Stories for the young and the young at heart

Rosie and Her Paintbrush

Moonlight glistened off blankets of snow that covered a street lined with houses. Scraping noises broke the silence and a snowplow turned the corner directly into the path of a stray dog. At the last second the driver saw the white and black spotted dog and swerved the plow into a yard. The vehicle’s blade sliced through a cherry tree sending it to the frozen ground with a crunch. The man that lived in the house came out to see if the plow driver was hurt. The driver was fine and as he drove away he told the man that the city would replace the tree in the spring. The man sadly looked down at the tree. A single pink flower had grown on one of the branches.

Upstairs in the house seven-year-old Emma drew at her desk. She traced her right hand and then placed her left hand over the top of the drawing and traced it. Next she added eyes, hands and feet. After the drawing was colored she laid a paintbrush over the character’s hand and traced around it. “Rosie, are you an artist too?” Emma asked.
As the girl finished her dad entered her room. “Do you remember how sometimes your mom and I talk about the tree in the front yard? How when we went to buy a pink flowering cherry tree there was only one left and it was small and split down the middle but we bought it anyway, and since then it’s had at least one flower on it all year long even during the coldest days of winter? I’ve said that it must be mixed up from being cracked in the middle but your mom says it’s magic. I guess it shows that impossible things happen everyday.” He gave his daughter the tiny pink blossom. “If you put it between two sheets of paper and cover it with a heavy book it will press flat for your memory album where you can keep it always.”

Emma placed the flower on the character she drew, then covered it with another sheet of paper and laid a thick book on top. After the seven-year-old was ready for bed her mother kissed her goodnight and turned off the light. Her room was dark but under the book on her desk a glowing light grew stronger. The heavy book began to shake. Bright light beams shot out between the two sheets of paper. Emma sat up in her bed. The book was thrown from the desk. A speeding figure burst from the paper. It bounced against the walls and came to rest on the footboard of the bed. Emma rubbed her eyes in awe. Rosie was alive! The pink flower blossom was stuck to her knobby hair. She held a paintbrush in her hand.
“Hi!” Rosie exclaimed.

“H-hello,” Emma replied.

Rosie looked at herself and smiled. “You’re a good drawer!”

“Thank you,” Emma said.

Rosie noticed a ceramic plate on a shelf and jumped up to it. Emma’s name was scratched into the plaster and her hand print was pressed into the center. “That’s my good side.” Rosie laughed as she hopped over to the windowsill. She looked out at the neighborhood covered with snow. “Wow! Look at all the paper! Who drew all that?”

“That’s not paper, it’s snow,” Emma answered. “And those are houses, that are made of wood… which is what paper is made of.”

Rosie looked confused and then smiled. She hopped from the window. “Well if houses are made of the same stuff as paper then watch this!” Rosie’s paintbrush bristles filled with colors. Paint flew from the tip and splashed onto the wall. It dripped into the shape of a door. They walked through the doorway and floated weightlessly in a blank white background. Behind them the passage disappeared seamlessly into the air.

“Where are we?” Emma asked.

“This is where I live,” Rosie answered. “Where we can make anything we can imagine.” Rosie waved the paintbrush. Paint colors splattered and flowed around forming a colorful landscape. Rosie flicked the bristles and paint droplets became birds that flew through the air. The two girls had a wonderful time. They rode on painted horses, sailed in a painted boat, and went on rides at a painted amusement park. But then Emma took a bite of cotton candy. Her happy expression faded while she chewed until she couldn’t stand it anymore. Emma spit out a blob of paint.

At that instant Rosie realized Emma had to return home with her family. “We have to get you back to your room where you’ll be safe.” Rosie was sad. She knew her friend would grow up and forget about her like other childhood things.

“Can you come with me?” Emma asked.

The girls sat by a shallow steam. Rosie tried to be cheerful but a tear ran down her cheek and dripped into the gently flowing watercolor. “I don’t belong in your world. It’s not like you can take me to school on Pet Day.” Rosie stood up and raised the paintbrush to make a door to Emma’s room. Just as paint began to flow from the brush Rosie slipped on a stone that was slippery from the stream’s wet paint. The paintbrush fell from Rosie’s hand. The magic stick bobbed up and down as it floated away.

