Hark! A Modern Storyline Pattern– Part 1

The stage is set. The lights go up; the camera rolls. Actors take their place.

We’re seen in a garden of jasmine and rose bushes with the side of an old stone castle covered in vines. The windows are dark save for the upmost bedroom with the sheer curtains.

Then our hero arrives! Romeo, sneaking into the garden unnoticed, approaches the wall and looks up. The moon is shining in his face, making it hard to see.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel—let down your hair!”

Juliet, peering down, shuts the window in frustration.

“Leave, daring stranger. I must not look at you for fear that I will fall in love and watch you be pursued by my father haunted with anger issues.”

“I have no fear of parental guards!” Romeo protests, even as the window is closed. “There are many handsome women of your stature that suffer the same! Yet their lovers never ditched them!”

Juliet stopped. Hesitating, she opens the window once more. She looks down at the stranger who she only saw at the party a few hours before. He was cute, she thought. Perhaps he was as gentlemanly as he portrayed himself.

“Who, pray?” she asks.

“Loads of people in classic literature!” Romeo proclaims. “Take Cinderella! Jasmine! The Little Mermaid!”

“ ’Tis only three, my love,” Juliet sighs with a dreamy smile, now attracted.

“ ‘Tis a pattern that is not only in books!” Romeo replies. “What of Bella SwanAriel Moore, Katy McLaughlinMavis?”

“My…” Juliet twirls her hair as she turns away to hide her blush. “You certainly know your stories.”

“Mere observation, desert flower,” Romeo remarks, “and anyone can see it if they pay close attention to the previews. Every time, in order to assure a happy ending, the writer makes the parents (or father, in particular) give up. The lover always wins, as if making the father the bad guy—such a pattern today. This story is no different.”

“So you,” Juliet attempts, “—you would risk your life for my love, like all the other lovers in your stories?”

Romeo stops. He pauses. Juliet waits, now frustrated again.

“Well?” she prompts. The crickets become annoying.

“Risk my…life?” Romeo says. “Nay! But I would risk a big chunk of it.”

Juliet fumes. “What kind of a man would admit that to a woman?”

“An honest one,” Romeo responds.

“But you mentioned the pattern!—the lover never backs down!”

“ ’Tis never happens in real life, my love,” Romeo declares. “Don’t we all wish we could live in a fairy tale?”

Juliet lets out a gasp and her eyes narrow. She grabs the window to close it.

“You are no gentleman!” she shouts. “Leave me, pray, or I shall throw something at you! You don’t even know my name!”

“Rapunzel seemed fitting.”

“You reckless stranger! Leave me! I never want to see you again! You say you love me yet you don’t even care to risk your life for me!”

“For heaven’s sake, darling, I only saw you for the first time a few hours ago.”

“Dost this appeal to me?” Juliet demands.

“Well…sure it does,” Romeo suggests. “Not all stories end well. Besides, if you knew Shakespeare at all, you’d know we’re both only destined to die if we try to make this relationship work.”

“Give thee to a nunnery!”  Juliet cries. “I shan’t ever speak to you again!”

And the window slams and the lights were cut.

Romeo stands awkwardly amidst the staring crickets.

“Actually it’d be a monastery,” he says to himself.

Curtain. Applause.





~J.L. Cordova



Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a simple village girl. Her name was Belle, and she was the daughter of an old inventor. The people of the town thought her very pretty. In fact, many suitors had come to the old inventor, begging for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Belle, however, thought them all strange and pathetic. No, she had no interest in marriage. Instead, she loved reading books and feeding the chickens on her father’s land. She was a sweet and timid girl—friendly, cordial, warm, amiable, pleasant, and all those other words that mean nice things.

Her father, the old inventor, loved his daughter and let her live her single life as she pleased. Though he tried to persuade her to be married, she refused. All the boys in the village were only interested in hunting, working out, and drinking beer. Not one of them showed interest in fantastical stories with swordfights and magic spells. Not one of them loved to dream or even simply think on a cool summer evening on a familiar front porch, as she always did. No, Belle thought: one day, if she were to marry, she would find a wonderful man who loved doing everything she did. And he would love her for who she was, and not what she looked like.

The king of the land was just and fair. He was a big man—the biggest in the land, for he loved pork chops. He lived in a castle with many servants and hanging gardens. His loyal subjects loved him dearly. His daughter, however, was not nearly as adored.

The king’s daughter, Snow White, was named after her mother, Sleeping Beauty. (Her mother had died giving birth to her, many years ago). Unfortunately for the entire kingdom, Snow White…was not a beauty at all. In fact, she was the ugliest girl in the entire kingdom, with warts on her nose and hair on her chin. The king, though aware of his daughter’s unsightliness, was desperate to find a handsome prince to be her husband, for she was nearing the marrying age. No one, however, would have her.

Princess Snow White was terribly hurt and confused. She did not want to be married. She was tired of living in a rich castle with everyone shrieking when they caught sight of her. She was tired trying to meet everyone’s expectations. She spent her days making beaded jewelry while reading every encyclopedia she was given. (She was, indeed, quite the nerd). She would read books on protons, microorganisms, and even dissecting worms, (which she had done at the table, much to everyone’s disgust). Snow White merely wanted someone to have geeky fun with her, and not be laughed at any longer.

