November 24, 2015

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No one noticed when Temulon left the village. They were all too busy preparing the new ship for launch. Temulon trudged through snow up the steep hillside to the trees, where she rested, gasping little puffs of mist. She was determined to find the Wall, to get through it, to see for herself if what her grandmother had told her was true. Rested, she moved on.

For weeks, search parties fanned out in all directions to find her. When, in time, a full moon had twice sailed the skies, even her brother Karlek gave up. The village mourned, believing Temulon had been dragged off and devoured by wolves.

When the moon grew fat for the third time since Temulon had left the village, a tiny figure throwing a tiny blue shadow staggered through snow blanketed trees toward a tremendous wall at the crest of the highest peak. Temulon’s overjacket and highboots had become collections of tatters. Her long pants and full shirt were hardly in better condition.

‘So, you are true,’ said Temulon, and she placed a hand on the great wall.

A terrible cracking and grinding of earth sounded. The wall stood firm, and all that was left at its base where Temulon had been standing were her footprints in the snow. Temulon herself was cutting a piece of cake for her grandmother.

Karlek stood at his grandmother’s grave. Wolves howled at the moon.



November 18, 2015

Reginald Spoonmerry went off to swim

wearing a hat with a vastly wide brim.

The hat, it was blue where it fit on his head,

but the rim all around was immensely quite red.

Shouting ‘Hurrah!’ and ‘Bumpeddy bump!’

Reginald Spoonmerry did in the sea jump.

His hat floated off and sailed out of sight.

Reginald sulked all through the night.

Then he got up and out of the water,

went home and complained to his unsmiling daughter.

‘Oh, daddy,’ she cried. ‘Don’t fret. Our pet spider

has woven a hat with a brim even wider.’

Reginald Spoonmerry leaped all in glee

and nevermore swam with a hat in the sea.



November 4, 2015


There once was a palace standing all alone on top of a high mountain. The valley below it hid under a motionless blanket of mist. To descend into the mist was a crime, and nobody cared to defy the law, for legends of the horrors waiting in the mist below were more than enough to keep the mountain top dwellers within the the palace walls. A tribe of pelicans flew all the supplies needed to the mountain in exchange for songs and dances performed by the weaver and his daughter, Klopka.

One day in the palace kitchen, Klopka, who was apprenticed there in addition to her weaving and singing duties, hurried to fetch this or mix that in response to the cook’s shouted orders. Klopka was distracted, trying to memorize a new song to be sung for the pelicans that evening, and she bumped into the cook and dropped the bowl of grain she carried. It shattered on the floor, and the grain flew everywhere.

‘Pick up every little bit of that, and twice fast, or there will be trouble for you, Clumsy Klopka,’ said the cook.

Klopka curtsied, as she was expected to do, and sank to the floor to gather the grain. With each piece of grain collected, her resentment grew until it erupted in silent fury, causing her to race up the stairs, through the Grand Hall, out the door, and straight down the mountain toward the valley of mist.

‘What happened?’

‘Come back!’

‘Oh, look!’

Klopka heard nothing. Red anger boiled in her brain. Why must I always … Why can’t others … It isn’t fair … I’ll show them … I …

Klopka suddenly realized she was in the mist. She stopped running and stood terrified, not believing what she had done.

‘Finally,’ said a voice. ‘I’ve been waiting ever so long.’

The mist creature wrapped its arms around Klopka.

‘You’re safe now,’ it said, ‘if you can sing.’

Klopka sang her new song then and there so sweetly that the mist creature wept tears of dew and gave Klopka all the cake and money she desired.

Moral: If you do one thing, learn to sing.



October 26, 2015

harvest hen

oh, my dearie, have a care

be not captured by her stare

feathered leggings does she wear

beyond the mist, you’ll find her there

These words were sung in a creaky voice by the ancient beggar seated on a great boulder near the road. They made no sense at all to Mabel, the potter’s daughter, who was headed to the castle market hauling a cart filled with her father’s newly fired and gaudily painted clay gourds. She ignored the song, but not the singer. For you see, her heart ached for the elderly confused woman in rags. Mabel’s own grandmother had not fared well in her final years. So Mabel stopped and gave water to the old one. She said, ‘I’ll return when my father’s wares are sold and carry you in the cart to our home by the banks of clay.’ The old woman lowered her head, trembling with gratitude, speechless, and she smiled a crooked smile.

