Hope: A Story of True Friendship


In the mists of London, in the middle of the night, you can hear a dog bark.  That dog is Barney.  I am the only one that knows why he howls, and I have permission to tell you.
It all happened a few years ago, when Barney lived with the Millers.  Mrs. Miller was a pale, kind faced woman, who always wore some kind of polka dots.  She had pouffy red hair and blue eyes.  She was a beautiful woman, but the most beautiful part was her clothes.  She had red velvet dresses with white and brown polka dotted collars, which made her look like a red velvet cupcake, and blue satin dresses polka dotted with red or white.  She looked loving, but she was the exact opposite.  She was cruel.
Mr. Miller was also kind faced, but he actually brought kindness with it.  You would expect him to wear suits, since he had a wife with such vanity, but he was a gardener, and he wore casual plaid shirts and baggy jeans. He didn’t dress up for dinner, which his wife disliked.
Barney did not deserve to be treated the way he was, and he was not treated fairly.  He was fed one scoop of food a day, and, unfortunately, it was cat food.
Sometimes, when she was in a good mood, Mrs. Miller would say to herself hopefully, “If that impish dog would just behave…” then she would laugh at the thought.
Barney was really a very well behaved dog, but Mrs. Miller was harsh, and Barney was kept outside. The garbage was his only chance of survival because cat food would never satisfy his ongoing hunger.  He was strong and shaggy with matted black fur over his eyes, and he always seemed to smile even through the roughest of times.  His long fur and short schnauzer legs made him appear low to the ground, and they made it harder for him to move quickly.
The days passed and things went on as usual.  Mrs. Miller straightened the pictures that hung in elegant frames. Mr. Miller fed Barney and went off to work. Mrs. Miller usually stayed inside, watched fashion channels on TV, or stood in front of the mirror and did and redid her hair in preparation for dinner that night. When night came after their daily routine, Barney slept in the garage on the blanket that he had been sold with.  The garage was dark and dusty even in the daytime.  The Millers owned a red Mini Cooper, which took up most of the small garage and was really in no shape for driving.
Sundays were the best day of the week for Barney.  The Millers always went shopping for books, clothes, food, anything.  Barney could go sniffing through bright, red tulips in the spring, dig holes in the snow in the winter, or drink from the marble birdbath in the summer. The yard was a perfect place for a dog, but it had its boundaries, and Barney knew it. There was a paved walkway that led to a pleasant-looking, three story house. On either side were little garden gnomes placed neatly against the pavement. Right behind the rows of gnomes were wide, grassy lawns that stretched all the way around the house. On the lawn to the right was an antique marble birdbath. The Millers had won it at an auction and were very proud of it.
The best part about Sundays was that Barney could visit Queenie, the next-door neighbor’s pup. She was also black, but she was a tall Labrador retriever. She was proud-looking with her head held high, and she always strode with long, thin legs.
One rainy, autumn Sunday, Mr. and Mrs. Miller took the Rovers, Queenie’s owners, shopping. Mr. and Mrs. Rover were very pet friendly, and they adored their dog almost as much as a child, of which they had none.  As the four neighbors got into the car, Mrs. Miller asked,
“What do you plan buying today?”
“Dog food,” said Mr. Rover flatly.
“And a new dog bed,” added Mrs. Rover rather enthusiastically.
“How overly kind you are to Queenie!” exclaimed Mrs. Miller. “Cat food suits Barney fine.  Did you see how plump he is?”
“You sound like you were preparing to eat him,” remarked Mr. Rover.
“Oh, I could never do that,” Mrs. Miller laughed.
“He would make a fine feast if he didn’t smell like garbage,” she added to herself.
As the friends drove around the corner, Queenie pawed at a decaying fence panel.
Why didn’t she go around front and into my yard?  Barney wondered.
I was lost on that too, until he mentioned that Queenie had noticed both gates were locked.
When Queenie finally got the panel loose, Barney was impatient.  He was running around the antique marble birdbath, which was overflowing with rain.  Queenie just had to join in the fun, and soon it was a game of who could stay the closest to the other’s rear end.  A robin flew lightly onto the elegant birdbath to bathe, or rather to practice swimming.  Neither Barney nor Queenie noticed the bird’s helpless efforts to stay afloat as giant raindrops plopped into the yard.

