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“Junior Bagelo” – a story for children about Bagelo Winston, Jr., a teenager solving the case of the missing masterpiece of French impressionist painter, Monet.
“Making the Team” – a story for children about Jerome making his eight-grade basketball team.
“Judy’s Butterfly House” – a story for children about Judy being given a butterfly house on her birthday.
“Maligayang Pasko” – a story for children about Sister Fatima’s orphaned children from the Philippines.
“Virginia’s Duck Egg” – a story for children about five years old Virginia found a duck egg.
by Daniel Escurel Occeño
(First appeared in the Crowder Quill Spring 2004, a literary-art magazine published by Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri.)
Waking up early one Saturday morning excited twelve-year-old Junior Bagelo because it meant going on a case with dad. Bagelo Winston, a private detective, brought his son on routine mysteries hoping he would develop a sleuth’s mind. Finding a missing Monet worth millions ASAP would be a tremendous learning experience for a junior gumshoe.
Every year Charles Richford, the wealthiest man west of the Mississippi River, held an invitation only to view his private collection of paintings. The guests list included friends, relatives, media, and art lovers from all over the world to stay in his 100-room mansion for a week to admire a collection worth more than most art galleries in New York City.
After arriving at the Richford Mansion, Bagelo and Junior were escorted to the main atrium where Charles stood in deep thought staring at a blank space between two irreplaceable works of art.
“Bagelo! Thank you for coming. I’m sorry. I hated to tell you so early and on a weekend. I did not want to call the police until I gave you a chance to look over the venue. The sooner the painting is found, the value will least likely depreciate. The police could take days to months only to be filed unsolved. Please take the case. Your customary 10% of the insured value when found, I hope is agreeable. Lloyds already agreed,” Charles said with a despondent look.
“Which of your paintings was taken?” said Bagelo.
“I don’t think you’ve seen it since you were unable to attend my gathering,” Charles said in a disoriented state, but managed to continue. “It is an esoteric painting by Claude Monet. A collector from Quebec contacted me if I wanted it.
“Children At Play is privately documented to be a true impression of Monet from 1874. The value is questionable. I paid $300,000 for it, but Lloyds was willing to insure it for $500,000.”
Bagelo looked at the paintings on the wall and said, “You have several paintings worth more.”
“I know. The only thing rational, since the Monet was unknown to the public, ransom is more likely than sale. I would pay more than the underground market value because I’ve kept it private,” said Charles.
After ambling around the room, Bagelo turned to Charles and said, “I agree. How many knew the painting was private?”
Charles responded quickly, “Just my guests. I used it as an eye-popper for the last day of my gathering.”
Bagelo was confused, “If you knew ransom was the reason, why did you call me? You should have called the FBI.”
Fearing Bagelo wouldn’t take the case, Charles asserted, “No authorities, at least not yet. I am totally baffled. All my guests departed before the painting was found missing.
“Around 2 A.M. the power shut off causing a backup generator to turn on in 30 seconds with the alarm blaring out the mansion.”
“A robber was caught trying to break in. I found out later it was a previous guest I did not invite because he was incarcerated in Europe for forgery. He assured me he only wanted a private look with no intention of robbing me.
“Since he was caught trying to break in, I believed him. I locked him up in the basement and decided to call you after my head of security told me that the surveillance cameras accounted for all my guests leaving before the disappearance. The Monet was on the wall while I was sipping my hot chocolate mint decaf before retiring to slumber.”
Bagelo looked into Charles’ eyes and said, “The painting is still on the premises.”
With the presence of someone he trusted, Charles’ attitude changed and facetiously remarked, “I hope you don’t expect a check for $500,000 just for that brilliant deduction. Can you help me find the Monet before I have to report it to the authorities?”
“I’m already here, Charles, I might as well,” Bagelo said while smiling because he had a mystery. “I brought my son, Junior. Do you mind?”
“No! Not at all,” Charles said, relieved.
With total concentration Bagelo continued to seek information. “How about your staff, can they be accounted for?”
