Sunday, April 24, 2022

Mandy Dandie's Pink Lemonade: The Story of a Secret Recipe

“Sherwood Neighborhood is coming apart at the seams,” yelped 10-year-old Mandy Dandie as she passed her neighbors on the street. They did not even nod at her, much less say hello. As she rode her pink bike up her driveway, she rang her bell several times in disgust.

“Nobody talks to each other,” she mumbled to herself. “If anyone talks to me, all they want to do is pick a fight.”

“Don’t worry about the neighbors, Mandy,” Mr. Dandie told her, coming out from the garage. “A lot of them have lost their jobs and are having a hard time finding new ones. The economy has been really tough for a lot of people. We just all need to help each other right now.”

“If you say so, Dad,” Mandy agreed, hugging her widowed father. Mrs. Dandie passed away when Mandy was an infant, and she had no recollection of her mother. “Why does everyone have to be so mean?”

“I don’t know, honey,” Mr. Dandie replied, picking up the newspaper from the driveway and opening it. “Ruben Gruff of Gruff Construction offers to buy the backyards of homeowners in Sherwood Neighborhood,” he read aloud the front-page headline. “Oh no! The developers are going to try to build extra houses in the neighborhood. It will be like living in an ice cube tray of cookie cutter homes!”

“How can we stop it, Dad?” Mandy asked. “I’ll have to think of something!”

“Sherwood Neighborhood homeowners would earn an extra lump of much-needed cash,” Mr. Dandie continued reading aloud. “Everyone must realize that Ruben will destroy the charm of our lovely neighborhood,” he stated, looking right at Mandy. 

“Does this mean that he would tear down the trees?” Mandy wondered. 

“Oh, Ruben will tear down trees and flower gardens for his new homes, built so close together that no one will be able to enjoy a picnic or pool party,” her dad explained, scratching his head.  

“I don’t want to lose the old oak trees that I love to climb!” Mandy cried. “Maybe if I had a lemonade stand then I could make money and give it to our neighbors. Then, they might not take Ruben’s money.” 

“That’s a nice thought, Mandy,” her dad admitted. “Maybe the neighbors would rally round and help each other without resorting to Ruben’s destructive building project.” 

Mandy set to work at building and painting a lemonade stand and opened it within the week at the end of her father’s driveway. Despite Mandy’s “secret recipe” of more sugar than water and bits of lemon rind, her lemonade hardly sold, especially once the neighbors tasted it. 

“This is awful!” the neighbors complained. “It tastes nothing like lemonade.” 

At the end of a hard week, Mandy counted her coins and headed to the neighborhood grocery store on her bike. 

“At least, I’ll get some candy,” she decided. “I deserve it after all this effort.”

As she passed a plant nursery, the owner rid himself of an odd pink lemon tree. When Mandy saw the lemon tree, it sparkled, and she knew there was something special about it.

“It looks magic!” Mandy insisted. “Please let me have it!” she begged the owner, emptying her pockets of all her coins. “It’s a business investment!”

“A business investment?” he questioned. “This ugly thing?”

“I need your pink lemon tree for my lemonade stand,” she told him. “Business has been bad, but your tree will make it a lot better. Everyone drinks regular lemonade, but pink lemonade will be original!”

The next day Mandy set out her lemonade stand with her new pink beverage. She set the pink lemon tree on her stand for advertising. Her sign said: “Pink Lemonade! 50 cents a cup.”

“I think my pink lemonade has magic in it,” she told her dad. “Who has ever heard of pink lemons?”

“Uh-huh,” Mr. Dandie agreed, shrugging his shoulders, overseeing her morning business deals at the lemonade stand. “Don’t let the customers stiff you for your lemonade, honey.” 

“Wow! This is so tasty,” one lady quipped, putting change into the cash jar. “Can I have some more, please?” 

Then, Mandy’s customers started singing and dancing in the street. 

“I hate my job!” the lady serenaded. “I think I’ll quit in a few days.”

“Maybe your pink lemonade is magic after all?” her father considered. “Everyone who drinks it starts singing their secrets! Business is booming!”

“I told you there was something special about that pink lemon tree!” she whispered. 

Surprised, Mandy listened to her singing customers without giving any advice, mostly because she was not sure what to say. What magic was in her pink lemonade that made the neighbors express their truths in song, feel better, and then forget they even said those things? 

“I’m so glad that you like my pink lemonade,” Mandy cheered, shocked at how much the neighborhood customers enjoyed her new beverage. 

“This recipe is going over much, much better than that last one,” her father pondered, humming. “I even feel like singing a love song.” 

Later that afternoon, Ruben Gruff strode down the street in a blue pin-striped suit with his clipboard. He saw Mandy’s stand, slung two quarters in her jar, and downed a cup of pink lemonade. 