Soon the dogs got tired of chasing each other. Many other birds had gathered in the birdbath, and the two furry friends decided to chase birds instead.  Queenie stuck her nose in the detailed bowl of the birdbath and scared away half the birds while others boldly struggled to stay afloat. Barney, following his friend, tried to jump into the birdbath. Being an inexperienced jumper, he was unable to propel himself off the ground, and crashed into the birdbath instead. To Barney’s surprise, the birdbath tipped! Barney had only intended to get the birds away from the birdbath. Barney knew he would get in trouble for the mess. All of a sudden the birdbath seemed so precious.
I am not supposed to touch it.  Why were the birds allowed in?  I didn’t mean to cause all this trouble, Barney thought to himself.
Suddenly, Barney’s thoughts turned completely away from the birdbath. There was a little, round garden gnome wearing a big smile, a red shirt, and over his little porcelain legs, blue pants.  It was lying on its side and could easily be destroyed by the rain.  Barney cautiously picked it up in his mouth.  Queenie went over to see her friend’s newfound discovery.  She bumped Barney’s shoulder and the porcelain figure fell to the ground with a thump.  Barney quickly scooped the gnome up again and went to find a safer place for it. Queenie was excited.  She took the gnome from her pal and ran all around the yard.  All her running splashed mud on the house.  Barney was frantic.  If Queenie dropped the gnome it would break, and Barney would be blamed. He was sure.
Barney ran as fast as his stubby legs could carry him.  Queenie whizzed around behind him and screeched to a halt.  Barney turned around and yapped at his naughty friend.  Queenie had no idea what was going on.  If only dogs would listen to each other.  Queenie opened her mouth.  The gnome fell to the ground.
It was like the worst part of a nightmare, and Barney’s nightmare didn’t end. As the precious figure fell to the ground, Barney winced. Queenie looked at him in curiosity. What was so bad?  The gnome fell to the ground.  Barney whimpered.


Although Barney’s eyes were closed he could tell that little splinters of porcelain scattered around the yard were remains of the precious garden gnome.
Furiously, Barney howled. It was a deep, sorrowful howl, a howl of longing, for he knew what would happen.


One afternoon Mr. Miller went upstairs to find his wife posting a picture of Barney on a piece of paper that read:


