Excerpt for Christmas Tales 2 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Christmas Tales 2

A collection of Christmas stories for kids 8 – 12 years

There are nine cheeky elves on the cover. Can you find them all?

Christmas Tales 2

Copyright remains with the individual authors

Published by Storm Cloud Publishing (2017)

ISBN: 978-1-925285-28-4 Smashwords Edition

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient.

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Junior Fiction: A collection of Christmas themed short stories from writers all around the world.

Fun and adventure, Animals, History and legends, Christmas celebrations, Santa Claus and elves, Family relationships, Friendships, Kindness and helping others, Rap and Rhyme, Poems

Ages 8 – 12 years


Naughty or Nice?

Teddy’s First Christmas

12 Days of Dogness

The Tree in Piper’s Field

The Christmas Spirit

Christmas Rap

The First Christmas Stocking

Jim’s Christmas

Christmas Magic is in the Air

About the authors

Storm Cloud books

Naughty or Nice?

Kim Stewart

“Santa,” called Emma, in a soft but eager voice. “Is that you?”

There was silence, then the sound of an ornament falling. Something was moving in the house. Emma stayed completely still and listened. Then she grinned.

Emma had prepared cheese and milk for Santa and carrots for his reindeer. She did this every year. She was organised earlier than anyone else, just in case Santa changed his schedule. This was the third night before Christmas but there was a chance this could be Santa!

Emma tiptoed into the lounge room and turned on the light. Santa’s cheese had gone and most of the milk. She swung around and looked at the Christmas tree hoping to see a pile of gifts. But Santa hadn’t left any presents. Not for her mum, her dad or her baby brother, Jack. Not one present.

Was I naughty this year? Emma asked herself.

She went back to her room, flopped on her bed and closed her eyes. She’d forgotten to call her Gran on her birthday. She’d eaten all the chocolate biscuits without saying, so her Mum had none for visitors. She’d lost her hat at the school carnival. There were probably more naughty things… But were they terrible enough to miss out on Christmas presents?

Emma was confused and disappointed but she had an idea. She told her best friend Casey the next day.

Maybe Santa is teaching me a lesson. He could come back if I’m really good until Christmas,” she said, as the girls sprawled on the grass in Casey’s back garden. “I don’t want to ruin Christmas for my whole family.”

Are you sure Santa is teaching you a lesson?” asked Casey, rising to her elbows. “It could be Jack.”

Jack can’t even talk,” said Emma. “He wouldn’t know how to be naughty.”

“Your mum and dad?” asked Casey. “Could it be them?”

Emma could see that Casey wasn’t joking. Her face was crinkled with thought. Emma hadn’t considered her parents’ role in Santa’s visits. She wasn’t sure if the behaviour of parents was relevant. In the end, she shook her head. “Mum and Dad try their very best for us. It must be me. I just need to think about how to be good.”

Casey nodded. “I bet Santa does come back,” she said, rolling from her stomach to her back. “Santa will know you’ve worked out his lesson. Santa knows everything.”

Emma went to the library and borrowed a book about Christmas. “It is better to give than receive,” she read. That’s true, thought Emma. That’s one way I can be good.

Emma had saved some pocket money and planned to buy a new game for her computer. Instead, she went with her aunty to find some small presents for her mum and dad. She took care to wrap each one and made a card she hoped they’d like. She painted pictures on the front and then she wrote a thoughtful message. Not just “Happy Christmas” like some people do. Emma smiled as she examined her efforts. Her mum and dad deserved a present. She felt bad that she’d never thought to get them one before.

What next? thought Emma. I want to be really good.

Emma had another idea as she skipped down the hall. I can give my time.

“I’m off to tidy my room,” she called.

Emma’s mum had been asking her to tidy her games for ages but she’d always found a reason not to. By the time she’d finished, her room looked great and she could actually find things. Emma decided to keep her room tidy all the time.

I hope Santa noticed me being good and trying hard, she thought. I better leave fresh carrots and more milk and cheese tonight.

Emma left her door ajar so she could listen out for Santa. But she’d had a tiring day and eventually dropped off to sleep. In the morning, she went to check to see whether Santa had come back.

“The cheese is gone,” she told her baby brother, “and, this time, all the milk. Santa knocked over the glass but he wiped up any milk that was spilt.”

Jack cooed, happily.

Emma examined the carrots, turning each one over. “Look, tiny teeth marks,” she said, showing the gurgling baby and clapping her hands. “It could be a baby reindeer.”

But there were still no presents!

I must have been super naughty without knowing,” Emma explained to Casey with a sigh. “Santa really wants me to understand. Today I’m going to try even harder.”

“Can I help you get ready for Christmas?” Emma asked her dad.

Really? I thought you were going to the movies with Casey.” Her dad sounded surprised and he looked surprised. His eyebrows had shot up, making his forehead wrinkle.

“I’d rather help,” said Emma, using her most responsible voice. Her responsible voice was a bit slower and deeper than her normal one.

Emma’s dad scratched his head. “Could you help me plan Christmas dinner?”

Emma nodded and smiled at the same time.

“Are you sure? It’s a big job?”

“I’ll help plan some delicious treats!” Emma flicked through the recipe book and suggested food she thought her family would like. “We need something soft for Nan,” she reminded her dad. “Nan told me last week that she had a sore tooth. How about mashed potato with runny butter.”

“Good idea,” said her dad. “Well done for remembering.”

“And here’s some soft and scrumptious pudding. Oozy chocolate!”

They sat and made a note of all the ingredients they would need and then went to the markets to buy all the food. Emma noticed that her dad was being super friendly so she made sure she smiled and said kind things to everyone she spoke to. When people returned her smile, she could tell she had made them happy.

“I had fun today,” Emma told her dad as they unpacked the groceries. The kitchen was full of delicious smells. Fruit, herbs, vanilla. “I really enjoyed myself.”

