Nyrah sat up in her bed. She stared out the window and watched the sun play hide and seek. In and out it went, between the clouds, as it rose. She sat with her tiny chin cupped in her hands. Her bony elbows dug into the top of her tiny legs.
Today was the first day of first-grade. Nyrah wasn’t too worried. She knew many of her kindergarten classmates would be in her first-grade class. Suddenly, her thoughts were interrupted by her mother calling her name.
“Nyrah! It’s time to get up.”
“I’m up, Mama,” yelled Nyrah.
She had a unique imagination. She tried to make out the different shapes the clouds formed. She thought one of the clouds looked like a city. “I’m going to name it Cloudville,” Nyrah said to herself. Immediately, she realized she had not gotten dressed. Her clothes were lying on the chair next to her bed. She had put them all together the night before, after she took a bath. She and her family had gone shopping for school clothes, supplies, and backpacks the week before, like they loved to do every year. The only thing left to do was eat, brush her teeth, and get dressed. Her hair had already been braided and hung to her shoulders with multicolored beads. Nyrah realized she wanted to be the first one in the bathroom and raced down the hallway, but her brother and sisters were already downstairs eating breakfast. She had spent too much time daydreaming, and watching the clouds play hide and seek in Cloudville, so she quickly finished what she needed to do. Afterward, she jumped down the stairs, two steps at a time, and made her way to the kitchen.
“Hurry, my little sugar cubes,” her mama said wittingly. That was her pet name for the kids. “The bus will be here soon,” she reminded them. Nyrah sat down and managed to eat a few bites of cereal and strawberry toast, and drink a glass of orange juice. She heard the sound of the bus from a distance. She, along with her brother and sisters, raced upstairs, grabbed their backpacks, and ran to the bus stop just in time to see it barreling down the road.
Suddenly, a girl who looked about six-years older than Nyrah, darted across the street and jumped in front of her big sister Rayne. Nyrah frowned but didn’t say anything. The girl was new in the neighborhood. She had moved in over the summer, and the kids never saw her until now. Nyrah wanted to know who she was. She tapped her on the shoulder, and politely asked, “What’s your name?”
”Puddin’ Tane,” the girl responded smartly. “Ask me again and I’ll tell you the same!” She stuck her tongue out and laughed. Rayne spoke up. “That’s not your name!”
“Yes it is!” the new girl shouted.
By that time, the bus had gotten to where they were, and was coming to a screeching halt. The new girl’s backpack was on the ground. Nyrah picked it up for her, but the new girl snatched it and put it on her back. Her name tag was dangling from the strap. “Brooklyn!” Nyrah said out loud. Brooklyn whirled around. “That’s Brook!” she demanded. Brook stormed up the steps and ran to the back of the bus.
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Charlotte brushed her shoulder-length, golden blonde hair away from her face, tucking it behind her ear while the sea breeze tried to blow it back. Her heart leapt at the sight of a ship out at sea as it rolled in the swell of the rising tide. Could it be a pirate ship? Why hadn’t she been more vigilant? If they came ashore there would be little chance of escape.
She spotted a smaller boat rowing towards her, heading straight for the beach. Her breath caught in her throat. What should I do? Is there enough time to save my little sister? Beth looked oblivious to the danger, chasing after a feather that blew away in the wind. By the time she reached her sister, they would be in clear view. Maybe I should save myself. At least one of us might survive. No. She couldn’t possibly leave Beth to the mercy of those murderous pirates.
Time ran out. It was now or never. The boat reached the shore, and its dubious occupants began to clamber out.
The loud cry made her jump. She snapped back to reality and spun around.
“Are you daydreaming again?” Her mum let out a frustrated sigh. She placed a gentle hand on her shoulder and steered her in the direction of the car park at the edge of the beach. “Can you help take some of this stuff back to the car, please?” She handed her an armful of bags stuffed with damp, sandy towels. “We’ve still got a lot of things to do before we go home tomorrow, and you haven’t even bought anything for your friends yet. If you get your skates on, you’ll have enough time to pop into the shops across the road.”
Charlotte wrinkled her nose at the thought of their holiday coming to an end, and cringed at the prospect of going back to school the following week. She scooped up her own towel and trudged through the sand, mumbling how unfair it was making her do all the work even though she was only ten. “I notice Beth’s not helping.”
Her dad grinned as she struggled to the car. “We’re going to grab some food. Take-away, nothing but the best for the last day,” he said as she reached him.
“Not McDonald’s again, Dad,” she remarked with a hint of sarcasm, dumping her load on the floor.
