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May 23, 2007 Rewrite--Roxana's POV
(Original Story Written Fall, 2003)
 

HIDDEN JEWELS

Roxana watched as Janie pushed open the playground door. Excited children streamed out of Lakeview Elementary School into the beautiful, sunny day. Roxana's thoughts filled her mind as fully as the laughter and chatter that filled the halls. Five extra recess minutes will give us plenty of time to collect the leaves that have blown off all the trees! Some of them are really pretty! Roxana noticed Janie looking back at her with a frown. I wonder what the problem is? I chose to wait and be the last one out the door because Ms. Harvey is the only person who talks to me!

Roxana noticed that Janie ignored her friends, Melinda and Sara, as they called her name. That's strange. At lunch they are always together. Yesterday they made plans to meet after school and go to the mall. Now she ignores them while she stares at me? Finally, Janie turned toward the largest leaf pile.

Roxana walked to the next pile of leaves with slow steps. Melinda and Sara ran to join Janie. Having lived next door to each other all their lives, Janie and her friends acted like sisters. They do almost everything together. I bet they have no idea what if feels like to spend an entire day alone. I can't imagine them working all day in the hot sun, picking fruit, to earn enough money to pay the rent in the winter months when work is hard to find. Roxana's thoughts were interrupted when Janie exclaimed to her friends, "Look what my mother bought me yesterday when we all went to the mall!" Roxana quickly looked down to hide the hurt that reflected in her eyes as she noted the smug look on Janie's face.

They have no idea what I think or feel, Roxana thought as Melinda and Sara admired Janie's latest new outfit. The pink dress had a matching hair ribbon, which was tied into Janie’s shiny, light blonde hair. I wish mi madre could take me shopping. Even if she could leave the fields, though, new clothes cost too much, Roxana thought. Roxana looked down at her own dress and noticed the ripped spot by the pocket. She had fallen down while playing outside, the week before. This stained yellow dress looks so dirty. Can they tell it came from the church's mission box, sometime last year? What state were we working in then?

She reached up and touched the piece of string in her own hair. My curly dark hair always looks so wild unless it’s tied back--especially when I forget to brush it! OHHHH!! It would be so nice to have new clothes like Janie’s, clothes that always look clean and have hair ribbons to match! Then I wouldn’t have to borrow string from Ms. Harvey all the time.

Roxana walked to the next pile of leaves, then sat down. Carefully examining each one, she looked for signs of damage from the weather. I want the leaves without holes or ragged edges, with pretty red or orange coloring and distinct lines. We’ll have the prettiest hallway in the whole school, the night of the Fall PTO meeting. She ceased her daydreaming as Janie’s friends continued to talk.

"Hey, Mel, you and Janie should meet us at the mall this afternoon! My Mom wants to get her nails done."

As Melanie whooped with joy, Janie replied, "Sorry, but I can’t go today. I have to go home early. Daddy's boss is coming for dinner. We’re having steak and baked potato, with pie for dessert! My mother says she makes the pie for me, but I think it helps make Daddy's boss happy, too."

Roxana continued to sort her leaves as she thought about Janie having steak for dinner. She felt her stomach rumbling with hunger. Carne asada sounds really good. So does pie. Janie will have a really good dinner.

I’ll have to learn how to make a pie soon. When the fruit trees get ripe, I’m always allowed to buy one thing just for me on my birthday. If I picked a bag of sugar, we could have something different to eat. I could make a different kind of pie with each fruit we pick.

Roxana continued to daydream, thinking about the sandwiches she would make for supper and how she would fill the time until her parents would be home. Daydreaming filled lonely moments and made time pass faster.

I’ll have to go to the store today to buy bread, cheese and milk because mi abuela cannot walk that far anymore. After supper, while my grandmother falls asleep in her chair, I’ll wash the dishes before I go out to play. Playing outside, even if I am all by myself, is more fun than doing homework by candlelight. If I didn't have to go to the store and make supper, I could do it early. But by the time mi madre and mi padre get home, they're too tired to help me with it. Sometimes I wonder if they can even read English at all.

Ms. Harvey's always so proud that I finish my homework so quickly-and with all the answers right, too! I’m glad that she lets me stay in at morning recess to do it.

A strong voice and running feet pierced Roxana's thoughts as a large flurry of leaves rained though the air around Janie and her friends. It was Pete! He had run across the playground to jump into Janie's leaf pile!

Roxana wondered to herself, Why doesn't he just tell Janie that he likes her instead of causing so much trouble!

Pete shouted, "Hey, Janie, get your leaves! If you don't hurry up, old 'rocks-in-the-head' is going to have them all gathered up and you won't have any!"

Roxana frowned as she gave Pete a dirty look.

Oblivious to Roxana's feelings, Pete continued, "Hey, leave some leaves for us, rocks-in-your-head! We need some, too!"

Finally, Janie looked at Pete and said, "We can use her leaves--she won't need all of these! Since there's nothin' but rocks in her head anyway, nobody will believe she found all of them by herself! She doesn't even do her homework! I guess the rocks in her head keep her from thinking at night!"

