped, nibbling cake morsels. 

Of course, Cookie ate all kinds of desserts, but mostly he enjoyed every time cookies crumbled to the floor.

“We’ll get into the Fellowship Hall bright and early and steal the cheese and eggs during the service,” Banana scuffled. After eating bananas, she loved to take the old peels and slip and slide down the handrails of the church steps for fun.

“The nuns set up the meal before the church service, so we can take the cheese and eggs before it’s over,” Nutmeg scratched, moving along the beams in the rafters with the other mice. His nest was the coziest with a church pew pillow. 

“Cheese Sunday is also Forgiveness Sunday, so they can’t even be angry at us,” Sugar rasped, sniffing with pride. He could smell sugar from a mile away. If its scent was blown by the wind, he would pick it up for sure. 

“Maybe we should try to be polite and leave a note saying that we’re sorry for stealing the meal?” Apple groaned with his roly-poly belly full of one too many apple pies, apple cakes, apple dumplings, apple sauce, and candied apples. 

“Yes, and explain that we had no choice,” Apricot whisked, as she tried not to make too much noise in the church rafters. “How can anyone live without cheese and eggs for six weeks? It’s impossible to cut those things out of your diet.”

“It’s a tradition,” Cheddar peeped. “When no one’s looking, Father Joseph must hide a stack of cheese and eggs for himself with Muffin, his silly cat. How many times has Muffin chased me across the church? I almost lost my mouse tail!”

So, first thing in the morning on Cheese Sunday, the mice scurried down the church steeple into the Fellowship Hall. Muffin pranced between the nuns setting up the cheese and eggs, gobbling a boiled egg that rolled right into his mouth.

As the nuns finished setting up the special meal and slipped into the service, the mice set to work taking their bounty. By that point, Muffin had fallen asleep in the corner, snoring on top of a stack of dusty hymnals. 

“Hurry! The church service lasts only an hour!” Cheddar piped. “We have to take as much cheese and eggs as we can!”

Other than letting out long cat yawns, Muffin didn’t hear a thing. He was sleeping off the boiled egg. The ten church mice collected every last morsel of cheese and eggs and carried it to the rafters in the steeple. 

In their mouths and on their backs, they hoisted Camembert, Ricotta, Mozzarella, Feta, Swiss, Cheddar, Parmesan, Gruyere, Roquefort, Gouda, Colby Jack, and Mimolette, along with scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, soft-boiled eggs, poached eggs, deviled eggs, eggs sunny side up, spinach and ham omelets, egg salad, frittatas, quiche, and baked eggs. 

“We did it! We got the cheese and eggs!” Cheddar squealed, stacking the food in orderly rows next to the church bell.

Meanwhile, the congregation was beside itself, wondering what happened to its beloved annual cheese celebration.

“What happened to the Cheese Sunday banquet?” the nuns cried, as they found the Fellowship Hall disheveled. 

Tablecloths were on the floor, along with the knives and forks, and not one morsel of cheese or eggs was found at all.  

“This took us hours to set up this morning,” the nuns lamented. “What rotten person would steal from a church?”

“Muffin! Did you eat the cheese and eggs?” one of the parishioners asked, as Muffin woke up from his kitty nap. With drowsy eyes, Muffin meowed and ran into Father Joseph’s study and shut the door with his tail, leaving cat prints in the hall.

“This is Forgiveness Sunday,” the priest announced. “Maybe whoever took the cheese and eggs will ask for forgiveness?”

“Fat chance at that!” a second parishioner chided. “Maybe we could always gorge ourselves on donuts instead of cheese!”

“The point of Cheese Sunday is not to gorge yourself,” the priest continued. “We feast before our sacrifice at Lent.”

“Well, today there is no feast,” another parishioner complained. “It’s not fair. I waited all week for the cheese and eggs!”

“God Bless all of you!” the priest winced, ushering everyone home for the afternoon. “See you next week.”

As the nuns cleaned up the Fellowship Hall, the priest promptly marched into his study, grabbing Muffin. Then the two of them walked up the stairs to the bell in the steeple, looking for the naughty church mice.