Mabel went on her way, sold all of her father’s gaudy clay gourds, bought a bolt of bright blue cloth, and set off toward home. When she drew within sight of the great boulder by the path, Mabel discovered that the old beggar woman was nowhere to be seen. The potter’s daughter hurried to the boulder and walked a careful circle around it. Then she stood for a moment in the road. She heard a gentle hissing, and mist wafted up in lazy twining spires from the ground all around as far as she could see. Soon she could not see the boulder. Soon she could not see her cart. Soon she could see only white, dense and silent. The words of the old woman’s song sounded in her head, but not in a creaky voice this time, but rather wafted in the softest of chimes.

oh, my dearie, have a care

be not captured by her stare

feathered leggings does she wear

beyond the mist, you’ll find her there

Mabel walked forward, her hands thrust out in front of her. And after the passage of time and a half, the mist thinned, and then raced in swift swirls completely away. Mabel found herself in the middle of a field of stubble. A lone white hen with feathered leggings stared at her. Mabel, taking no chances, avoided the hen’s gaze.

‘I am the Harvest Hen. You are a young maiden. You do not look at me. You have been given the gift.’

The mist returned. The mist retreated. Mabel stood in the road next to her cart. In the cart were a bolt of blue cloth and a red velvet pouch filled with emeralds.



October 9, 2015


Marla slid onto her chair at the kitchen table and announced, ‘I’ve almost decided what I want to be for Halloween.’

Marla’s mother, busy at the stove, seemed not to hear.

‘Mama, I said I’ve almost decided what I want to be for Halloween.’

‘I heard you. I just have to count stirs,’ said Marla’s mother.

‘It’s between owl, cat and triceratops. Cat I did last year, I know, but it was good being twins with Pie,’ said Marla, reaching down to rub the head of purring Pie. ‘But I guess I want to do something new. So it’s owl or triceratops.’

’28, 29, 30. There, done. Well, honey, choose something so I’ll have time to work on it,’ said Marla’s mother.

‘Triceratops! That’s it. Triceratops. I’ll be a triceratops,’ said Marla.

‘Triceratops? That will be a challenge, but let me think,’ said Marla’s mother, and she got a notepad and a pen from a drawer and tapped the pen on her upper lip as she thought.

Marla’s mother wrote down several items on the pad, tore the sheet off, and said, ‘Here. Take this list to grandmother and bring back all she gives you. Triceratops. This might be fun.’

Marla took the list from her mother, went to her room, put on her pointy black hat, picked up her broom, and flew out the window toward her grandmother’s cottage deep in the wood.



September 30, 2015


In the time of castles a sad queen slipped into the woods on a blue moon midnight. She hurried along the glow of a path lighting up in front of her as she muttered over and over again, ‘Never forever.’ When the cottage appeared under a drapery of vines, as she had been told it would, she stopped in her tracks and shuddered. Summoning courage for her child’s sake, she walked forward and resumed repeating, ‘Never forever.’ The cottage door swung open.

‘So here a visitor, is it? What would ye ask of Old Nan, daughter?’ asked a cracked scrape of a voice. ‘Stand still and advance not one more step.’

‘Never forever, never forever,’ repeated the sad queen, standing stock-still.

‘That’s right, my dear. Say it again and again. Ah, I see, but your daughter doesn’t,’ said Old Nan, and she cackled. ‘What reward for a daughter’s sight restored? Hmmm, Old Nan, what do ye need? Not a thing. I have all I want … but wait. I know. A troubadour to sing to me two evenings a week. More would be annoying, that’s true. If ye agree, continue repeating “Never forever.”‘

‘Never forever, never forever,’ repeated the queen with increasing urgency.

Old Nan beckoned. The queen entered the cottage, and was instantly struck blind. Or so she thought. Blackness all around, fear in her heart, nevertheless she continued to say, ‘Never forever.’ Soon a tiny flicker of a flame danced in the blackness in front of the sad queen’s eyes.

‘Never forever, never forever,’ she said, an ember of hope reborn in her soul.

Old Nan cackled. The queen awoke in her chamber. Her daughter, the princess, rushed in singing, ‘I can see! I can see!’



September 23, 2015

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Here are Dorothy and the Scarecrow discovering a long row of giant Oz books.