“My secret plan is to run a four-lane highway through the neighborhood,” he belted out in song as Mandy listened. “As soon as I get the neighbors to sign their properties away, I’ll take the contracts to a judge and argue that I own most of the neighborhood so I should be able to build whatever I want on the land, including a highway. All the neighbors will lose their homes, and I will be a millionaire.”

Mandy sat in silence until every last word of Ruben’s song had finished. “His song would have been easier to enjoy if it had rhymed,” she whispered to herself, rubbing her ears. She felt sick to her stomach, realizing Ruben’s devious plot to destroy her home and community. 

“Come back again soon,” Mandy fibbed to Ruben as he left. She posted her “Be Back in Ten Minutes” sign at her lemonade stand and ran to tell her dad the strange news. 

“Dad, Ruben started singing his secret plan to take over the neighborhood,” she explained to her father, weaving in all the details that no one ever wanted her to know. 

“I have no idea what to say,” Mr. Dandie sighed. “Just don’t tell anyone for now, until we see what happens . . . so we can figure out what to do.”

Later that week at the city council meeting, Ruben handed out contracts for those neighbors who wanted to sign away parts of their land. Mandy and her father sat at the meeting in trepidation that they might not be able to stop Ruben’s horrid plan.

“Hi Mandy,” Ruben greeted her with a fake smile and handshake. “So glad your pink lemonade business is booming!” 

“Because of your magic pink lemonade, Ruben doesn’t remember telling you his plan,” Mr. Dandie whispered to his daughter. “Play dumb for now.”

Instead of playing dumb, Mandy decided to take the situation into her own hands. In an attempt to expose him, Mandy stood up on her front row chair and pulled a bullhorn from her backpack. 

“Ruben is going to run a highway through our neighborhood and push all of us out after we sign over our backyards to him!” Mandy exposed him. “Don’t fall for it! Don’t give him your backyards for a little cash.”

“She’s not on the agenda,” Ruben argued, looking irate. “Sit down, little girl!”

“Mandy, you are not allowed to speak,” the city council leader insisted. “This meeting is for adults only. Please keep her quiet, Mr. Dandie. I need order!”

“Sorry, ma'am,” Mr. Dandie mumbled. “Mandy, we should go . . .”  

As the meeting started, Mandy burst into tears. She watched the neighbors take Ruben’s deceptive contracts with instructions to return the forms at next week’s meeting. 

“I’m coming back to next week’s city council meeting,” Mandy advised her father. “I’m setting up my pink lemonade stand, and I’m going to force everyone to tell the truth.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” her father admitted. “We might not be able to do anything to stop Ruben. It’s a bigger problem than I originally imagined.”

“I have to try to do something,” Mandy decided. “I found the magic of the pink lemon tree at just the right time.”

“Okay, but I don’t think I’ll be able to help you this time,” Mr. Dandie explained. “We might get in less trouble if I don’t show up, but you could just sell your lemonade outside the meeting.”

The next week, Mandy set out on her bike with her pink lemonade tree in its front basket, trailing her lemonade stand on a skateboard. Several times she almost killed her pink lemon tree when it dumped out of her bike’s basket. 

“Come on, little pink lemon tree,” Mandy spoke to it, dusting it off from the gravel in the street. “You just took a couple falls. You can’t die on me now!”

When Mandy reached the city council meeting, she set up shop, and people crowded around for the refreshing beverage.

“Mandy Dandie’s Pink Lemonade for sale!” she announced. “Come and get it for 50 cents a cup!” 

“What an interesting tree!” the neighbors admired, marveling at the odd pink lemon tree, dropping their change into the cash jar.

After a couple sips of Mandy’s pink lemonade, everyone sang out the truth and neighbors all sympathized and encouraged each other. 

“I don’t want to sell Ruben my land . . .” neighbors sang with different melodies.

“I need my backyard for my dog to run and play!” another neighbor pleaded in song. 

“I’d rather be broke than have anything to do with Ruben,” a group of people harmonized. 

Only a few minutes later, Ruben showed up, observing the strange communication through song. Ruben smirked listening to all the secrets being revealed.

Without knowing it, Ruben drank his own large cup of Mandy’s pink lemonade, finally revealing his own devious secrets. 

“I’m going to own Sherwood Neighborhood,” Ruben sang so loud that he was almost shouting. “These people are so stupid, and I’m stealing everything from them!”

“Did you hear him say that?” Mandy pointed out, recording his admission of guilt on her handy battery-operated tape recorder. “I can play it back for you.”

Mandy played Ruben’s singing on repeat for every single neighbor attending the city council meeting as they enjoyed her pink lemonade. 

The more she played the tape, the angrier Ruben became, burning with rage, and trying to grab the recorder from Mandy. 