Emma felt sorry that she had never offered to help before. And she had a new plan. “Can I sleep in the lounge room tonight?” she asked her mum. “I want to look out for Santa.”

“I don’t see why not,” she said, moving to her daughter’s side and giving her a hug. “It’s Christmas tomorrow so you can sleep in. But don’t be too disappointed if Santa doesn’t come.”

Emma got her blanket and a pillow and moved them onto a big, comfy sofa. Then she arranged some fresh milk, cheese and carrots.

Now I will see Santa if he comes, thought Emma. I can tell him how hard I’m trying to be good. I can ask him if it’s possible to leave presents for my family, even if I miss out.

Emma lay very still and waited and waited. The light was turned off but she had a torch. A very long time passed. So long that her eyes had started to close. Then she heard a sound. A very faint sound. She stayed still. Even her fingers weren’t moving. She held her breath. The sound was getting louder. Emma started to turn on the torch but stopped herself. She wanted to be sure to see Santa.

Finally, she heard a plate moving on the table and she knew Santa must be in the room. She switched on the torch and looked in the direction of the sound.

It wasn’t Santa.

It’s a kitten. A poor, little kitten!” whispered Emma.

The kitten looked up with big blue eyes and long white fur. She had her paws resting on the rim of the glass and milk on her chin.

“Meow,” she said. “Meeeooow.”

“Let me get you something else to eat,” said Emma. “Cow’s milk is not good for kittens.”

Emma found some sardines, took out the bones and watched as the kitten finished her meal. Then she scooped her up and went to bed. The kitten curled up beside her and went to sleep.

On Christmas morning, Emma woke with a jolt. Why am I here in my own bed, not the sofa?

Then she remembered what had happened. Milk, fish, kitten! She felt around but where was the kitten? Was she remembering something real or was it all a dream?

Then her hand touched some fur and rested on a tiny, warm body. Emma could feel the kitten’s body move up and down as she breathed.

Emma told her dad about her adventures when he came to wake her for breakfast. “It wasn’t Santa eating the cheese and drinking the milk. It was this kitten. She must be lost.”

“She’s a cute little thing,” agreed Emma’s dad. “She must have come through the dog flap.”

“I love her,” said Emma. “I promise to look after her if I can keep her.”

Emma’s dad looked at the kitten and then at his daughter. Emma was glowing with happiness and the kitten was purring.

You have been really helpful lately,” he said. He walked across and gave the kitten a pat. He could feel that she was thin. “And she seems to need a home.”

“Hooray!” squealed Emma. “I’ll call her Holly.”

Emma and her dad walked to the kitchen with the kitten scampering ahead. Emma had stopped thinking about Santa or presents. She was thinking about getting Holly some breakfast. What would she like to eat? But when she looked at the Christmas tree she had a surprise.

“I think Santa and his reindeer finally came,” said her dad.

He was right. Under the Christmas tree were presents for everyone. Even Holly. And all the carrots were gone.

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Teddy’s First Christmas

Sam Blake

Teddy yawned and opened his eyes. He sat up and looked around. Outside the window, the dark sky was sprinkled with stars, and the pinks and greens of the aurora danced across the sky. The snow shimmered as it reflected the pale lights.

As Teddy turned his head and looked around the bright room, the workshop was in full swing. Some elves were sitting at a table nearby, painting wooden racing cars. When they each finished a car, they lined them up and raced them across the table. A speck of magic dust above each car stopped it before it reached the edge of the table and fell to the floor, and the elves cheered.

Teddy watched for a moment. The workshop shouldn’t be this quiet, he frowned, as he watched the elves high-fiving and saw their mouths moving.

He reached up with a paw and pulled some stuffing from his ears, and the workshop burst into noise.

“– get really good Christmas presents,” Teddy heard one elf say before another elbowed him.

“Ssh, the teddies are awake.”

All the elves looked across to Teddy, who was yawning and rubbing his eyes with his paws. He climbed out of his bedbox where he’d slept snuggled with all of his brothers and sisters and cousins, and walked over to the elves.

“Hello, Teddy,” the elves said.

“Hello, elves,” Teddy answered. “Are you talking about Christmas presents? Do you know what Santa’s giving me for Christmas?”

Teddy’s brown glass eyes shone in the light.

The elves looked at each other.

“Am I getting a racing car?” Teddy clapped his paws in excitement.

Boots, the elf nearest him and the Head Elf of Moving Vehicles, was painting a red car.

“I like the red one,” Teddy said.

Then he saw another elf painting a blue car.

“I like the blue one too.”

Then he saw the other colours.

“I like the green. I like the yellow one too. Ooh, I can’t wait to find out which one it is.”

“Teddy, you know we can’t talk about these things with you,” Boots told him gently.

Teddy sighed. “I know.”

“Why don’t you go back and play with the other teddies.”

“All right, but...” Teddy smiled. “Can I drive the red car? Just once? Please?”

The elves looked at each other.

“All right. Just once,” Boots decided. “Hold out your paw.”

Teddy held out one paw and Boots placed a speck of magic dust on it.

Put your other paw on top of the car and roll it backwards and forwards.”

Teddy rolled the car backwards and forwards.

“Now, flick the dust, push the car forward and let it go.”

The magic dust sat in the air above the car as it raced across the table. Just as the car looked set to roll off the edge of the table, the magic dust sparked. The car stopped and the dust disappeared.

“That was fun,” Teddy grinned, clapping his paws together. “I hope Santa gives me a racing car for Christmas.”

The elves smiled. Teddy turned and went back to the other teddies.

The Growler Bears were pushing each other’s tummies, causing a deep growling sound to come out. Then they began giggling in delight. No sooner did they stop giggling than someone would push the next Growler’s tummy and they all started giggling again.

The Walker Bears were practising walking. They stood up straight and stiff like the toy soldiers. They stuck their chins up and their chests out and tried to co-ordinate their limbs as they moved forward... left leg, right arm... right leg, left arm... left leg, right arm...