Her father was loving but stern. He persuaded her to not spend so much time being nerdy and to keep hoping that one day she would be the happiest girl in the world. Snow White would only sigh. Her constant beauty treatments and plastic surgeries were not doing a single thing.

Then, one morning, on the country road leading into the kingdom, came a cat with a hat, and a sword, and a belt…and some boots. He was strong, dashing, and tabby. He came prancing proudly into the village of the kingdom. He was Puss in Boots, and he was looking for adventure and gold. His eyes fell upon the king’s castle and instantly waltzed up the palace steps, his nose in the air.

He entered the castle and spotted the distressed king upon his throne. The king set eyes on this…interesting animal. His whiskers were curled just so, and his boots on his back legs made him look almost as tall as an average-sized man. Puss in Boots drew his sword in courageous confidence as he shouted:

“I am Puss in Boots! And I have come for adventure and gold! Give me a task, O King, and I will defeat your enemies and win the heart of your beloved daughters and maidens!” (He was always proud of his dashing looks).

The king sat up. “You…you would marry my daughter if you completed a task I have given you?”

“Indeed, O King!” Puss cried in triumph.

“Well then!” the king jumped out of his throne, thoroughly relieved. “There are bandits roaming the Dark Woods. Bring them to my dungeons, and I will give you my daughter’s hand!”

“I shall not fail, O King!” Puss replied, and he dashed out of the palace.

Puss had always been longing for a beautiful maiden and all the food and comfort he could consume. For many years, he had roamed the roads of many kingdoms, confronting many dangers and many foes. Finally, perhaps, this was his chance to rest in his splendor and bravery.

In the Dark Woods, he found the bandits and captured them all with his two paws and two boots. Tying their hands behind their back, he brought them before the king. The king was overjoyed that this “Puss in Boots” had come back alive. The bandits were rid of, and he could finally marry off his daughter.

“My prize, O King?” Puss inquired.

There, from behind the throne, came Snow White. Puss jumped back in shock. She was the most hideous woman he had ever laid eyes on! (And that was saying a great deal). She gazed at him, instantly entranced. (He was a very handsome cat). But Puss in Boots was disgusted.

“I can’t marry her!” Puss cried, stepping back.

“AND WHY NOT???” the king bellowed, quite perturbed.

“Well she’s…she…she is ugly!” Puss stammered. Snow White’s eyes began to blur. She whimpered. Her face was getting red.

“Wait…” Puss stepped forward, comfortingly. “Wait, don’t cry…” He failed to sooth her. She wailed and howled as tears streamed down her mottled face and bulgy warts.

“Don’t cry…” Puss continued to say, but no good did it do.

“See what you’ve done!” the king roared, his big arm over his daughter. “You have disgraced this kingdom with your heartless words!”

“But I…” Puss didn’t know what to say. She was ugly, but no one seemed to want to admit it but him. Snow White continued to bleat and wail in her father’s arms. It was pitiful, really. She was almost as obese as her father, and she cried in his bulging arms.

“You will pay for your misdeed!” the king bellowed. He glanced at the guards. “Take him to the dungeon!”

The guards approached, but Puss in Boots drew his sword. “Wait, my lord!”

The king seemed to subside. Puss approached him pleadingly, putting his sword away.

“Snow White…” he tried not to grimace. “…is beautiful now. But I only meant…that she could be more beautiful. I know of a place that would stretch her beauty beyond anything you could ever imagine.”

“Beauty as in…what she has now? Or real beauty?” the king asked, loosening his embrace.

“Daddy!” the princess wailed.

“Oh no,” Puss continued. “I mean real beauty—beauty that would draw dozens of princes to your knees, begging for her hand.”

“You…you can promise this?” the king asked.

“Upon my sword, I can.”

So Puss in Boots was ordered to take Princess Snow White to the place he had spoken of. Many years ago, Puss himself had been to this place. It was where he had gotten his beloved boots and his magnificent hat and sword, so he told the princess! (Actually, he had gotten those things from his former master, but he had visited this place AFTER he had received them).

Walking alongside the princess, Puss in Boots led her into the Dark Woods. There, they found a brick house in the heart of the forest. The chimney puffed smoke, and there was light coming from the window. Puss rapped on the door, and the three little pigs answered.

Phil, Gil, and Bill were the three little pigs, and they mixed magical potions in their brick house in the Dark Woods. They all had little shirts and collars and little bowler hats on. Their pink snouts made Snow White snort a laugh. They squealed when they saw her, but Puss calmed them down. Puss asked the pigs if they could make her a potion that would make her beautiful.

“That’s complicated,” Bill said. He was the oldest.

“Quite right,” said Phil.

“Sure is,” said Gil.

“But you must!” Puss pleaded. “If you don’t do this for me, I will find that big bad wolf of yours and help him blow down your house!”

“This house is too sturdy—no one can blow it down!” Bill said.

“Quite right,” said Phil.

“Sure can’t,” said Gil.

“If you don’t make me pretty…” Snow White was stern, and quite desperate. “My father will come and destroy your house and all of your work and banish you from the kingdom!”