“I didn’t say those things!” Ruben lied with his beet red face. “She’s a fraud!”

“Ruben, if you go anywhere near my daughter, I will have you arrested for attempted assault,” Mandy’s father threatened, deciding to show up to the council meeting after all. “This is enough. You’re a rotten, horrible human being. Get out of our neighborhood once and for all.”

As the city council meeting took place, the neighbors banded together and rejected Gruff Construction’s plan. Not one neighbor submitted a signed contract to Ruben. 

“Pink Lemonade saved Sherwood Neighborhood!” Mandy called to all the neighbors as they left the meeting in triumph. “I’m going to develop my lemonade into a franchise! Everyone needs a little pink lemonade now and then.”

Mr. Dandie kissed Mandy on the cheek, proud of his daughter who saw magic in everything, even a lonely pink lemon tree that most people would have overlooked. 


Copyright 2023 Jennifer Waters

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

The Dilemmas of Daisy Dimple: The Story of Crazy Daisy Dimple & Lil’ Boy Buster

“My name is Daisy Dimple,” announced the 10-year-old girl, who turned parking lots and sidewalks into gardens in the small town of Primrose. She loved the fragrance and beauty of flowers so much that all she could do was smile. “I make flowers and smiles spring up in the most unusual places.” 

“Oh, you’re just Crazy Daisy,” bullied her 13-year-old brother Billy. He was jealous of her daisies and her magic “hypnotizing” dimple that caused people to do what she wanted when she smiled. “I hate your daisies,” Billy threatened, smashing her latest batch of flourishing flowers that grew through cracks in the ground. The white petals floated to the concrete sidewalk in bits. 

“You’re the crazy one, Lil’ Boy Buster!” Daisy replied, scattering more flower seeds in the trail around her neighborhood. “You stick your finger in electric wall sockets for the thrill of the little buzz, and then you try to shock people! You’re going to electrocute yourself and hurt someone else!”

With that, Lil’ Boy Buster ran himself into Daisy, slinging her onto his shoulders. He had enough electricity in his body from his latest wall socket charging that Daisy’s hair frizzed. 

“Beating me up is very small of you!” Daisy yelled as her bangs crackled. 

“I’m using you for tackling practice,” Buster joked, throwing Daisy to the grassy ground. She always had bruises from his bullying, but he claimed it was her fault because her flowers made him sneeze. “Achoo! I’m allergic to you and your petals!” he taunted. 

Laying in pain on the ground, Daisy wished she had enough courage to stand up to him once and for all—but Daisy was too nice to people and always tried to help them with their problems. Lil’ Boy haughtily ran into her family garage, laughing to himself, and slamming the side the door. 

Days later, after seeing all Daisy’s bruises, Grandpa Blum came up with a plan to help her look good to the neighborhood friends, who could keep Buster from attacking her again. 

            “Could you build me a garden for my Fourth of July party?” Grandpa Blum asked her with a daisy sticking from his ear. “Your flowers are so beautiful, and I need a garden for my party. I’ll pay you a bunch for it!”

            “I would love to build you a great and grand garden!” Daisy cheered, shining her glorious dimple at Grandpa Blum. “My earnings can go toward the end-of-summer class field trip. It’s a day at the beach! So, I can get away from Buster.”

The next morning, Daisy started by planting flowers along the fence in Grandpa Blum’s backyard. At first, Daisy was unsure that she could complete such a large task.

“This might be a bigger job than I thought!” Daisy sighed, looking at the rest of the empty space that needed flowers. 

“I am confident that you can finish the garden in time!” Grandpa encouraged her. “I secretly want to prove Lil’ Boy Buster wrong. You are definitely not crazy, Daisy.”

While landscaping Grandpa Blum’s yard, Daisy branched out beyond daisies with many different flowers, such as roses, irises, orchids, tulips, daffodils, buttercups, sunflowers, carnations, and poppies.

“I’m almost done,” Daisy collapsed in the garden next to a tulip. “I’m going to have to work through the night.” Finally, two days before the party, she finished the garden.  

“Oh, you think you’re so savvy,” Lil’ Boy Buster hollered, jumping over the backyard fence out of nowhere. “Crazy Daisy went crazy again planting more flowers than she knows how to keep alive!”

“Get out of here, Buster!” Daisy wailed. “Grandpa is going to find out if you cause any problems!”

Despite Buster’s threats, Daisy was so happy with the garden. “I think I’d like to live here!” Daisy delighted, watching Buster run away. 

“See you for the garden party on Saturday, Daisy!” Grandpa reminded, kissing her on the cheek. He walked out of the garage as Buster disappeared. 

“I’m so proud of all your hard work. Give these to your mother,” Grandpa heartened, handing her a bouquet of flowers. 