The Musical Bears were winding up the keys in each other’s backs. Then they opened their mouths for the music and words to come out.

“Today, we’re going to have a pi-i-i-i-ic-nic,” Teddy sang his own words because he didn’t know the right ones.

As Teddy watched the other teddies playing and laughing, he wondered why the elves were being so secretive. Then a horrible thought struck him. What if he wasn’t getting a present? What if he was on Santa’s Naughty List?

He felt dizzy and began swaying on his feet. He lifted one paw to his head and sat down. He looked at the other teddies. He was different from them. He wasn’t a Growler and he wasn’t a Walker. He didn’t sing and play music. He didn’t do anything special.

He looked across at his brothers and sisters and cousins still sitting in their bedbox. None of them did anything special.

He was still thinking about it when the workshop clock chimed for midday. The workshop ground to a halt and the elves all went off for lunch. Only the sounds of the Growlers growling and giggling and the Musicals singing broke the silence.

Teddy looked out the window. The wind was beginning to blow, picking up loose snow and blasting it around. Icy flecks tapped against the window pane.

Teddy turned back to the workshop and all the toys. What if he wasn’t getting a toy? Not a soldier, not a train – not a racing car.

As he looked across the quiet tables, he saw a large scroll. Santa’s List! He could have a look at the list and see if he was in the Nice or Naughty section. And maybe, just maybe, his present would be on the list with his name.

Teddy looked around the workshop. The Growlers were still growling and giggling. The Walkers had walked to the far side of the workshop and the Musicals were busy tuning their voices to their music.

Teddy carefully crept across the room. He climbed up the leg of the table and onto the top. The scroll was partly unrolled. Teddy walked to the edge of the scroll and leaned over to look at it.

It was Santa’s list.

Brad, Bradon, Brady, he read down the list.

In the column beside each name was a tick and a toy. Teddy began reading across the list.

“Brad, tick, train set... Bradon, tick, basketball... Brady, tick, action figure...”

Teddy kept reading. Lots of Nice children getting lots of presents. Suddenly he stopped.

“Ben, tick, racing car...” he read aloud.

Oh no, he thought. I hope that’s not my racing car.

He looked back across at the table where Boots and the elves had been painting racing cars. Then he looked to the shelves behind the table. They were stacked with hundreds of racing cars.

Teddy took a breath, and kept reading.

He hadn’t even got to the end of the B’s when he had to take a rest. He sat down and sighed.

A shadow fell across him. He looked up and saw a jolly face peering down at him.

“Santa!” Teddy gasped.

“Hello, Teddy.” Santa picked Teddy up.

Santa looked Teddy over and began stroking his head and ears, wiping soft podgy fingers across his cheeks and brushing down his chest and tummy.

“What are you doing over here?”

Teddy panicked.

Before he could answer, Santa continued, “Those cheeky elves. They’re always leaving things lying about. Never mind. I’ll put you back where you belong.”

He walked towards the teddies’ area.

“It’s a big night for all you teddies tonight, isn’t it?”

Teddy felt his fur begin to sweat and he nodded. “Yes, Santa.”

“Here you go.”

Santa stood Teddy on his feet and let him balance before letting him go.

“You stay over here where it’s nice and safe.”

The clock chimed again. The elves raced back into the workshop and back to their tables. Boots picked up his paintbrush and began to carefully paint a blue racing car.

Teddy dropped onto his bottom and watched Santa wander around the workshop, supervising toymaking. He tested the toys to make sure car wheels went round, trains chugged along tracks and blew smoke, tops spun, lights flashed and buzzers buzzed, dolls cried and drank their bottles, soldiers marched in straight lines, and everything else worked on all the other toys.

Then Santa went back to his table and picked up his list. He checked it once. He checked it twice. He picked up his pen and ticked off that each toy beside each name was made.

“Teddy, come play with us,” called one of Teddy’s sisters, her soft brown eyes smiling.

“All right.”

Teddy scrambled to his feet and ran off to play with his brothers and sisters. Every now and then, he looked over to see what Santa was doing – and kept an eye on Boots and the racing cars.

Before Teddy knew it, he was yawning. The Growler Bears were quiet and the Walker Bears had walked themselves to exhaustion. The Musical Bears knew all the words and were saving their voices for Christmas.

The elves were sorting and packing the toys. Boots smiled as he made his way towards the teddies.

“Come on, teddies, time for bed.”

“We’re not tired,” the teddies complained.

“Into your bedbox,” Boots spoke softly.

The Growlers grumbled, but the teddies climbed into their bedboxes and began to settle down for the night.

“I suppose you’re not tired either?” Boots asked Teddy.

“No,” Teddy yawned.

Boots grinned. “Come on, into your bedbox.”

He helped Teddy into his bedbox where he settled down with all of his brothers and sisters and cousins.

Boots sprinkled some dust over the teddies as he snuggled them all down.

It was nice and warm. Teddy yawned again, closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Teddy opened his eyes. He wasn’t with his brothers and sisters and cousins. He couldn’t see. He panicked. Where was he?

He heard voices – strange voices. He began to shake, his fur began to dampen.

Suddenly he felt himself moving. A terrible ripping sound shook through him.

And then he could see. A pair of blue eyes stared at him. There was fair hair, a button nose and a mouth that widened to a huge smile.

“Hello, Teddy!”

“Hello,” Teddy whispered.

He looked around. This wasn’t the workshop. There was bright light coming from the window behind the face. Above him, coloured lights flashed, tinsel draped and balls hung from green branches.

“Where am I?” Teddy wondered.

“You’re at my house.”

Teddy froze. “You heard me?”

“Of course I did. You’re my teddy. We’re going to have so much fun together.”

The face smiled even wider. The arms wrapped around Teddy and clutched him to a rapidly beating heart.

“Do you want to help me unwrap some more presents?”

Teddy was confused. His brow tried to furrow. Santa gave him a boy for a present? But shouldn’t he be at the workshop with the elves...?