“No way! Fish and chips tonight.” He wore his silly grin that never failed to make her smile.
“Whatever!” She smirked. “Mum said I could have a quick look at the gift shops just across the road.”
He put the discarded bags into the car and slammed the boot. He slid his sunglasses up to his receding hairline, slipping his hand into his jeans pocket. “Do you need any money?”
“Nah, it’s okay. Mum gave me some yesterday.”
“Are you going to take Beth with you?”
She folded her arms and shifted her weight to one leg. “Do I have to?” She loved her six-year-old sister to bits, but she was the most annoying person in the whole world. “I’m not going to get much shopping done with Beth tagging along.”
His face brightened with a grin. “I’m only pulling your leg.” He nudged her playfully. “We’ll take Beth with us and meet you back here in ...” He paused to gaze at his watch. “Let’s say, in about fifteen minutes, okay? Don’t go far!”
She sighed with relief. “Okay. See ya later.” She left, fumbling through her pockets to check she still had her money.
Crossing the road, Charlotte admired the pretty seaside town lined with buildings all the way to the top of a hill, overlooking the sea. Interesting old houses displayed colourful shop fronts, and a local market filled any spaces in between. She ambled along the well-worn paving stones, not really paying attention to the task of buying gifts for her friends. With her hands in her pockets, she wandered past stalls that spilled out across the path, packed with beach balls and buckets and spades.
She paused for a moment outside an arcade, drawn by the sounds and flashing lights that filled the air around the neon-lit building. Fighting the urge to spend the last of her money on a teddy-grabbing machine, she continued to trudge up the hill, losing interest in her mission with every step.
Halfway along the road she stopped, stepping into an alley to shelter from the glare of the sun. She leaned her back against the bright-red tiles that decorated the archway. Each one contained a small figure. They reminded her of characters from a fairy tale. She turned to examine them closely, running her fingers over the textured surface. Something about them held a strange attraction.
She gazed into the alley. It led a fair way back, but in the gloom she could see the front of a grubby-looking shop with a large ‘Sale’ sign in the window. She strained her eyes for a better view, and wondered if she should have a look just in case she could pick up something unusual for Mum. After a moment’s thought, she decided she had nothing to lose and wandered a little closer, checking over her shoulder as she went.
Reaching the glazed shop front, Charlotte stood on tiptoes to see over the half-frosted glass that obscured her view of the inside. Despite being taller than most kids her age, the contents of the store remained a mystery. She paused at the door before giving it a shove and peering through the gap. Inside, it looked much smaller than expected, with tall shelves standing against the outer walls, each laden with an assortment of objects that appeared better placed in a junk shop.
The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end, but curiosity urged her forward. She stepped inside. An old-fashioned till perched in the centre of a small counter at the far end of the shop. Behind it hung a set of drab curtains with tiny pinholes, allowing slivers of light to seep through. The whole place had an air of gloom and smelt musty and damp.
“Hello. Are you open?” Charlotte called out.
When no one responded, she browsed the shelves, discovering some odd, hand-carved figures, similar to the characters on the decorated tiles around the archway outside. She picked up one that resembled a garden gnome and turned the carving around, searching for a price label. Nothing. That’s not much help. She placed the grotesque figure back down.
A bright flash caught her eye when she turned to leave. She stared at a small bookcase resting against the back wall beside the counter. A gentle glow of green light illuminated the shelves, tempting her to venture further and take a closer look. She crept through the aisle and bent down to examine a small, glass snow dome nestled amongst a variety of clay pots. It looked out of place with the other articles displayed in the shop.
She reached out and touched the surface with the tips of her fingers. The cool surface tingled, a strange yet alluring sensation. With a quick check over her shoulder, she picked it up and tipped it upside down. She cupped the delicate item in the palm of her hand and held it close to her face. No snow.
Inside the crystal orb, a tiny globe like a miniature planet revolved in slow motion, casting eerie shadows against the dreary walls. “It’s beautiful,” she whispered.
“Yes, it is beautiful,” a gruff voice sounded.
She spun around and stumbled back a step. Behind the counter stood a large figure wrapped in a gray cloak, similar to the drab curtains that hung behind him. From what she could see of him in the gloom, his scruffy, charcoal hair hung down to his shoulders. Dark eyes peered out below bushy eyebrows, making his thin face look gaunt and pasty. She shuddered. He gave her the creeps, popping up from out of nowhere and staring at her as though he had never seen a customer before.
“I am sorry if I surprised you. I did not mean to make you feel uncomfortable,” he said, as if reading her mind. “You are very welcome here.”