Daisy walked down the sidewalk, scattering seeds as she made her way back home for the evening. 

“I’m gonna get her!” Buster threatened, looping back around Grandpa Blum’s house. “You might as well say I’m a bulldozer.”

Overnight, Buster found the garden hose and stretched it into the middle of Daisy’s flower haven. He turned the hose on high and let the water run until a large pond took over the garden. Then, Buster unleashed a cage of rodents to eat any leftover flowers. 

“Go get ‘em!” Lil’ Boy whispered, opening the cage door into the garden. 

For a finishing touch, Buster sent an electric shock wave through the soil, sure to kill the roots of the flowers. “Take that!” the brat cried, as he zapped the entire garden with electricity.

In the morning, Grandpa Blum stood in shock at what had happened to his beautiful garden. “It looks like there was a bad storm!” he lamented, but then gazed at the neighbors’ backyards, realizing that their gardens were intact. 

“Only Lil’ Boy Buster would do this to Daisy!” he concluded, noticing the muddy footprints the size of Lil’ Boy Buster’s on the patio. “How do you prove it was Buster?” 

“What in the world happened!” Daisy cried, looking at the mess and throwing a handful of flower seeds into the air. Even her “magic” dimple was not enough to fix the mess. 

“We could still rebuild in time for the party!” Daisy insisted, as rodents scurried past her feet with flowers in their mouths. “Buster did this! He is the worst brother in the whole world. What is wrong with him?”

“I’ll help you go to the local garden store for new flowers,” Grandpa Blum said, grabbing his jacket and hat from the garage. He started up his green truck, and he and Daisy set off for more flowers. “This is just one more life lesson that we didn’t know we needed!” 

“A lesson in how to plant as many flowers as possible,” Daisy quipped, almost remembering the power of her dimple. 

Upon returning with more flowers to plant, Daisy set traps for the rodents and leveled the ground with new fertilizer. One by one, she planted the new flowers in the garden. 

As the stars came out for the night, Daisy stayed up until the morning, planting flowers and keeping watch over the backyard, hoping to catch Lil’ Boy Buster—but he never returned.

“If you want to sleep out here, it’s fine with me,” Grandpa Blum said, but at least use a sleeping bag. He unrolled a blue comfy bag with a flashlight tucked into it. 

The next morning, Daisy planted more flowers right up until the party, but she still wasn’t done.

“Could you help me plant these flowers?” Daisy asked each of the neighbors as they arrived until the garden was finished.  Her magic dimple made each of them say: “Yes.” 

“Maybe we could hire you to plant a garden for us?” the neighbors asked, wanting to hire Daisy to build them masterpieces of their own.

Then, without warning, Daisy spotted Lil’ Boy Buster with a water gun strapped around his body and the garden hose in his hands. 

“Don’t even think about it!” Daisy yelped, wrestling him to the ground and planting a flower on his head before he could shock her with an electric bolt.

As Daisy flashed her dimple, the flower took root, and Buster could not pull it out of his head. “That will teach you!” Daisy snapped. 

“Aaaah!” he screamed, running from his sister in fear. “What happened to my head? Someone, pull this flower out of my head!”

Despite Buster’s effort to remove the flower from his head, he could not expel it. 

“It’s going to cause me brain damage!” Buster screeched. “I can feel its roots!”

Later, when Daisy’s parents saw the wonderful garden in Grandpa Blum’s backyard, they were upset at Lil’ Boy Buster’s tirade.

“Buster didn’t get away with his bad behavior this time!” Mr. Dimple chided. “I saw the flower Daisy planted in his head. Oh, well, he can’t browbeat her anymore. I guess the flower will stay there until the seasons change.”

“I’m not sure what to do about the flower!” Mrs. Dimple commented. “Daisy, how long do you think the flower will stay in his head?

“I’m not sure, Mom,” Daisy answered. “I just planted it like everything else.”

“Can you make our backyard into a beautiful paradise as well?” her dad asked. 

“Sure, Dad, I’ll start tomorrow,” Daisy agreed, shining her famous dimple at him. 

“Lil’ Boy Buster can no longer call Daisy ‘crazy,’” Grandpa urged, looking at both of Daisy’s parents. “It’s not nice to call people nasty names.” 

“Daisy has never been crazy,” her father agreed. 

“She’s just enthusiastic about planting flowers!” her mom reassured. 

“Maybe Buster can replant the flower from his head in Grandpa’s garden instead of destroying it,” Daisy wondered, not knowing that Buster heard her, as he hid behind the shrubs in the backyard.  

Having a momentary change of heart toward Daisy, where he felt electric tingles everywhere, Lil’ Boy Buster removed the growth from his head and planted the awkward flower in Grandpa Blum’s garden. 

“I’m free of her stupid flower!” Buster groaned. 