“Where are you, Cheddar?” the priest called. “I know you have my cheese! No one else would be so obvious!”

When the priest reached the top of the steeple, the rebellious mice sat next to the cheese and eggs with guilty smiles. 

“Father, I already have a stomachache from the quiche,” Cheddar whined, admitting he ate too much cheese and eggs. 

Muffin jumped from the priest’s arms to pounce on Cheddar for making the congregation think the cat stole the cheese.

“Wait, Muffin!” Father Joseph scolded, as the church mice scurried away from the angry cat. “You can’t chase Cheddar and the other mice on Cheese Sunday! It’s almost Lent. At least we know where to find the cheese if I get hungry during Lent.” 

Then Father Joseph sat down next to the mice. With Muffin keeping watch, the priest ate his portion of the rationed cheese and eggs for the day, and every other day throughout Lent.

“After all, cheese tastes almost as good as forgiveness!” he laughed in a jovial voice. The church mice could do nothing but agree. 


Copyright 2019 Jennifer Waters

Wednesday, April 20, 2016


An ancient Christmas tradition of beauty and blessing is upheld by a brave little girl and a family of spiders. 

Eleven-year-old Betsy Lobb is ordered to kill her pet spiders, so they will not disturb the Christmas Eve party. But the spiders tell her they must decorate the Christmas tree with their webs so the Christ Child will come and turn them into silver tinsel and grant the spiders another year of life. Betsy dares her parents’ disapproval and threats to the spiders, brings them in to the snobby party, and is thrilled—as are all the guests—to see a small child miraculously appear and turn the artful webs into shiny tinsel. Betsy’s heart is merry as this Christmas blessing brings life and beauty, and she wishes it could happen for everyone on earth.

On Christmas Eve, 11-year-old Betsy Lobb’s mother tells her to kill the pet spiders she had befriended out in the fields after admiring their work. Betsy brought them home to the Lobb’s three-story mansion, but her mother doesn’t want Christmas Eve party guests covered in spider webs. And if Betsy doesn’t kill them, the mother will get her dad to do it. Betsy gathers the spider family in her pockets and takes them to the attic, telling them to hide in the rafters until the party is over.  

Tarantola the spider informs Betsy that he and his family must trim the Christmas tree with webs before midnight when the Christ Child comes and touches spider webs on Christmas trees, turning them into silver tinsel. When the Christ Child does this, he promises the spiders will live another year. Tarantola says that if he doesn’t give his gift to the Christ Child, he’ll surely die in the winter’s frost, and so will his family. Betsy agrees and goes back down to the party, leaving the spiders to spin in the attic. At the party, guests dance around the brightly decorated 12-foot tree, enjoying carols and trays full of Christmas pies and three-layered chocolate cakes. Betsy eats crab dip with sourdough bread, even making her way to the punch bowl a time or two. Glad the spiders are gone, Mr. and Mrs. Lobb entertain their noble guests, shushing Betsy, making her feel like the spiders are her only real friends.

It’s half-past eleven and soon the Christ Child will come. One kind guest encourages Betsy, assuring her that the Christ Child really does come at midnight. Betsy runs up to the attic and is thrilled to find it filled with beautifully cast webs. But with only five minutes until midnight—and fearing the death of her spider friends—she gathers Tarantola and his family into her dress pockets, runs down the stairs, and hurries past guests to the tree.

The spiders scurry up and down the Christmas tree spinning webs. Just as guests begin to scream about the spiders, the grandfather clock strikes midnight and bright starlight shines through the dark window. The entire room gasps as a small child appears next to the tree, admiring the webs artfully cast across the tall evergreen. Betsy asks the Christ Child to bless the Christmas tree. As he touches the webs, they transform into shining silver tinsel. Then the Child disappears in the starlight. Before anyone finds Tarantola, Betsy shuffles him and his spider family back into her dress pockets. Although the others aren’t quite sure what had happened, silver tinsel shines on the evergreen. Betsy’s heart is merry in knowing that the Christ Child has taken every tangled spider web and made it beautiful. Now if only that could happen for each person on the Earth at Christmas.

Copyright 2022 Jennifer Waters