“We’ve got to get that paintbrush back or we’ll never get you home!” Rosie exclaimed. The two girls ran into the steam. At first the stream was shallow and calm but when they caught the paintbrush the stream had become deeper and moved swiftly. Emma and Rosie gasped as they realized the stream was rushing toward a waterfall that flowed off the edge of the landscape into the nothingness of the blank white background. The girls were caught in the current. Rocks stuck out of the edge of the waterfall. Rosie jammed the wooden brush between two boulders. “Grab my hand!” Rosie called to Emma. The two girls hung from the edge of the waterfall.

Rosie looked at the paintbrush. “Let’s get out of here!” she said. Paint shot from the bristles high into the air. In the same instant the brush split in the middle from having too much weight on it. The girls began to tumble down the waterfall. Above the glob of paint formed into a large swan and it dived down to catch Emma and Rosie. The swan landed gently on the ground. Emma thanked the bird as she climbed off. “That was great!” she said as she helped her friend down. Rosie was sad. She showed Emma the broken paintbrush. She waved it over and over but it didn’t work. The magic was gone. Rosie sat down and cried. She did not know how Emma would get home.

Emma gave Rosie a hug and touched the flower blossom on her head. The girl held the broken paintbrush and said, “Impossible things happen everyday… and I am a good drawer.” She waved the brush and paint began to flow again. Emma painted a beautiful door. “It’s time for me to go home now,” Emma said as she gave her friend the paintbrush.

Rosie smiled and waved. “Will you always imagine?”

Emma looked back at her friend as she opened the door. “I promise.” She looked through the door at her moonlit room. The seven-year-old jumped through the opening and landed on her bed as if she had just woke from a dream. She checked her desk. The heavy book she had placed on top of the papers was still there. Emma moved the book and lifted up the paper that covered the drawing of Rosie and the flower blossom. Emma ran her fingers across the pink flower that had become embedded into the paper. “Thank you Rosie. I’ll remember you always.” THE END

The Blue-Lined
One day Stewart’s favorite pair of socks lead him on a topsy-turvy adventure
Daylight touched the neighborhood rooftops as the professor ran into an empty street. The wild-haired scientist darted toward an open garage and found the perfect place to hide his invention.
Above the humming clothes washer and dryer there was a shelf crowded with laundry supplies. The old man placed a glass jar full of clear liquid on the edge of the shelf and then he turned and dashed away.
Suddenly the washing machine started to spin off balance. The glass jar shook and the liquid inside began to glow with blue light. The jar tumbled off the shelf and shattered on the cement floor near a basket of laundry. For an instant the liquid glistened with brilliant blue light as it splashed onto a pair of socks with blue stitching on the toes.
“Time to get ready for school.” Eight-year-old Stewart heard his mother say as she laid a pile of clothes on his desk. “The socks are still a little damp,” she said, “but they’ll be O.K.”
Stewart sat up in his bed. “The blue-lined socks?”

“Yes,” Mother said teasingly. “Your favorite.”
Stewart’s dad watched the morning news while he made breakfast. There appeared a photo of the professor. The reporter said: “In local news, viewers are asked to keep a helpful lookout for this man, a once highly regarded scientist who has again wandered away from the City Behavioral Health Center.”
Stewart sat at the table. “Dad, it’s Pet Day at school. Are we ever going to get a dog?”
“Do you promise to scoop the doo?” Father joked.

“Yes,” Stewart agreed.

“Then we’ll start to look for the right dog,” said his dad.