“Even if we were to give you a potion, you can’t take it by yourself!” Bill said.

“Quite right,” said Phil.

“Sure can’t—”

“ALRIGHT ALRIGHT!!!” Puss  cried. He turned to Bill. “Who will she need to take it with?”

“Another girl,” Bill said, “—another girl to counteract the magic.”

“Quite right—”

Puss didn’t hear the rest. Dashing from the house, he rushed to the near village. The first girl he set eyes on was the first person he ran to. It was our dearest, beloved Belle. She was feeding her father’s chickens near the drinking well.

Grabbing her hand, he rushed back towards the forest, answering no questions. Belle tugged and struggled, but he held her hand tightly. They came back to the brick house, and Puss and Belle burst into the room.

“Here is your other girl!” Puss panted, desperate. “Now can you please get on with it?”

“We will have to have some payment,” Bill remarked.

“Quite right,” said Phil.

“Sure will,” said Gil.

“My father has loads of money,” Snow White boasted, noticing there was another girl in the room that was prettier than she was. “He will give you whatever you like!”

Bill seemed to like this answer, so he nodded. The three little pigs all began to mix and stir items into a big black cauldron in the middle of the room. Oregano leaves, raven beaks and the legendary heart of Cinderella’s stepmother…it all fell into the pot, as they stirred with song:

“Stir with caution,

Stir with ease,

Don’t sniff the garlic,

It’ll make you sneeze…”

“Don’t be scared,

If you sputter or cough,

Jack Sprat’s wife

Will finish it off…”

And the verses continued. Then, out of the cupboard, Phil took out a solitary red apple. He dipped it into the cauldron, let it dry, and handed it to Snow White.

“One bite will change it all…” Bill said whistfully.

“Ohhh quite right,” said Phil.

“Sure will!” said Gil.

Snow White took a bite, and everything did change, but not for the better. The bite of the apple made her even uglier! More warts popped up on her neck and arms. More hairs grew on her chin. Her nose got even lumpier, and her hair was stringy and disheveled.

Snow White screamed at her reflection in the cauldron, and Puss in Boots groaned.

“YOU SAID IT WOULD CHANGE IT ALL!!!” he roared at the pigs.

“We did, but we didn’t say for the better!” Bill snickered. They all laughed together—the three mischievous pigs.

“haha! Quite right,” laughed Phil.

“We sure didn’t, we sure didn’t…” Gil chuckled.

Puss fumed. “Do you want that money or not?” he griped.

“Alright, alright, keep your boots on!” Bill waved his hand. “Does it have to be a beauty potion?”

“My Daddy just wants me to get married!” Snow White blurted out.

“Ahhh, well this changes things!” said Bill.

“Quite right,” Phil said.

“Sure does!” echoed Gil.

With a nod from Bill, Gil went to the back room and came back with two warty frogs. He sprinkled something over them as it seemed to be a spell. The pigs gestured to the princess, and to Belle. Belle, who had watched in great confusion and wonder at these strange characters, had stood calmly and quietly in the back corner. She had her book wrapped in her arms, wondering why on earth she had been brought to the brick house.

But, as she was bidden, she sat beside the hideous princess and watched as the two frogs were placed in front of them.

“These two frogs,” Bill said, “are handsome young suitors. Well, one is anyway. Each of you will kiss a frog. Choose carefully, though, for there is only one frog that is a prince that is charmed to love you no matter what you look like. No matter what your face looks like, you are everything he ever wanted! The other frog, well…is something different. Choose carefully, princess,” he said, glancing at Snow White. “The king won’t be too happy if you didn’t come home with a prince.”

All were silent, as Snow White gazed with wondrous horror at the two frogs.

“Quite right—” Phil began.

“Oh DO be quiet!” Snow White snapped. She glanced at Belle with utter frustration. “YOU choose for me!” she demanded.

Belle jumped. “Me?”

“Yes you!” the princess retorted, with half a sob. “It’s too much pressure. Daddy says stress is the reason my hair is all frizzy.” Belle rolled her eyes. Snow White glowered. “And you better pick the right one! If you don’t, my daddy will punish you! Now do it quick—before I lose my patience!”

“Alright, alright,” Belle said softly. She glanced at the two ugly frogs that sat before them. They both lazily gazed up at her as if she was a boring old log. Suddenly, she grabbed the one in front of the princess.

“One…two…three!” the pigs counted. And on three, the two girls kissed their frogs. Belle squirmed. Hers was utterly slimy. Snow White didn’t mind—finally, a boy who would love her!

But when they let go, Snow White screamed. She had gotten the frog prince, but he was short and stout, with a big ugly nose and thinning hair combed back with too much gel. His shirt was buttoned a button too high, and his socks were pulled up to his knees. He wore glasses and snorted with his buck teeth when he saw Snow White.

“Yer perty…” he chucked, blushing and turning away.

Snow White whirled around in rage. “I’M NOT MARRYING HIM!” she cried. “How could you be so heartless as to give me an ugly brute for my prince?” And she burst into tears. “All I wanted was someone to be like me,” she wailed. “I’m a nerd!—an outright nerd! I never get anything I want! I’ve proven it scientifically! Aristotle himself couldn’t have proven it better!”