Roots and all, the flower stood tall in his grandfather’s soil, and Buster slumped off in defeat. However, his momentary remorse did not last for long. “I’m gonna get back at Crazy Daisy for what she did to me! She planted a flower in my head, and it still hurts,” he vowed. 

“I’m so glad that I finally stood up to Buster!” Daisy relished in victory. “He is only my little bitty brother. He’s not going to torment me anymore.” 

“The garden party is a huge success,” Grandpa Blum triumphed.  

“I’ll have more than enough money for my class field trip,” Daisy told her grandfather with gratitude. “I’m going to donate the rest of the money to planting a garden at the local Community Center. Flowers need to take over the world!” 


Copyright 2023 Jennifer Waters

Sunday, April 10, 2022

The Peaceable Kingdom: The Story of Shirley the Lamb

“I don’t matter to anyone,” 8-year-old Shirley the Lamb sobbed, running through the fields one day. “Who cares if I don’t have my tail because a nasty lion bit it off when I was younger! Why does everyone always have to make fun of me?”

“You don’t have your woolly waggler,” her brother mocked her, darting after her. 

“Leave me alone, and go pick on someone else,” Shirley cried.

“I think she’s beautiful!” Roger the Lion cub roared, bounding down from the hillside. “She has the cutest tail I’ve ever seen.”

“Roger, you would never bite off the tail of any creature, especially not an innocent little lamb,” Shirley sighed, rubbing her head on Roger’s soft fur. “You’re like a big pillow!”

When Roger walked beside her, he made a point not to wag his own tail since Shirley did not have one to wag. Sometimes, he even picked her up with his mouth and carried Shirley on his back. 

“I never told you this, Shirley, but I’m afraid of the dark,” Roger whimpered as the sun began to set in the meadow.

“The moon and stars can make the nighttime less scary,” Shirley suggested. 

“I know, but it’s still really dark outside at night,” Roger worried. “I always end up growling at everyone in the dark.”

“Can you look for constellations in the stars at night?” Shirley asked. “Then, you won’t feel as alone and scared.”

As the sun set, Roger noticed a group of stars in the sky that looked like a lion.

“Those stars look like me!” Roger told Shirley. “His stars are so bright!”

“Why don’t we name him Leo the Lion?” Shirley decided. “He will be your friend to keep you company when it gets dark.”

Roger kissed Shirley, and the two of them fell asleep together in the meadow. 

As Roger and Shirley got older, it became clear that their families did not want the two of them to remain friends. 

“Did you know that your daughter spends a lot of time with that lion named Roger?” Zachary the Cobra told Shirley’s parents one day in the meadow. 

The snake hissed as it slithered through the grass. “I just heard Roger’s parents tell him that if he sees Shirley again that he’d better not come back unless he eats her,” the snake lied.

“You are not allowed to be friends with Roger, Shirley,” her father yelled. “Lions and lambs are involved in an age-long feud.”

“Lambs and lions hate each other,” Shirley’s mother explained in a harsh tone. “You are forbidden to see him! Lions do nothing but eat lambs, and you’re lucky you only lost a tail.”

“I love Roger, and he loves me,” Shirley cried, retreating to the nearest shady tree. 

Tears rolled down Shirley’s face until she fell asleep that night, looking up at the stars and thinking of Roger. 

A few nights later, Roger appeared at Shirley’s barn window in the middle of the night.

“I conquered my fears of the dark, and the stars guided me to you!” Roger called. “I promise that we are still going to be friends, even if it’s a secret.”

“I miss you, Roger,” Shirley called. “I want to go run in the fields with you. Meet me in the high grass by the river three days from now.”

“I’ll be there with the dawn,” Roger replied. “I'd better go for now!”

Days later, Shirley and Roger met between the high grass without anyone knowing, except for Chloe the Cow with her cowbell necklace, which everyone could hear ring from a mile away. 

“Zachary is right!” Chloe mooed, sounding her necklace as loud as she could. “Go home before you start an all-out war in the Kingdom!”

“You are the one who can go home!” Shirley demanded. “Go eat a cow pie!”

“The Cobras love to fuel feuds between families,” Roger explained. “I figured it out.” 

“What did you figure out?” Shirley questioned, stroking Roger’s soft mane. 

“The Cobras want everyone in the Kingdom to riot and kill the Little Child who is the future king,” Roger roared. “I’ve been asking a lot of questions and found out that the Little Child’s father, King George, has been working hard to bring the land together in peace. The Cobra family wants to be in charge of the Kingdom and undo King George’s work.”

Snap! Zachary wicked out his sword-like tongue through the high grass at Roger and Shirley. “You will be sorry!” he threatened, as a group of animals joined the snake in the fields.