Mr. Miller looked at the floor.  There were at least twenty of the same flyers.
“You can’t do-,” he began.
“Yes I can.  Period.”  Mrs. Miller made it final.
Mr. Miller could have protested. Why he didn’t, I don’t know.  He could have been frightened.  I know I would have been.
“Um-uh-I—I-I’ll go h-h-hang these p-posters up.”  He stammered.
He wanted to go outside and just get rid of the flyers. No one would know Barney was supposed to leave, but Mrs. Miller saw the gears turning in his head, pieces of the plan fitting together like a puzzle in his mind. “I am fine, thank you very much,” she said as if there was no suspicion in the air. Disappointed, Mr. Miller went outside to say goodbye to Barney.
As Mr. Miller snuggled his dog, Barney thought back to when the Miller’s car pulled up the driveway. The terrible memory played in his mind like a movie. He remembered the distant rumbling of a most dreaded car, a sound he never wanted to hear again. He remembered how the color had drained from Mrs. Miller’s face when she got out of the car and saw the yard, how she had rushed inside with a flustered Mr. Miller following closely behind. He remembered the worst memory of all: How Queenie had jumped through the fence and betrayed Barney, leaving him with all the blame.
Mr. Miller stroked Barney’s back.
“You already know, don’t you old pal, you already know you have to leave.”
It was a very sad hug, but it comforted Mr. Miller and Barney, and they both wanted to stay there forever. Then Mrs. Miller stormed outside.
“Don’t tell that dog it’s all right!” Mrs. Miller screamed.
“It’s not all right! I will not let him get away with this! Now, John!” Mrs. Miller directed the last part of her fit towards her husband.
“Go check with everybody on the surrounding blocks if we can post fliers on their fences.”
When Mr. Miller had left, Mrs. Miller put an old collar around Barney’s neck, and using a dusty, moth-eaten leash, she tied him to the fence.
Then she taped a flier to the fence.
Meanwhile, Mr. Miller was talking with the Rovers.
“I can’t believe she’s doing this!” exclaimed Mrs. Rover.
“And you must make haste, you know how much your wife can do in a small amount of time. I would not like a poster on my fence,” Mr. Rover said gravely.
“Yes, I’ve noticed how quickly Jane can work when she’s determined,” Mr. Miller hurried off.
Next door, Mrs. Miller was busy, just as the Rovers had said. Mr. Miller came panting into the yard, just as his wife was tightening the collar around Barney’s neck. He had come home much too soon for Mrs. Miller. When she saw him, she quickly let go of the collar and pretended she was just petting Barney. It comforted her, just petting someone, even if she was furious at them. As Mrs. Miller ran her fingers through the thick, knotted fur, on Barney’s back, she felt no pity. It hadn’t been combed for two years, and now, more than ever, Mrs. Miller felt it should never be combed again.  Her heart was still pounding with fury.  Barney wished that Mrs. Miller would one day stroke his back with affection.  He knew that some wishes don’t come true in the blink of an eye, and this one wouldn’t come true in a million years.  He hoped one day he would feel the soft bristles of a brush on his back, the way he once had in a veterinary clinic years ago.  He hoped one day he would be welcomed into a warm house with someone to play with in the summer.  His heart pounded with the anxiety of the future.  Mr. Miller hoped Barney would find a good home before long, so a loving family would comb him and tend to all his cuts and bruises.  He was upset and grieving, for his wife had never revealed her dark side.  His heart was pounding with fear.  Weeks passed and no one wanted Barney.  Mrs. Miller refused to buy cat food, and she unknowingly removed Barney’s source of food when she moved the garbage inside.
During those weeks, the regular mailman took a vacation.  The substitute mailman hated dogs, especially small ones, such as Barney.  After one week, the mailman could not stand seeing that little terrier, who shied away each time he passed, whose eyes seemed to say, “Help me.” One day, as the substitute mailman passed the house he most dreaded, he saw a lady in her early fifties, with red hair pulled tightly back, wearing a brown dress with orange polka dots and sitting in a deck chair.  She was not dressed properly for the season, for her cherry trees were in full bloom, and she looked more like a dead oak.
“Hello ma’am,” the mailman said.  “You know that dog of yours,” he continued.
“Yes, he’s really been on my nerves lately,” said Mrs. Miller, sipping a glass of cold lemonade casually, very un-Mrs. Miller-ish.
“I highly suggest you get rid of that dog,” the substitute began formally.  “He disturbs me with howls, and I can see he is of no use to you.”  He finished as if he had planned the whole thing, like a short speech at a wedding.
That night, Mrs. Miller tossed and turned, thinking about what the mailman had said.  She listened to Barney’s howl, and when she could take it no longer, she sat up in her bed and screamed, “That dog is of no use to me!”
Mr. Miller mumbled in his sleep and resumed a gentle snore.
“You’re just as useless!” Mrs. Miller screamed again.
Barney stopped howling and picked up his ears, listening for more sounds in the bedroom.  After awhile, he decided to keep howling to comfort himself.  In the morning, Mrs. Miller’s mood had grown worse.  After she had rushed Mr. Miller out of the house, she scooped up Barney and rushed angrily out of the house.  Barney glanced longingly back at the house, it’s smooth, brick walls, the white door he never saw the other side of, the brass numbers, “246”, nailed in a straight row on its smooth, white surface.  As Mrs. Miller hastily turned the corner, Barney looked hopefully behind him at the street sign that read, Rosemary Road.
Rosemary Road, Barney thought to himself, the road with the homeliest homes. (Now the place of no return!)
Mrs. Miller walked and walked until her heels were blistered through long, thick, laced stockings.  When she could take it no longer and called for a taxi, Mrs. Miller was holding Barney by the scruff of his neck.  When the taxi came, Mrs. Miller walked in as if she were a princess, and then dropped Barney on the seat next to her.  The most Mrs. Miller could do was eye Barney with great distaste.
“Stones End Street, please.”  The driver gasped, but did not comment.
Stones End Street had a bad reputation.  When I told my friends at school I was moving there, they acted as if I were going to die.
“I heard no one lives there,” said my best friend, Tanya.
“My sister said somebody was killed there,” gasped Eleanor, whose sister used to know everything.
“There are monsters under every bed!” shrieked Sonya, who was terrified of anything under the bed.
Actually, I no longer regret living there.
As Mrs. Miller reached Stones End Street, she was delighted at how dismal it was.  “Perfect for you, stinker,” she muttered under her breath, a wicked smile on her face.  Evil was overcoming Mrs. Miller, but as soon as Barney was out of her sight for good, she would be back to her old, proper, straight-laced self. She dropped Barney, and suddenly she felt lighter. No, not exactly lighter, more empty. She felt as if a part of her had been taken away. To Mrs. Miller, Barney was like a burden she was very happy to get rid of. In fact, she wished no one would ever love Barney and that he would become so weak and unwanted that he would just disappear.
Now, I was watching all of this through my window, and I was very surprised to see a lady dressed in petticoats and white-laced stockings (and probably a layer of under skirts and pantyhose) on my street.  Mrs. Miller was particularly fancy that day.  She was wearing a reddish-brown dress and a brown and white polka dotted petticoat on top.  Her long, laced, white socks were pulled all the way up to her crisp, wrinkle-free pantaloons.  When I saw her drop Barney, I gasped, but did not say anything.  I was sure one of my family members would see to calling the cops or the pound.
“Beth Anne!  Finish your homework!  We haven’t got all day!” My mother scolded.
I quickly turned away from the window.  Who was that lady anyway?  What kind of dog was that?  Even though I concentrated as hard as I could, my thoughts kept straying from my spelling words.  That night I had a dream about the dog.  I had taken the dog into our apartment, but my parents didn’t like him.  They said I had to leave him outside, or they’d deal with him.  I didn’t know what they meant by “deal with him”, so I handed the dog over.  Then, I couldn’t believe what they did- they chopped him up and threw the pieces away!  The next morning, I thought better of mentioning the dog at all. However, when I got to school, I couldn’t contain myself any longer.  Before lunch my whole class knew about the strange lady that had left the forlorn-looking dog on my street.
“Did she look old fashioned, or just stuck up?” asked Jess, who was quite stuck up herself.
“Oh, that’s so sad,” Annabelle cooed.  “She left the dog all alone on the street!”