The young suitor snorted. “I like Aristotle,” he chuckled.

Snow White sniffed. “You…you do?”

“Yeah,” the suitor shuffled his feet in his bashfulness. “I read a whole book on him once…” He straightened his glasses.

Snow White straightened. “You did?”

“Yeah,” his buck-tooth smile showed.

“How long was it?” Snow White asked.

“Eh, ‘bout a thousand pages,” he answered.

Snow White marveled. Her eyes changed, and they were dreamy and entranced. “I’ve never met anyone that has read a book that long, except me!” she said dreamily.

The suitor shuffled his feet and smiled again.

“Garsh,” he said. “You’re even prettier than my mom.” He looked down with embarrassment.

“I bet that’s saying quite a lot!” Snow White gasped in delight. And she leapt forward and kissed him on the cheek. The suitor nearly fainted.

Snow White and the young suitor left the brick house and went straight up to the castle. The three pigs, Puss, and Belle watched them from the window.

Now, what did Belle’s frog turn into, you may ask? A lamp—that’s all. A lamp. Though it looked more like a squished teapot, Belle looked at it interestingly.

Puss, meanwhile, noticed again how pretty her face was. Puss realized that she was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. He glanced down at the book that had been wrapped in her arms.

“Robinson Crusoe?” he asked, looking up. Belle smiled.

“He’s one of my favorites,” she answered. “I love adventure stories.”

“Wha—me too!” he stammered, quite delighted. “I live for adventures!”

Belle sighed dreamily. “I wish I could,” she said. “I need to go on SOME adventure…I’m sick of every day here being the same.”

Puss grabbed her hand as he gazed into her eyes. “Come with me, my sweet,” he said, “and we will roam the lands together. I will take you away and we will have many marvelous adventures…together.” He purred.

Belle yearned to take him up on it right away. To go and watch daring swordfights and horrid foes…it was her perfect dream!

“You’re…you’re not obsessed with girls and beer?” she asked. “Everyone here is.”

“What good are those things to me?” Puss asked. “I seek adventure. You are the only one I could ever share it with…”

Belle beamed. She had fallen deeply in love. Finally—someone like her! But…but…

“But you’re a cat,” she remembered.

“I am not a cat!” Puss said. “I am a prince! A witch turned me into a cat when I asked her to help me escape from my palace life. She gave me my sword and these boots, and I have been on my own ever since.”

Belle’s eyes smiled. “Is there any way to undo the spell?” she urged.

Puss in Boots glanced at the lamp she had in her hand. “Bill, Phil, Gil,” he said. “What is this lamp?”

“That’s a magic lamp,” Bill answered. “It grants you only one wish.”

“Quite right,” Phil said.

“Sure does,” Gil said.

Puss took Belle’s hands into his paws. “Wish for me to become human,” he said. “And we will be together in every adventure we undertake. And one day, you will come home as my princess!”

Bell wished it, and Puss in Boots turned into a handsome young man. He gazed at Belle with loving eyes, and Belle fell madly in love with him.

After bidding goodbye to the pigs, Belle and Puss burst out of the brick house and ran freely through the Dark Woods towards the village. The nerdy suitor and Snow White, by this time, had reached the castle and were reading through Snow White’s many collections of encyclopedias, laughing with dreamy sighs and the embarrassed shuffling of feet.

As the three little pigs watched human-Puss and Belle leave the Woods, Bill smirked.

“You know, Snow White could have traded the nerd for the lamp and she could’ve just wished for a better-lookin’ prince.”

“Quite right,” Phil agreed. “Yeah she’s not very bright, is she?”

“Sure isn’t,” Gil shook his head.

So the king finally had a suitor for his daughter, and Snow White had an attractive comrade (so she thought) that enjoyed the things she did. Belle embarked on many adventures with one she loved, and Puss in Boots had the hand of the most beautiful maiden in the land.

And that’s why everyone lived happily ever after, for the present.

~J.L. Cordova

Intro to “FairyTale”

King Midas wished that anything he touched would turn to gold. That resulted, of course, in turning the roses bushes to gold in the garden. The Red Queen was furious, and she blamed poor Alice, who had only tried to paint them red. Alice was so busy running from the queen and her army that she slammed into the disheveled prince, who was TRYING to get a good hold of Rapunzel’s hair before he climbed up. The prince was so startled that he pulled Rapunzel’s hair and she came tumbling out of the tower. All three began to run from the Red Queen and they came upon the house of the third little pig. It was built with bricks, so the Red Queen’s finest wolf couldn’t even blow the house down. And they lived…you know the rest.

Isn’t it funny how you can take the hundreds of fairy-tales that have been written and combine them to make something new? Some usually turn out quite funny. Of course, the sad part is this: there’s so many fairy-tales that you can’t POSSIBLY use them all!

But that’s a different story. What you are about to read is MY fairy-tale. Tell me what you think.

