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Children's World stories Part 2

Story ID:11428
Written by:Richard Laurent. Provencher (bio, contact, other stories)
Organization:Retired
Story type:Fiction
Location:Truro Nova Scotia Canada
Year:17
Person:Esther & Richard Provencher
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“Hey dad?” was a question Travis had. It came with a quick answer.
“Play, make noise and live, young one.”



Children's World Part 2
By
Esther and Richard Provencher

COPYRIGHT

(c) 2015 Esther and Richard Provencher
Dester Publications. All rights reserved.

DEDICATION

For all our great grand-children to come.
(From Grandma Esther and Grandpa Richard)

CONTENT
A Dog’s Tale
A Gift of Love
“B” is For Bravery
Bubble Gum Fun
Decision on a Sandy Shore
Do I Have To?
Footsteps in the Dark
For a Friend
Foster Cat
Friendships
Grandma’s Rose
Hello Me
I Wanna Be
It Must Be Santa
Legend
Making Faces
Merry-Go-Round Shopping
Mom Said, No
Multiplication Boy
One More Wish

PART 2 OF CHIILDREN’S WORLD stories BY ESTHER & RICHARD PROVENCHER

I WANNA BE

Michael wiped moisture from his forehead. He felt like a well-done sausage in today’s heat.

Suddenly, Aunt Rose shouted a bucketful of questions. "Did you empty the garbage? What about the woodbin?

She looked him over and asked, “Are you daydreaming again, young man?"

Michael smiled. He knew auntie worried about everything. Ever since she and Uncle Mark began raising him and his two younger brothers, three years ago.

"Been thinking about all those trees," answered Michael.

"What do you want to be this time?" auntie asked.

"I wanna be a lumberjack," said Michael.

"Why?" his aunt muttered.

"So I can build a huge room for each of us," he answered. Michael swiped at his thick brown hair. His blue eyes were shining.

"Where do you get these ideas?” she grumbled. “And only eight years old!" She walked away shaking her shoulders.

Michael remained on the swing. "Maybe I should be a carpenter," he said out loud. "Then I could measure everything properly.” But, only the red squirrel heard him.

"BREAKFAST!" came as a bolt of thunder from the house. The word rushed between two birch trees, across the yard into Michael’s right ear.
He raced Ryan and Bryan to the house. They were seven and six. Three noisy boys wrestled for a chair in the kitchen. Feet thumped. Fists poked. And hands grabbed for cereal bowls.

"Stop it! shouted Aunt Rose. There was silence.

As the oldest, Michael's duty was to fill each bowl. His brothers performed their usual impatient banging of spoons on the table. After Michael finished, Aunt Rose said a prayer of thanks. “OK...now eat,” was easily understood.

Cereal, toast and juice disappeared. The boys ate like little crocodiles. Then Bryan and Ryan raced outside for their bikes.

Michael walked slowly after them. "I wanna be a mechanic," he said. “To keep their bikes working okay.” Only the dust from two bicycle back tires heard him.

Later in the afternoon, the family decided to go to the beach. Everyone walked single file down a gravel road, to the highway, then the ocean.

As Michael’s feet disappeared under water, he watched his brothers yelling and splashing. An idea popped into his head.

"I wanna be a lifeguard," he said. "Then I could sit on a look-out spot. And be ready in case my brothers need help."

"Michael! Stop daydreaming!! Get in the water or we'll go home right now!" his aunt said rather noisily. He quickly joined his brothers, swimming and splashing.

Besides, Michael wanted everyone to be happy. The rest of the afternoon was filled with sun, water-wrestling and huge waves.

Sitting later on their swing, Michael knew he would have to change. After all, he was still a young kid. When his mother died three years ago it was very difficult.

Then his father had to go and live in the hospital for a while. “I have responsibilities,” he told his teacher one day. And she answered, "Don't worry so much. Little boys like you are supposed to have fun."

Michael and his brothers were glad to have a place to live. At least until his daddy became well.

"I wanna be a doctor and work in the hospital," he announced to anyone listening. "And give each kid a teddy bear, and have lots of ice cream to eat."

Later in the evening his aunt came over to the swing and gave Michael a hug. The sky was painted red and yellow. Michael was tired after such a long day.

Supper was fish and chips. “YUMMY!” the boys yelled. It was a great treat after a hot day at the beach. Licking tongues and ‘slurping’ sounds made Aunt Rose happy.

Tonight, Ben was being a cranky seven-year old at the table.

Ryan was his usual tattletale self.

And Michael was lost in another daydream.

Uncle Mark relaxed on the sofa after the good meal.

Michael chewed on his lower lip. His imagination had helped him get through another day.

After bedtime stories, the boys scooted off to their bedroom. Since Michael was the oldest he did not have to share a room. His private space was beside the kitchen.

From his window, he watched a shooting star. It blinked, then 'KABOOMED' as it lit up the sky like a noiseless firecracker.

"I wanna be an astronaut," Michael said suddenly. "I wanna travel in a space ship like Captain Picard. And land on the stars."

Suddenly he felt lonesome. He needed to talk to someone. The family was probably asleep by now, he thought. Should he check and see? What to do?

Then, like a bolt of lightning, Michael made a decision. He put away his older boy imagination. He just wanted to think like a little boy again.