She put down the small ornament and walked along scanning the contents of the shelves, picking through the strange collection of knickknacks. The entire time, she sensed the old man’s stare following her. She considered leaving, yet the eerie glow from the snow dome kept drawing her gaze back to the bookcase. The temptation from its hypnotic light got the better of her, and she walked back to pick it up again. “How much is this?”
A broad smile lit up the man’s face. “Take it, child. I have no use for it in my shop.”
Her eyes widened. “What, for nothing? I must give you something for it. I’ve got money, you know.”
The old man shrugged. “Well, if you are that keen on striking a deal with me.” He raised one of his bushy eyebrows. “All I will ask is for you to take great care of such a beautiful item. Promise me you will be good and always tell the truth.”
“I always tell the truth anyway. I hate liars!” she declared, a little puzzled by such a strange request. “Is that it? Is that all you want?”
He bellowed with laughter.
She placed one hand on her hip. “What’s so funny, then?”
“I am sorry.” He leaned closer across the counter. His weather-beaten face creased with concern. “Telling the truth is not always an easy thing to do, especially when you find yourself in trouble.” His expression lightened. “I am Goffer, the shop keeper, and if I am not mistaken, you will find yourself in trouble if you do not hurry. Time is getting on.”
Charlotte glanced at her watch. “You’re right!” She rushed to the door in a fluster, but stopped before leaving. “Thank you! Thanks a lot. That was really nice of you.”
Goffer stood motionless, barely visible in the shadows. “I would not be so quick to thank me just yet.”
Chaz and Charo lived by the Amazon River in South America. Chaz was fourteen years old, and Charo had just turned thirteen. They were boyfriend and girlfriend. They were out for an adventure in a large canoe paddling down the river. It started raining very hard, and the winds were picking up. The river began to get rough, and they decided they should start heading home. Suddenly, they were caught in a severe storm, and the canoe was being swept downstream at a high rate of speed. Chaz and Charo were scared, and he yelled, "Hold on!" They both held on tight to the canoe. The river continued to rise and became very dangerous. Charo screamed for help as the canoe started going even faster down the river. Chaz started screaming for help too. Then it started getting dark. They were still trapped in the canoe and trying hard to keep the canoe from tipping over. Several more hours went by, and they knew that they were a long way from their home. Now, they didn't know where they were. The canoe finally washed up on an island the next day. The canoe hit a large tree and broke in half. Chaz and Charo were thrown out of the canoe and landed on the sandy beach of the island. They hugged each other; they were both glad to be out of the river and on land.
They started walking to explore the island. Then they both started shouting to see if anyone was on the island. They walked and walked, but they could not find any people anywhere on the island. They were all alone and very scared now. They heard strange animal noises coming from the jungle. They could hear something moving around in the bushes. Whatever was out there was watching them. They knew it was not a person. Then they heard even more strange animal noises. They thought they sounded like noises that a monkey would make. Suddenly, they were surrounded by monkeys of all different kinds that started coming out of the jungle and swinging from all of the trees above them! All of the monkeys started screaming! Chaz and Charo did not move. They stood very still and let the monkeys smell them. The monkeys started making noises and playing with their hair. They seemed to love Charo's long black hair. Chaz and Charo were not scared of them anymore. They knew that the monkeys were not going to hurt them. One of the monkeys handed them a banana! Chaz and Charo were starving. They split the banana, and they were so glad that they finally got something to eat. Then Charo remembered that she had a candy bar in her pocket. They split the candy bar, and they both started feeling better.
Chaz and Charo noticed that one of the monkeys was a lot bigger than the rest of them. They sat down on the beach and watched the monkeys for a while. They saw that the bigger monkey that handed them the banana was the leader. He was brown and had a big long nose too. They had never seen a monkey like that before. They wondered what kind of monkey he was. They named him Erico, which is a Brazilian name that means "powerful ruler." Chaz and Charo are also Brazilian names. Chaz means "farmer," and Charo means "beauty flower."
Kahuna is a great magician who lives on a beautiful island in Hawaii. Kahuna means "a secret" in Hawaiian. He performs magic shows every night for the local Hawaiians and the visiting tourists. He has a huge secret that he is keeping from everyone. He is not only a magician; he really does have magical powers. That is why his magic shows are so incredible. They look so real, because they are real!