“A Tale of Tails”

There was once a family of chipmunks who lived in a log of an oak tree. There were three of them: Mama Munk, Papa Munk, and Chesnutt. Being barely a year old, Chesnutt was energetic and quite curious. She had a big bed made of acorn caps and a sink made of a raspberry. (The Munks had to continually replace it, since Chesnutt would constantly nibble at it every morning).

Mama Munk would cook and clean and make a home out of the old oak log. All day she would work with her apron tied around her waist, making hazelnut soup and raspberry pies. Papa Munk would go out and hunt for food with other forest animals. When he came home with bags of nuts and seeds, he would sit at his chair of pine needles and read his newspaper. Chesnutt would play outside and around the raspberry patch with her friends; she would also play inside the log with her wooden books and sunflower seed dolls. At night, Mama Munk would tuck her in and the crickets next door would lull her to sleep.

One night, Mama Munk pulled the oak leaf covers over Chesnutt as she shut her eyes. Placing a kiss on her cheek, she whispered, “Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.”

Chesnutt’s eyes burst open. “Bed bugs…” she repeated.

Mama Munk laughed, walking towards the door. “It’s just a saying,” she smiled. “Goodnight.” And she shut the door.

Chesnutt didn’t lie back down. She glanced under the leaf, watching for bugs. Bed bugs?  Mama Munk had never said that to her before. It was quite fur-raising, really. She knew of nice bugs that they were friends with—like Miss Geraldine Moth and Mr. Caterpillar. But suppose these bedbugs weren’t nice at all? Suppose they weren’t…friendly?

And if Mama Munk said “Don’t let them bite”, suppose they should crawl into her bed???

Chesnutt jumped out of his bed. Racing out the door, she scurried to her parents’ room. It was dark when she peeked in, and Papa Munk was snoring loudly. Mama Munk didn’t seem like she was awake.

Chesnutt shut the door. She must find out who these bedbugs were! She couldn’t go to sleep unless she was sure they were friendly.

So, Chesnutt, the young chipmunk, ventured out of her cozy log and scurried upon the forest ground. It was dark, and the crickets still chirped. Past the raspberry patch, she headed on all fours to the thickets. There, her good friend Nibbles lived, and maybe she could tell him what bedbugs were.

Nibbles was a young grey mouse. She lived with her Mother Mouse and Father Mouse, with her twenty brothers and thirty-six sisters, along with some assorted aunts and uncles and cousins. She and Chesnutt were good friends. They would go swimming in the river and play hide-and-seek under the pine trees, where all the pinecones would fall. Nibbles, she knew, would be up and about at such a dark time of night. She would probably be eating a snack outside her home in the thicket.

And that’s exactly where she was. She was eating a raspberry stuffed with sunflower seeds. Nibbles caught sight of Chesnutt and waved to her.

“Hello Chessy!” she squeaked. “Want a stuffed berry?”

“No thanks, Nibs,” Chesnutt answered. “Nibs, listen…!” And she told her all about Mama Munk and the bedbugs. Nibbles was quite intrigued. She listened intently as she nibbled on her berry. Her eyes widened.

“So you think there are bugs wanting to crawl in your bed?” she asked eagerly.

“I think so,” Chesnutt replied, “but I want to know if they’re friendly. Have you ever heard of bedbugs, Nibs?”

“No…” Nibbles replied. “But I know someone who might.”

Chesnutt’s tail wiggled a little bit. “Who?” she asked.

“Miss Geraldine,” Nibbles replied. “My Uncle Colby and third-cousin Jack says that Geraldine Moth knows about all the creatures in the forest. And she knows who’s nice and friendly and who isn’t.”

“You think I should go and ask her?” Chesnutt asked, excited.

“I would,” Nibbles said. “But you better hurry. She’ll be going to bed pretty soon. Remember—” she added as Chesnutt turned to go. She stopped and waited for her to finish. “Tell her that your Mama told you about them.”

Chesnutt nodded and waved goodbye. And Nibbles continued nibbling on her stuffed berry.

Miss Geraldine Moth lived in the high up branch of a cedar tree. It was close to Chesnutt’s own log, so she found it easily. Scurrying over the soft, moonlit forest floor, she began to climb up the tree. She was out of breath by the time he reached Miss Moth’s branch. As she collapsed on the high branch, a shadow cast over her. Looking up in startled fright, she saw that it was Miss Moth herself.

“Chesnutt Adeline Munk,” she said in her deep voice. She was a plain brown moth. No one could see her eyes very well, so it was always scary to first look at her, especially at night. Her proboscis hung down to the branch on which she landed. Her antennae hung lazily in the air.

“What are you doing out of your log?” she said, putting a leg forward.

Chesnutt rose, still frightened by her nightly appearance. “I…I came to ask you something,” she said, straightening herself on her two back legs.

“Young critters should not be about at night,” she remarked deeply, stifling a yawn.

“I’ll go to bed as soon…” she began.

“Does your mother know you’re out?” she asked.

“Well no, but…”

“I think you should go back to bed,” she said in a commanding voice. “Go on back to your cozy log.”

“I can’t!” Chesnutt finally got out. “Mama told me about bugs that will crawl in my bed and bite me! I didn’t know if they were poisonous or not. You know a lot about the forest, I thought you could tell me if…”

“Bugs?” Miss Geraldine Moth stopped. “How do you know there are poisonous bugs about?”