It must have been the 'KABOOM' in the sky that reminded him. Or when the stars blinked. He was sure they said, “Oh Michael, you have such big ideas. Don’t forget, you’re only eight years old.”

Whatever it was, he began to giggle. Michael tried covering his mouth. But happy sounds kept coming out. Giggle, giggle and more giggles.

He decided to have some fun. And crawled along the floor to his brothers’ room, dragging his pillow behind him.

“We hear you Michael,” they said. “And our pillows are waiting.”

When Michael stood up he saw it was true and rushed in, smacking both brothers across the chest. Now there was a room full of giggles.

After that fun battle, he decided to share his happiness with his aunt and uncle.

"What is it? What's wrong?" they asked in alarm, since they were now awake wondering about the commotion.

"I want to say goodnight again,” he said, jumping onto their bed. “And give you a big hug and a kiss!" Michael shouted with a really neat eight-year old smile.

And he did just that.

IT MUST BE SANTA

Theodore wondered why he was given such a long name. He liked ‘Ted.’ It sounded more grown up for a seven year old.

When his mother was upset with him, she yelled, “TEDDY!”

Today was Christmas Eve, but it didn’t seem to be special anymore. After all, Ted was an only child. So getting a stack of presents was no big deal.

He already had every kind of gift. Stuffed animals were his favorite. The first one he received from mom and dad was a teddy bear.

That’s all he wanted.

Then each birthday and Christmas he received stuffed toys in all shapes and sizes. Now his room was like a tumbling waterfall of stuffed toys.

It was funny seeing gifts all over the floor, on his dresser, hanging from the ceiling. And stacked up in his closet.

Stuffed bunnies, deer, bears, owls, and squirrels stared at each other like a sky full of stars.

Each day he tripped over his “Stuffies.” When Ted wanted to play a game he lined them up as bowling pins. Imagine a bowling alley right in his house.

Mom, dad and Theodore even played games of ‘toy-ball.’ Instead of throwing snowballs, they threw stuffed animals at each other.

Another Christmas was coming quickly as a sleigh ride.

As usual, Ted would soon be opening a truckload of gifts. Some would be not only from his parents, but from aunts, uncles, even Santa. Not one would come from any of his friends, because he had none.

Theodore thought he had everything he needed. A mom, dad and lots of fancy clothes and toys. At school they said he was a spoiled little kid.

“They’re just envious,” his mom said.

But Ted wished he had one true friend. And not just come to visit and see the expensive gifts he received for Christmas. Or eat from all his boxes of candy

Today was passing so slowly. Would Santa bring something special?

“Teddy,” his mom scolded. “The day before Christmas is supposed to be a happy time. Now please try to smile.”

“Yes,” his dad added. “Try to smile. Like this.” Then he made up all kinds of ridiculous faces. But he couldn’t make his son laugh.

Huge snowflakes fell and lay in piles like a field of marshmallows.

But all Theodore could think of over the Christmas Holidays was the same old story. No friends, nothing to do, except open up a mountain of gifts, from under the tree. And probably get more stuffed animals.

Perhaps this year they’ll only be different colors and sizes.

Christmas Eve supper was pork chops and potatoes, with a tiny pile of peas and corn. “Why do kids have to eat peas anyway?” he asked.

“Well,” mom answered, “many children have no vegetables. Some have very little food and not even…”

“…Presents for Christmas!” Theodore interrupted rudely. It wasn’t his fault dad had a good paying job. Or, that they lived in a huge house with a whole field of beautiful trees in their backyard.

“But no one to come and play with me,” he said in a silent whisper.

Soon Theodore’s yawning reminded him it was bedtime. His parents tucked him in, kissed him goodnight and left silently.

The night-light was like a friend that cast shadows on the wall.

Unable to sleep, Theodore pulled back his blankets and stepped onto the cold floor. He leaned on his windowsill and looked up at the stars. They were like fireflies in the night.

He remembered ‘blinking’ fireflies the time his family camped this past summer. But tonight bright lights in the sky looked lonely, like him.

Then floppy snowflakes began to fall.

And something moved by the swings. “It…looks like a little kitten,” Theodore said softly to himself. Now where did he come from?

The poor creature couldn’t stay outside in this weather, he might freeze. Oh, a cat was the only pet he ever wanted. His parents always said, “No pets in this house. Their hair will get all over the furniture.”

Theodore had to help. Everything was silent. His parents must be asleep.

He tiptoed downstairs, planning to let the kitten in. Maybe feed it some milk. Then let the cat out in the morning before mom and dad got up.

“SSSH. Quiet,“ He said to the creaking stairs. “You’ll wake up the whole town,” he snickered.

As the door swung open, a huge draft of snow rushed at him. And meowing could barely be heard from under the swing set. Snow continued to pile up.

Theodore retreated to the closet and slipped on a pair of dad’s winter boots. Now the boy’s bare feet were warmer.

In the darkness, he could not find his jacket. So he ended up wrapping mom’s coat around his shoulders. “Here I come, kitty,” he promised.

Each carefully placed foot left a deep space in the snow. It seemed as if the swing set was farther from the house than Theodore thought. But it was worth continuing on his rescue mission.

