Category Archives: Short Stories (in the broadest of terms)

Sprite

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One day I found a baby bird that had almost been caught by a cat. I knew about the food chain, but even so, I thought that cat was really mean! I was afraid the cat might scratch me for taking away her lunch, but I had the courage to pick the baby bird up and take her inside. I asked my mom if I could take care of her until she could fly, but she said I should call the wildlife center first. I did, and they told me to stay where I found the bird and see if her parents came looking for her. If they didn’t return in an hour, they said, then I should bring the bird to the center. I waited for the bird’s parents, but they never came back. When I got to the center, they needed to tend to the bird’s injuries, but said I could keep her until she learned to fly, just as long as I understood the type of care she would need.
After the people at the wildlife center nursed the bird back to health, I picked a name for her. I decided to call her Sprite. Thinking that was a great name, the people at the wildlife center gave her to me and told me what I would need to do to take care of her. One thing they said was that I should take her to the center and every day and encourage her to fly outdoors, just as her mother would if she were around. I promised I would do it, but, after taking Sprite home, I discovered part of me that didn’t want her to learn to fly!  Part of me wanted to keep her forever! There was also a part of me, though, that wanted her to fly more than anything.
On days when I wanted Sprite to fly, I took her out at the wildlife center and encouraged her just as the wildlife center staff had instructed me to do. On days when I wanted to keep her, though, I didn’t. The people at the wildlife center started to notice this, and one day when I came in wanting to teach Sprite how to fly, they asked me why they didn’t see me every day. I hung my head, not wanting to admit the real reason.  Finally, though, I took a deep breath and let it all spill out.
“I really want to tame her and keep her as a pet!” I exclaimed. “Can you please teach me how to do that?”
“Sweetheart, I know how much you love her,” said one woman who was a staff member. “But you shouldn’t disregard the fact that she’s a wild bird, not a pet. She needs to be free. She wouldn’t be happy if you kept her.”
I felt like crying. I tried to hold it back, but felt even worse when I heard what the woman said next.
“if she goes too long without being taught to fly, she said “she’ll never learn. If you won’t teach her to fly, you will need to bring her back here so we can do it. It’s your choice.” That did it. I was crying before I could stop myself.
“I can teach her how to fly!” I said between tears, even though I wasn’t sure it was true.
“We’ll give you one more chance,” said the woman. “If you don’t come in with her tomorrow afternoon, we will call you and ask to have her back the next day.” I nodded, but wasn’t sure what to say. I took Sprite home.
The next afternoon, and several afternoons after that, I wasted no time taking her to the wildlife center to learn to fly. After hearing that she might never learn to fly if I didn’t teach her, I think the side of me that wanted her to won out.
After being encouraged a few more times by me and the people at the wildlife center, Sprite was finally flying on her own. I had gotten my wish, and all of me was happy. I think the same was true of her.
After saying goodbye to Sprite at home, I took her to the wildlife center to be released. As soon as we let her out of her cage, she was off! I waved goodbye as she flew away. I don’t know how, but somehow I had faith that I would see her again.

