Wednesday, May 23, 2018


Khloe had always liked making things up, and loved all sorts of stories and tales; 

She thought often of hunting with ogres, or having tea with the old Prince of Wales.
She would picture herself surrounded by gemstones and treasures beyond all compare,
Or utterly penniless, drifting ashore on a deserted island somewhere. 
She daydreamed so often of wild events that her real life could seem rather dull,
So sometimes, in small ways, she would exaggerate the details when there was a lull.  

The changes she made were always minute and would often go quite undetected. 

If she’d seen three geese, she might just say nine -- which was slightly more than expected. 
She liked to impress; she loved to surprise; she enjoyed the attention of interested eyes;
She craved the applause that performance provided and simple reporting denies. 
This sometimes led Khloe to slip on the line that divides an untruth from what’s real…
The temptation to lie when the telling was good was an urge that she often could feel. 

On her walk back from school, as she crossed through the park, something caught Khloe’s attention.

From the dirt she picked up a blue five dollar bill, and looked around with apprehension. 
No one was near -- no soul in sight -- so she put the blue bill in her pocket and zoom!
Up and down streets she ran all the way home, then quick as a flash she went into her room.
Her heart was pounding with pleasure and fear as she stared at the sapphire paper;
Who would she tell first? How to celebrate? ...Should she even confess to the caper?

As Khloe’s mind stewed over the issue, her imagination started to spin.

Before an hour of time had collapsed, the little blue note had developed a twin. 
Not five in her head but ten had she found lying under the swing, lost and alone,
Which is what she told Jessie and Eddie next morning, when they caught up on the phone. 
“It was there on the ground,” Khloe explained, “I noticed the colour purple. Quite bright.”
“You’re lucky,” sighed Jessie. “You’re rich!” Eddie cried, both girls assuming the sum to be right.

All the legends and myths that Khloe had read began crowding and clouding her thoughts;

By lunch her blue five had become a green twenty, and her tummy was turning to knots.
“You found twenty dollars right here in the park?” Kaleb asked, as if in a trance.
“Maybe there’s more! I’ve got to get looking!” and he leapt up to seize on his chance. 
Kaleb found Nick and they dug ‘round the swings for a while before Nick came to the source.
“Kaleb says you found twenty?” And she nodded assent. “You boys are on the right course.”

Khloe stayed in the park all afternoon and told her tale to all that would listen. 

At some point the bounty she found swelled again, and her eyes would sparkle and glisten
As she filled the air talking of polymer treasure, and whether to save it or spend...
But somewhere deep down she knew it was false and the truth might come out, in the end.
By the time Isabella showed up at the park, the swing sand had all been removed;
And a dozen young people were mining for gold in the place that Khloe’d approved. 

“Fifty bucks!? A red bill!”  Isabella exclaimed, “I’ve never seen that much in one place!

Can I see it, just to hold it a minute?” she asked. And then Khloe went red in the face.
And just at that moment, who would walk up but Jessie and Eddie, girls side by side. 
“Good timing!” said Isabella, “now Khloe can show everyone  what she found by the slide.”
“By the SLIDE!?” shouted Nick, “but you said by the swing! Why did you let us dig the wrong spot!? 
If the twenty was there, I’ve been wasting my time! Nice, Khloe. For real, thanks a lot.”

“No, it was ten,” Jessie told him. “The bill was bright purple. She told us this morning.”

Eddie nodded, but soon the other kids came as a mob without any warning.
“It was green, twenty bucks,” Kaleb argued. “I thought she said brown…” said Lysander.
And as tempers grew short and accusations grew thick, the air filled up with slander.
Oh, how her insides wriggled and squirmed when Khloe thought of her coming confession!
Never before had she been caught so deep inside an elaborate invention. 

“Stop!” she hollered. “Stop,” she whispered. “It was only blue… it was only a five.

The truth got away from me. I'm sorry I lied. It was foolish for me to contrive
A story that was more than what happened. I didn’t want anyone to feel hurt.”
And she brought from her pocket the sapphire bill that she’d actually found in the dirt.
Her friends looked with pity at Khloe’s blue bill and decided that day to be gracious. 
And Khloe committed to truth after that… at least, her fictions were far less audacious. 

