Tag Archives: good reads

Once Upon a Wish – Chapter 5

The story continues. I love the idea of puddles going to places.

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Chapter 5

Shortly after Jack Sprat left and Dame Nettle disappeared into her room to write a wish to the Fairy Godfather, there was a rat-tat-tat-tat on the door. For one brief wonderful moment, Willie thought it was his new family here to collect him. Then he realised who it would most likely be – Doctor Foster.

Jack and Jill hurried to the door to answer it at the same time as Willie. He glanced nervously back at Dame Nettle’s room. Through the wall he could hear the TV show Who Lives in a Castle Like This?

Willie got there first and opened it. As expected, the doctor stood on the doorstep, still dripping, holding his bag.

‘I want to talk to whoever’s in charge here,’ he said in an abrupt tone.

‘Oh, please don’t tell Dame Nettle what we did to you,’ whispered Jill.

‘She’ll get out her whip if you do,’ added Willie.

‘She has a whip?’ said Doctor Foster, sounding shocked.

‘Is it someone about the house?’ It was Dame Nettle’s voice.

Willie turned to see her hurrying towards them with her back bent and feet pointed slightly outwards.

‘Goodness, Mr Sprat works quickly. ‘Come inside. Come inside. Out of the cold. We’ll soon get you warm and dry,’ she said.

‘Thank you. That’s very kind.’ Doctor Foster’s feet squelched as he walked in, leaving a trail of watery footprints on the floor. ‘I’m sorry – I appear to be making rather a mess.’

‘Oh, don’t worry about that. Jack will clear it up. Come and sit by the cauldron where it’s nice and warm.’ She took his bags, pulled a chair out for him and he sat down.

‘I’m Dame Nettle and you are?’

The doctor frowned.

‘This is Doctor Foster,’ answered Willie.

The doctor mouthed his own name and nodded. Willie hoped this meant his memory was coming back. But the bump on his head seemed to bulge more than ever and his eyes still looked wide and glassy. ‘Good heavens, this really is a boot,’ he said.

Dame Nettle beamed. ‘Yes, yes. It’s the real thing. I’ve been in it since my house got flattened by Jack’s giant.’

Doctor Foster looked at Jack and frowned. ‘You have a giant?’

‘No, not him.’ The other Jack – although they look horribly like each other with that black hair and blue eyes. I’m talking about the one who got the Golden Goose, the Golden Harp, almost EVERYTHING. ’

Doctor Foster muttered to himself, ‘This is all a dream.’

‘Yes, live the dream!’ Dame Nettle sat opposite him and drummed her fingers on the table. ‘Let’s not beat about the mulberry bush. You want to buy the boot – I can see that – how much money will you give me for it?’

‘I don’t want to buy the boot,’ he replied. ‘That’s not why I’m here.’

Dame Nettle’s smile vanished. Her chin jutted out and her eyes closed to slits. ‘Then why are you here?’

The doctor looked at Willie and his two friends, and Willie shook his head.

Doctor Foster gave him the slightest nod. ‘I’m just trying to get home – only I can’t remember the way. You see, I banged my head. I don’t remember much at all,’ he said. ‘I’m hoping you might be able to help me.’

Dame Nettle scraped back her chair and stood up. ‘It’s time you were leaving.’

‘What is the last thing you remember before coming here?’ Jack said quickly.

‘I went to Gloucester in a shower of rain. I stepped in a puddle right up to my middle – ’

‘That’s a crazy thing to do. Everyone knows that puddles go to places,’ said Pinocchio.

‘No, they really don’t.’ The doctor smirked at the suggestion and bent closer to Pinocchio. ‘You’re made of wood.’

‘Of course he’s made of wood. He’s a puppet.’ Dame Nettle pulled the doctor up by the arm until he was on his feet. ‘Now, clear off back to Gloucester or wherever it is. You’re making a mess of my nice clean floor.’

‘A talking puppet? I need to go to hospital.’ He just managed to pick up his bags before she frogmarched him to the door, keeping a tight grip on his sleeve.

‘I’ve never heard of Gloucester,’ said Willie. ‘And I’ve lived here all of my life.’

‘Perhaps he’s from another world,’ said Jack. ‘Puddles are mysterious things.’

