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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Write something suitable for CHILDREN (05/31/07)

TITLE: Tess and the Magic of Zeroes
By Loren T. Lowery


Under the greening boughs of the willow that hugged the bank of Silver Lake, Abraham, a screech owl, finished his teaching for the day. “Are there any question?” He asked his students.

In the dappled shadows of the tree’s canopy, two cygnets, named Jason and Jolene shook their heads no.

Abraham cleared his throat and said with authority. “Then class is dismissed.”

Jolene was the first out in the sunlight where she swam to her mother, Tess, a Trumpeter Swan, waiting in the center of the lake.
“Mom,” she said. “Mr. Abraham taught us something in class today that I don’t understand.”

“What’s that?” Tess asked.

“He said if Farmer Brown had six cows and you multiplied them by zero then he’d have zero cows! Is that right?”

Tess nodded. “Yes, anytime you multiply by zero, you get zero.”

“But where did the cows go? Did they disappear or something?”

“I bet zeros are magic,” Jason, her brother, broke in, swimming up to them. “Like Mr. Toad made the apples disappear in his magic show last fall. I bet he had a bunch of zeroes in his hat, and swoosh, the apples all disappeared.”

“I’ve never even seen a zero,” Jolene admitted.

“Me either,” Jason said, swimming around them and causing circles to swell across the lake.

“It’s such a beautiful day,” Tess said, “why don’t we go up the bank and across the cobblestone path to Miller’s Pond.”

“Will there be zeroes there?” Jolene asked. I want to see them.”

“And maybe the cows and apples that disappeared,” Jason added.

“Just stay close when crossing the path. The stones will be hot from the sun, so we’ll need to walk quickly.

Soon they were waddling across the path, Jason and Jolene crying “Ouch!” as their feet touched the round, hot stones.

Miller’s Pond lay deep in a tiny dell. It was as round as a full moon at harvest and the late morning sun reflected off its water like a pirate’s gold doubloon.

Tess stopped a moment and looked around to see dragon flies moving in lazy circles over the bank, butterflies flitting among apple blossom in a nearby orchard, and roly-poly bumble bees playing tag with a dozen or so grazing cows in a fenced-off pasture.

“What do you see?” she asked.

“Nothing,” her cygnets chimed in unison.

Tess smiled and led them into the cool, clear water of the pond.

“I’m looking for zeroes,” Jolene declared as she splashed and ducked her head into the ruffled surface of the pond. Beneath the water, she saw bright copper pennies and white golf balls speckling the muddy floor. “Nope, nothing there,” she assured, coming up for air.

“”And I’m going to look for those apples and cows,” Jason said.

“Just stay close,” Tess admonished. “This is much busier than Silver Lake.”

“But more fun,” Jason answered, watching an apple twig, fragrant with pink blossoms float by. “Probably blown off by yesterday’s storm,” he said knowingly.

“I see cows over there,” Jolene said. “Maybe those are the disappeared ones?”

Jason shook his head, counting. “Nope, too many. Mr. Abraham said there were only six, not twelve, remember.”

Late morning turned to late afternoon and Tess called her two cygnets for the trip back to Silver Lake across the cobblestone path.

As they swam onto their lake, unseen katydids began their twilight chant, lifting their voices to harmonize with the lowering of the now hidden cows by Miller’s Pond.

“No zeroes, no disappeared cows or apples, no nothing.” Jolene sighed.

“Yeah, we didn’t see anything,” her brother complained.

“Nothing?” Tess said. “Who needs zeroes when you have magic like that? Looking and seeing nothing.”

“Well, we did see a few things,” Jolene admitted, thinking back. “But not the apples.”

Tess drew her cygnets under her wing. “Some things, like apples, need waiting for,” she explained, gazing up into the waxing night. “Like the stars, you don’t always see them, but you know they’re there. God made it that way so we’d never stop looking or waiting.”

“Like green grass in spring.” Jolene added

Tess smiled and nodded.

“What about the disappeared cows?” Jason asked. “Are they gone forever?”

Their mother snuggled them closer. “They’re the most special,” she whispered. “Because, you see, they’re like your daddy, hidden in heaven, waiting to greet us when we finally come home.”

And so the cygnets soon fell asleep, thinking back upon their day where they went looking for nothing but found everything instead.

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Member Comments
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Steve Uppendahl06/07/07
Great story! I like how the mom somewhat ignores her kids' questions during the day, letting them search/discover on their own, while at night teaching an actual lesson. Quite cool.
Janice Fitzpatrick06/07/07
Wow! Remarkable thoughts inserted throughout in a very creative way. The story flowed like the water they glided across in search of zeroes.:0) Well done! I co8uld see this in a movie or a beautifully designed book. I would love to do the art work for this. I love the way the mother is with her cygnets and I especially like the ending. God bless,Janice
Dee Yoder 06/07/07
Wonderful story. Very beautiful word pictures through-out.
Cathy Kane06/07/07
Very clever! I loved the ending!
Joanne Sher 06/08/07
Lovely and sweet - great story. I think this would be wonderfully engaging for a child. Right on target!
Myrna Noyes06/08/07
What a wonderful adventure the cygnets had in this thoroughly delightful story! It made me smile, and I'm sure it will make children smile, too! Your descriptions are perfect, and I like the lesson taught,too! Great writing! :)
Rita Garcia06/11/07
WOW! Love this clever adventure! Great writing!
Verna Cole Mitchell 06/11/07
I like the nonsense about the zeroes. I thin children would, too. They'd definitely need a picture for a cygnet.
Birdie Courtright06/12/07
Such beautiful imagery! A lovely piece of writing--great work!
Jan Ackerson 06/13/07
Lovely, lovely.
Kristen Hester06/13/07
This is beautiful and very well written.
Jacquelyn Horne06/14/07
I'm still thinking, "All right, where are the cows?"
Sara Harricharan 06/14/07
I love reading these adventures with Jason and Jolene. My only note, is a missing quotation mark and in the second paragraph where you use "named" to introduce us to the two Cygnets, maybe it isn't necessary? Just a thought. This was fun, especially Tess who is just as calm as ever until the afternoon is over and she explains 'nothing'. Great writing!