She still likes inventing and making things up, but the lesson she learned really took. 

With the five bucks she’d found, she bought writing paper, and now she is drafting a book.
There is space in this world for daydreams and phantoms, for goblins and fairies, too,
But speaking the truth in real life is important if keeping friends matters to you. 
When you cross paths with three geese, you should say so; when you find a blue bill, celebrate --
Then write up a story about nine blue-billed geese! I bet you that tale would be great.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

"Noted Needs"

A week before the end of summer holidays, Emily and her mum left the house for the all-important back-to-school shopping trip. They never spent extravagantly, but Emily was always given a few new things to wear, a new backpack (if the old one needed replacing), a pack of hair ties and some office supplies. One of the things that she requested last August was a box of golf pencils.

Golf pencils are most often found in the pockets of people who golf, as the name suggests. Golfers are given a new pencil for nearly every game they play, and so the life of their golf pencils is rather a short one. Most golf course golf pencils are thrown away at the end of a match, whether or not they have recorded a winning score on their cards. 

But golf pencils can be found in other places, too. Reliably, librarians favour the stunted little graphite implements, scattering them around the shelves and computer tables with stacks of scrap paper, ready to hand whenever someone needs to scribble a note or scrawl down a reference number for whatever book they were hunting. Like the scrap paper, library golf pencils tend to walk away from their posts, never to return. Golf pencils are assumed by everyone, it seems, to be essentially disposable. 

Emily had seen her first golf pencil in a library. It was yellow, about the length of her finger, and had no eraser on its end. She had picked it up with a scrap of paper and had spent a few minutes filling the sheet with doodles while her babysitter tried to find them a suitable movie from the online catalogue. Emily had absentmindedly slipped the pencil into her pocket on the way out of the library. It went through the wash a few days later and got lost sometime after that.

The memory of it came back to her while standing in Staples last August, staring at the wall of perfectly sharpened, multi-coloured pencils. The display had been almost overwhelming, but then she had noticed a chunky, almost square box sitting down on a shelf near the ground. For $10.96 (plus tax) she could buy a set of 144 pencils. Emily had already picked out a few soft white erasers, so it didn’t matter that these ones were without rubber tips of their own. Her mother looked quizzical but agreed to the purchase. 

Emily started school with a pencil case that was absolutely stuffed full of writing utensils. It felt like a treasure chest of sunny gold every time she unzipped the pouch, and she felt almost guilty, somehow, for hoarding so much wealth. It was for this reason that she was so willing to share when Danny had tapped her on the shoulder a week into their September classes. 

“Emily,” asked Danny, “do you have a pencil I could borrow for the rest of the day? I think I’ve lost mine.”

Emily grinned. “I have a pencil you can keep,” she said, handing over one of her 144 golf pencils.

Later that very afternoon, Emily’s class was preparing to take a math test when she felt another tap on her shoulder. When she turned around, Danny was pointing over to Eric, who was looking a little sheepish. “I can’t find any pencils in my desk,” he confessed. “Can I borrow one from you? Danny says you gave his one this morning when he was in a pinch.”

Emily smiled, happy to help again. “Keep it,” she told him, handing Eric another of her pencils. She had so many, after all. She could certainly spare a few more. 

Over the next several months, Emily developed a sort of reputation for being well stocked with pencils and quite willing to share. Other kids in her class came to depend on her generosity when a lack of pencils left them in crisis. Some of her classmates had asked more than once, but she never begrudged their carelessness because she knew from first-hand experience how easy it was to lose a golf pencil. 

Emily had been carefully keeping track of how many pencils were left in her original box. She had used more than twenty pencils on her own over the school year and had given most of the others away whenever asked for help. She’d even offered a golf pencil to her teacher once or twice! By early May, she was down to just nine little yellow pencils, and she was starting to get nervous. As with most of her worries and woes, Emily brought the issue to her mother. 

“I know we usually only go back-to-school shopping in the summer, but just this once can we go end-of-school shopping too?” she asked. “My classmates rely on me, and I don’t want to let them down.”