The Plan

I leaped off the bus as soon as the doors opened, and rushed down the block.
“Wait!” called Annabelle.  “Wait for me!”
“I can’t!” I called over my shoulder.  “I’ve got to get home!”
My feet pounded on the cement.  I nearly tripped over the black blur that dashed into the road.  I stopped short.
“Come here boy,” I called. The dog whimpered and shied away.
“Here, doggy, doggy, doggy!”  By this time, Annabelle had caught up with me, and she too, was calling to the dog. The forlorn looking creature edged farther away from us.
Annabelle lived in the apartment building too, but her apartment was much roomier than mine. She lived with only her mother, as I lived with my mother, father, and grandmother.
After Annabelle had left, I tiptoed across the street, and slowly approached the black fur ball. He ran to the other end of the block. I gave up at that point. Even getting near the dog would be a laborious task.
I walked into the apartment building.
“Good afternoon, Beth Anne,” said a maid, stepping out of the elevator. Silently, I walked into the elevator, just as the doors started to close. I pressed the number “5” button. The fifth floor was the highest level, but the windows didn’t give you much of a view, because of the run down streets below.
When the elevator doors opened, (after a ten second ride) I stepped out and started down the long, narrow hallway. I squeezed against the wall, as a maid puffed by pushing a large cart of cleaning supplies in front of her. I continued down the hall, and stopped at the door labeled “525”. I knocked, and after a series of mumbles and shuffling footsteps, the door opened. My grandmother, dressed in a nightgown, was standing in the doorway, half asleep. She hadn’t left the apartment for four years. In her ill condition, she had barely left her bed for the past four years.
“Hello, dear,” she said. My mother, who had been working in the kitchen, stepped in the doorway beside Grandma.
“Beth Anne,” my mother said calmly, “I would like to talk with you.”
I followed Mom through the apartment into my bedroom, which provided the best view of the cobblestone road. We both sat down on the bed and made ourselves comfortable.
“Beth Anne, there is an animal down there on our street.” My heart froze. What if she wants to give him to a pet store or an animal shelter that won’t treat him well?
“Do you know anything about that creature?” Mom asked.
“Well, no.” I replied nervously. I wanted tell her about the lady who left him, about the strange connection I felt I had with him, but something inside me told me not to.
“Are you sure?” Mom asked me. She could tell I was lying.
“I’m sure.” I tried to make my answer sound positive and definite.
“All right,” Mom sighed and left the room.
As the days passed, things got worse. Mom started to guess what was going on with Barney, and I started to fall behind in schoolwork, worrying about the dog. By the end of the next week, Mom had discovered that a strange lady had left him on our street, that I wanted to rescue him, and that he needed a home.
“Sorry, honey.” Mom said. “You know your grandmother is sick. We can’t afford to have a dog in the apartment. We’re making Grandma sicker as it is.” I sighed.
Rescuing Barney would be a lot harder than I thought.
“Besides, your dad isn’t a big dog person.”
Wow, I thought. This couldn’t get any harder. I thought in despair for a few seconds, while silly, impossible thoughts popped in and out of my mind. My thoughts drifted to my “London Ladies.”
“London Ladies” are ten-inch dolls that nearly every girl in London has. They all have different books written about them, and they’re always doing brave things, so they can do what they really feel passionate about. I could do something like that, not a miracle, but something.
“Mom, why has Grandma been sick for four years? I mean, if she was diagnosed with something, she would be given medicine, and she would have recovered, right?”
“You‘re right,” Mom chuckled. “That is exactly what should have happened. She was diagnosed with a terrible case of pneumonia, so terrible that she needed six weeks’ worth of medicine. The medicine was awful- it smelled terrible and apparently tasted terrible. After three weeks, she refused to take her medicine; she got sicker and sicker. Now she may be beyond recovery.”
I thought about what Mom had said about dad not being a big dog person. I wasn’t a big dog person either, or not until I saw what happened to ‘the dog on our street’ (now a commonly-used phrase in our household). In that case, by telling Dad this dog’s sad story, he might appreciate dogs more. But convincing Dad would have to wait until the weekend, when I actually could spend time with him. Until then, I would convince Grandma that a dog was good for our family. With both Dad and Grandma on my side, Mom would surely agree.
Finally, Saturday came. After lunch I pulled Dad aside. I told him everything I knew, (about Grandma) everything Mom knew, (everything) and everything Grandma knew. (Nothing) After I finished I asked Dad,
“What do you think we should do?”
“Gee, I don’t know. What I would do is take him in as our own- I’m just worried about Grandma’s heath.”
I grinned. This was working nearly perfectly.
“I talked to Grandma. She refuses to take any medicine at all, but she doesn’t want a dog because she’s sick.”
“Yeah,” Dad agreed. “Grandma’s strange that way. And, if we sneak her medicine into her drink, she won’t want him in the house because she won’t know she’s healthy.”
“Yup” I sighed.
Now, remember how I told you about how Barney got to this rundown street in the middle of London? And you’re probably wondering how I know that, right? And as you read this you say to yourself “Dogs can’t talk!” And you’re right, they can’t. But they have a sense of recognition, and they can understand what you say. That’s what happened between Barney and I.
This happened the Thursday before I talked with Dad. I was coming home from the bus stop, and the dog dashed across the road, and planted himself right in front of my feet. He looked up at me, his eyes more pitiful and empty than any dog’s eyes should be. They seemed to question me.
“I think I know where you came from,” I said in reply to his steady eyes.  I made up two crazy stories about how he had wound up here, on Stones End Street. One told how they had floated down from the sky in a terrible storm. The other described how they barely had enough money to survive, so Mrs. Toucan (aka Mrs. Miller) had to leave him here. He continued staring at me, obviously not impressed. That was when I came up with the most realistic, but still most wild story yet. It was the exact same story that I told you in the beginning of the story, if you can remember that far back. Barney’s stare had changed, and I knew that my story was 100% accurate, that I had told it word for word. That was the first time I noticed his collar. The words on the faded collar tag read:


These words proved my story completely true.