Dame Nettle took a sharp intake of breath and let go of the doctor’s sleeve. She smoothed the fabric. ‘I wished for a man who could do jobs for me around the boot and you’ve magically appeared. The Godfather sent you to me – he granted my wish! I never expected it to happen so soon! I’m so happy!’

‘Please, I just want to go home, have a hot bath and an early night, and tomorrow go to work as normal,’ said Doctor Foster.

Dame Nettle sucked in her cheeks and said nothing for a moment. ‘Do the jobs I need done and I’ll help you find your way home.’ She pointed to the leather ankle and the hole in the roof. ‘I’d like you to climb up there and mend the broken tiles. That’s your first task.’

‘But I have a head injury. I shouldn’t be going up there.’

‘Take my offer or leave it – that’s the deal.’ She placed her hands on her bony hips.

‘And you’ll help me if I do this for you?’

‘Cross my heart and hope to sleep for a hundred years,’ she said.

But Willie Knew Dame Nettle never kept her promises.

 

This story is dedicated to Tom Donovan, my nephew.

Story by Kim Donovan. (c) copyright. All rights reserved. Image: pixabay.

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Once Upon a Wish – Chapter 2

By child request, here is chapter two for bedtime stories. I’m so pleased you want to read more!

Chapter 2

shoe-1519804__4801Dame Nettle held the receiver to her ear and spoke in the posh voice she only used on the telephone. ‘Old Boot House. How may I help?’

Willie took a step closer to her so he could hear better.

Dame Nettle didn’t notice. She was too busy listening to the person on the other end. ‘Oh, thank you for calling me back,’ she said. ‘I’m planning on retiring soon, and I’d like to sell the boot I live in and move to Mermaid Creek.’ She started to walk, hunched over, towards her private room at the toe end. ‘An estate agent will visit tomorrow – hey diddle diddle!’ She tucked her grey hair behind her ear to hear better. ‘It’ll be Mr Sprat, the manager – cock-a-doodle doo! Three o’clock tomorrow afternoon – ’ She headed through her door and knocked it shut behind her with her whip.

‘What’s an estate agent?’ Jill asked Jack.

‘It’s someone who sells a house, castle or boot for you.’ They all listened to him. ‘The first thing he does is decide how much money people will pay for it. Then he puts it up for sale.’

‘Hoorah! She’s leaving us,’ said Patience Muffet, a girl with orangey-brown hair and freckles. The seven-year-old had ended up at Old Boot House after she ran away from a spider that sat down beside her. She had never been able to find her way back home again.

Children slapped hands and hugged each other.

‘It’s not a good thing,’ said Willie. ‘If Dame Nettle sells the boot we’ll have nowhere to live.’

‘I’m sure she’ll take us with her,’ said Jill.

Jack marched over to the table Dame Nettle had been sitting at. ‘I saw her circling some pictures of houses,’ he said, picking up the copy of Home Sweet Home.

‘Perhaps she’s looking for a bigger place for us all,’ said Puss in Boots. He was a silky grey cat in leather boots.

Jack started to leaf through the pages and Jill joined him at the table.

‘She’s not after somewhere bigger,’ he said, eventually. ‘All the houses she’s drawn rings around are tiny cottages.’

The boys and girls stopped celebrating and Jill pulled out a chair and flopped on it.

‘It might take ages for Dame Nettle to find someone who wants to buy the boot. It does smell of sweaty feet,’ said a boy made of wood. ‘By then we could all be back at home with our families.’

Willie turned towards him. ‘I’m sure your da will be found at sea, Pinocchio – and that he’ll come and get you,’ he said. ‘But I don’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t even know who my family are.’

Jill gave him a small smile. ‘You could wish for one.’

Willie shook his head firmly at her suggestion. ‘What good will that do? No-one’s going to wave a magic wand and make everything better.’ He noticed Patience Muffet and Tom Thumb looking at him. Their bottom lips were trembling. ‘Don’t worry yourselves.’ He paused to think. ‘All we have to do is stop the estate agent from coming here. That way he won’t be able to put it up for sale.’

Jack nodded. ‘I’ll do whatever it takes.’

‘Oh, please don’t get us into trouble,’ said Jill.

The two boys stared at her and Willie said, ‘Do you want to be homeless?’

 

***

 

Later that night, when all the other children were fast asleep, Willie lay awake in his hammock with the scratchy wool blanket pulled over him. He kept turning from side to side. He had far too many thoughts swarming in his head to sleep.

