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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Christmas Tree (10/09/08)

TITLE: Dead Christmas Tree Ice Cream
By Jan Ackerson


My stepdaughter Piper is a seven-year-old professor of logic. When I told her that I planned to marry her mother, she thought for a moment, then said, “So my mom’s name is going to be Phoebe Beebe?” Well, yes, it was—Phoebe and I had gotten a good laugh out of that—but Piper just rested her forehead in her hands and muttered Phoebe Beebe a few times.

We’ve been married for several months now, and Piper and I get along pretty well, I guess--when I remember to pass up Barbies for books and to treat Piper like a miniature adult. I usually get it right. (There was a Hello Kitty incident that’s best left unmentioned.)

So…Christmas is problematical, with a kid like Piper. Forget Santa and Rudolph, of course--Piper figured them out when she was barely out of diapers. And when other parents of seven-year-old girls are buying things like EZ Bake ovens, Piper just says to me, “That’s a ridiculously small cake, Bob. Why not bake a real cake in the big oven?”

See what I mean? She’s a prickly little girl, and I’m a marshmallow.

It’s just a few weeks until Christmas, and tonight Phoebe and I were enjoying a quiet evening when Piper called from her bedroom. Phoebe squeezed my hand and went to her daughter, then returned with a bemused smile. “Piper wants a bedtime story,” she said. “From you. Have fun with that.” She rested her warm hand low on my back as I mentally reviewed Storytelling 101.

Piper was sitting up in bed, surrounded by books, when I entered her room. “Hey, Pipes,” I said. “A bedtime story, huh? One of these books?” I picked up the nearest one: All About Reptiles. Great.

“No, Bob! A real bedtime story…about a Christmas tree.”

I looked around the room for the real Piper. Finding none but the little girl before me, I sat down beside her bed and cleared my throat. “Okay, then…ummmm, Timmy Tree was the tiniest tree on the hill, and one day he said, ‘I wonder if a family will ever pick me...’”

“Trees don’t have names, Bob! And they can’t talk, either.” Piper’s eyes were solemn.

“Riiiiight. Let me think, then…” I immediately rejected the next few ideas that came to me…the mouse under the tree…the cricket under the tree…the angel on top of the tree… “Okay, here we go. Once upon a time, a family went out to find the best Christmas tree ever. As they walked in the woods, the snow was falling in huge, soft flakes…” I stopped when I heard Piper snort. She was pointing out her window, where a large palm tree stood in the still-80-degree weather. Yeah…Piper’s lived in Florida all her life.

“No snow, huh Pipes? Hang on, I can do this….” I was not at all sure I could do this. “Okay, ready? Just outside the stable in Bethlehem stood a tall and magnificent pine tree. Its branches shaded Mary as she…as she…” Piper was shaking her head, but now her eyes were smiling. I was beginning to suspect—was she playing with me? “Let me guess. No pine trees in Bethlehem?”


I had no reason to doubt her. “Piper, you tell me. What kind of Christmas tree story do you want?”

“Welllllll….could it have ice cream in it? And turtles?”

Ice cream and turtles. And Christmas trees. Piper settled into her pillow, and several books slid onto the floor. I saw Phoebe at the doorway, looking ridiculously like an angel, and started one more story.

“Once there was this guy named Bob, who had an ice cream factory. His little girl named, uh, Peeper, was his best helper, but they hardly ever sold any ice cream…” I looked at Piper, who wasn’t even trying to hide her grin. She rolled onto her side and slipped her thumb in her mouth. I didn’t realize she sucked her thumb. “…And the reason they hardly ever sold any ice cream was because it came in flavors like Turtle Toothpaste and Dead Christmas Tree, which looked like mint chocolate chip, but it contained pine needles and pieces of bark.” A noise from Piper’s pillow sounded suspiciously like a giggle wrapped around a thumb. Encouraging. “So Bob and Peeper decided to search the world for new flavors. They took Peeper’s mother, ummm…”

Piper was whispering now. “Phoebe Beebe...” she murmured, as sleep settled on her like a…well, like a blanket of snow.

