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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Expand (07/18/13)

TITLE: Lengthen the cords, strengthen the stakes.
By P. J. Baker


Lengthen the cords, strengthen the stakes.
(A children’s story that any age can enjoy.)

It was a hot summer’s day, hot enough to pinch the skin of your arm and melt the ice cream in your bowl. Charlie’s Mom was on her hands and knees on the front lawn, sliding metal poles together.

“Mom, what are you doing?” asked Charlie.

“Gramps sent his old two-man tent for you to play in, so I’m setting it up,” she said.

“Cool! Can Ned and Jack and Eli come over later to play in it?”

“Sure sweetie, but I need a hand right now!” She handed him some poles and they slid them one by one into the canvas fabric until it was tent-shaped. They pulled the cords tight, fixed them with a tent peg, and then used a mallet to hammer the pegs into the ground.

“Good work! Time for lemonade.” Mom and Charlie hi-fived and went into the house.

Felix the cat peered down from the tree branch at this strange shape on the lawn. At that moment the neighbor’s dog sprinted toward the tree barking wildly, and just as he tripped on a tent cord, Felix yowled with surprise and fell on the tent roof. They rolled and yowled, then raced off up the street.

“What happened here?” asked Charlie. The tent drooped and leaned to one side.

“Let’s lengthen the cords and strengthen the stakes” said Mom. She realigned the main tent pole and Charlie pulled the cords tight and re-fixed them. “We could squeeze three in here now”, she said proudly.

“I can’t wait till Ned and Jack and Eli get here, we can hide out in here all day!” Charlie jumped excitedly.

The phone rang. Charlie’s Mom answered, and came out looking glum.
“Charlie, sweetie, Jack can’t make it as he’s visiting his Aunty today.”

Charlie frowned and kicked the ground. The phone rang again. Charlie’s Mom answered and came out looking glum.

“Charlie, sweetie. I’m sorry but Eli can’t make it either, he’s gone to the beach for the day.”

Charlie frowned and kicked the ground. “It’s not fair!” he shouted, pulling out the tent cords and kicking the stakes until the tent was destroyed. Charlie paused, then scrambled up the tree and hid behind the leaves.

“I can see you’re disappointed, but that was a really silly thing to do! And after all our effort”, said Mom crossly.

She got down on her hands and knees. “Expand your tent, stretch the tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes,” she whispered, carefully putting the tent back together.

“There’s no point! No-one’s coming”, shouted Charlie.

“I’ve got a good feeling about this, Charlie, sweetie” she said, wiping the sweat from her forehead.

Charlie climbed down from the tree. The tent looked taller, straighter, and wider. He peered inside. “It looks big enough for four kids now!”

“Aarrggh!” he screamed as an icy jet of water sprayed into his back He jumped up and turned to see Ned grinning, holding a dripping water pistol.

“Surprise! Charlie, meet my cousins: Jimmy and Ed.” Jimmy and Ed waved their water pistols.

Charlie returned the grin as Ned handed him a water pistol.

“You and me against them, ok Charlie?” said Ned. Whooping and hollering, the boys fired water jets at each other.

When their pistols had run dry and their clothes were soaked, they declared a truce. Squeezing out the water from their t-shirts, they hung them on the tent to dry.

“I’m cool, at last!” said Ned, and the others laughed. They crawled into the tent and Charlie’s mum brought out bowls of homemade ice-cream.

“This is the warmest ice-cream ever”, said Charlie, drinking it from his bowl.

“Yeah, and the coolest tent!” said Ned.

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This article has been read 92 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Dannie Hawley 07/25/13
You've a really terrific story here! I just love it. Good interaction and dialogue, great message, with a superb finish. Keep writing those children's stories for us all!
Larry Whittington07/25/13
Good story.

Parents could use it to teach several things: value of working (together),reward from working, how to handle disappointments.

Yes, stories about kids and for kids are great.
Jan Ackerson 07/27/13
Very well done.

The only critique I have is to double-check that your dialogue sounds realistic both for your characters' ages and their circumstances. In my experience, parents and children don't always speak in such polished, complete sentences.

That's just a tiny matter; this story is quite good and I don't expect you to stay in Beginners for long.
Virgil Youngblood 07/29/13
A fun read for all ages. Well done.
Brenda Rice 07/29/13
This is a wonderful story with a good message.

I agree with Jan, you won't be in beginners long.

Thank for sharing.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 08/01/13
This is an interesting story. You do a nice job of building the characters. The one thing I might suggest is to have the kid resolve the conflict. The experts say that it is good to have an adult guide and be a good role model, but the kids will relate way more if the kid resolves the conflict. (In this case, after the temper tantrum, the kid should realize he was wrong and make the tent bigger and cooler. You do have a nice twist in the end and that will show the readers how sometimes something disappointing can turn into something wonderful. Congratulations for ranking 7th in your level!! (The highest rankings can be found on the message boards)