September 9, 2015

quadling owl

The Quadling owl may be found in the hilly country of the southernmost region of Oz. It nests exclusively in red lemon trees. It dines on red scones dipped in red marmalade. Nothing else suits its fancy. Oh, to be sure, now and again it has tried pancakes and blue Munchkin almonds and several varieties of wheat and corn, but always after one unsatisfying bite, the Quadling owl flies off to its favorite red scone tree and a happy dinner of scone and marmalade. I forgot to say that the red marmalade is dipped from a well located precisely in the center of the red lemon tree grove. The Quadling owl is sometimes seen over canyons soaring just for the fun of it. It never speaks unless spoken to, but once spoken to, it has a hard time shutting up. So it’s best to nod politely at the owl and to refrain from saying, ‘Hello.’ And finally, let me emphasize this point with the greatest urgency, do not ever get caught up in a staring contest with the Quadling owl. You will lose, and what’s more, several days will have passed. In summary, the Quadling owl is a most remarkable bird.



August 24, 2015


The village baker, dusted in flour head to toe, waved his rolling pin high and shouted orders. The Queen had decreed two dozen walnut cookies to be delivered that afternoon in time for a gathering of regal importance. The baker’s wife and daughter raced here and there, down to the cellar, out to the pasture, over to the well, scurrying in frantic glee, for they did enjoy doing a job and doing it well.

‘Bring only the best and fattest!’ screamed the baker at his daughter, Felice.

Knowing precisely what he meant, Felice raced to the nut bin in the corner and flung off its round wooden cover. She began digging around in search of the best, the finest, the most beautiful walnuts. She muttered ‘Here’, ‘Here’, ‘Here’ as she plucked up and arranged in a row the most perfect specimens. When the row of nuts was two dozen long, she hurriedly gathered them in her apron and ran to her father.

‘Well? Crack ’em!’ shrieked the baker, and he directed his gaze at the ceiling before adding, ‘Do I have to think of everything?’

‘Oh, right,’ said Felice, and she ran to fetch the nutcracker.

She was oh so careful in cracking the shells, intent on keeping the nut treasures inside unbroken. And so she came to the most splendid of the walnuts, the one she had saved for last. Into the jaws of the nutcracker she placed it. She pressed down on the lever, steady and sure.


Finally,’ said a tiny voice, and a very small woman dressed in pink, blue and yellow finery pushed out of the broken walnut shell. ‘Boy oh boy, that was some curse, I’ll tell you. Whew. Glad that’s over. Now. A wish. You deserve a reward, I suppose. What is it? Hurry up. I’ve got places to go and things to do.’

The baker and his wife and Felice, stunned for the moment to stillness, recovered and hurried to huddle together. After much fierce whispering and waving of hands, they stepped apart.

‘We want a new, bigger oven,’ said Felice.

‘Whatever,’ said the tiny lady, and she raised a hand and moved it in a complicated manner, wiggling her fingers all the while. Then she flew off out the window.

The baker and his wife and daughter hurried around, happily preparing the cookies, and every so often they glanced with pride  at their new oven.



August 2, 2015


Following the death of L. Frank Baum, Ruth Plumly Thompson was asked by the publishers of the Oz books to continue the series with new stories. She accepted the honor of becoming the 2nd Royal Historian of Oz by producing one Oz book each year through the 1920s and 1930s. My own particular favorite of hers, The Gnome King of Oz, was the Oz book for 1927. It boasts an impressive mound of humor, wordplay and imagination. For instance, the Quilties of Patch make quilts, and their Queen, Cross Patch the 6th, falls to pieces one day. This, however, is no cause for alarm, because, as Ruth explains:

When a Quilty goes to pieces, his relatives or friends sweep up the scraps and put them away in a tidy scrap-bag and in ten years or so he comes out of the bag as good as ever.

Ruth loved adverbs and peppered and salted her prose with them. Some examples:

Giant fish wallowed desperately…

‘Blunderoo!’ breathed Peter softly.

‘Come on! Come on!’ wheezed the old Gnome King frantically.

…a golden haired mermaid plunged boldly from the window of a coral castle…

mumbled dizzily – scowling terribly – brushed rudely – nodded gloomily – yawning tremendously – answered saucily – and so on and so forth and 5th and 6th and 7th.

Why did she love adverbs so much? She couldn’t help it. After all, her middle name was Plumly.

And so, in honor of Ruth Plumly Thompson, 2nd Royal Historian of Oz, I am pleased to announce that the character narrating my next new story is to be called Plumly.