‘It’s daft to make wishes,’ he muttered. ‘They never come true.’ He wriggled onto his back and looked up through a hole in the roof at the moon and the stars. ‘So, all I have to do is ask for a palace and a teapot will magically turn into one!’ He made a false laugh. ‘I can’t believe even Jack made a wish before bed.’

He checked the hammocks nearest to him to make sure everyone was asleep and pulled a torn magazine picture out from under his thin pillow. He held it in the beam of moonlight coming through the roof. The photo was dog-eared and crumpled and showed a family : a mum, dad, a girl slightly younger than Willie and their pet unicorn. They were holding hands and flying through the air together with the aid of fairy dust. Willie always imagined being part of their family. Over the years, the picture had become fixed in his mind. As far as he was concerned, they were his family.

‘Ach, maybe I could make one wee wish… it’s only words.’ Willie chewed his lip. ‘Just a bit of fun to pass the time. That’s all.’

But his face looked deadly serious as he held the picture to his chest, stared up at the stars and whispered,

‘Star light, star bright,shooting-star-147722__4801

The first star I see tonight;

I wish I may, I wish I might,

Have the wish I wish tonight.’

 

He paused and said, ‘I wish for a family.’

 

This story is dedicated to Tom Donovan, my fantastic nephew.

I’ll post chapter three soon.

Story by Kim Donovan. All rights reserved. Image: Pixabay

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Once Upon a Wish – The Beginning

Chapter 1

There was an old lady who lived in a shoe.

She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do.

She gave them some broth without any bread;

And whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

 

shoe-1519804__4801I’m sorry to say the rhyme about Dame Nettle is real. She ran Old Boot House, a home for lost and orphaned children, in a brown leather boot with mustard-yellow laces that had once belonged to a giant. It was a horrible place for boys and girls to grow up. If only The Fairy Godfather would wave his magic wand and make all their dreams come true.

Willie Winkie’s story begins on a late afternoon in the middle of winter when the boot’s laces were tied up tight against the cold. Dame Nettle was sitting at one of two long wooden tables in the middle of the boot, flicking through the property magazine Home Sweet Home. She was dipping her toast into an enormous boiled egg, the size of a dragon’s. Whether she was standing or sitting her back remained rounded, and she had deep wrinkles from years of scowling. She looked like she could be snapped in half, but Willie knew she wasn’t as weak as she seemed. He had watched her attack a troll that jumped out on her on a bridge. From that day on the troll only chased after billy goats.

The children worked around her: sweeping the inner sole of the boot, cleaning the round windows, and tidying the hammocks where they slept high in the leather ankle. Tom Thumb, a boy no bigger than Willie’s little finger, dragged spoons across a table to set it for supper. A large duckling with light brown feathers dusted a cupboard with its wing. Willie had been put in charge of making the meal this evening, among other jobs. He stood watching the watery soup cooking in the cast-iron cauldron, making sure it didn’t boil over.

Some people called him Wee Willie because he was short for ten-years-old and rather scrawny, perhaps because he lived on a diet of only broth and porridge. Even so, he had grown since he’d been at Old Boot House. The faded nightshirt he wore, all day and every day, used to cover his toes, now it barely reached his knees. His feet had got bigger too. His heels hung over the backs of his tatty slippers.

At present only a cupful of thin, clear soup bubbled inside the cauldron, but the amount soon doubled all by itself and continued growing. It rose higher and higher in the pot. Once the soup reached just below the top, Willie said in a firm voice, ‘Stop, little pot’ and it did.

A loud cracking noise made him jump. He looked over his shoulder at Dame Nettle. She had put down her spoon, taken the whip out of her apron pocket and whacked it against the table. She was glaring at Willie’s friend Jack, as usual.

Jack gazed steadily back at her, but didn’t stop scrubbing the floor by the door. Unlike the other boys and girls Jack always managed to look clean and tidy. His glasses had no smudges on them, and his check shirt, brown waistcoat and knee-length trousers, which he’d been wearing for months, could have been clean on today.

‘Why, you’re as lazy as Little Boy Blue,’ Dame Nettle said to him. ‘Take the pail to the top of the hill and fetch some water.’