The Action

I called Mom quickly before taking off.
“I going to the drugstore to get something for Grandma.” I said. I heard Mom sigh on the other end.
“Honey, she’ll never take it.”
“It’s worth a try,” I tried to sound optimistic, but Mom was right, Grandma would never take any medicine. I hurried off to the drugstore. I stepped through the door and nearly collided with another girl, just my age. She too, seemed lost in thought. The lady at the front desk seemed eager to help me.
“What can I do for you, Ma’am?” she asked.
“Um, can you help me find some medicine for a terrible, terrible case of pneumonia?” We walked silently down the aisles. Finally, the lady asked,
“How old is this person?”
“About seventy, I suppose,” I answered.
She scanned the shelf, then silently handed me a bottle. I gave her the correct amount of cash, after glancing at the medicine.
“Good luck!” the lady called after me. I hurried home to Grandma’s bedside.
“Hello dear,” she said.
“Grandma, do you ever get lonely?”
“Why yes I do, honey. Ah, it would be nice to have company while everyone was away.”
“I wish we could have a dog.” I said. “A dog would surely keep you company.”
“Yes, I agree. Wouldn’t a dog be wonderful? But my health truly stands in the way. If only somebody would give me a second chance, get me some medicine…”
“Grandma,” I had to interrupt her thoughts in order to get a chance to speak.
“Grandma, I got you some medicine. It says…” I paused. “It says it’s naturally flavored. You should like it.”
“I should like to have my first dose right now.”



Mikaela Finlay is a fourth grader at Germantown Friends School. This story is not her first, but this is the first time Mikaela has had her work published. When not writing, she likes to spend her time crocheting and illustrating. When Mikaela read an excerpt from this story at the November 10 Philadelphia Stories, Junior release party at the Arden Theatre’s Hamilton Family Arts Center in Old City, she was cheered on by her parents, her grandparents, and her sister, Anya.

Dear Jeannette

I don’t think I will ever get over that day, May 1, 2006. It is the day I lost a piece of my heart, a piece of myself. Why did you have to die in that car accident? Why do these things have to happen? It’s not fair that I had to lose you that day. You were someone so special to me.

I don’t remember that horrible day so much. I was in kindergarten. So I was too young, or I blocked it all out. I’m not sure. I don’t really want to remember that day. I recall my parents picking me up from school early and then sitting at my kitchen table. Then I remember them telling me the worst thing they could have ever said to me. The rest is a blur.

It changed my life in an instant. You were my best friend and cousin. You made me laugh. You dressed me up in costumes and took my picture. You fed me stuff my mom wouldn’t let me have, like soda and candy. And you made me feel so good about myself. Then you were gone…forever. And things changed forever. It’s just not fair. You should never have died.
I can’t explain how much I miss you. I can’t seem to get the words out of my heart and onto this paper. It hurts me so bad! Life without you is just not the same. Sometimes I feel so sad and lonely. I lost the confidence you instilled in me because I don’t remember what it feels like to be completely happy with myself. Why should I be happy? You aren’t here. I sure don’t feel like that same happy six year old who felt like a princess when you were around. I am heartbroken. I am lost. I am sad without you.

You were like my big sister and I miss you more and more as I get older. I’m a teenager now and I need you more than ever. I need my best friend. It’s been almost seven years and it still hurts that you’re gone. I don’t think it will ever get easier, but I know I can’t bring you back even though I would give anything for that to happen.

I’m so mad that you’re not here to paint my nails, pick out my clothes, and talk with me about girly things. I’m angry that you won’t be here to see me graduate. I’m mad that you won’t see me go on my first date. I wish you could be here to give me advice on life and friends. You were supposed to be here for these things.

I know you’re always with me in spirit, but I wish I could see you, talk to you, and laugh with you like we used to. I hope you hear me when I tell you my thoughts and fears and problems. I hope that you’ll listen when I finally let out my feelings. I hope that you smile when you see me from heaven. I hope that you see that I’m growing up. I hope that I make you proud. Help me to be more like you. Help me to be confident and fun-loving and full of life like I remember you. Help me to allow myself to be happy without you. Help me to be strong.

I believe that things happen for a reason. I believe that you will guide me. I believe that you’re in heaven. I believe that you’re happy. I believe in angels, Jeannette, and I believe that you’re mine.


Taressa Belle Toto is in 7th grade at Visitation BVM School in Norristown, Pennsylvania. She plays volleyball, basketball, and softball. Taressa lives with her mom and dad, her sister Ava, and her dog Snickers.

Scary Scouting

On a dark, chilly, scary Halloween night, four little Tiger Scouts named Greg, George, Dragon, and Bob were camping in a graveyard. Normally, they were quite brave little scouts, but the spooky, eerie Halloween night was really creeping them out! It would have been fine if they’d chosen to trick or treat like all the other little kids, but these boys had decided to be brave and camp in a graveyard under a full moon.

The boys were worried that vampires, werewolves, ghosts, pumpkin-heads, mummies, wizards, witches, and other scary creatures might come to get them, but most of all they were worried about a zombie invasion.