School Leadership Uncertainty

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At my school we have a Princess Club for any girls who are interested. Some of the other girls in that club wear tiaras, jewelry, and pretty dresses, and Ms. Shoran, the teacher in charge of the club, says that’s okay. I guess it is, but I don’t wear those things. I’m not that kind of princess. Ms. Shoran says you don’t have to wear those things to be in this club, nor do you need to dance or sing like most fairy tale princesses do. All you need to do is share your interests. Everybody has interests, and when you share them, it helps you become a good leader. That’s what this club is really about, and that’s why I’m in it. I want to learn how to be a leader. We all take turns being the leader in this club, because leadership is what being a princess is really about. Most princesses grow up to be queens, but I guess most fairy tales skip that part. I bet you can tell I don’t care much for fairy tale princesses. They’re so boring, waiting around to be rescued and never trying to solve problems on their own. I wouldn’t want to be a real princess either. I get in trouble so much at home, I’d live in constant fear of disinheriting the throne! But without that fear, I think I would make a pretty good leader, just as soon as I decide what to teach my fellow princesses.
Being a princess is not just about being beautiful, though I can tell some of the other girls in the club are really glad that’s part of it. Like Sara, who likes to design dresses. That’s what she had us do when she was the leader. Or Evelyn, who likes to make jewelry. We all made necklaces when she was the leader, but I gave mine to Grace, my friend from another school. I don’t like jewelry. I also don’t like the meetings where the leader has us do normal princess stuff. Those are really boring. I kept messing up when we were designing dresses. I was so embarrassed, I felt like tickling the other girls so they’d mess up, too. I didn’t, but I was glad when that meeting was over. I’m also glad our Princess Club isn’t restricted to girly things like that. Being a princess means being a leader, and here’s what I remember Ms. Shoran saying about being a leader:
“Being a good leader is not just about having privileges, power, or dominance. Being a good leader means you’re responsible, hard-working, and honest. A good leader isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty while working on projects with her followers. That’s part of why being a princess is not just about being beautiful.”
So far, my favorite Princess Club meetings have been the ones where the leader taught us how to cook something. I don’t much like cooking, and I definitely don’t like helping set out the tableware, but it was fun trying all the treats the other girls made for us. All the times I tried cooking at home, it was a disaster. Several other girls in this club enjoy cooking, though. Around Thanksgiving, Sally taught us how to make cranberry sauce. Another time Wendy taught us to make pizza. Then there was the time Nancy showed us how to make pancakes and put her own homemade topping on them instead of maple syrup. She also topped the pancakes with nuts, and I loved chopping those nuts with a nutcracker. Maria, whose family is from Mexico, taught us how to make tacos. I loved smashing the clumps of meat like she showed us, and it was really funny how she misplaced the shells. We finally found them in the hall, where they had fallen out of her bag.
I really hope I can be a good leader when it’s my turn. I’m not sure yet what I’ll teach the other girls about, though. Maybe I’ll teach about crocodiles, because I really like dangerous animals. I like aquatic animals too, especially ones like crocodiles, that live both on land and in water. I’m not as interested in marine animals, that live in the water all the time. I know teaching about crocodiles would mean a biology meeting, and so far, we’ve only had one biology meeting. Most of the girls in the Princess Club don’t seem to like biology. That’s why if our Princess Club was a mountain, I seriously doubt my crocodile meeting would be the crest. Annie and I like biology, though. When Annie was the leader, she taught us about paramecia. We looked at paramecia through a microscope, and Annie told lots of jokes about these single-celled organisms. She’s very funny. I liked hearing all the new information she had, because before that meeting, all I knew about paramecia was that they were very tiny, mostly because of the insult “paramecium brain.” It was much more fun than learning about paramecia in science class, too. I hope I can make a meeting on crocodiles just as fun, but I’m not sure how.