The kitten was unable to jump above the deepening snow. And was very happy someone cared enough to come get him in this terrible weather.

Picking up the little bundle, Theodore returned to the house. But it was not so simple since his tracks were now covered over. And he couldn’t see properly since the wind blew snow fiercely at him.

The little kitten shook with cold. And Theodore felt chills race up and down his own arms. Finally he reached the door, only to find it wouldn’t open.

“Oh no, it must have locked behind me,” he moaned.

What to do now? The snow pelted him and the little kitten. He banged on the door, but no one heard. The wind was too loud for his parents to hear. Cold seemed to cover him like a snow bank.

From the corner of his eye, he saw a shape moving through the snowy night. Coming closer he could see it was someone dressed in a red suit. And he was sure he could hear, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” even in the wind.

Was it really Santa? Could it be he?

Ted felt himself being lifted, then carried. He held his rescued kitten close to his chest. It all seemed like a pleasant dream as his eyes closed.

Tingling in his feet and hands disappeared as warmth returned to his body. It moved from the hairs on his head to the tips of his little toes. And he sensed the same thing was happening to the little kitten.

The next thing he remembered was mom and dad shaking him.

“Wake up Ted! Wake up!” his parents said.

He blinked his eyes, and saw the kitten in a cozy ball under his arm.

“Where did you find him?” mom gasped.

“May I keep him, please?” Theodore pleaded.

“The kitten was supposed to be one of your Christmas presents,” dad said. “We felt badly he got away as we returned from the pet shop. And now he’s here.”

Huge hugs disturbed the kitten’s sleep. But then he didn’t mind. After all, he was sure this was to be his new home.

In a short while everyone sat in front of the tree. A mountain of gifts was waiting for Theodore. But they didn’t seem very important right now. He looked at all the decorations, Christmas cards, and colored lights.

Then he took a deep breath and told them about what happened.

“Thank you Santa,” was a special greeting from them to the Man in Red.

Then everyone got properly dressed for the winter day, since mom and dad really liked their son’s idea. Theodore held his head high as he pulled his wagon full of presents, heading down the street.

He knocked on doors giving away each gift to a child. After all, Ted had everything he needed, a great mom and dad. And a kitten, he now called Lucky.

This was definitely the best Christmas ever!

LEGEND

It made John-Jo sad to think he was poor. "Is it true, Ma-ma?" he often asked. Their tiny shack beside the road barely withstood the wind. "Why let it bother you?" her gentle voice always answered.

John-Jo's father was a Worker. His days of challenge were spent at the village dump, at the end of the road. John-Jo often watched people return with usable items. Pieces of wood, and old washers; everything had a use. Clothes, cardboard boxes and wire as well. Everything was carefully checked. To make sure there was a definite use for them in the community. Without this plan of kindness, his family would have even less. And so the days passed.

When John-Jo's father had his fatal accident, everything changed. Shortly after being placed in Mother Earth, John-Jo became a Helper. The dead on Mars had no need for special treatment. The Fire Pit near the Valley of Caves was a very short ceremony. Too much work was needed. And time for sentimentality very brief. The boy’s hands were needed to labor on this harsh planet, which suffered ancient memories of war.

"This pail is very heavy, Ma-ma," John-Jo spoke. "I know dear," Ma-ma answered. "It is part of our duty, to feed the livestock first. Then bring liquid waters to the Workers."

"Yes, Ma-ma." His words floated on the wind. Wild birds heard his call of anguish. Such struggles were these, for a mother and young son. "Come...come, my little one." Ma-ma's tired bones creaked. Her thin arms struggled with the weight of two full pails. John-Jo's single pail was not so large. But it too was full. They dipped into the River of Liquid. After quenching the thirst of the Workers nearby, their task was complete. Both John-Jo and Ma-ma hurried back to their hut, a simple square building. It was time to cook their bacon and beans.

The rooms were very small. Only John-Jo's had a window. "It is to help you with your dreams," Ma-ma said. “Truly, you have earned the choicest of rooms.”

“But we only have two, Ma-ma.”

"Yes, my son. And one day you will discover your destiny, and an abundance." She teased him often with these words.

Tonight, he searched the far horizon with his eyes. Somehow he knew his vision would come true. John-Jo lay awake thinking of what was spoken in the street today. Talk of strange evening sounds disturbed everyone. Did some unknown beast prowl in the dark? Did it wander from the wastelands beyond the village? Questions turned and twisted. These were too many thoughts for a young boy.

A disturbance caused him to arise quietly before the sun drew itself up over the far off hill. Leaves blowing harshly against their small home was a signal to confirm his restlessness. Young feet tap, tapped across the planked floor. His tiny room was crossed in a moment.

John-Jo's eyes searched through the shade of late night. His gaze peered as a wise man seeking out truths. So many thoughts spoke to him this night. John-Jo quickly returned to blankets tossed wildly about. He burrowed into the safety of his nest. As he slept, he dreamed.

Somewhere beyond the winding hills, there was a stirring. A morning bell called loudly across the valley. John-Jo dressed swiftly as a deer. It was the sacred duty of all Helpers to come quickly. His green coveralls were starched and clean. Ma-ma was proud of her skills. Preparation for the day began by rubbing teeth with a forefinger. Toothpaste was not a luxury for this family. Porridge and hot chocolate filled his emptiness. Good hugs for Ma-ma and a devoted son, then he was off to the fields.