Joe the Leopard with his spotty fur pounced next to Roger with a bark. Gabrielle the Wolf howled, Bobby the Goat bleated, Leah the Calf bawled, Todd the Yearling neighed, Tansy the Bear growled, and Harold the Ox bellowed, as they joined Zachary in intimidating Shirley and Roger with grumbles: "Back down, or else!"

“I’m going to end this war!” Roger grunted, leaping next to Zachary, right after the vicious snake slipped away with the other animals. 

“How could you start this fight? Now the whole kingdom is against both of us,” Shirley argued with Roger. “My parents were right. I never want to see you again. Lions are dangerous!”

“No, lambs are weak!” Roger whispered, walking away with his tail between his legs.

The next morning, the Kingdom went into a fury when word got out that King George was murdered, and the Little Child had gone missing. Guards searched the entire kingdom for the Little Child and King George’s assassin. 

“I just heard that the palace guards found a bloody knife in a potted plant on the porch of Roger’s family cave,” Shirley’s father told her. “Roger is being held in suspicion for killing King George.” 

“Roger would never kill King George,” Shirley replied. “How did this become Roger’s fault?”

That night, Shirley slipped out of her barn window and ran in the dark to Roger’s family cave. She slipped into his lair and lured Roger into the field, where they could speak in private. 

“We need to search for the Little Child,” Shirley insisted. “I can help you look for him. I’m sorry for accusing you.”

“I forgive you,” Roger purred. “I’ve always loved you.”

Roger and Shirley set off into the starry night, looking for the Little Child. 

After hours of searching, the cobras surrounded them near a ravine in the meadow. The snakes had been hiding under nearby rocks and logs near the Cobra family den. 

One cobra pounced on Shirley, trying to bite her tail, only to realize that she did not have one. “I don’t have a tail,” Shirley screamed at the snake. “So, you can’t try to bite it off to kill me! Too bad for you!” 

“Free the Little Child now!” Roger thundered, biting Zachary so severely that he almost bled to death. 

Suddenly, out of the shadows, the other animals in the kingdom appeared in Roger and Shirley’s defense. Chloe the Cow sounded her cowbell necklace, signaling the animals to charge the Cobra’s den. "Freedom!" Chloe mooed. "Save the Kingdom!"

In apology for their ruthless behavior to Shirley and Roger, Joe the Leopard, Gabrielle the Wolf, Bobby the Goat, Leah the Calf, Todd the Yearling, Tansy the Bear, and Harold the Ox dashed into the Cobra den, squashing the snakes beneath their feet. 

"Long live the Little Child!" the animals sounded. 

“Get on my back,” Roger commanded the Little Child, after Joe removed the snakeskin ropes around the boy. The Little Child had been held captive in the Cobra's den long enough.

"Thank you," the boy cried. Beat up and bruised, the Child climbed onto the lion’s back and rode triumphantly into the fields. 

“I can’t believe that the Cobra family is so evil,” Chloe the Cow moaned in shock. 

“Well, believe it,” Shirley chided Chloe. “You can see it with your own eyes. We need to make sure that Zachary never does anything like this again.”

“Even if members of the Cobra family are still alive, we’re taking you back to the palace to rule in peace,” Roger announced to the Little Child, as they strutted through the meadow. 

“A long peaceful life is what you’re going to live, and so will the rest of us,” Shirley agreed, kissing Roger on the cheek. 

With the Little Child safely crowned, and on the throne, Shirley and Roger became heroes in the Kingdom. Never underestimate the love between a lion and a lamb. 


Copyright 2023 Jennifer Waters

Thursday, April 7, 2022

The Mary Nose Mysteries: The Story of Nosy Mary

             “Smile!” called 14-year-old Mary Nose, who loved to take pictures with her magic camera, inherited from her maternal grandmother Louise Jenkins, a famous photojournalist who took pictures all over the world. 

“Don’t miss the moment!” Louise would always say. “Make sure it lives forever. A smile is happiness you’ll find right under your nose.”

Mary tried to do just that, but not everyone appreciated her enthusiasm.

“Oh, Nosy Mary, you’re taking pictures again!” moaned her mother. It seemed that Mary’s friends and family always teased the gawky girl. “Please take someone else’s photo. I don’t like to be in front of the camera. Why do you have to stick your nose into everything?”

At least this time, her larger-than-average nose hid behind a magic camera, and she now had a reason to feel special. 

“What’s this?” Mary asked, holding up a developed picture in her secret darkroom. With the very first photographs that Mary took from her grandma’s camera, extra people and things mysteriously appeared in the pictures when developing them. “I just don’t know how that person ended up in my photo. He wasn’t there when I took the photo! I wonder what it means?”

Despite the unusual additional people and things that magically appeared in Mary’s new photos, she had obvious talent and a keen eye for what other people missed. 