Chesnutt remembered what Nibbles had told him to say: “Mama told me about them!”

The moth was silent for some time. She glanced at the ground. “Poisonous bugs will ruin the peace and prosperity of the forest…” she muttered in a melodramatic voice. She was quite concerned for the state of the woods. What Chesnutt told her was frightening indeed.

“This is a very serious problem, and too drastic for me to handle,” she finally declared. “You must go to Bushytail. He will know what to do. Tell him I told you that something will have to be done about these pests!”

“W-wait!” Chesnutt called as Miss Moth turned around. “Won’t you come with me?”

Miss Moth gave a yawn…if that was even possible for a moth. “I am tired,” she said. “Trouble me with questions tomorrow.”

“But you said this was a serious problem!” Chesnutt persisted.

“And I’m sure Bushytail will take care of it by morning. I said I’m tired. Goodnight.” And she flew away.

Chesnutt scurried down the trunk of the cedar tree. Stretching her short little arms, she yawned herself. She was very tired. But no, she couldn’t go to sleep—not with bedbugs on the run. Instantly, she dashed on all fours to the riverbank. There, in a burrow by the bank, lived Bushytail Rabbit, the oldest and wisest creature in the forest. He wore a monocle made of a daffodil stem. He was a brown rabbit with fur soft and thick. His ears were long, but they bent back since he was so old. Every critter in the forest went to him for advice, since he was wise, and everyone knew who he was.

Down to the burrow Chesnutt went. The river rushed quietly beside the door of the deep hollow. She scurried quickly and rapped fiercely on the old door. Firefly light came streaming out as it opened. Old Bushytail Rabbit came into view. His bushy eyebrows rose when he saw young Chesnutt gazing up intently.

“Why, it’s the young chipmunk!” he said in his raspy voice. “What are you doing up at such a late hour?”

“I’ve come to warn you, Mr. Rabbit,” Chesnutt panted.

“Warn me?” he asked.

“Yes, Miss Moth sent me. She told me to tell you of poisonous bugs that are in the forest!” he said quickly.

Mr. Bushytail started forward. “What did she tell you?”

“She said there are poisonous bugs about!” young Chesnutt exclaimed. “And she said you will know what to do.” And she told him what Miss Moth had told him to say: “Something will have to be done about these pests.”

“Pests?” Bushytail considered. He put a paw up to his furry chin. “Hm…” he thought. “Perhaps they are more than just pests.”

“What do you mean?” Chesnutt asked, wide-eyed.

“There must be many of these ‘pests’,” Mr. Rabbit said. “There just might be a whole army of them…coming to take over the forest!—come to take our food and ruin our homes!”

“Oh no!” Chesnutt staggered back.

“We must warn the others!” Mr. Rabbit suddenly declared. “But first, you, young rodent—hurry back to your home in the log! Hurry back to your mother and father. War is about to begin with dangerous bugs with poisonous bites! Hurry, young chipmunk!”

And with that, the wooden door slammed. Chesnutt hurried from the riverbank as fast as her four paws could carry her. She wheezed heavily as she rushed to the log. The woods seemed darker and scarier now. What if a big, scary bug jumped out while she was running home? What if they attacked her? She ran quicker through the shadows of the trees. She passed the thicket and the old cedar tree. Her log came into view.

As she burst into the log, she cried out and rushed for her parents’ room. She was quite afraid. Mama and Papa Munk sprang up as Chesnutt jumped in between them on their acorn bed and buried herself in their pillows, whimpering and crying.

“Good heavens!” Papa Munk cried, reaching for his glasses. “I see we have a visitor.”

Then they heard Chesnutt’s cries.

“Why, what on earth is the matter?” Mama Munk pulled the pine needle pillow off of her head.

“There’s…there’s going to be a war!” Chesnutt cried.

“A war?” Papa Munk smiled. “What are you talking about?”

“There are poisonous bugs coming to attack the forest!” Chesnutt whimpered as Mama Munk put him on her knee. “And Mr. Rabbit says they will try and take all our food and ruin our homes and…and…” She started crying again.

“You must have been dreaming…” Papa Munk smiled. “There aren’t any poisonous bugs around here.”

“But there are!” Chesnutt wiped her nose. “Mr. Rabbit and Miss Moth said they were very dangerous!”

“Where did you hear about these bugs?” Mama Munk asked.

Chesnutt stopped. Where did she hear about them? Then she remembered.

You told me about them!” she cried. “The bedbugs! They…they…” She started crying again.

Mama Munk…laughed.

“But it’s true, Mama!” Chesnutt sobbed. “Don’t laugh! They are dangerous and very poisonous!”

“No they aren’t.”

Chesnutt stopped. “What?”

“I said, ‘Don’t let the bedbugs bite’, because it’s an old saying. It doesn’t mean the least thing.”

“But…but will they really bite me?” Chesnutt asked.

“Of course not,” Mama Munk answered with her sweet smile. “You are a good and sweet chipmunk. No bedbug would ever dream of biting you.” And she nuzzled her nose against hers. Chesnutt laughed. She felt much better.