On the way to his duties a Worker approached. John-Jo dropped his eyes and stared at Mother Earth. As was the custom, the boy was not worthy to be acknowledged. The Worker was off to some important task and John-Jo sheltered his angry thoughts. How rude for a Worker to treat him as a block of wood! It was the way of his Elders. He was simply unworthy.

"Someday," he vowed. It was a word often pressed against his lips.
John-Jo meant it to be his mission. He wished to provide kindness for all Workers. Ma-ma did tell him once in the fields, "You have been chosen. To bring wisdom and caring into our village."

"It is your destiny," she whispered. This talk caused confusion within his spirit. His labors continued throughout the hot day. Young arms were quick to replenish the pails of liquid. Each Worker approached and received his offered cup. A cool drink was a quick reward. John-Jo looked down each time. It was taught in the Great Hall since the day he could barely speak.
*
Coming events began a spark of hope. Days and nights passed swiftly. After twelve summers, John-Jo began a new chapter in his life. Tonight, Ma-ma and her growing son spoke in the shadows of their tiny shelter. John-Jo read. It was a message Ma-ma had protected for many years. His eyes blinked tears, at the Revelation. Droplets flowed down his cheeks. A mother's arm across his shoulders caused a devoted son to shudder.

The book he held was precious. Its message was powerful as thunder. Almost like a clap of energy that encircled them. Love flowed through his veins. Knowledge lifted his spirits. He was more than the equal of a Helper. Not just John-Jo, growing into a man, not only a mother's son. Nor even the lowly son of Joe, his father. He was “Legend” as written in the book of Truths. The message read from secret scrolls sent shivers down his spine:

“A great mystery will be untangled by a boy.
He will turn the hearts of everyone. Each will
grow to care. And weep tears that show the
way. The Village will receive this boy and his
name is to be John-Jo.”

Sacred words burned brightly as a lantern. It was as if his father’s voice reached deep into his soul. And joined with the wind. Together, they would carry a message of hope. Years of hardship and longing now vanished. Difficult memories evaporated as from a passing mist. John-Jo cried out words of praise in this revelation. "Honor to Joe my father before me," he spoke into the stillness. Shadows from the gloom were banished. And a cry of great hunger pierced the sky.

A mighty roar descended from a hill nearby. It did not frighten John-Jo. Movement of cloud and thunder marched as an army, forward in the name of his destiny. It made him happy, as he understood that sound. It was the Seeker from his dreams.

His mission began as he entered the Village Hall. "Why do you stare at me Helper?" A Worker demanded. “Because I am Legend," John-Jo answered.

"Insolent and disrespectful," several Workers shouted in the crowded village hall. Their looks were menacing as they gathered to confront him. "How dare this child challenge the order of our village?" demanded one of the Elders. “What do you know of the Edicts from our forefathers?”

"I mean no disrespect," answered John-Jo's firm voice. "I know the secret of the Thunder." Everyone gasped. "You know? How? Where---?" they murmured among themselves. "Because I am Legend," the boy whispered.

Everyone was shocked. Yet their eyes did not stray from this young man. He stood tall among other men in the room. And sparks of electricity seemed to emanate from his being. Suddenly a voice boomed across the sky. It rocked the great hall and shook each person where they stood.

"LISTEN TO HIM!" it shouted. John-Jo smiled. All ¬¬were subdued. They now stared upon this young man, seeking his eyes of knowledge. Now they knew. It was he. His brown hair shone like diamonds. Crystals of sunlight surrounded him. Raising his arms in a gesture of goodwill, John-Jo said, "Fear not."

Then the roof flew off as if snatched by some great force. And the walls of the Great Hall collapsed outwards. Everyone cried out as they leaned on one another. None were injured.

It was the first time they had heard a Worker with thoughtful caring. As John-Jo clapped his hands, their curious eyes sought his advice. Frightened ears wondered, was Mother Earth angry? At first the trembling in the heavens was distant as clouds spewed rain. Then sounds moved closer, as the rushing of hooves on a wide open plain. And a wind of great force hurled towards everyone.

In addition, echoes of, “Boom...Boom…Boom,” was difficult on most ears. These harsh exclamations moved closer, as if giant footsteps were approaching the gathering crowd. Helpers and Workers mingled in fearful comfort, as stricken friends. Fear had drawn them together. John-Jo smiled. A time of change had arrived. It was a good beginning.
*
Good things came to pass. At last, everyone had new shoes. Workers opened up the storage warehouses, and shared everything. Suits became the fashion, once again. Houses were built with baths and showers. No one had need for a privy anymore. Food became plentiful. Gardens with fresh vegetables moved freely from street to street. Workers and Helpers were happy to succeed together, as friends. Houses now had sufficient rooms for growing families. Some Workers even lived with Helpers.

Everyone smiled. It became a new goal. Caring for one another was declared a primary Edict. Feelings and thoughts were now openly expressed. And Helpers were allowed to observe eyes passing in the street. Staring at the ground was no longer acceptable. Hair became popular. Heads were allowed to have two coverings, hair and hat. No longer did Helpers need to have their heads shaved. They could now be warm during winter months.