“I see you!” Mary declared, taking a picture of Mr. Rockwell, her eighth-grade English teacher at Lancaster Valley Middle School.

“Well, since you see me, why don’t you apply to be yearbook editor? I think you have the nose for it!” he suggested to Mary, looking into her camera. “It’s my first year overseeing the yearbook, and I don’t know much other than how to teach English. You might know more about photography than I do. It’s time for you to shine.”

“I’m not your best student, Mr. Rockwell,” Mary argued, unsure of her capabilities. “I’m more of a geek with a camera.”

“I need you to be a leader, Mary,” Mr. Rockwell decided, giving her the school’s yearbook camera. “Your pictures are wonderful. Finish the yearbook by March 1st, so it can be ready for graduation. No excuses! Get the job done, and keep your nose clean, Nosy Mary!”

The next day, Mary biked to school, forgetting the school camera at home, so she took pictures with Grandma Louise’s camera, which she usually carried in her backpack everywhere. A camera is a camera, she thought. 

“Smile, Hank!” Mary laughed, snapping a shot of Hank the janitor at lunchtime.  

“Put that stupid camera away!” Hank yelled at her, holding up his fist. 

Ignoring Hank, Mary took his picture anyway. Later that afternoon when she developed the pictures, Mary noticed a strange, ominous glow around Hank. 

“What is wrong with him?” Mary wondered aloud. “I have to figure this out!”

During the next week, Mary followed Hank around the school, taking more pictures.

“Give me the film from your camera!” Hank demanded. “I told you to stop taking my picture. Stop putting your nose where it doesn’t belong!”

“It’s my job to take your photo, sir!” Mary blurted out. “Mr. Rockwell put me in charge of the yearbook. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to return to my office.”

During the next few weeks, Mary noticed that the yearbook office—a glorified closet—was not always found the way that she left it. The closet was down the hall from Mr. Rockwell’s classroom, and the best office that he could find for the school’s yearbook editor. 

“Where is my radio?” Mary asked Mr. Rockwell one day after school, confused, looking under the office table. “I was just playing it. Oh, where are those pictures I developed yesterday?”

“I don’t know, Mary,” he replied, rolling up his plaid sleeves. “No one else uses the closet, but you. I hardly even come in here because I am too busy.”

“I’m going to develop my pictures in my secret dark room at home tonight,” Mary explained. “That way, I can keep track of my photographs until we find out where the missing items went.”

Over the next few months, Mary photographed middle school dances, basketball games, cafeteria lunches, band practices, special assemblies, ski trips, swim meets, and more—even when students did not want their pictures taken. 

“Don’t turn up your noses!” Mary called to her classmates. “You’ll thank me twenty years from now that you have pictures of yourselves from your younger days.”

The magic photos revealed all kinds of things, like who had a crush on whom, who was thinking of their dog, and who was worrying about their science test. She also oversaw Picture Day with a cranky photographer from School Pictures USA named Frans Robert. 

“Oui, oui, if you don’t want to smile for the photo, fine,” Frans snapped as he took pictures. “It’s no skin off my nose if you look unhappy in your lifelong portraits!”

After hours alone working on organizing the perfect selection of photographs for the yearbook, Mary decided she had completed the keepsake. 

“The yearbook is finally finished!” Mary announced, showing Mr. Rockwell in early March.

“This is fabulous, Mary!” Mr. Rockwell exclaimed, hugging her. “I’m so proud of you! You’ve given your student body a wonderful reminder of this glorious year of school! I’m sending it to the printer tomorrow afternoon.”

Then, Mr. Rockwell left the masterpiece on the desk in the yearbook office to show the principal the next day. In the morning, when he returned to the larger-than-life closet, the finished product was gone. 

“The yearbook has been stolen!” Mr. Rockwell announced over the school intercom. “If anyone finds it, there is a reward waiting for you in my office. Bring it to me immediately!”

“What do you mean the yearbook has been stolen?” Mary cried, running to her office. She rummaged through the desk and shelves, to find nothing but paper scraps and empty film canisters. “I’m going to search the school! The yearbook has to be right under my nose.”

Distraught, she searched through the entire school, taking pictures with Grandma Louise’s camera, looking for clues as to the whereabouts of the missing yearbook.

“All the clues lead back to Hank the janitor,” Mary quipped, as the magic pictures came together. Oddly enough, Hank’s mop and bucket appeared in every photograph that Mary developed. “I’m going to try to talk to him tomorrow after school before I come to any conclusions.”

“Hank, can I please speak to you for a minute?” Mary asked in a confrontational tone. 

“What do you want?” Hank raged. “I have had enough of you and your camera.”

Hank pushed her into the yearbook office and locked the door with his key.