Jack sighed. ‘All right. I’ll go. But I probably won’t find any water at the top of the hill. I’m more likely to find it at the bottom.’

Willie looked from Jack back to Dame Nettle. Her eyes had narrowed.

‘The pail is too heavy for Jack to carry by himself. I’ll go with him.’ Jill quickly looked down at her welly boots to avoid making eye contact with her. Blonde ringlets hung over her face like curtains.

Some children thought Jack and Jill were brother and sister because they arrived on the same day, but they had just clung together because they were both new.

‘Did I ask you to speak?’ Dame Nettle scraped back her seat and stood up. She tapped the whip against her long, black skirt and stared at Jill.

Willie coughed. He raised an arm as Dame Nettle twisted towards him.

‘Yes, what is it?’ she snapped.

‘I’ll go with them – nae bother.’ He could feel his heart beating fast to the tune of one, two, buckle my shoe. Three, four, open the door…

He knew he was asking for trouble. He also knew they had to stick together, not be singled out. That’s how they all survived in Old Boot House.

Dame Nettle sucked in her cheeks as she looked at Willie and then at the rest of the children. ‘It seems you all need to be taught a lesson. Perhaps I’ll bake you in a pie like four and twenty blackbirds.’

‘Time for tea,’ said Tick Tock, the Grandfather clock in a deep, slow voice.

He stood against the side of the shoe, near the tables and chairs. His black metal clock hands showed it wasn’t supper time for another ten minutes, and his blue eyes looked everywhere but at them.

Dame Nettle ignored Tick Tock, but not the telephone that began to ring on the window ledge. She broke into a huge smile and hurried over to it.

Her smiled worried Willie. He had only ever seen her cheerful when she was up to no good.

 

Dedicated to my nephew, Tom Donovan.

I’ll post the next chapter in a few days.  I’d LOVE some pictures by children if anyone fancies being an illustrator! Kimx

Story by Kim Donovan. All rights reserved. Image Pixabay.

 

 

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The Shoemaker’s Secret

heels-1236641__4801The Shoemaker’s glass slippers and soft leather boots were coveted by celebrities and the very rich. Other shoemakers wanted to know the secret techniques and materials he used to craft them, but his big secret was he didn’t make the shoes; they were the work of elves.

He had found the elves working in his shop late one night, stitching fabric. They were no bigger than dolls and wore tatty, green tunics over woollen tights. He thought he should pay them in some way and presented them with new clothing; they were like excited children on Christmas morning.

Over the next few months the elves produced more and more new designs while The Shoemaker took the credit for their craftsmanship, gaining considerable wealth and status. He continued to pay his workers in tiny shirts, trousers, underwear and socks, but then one night the elves turned the tables. They took something belonging to him before they made the shoes: the book he was reading. He bought another copy and thought no more of it.

But the following evening, the same thing happened. This time they chose a framed picture of his baby daughter and paid him five pairs of sandals. The day after, they took a curl of her blonde hair.

The Shoemaker held his child tight to his chest and said to his wife, ‘I’ll put a stop to it.’

The next night he waited up for the elves. They appeared on the stroke of midnight.

‘I don’t need your services any more,’ he said firmly. ‘Please go.’

They smiled smugly, bowed and left the shop. He hoped this was the end of it all, but in the morning he discovered a pair of sparkly silver shoes taking pride of place in the shop’s display window. His daughter’s beloved teddy bear had disappeared.

He tried moving his family to a nearby coaching inn, but that night they took the child’s little toe. The Shoemaker wept, not knowing what to do. The elves would take her bit by bit; he was sure of it.

The bell tinkled as the shop door swung open and a young man walked in.

‘I’m enquiring to see if you have any jobs?’ he said. ‘I want to be as good a shoemaker as you.’

‘Do you have a wife, children?’ asked The Shoemaker.

‘No, it’s just me,’ he replied.

The Shoemaker sighed with relief and smiled. ‘You can have my business for free,’ he said.

He handed the bewildered man the keys to the shop and left immediately with his wife and child. They were never seen again.

The new shoemaker was the talk of town. His glass slippers were exquisite.

 

Story by Kim Donovan. Image Pixabay. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Beauty & the Witch

I’m about to go to a lecture on Europe’s Great Witch Hunt. Clearly, I have witches on the brain because here is my latest micro story. Hope you like it!

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