“All right!” The young boy cheered and didn’t notice his socks flashed with blue light while he scratched his ankle.
Everyday Stewart walked the same way to school. He crossed the street at the corner and walked on the opposite side of The Old Amsley House. The house hadn’t been lived in for over thirty years, but it was still completely furnished. All the kids in the neighborhood thought it was haunted by the ghost of its last owner, Mrs. Amsley. This morning as Stewart passed the house he felt like he was being watched from an upstairs window. When the boy looked he saw a figure through the partly opened curtains and steam from its breath on the window.
“It’s the ghost of Mrs. Amsley!” The eight-year-old began to run and was shocked even more. His socks shined with bright blue light and he ran incredibly fast. Stewart barely rounded the corner of a dead-end street. He sped down the hill that was a shortcut to school.
At the bottom of the hill were some trees. Stewart tried to stop but he slid up the side of a tree and found himself standing upside down on a branch. Thankful to still be in one piece, Stewart stared at his glowing socks. “That’s so cool!” he exclaimed.
Stewart heard someone coming. He quickly made it look like he was hanging by his knees from the branch. Stewart’s classmate Sara walked by holding a covered cage and noticed the upside down boy.
“Hi Sara. What’s in the cage?” Stewart asked as he climbed down from the tree.
“It’s a gift from my grandmother,” Sara said as she set the cage down and took the cover off. Inside was a bird with beautiful blue feathers. A key hung from the bird’s perch. “It’s mechanical,” Sara explained as she lifted the bird’s wing and uncovered geared wheels and springs. The girl wound up the mechanism and the bird chirped a wonderful song. “Wow,” whispered Stewart in amazement.
At school the kids showed their pets. There were turtles, cats, snakes…when Sara showed her bird to the class, the boy that sat in front of Stewart turned around. His name was Charles and he sneered at Stewart, “That’s not even real, but it’s better than what you have, which is nothing.” Charle’s dog smelled something strange. The dog crawled under the desks and sniffed Stewart’s socks. He bit onto one of the socks and started to pull.
As the sock stretched, it began to glow and blue sparks zapped the dog on its nose. The frightened dog yelped and ran around the classroom, knocking over desks and cages which set the pets free. The loose animals made a terrible mess. Charles blamed Stewart.
Stewart sat in the Principal’s Office. Behind a big desk the Principal talked to the sock puppet on his hand. “Well, Mr. Pine, what do you think we should do about young Stewart’s behavior?” The puppet turned to the boy and said, “I think the best way to deal with troublemakers is…detention!” The Principal agreed that for the remainder of the day Stewart would sit in the cafeteria and read.
Stewart walked down the empty hallway on the ceiling.
After school Stewart caught up to Sara walking home. He was about to tell Sara about his socks when Charles and three of the bully’s friends stepped out from behind a fence. Charles said they were going into The Old Amsley House to see if it was really haunted. He dared Stewart and Sara to go with them.
Sara replied, “I don’t believe in ghosts, and going into that old house has got to be the worst idea you’ve had… today.” The girl continued to walk with her bird cage.

Scared of ghosts, Stewart?” Charles laughed.

Stewart was nervous until he remembered he was wearing the blue-lined socks. “Let’s go!”
The boys walked to the side of the old house where a firewood chute led to the basement. The door of the chute was off its hinges and rested halfway on the ground. Stewart was the last one to slide down into the dark room. He looked around but the other boys were nowhere in sight. The door at the top of the stairs closed. “G-guys?” Stewart stumbled into some shelves and a canvas cloth fell over him. “AAAAHH!” Stewart exclaimed.
Up on the main floor the four boys were planning to frighten Stewart. They laughed as they pulled sheets off the furniture and over their heads to look like ghosts. “This will scare Stewart’s socks off!” Suddenly the door to the basement flung open. On the ceiling walked a figure with an eerie blue glow which moaned, “AAAHHAHH!” The figure passed by a painting of a pleasant-looking old lady with her blue hair worn up in a bun. “It’s the ghost of Mrs. Amsley!” screamed the boys, running in all directions.
Charles grabbed the backdoor handle and pulled frantically. He looked over and saw the glowing figure walk onto the wall. The door opened and the pack of boys raced from the house. The figure was really Stewart struggling to pull the canvas off. “Wait guys!” he called as the door slammed behind them.

Suddenly the blue light from Stewart’s socks dimmed and he fell off the wall.

One of his feet crashed through some old floorboards and he couldn’t pull it out. Then Stewart heard footsteps upstairs and the boy knew it must be the creature that had looked out the window that morning. The eight-year-old pulled on his leg but it wouldn’t budge. The socks didn’t glow anymore and the powers were gone. The creature came down the staircase toward Stewart.
Stewart’s eyes were closed tight when he felt a slobbery lick on his cheek. The boy opened his eyes to see a huge dog.

With its big paw the dog pulled the wood away that trapped Stewart’s leg. As Stewart lifted his foot out of the floor the dog smelled the blue-lined socks which had become dusty, stretched-out and stinky from the long, adventurous day. The dog gave a snort and shook its shaggy head. Slimy drool sprayed everywhere. “Gross!” Stewart laughed, trying to shield himself.