The village became a collection of houses without boundaries. And many yards were without fences. Helpers and Workers began to work cheerfully in the fields. People-Person became a new word spoken in the streets. It brought an awakening, a new meaning to the Martian landscape. John-Jo and Ma-ma watched from the hillside. And they were glad.

MAKING FACES

Saturday morning meant housework. "UGGG!" Leah thought. She dragged herself out of bed. Then she looked in the mirror.

Her face looked like an old witch mask.

Kitchen sounds meant her mom was up. She always gets up early, especially since daddy moved away.

Now mom washes dishes instead of using the dishwasher. Then she attacks the kitchen floor with a flying mop.

Is this a dirty house or something? Should Leah be helping more? An eight-year old girl has to ask these questions.

Leah walked over to mom. And fell into a trap.

"Want to help?" her mother asked sweetly. She held out the dripping mop, full of cat hairs.

"YEEK!" Leah answered. Her face promptly went into motion. Her bottom lip covered the top one. Both cheeks pinched tightly over her cheekbones.

It was a, "I'm-not-yet-awake face." She had practiced it often before a mirror. "Maybe after," Leah said. “OKAAY?”

Later, mother and child had pancakes and maple syrup. It was Leah's favorite breakfast. The tasty maple syrup was a gift from the Fishers. It came from their maple sugar bush north of Bass River.

After breakfast Leah helped put the dishes away. And she cleaned off the table. Daddy used to help too, when he lived here.

Leah couldn't wait to get outside. Summer sun was waiting. Besides, her bicycle needed someone to go for a ride.

Leah tried not to notice mother in the flower garden.

“When you were younger, you always like to plant flowers. Do you want to help? Mother asked.

Leah put on a horrid look. Her surprised face widened. And her eyes almost exploded from her skull.

"I was going to ride my bike," she answered slowly. There seemed to be tears in her voice.

"That's okay," her mother smiled patiently. "But, I'll be happy if you plant two."

"Only two?" Leah asked. That should not take too long, she thought. "One for you and one for me. I'll even give you first choice from these lovely petunias." Mother’s smile was bright as a beautiful rainbow.

Leah decided to plant four instead. There was one for Grandma Mildred and one for Grandpa Ed, too. They lived far away in Toronto.

"Don't forget,” mom said, “we’re having lunch at the Fisher's. I'm babysitting Paul while his mom goes grocery shopping."

Leah liked Paul who was a year and a half old.

He laughed a lot at her funny faces.

Before long morning fun rushed by. After bicycle riding, there were touch tag games with friends, and skipping too. Then Leah hurried over to the Fishers.

"Want to help me change Paul's diapers?" mom asked cheerfully.

"EEAAK!" Leah answered quickly as a thunderbolt. Changing smelly diapers was not her favorite hobby.

She put on the worst face she could make up. Her ears stuck way out. You could hardly see her eyes. She puffed up her cheeks until they looked like small hills.

But, her mother ignored her.

Leah watched as her mom carefully washed the little boy. She powdered and placed a clean diaper on him. "There now Paul, doesn't that feel good?" mom asked.

"YA-YA" he answered. He looked at Leah with a loving smile. His eyes always brightened when she was around. Leah smiled back.

“I’m home,” Mrs. Fisher announced.

Everyone was happy, especially Leah.

"Want to come to the store with me? Mother asked. “I have to get a few things."

Leah made another sad face. "But mom,” she said. “I want to play some more with my friends. I promised."

"Okay then,” mom said. “If you gave your word, I believe you."

It was true. Leah’s best school pal, Samantha, was coming over.

After supper that night, Leah helped with the dishes. Without even being asked. She made a face at first. But it was not scary as usual.

She even left out her usual groaning.

Before you could say, “banana face,” Leah was in pajamas. Her teeth were brushed. And now she quickly leaped under bed covers.

"Mother?" Leah asked. "Please, tell me a story."

And mom did just that.

"It’s about a little girl and her mommy,” she said.

“They live in a large house. Oh, huge as a mountain,” she said. “It has a large tire swing in the backyard. And it can even travel to the moon.” She stopped and smiled at her little girl.

“Pretty flowers danced in front of the house,” mother continued.

“Red is the little girl's favorite color. These special people enjoy maple syrup on their pancakes. And their friends have a handsome little son.” Mother paused to see if Leah was listening.

“Try and guess what his name is?” Leah’s mother asked. “He really, really likes the little girl. Oh yes, this little girl can make the funniest faces."
Mom and daughter were now laughing together.

Leah’s mother continued, “They have the same color of eyes, brown. Their hair is almost the same light shade too, Brown. The best part they share is love for each other.”

Leah’s smile was bright as a rainbow.

She wanted to grow up and be just like mom.

MERRY-GO-ROUND SHOPPING

To Travis, Christmas meant candy and presents. But this year he wanted something really special.

His father asked, "Is your Christmas list finished yet?"

And Travis answered, "No."

"You should make it up right now," his father said gently. “Do you need help?”

"Not yet." Then Travis smiled. "Dad, I have a good idea. Let's go to the mall. Please. Please."

It was hard to say no to his only child. So his father said, "Yes."

They soon piled into their car and drove to the mall to look around for ideas. Saturday evening lines of cars and trucks seemed to be going to the same place.