Then Teddy realised... he was the present!

“Ow, wow!” the boy cried, ripping open another present. “A red racing car!”

Teddy looked at the racing car. It looked like the one Boots had let him drive.

“Do you want to drive it, Teddy?”

The boy sat Teddy on the car and began to drive it around the tree, across the floor, under a chair, past the window and back to the tree again, while making racing car noises.

“Ben, time for breakfast,” a female voice called.

“In a minute, Mum,” Ben answered. “Santa gave me a teddy and a red racing car. Just what I always wanted.”

Teddy felt a warmth grow inside him. It was warmer than the workshop and warmer than his bedbox with all his brothers and sisters and cousins. Santa had given him just what he wanted.

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12 days of Dogness

Jeanie Axton

On the first day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

Last year’s Christmas stocking

In the bottom was a pea

On the second day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

A chewed up Christmas decoration

For our brand new tree

On the third day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

A dug up bone from last year

And dumped it by my knee

On the fourth day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

An old Santa hat

Found under the old settee

On the fifth day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

A bit of Christmas cake

To go with my cup of tea

On the sixth day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

A striped candy cane

Stolen from the tree

On the seventh day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

A string of Christmas lights

He thought needed to be freed

On the eighth day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

A potato from the vegie patch

One less for Christmas tea

On the ninth day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

A freshly baked mince pie

And eyes that pleaded, “Feed me”

On the tenth day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

An old nativity book

Pages ripped out for me to see

On the eleventh day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

Santa’s special cookies

Left out for Santa’s feed

On the twelfth day of Christmas

My doggie brought to me

A heart of Christmas cheer

Which was really all I need

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The Tree in Piper’s Field

Lizbeth Klein

It was almost Christmas when the ancient fig tree in Piper’s Field stirred from its slumber. Of course, the birds that rested in its boughs sensed nothing unusual. An emu paused and blinked up at the tree with its amber eyes. But it looked like any other fig with its mass of spreading foliage and buttressing roots.

In silence, the emu picked a grasshopper off a blade of spiky grass before it strolled away.

The fig creaked as it stretched and in the centre of its trunk, a gaping hole yawned. Languid from the heat of the sun, its branches swayed in the rising wind. Leaves and twigs rattled like discordant chimes.

It was about then that the tree sent out the call.

* * *

Halfway across the city, Lil Stevens heard a whisper at the edge of her dreams. Upon waking, she quickly dressed and slipped out of her carers’ house with the ease of a shadow. The Murrays had been taking care of her since her parents and aunt had died. Lil knew that when they woke and discovered her absence, the police would be called and it would only be a matter of time before they found her.

With her hoodie drawn up over her head, she walked lethargically on the edge of the highway. The air was cool from the night before and although she had hiked far, the morning’s brisk wind made her shiver. The two chocolate bars she’d managed to pilfer from the service station ten kilometres back were long consumed and her grumbling stomach felt like an empty chasm. But hunger was not her main concern. Lil knew it was pointless feeling anxious about cars speeding past her; if any slowed down, then she would have to take to the bush and run for her life.

Luckily, the town of Blackheath was up ahead and it had a train station. At least on the train she’d be able to rest her sore feet and fill her water bottle from a bubbler. She just didn’t know what she would do if there was a ticket inspector on board since she had no money left in her purse. Surely, out here, commuters weren’t checked regularly.

The long walk was refreshing and the peaceful morning drained all the tension from Lil’s weary body. She was able to concentrate on what she’d do when she arrived at Piper’s Field, her uncle’s farm. Memories sifted through her thoughts from the scrappy photo she kept in her pocket. One corner was torn off and it was faded in the middle where she’d folded it. Every so often, she took it out and studied it.

In the middle of a field, there had been a rusty windmill with only five paddles. Beside it stood the most amazing fig tree in the world. During school holidays, her parents had visited the farm and Lil would climb its sturdy branches and sing as she watched the busy cars on the highway whiz by.

Overlooking that field on a hill was her uncle’s farmhouse. He was her only surviving relative and the photo showed him and her aunt standing side by side, smiling at the camera. Would he be at home for Christmas? Lil didn’t believe in or expect miracles, but it made sense that they’d occur at Christmas if they were real.

She checked her watch: 1:30. In the distance, a train was pulling into the station. Throwing back her hood, she quickened her pace.

* * *

As Lil was checking her watch, in a crowded shopping centre Jim Piper finished paying the woman at the fish shop and left with his white parcel of prawns. Late Christmas shoppers were jostling each other and pushing laden trolleys through the maze of people. It was so irritating. He was looking forward to spending a quiet Christmas, perhaps watch some carols or an old fashioned movie on TV.

Since his wife’s death last autumn, life had been unpredictably lonely. The amnesia he’d suffered in the car crash still teased him. Important details he wished he could remember were like broken mirror fragments that spun in useless circles inside his bruised mind, flashing scenes that made no sense.

Jim tossed the parcel onto the passenger seat of his ute, started the engine and headed down the road. The ute bounced up and down over the deep ruts all the way up the hill, past the windmill and the fig tree. He and his wife had often picnicked under its wide crown and talked about their hopes and future. Seeing it now weighed him down with bitter memories. The sting of sorrow pricked his heart. He brushed away the moisture that unexpectedly blurred his vision.

A sudden image flashed across the screen of his mind and a sharp breath caught in his throat.

The image was of a girl with honey-coloured hair and blue eyes…

Yes, there had been a girl in the car! He rubbed his forehead with the tips of his fingers and saw her face in his mind again. If only he could remember who she was. He crunched the gears in frustration and sped past.

Jim parked near the house, grabbed his walking stick with one hand and slouched out of the ute holding his prawns with the other. Glancing up, he noticed gathering cumulous clouds like dark cauliflowers filling the sky. The odd spit of rain was already falling. His aching joints told him that lots of rain was on the way. If it was a good fall, maybe he wouldn’t have to buy water for his empty tanks this year.