The scouts tried to calm down by eating their hamburgers, hotdogs, and spaghetti, but nothing could calm them down.

It turned out the boys were pretty smart for being scared, because all of a sudden the ground started to shake, the dirt loosened up, the tombstones crumbled, and the dead no longer rested in peace!

Green, smelly, dirty arms with the bones poking through started to come out of the ground.

The boys were super terrified that their worst nightmare had come true. But, just as they started to scream, lightning struck and dance music started blaring. The zombies had woken up to have a wild and crazy Halloween dance party!

Werewolves, vampires, ghosts, witches and more came to this crazy Halloween party. The scouts realized that the monsters were not so scary after all. They all became friends, danced the night away, and ate a lot of candy!


Short story from the writing workshop for the Pack 48 Tiger Den, Medford Lakes, NJ.

Benjamin Potatohead

Behind the sloping hill, the one with sandy patches of grass and rabbit holes, yellow dandelions and light purple wildflowers, there was a village. The tiny village was a merry place with colors everywhere: on kites sailing through the sky, on little toys that bounced and made noise, on the doors of small houses built into the ground. A stream gurgled under a sturdy wooden bridge.

The people of this little town were very unusual. They wore strange hats: propeller hats, beach umbrella hats, bowling pins, chef hats, and other headwear. Some wore hydrangeas or bowling pins on their heads. They spent all day outside, inventing games and activities, and they went to school in the red schoolhouse on the other side of the creek.

“A lovely town,” said a resident wearing a Ferris wheel hat. “But that boy, Benjamin Potatohead…he’s no good.”

“I’ll live here forever!” said another. She was sporting a monkey hat with arms that Velcroed around the neck. “But with Benjamin causing so much trouble, I don’t enjoy it as much.”

“I try to play with Benjamin,” said a child, “but he only steals my toys and laughs at me.”

Mr. and Mrs. Potatohead had lots to deal with. They loved Benjamin, but he caused all the trouble he could muster in the village and in their house, which was a giant hollowed-out potato.

Benjamin was light-ish brown with little holes for his rubbery arms, eyes, and other body parts. His parents looked almost exactly like him, but they were larger. Mrs. Potatohead wore a white felt hat with a daisy, and Mr. Potatohead’s was a black top hat. Benjamin had an eraser hat and was so poorly behaved that you probably can’t imagine how misbehaved he was. He had a remarkable quality: when he lied, his nose popped off, and it only fit back on once he told the truth.

One sunny morning, Benjamin woke up ready to cause trouble. The moment he awoke on his mushy potato peel bed, his fingers tingled and his eyes sparkled, ready for a day of utmost madness.

His mother ushered him off to the schoolhouse and watched him enter, but Benjamin snuck out the back when no one was looking. He stole ice cream and went swimming, and he also peed in the stream. Then he went to the gingerbread house and ate every gumdrop and peanut butter cup. Satisfied, he burped loudly and proceeded to rip flowers out of the ground.

“Oh, kibbets!” cried Benjamin, dropping several uprooted daffodils as he looked in the direction of the giant potato. Mrs. Potatohead was fetching the mail. Darnit, thought Benjamin. I forgot to bury the mail.

Mrs. Doodropping was walking by the Potatohead house, carrying a basket of strawberries. She stopped to chat with Mrs. Potatohead. Benjamin rubbed his rubbery hands together, an unmistakable sign of trouble ahead.
Benjamin bounced from house to house, hiding behind mailboxes. Finally, he reached his own and snuck up behind Mrs. Potatohead.

“…ashamed of Benjamin?” Mrs. Doodropping was asking. “My poor Charlie never has good things to say about him.”

“Benjamin is a troublemaker,” Mrs. Potatohead agreed, “but he is a child. That’s what kids do.”

“But he wreaks havoc in the village,” protested Mrs. Doodropping. “That is not alright. Charlie, for instance, never causes an ounce of trouble—”

Benjamin made his move. Quick as lightning, he ripped his mother’s heavily lip-sticked mouth from its hole and tore down the path, her muffled voice attempting to scream at him.

“Well, I never!” huffed Mrs. Doodropping as she wheeled and rushed down the path in the opposite direction. “What nerve! Stealing somebody’s mouth!”

Benjamin chuckled as he stuffed Mrs. Potatohead’s lips into his pear-shaped body. They rattled around as he gobbled Mrs. Doodropping’s stolen strawberries.

Yes, Benjamin was naughty. Wherever he went, a surprising amount of trouble followed. Nothing would stop him.

One day, though, when Annie Fergusen’s house caught fire, people were glad Benjamin was there to help.

Annie was always a perfect girl. She did well in school and pleased everyone except Benjamin, who wasn’t fond of girls. Annie was cute, but like a little doll: she had rosy cheeks and lips, curly golden hair, and petite dresses with white stockings. She was too clean for Benjamin; he was the muddy type.

Benjamin was yanking a girl’s hair when smoke started to drift over the village. He knew the smell of smoke from the time he set a teacher’s dress on fire. He began to rub his dirty hands together and even let go of the girl’s ponytail to see what was happening.

The little people of the town were fetching buckets of water and hoses to put out the fire at the Fergusen’s house. Benjamin ran to his mother, who had recently shaken her mouth out of his potato body.