"I hope there's enough room for everyone to park," his father said.

“Look dad!” he yelled. So many homes had beautiful displays on their lawns. Snowman and reindeer figures smiled back at them.

Christmas lights in all colors winked happily.

When they finally drove into the Mall parking lot it was busy as a racetrack. Parking spots were quickly filled when any car left.

Travis’ father was very disappointed. "Let's go home,” he said. “We'll come back when it's not so busy."

"No! No!" shouted Travis. "Let's just drive around until we find a spot. Please. Please."

And his father gave in. Again. After all, Travis was special, since he was his only son. As they drove slowly around the parking lot Travis noticed shoppers of all shapes and sizes walking back and forth.

Bulging bags of goodies were carried eagerly from the stores. Travis imagined good things hiding inside.

There had to be models of airplanes, boats and plastic dinosaurs. It was easy to notice hockey sticks and new bicycles being dragged or pushed along.

He played a guessing game about what was in other bags and boxes. Perhaps an Ipod and Batman toys, even trains, games, and chocolate chip cookies.

Travis pretended everyone was bringing these presents to his house. Then he would place them on his wagon to share with everyone.

He was enjoying himself with his dreams. He was old enough to know he had so much, and others didn’t.

Finally, his father spotted a parking spot. “Aha,” he said with satisfaction.

But Travis interrupted his success and said, "No. No. Let's drive around some more. I can make up my Christmas list by watching what other people bought.
Please. Please."

And his father did just what Travis wanted. Again. After all, he was his father’s only son. So, they drove around, around, and around. Travis knew many more bags were filled with toys and games.

He knew they also had baseball gloves, puzzles, GI Joe's, and building blocks, too. Candy canes, chocolate and train sets too.

His thoughts soared like reindeer in the night.

His father also seemed to be enjoying this merry-go-round shopping trip with his son.

Then Travis saw a wheel chair coming towards them. A lady was pushing a boy about his age. Must be the boy's mother, he thought.

"What do you think he wants for Christmas, dad?" Travis asked.

"I'm not sure," his father answered quietly.

More shoppers moved around their stopped car, carrying more possible gifts. But they didn't seem so interesting to Phillip at this moment.

"I really wonder what that boy would like for Christmas?" Travis asked once again.

"Why not ask him?" his father said.

Before Travis could say, "No…Wait," they parked close by. The boy's mother was just putting his folding wheel chair into the car’s trunk, when they approached.

"I wonder if my son could speak with your boy?" he heard his father ask.

"Troy, here's someone who wants to meet you," the lady said.

Travis was usually not shy, but he was now. He looked at the boy sitting in the front seat. He had blond hair just like Travis.

"Come on," his dad coaxed. "Ask him."

And Travis did. He spoke up bravely. "What do you want for Christmas?" he asked.

"That's easy," Troy answered. "A friend."

"A friend?" Travis repeated.

“It’s hard for me to make friends, since I can’t walk.”

Troy’s mother also explained how her son had to simply watch everyone have fun.

“Yes, son. He could visit us if it’s okay with his mother.” A short chat followed and everything seemed fine to the adults.

Then both boys made plans. To Travis it seemed the right thing to do. Besides, if he got to know this boy better, he might get a ride in his wheelchair.

The next day it was neat, they did meet.

Travis learned all about wheel chairs. And chess and balsa wood models, and other interesting things besides TV and Nintendo.

“You have so many hobbies,” Travis said. He also found out how much fun Troy could be. He was really smart too. He made his own kites and birdhouses.

Special plans were made to have Troy and his mother over for Christmas dinner. And it turned out to be a great time for everyone.

The boys exchanged nicely wrapped gifts. But, the best present Travis received was having a new friend like Troy.

MOM SAID, NO

John loves to climb and tumble on the ground.

Today he hurt himself climbing a tree. Tears running down his cheek soon turned into a flood. It was hard being brave when you’re six years old.

"Mom!" he cried. It really hurt.

"What?" she asked.

"I hurt myself."

Then her arms surrounded him like a cuddly bear. She kissed away his sore feelings then rushed to get a band-aid. John loved the attention mom gave her little boy.

"Did you climb the tree again?" she asked. "The one back of the shed?" Eyebrows turned into question marks. "You're not supposed to climb that tree anymore."

"Should he tell the truth? A tiny voice inside his head yelled out, "Yes!” And John did tell the truth.

"Remember what I said for you to do?" mom asked.

"I’m not supposed to try and climb that maple tree anymore," he whispered.

"That’s right dear," mom replied. "You fall down too many times. And I worry about you."

"But I want to learn how to do it right," he said. "Will you show me mom?"

Mom said, "No."

Later she watched as her son played with his friends in the backyard. He wrestled and ran around and seemed to enjoy himself.

His mom saw how careful he was, about not playing too roughly. He also patiently waited for his turn on the swing. She also remembered John often helped Mrs. Nelson carry her garbage to the compost bin.

She saw he didn’t climb the tree anymore, even though other children did. She must check the board ladder to see how strong it was.

John already knew it was, because he helped build it. The wood steps disappeared all the way up the tree.

Except at the top there was a missing space before the tallest limb. It was the highest one and no one dared go that far. But, the children still had fun climbing up and down the remaining rungs.