* * *

Lil stopped to catch her breath. She growled at the dark sky. Rain was not part of her miracle. When she reached the train platform, she filled her water bottle from the bubbler and then sat on one of the seats away from the other commuters.

It was not long before a train pulled in and Lil stepped into the last carriage. Except for a young mother rocking her baby in a pram, it was empty. Lil sighed as her aching body sank into a seat. It felt luxurious, even if it was ripped and sunken in the middle. With no one about, she raised her legs onto the opposite seat and removed spiky goat’s head burs from her socks.

Then Lil settled back, placed her head against the seat and felt the rhythm of the train spreading through her tired body. It felt so relaxing. A poem by Robert Louis Stevenson she’d learnt at school crept into her dreamy thoughts: Faster than fairies, faster than witches, bridges and houses, hedges and ditches … all of the sights of the hill and the plain fly as thick as driving rain …

Her eyes snapped open and she jerked upright. The rocking motion of the train had sent her to sleep! And it was raining! Alarmed, she slid to the edge of the seat and gazed out the window at the blurred countryside speeding past. The inclement weather complicated matters for Lil. She had no wet weather clothing to put on and no umbrella.

The train slowed and then stopped to collect more passengers. Lil craned her neck to see who embarked. Heavy rain splattered the windows and the platforms looked slick and slippery. People in raincoats huddled close to the sliding train doors, grasping umbrellas and bags of shopping. Thankfully, no one gave her a second glance.

A few minutes later, the train pulled out and continued on its journey. Lil stood up, pulling her hoodie over her head and walked to the sliding door, clutching the handrail. When the train stopped again, Lil stepped out and, head down against the lashing rain, hurried away from the station.

Everything was going so well when a man’s voice suddenly called out behind her.

Lil spun around and noticed a policeman hurrying toward her. It was her worst nightmare. She hadn’t come this far just to get caught.

Without a second thought, she turned and ran down the street. A shout rose behind her but she didn’t look back. Lil didn’t know where she was running to or how close the policeman was; she was a rabbit fleeing a hungry fox. She was following an elusive whisper calling in the wind.

Leaving the streets behind, she climbed a fence and shouldered through wet bushes. Stepping into a field, Lil noticed the majestic fig tree with its sweeping branches reaching toward her like warm, beckoning arms. And there was the windmill – with five paddles!

As if in a dream, she stumbled towards the tree. Her clothes were wringing wet and her shoes squelched. Her legs wobbled like soft custard beneath her. She stopped to catch her breath beneath the shadowy branches, on bare, dry ground. Through the curtain of rain, she saw her uncle’s farmhouse crouched on top of the hill.

* * *

Jim grabbed a beer from the fridge, his prawn and thousand-island-dressing sandwich and sat on the porch to watch the rain and ponder the image of the girl he’d seen on the road. With plate on his lap and beer on the floor beside his chair, he began to eat his sandwich, straining to relive that day last autumn. He had taken three mouthfuls when a movement in the field caught his eye.

What the –?

Jim sat up and peered through the driving rain. Someone was out there!

He placed the remainder of his sandwich on the plate and rubbed his sleeve across his eyes. The figure was wearing a hoodie and jeans, so Jim couldn’t tell if it was a girl or a boy.

What on earth was he or she doing out in the rain so far from anywhere?

He pushed himself up off the chair and headed to the ute. He drove across the field, over the furrows, until he was close enough to determine that the youngster was a girl. He clambered out and hobbled towards her as she huddled beneath the fig tree.

“I noticed you out here from my house on the hill,” he said. “You all right?”

“Jim Piper?”

He started and peered at the girl. “Yes?”

“Please… look at this,” she said, holding a scrap of paper for him to take.

Jim frowned at her. Something familiar –

“Please,” she urged.

Jim’s gaze lowered to her hand. He drew a sharp breath and took the wet, torn paper she was holding. It was a photo of him and Sarah, his wife, standing under the fig tree. But how did this girl obtain it? Who was she?

He peered into her face, at those teary blue eyes looking back at him. Then the memory of the girl floated back to him like driftwood.

There had been a storm and lots of rain that day, too. He saw Sarah lying in their mangled car after they had crashed down an embankment, his own body pinned and unable to reach her. A child – a girl – had been in that car but was thrown clear. After that, his world descended into murky darkness, a time of confusion and loss.

He gasped.

“Lilette?” he muttered.

She nodded. Tears streaked down her cheeks.

“I remember now,” he said. “We were caring for you after your parents died.”

That’s right, she wanted to add, but she was all choked up. But then you also had a car crash. Aunt Sarah died and you went to hospital for a long time.

“They put me with carers who told me you’d died.”

“Well, they were wrong,” Jim said, his own eyes filling with tears. “Let’s get out of this rain. Then we’d better go and sort out this mess.”

As they climbed into the ute and drove away, the rain stopped and the sun shone over Piper’s Field once more. Fond memories drifted through the fig’s branches and its leaves quivered with contentment as it sensed a bright future for the two in the farmhouse on top of the hill.

Back to Top

The Christmas Spirit

Margaret Pearce

“Wilt Jones reckons there’s no such thing as Santa Claus,” Mandy burst out. “He said that parents hide presents on top of wardrobes.”

“No presents on top of any of our wardrobes,” her mother said.

“Is there really a Santa Claus?”

“There’s the Christmas Spirit. It comes from a long tradition of giving, from the Magi to Saint Nicholas.”

“Is that why people dress up as Father Christmas to hand out presents?” Mandy started to feel better.

“It probably started like that,” her mother agreed.

“Wilt said he won’t get any presents this year ’cause his parents are out of work,” Mandy explained.

“He should believe in the Christmas Spirit though,” her mother said.

* * *

Christmas morning, Mandy waited until the clock said 5 a.m. and then woke her parents so they could open their presents together.

She had knitted her Dad a scarf. He was very pleased and said he would wear it as soon as it got cold enough.