“Wait! What are you doing? You can’t lock me here overnight!” Mary yelled, flipping on the light. “Help! Someone, help me! Hank is a thief! Oh, I wonder what Grandma Louise would do in a pinch like this?”

Mary curled up in a ball on the floor and cried until she fell asleep. 

The next morning, when Mr. Rockwell opened the yearbook office door, Mary burst into tears again. “What are you doing here?” Mr. Rockwell cried. “You look awful.”

“Hank locked me in the closet last night!” Mary mumbled. “He stole the yearbook. After I call my mom, I’m calling the police. My mom must be worried sick as to where I am.”

Later that morning, Mary’s mother charged down the hall, throwing her fist in the air. 

“Mom, what are you doing?” Mary questioned. “You can’t beat up Hank! I called the police. Please, go powder your nose and calm down.”

“He deserves a good reality check!” Mrs. Nose demanded. “What was Hank thinking? Mary, taking all these nosy pictures got you into a lot of trouble, young lady. Please give up photography. You could be a cheerleader instead. I was a cheerleader in high school!”

“Enough, Mom,” Mary insisted. “I am a serious photographer like Grandma Louise.”

When explaining how Mary figured out that Hank was the perpetrator, Mary left out the part about the magic clue-giving pictures that her grandmother’s camera made. She did not want anyone to think that she was imagining things. 

“Mary did a wonderful job on the yearbook,” Mr. Rockwell explained to Mrs. Nose. “I’m so sorry for this nonsense. I had no idea that Hank was so destructive. Everything is going to be okay.”

By noon, the police arrested Hank the janitor. Sadly, he had been homeless for months and had to sleep in the yearbook closet from time to time, which explained Mary’s missing items from the office. 

“Last night, I slept next to the school’s dumpster since I locked Mary in the closet,” Hank explained. “I just liked the yearbook so much that I took it with me,” he whispered, twisting the truth with a straight face. 

“Well, that’s a bit of a stretch,” the police officer declared, putting Hank in handcuffs. “Don’t cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Give Mary back her yearbook now!”

“I’m sorry, Mary,” Hank pleaded, returning the yearbook to its editor. 

“I forgive you, Hank,” Mary whispered. “At least you took good care of the yearbook. I don’t see a scratch on it,” she decided, examining it closely. “I didn’t know you were homeless. I’m going to hold a fundraiser for you through a special photography exhibit. Hank, you need a home.”

“Please let Hank go,” Mr. Rockwell explained to the police. “We don’t want to press charges. We just want Hank to promise to never steal again. Definitely never ever lock anyone in a closet again. Do you promise, Hank?”

“Yes, sir,” Hank agreed. “I promise.”

“Ask for help next time,” Mr. Rockwell instructed. “Hank, you need to speak to the principal to see if the school will allow you to keep your job.”

“I’ll try to do better,” Hank mumbled as the police took off the handcuffs. “I acted really stupid. I’m sorry. Try not to rub my nose in it.” 

“We love you, Hank!” Mary announced, snapping his picture for a special addition to the completed yearbook. “I just got your mug shot, and it’s going in the yearbook as one of my favorite memories.” 

Then, Mr. Rockwell hurried to the school’s loudspeaker to make an announcement.

“The yearbook has been found!” he cheered. “Mary solved the mystery on the nose! Nothing gets past her! Nosy Mary’s yearbook is the best yearbook ever. Order your copy today!”


Copyright 2023 Jennifer Waters

Saturday, April 2, 2022

"The Wreath and Candles," A MERRY CHRISTMAS CAROL


The Wreath and Candles Christmas Stamp

Was the first emblem of its festive kind.

It graced greeting cards and Santa’s letters.

By the Postmaster General, it was designed.

The seal sold out oh so very quickly!

The printer had to print many more.

So, the Christmas cards were decorated

By the time the post reached your front door.



The postman’s motto or so it goes,

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail,

Or Christmas traffic with the Western winds,

Shall keep the postmen from delivering mail!



Like a star on top of a Christmas tree,

The stamps were elegant and right on time. 

Each year after that, like fine artwork,

The new seals were drawn line by line.

Just a tiny red and green painting,

You stick with a lick of your tongue.

The stamps never became outdated.

Loved so much, there's a song to be sung.



The postman’s motto or so it goes,

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail,

Or Christmas traffic with the Western winds,

Shall keep the postmen from delivering mail!



Santa Claus delivers toys on Christmas Eve,

To all those who write him a magic letter.

Blessed with a holiday Christmas stamp,

The correspondence becomes all-the-better.



The postman’s motto or so it goes,

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail,

Or Christmas traffic with the Western winds,

Shall keep the postmen from delivering mail!


The wreath and candles Christmas stamp.

The wreath and candles Christmas stamp.


Copyright 2023 Jennifer Waters