He paints his face, chest, and legs with black and red stripes before every magic show. He can breathe fire and twirl circles of fire without getting burned! He performs an amazing fire dance with two fiery batons. He can swallow a sword without getting cut! He can make himself invisible and also float high up into the air. A white tiger will suddenly appear on the stage out of nowhere! Then he will make an elephant appear and disappear! He always has a huge two-headed snake that he uses in his magic act. He taps the snake on its head with his magic wand and says, "Abracadabra!" POOF! The snake will crawl out of a huge puff of white smoke, and then one of the heads will disappear. Kahuna also stands on the stage in front of everyone. Then he waves his hands up into the air. POOF! A huge puff of white smoke appears, and he disappears! Suddenly, he is standing in the back of the crowd. He brings a white kitten out on the stage. He taps the kitten on its head with his magic wand and says, "Hocus Pocus!" POOF! A huge puff of white smoke appears, and the kitten turns into a huge white lion! He folds up a white handkerchief and places it in his hand. He closes his hand and throws his hand into the air. A white dove comes flying out of his hand! Then he pulls a white bunny out of his black magician's hat!
One of his magic tricks that he often performs is called "Fists of Fire." He puts his fists into a burning fire and opens up his hands. The flames do not burn him! He shows his hands to the crowd after he pulls them out of the fire. Everyone is always very shocked!
He uses fire a lot in his shows. Another show he always performs that stuns the crowd is when he sets himself on fire! He wraps himself in cloths and sets the cloths on fire. Then he runs down the street past the crowd, and someone sprays him with foam to put the fire out. He calls this show "Man on Fire."
Another magic trick that he performs is called "Fire Walker." He walks on a bed of hot coals. Then he shows the bottom of his feet to the crowd. There are no burns!
Kahuna performs another magic trick; he walks on a bed of sharp pointed nails. Then he shows the bottom of his feet to the crowd. There are no wounds! This magic trick is called "Bed of Nails."
When people leave his magic show, he shocks them every single time. They hate when his show ends, and they want to see more of his magic. He always hears someone say, "How did he do that?" The children always say, "Wow!" In his mind he always laughs because he is the only one that knows that it is real magic. He always stays after his shows end to sign autographs for people in the crowd. People love him, and he is very famous.
When Kahuna was twenty years old, a huge bolt of lightning struck him on his head during a severe thunderstorm in Hawaii. Someone saw it happen, and they called for help right away. An ambulance came and rushed him to the hospital. The doctors were all amazed that he survived such a bad electrical shock to his body. He had severe burns all over the bottom of his feet, and all of the hair on his head was burned off! His head was black, and he was completely bald! The doctors told him that it was a true miracle that he lived. His brown eyes turned black! His voice changed and became very deep. When his hair grew back in, it was solid white! He never cut his hair again. His hair became very long, and it was still very white. He grew a long white beard and moustache. He never cut his beard or moustache either. His beard and moustache grew and grew. Many people thought he looked just like Merlin The Magician.
I am 5,000 years old, and I cannot wait for someone to find me and finally set me free. My name is Ammon, and I am a genie. I am trapped in my lamp and buried deep in the sand somewhere in the desert of Egypt.
Wait just a minute. I hear someone digging nearby. Maybe they will find me! I hope they are nice. I want a nice master this time. My last master was a very mean old man. I did not like him at all. He was the one that trapped me in my lamp and buried me in the sand! He became angry with me because I would not do something bad that he wanted. Someone is picking up my lamp now. They have found me! They are opening the lid to my lamp, and I am free at last! It is a young girl who has found me. She was very shocked when I came floating out of my lamp in a puff of red smoke. I told her that I was a genie, and she was my new master. She was very excited because she knew that genies could grant wishes. She could not believe that she found a genie lamp. She said she thought I was a very cute genie too.
I told her my name was Ammon. Ammon is an Egyptian name that means "unseen" or "hidden." She told me her name was Nile, and it is also an Egyptian name that means "from the Nile." She also told me that she decided to dig around in the sand that afternoon by her house. She said she loved to dig in the sand because she would always find old things there. One day she found an old gold coin! She told me that this was the best thing she had ever found while living in Egypt. She said she was born in Egypt, and she was ten years old. She said her mother was from The United States and was born in Texas. She was amazed when I told her that I was 5,000 years old! All genies live to be one million years old! I asked her what year it was. When she told me what year it was, I realized I had been buried in the sand for almost 100 years!
She told me that her first wish was to ride a camel. She had always wanted to ride a camel since she was a little girl. POOF! I granted her first wish, and suddenly a camel appeared out of a huge puff of white smoke! I took her riding on the camel all around the pyramids of Egypt. We had so much fun that day. I told her that I would grant her one wish every day.
Later that day, she told me to get back into my lamp so she could bring me home with her. She said she would have to hide me from her mother. I did not want to get back into my lamp so soon, but I did. She took me to her house. She was a beautiful young girl and very sweet. I was very happy to have such a nice master this time.