Raccoons, Leaves, and Cacao Beans

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While we raked leaves, we pretended the big oaken tree in our yard shedding them was a cacao tree. The acorns it was also shedding? Well, those were cacao beans. The leaves being gathered up by our thin little rakes were magic leaves. When you wrapped the cacao beans in them, it filled the beans with magical powers, that would be given to anyone who ate them. We had to hurry and eat the cacao beans before a raccoon ate them.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Yeah, I’m getting a little old for these games. These were all Jenny’s idea. Especially the part about the raccoon. I love raccoons. I love all animals. But ever since Jenny got bitten by a rabid raccoon and had to go to the hospital, raccoons have had to be the villains in her games. Sometimes I’ve reminded her that raccoons can be nice, but Mom and Dad always tell me to let my sister use her imagination to get over her trauma. They say they let me do the same thing I was her age, but I don’t remember any trauma, nor do I remember having fantasies as elaborate or nonsensical as hers. If I did, I’m sure they were at least more coherent than hers often are.
I must say, though, the things she’s coming up right now are pretty cool. I wonder what kinds of magical powers these cacao beans will give us when we eat them? What kinds of powers would they give a raccoon? Would a raccoon be able to transform himself into a human if he ate these magic cacao beans? What would he do then? Would he still bite people if he had rabies? Maybe not. Maybe if the raccoon who bit Jenny turned into a human, she could talk to him and ask him not to bite her again. Maybe she could even take him to the hospital to get rabies shots, just like she got when she was there.
“Hey, Jenny,” I said. “We should find the raccoon that bit you.”
“Why?” asked Jenny, her eyes shining with fear.
“Don’t worry, he won’t bite you again,” I continued. “I won’t let him.”
“Then why?” Jenny asked again.
“So we can give him some of these magic cacao beans,” I answered, picking up a handful of acorns. Jenny looked at me again, even more fearfully this time.
“There will be plenty left for us,” I added. “And by giving the cacao beans to the raccoon, we can make sure he won’t bite you again. Jenny shook her head.
“No!” she whined. “A raccoon with magical powers could hurt me even more badly!”
“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe, a raccoon with magical powers could turn himself into a human.” I went on to tell her my idea of taking him to the hospital to get rabies shots and then having him promise not to bite her again. Jenny’s eyes brightened, but then she looked worried again.
“Come on,” I said. “What are you afraid will happen if we gave him magic cacao beans?” Jenny thought for a minute.
“He might cast a horrible spell to give more people rabies,” she said. “Then we’d all start biting each other and getting sick!”
“Why would he do that?” I asked.
“Don’t raccoons want the people they bite to get sick?”
“No,” I said. “That raccoon was just scared. He didn’t know he had rabies, and he didn’t mean to give it to you.”
“Promise?” asked Jenny.
“Promise,” I said.
“Okay!” said Jenny. “Let’s save some of these magical chocolate beans for the raccoon. But we have to wrap them in leaves first!”
“Okay,” I said. “But they’re called cacao beans,” I reminded her for what seemed like the twentieth time.
“Right,” said Jenny. We wrapped each acorn we had collected in a magical leaf before putting all the raked leaves in the compost. Then we pretended to eat our magical cacao beans. It gave Jenny the power to fly, but I wasn’t sure what magical power it would give me. I had to think about that.
“Stay open-minded,” said our mother. “That’s one of the things imagination is best for. Maybe something will come to you.”
“Yes,” said our father. “Maybe even in a dream.”
I didn’t have any dreams that night, but the next morning, Jenny came down in her pajamas full of smiles.
“Guess what?” she asked, grinning from ear to ear. “Last night, I told the raccoon not to bite me again. Then I took him to the hospital to get rabies shots, so he would never make anyone else sick!”
“That’s wonderful, Jenny!” said Mom. “Did you have any dreams last night, Jeffrey?” I shook my head, feeling too grown up to get into this. Mom and dad looked at each other.
“Just remember, Jeff, you’re never to old to be creative,” said Dad.
“That’s right,” said Mom. “Open-mindedness comes from imagination, and so does creativity. Both are good for grown-ups as well as children.”
I thought about what my parents and little sister had said. Then I remembered how much fun Jenny and I had with the cacao beans and magical leaves. I’m old enough to know it was just a game. But I still keep waiting to dream about the magical power I get from those cacao beans.

Ladylike

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“Stop that, Layla,” said Mother, as Layla’s mouth squirted out milk like a spout. “That’s not ladylike.”
Layla grinned at her mom, who was silently cleaning milk off the table.
Ayah shook her head as she colored on her menu. She remembered being told to be ladylike, and she knew her sister hated it just as much as she had. Nonetheless, Ayah knew she needed to show her younger sister how to behave. She quietly took a swig of her lemonade and swallowed it without spitting it out, which she might have done when she was Layla’s age.
“See, Layla?” she said. “This is the way big girls drink.” There was no way she would be caught saying “ladylike.”
Layla looked at her sister blankly and started banging on the wall.
“Now, Layla, that’s not ladylike either,” said their mom. She removed Layla’s sticky hands from the wall and started wiping the wall off with a napkin. Ayah rolled her eyes.
“Ayah, can you switch sides with us?” asked Mother. “I want Layla sitting away from the wall so she won’t bang on it or get it messy.”
“Sure, Mom,” said Ayah. Anything to get her little sister and her mom to stop embarrassing her!
As soon as they had switched sides and Layla was settled down in her new seat, she started banging her spoon against her milk glass.
“Layla!” exclaimed Mother. “Can’t you be ladylike for once? What am I going to do with you on a cloudy day like today if I can’t take you to restaurants?” Ayah covered her eyes. She wasn’t sure she could stand going to restaurants with Layla, especially if she had to keep hearing a stupid term like “ladylike.”
Layla scribbled on her menu, then started throwing the crayons. She laughed as one of them almost hit the waiter who had come to take their order.
“I am so sorry!” said Mother, clapping a hand over her mouth. “Layla, what did I tell you about throwing things? It’s not-”
“Nice to throw things at people,” Ayah finished. She was not going to hear the term “ladylike” a fourth time. Her mom looked at her in surprise, but when she spoke, it was Ayah’s turn to be surprised.
“Yes,” she said. “It is not nice to throw things at people. Tell the waiter you’re sorry.”
“I’m sorry,” said Layla, sweetly.
“Thank you,” said mother. They ordered their food. When it came, and after Mother moved the crayons to get rid of the clutter, Layla offered Ayah one of her French fries.
“No thanks,” said Ayah, since her sister had already put her hands all over her food.
“Aww, but Layla,” said Mother. “Sharing your food is very-”
“Nice,” Ayah finished.
“Yes,” said mother. “That is exactly what I was going to say.” She winked at Ayah, and Ayah had a strange feeling that her mother understood. She might even stop saying “ladylike.” Maybe going places with her family wasn’t so bad.