She had grown a geranium in a pot plant for her mother. It hadn’t flowered but Mrs Gardner the neighbour gave her the right flower to wrap with it.

Her mother hugged Mandy hard. “You must have a green thumb. I haven’t got that particular geranium.”

Her Dad gave Mandy an elegant new cot for her baby doll he had made and designed himself, and her mother had sewn all the pretty bedding.

“You are the cleverest Mum and Dad in the world,” Mandy said happily.

She unwrapped the present from her mother. It was a party dress.

“I’m going to wear it to church,” Mandy announced.

There were two parcels left by a Santa Claus she wasn’t sure she still believed in. She unwrapped the leather mitt and the gleaming fast new skateboard.

“Wow,” Mandy said. “It’s just exactly what I wanted.”

“Suppose we all have a rest until it’s time for breakfast,” her father suggested.

Mandy went back to her bedroom. She took the leather baseball mitt into bed with her and patted it. She was the luckiest girl in the world. She had the best parents in the world, and exactly what she wanted for Christmas.

How pleased her Dad was with the scarf she had knitted especially for him, and how thrilled her Mum was to have the unusual geranium that she had grown herself.

Wilt Jones was wrong when he said there was no such thing as Santa Claus. The Christmas Spirit was magic. When she saw Wilt Jones this morning she would tell him so.

Although, what if Wilt hadn’t got any presents?

Mandy wriggled. Her bed didn’t feel as comfortable. Of course, some relative or friend was sure to give Wilt Jones a present even if his parents were out of work. Everyone got presents Christmas morning. It was the Christmas Spirit.

Except Wilt’s relatives were all overseas and Wilt didn’t have many friends. What if Wilt didn’t get one single solitary present for Christmas? Not from Santa Claus or his parents. Wilt’s Mum didn’t sew or knit, and his Dad wasn’t that useful with tools, so they wouldn’t be able to make him presents like her parents.

Mandy wriggled again. Her bed felt more uncomfortable. It wouldn’t be much use telling Wilt about the Christmas Spirit and the reason people dressed up as Santa Claus to give gifts if Wilt didn’t get any gifts.

Mandy went into her parents’ bedroom. Her Dad’s hair stuck up in a tuft over the doona. She yanked at it. His snores stopped.

“Is it time to get up?” he asked.

“I’ve been thinking,” Mandy said. “Do you believe in Santa Claus and the Christmas Spirit of giving?”

“Yes,” her father said.

“Wilt Jones doesn’t believe in Santa Claus or a Christmas Spirit of giving and if he doesn’t get any presents this morning he never will.”

“A sad little boy is Wilt Jones,” her father agreed.

“I could give him my old leather ball,” Mandy suggested.

“You could too. You don’t really need it,” agreed her father. “Except something old is not very exciting as a Christmas gift.”

Mandy thought hard. “I’ve got two copies of a Harry Potter book. I could give him my spare copy.”

“That’s a nice thought.” Her father got out of bed. “Why don’t we wrap it up for him?”

Mandy went to her bookshelf and took down a copy.

“It’s got scribble in it,” her father said.

“Little Janine did that last time she visited.” Mandy sighed as she took down her best copy.

Wilt would hate to get a scribbled-on book, but it was all her fault, not watching little Janine play in her bedroom anyway.

They wrapped up the parcel and put Wilt’s name on it. It was a paperback copy and looked very narrow and small once it was wrapped.

“Get dressed so you can take it over and give to Wilt,” her father suggested.

“Looks a bit mean to just give him one present on Christmas morning,” Mandy said as she looked around.

Her baseball bat was old. Her leather mitt was new but Wilt didn’t play baseball. Her gaze fell on her old skateboard. It was still in good condition.

“Suppose I could give him my old skateboard. I don’t need it any more.”

Her father spread out a large sheet of paper. Mandy rolled the skateboard across on to its wrapping. She paused. How would she feel about getting a second hand skateboard for a Christmas present?

“It’s a bit shabby isn’t it?” Mandy sighed.

“Do you think Wilt would mind?” her father asked.

“Yes,” she said slowly. “He wouldn’t mind a second hand skateboard as a hand-me-down, but I guess for a Christmas present it would be pretty mean.”

Mandy looked at her beautiful skateboard. Then she thought of Wilt who might not get any presents at all. She put it on the wrapping paper before she changed her mind.

Mandy got dressed in her new Christmas dress while her father wrapped the skateboard. He opened the front door and she went out with the two parcels.

“If Mr Jones objects, send him over to talk to me,” her father warned.

Everything was very quiet and the sky was bright red across the east where the sun was rising. She went into the Jones’ place and around the back to the bungalow where Wilt slept.

She scratched on the window. Wilt’s tousled head appeared.

“Happy Christmas,” Mandy said as she handed the presents through the window. “This is from Santa Claus, and this is from me.”

“No such person,” Wilt scoffed. “And my Dad will make me hand it back if he thinks it’s charity – whatever charity is.”

“Dad said he has to come over and talk to him if he objects,” Mandy said.

“Wow!” Wilt exclaimed as he unwrapped his presents. “A Harry Potter book and a brand new skateboard. Maybe there is a Santa Claus after all.”

“Happy Christmas,” Mandy said and went home.

They were having breakfast when there was a knock on the door. Mandy’s mother and father exchanged looks. They all went to the door.

Wilt and Mr Jones waited there. Wilt had tearstains on his face and held the skateboard. Mr Jones was scowling.

“I have to give the skateboard back, but thanks anyway,” Wilt said handing it over.

“He can keep the book. It was a nice thought of Mandy’s,” Mr Jones said. “But we don’t accept charity.”

“It’s more blessed to give than receive,” Mandy’s father said.

“Garbage,” said Mr Jones.

“Mandy is our only child,” Mandy’s father said. “Would you take back the Christmas gift she has given us?”

Mandy was puzzled. She had given her mother a pot plant and her father a scarf. What did that have to do with Mr Jones?