“But what is this all about Mr. Rabbit and Miss Moth?” asked Papa Munk.

“Oh…well, I uh…must have dreamt all that,” Chesnutt smiled, scratching her furry head. Suddenly, she yawned.

And that was followed by Mama Munk once again tucking her into bed. The crickets still sang next door. Chesnutt gazed up at the stars as she peacefully fell asleep in her own, comfy, bedbug-less bed.

She heard Papa Munk yawn in the next room. “’Bout time I hit the hay,” he said. “Before somethin’ else happens.”

“Hit the hay?” Chesnutt sat up.

No, she was too tired. She’d think about it in the morning.

~J.L. Cordova

Intro to “A Tale of Tails”

I’ve always loved animals. What girl doesn’t, I suppose. Small forest creatures are some of the most brilliant: chipmunks, mice, owls…And what young-ling, (be it human or quadruped) DOESN’T use their imagination to make mountains out of molehills?

Originally, the story of Chesnutt Munk was actually about Polar Jr. in the Arctic. It was a longer story (I would’ve called it a chapter book). But, changing the story and seeing how it was so simple, I changed the length along with its locality.

Hope you enjoy. I’d love feedback for it!

“Thirteen O’Clock”

Thirteen O’clock is a time that is not on the clock, because no one has ever witnessed it…consciously, that is. It’s at night. And it’s the time when you dream. Some people do not meet it every night, as some sometimes sleep dreamlessly. But wings and dragons all enter your head when you are fast asleep and the clock strikes thirteen.

It comes at different times, depending on when you are asleep. It can never be seen on a clock because no one can be sure that it exists; every time it comes for them, they are not awake to see it. Boys are tucked into their bunks dreaming of cowboys, guns, and outlaws. Girls are in their canopied beds seeing sugar plums and princesses dancing in their heads. And perhaps high school boys dream of nothing in particular. Perhaps they dream of video games and skateboarding. High school girls, of course, dream of crushes and dance parties. You know, those silly things.

Where do they come from, you might ask? Do they all come from your head? Perhaps, but have you ever thought of why children have more exciting dreams than teens or their parents? Their toys run the Dream Machine. And that’s where it all begins.

As six-year-old Linda falls asleep this clear night, her toys spring into action. The little inch-tall dolls in her dollhouse and all of her stuffed animals in her closet—everything she deems valuable and real becomes just that—valuable and real. The ballerina in her music box begins to dance. The stuffed cat begins to purr and bat at the window shade. Even Luna, her favorite fabric doll, sneaks quietly from the bed and jumps from the edge. Luna is dressed in a blue-checkered jumper with a white shirt and black shoes, like she always is. Her brown yarned hair is braided in pigtails on each side of her stitched face. She has a white lace bonnet. Luna, quite awake now, begins her walk to the door.

Linda’s four-year-old brother, Billy, sleeps down the hall. His remote helicopter soars around the ceiling fan and below the bed. His play cattle get rounded up by the cowboys on their wild horses. His little people driving cars around his racetrack wake up, and they start their engines. One of which is Billy’s favorite—a wooden racecar driver painted in red, blue, and yellow. Little black dots are for his eyes, and a bit of fluff is on top of his head. The boy calls him Thomas.

Thomas starts his engine but he doesn’t start right away. He waits for the pretty girl in the jumper to appear in Billy’s doorway. And she does. Luna peeks in and spots young Thomas waiting for her by the pit stop. She smiles and runs up. Thomas grins. Jumping into the race car, they drive onto the track. The engine speeds up. Luna holds tightly onto her bonnet. Thomas suddenly drives off the track and towards the wall near Billy’s bed. Before they hit the wall, it opens up and leads on. The two dolls race through the quiet country road as the wall closes in behind them.

The road leads through green, lush fields covered by the darkness of night. The road comes into a small town. It has intersections with signs pointing to Dream City and Snoring Street and Sleepyville. The streets are lined with cardboard apartments and foam shops and a basketball court made of a shoe box. Very few are out in the quiet streets. Dolls walk dogs and pick the best fruit from the stands in the market. Thimble trash cans and pencil lamp posts line the main road.

Thomas’s red race car zooms through neighborhoods and market streets towards Dream City, where the night shift is beginning. The city is ahead. The quiet, suburban town turns into the metro land of Dream City. Before them is a giant red tunnel. Instantly, the car lifts off the ground as Thomas ejects the wings. Up into the air they rise. Luna actually smiles—she can feel the wind in her face.

Through the tunnel, they emerge into the brightly painted city with massive cardboard and paper plate buildings. Restaurants have tables with soda umbrellas, sitting out on terraces. They overlook the busy streets. The subway is made from building block bridges and small milk cartons. Dolls walk below through the park. There are fuel stations both below and in the sky on platforms. The city hums with the sound of jet engines. Cars race beneath them on the road. Jets swirl through the sky, as Thomas and Luna whiz through the open air.

The two dolls land in the knee of a building shaped like a robot. On the twenty-sixth floor awaits the Dream Machine—the one that put that dream in your head last night… probably.

The town clock strikes thirteen. Billy and Linda are sound asleep.