Happy Thanksgiving, Hazel and Roberta!

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“Happy Thanksgiving!” said Roberta, knowing she needed to make up for her lack of help.
“You, too!” said Hazel, unable to hide her annoyance.
“What do you want to do?” asked Roberta, trying to keep things cheerful. “The turkey’s in the oven, the sweet potatoes are made, and so are the pies and the green bean casserole.” Hazel rolled her eyes. Most of the tasks Roberta had just named she had not at all contributed to.
“Me?!” asked Hazel. “I’m going to rest! I’ve been working my butt off all day!”
“Hey, and I haven’t?” asked Roberta. She knew she hadn’t worked as much as Hazel, but there was no way she would admit it.
“Not as much as me,” said Hazel, though she really hoped she didn’t have to state the obvious like that.
“Oh, yeah?” challenged Roberta. “Who made the green bean casserole?” She knew her own tasks could never compete with Hazel’s, but she had to try. She wasn’t going to back down that easily.
“That’s one of the easiest dishes you can make!” protested Hazel. “And it’s basically all you did.”
“What are you talking about?! I helped make the pumpkin pie, too!”
“Just the easy tasks,” said Hazel, rolling her eyes. “All you did was take the easiest tasks from me! You didn’t help me at all! Now, go see if there’s anything else to do while I rest.””You sure?” said Roberta. “I doubt I’ll find anything!” Roberta did not plan to look very hard.
“I’m sure you will,” said Hazel. “If you look hard enough.” She smirked after this last statement. She knew Roberta hardly ever looked hard enough, unless what she was looking for only concerned her.
“I don’t think so,” said Roberta, but she left the kitchen so Hazel could go

Orphan and Dog Story

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“Before we can adopt a dog,” said Betsy “we’ll have to set up an interview. That’s a rule for anyone who wants to adopt from the animal shelter.”
“What’s an animal shelter?” asked Angie.
“It’s like an orphanage for dogs and cats,” Betsy replied.
“So, are the dogs and cats at an animal shelter like us?” asked Angie.
“Sort of,” said Betsy. “They don’t have any mommies or daddies, and they’re all waiting for someone to think they’re cute and take them home.”
“Then we can all be their mommies and daddies!” Jason chimed in, jumping onto Betsy’s bed.
“Yes,” said Betsy. “But this won’t be as easy for us as it would be for our new mommies and daddies.”
“Why not?” asked Jason.
“Well, for one thing, any new mommies and daddies we get would have cars. We don’t have a car.”
“We can walk!” retorted Rachel.
“You think walking ten blocks would be easy?!” snapped Betsy. “Besides, that’s not even half of it! Our new mommies and daddies wouldn’t have Ms. Harquin constantly waiting for them to do something bad so she can scold them!” All the orphans looked at Betsy in silence.  At least some of them hated to admit it, but they all knew she was right.
The whole group had gone quiet in unison.  Angie was the first to speak up after the silent spell was over.
“So, can we still try it?” she asked. Betsy looked around the room at all of the eager little faces, each with his or her own reason to coax her into trying to get a dog to keep at the orphanage.  Angie, the littlest, needed someone to comfort and protect her. Jason needed something to remind him of the little terrier he had lost along with his parents. Rachel needed someone to mess around with when the other orphans were too worn out. And Betsy had to admit that having a dog would cheer her up, too. But how were they going to pull this off? Betsy knew she’d have to think of something soon.