Pete's black eyes twinkled as his lazy smile spread across his face. His black hair fell over his eyes as he gathered up Roxana's leaf pile from the playground. Neither he nor Janie ever noticed the pained look in Roxana's eyes.

Roxana was relieved when Ms. Harvey called the class to come in. Janie and Pete were too busy chortling over Pete taking Janie's leaves to notice the neat stack of leaves Roxana picked up from her lap.

Later, as the students began to work on their projects, Ms. Harvey stopped to admire Roxana's leaves. "Class, look how colorful Roxana’s leaves are! See how clearly the lines of the leaves show?"

Pete shouted angrily, "That girl has rocks in her head! Those are OUR leaves! We picked them up, didn't we, Janie? She stole them from our pile!"

Ms. Harvey stood still. Her tall, thin body towered over the children sitting at their desks. Dark brown hair hung down her back in one single braid. Simple but colorful clothes were nice-looking but comfortable. Her students knew her to be kind and compassionate, as well as fair and impartial. After studying Pete's face for several moments, her gaze shifted to Roxana. She quietly asked, "Is this true?"

Roxana looked at Ms. Harvey as she denied Pete's comment. "I had two piles of leaves. I let Pete pick up the pile from the ground. My best leaves were in my lap." Pete looked at his desk, a guilty expression on his face.

Ms. Harvey asked Pete, "Is it right to lie? How would you feel if Roxana were to call you names and lie to you?"

Janie was quick to defend Pete, saying, "She does have rocks in her head! If she had any brains, she would get her homework done at night. I get mine done! I even do extra! She would wear better clothes, too, instead of those old, dirty things!"

Ms. Harvey looked at Janie, then said, "Working pages ahead of time and doing them wrong or wearing fancy dresses doesn't make a person any smarter." Janie, embarassed, looked down at her lap.

Turning to Pete, Ms. Harvey continued, "Calling names and lying doesn't make a person be more important, either." Pete hung his head lower to hide his eyes.

Ms. Harvey asked Janie, "How would you feel if nobody ever wanted to play with you because your dresses always look so new? How do you think Roxana feels when no one wants to play with her?"

Janie continued to look at her lap. Bright spots of red colored both cheeks. Roxana ached inside with embarassment, too. She wished she could crawl under her desk and hide.

Ms. Harvey looked at Roxana, then looked around the classroom at the rest of her students before she spoke again. "How much money a person has, where or how they live, and what kind of clothes they wear has nothing to do with what kind of person they are inside. What matters most is how they treat other people and whether they know how to speak the truth. We had planned to learn about leaves today, but I hope that you have learned much more than that."

Roxana smiled, then said, "The only 'rocks' in my head are my thoughts, diamonds that sparkle in my mind. Someday I may wear jewels on my fingers, but, until then, being a good person with hopes and dreams is enough."

 

 

 
Penguin Panic  (October 23, 2006)
 
 
                                    FOR MY MOTHER,
                   My first global warming instructor.

Emperor Penguin Family
emperorpenguinfamily.jpg
www.coolantarctica.com

Revised and completed January, 2007; accepted by Stories for Children Ezine for publication in May, 2007!

(Submitted for traditional publication by Living Waters Publishers, 12-30-07)

PENGUIN PANIC

Kerplunk-splash! Petey bounced as he fell feet-first into the icy Antarctica water. Petey surfaced, then scrabbled at the soggy edge of the iceberg. He struggled to pull himself aboard. Petey’s flippers flapped up and down as he rocked sideways with each frantic waddle. His frantic distress calls brought the other penguins jouncing, scrambling and sliding from all directions. Within minutes, they all squawked, flapped their flippers and shook their tail feathers in a dance of fear. The soggy iceberg edges proved that climate changes associated with global warming were destroying their frozen home.

What can we do? We must stop the global warming before we lose our icy home, Petey thought to himself. It’s time to take action, but how?

Petey calmed himself, then settled his friends. After a relaxing swim in the icy, but warmer-than-usual waters, he sat down on his favorite iceberg to consider the options. After a relaxing swim in the icy, but warmer-than-usual waters, he sat down on his favorite iceberg. Deep in thought, he didn’t notice the two men approaching until they were near the ocean’s edge. Dressed in thick snowsuits and heavy parkas, they resembled large bears. Lumbering along in the cold environment, the heavy packs on their backs were their only human quality.

There are those scientists from the base station. Why are they staring at us? Are they counting us? They came here on expedition last winter, too. Maybe they could help us.

Fearless with excitement, Petey tobogganed across the ice on his belly to get closer. The younger man looked Petey in the eyes to assure him they meant no harm to Petey, his friends or family. Still, Petey’s thoughts raced as he chittered and squawked to explain the dilemma. He waddled to the edge of the soggy iceberg to show the scientists the cause of his distress.

Without the ice, we’ll be homeless! Our off-spring will starve as the krill fish leave to find colder waters! What can be done?

"We understand, Petey. Something must be done soon," the older scientist told the distraught penguin, but Petey continued to chatter in distressed tones to express his fears.

If we don't have enough to eat, we won’t have enough blubber fat to survive the breeding season. If we can't breed, there will be less and less baby penguins being born. Everything will be out of synchrony if the waters are too warm!