“I’ve never taken anything that hasn’t belonged to me,” was Mr Jones reply.

“Our most precious Christmas gift from Mandy was the pleasure we received from her giving nature. She loved that skateboard. Would you belittle her gift by being mean-spirited?”

“There isn’t a mean-spirited bone in my body,” Mr Jones growled.

Mr Jones fidgeted. He glared at Mandy’s parents. He glared at Wilt. He glared at Mandy.

“Your Dad is right,” he said through tight lips. “Wilt can accept your gift in the spirit in which it is given.”

“It is the Christmas Spirit, Mr Jones,” Mandy said as she handed the skateboard back to the happy Wilt.

“And I’ll never again say there isn’t a Christmas Spirit,” Wilt said as they left.

“Happy Christmas,” Mandy and her parents chorused after them.

Back to Top

Christmas Rap

Radley Bones

It’s that time of year

If you’ve been good it’s clear

There’s nothing to fear

Santa’s coming here

With a sleigh full of toys and his eight reindeer

You’ve decorated the tree just right

Coloured balls, shiny tinsel

Over two hundred lights

And they’re shining so bright

The tree reaches great heights

It almost touches the ceiling

Can you feel what I’m feeling?

Santa’s coming tonight

From his home up North in the cold and ice

He’s got his list and he’s checked it twice

To make double sure, he’s checked it thrice

The List is gonna tell him who’s naughty or nice

Santa’s coming tonight

Santa’s got his helpers

And his helpers are elves

Not elves on shelves

But there’s shelves for elves

To put all the toys

That they’ve made for the good girls and boys

To bring lots of joy

So behave yourselves

Santa’s coming tonight

The church bells are ringing

They’re ringing and dinging

The carolers are singing

Their anticipation is tingling

For they know Santa’s bringing

In a sleigh that’s jingling

A sack full of toys to set your heart alight

Santa’s coming tonight

The sleigh’s all packed, Santa’s ready to roll

To travel the world is his goal

Around the Earth from pole to pole

He’ll travel all night to fulfil his role

If you’re good there’s toys, it not it’s coal

Santa’s coming tonight

So off to bed

You sleepyhead

So the man can come in his suit of red

Ssh... listen carefully, can I hear him tread?

Upon your roof

Is that a reindeer hoof?

Do you need more proof?

Did you hear what your parents said?

Santa’s coming tonight

Now the night is gone

And you’re up early in the morn

On the day Jesus was born

There’s no time to yawn

Though it’s barely dawn

And the magic is still here

Sparkling dust in your eyes, jingling bells in your ears

And a whisper so soft, you can hardly hear

Ssh, listen the sound travels far and near

To wish all the children of the world

A Merry Christmas

Back to Top

The First Christmas Stocking

James Jesse

Marco stood up and straightened his back. He looked across the barren fields of his farm. The wind beat down and snow threatened to fall from the dark sky. His wife Anna and their three daughters Rosa, Maria and Eva were tilling the hard ground. The soil needed to be turned over before the crops could be planted. Perhaps, with an early crop, the family could survive the rest of the winter.

Marco watched his daughters work. They were good daughters, hard workers. They deserved to find good husbands. But he had no dowry to offer a potential husband. Without a dowry, his daughters would remain unmarried. And if the crop failed...

Marco shivered. He dreaded to think what would happen if the crop failed. The thought sat in the back of his mind, but he had never given it voice.

He felt a warmth at his back and Anna’s arms around his waist.

“We will manage,” she spoke softly into his ear.

Marco shook his head slowly and said nothing.

As dark began to cover the land, Marco and his family returned to their small house. Marco chopped some wood for the fire and Anna set about cooking supper. Rosa washed their filthy clothes and Maria cleaned the house. Eva sat next to a window with a needle and thread, mending holes in their clothing.

Supper was cabbage soup. Anna added a pinch of salt for flavour. There was only one cabbage leaf, which she dished up to Marco. The other bowls looked like discoloured water.

“I’m sorry,” she apologised.

The girls said nothing. They were used to such meagre meals. It did nothing to ease their hunger, but they knew there was nothing else. They lowered their heads and ate slowly.

The heat from the stove and the warmth of the fire stopped the chill setting into their bones.

Before they went to bed, Rosa draped the wet clothes over a rope tied from one side of the room to the other. She hung the wet stockings above the fireplace. Eva folded the newly mended clothing, ready for wearing in the morning.

* * *

Nicholas was the bishop of the town church. He enjoyed walking through the town and into the farmlands beyond. He liked to see people living and enjoying their daily lives.

Nicholas saw Marco and his family working hard in the fields. He felt the ground as hard as rock beneath his feet as he walked. Marco would be lucky to plant a crop. Even if he did, an early frost would kill it and the farmer would be left with nothing.

Nicholas had seen all too often what a starving man would do. He had seen the slave markets where children had been sold to pay a family’s debts or to buy food. It was also a place where a daughter, unable to be married, might find her fate.

Nicholas shuddered. It broke his heart to see the extent of human desperation.

He had known Marco’s daughters since their birth. He had baptised them in his church. He wanted to help them.

Nicholas returned to town and the church as the sun was setting. Father Fotios was counting the coins in the poor box. He looked up as Nicholas walked in.

“It is not much,” Father Fotios said.

Nicholas nodded.

“Go home, Father Fotios,” he said. “You have worked long enough today.”

Father Fotios was about to object. Instead, he bowed his head slightly. “Yes, Bishop.”

Father Fotios put the poor box on the altar and headed out the front door of the church leaving Nicholas alone.

Nicholas emptied the poor box onto the altar. A small handful of coins. The villagers were poor, but they were generous. Like Marco, they would give what they had until they had nothing, and then they would ask forgiveness for not being able to give any more.

The poor box was to help the poor, but there were not enough coins to provide a dowry for one of Marco’s daughters, let alone all three of them. There was not even enough to feed them for a week, let alone the winter. And what of the other families who needed the church’s help?