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This article has been read 1269 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Chely Roach10/16/08
I am wearing a huge smile. This is a brilliant combination of real characterizations, humor, and just enough sweetness (in Piper) to wrap it up nicely. I love it!
Holly Westefeld10/16/08
What a hoot! I loved the satire of the cliches, cloaked in a precocious child's search for creativity.
Seema Bagai 10/18/08
Funny. I enjoyed the humor and voice in this piece.
Sheri Gordon10/18/08
This cracks me up. I laughed out loud at Piper's logic about the EZ Bake oven--so funny. So humorous, with just a touch of Christmas sweetness. Great, creative job with the topic.
Laury Hubrich 10/19/08
Awesome story!
Verna Cole Mitchell 10/19/08
I read this the other night before I went to bed and couldn't stop thinking about it and giggling. You described the beginning of a step-parent relationship realistically and beautifully. Piper was characterized so we could see and know her right away.
Yvonne Blake 10/19/08
SMILE ! I know kids like this. The end of it sounded like the game, where you pull ideas out of a hat and write a story with those words.
I like the way you developed the characters without really saying so.
Joanne Sher 10/19/08
Love the voice of this piece, and the incredible characterization. This is masterfully crafted without feeling like it is. Excellent.
Shelley Ledfors 10/19/08
This is precious! I love it. There are many things I loved about it, but I really chuckled at your description of Piper as a seven year old professor of logic. That's exactly how my son was at that age. Great job!
Jason Swiney10/19/08
I like how in this simple story there is not only a major test from Piper that the MC must pass, but that the MC genuinely wants to win her approval. I can relate to having to make up stories for my little girl for entertainment, and what storyteller could go wrong speaking of "Dead Christmas Tree" and "Turtle Toothpaste" icecreams. Great story.
T. F. Chezum10/19/08
This is great. I loved the voice and Piper's character.
Ellen Dodson10/19/08
Such a magnificent job with characterization and humor! This is my favorite so far.
Celeste Ammirata10/19/08
This is really cute. I loved the characters. God Bless Bob for his patience and love.
Sharlyn Guthrie10/19/08
Your Piper character is delightful. I love the sentence about her being prickly, and Bob being a marshmallow. The touches of tenderness as he discovers her thumb-sucking, for example, are just precious.
Chrissi Dunn10/20/08
Brilliant voice, adorable characters and a hilarious storyline. You've done it again, Jan!
Norma-Anne Hough10/20/08
Lovely story with wonderful characters. Well done.
Gerald Shuler 10/20/08
There is soooooo much to love about this entry but what I love the most is the last line. Piper now has TWO parents... and she loves it that way.
Karlene Jacobsen10/20/08
I think I have a child just like that. He'll be 8 on Saturday. Great story.
Lollie Hofer10/20/08
All the elements came together in this delightful story. It was fun to read and we were reading about people who were easy to like and believe in. I found myself rooting for the MC and you didn't disappoint...he passed the test with flying colors.
Valarie Sullivan10/21/08
Aw, what can I say? Lovely! Such a cute little girl! And the Dad, how sweet!
Scott Sheets10/22/08
Ahhh, those analytically seven-year-olds. Nice job developing the characters and creating just enough relational tension to engage the reader.
Carole Robishaw 10/22/08
I can't think of a thing left to say that isn't already in one of the comment boxes. I loved it. I could totally see this. I have a granddaughter who is just like Piper.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge10/22/08
You approached a challenging family situation in a real, fun, delightful, and satisfying way. Wonderfully done.
LaNaye Perkins10/22/08
This was precious and I loved every single line of it. Great writing!
Dee Yoder 10/22/08
For some reason, all the way through this delightful tale, I could imagine Natalie Wood from "Miracle on 34th Street" as the precocious child twisting your MC around her little pinkie! This is so lovely and makes me very nostalgic for those "bed-time" story days...aww...it ended all too soon! Love each characters in this story.
Leah Nichols 10/22/08
Awww....I wanted to keep reading! Excellently done, as usual! I expect high marks for this one! :)
Beth LaBuff 10/22/08
The ice cream flavors tend to leave a bad taste in the mouth, but otherwise LOL a charming story, expertly written. :)
Marlene Austin10/22/08
Your usual high quality of writing, but with an unusually SWEET story line. Thanks. :)
Betty Castleberry10/23/08
This is an adorable story. Congrats on your win.
Sheri Gordon10/23/08
Congratulations on your EC. Your imagination never ceases to amaze me.