Mom watched John as he stood, looking up at his friends. It was pleasing to see he still followed her instructions.

She imagined how much John wished she’d change her mind. She could almost hear the thought building inside him.

It must be hard watching the others act as monkeys, moving from limb to limb.

Mom sure loved her son.

Was she worrying too much?

Suddenly she decided to do a foolish thing. Or perhaps it was just plain silly. She rushed to her room and dressed up in her outside work clothes.

That meant old jacket and jeans, and worn sneakers.

Then she put on her favorite T-shirt, white with yellow paint streaks. It was bright, colorful and cheerful like the sun. She decided to show her young son she too knew how to have fun.

She peeked through the window and noticed everyone still there.

John asked, "Mom? Where are you going?"

She didn't answer as she walked through the backyard past the amazed children. They weren’t used to having an adult coming to play with them.

She walked directly to the tall tree and looked straight up.

Was his mom going to climb the tree? John wondered.

First she tested the climbing-down rope. Then she checked the walking-up boards. Everything seemed good and strong, especially the board ladder that went up and up.

His mouth dropped as she began to climb. Soon, one foot followed the other. Up and up she went right to the top.

Right now, John was very proud of his mom. As the children watched, their eyes almost popped out.

Soon she reached the last rung. Then carefully she climbed a few more steps until she sat on the largest and tallest limb. This was almost like climbing a mountain.

After she comfortably settled in like a cat, she called down. "John. Come on up."

And he did.

When they were both safely settled on the scary limb his mom smiled. John was quite happy being at the top, for the very first time.

Mother and son stared down into many wide-open mouths. They could almost count everyone’s teeth.

"Mom. When you're not here, may I still come up?" John quietly asked.

She looked back at her son. His arms were brown and strong. His eyes were bright and full of questions. Freckles covered his face like brown snowflakes.

His huge smile already knew the answer.

Mom said, "Yes."

MULTIPLICATION BOY

Loud banging brought William in a hurry to his bedroom window.

He watched a boy about his age hammering on the fence. It looked like their new neighbor who just moved in.

"Mom I'm going out, I'll eat later!" William said, forgetting not to slam the front door.

He rushed up to the noisy boy, with a bucket full of questions. William was also annoyed at the racket so early on a Saturday morning.

Noisy boy looked up. "I'm fixin' your fence," was all he said. "You had a couple of loose boards."

"Thanks," said William, feeling foolish. Now why was he so upset? "What happened to your face?"

"Nothing," answered the stranger. The pounding continued.

One side of the boy's face was chocolate. The other was coppery colored. But his forehead, nose and chin were all white.

"The name's Mike," he finally said.

"Mine's William."

Mike asked, "Want to come over to my house?"

"Got to eat breakfast first," William answered.

"OK," was all Mike said.

William couldn't wait to tell his mother about his new friend.

But she was so busy she didn't have time to listen. "Just don't get into mischief," she said.

William hurried over to Mike's house and couldn't believe his eyes.

There was a wigwam in the back yard, with hand-painted symbols on each side.

A Mi'Kmaq boy stood in front of him. He had braided black hair and a band on his forehead.

He wore a deerskin outfit with fancy beads. There was a ring of bells on his ankles. He skin was Native all over.

"Mike?" William asked.

"Sometimes I am Oapos the rabbit," the boy that looked like Mike said.

"Mi'Kmaq are also people of the deer."

Then William listened to numerous tales about Glooscap, the Native God. And even watched Mike perform different kinds of native dances.

William was certain he heard drums beating in the background. It was as if a crowd of people stood beside him in the backyard.

Chills rushed down William's back.

This was fun.

Before long, William danced the Circle dance. Later, he shared pieces of Lusgi, a short name for Mi'Kmaq bread.

" William! Dinner!" roared his mother's call across both backyards.

"Got to go."

"Coming back after dinner?" the copper-skinned Mike asked.

"OK." William couldn't wait to return. He still had so many questions. At the dinner table he was very excited.

"Mom, it's like we talked about at school. About how everyone can be different but still be friends."

"What’s that hon?" She asked, not listening very closely.

"Mike, the new boy next door. He's different. I really like him!"

"Eat up hon. I'm glad you're getting along so well." she answered, not understanding what her son was saying.

After gobbling up his food, William’s sneakers couldn't race next door fast enough.

But things were different. William stopped and stared.

There was a boy standing in the middle of the Mike’s yard. Except, his skin was black.

"Hi William," the black-skinned boy said. "I've been waiting for you."

"What happened to Mike?" William asked.

"I am Mike," the boy answered.

Then William listened to stories about Black Heritage in Nova Scotia. About Black writers, painters, singers and sailors.

This time he was sure a group of people was walking around and listening along with him.

"I had a great afternoon," he said.

"Come back after supper," the black-skinned Mike said.

"Don't eat so fast," said William's mother, as they sat together at the table.

"Mom, I have to hurry. I can’t wait to go back."

William’s mother couldn't believe how excited her son was. She wondered what was so special next door.

"Got to go."

His sneakers were speedier this time.

William stopped in his tracks when he heard bagpipes coming from Mike's yard. This time Mike's skin was all white. His freckles matched his red hair.