Nile hid me in her room that night. She was so excited that she could hardly sleep. She knew that the fun was about to begin. I slept in my lamp. I told her that I could make myself invisible if I ever heard her mother coming into her room when I was out of my lamp. She was glad to hear that. She didn't want her mother finding me. She knew her mother would never believe that I was a genie. She said we would have to be very careful.
Nile told me that she was afraid it had just been a dream. She was so glad to see me there when she woke up the next morning. That day, Nile took me with her when she left her house. I asked her what her second wish was for the day. She told me that she wanted to go exploring inside a tomb. POOF! After a huge puff of white smoke, we were inside a tomb! We went exploring all through the old tomb. We saw a bunch of gold treasures placed all around the tomb. Everything in the tomb was hundreds of years old. We had another great day. My new master was so much fun to be around. I told her that I would always protect her too.
Mama and Dad, you used to be nice.
Now you’re not and I’m paying the price.
Mama and Dad, you used to live together.
Now you don’t. You’ve left each other forever.
Life is so hard, now that I have to choose.
If I choose your house Dad, will Mama lose?
It’s never easy when a kid has to pick.
If I choose your house Mama, will Dad’s heart be sick?
Think about me and how I feel.
Divorce is not pretend. It’s for real.
Can’t you get along and once more be friends?
Can’t you love each other again the way God intends?
There was a large group of beautiful wild horses that roamed free all around Mustang Island by the Atlantic Ocean. The wild horses loved to run and play along the beach and in the ocean. They would also run up and down the mountains on the island. The wild horses had been on Mustang Island for hundreds of years. Wild horses are also known as "feral horses." People came from all over the world to see the wild horses. The leader of the wild horses was a beautiful white stallion. The wild horses were mainly mustangs, but there were also a few other breeds.
The wild horses were all different colors. There were two other white horses, a couple of tan horses, a gorgeous black stallion with a white star on his head, several brown horses, some black and white horses, some brown and white horses, a tan and white horse, and a few gray horses.
There was a young girl named Makala that lived on the island with her parents. She had been going to the beach since she was a little girl, and she loved to watch the wild horses. She had been taking photographs of them on the beach and in the mountains. She thought it was so funny when the wild horses would start rolling on the beach. They were so much fun to watch. She was always so excited when there was a new foal born. The herd of wild horses was growing each year. Sometimes, she would bring carrots and hay to the beach with her for the horses. She would spread them out on the beach for them. Then she would move off so the horses would come over to the beach area to eat the carrots and hay. Then she could photograph them while they were closer to her.
Makala's room was filled with photographs she had taken over the years of the wild horses. Makala wanted to become a photographer when she was older.
One evening, her father told her that he had a big surprise for her. He took her outside, and one of the wild horses was inside their fence! He told her that he had paid someone to rope and capture the wild horse. Then he adopted the horse for her. He knew how much she enjoyed the wild horses. Makala walked out to the horse. It was not just any wild horse; it was the white horse that was the leader of the wild horses! He was so beautiful! She was very excited and could not wait to tame her horse. She named her horse Spirit.
The next day, she started working with Spirit to try and tame him. He started kicking the fence. He wanted out of the fence. He was very big and very strong. He did not like being captured. He reared up and started snorting! Suddenly, all of the wild horses came running up to her land! They had all come to see Spirit. You could tell that all of the wild horses were very upset. They were all making very loud noises. Makala started feeling bad for Spirit. She wondered if she should turn Spirit loose so he could run wild and free again with the other wild horses. She told her dad that she was feeling guilty for taking away the leader of the wild horses. He told her that they would have another leader very soon since their leader was gone now.
When an attempted hijacking rattles a sleepy California coastal town, teenage detectives Dalton Fraser and Maddy Kane spring into action. With the help of a super-smart dog and a trained U.S. Navy dolphin, the teens investigate mysterious clues that lead them to uncover a smuggling ring. After their story is declared unbelievable by the small-town sheriff, Dalton and Maddy form a daring plan to catch Nico, the notorious ringleader, and lead the sheriff to his arrest. But the plan backfires and the young teens find themselves in more trouble than they bargained for, and Nico doesn’t want witnesses!
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Welcome to this edition of Words For Thought , the blog on wordrefiner.com . Like many of the previous blogs we are looking at homophones.
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Periodically, ForeignCorrespondent participates in virtual book tours that allow authors to showcase their books to a broader audience. Today I am hosting fellow RRBC/RWISA author