The expression on the scientist's face showed his understanding of Petey's concerns, despite their language barrier.  "Yes, Petey, it's true that the Emperor penguins could become extinct if Antarctica's natural environment changes due to global warming. Perhaps you and your family would go with us to the United States? A penguin’s viewpoint could be the best way to publicize the plight of nature affected by global warming."

Petey chitter-chatted his agreement and promptly tobogganed himself homeward to alert his friends and family. Meanwhile, the scientists began to develop an artificial environment for Petey, his mate, and his chick to travel in. They also made plans for the penguins to have more permanent quarters at the local zoo. Daily presentations would educate zoo visitors on global warming. The scientists hoped the penguins' publicity would be the key to convince the big business leaders to take steps to stop global warming at the industrial level. Measures to protect Antarctica’s wildlife from extinction would also need to be instituted.

Finally, the big day arrived. A television stage had been set up at the Zoo’s new penguin quarters. Petey shook his tail feathers to get everyone’s attention as he and his family waddled onstage. The premiere demonstration would be videotaped for TV.

The scientists took turns explaining simple facts about global warming and what to do about it. The younger scientist concluded, "The simplest way to reduce global warming is to save as much energy as possible. Power plants should burn less oil and coal when creating electricity. Using appliances that conserve energy, and driving as little as possible also will help. Speak out and let your voice be heard in support of the fight against global warming. Petey Penguin’s family needs their natural home!"

             HOUSE MOUSE
            October, 2006

Susie sat with her chin in her hands, staring at the floor. The pouring rain meant none of her friends could come to play. Playing inside alone meant not making daisy chains or playing duck, duck goose and hide and seek with her friends.

Susie looked out the window. All she saw was the cat, gingerly picking his way through the puddles. If only the mud and puddles would go away, she could play outside! The house was too small to run and play indoors. Suddenly, Susie heard a noise that made her look up.

A small gray mouse perched atop the toy box at her bedside! His wiry whiskers bounced up and down and his tiny pink mouse nose wiggled and jiggled as he smelled the air. The mouse stared into Susie's eyes as he smelled her scent.

Susie did not scream as she wondered what had brought the mouse inside her house. She considered the possibilities. Maybe the little mouse disliked rain? Maybe he was chased by the cat, who watched from the barn roof for field mice dashing from the cornfield.

Susie watched as the mouse ran around the edge of the toy box, then jumped inside to peek at her through the handle hole in the side.

When Susie still did not smile, the mouse climbed to the edge of the toy box again. He ran to and fro, helter skelter, then jumped inside to peek out at her once more. Slowly, the pout began to leave Susie's face. Suddenly, the mouse leaped off!

Susie rushed to follow the mouse. She heard a rustling noise near the living room door. Susie looked up just in time to see the little mouse hanging from the edge of the large painting's frame.

His tiny mouse feet scrabbled for toe-holds to get his balance. The mouse then ran along the frame to the other end. With Susie following behind him, the mouse sailed to the floor and darted toward the bucket of dog kibble!

The mouse leaped into the bucket to grab a piece of dog food. He stood on his back legs to hold the chunk of food in his tiny front paws. He watched Susie with his bright little eyes as he hurriedly nibbled all around it. When the little mouse finished his treat, he scampered back towards Susie's room.

Susie decided at that moment to call him Nibbles. She continued to follow the mouse as she wondered if he would be hide from her now. She wanted to know where he was going. Susie realized that she did not mind watching Nibbles play in her room, but she did NOT want a mouse in her bed!

However, being a smart little mouse, Nibbles knew that he should not get too close to humans. He remembered the stories his mother told--stories of mice who suffered horribly when caught inside by people who didn't like mice. He would need to hide from Susie's parents! Getting caught inside could be worse than having the cat chase him again!

He was glad when Susie sat down on the bed again. To say thank you for being his friend, he played peek-a-boo and ran more circles around the toybox edge. Susie smiled and watched him play.

Nibbles soon got tired and crawled under the box to find a place to nap. Susie picked up a book and began to read aloud as Nibbles drifted off to sleep. Yaw-w-n-ning, Nibbles thought about his mother and sisters outside in the field, underneath the corn stalks, and wished they could be as warm and dry as he. As he fell asleep, Nibbles wondered if his family would like to live here, too....

Meanwhile, Susie wondered if anyone would believe that she had a field mouse living in her room. Susie frowned slightly as she thought of what her mother would say about a mouse being in her house, even a mouse as cute and friendly as Nibbles. Maybe Nibbles living in her room should be kept a secret....

 

October, 2006
 
Easy-Reader Beach Book (Prototype)

 

Glum Chum (Child pouting/Rain)

Top Pop (Dad consoling)

Fun Sun (Gone to the Beach)

Swim Twins (girl/boy-same color suit)

Neat Eats (Picnic spread on beach)

Happy Nappies (Sleeping in Sand)

Busy Lizzie (Building Sand Castle)

Bad Lad (Sand Castle Destroyed)

Pack Sack (Clean up trash/go home)

Roam Home (Back to house)

Children's Books and Nonfiction