"What's that you're wearing?" William asked.

"It's a kilt." And it belongs to our clan MacLeod. It has our family colors."

Then William sat on the ground and listened to stories about the Scots. They first arrived on the Hector, a ship that landed in Pictou, Nova Scotia.

He learned about the rich heritage that came with them from Scotland. In his mind he heard their cheering as they sighted land for the first time in many weeks.

Nighttime came shortly after Mike’s last Scottish dance was completed. A tired Mike finally sat down.

"I'm glad you're my friend," was all William could say.

"You're not just a red-skinned Mi'Kmaq boy. Not even a black-skinned boy, or a white-skinned Scottish boy. You're all colors. "You’re a really neat Multiplication Boy."

William went home and told his mother about his adventures today.

As she listened, her eyes opened wider and wider. She watched nervously as the skin on William's face began to change.

One side of his face was now chocolate colored. The other side turned reddish.

But his forehead, nose and chin remained white.

She now understood the lesson her son learned today.

ONE MORE WISH

Scott and his dad drove through the woods on Folly Mountain road. He had been worried there wouldn't be enough snow for his first snowshoe hike.

"I promised you lots son," his father said with a smile.

Scott's eyes were huge. Everywhere he looked, the snow looked really deep. Just 30 miles away in his hometown of Truro, there was hardly any.

After parking the car and putting on their snowshoes, father and son headed down the trail. Scott had a hard time keeping up. His father's stride was much longer than his own.

"Want me to slow down, son?" dad asked.

"No!" Scott was stubborn. He was also still upset from school yesterday. His friends kept calling him "Shorty," because he was the shortest boy in his class.

Now he rested on a fallen tree along with his dad, as they looked down into a deep valley. Scott wished he could be as tall as that hill in the distance.

"Come on son," his dad said. Scott stood up and watched as his father kept going down the trail. The boy walked to the edge of the hill.

It must have been his toes hanging over too far. Maybe it was the extra sausages he'd had for breakfast. In any case his weight was too heavy for the ledge of snow.

Down he went, doing a little somersault. Scott was so surprised he could barely call out, "Yipe!" He was like a large snowball rolling and tumbling down. And down.

He roared past small twigs poking out of the snow. He tumbled past a surprised mouse, watching from an old log.
Scott even scared a squirrel that scampered up a tree.

Then Scott skidded past three rabbits that fled in all directions. He even tumbled past a surprised fox.

It was a good thing the hill came to an end. Scott had snow down his neck, inside his sleeves and down his pant legs. Somehow his hat and gloves managed to remain in place.

Finally he landed in a snowy heap beside a tall tree.

Scott was almost afraid to check and see if he had broken anything. No broken toes. No broken legs or arms, only bruises and sores. His face was scratched all over from rolling through saplings.

He stood up, feeling quite small at the bottom of the hill. He could barely see where he had begun his fall. It was way up there.

"Wow!" if I could only be as tall as that hill, he thought.

He yelled for his dad. Again and again his voice bounced back as echoes. "Helppp! Daddd!" wasn't being heard. Now Scott was really upset. This is just the way it is in school, he thought, feeling so short and lonely.

He shouted out, "If only I was tall." He looked up, "Like that tree! I want to be tall like that tree!" And then he shouted boldly. "No, I want to be taller! Right up to the sky!!"

Suddenly, a strange thing happened. His bones began to creak. And stretch. His knees creaked and groaned. Then his legs began to grow. And grow.

At first he could see only the bottom of the tree. Then as he rose higher on his stretching legs, bird's nests came into view. A partridge on a limb flew away in terror.

Soon Scott was above the tree. His eyes felt nervous as he rose higher and higher. He could not even see his feet.

He was so high he could almost touch the clouds. Sea gulls flew around him. Scott became really afraid. Where was his father? The sky was getting dark. No more blue, only the sun setting.

Scott was cold as he watched the pink sky change to black. Now he felt really alone. He wished to be tall. Now he was taller than the tallest tree in the forest. But did it do him any good? Not really.

Once again he made a wish. This time it was to be his normal self. Being the shortest boy in his class was no longer a problem. He closed his eyes and wished really hard.

"I want to be small again." And then he felt himself falling. His legs were no longer stretched really long. They were normal again.

An eagle swooped under him and caught Scott. The boy landed in soft feathers and held on to the eagle's neck.

"Please take me home," Scott pleaded. And the eagle did as he was asked. He flew the boy swiftly home before Scott's parents worried too much.

As they approached the house, they saw house lights were still on. Coming nearer they saw a crowd of people in their living room. There was mom and dad, even Boots, his cat.

Scott saw the class bully and other friends all sitting around.

The eagle flew through the open window. Scott's father caught him as the eagle did a back flip. Scott liked his father's firm hug. Then his mother gave him another one.

Everyone began yelling and clapping.

Now Scott was laughing too. It didn't seem to matter how tall or short he was. Scott was just glad to be home.

AUTHOR NOTES
Esther and Richard Provencher enjoy working together on children’s stories & novels, as well as for an adult audience. Experiences are drawn from raising four children, being foster parents and involved in youth and other community volunteer work. They are married 40 years and live in Truro, Nova Scotia. Richard was a long time member of the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia, Esther enjoys painting landscapes.