Demon New Year

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“The demon lurks around the corner, under the house, under the bed. If you sleep, little one, she will drive you mad.”

“What’s mad.” The tiny child jingled coins rhythmically in a red envelope. The metallic noise soothed. He wake-dreamed of sweets from the shop where a nice old man scooped cones of syrupy ice. Eyes dropped. But something, maybe wisdom, maybe obedience kept deep dreams away.

Fearsome looking, Sui demon opened the door. Leaves swirled underfoot. She reached; she intended an evil touch.The child and his father stirred. Coins clanked together. Moonlight gave chase and Sui melted away.

Pride, Goblins, and Other Monsters

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The Goblin King’s minion had failed. Hershel tricked him and kept the Hanukkah candles burning. 

“The Jew will not win again. No more miraculous nights. Darkness for Donbas.” The goblin exploded into a vortex that sucked up the atmosphere. The synagogue door shattered to splinters. “Behold my power.”

Hershel shook with fear. “I see no one. Light a candle if you’re there.”

The goblin’s pride kept him lighting the candles. He wanted respect.

Hershel led the Goblin King on until the last candle had been lit. Furious, the goblin destroyed the synagogue, but Hershel and the menorah’s light stayed strong.

Inspired by Eric Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, with hope for a miracle in Ukraine. Kimmel credits a Ukrainian folktale for his inspiration. It’s turtles all the way down.

Mom Wants You Home

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“You’re in trouble.” Lars was out of breath. “You’re gonna get grounded.”

“I’ve got to hold back the water.” Hans reached for his phone. “Here, alert the dike patrol.”

Lars took the phone and did as he was told. That was the difference between them. His brother almost never did what he was told. He was always off on an adventure. The younger one stayed home to placate their mother.

“The dike patrol, they’re coming.” Lars saw the strain in Han’s face and, surprised, saw fear in his eyes. “Can I help?”

“Tell mom where we are.”

The boy said, “I’ll hold the water. You call.”

Fish Story

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“You threw it back? Then wish us supper.”

To please his sister, the fisherman did exactly that. Voila! A table laden with delicacies appeared.

She sated herself. “Foolish man, we could have had a different life for that wish. Ask for a fine house and all that would sustain us in it.”

“Would that make you happy?”

“You”ll have one wish left if it doesn’t”

Without the posh accent, education, and manners to go with the lifestyle, she was miserable.

Her brother asked the fish for happiness. He was six again. She was five. Valued equally by society, they thrived.

Calaveras Frog Prince and the Three Wishes

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Daisy stood at the starting line and kissed her frog for luck. A long-legged young man arose from the frog’s place and cleared his throat.

“Are you a princess?” Cedric worried he was lost.

“Daddy calls me Princess.”

The jumping contest official told them they’d need to move.

Daisy took Cedric’s hand. “Daddy’ll know what to do.” She pulled him into the chaos of the county fair.

Cedric slipped through her fingers and disappeared into a fortuneteller’s booth. She handed Cedric a tarnished lamp. When he rubbed the dust away, a genie appeared and Cedric found himself in another story.

Pussy Crooner

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Pussy was a musical cat. Sometimes the tabby played a lute and others a bagpipe. She yowled at pubs throughout the British Isles that bear the name Cat and Fiddle. Accompanists flocked to back her up. 

Nine long lives she lived and nine again but cats grow old, as do we all. She retired to a barn in Cheshire, then to an old wishing well with one last request: a concert. Johnny Green gathered a band for Pussy’s last show. His father beat him. Said, “A better mouser never was nor will be.”

Pussy had nought but praise. T’was time.

The Shoemaker’s Challenge

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The shop bell tinkled behind the cat as he left the shoemaker pondering what had just happened. The shoemaker’s wife announced supper and when there was no response, she smoothed her hands along her husband’s shoulder. “You seen a ghost, pet?”

He came out of his thoughts. “A talking cat. He left these boots in payment for ones that fit. Think I’ve gone ‘round the bend, Eliza?”

“I did see him. From the window upstairs. Odd, that cat, like a man on two legs.”

“He were real. Measured ‘im meself.”

“Will you make the boots?”

“Said I would, didn’t I?”

Golden Bird Lays Pretty Eggs

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Lottie perched at table, beheld a patterned pysansky preserved in waxed glory. ”Exquisite egg.”

Nina sipped tea. “Family heirloom.”

“European,” Lottie asked.

“A tale from Ukraine goes with it. A girl found hundreds of golden birds stiff with cold, helped a few, and found homes for the rest. ”

“How kind.” Would that there were more kindness.

“In spring, the villagers who’d fostered them released the birds who Easter next flew to each house. This egg and hundreds of others appeared on doorsteps throughout the village, a thanks from the grateful birds.”

“A beautiful story, more so even than the eggs.”

Foolish Woman Not So Dumb

Baba Yaga, foolish old woman, rattler of chicken bones magicked from soup. Her elder son nurses historic delusions. In the younger one, hope persists. Hers is tough love at best. Battles rage. Forgotten, the soup gets cold.

Baba Yaga makes a cake with pears, no mushrooms. She absorbs the stove into herself, casting a spell on the forest. Her heart, a net to catch the half-cracked madness. The cake, an irresistible odor summoning the children to the table in Baba Yaga’s stilt perched house. As they eat, she turns the house upside down, shaking up what had seemed inevitable.