“Linda Fergusen was cooking eggs and forgot the pan was on the stove,” said Mrs. Potatohead.

“Awesome!” cried Benjamin.

Mrs. Potatohead gave him a stern look.

Out of the house stumbled a panting Linda Fergusen, followed by her husband. Annie did not appear.

Moments later, Benjamin heard weeping. The townspeople ceased tossing water.

“We can’t find Annie,” explained Mr. Potatohead gravely.

Benjamin rubbed his hands together. This, though, was not a gesture for trouble. Instead, it was an idea.

“WAIT!” he screamed. “I think I can save Annie.” All eyes turned to him doubtfully, expecting his nose to pop off. Benjamin, the major troublemaker? Benjamin, save Annie Fergusen?

But his nose stayed put. Benjamin grabbed his eye and ripped it off his head, which is perfectly fine for a potatohead to do. Then, he threw it through a window.

“Annie is in her room!” he yelled as the eye landed on Annie’s carpet and saw the girl unconscious. Her father climbed up and heaved her out the window, wheezing.
Benjamin Potatohead still remained a troublemaker of the worst kind, stealing and playing hooky. But, from that day on, nobody forgot his cleverness when he saved Annie Fergusen from what everyone thought was her finish.




Ella Spencer is 12 years old. She says, “Writing has always been something that I loved, but I also enjoy drawing and reading. When I grow up, I would love to be a writer and have children of my own. I live in Merion, Pennsylvania with my parents, my brother, and my two pets: Willy (dog) and Violet (rabbit). I am excited to have joined this contest and be as creative as I can with it.” This story was one of the winners of the Pinocchio Writing contest co-sponsored by PS Jr. and the Arden Theatre.


In the fading light of the setting sun, Luka Yeshevsky sketched a face.
Luka drew the model’s lips, so carefully pursed around a smoldering cigarette, aligned to the curves of his chin. His pencil marked the contours and peaks of the quaint little nose, which rested plainly above the philtrum. He even captured the sagging lines beneath his model’s eyes, no doubt a result of the weary journey from St. Petersburg to Petrushka.
But his hand was having difficulty with the eyes. They were a tempest, he noted, because the gray flecks in the brown mirrored a summer storm. Their shape was odd: cat-like, and squinted, with creases and folds in places there normally weren’t.
His model exhaled and watched the smoke drift up to the rafters.
“Eyes down, would you?” Luka reprimanded, reaching for his eraser. “I’m not finished yet.”
The boy smirked, his mouth molding into a lopsided grin. “Sorry.” He placed the cigarette back in his mouth and took a puff. “I’ve been sitting here for a while. It’s quite hard to keep myself from getting restless.” Another breath, except this time he thrust open the small side window and let the smoke escape into the August fog.
Luka took a moment to glance out the open window. It was the time of eternal twilight, the unsettling period in midsummer when the sun, much like an incorrigible child, refused to sleep until the fading hours of the night. It wouldn’t be black until eleven-thirty. This meant he had more light to work by, but it also meant another night wracked by insomnia.
Curse the impossible eyes! He wiped away his most recent attempt at an eyelash. If he weren’t a perpetual perfectionist, he would just leave them out. But he was. So the picture had to look perfect.
“I didn’t mean to complain,” the model apologized, crossing his right leg over his left. He seemed quite aware of Luka’s frustration. “I lied. I like this. It’s relaxing. Petrushka is a nice break from the city.”
Luka grunted a response, his fingers rubbing in the shading beneath the eyes.
“I hadn’t even heard of this place before,” the boy continued. “It’s quite different from St. Petersburg. I’d imagine the people here are very humble, yes?”
“Some.” Luka blinked and lifted his pencil to the finely-combed hair, which he intended to capture in wispy fragments as opposed to the cartoonish strands his instructor was so fond of mocking. Most of the people here were simple folk—fishermen, retired farmers, church men—but he’d never bothered to get to know them. “It’s not uncommon to dislike Petrushka. Why should you like a town named after a marionette, anyway?”
The model gestured for an ashtray in which he could dispose of his cigarette. “Any village seems comforting compared to where I grew up. Are you going to color in my face?”
Luka begrudgingly fetched the ashtray from the side desk and handed it over. Ordinarily, he didn’t speak more than a word to his creations, and when he did, it was a direct command: sit straight, eyes forward, for the love of God, stop slouching. “Only charcoal. Where did you grow up? Eyes up, please.”
The model obediently lifted his eyes but said hesitantly, “I’m not entirely sure of its name.”
“You said you were from Kiev.”
There was an awful pause. The youth shifted uncomfortably. “Perhaps…” Then he buried his face in his hands. “Oh, I lied, Sir. I’m an orphan.”
Luka set down his pencil. “Oh. How sad.”
“My parents died of typhus when I was young, so I was brought to the orphanage by a stranger.” He set the ashtray on the floor. “My mind caused me trouble, so I made trouble.”
Luka stopped for a moment. “Oh?”
“The fat old village doctor proclaimed that I thought frightful things. Overwhelming for a boy of my ‘tender age.’”
“What ideas did you think?”
He licked his lips. “Well…I’ve never confessed this before, because it’s odd. Marxist things, you know. I recited Engle before I’d memorized my Latin. One set of prospective parents asked me to sing them a beloved old Bible verse, and you know what I did? I said, ‘religion is the opiate of the masses.’”
Luka glared at him. “They must have been horrified.”
“Oh, yes,” the boy said, “The headmaster kicked me out onto the streets shortly after. And then I answered your advertisement, because I’m starving and should find a bride soon.”
“Ah, yes, my advertisement,” Luka echoed, hoping the conversation would shift back to something less blasphemous. The model seemed wholly unaware of the gilded crucifix nailed to Luka’s doorway. “The ‘Common Man.’ It’s a little project I’m going to submit to a gallery.”
“Where is the gallery?”
Luka hesitated. If the boy found out, he would probably rip the portrait to shreds and begin to spew Bolshevik banter. But another glance at the cross reminded Luka of his sin: he should not lie. “Peterhof.” He quickly coughed into his sleeve so the boy wouldn’t have time to process the location. Perhaps he was unaware of the czar’s summer residence. He was uneducated after all, wasn’t he?
Not a glimmer of recognition passed his eyes. “Oh. What a lovely town. Perhaps I’ll visit it when I have money for train fare. May I see the painting?”
Luka turned back to the infernal eyes. It was odd, he thought suddenly, how the two-dimensional portrait of this stranger had transformed into something much greater—much more real—than a boy on a page. He was proud of his creation.
“What did you say your name was?” he asked.
The model smiled. “I didn’t. It’s Tolya.”
“It’s funny,” he remarked, inscribing the name on the top. “Portraits often reveal what the ordinary face does not. They reveal truth and dispel lies.”
“Then it is not a sketch of a face,” Tolya responded. “It is a real face.” He smiled. “It is Tolya.”