He could not give the money from the poor box to one family.

Nicholas wrote down the amount in the church ledger. Then he wrapped the coins in a cloth and tucked it inside his robe. Thieves had broken into the church many times, and Nicholas didn’t like to leave money there overnight. The villagers were mainly honest, but the temptation could sometimes be too great for a starving man. There were also strangers who came to trade, and there were those who came to steal and destroy.

As dark approached, Nicholas locked up the church and went home. He put the church money away safely.

His home was modest – he barely needed the few small rooms. But his parents had been wealthy. They had died when he was only a child. With no other children, Nicholas had inherited their wealth. He had never known what to do with the money; had never had a use for it himself. Now, a warm feeling began to creep through him, and he could see no better use for it.

He counted out what would make a good dowry – enough for a girl to find a good husband. Then he put the gold coins on a small cloth and tied it up with a leather tie.

Nicholas ate his supper and waited until it was late. He wanted to make sure the townsfolk were tucked up in their homes. Then he put the bag of coins inside his robe and ventured outside. The air was cold, a breeze drifting up from the sea. The inn was still open and light spilled out onto the street. A few patrons staggered along the street.

Nicholas wished them a good evening as he passed.

He took their mumbled comments as a “Good evening” in return.

Nicholas walked through the town and to its outskirts. A quarter moon was low in the sky and the stars sparkled in the clear night. He made his way to Marco’s farm. The small house was dark, a thin wisp of grey smoke coming from the chimney.

Everyone was asleep – good.

Nicholas walked up to a window. It had been left open a little to let air into the house. An open fire could be deadly if there was no fresh air.

Nicholas looked through the window. The fire had died down and only softly glowing red coals remained. With the moonlight behind him and the coals from the fire casting a soft light, Nicholas could see that there were stockings hanging in front of the fire to dry.

He pulled the bag of gold coins from his robe. He looked around and listened. He neither heard nor saw anyone either inside the house or in the street or fields beyond.

He weighed the bag in his hand, judging its weight. Then he opened the window a little further, just enough to reach inside. He tossed the bag towards the stockings. It hit the wall above one stocking and slid down, falling into the stocking and dropping to its toe.

Nicholas smiled. He pulled the window almost closed. He looked around again – making sure there was no one – and walked home.

* * *

The next morning as Marco was eating breakfast, Anna pulled down the dry stockings from in front of the dead fire. One was so heavy, she almost dropped it.

“What is this?” she asked herself.

She grabbed the stocking by the toe, tipped it upside down and shook it out. The cloth bag fell into her hand.

“What is this?” she asked in disbelief as she untied the string and the cloth opened to reveal the coins. “’Tis a miracle!”

She rushed into the tiny kitchen and put the cloth bag on the table beside Marco.

He looked at the gold in disbelief and shook his head slowly. “’Tis not ours. Where did you find it?”

“In Rosa’s stocking. Hanging over the fire to dry.”

“In Rosa’s stocking?”

Marco looked up at his wife. She could see that he was as surprised as she was by the gold.

“’Tis indeed a miracle.” Marco counted the coins. “There is enough to provide a good dowry for Rosa. She will find a good husband. And a little left over to buy food for the winter.”

Marco, Anna and their daughters worked hard that day from sunrise to sunset. As night covered the land, they settled down to their supper. Anna had bought some flour and the house was full of the smell of freshly baked bread.

“Father,” Rosa spoke, “Mother says you may find me a good husband.”

Marco looked at his wife. She lowered her head and ate her supper in silence.

“What else did your mother say?” Marco asked.

“Nothing,” Rosa shook her head.

Marco could see that her hopes were up.

“Come spring, we will find you a good husband,” he told her.

“Thank you, Father.” Rosa wrapped her arms around Marco and hugged him.

Maria and Eva looked at each other in silence.

“Now finish your supper and go to bed.”

“Yes, Father.”

* * *

Nicholas knew that one bag of gold wouldn’t be enough. That night as the town slept, he returned to Marco’s house with another bag of gold. The window was open, as it had been the previous night, and stockings were again hung above the fire to dry.

He looked around to make sure no one was there, and he listened inside the house. All he heard was Marco’s snoring.

Nicholas tossed the bag of gold towards the stockings. It landed in one and fell to the toe. Nicholas slipped away into the night as quietly as he had arrived.

The following morning, Marco and Anna were delighted to find the second bag of gold in one of the stockings. Maria now had a dowry and would find a good husband.

Marco and his family worked hard in the fields all day. When the sun set, they returned to their house. The daughters did their chores while Marco lit the fire and Anna cooked supper. This time, she added some salted meat and vegetables to their soup. The family had not known a meal such as this in many months.

Rosa and Maria spent the evening talking about their future husbands. Marco was in no hurry to marry his second daughter off, but if the right man came along, he would consider it. All three daughters were of marrying age. Eva, the youngest daughter, remained quiet.

Marco watched Eva sitting by the window quietly mending her skirt. He couldn’t believe his luck with Rosa and Maria saved. He was certain whoever had given him the gold would return.

The girls retired to bed shortly afterwards. Anna was soon yawning.

“’Tis late, Marco. Come to bed,” she said.

“I will wait up,” Marco answered. “I want to thank whoever has saved Rosa and Maria.”

“What makes you think he will return?”

“Surely he will want Eva to find a good husband also.”

Anna nodded. She left Marco sitting in his chair and went to bed.

As the town fell under the hush of dark, Nicholas gathered a third bag of gold and set out for Marco’s house.

This time as he threw the bag through the open window and heard it hit the wall and fall into the stocking, he also heard a chair creak – and footsteps.

Nicholas tried to rush away, but fell into the candlelight of Marco as the farmer stood in his open doorway.

“Bishop Nicholas, it is you!”

Nicholas stopped and turned around. “Please, don’t tell anyone it is me,” he begged. “You must thank God alone for providing the answer to your prayers.”

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