Though slightly baffled at how even a whole class could go through such a big box of little pencils, Emily’s mother agreed to restock her supply. Together they went back to Staples and bought another case of 144, so that she would be well-equipped and ready to help whenever a friend was in need. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

"End In Sight"

Most families function under some kind of motto, though very few take the trouble to name it outright. 

Probably your family has a united mission of this sort, whether you know it or not -- some guiding principle that everyone subconsciously adheres to; a rule that quietly governs the behaviour of those within the household. Perhaps your family motto is something like: “Mind your own business,” or its near-opposite, “What’s yours is mine.” In my house, growing up, the motto was, “A job half-done is a job not done at all,” and there could be rather severe consequences for unfinished chores and duties.

In Jason’s house, the motto wasn’t only spoken, but it was also written up and framed over their dining room table. It was certainly something his mother and father believed, but Jason wasn’t quite as loyal to the family motto as were his parents. It read: “Hard work builds good character.”  

Thanks to the motto, Jason found himself doing very difficult things on a regular basis. Most of them were not the type of project that could be finished with an hour of diligent effort, through diligence was certainly helpful when tackling the jobs that his parents put on his proverbial plate. Last summer, for example, Jason’s dad had completely demolished their front porch -- and rebuilding it took up every weekend of the school holiday. Jason had worked beside him the whole time, helping to measure and drill, hammer and saw. It was a fun project for the first weekend or two, especially during the demolition phase, but Jason tired of porch-building long before it was finished. 

“I want to do something else,” Jason protested one Saturday morning. It was only ten o’clock, and sweat was already starting to bead up on his forehead from the heat. “Can’t we take a day off?”

“Jason, this is a big project. If we put it off today, it’ll be that much easier to put it off again tomorrow, and next weekend. Better to persevere and buckle-down. Let’s get as much done as we can before we take a break. Remember, we’re building a deck, but we’re also building our character! There is double satisfaction for those who stick it out when things get hard.” 

Jason sighed. He thought a day off from character building would be nice too. But in time, bit by bit, the new front porch had taken shape under their diligent effort. When they finally finished the whole thing, Jason was proud of what they had built together and proud of himself for making it all the way to the end without quitting. 

Jason was in the middle of a new project right now. He’d come up with the idea at Christmas when his mom had made a passing comment about wanting a nice, warm blanket that she could use when she was reading. His mom loved to read, and curled up on the couch nearly every night with a novel of some kind. She read big, thick books with thousands of pages, chipping away at them a chapter at a time. She read the Lord of the Rings, David Copperfield, Don Quixote and the Bible. Basically, as long as it was too big for a backpack, she was into it. 

Jason hadn’t developed the perseverance to get all the way through even one of her favourite books, but he was determined to help her enjoy them all the more by making her a blanket to curl up with. 

He’d roped his dad into helping him get the supplies he needed, and went to YouTube for a tutorial on how to crochet. He stuck to simple stitches and basic yarn, and made excellent progress for the first little while. His mom’s birthday was quite close to Mother’s Day, so his goal was to finish in time to give the blanket to her as a gift that would cover both… but by the end of January, things were feeling pretty hopeless, and his excitement about the blanket had evaporated. 

“I want to do something else,” Jason sighed. “Dad, do you think Mom would like this as a scarf instead?”  

“It’s pretty big for a scarf, at this point,” said his father. “Harder than you thought it would be, eh?” 

Jason nodded. His dad put down his phone and looked over at Jason compassionately. “You’ve set yourself a mighty goal, and the road ahead might still be a long one, but there is tremendous value in persevering through to the end of any project you’ve set your mind to. And you’ll be proud of yourself when you finish! Keep going, buddy, bit by bit, one step and one stitch at a time. You can do it.”

Jason sighed. He could feel his character stretching with every twist of the yarn and dodge of the needle. His fingers were sore and his brain was burning, but he kept at the task with diligence until the big scarf grew into a full-sized blanket, nice and warm and perfect for curling up with a book. 

Jason’s mother cried when she unwrapped his birthday / Mother’s Day present, which is always a good sign. And he was proud of himself for making it all the way through, without quitting. He didn’t want to admit it, but he couldn’t help himself: maybe there was something true about his family’s motto after all.