The toys know you better than anyone else, since they know who you really are when no one else is around or watching you. They see your imagination and the things you truly love. They take these things and, as your toys, they send you wonderful things to your mind when you sleep. The Dream Machine is programmed to your mind, and it allows toys access to the part of your mind that shows your dreams. And it is the toys that make your dreams.

Luna makes Linda dream of a world filled with cotton candy clouds and chocolate-marshmallow rivers, with fields of strawberries and lemon drops. Luna even sees her smile, as she dreams of tasting them. Then a castle—a castle of gumdrops and candy canes—stands high amidst the clouds. Out comes a handsome prince clad in mint garments with a chocolate chip crown. Linda sees herself in a pink frosting dress with a marzipan tiara. Her slippers are made of sprinkled raspberries.

Thomas sees Billy dream of standing proudly at the stern of a mighty ship. It sails through the mighty waves as the crew works tirelessly below him. He’s dressed in a pirate hat and coat with brass buttons and heavy boots. A green parrot squawks, soars, and perches on his shoulder. The blaring sun beats down on the tired crew and Billy paces the poop deck. The saltwater sprays his face and the lookout spots land ahead. The stretch of island is far, but it is covered in palm trees and crystal sand. “Land ahoy,” he cries out noiselessly. And the crew works to his proud content.

All these things the toys put into the Dream Machine. They can see the children’s face, as they sleep and see the things they improvise.

If toys, then, can see your deepest love and passions, why are there nightmares? Why do children wake up, crying and confessing that they had a bad dream? This is not the toys’ doing. The children have these ugly thoughts in their own heads. Sleep is meant to be peaceful, and it is the toy’s job to try to keep all other things away during the night. They do their best. But sometimes, the child doesn’t let a horrid image leave their mind. The thought or image will stay in a child’s mind and intrude upon good dreams, making it difficult to remain a “good dream”. Let’s take Linda’s dream a night or so ago for example, about the beach. A thought of drifting out to sea in a float and never being heard from again—it intruded her picture of a perfect beach, ruining it. Luna still has trouble getting that thought out of her head.

Nightmares are a pain, and dreams are all fine and dandy, but there’s something more. There are also those random things you see in your dreams, where you’re not quite sure why they’re there. Those quirky, strange things you see—why do you see them? That’s simple. Even toys, you know, have a good sense of humor.

A couple weeks ago, Billy had a dream about driving full speed in a video game. The object was to dodge the obstacles and complete laps again and again—3-D graphics and everything. The obstacles in the game were simply blue lightning bolts. But, seeing as that was slightly boring, Thomas put green lizards in their stead. And he also gave Billy an orange tabby with wheels, instead of a bright green race car.

Luna also had fun with Linda a few nights ago. Linda was dreaming of a beautiful wedding with her as the bride. Everything was perfect, except Luna decided to make Linda’s mother have a beard. Once Linda reached the front of the church, ready to her pronounce vows, she discovered that she was supposed to marry Billy!

But, of course, when you are dreaming, everything seems normal. So Billy and Linda don’t even know the difference when small jokes like that arrive.

So what about teenagers? What about those kids that don’t play with toys anymore and growing into adults? Well toys never forget their first owner. Even when they’re thrown away, toys make their way to Dream City at thirteen o’ clock. They work the Dream Machine and still strive to put good dreams into their kid’s head. But alas…children will eventually ignore their imagination, thinking it too childish. The older the kid gets, the harder it is for the toys to give them good dreams. Then, sadly, the child grows up into an adult. And toys, everyone knows, must leave their owner completely when he reaches adulthood. So whether a toy is thrown away, or passed down to another owner, the toy never forgets to give dreams to his first owner along with his current one. Toys are quite loyal, as some forget and fail to recognize. They are so much so, in fact, we cannot even fathom it.

Many say that we have five to seven dreams a night, give or take a few. Some say that each night brings a long, continuous dream, where we wake up and only remember parts of it. We don’t really know. But the toys do. My point is: the dream stage is quite extensive. Thirteen o’clock is the longest hour of the night. It is an eternity to everyone—from the toys to the ones who sleep through it. Luna and Thomas feel as if twenty hours has gone by, and not just one. But when the end nears, they shut off the magnificent machine and leave Billy and Linda to their dreamless sleep.

Thirteen o’clock is nearly finished. Luna and Thomas jump back into the little race car.  They fly past the city and drive through the quiet town. The dolls in the big city and on the sides of the road all begin go back inside, as the day is their night. The hole in Billy’s wall opens up again, and the car zooms back into the silent bedroom. Billy’s nightlight in the wall is the only thing that flickers. All the toys are frozen back in their positions. The racetrack is frozen and Billy’s soft breathing echoes through the room. Thirteen o’clock is over.

Parking the car in its spot, Thomas jumps out and helps Luna out of the car. Before he freezes like the rest, he kisses her hand and bids her goodnight. Her stitched face smiles back.

Luna hurries back to young Linda’s canopied twin bed. Crawling back onto the soft sheets, she snuggles into Linda’s small arms, where she had left them. Linda breathes calmly beside her, with a smile on her face.

The clock strikes one.

~J.L. Cordova