Stewart and the big dog walked home. As they entered the door Stewart remembered the promise he made to his dad about cleaning up after a dog. The boy laughed and sighed, “Dad, where’s the shovel?”

At dawn the next morning in another part of the city, the professor ran up to an apartment building. On the steps of the building were flower planters made from things like a cracked teakettle and worn-out roller skates. The inventor placed a shiny tin can full of dirt on the steps and then he turned and dashed away. THE END

The Magic Basket and Jar
Once there was a family of mice. The three children, Alex, Max, and the youngest Jack, were great-grandsons of a treasure hunter named Captain Roy. The captain disappeared long before while he searched for a treasure every mouse dreamed of: a legendary basket of cheese and jar of milk which magically refilled themselves. A tornado over the ocean swept up Captain Roy’s ship and he was never seen again.
One night there was a tap-tap-tapping at the mouse family’s door. A hook slipped through the crack and lifted the latch. The door burst open and falling snow drifted around a hunched figure who hobbled inside. It was a bat with ghostly white hair and he wore a bandanna around his head to cover his eyes. “Does this be the home o’ Cap’n Roy’s descendants?” he asked.

Father mouse replied, “Y-yes it is.”
“Then I was sent to give ye this!” In the bat’s hooked claw was a roll of paper. “Yer grandpa’s map leadn’ to Heart Island! Thar ye’ll find the magic basket an’ jar!” At that instant the bat turned swiftly and flew out the door.
The mouse family unrolled the map and found a drawing of a heart-shaped island with an X mark in the center. Around the edges were rhymes and riddles. The first one was this:

Find the compass that points with light.
By the sea ’tis shining bright.

Jack tied his favorite blanket around his shoulders for a cape as the family rushed to catch a ride on the back of a carriage traveling to the seashore. At the coastline fog was so thick only a flashing beam from a lighthouse could be seen, pointing ships away from the rocks.
“That must be the compass of light,” said Mother. Max rang the doorbell. Rusted hinges on the door creaked as it opened and an old sea cat named Curly glared down at them. The mice showed Grandpa Roy’s map to Curly. The cat smiled as he remembered past adventures with his mouse captain friend.

Early next morning the six explorers set sail on Curly’s sailboat made from a grandfather clock. They followed the map to the spot on the ocean where Heart Island should be, but the island was nowhere in sight.

Suddenly there was a storm and the boat began to sink. Curly pulled a lever and out sprung the lifeboat: a giant clam shell lined with cloth from a chair and lit by fireflies in a glass bottle.
After the storm, Curly read the map’s final riddle:

Heart Island is hidden by a curtain made from fabric of such wonder…
When it rises it’s invisible.
When it’s pulled it carves deep canyons.
When it falls it levels mountains.
What is it?

Alex looked out of the clam shell and couldn’t believe his eyes. “Why is the rain falling up?” he asked.
The words crossed Curly’s mind: “rain”…”up”…suddenly the cat realized what kind of curtain hid the island. It was a curtain of water. The boys pointed to a cloud with mist rising into it from the ocean. “That’s it!” Curly shouted. With Curly’s help Max flipped a switch and two paddles folded out and began to row. Upon entering the mist, the animal crew learned the cloud came from steam vents that circled a live volcano!

A tunnel led to the center chamber, where the mice and cat discovered Captain Roy’s missing ship. The tornado had thrown the ship into the volcano and pieces of it hung like ornaments on a spike-covered, smoke-hissing lava dome. Inside the captain’s quarters sunlight pointed through holes in the wall to the magic basket and jar. The mice opened the basket and ate the finest cheese they had ever tasted. Curly drank delicious milk from the jar. After the group finished, both the basket and jar were full again.
The treasure hunters fashioned a balloon out of the ship’s sails filled with hot air from the volcano. They tied on the basket and jar, and floated up through the top of the volcano. Wind caught the balloon and carried it toward the mainland.

Moonlight shone bright as the travelers reached the coast. The hot air inside the balloon began to cool, causing the balloon to drop toward the rocks below. The mice threw cheese from the basket and Curly spilt milk from the jar to lessen the weight, but then the containers produced more. To keep the airship afloat the animals sprinkled cheese and milk over a snow-covered village. The villagers woke the next morning and found frosty wheelbarrows full of cheese and buckets of milk.

The family of mice lived with the cat in his lighthouse by the sea, and they shared cheese and milk with all who came to their door. THE END

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