Catherine Mosier-Mills is a senior at Radnor High School in Radnor, PA. She says, “In my spare time, I love playing jazz and classical piano, participating in Model United Nations, and taking pictures of my cats. My work has appeared locally in Apiary Magazine and I recently was awarded honorable mention in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. This story was one of the winners of the Pinocchio Writing contest co-sponsored by PS Jr. and the Arden Theatre.


The breeze tickles my smooth cheeks. The warmth of the sinking sun’s rays buries into my skin. Bursts of purples, blues, reds, and oranges cover the sky, outlining the bright sun. Practically diving into the crystal clear water, the orange ball of light skims the horizon. The cool waves kiss my toes and the grains beneath my feet create the feeling of safety. The worries suffocating my mind drown in the peacefulness. The salty smell and crashing waves fill my senses with joy.

As I guide my feet into the cool sand I feel crisp shells and slick clams. My toes burrow further creating an underground home. I stand in my heart’s palace and the world drifts away with the wind. I am simply complete.

An autobiographical poem

Athletic, strong, funny
Daughter of Joyce and Jerry
Who loves basketball, softball, and family
Who feels strength about perseverance
Who needs support, love, and confidence
Who gives 100%, help, and support
Who fears giving up, taking the easy way out, and never doing her best
Who’d like to see Hawaii
Who dreams of being a nurse
A student of Visitation B.V.M. School


Smelling all the pies and cakes,
And the turkey as it bakes.
Talking, laughing, family and friends,
All this fun, it never ends.
Looking at the golden leaves,
Falling off of all the trees.
Hugs and kisses, saying “good night,”
Going to sleep without a fight.

Brynn is 10 years old and in 5th grade. She loves art and gymnastics, especially competing in the floor event. Brynn really enjoys writing, especially short stories. She lives in Central Pennsylvania with her parents and 3 siblings.


War is like you are a pumpkin
And it is Halloween
War cuts you off at the stem
So you cannot grow any more
War is like you are a pumpkin
And it is Halloween
War cuts the top off of you
War carves you out, scoops out your insides
War is like you are a pumpkin
And it is Halloween
Your soul is like those pumpkin insides (they scooped your soul out too)
War throws your heart in the trash
War is like you are a pumpkin
And it is Halloween
War carves you out, war carves your face
Then gives you a fake smile
War is like you are a pumpkin
And it is Halloween
They put a fake light inside of you
It glows, but always goes out
A light that is not yours
War is like you are a pumpkin
And it is Halloween

E. D. is in 6th grade and likes to write poetry. He also likes basketball, building things, and reading. He lives in the Philadelphia area and has read all of Rick Riordan’s books twice. He wrote this poem after listening to a lecture by a veteran

A Child’s Request

We were free, we played, we laughed, we were loved.
We were taken from the arms of our parents and thrown into the gas.
We were nothing more than children.
We had a future.
We were going to be lawyers, rabbis, teachers, doctors, mothers, fathers.
We all had dreams, then we had no hope.
We were taken away in the dead of night like cattle in cars, no air to breathe, crying, starving, dying.
Camps our new home.
A little ration of food was a blessing from g-d
Living in the camps filled us with terror.
Separated from the world, we were no more.
From the smoldering ashes, hear our plea.
This abomination at the hands of mankind cannot happen again.
Remember, for we were the children whose dreams and lives were stolen away.

Max is an avid soccer player, news junkie, and enthusiastic reader.