“The live-in staff members were all in their rooms during the alarm except for Luisa, my maid. My head of security has her leaving the grounds around 1:00 A.M., but carrying nothing but her keys. The continuous time on the cameras showed the painting disappeared during the 30 seconds the power went out, exactly 2:01 A.M.,” Charles responded as someone entered the atrium. “This is Dirk, my head of security.”
“Luisa called. She is at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Her grandchild is in the emergency room. She said not to worry. She will be back tomorrow,” Dirk said and started to walk away.
“Fantastic! Cross her off your list, Dirk,” said Bagelo.
While turning to look at Bagelo, Dirk replied, “What list?”
“The list of all the live-in staff. You do have a list of all that are currently in the mansion?” Bagelo asked bluntly.
Dirk answered, “I can put one together for you, Mr. Winston.”
“Junior, why don’t you go with Dirk? He will check all the staff members’ rooms, again,” Bagelo said encouraging Junior who looked bored and out-of-place.
“Again? I only questioned them. I haven’t searched their rooms Mr. Winston,” Dirk apologized, slightly embarrassed.
“Better yet, can we watch your surveillance recordings before the alarm?” Bagelo requested.
“Walk this way,” Dirk said and then led Bagelo, Charles, and Junior to the security room where the mansion could be monitored.
“You have footage of the paintings,” said Bagelo. “What are those over there?”
“Those are the paintings my guests and friends have painted. They can bring their handiwork to display during the week. Strictly ‘amateursville’ but sometimes I might buy one for fun to encourage pursuing the arts,” Charles explained.
“Can you check if anyone is walking around the hallways right before the alarm?” Bagelo asked Dirk. “Who is that?”
“Mr. Richford’s butler.”
“Who is that one?”
“Mr. Richford’s chauffeur.”
“That is you,” said Bagelo.
“Yes, I was checking the doors when the power went out,” said Dirk. “I ran back to the security room to check the monitors.”
“Can you talk to the chauffeur and the butler for me? Why were they up that late? Could you search their rooms this time? Junior will accompany you. I am trying to teach him detective work,” said Bagelo. “I want to continue looking at this surveillance footage. Come back here when you are done with the butler and the chauffeur.”
After searching the rooms for several hours, Junior hurried back and said, “Dad!”
“Not now Junior.”
“But Dad, it’s important!”
“What is it?”
“The butler is leaving!”
Bagelo turned to Charles and said, “Why is the butler leaving?”
“He is retiring. He has worked for me for over 30 years,” said Charles.
“Don’t you think it is rather strange he would pick today to leave?” asked Bagelo.
Unruffled, Charles replied, “Oh no. He told me months ago of his retirement and departure. He did not want a party or a send off of any kind. A humble individual, James is.”
With complete confidence Dirk said, “I checked all of his belongings. Suitcases, packages, and the taped boxes. My men combed his car. We did not find the Monet.”
“I trust him implicitly,” Charles insisted. “I would vouch for him.”
With his detective curiosity Bagelo persisted, “Tell me more about your butler.”
“I have known him for more than 30 years. We have a friendship and not just a working relationship. I finally convinced him to partake in my love of art. He decided to take art classes a year ago. He got interested in painting as a hobby. He became quite skilled. He prefers watercolors to oils. He even learned to restore some of my finds that were worthless to a novice collector,” said Charles.
“Restore? Is that cleaning the painting?” asked Junior.
Thinking young Winston developed a taste for the arts, Charles said, “Yes!”
“Can you clean the painting without ruining the original value?” Junior continued.
“Yes. A professional restoration could even enhance the value of the masterpiece,” said Charles, beaming.
“Are not paintings already dry? I mean they don’t rub off, right?”
“What are you getting at, Junior?” said Bagelo.
Junior held up his right index finger and said, “I touched one of the paintings in the butler’s room.”
“Those paintings were displayed with my guests’ paintings,” Charles said with hesitation.
“It makes sense,” said Junior. “I figured out how the butler did it.”
Junior explained, “When we first came in, several of those stands were empty. The staff’s paintings and Mr. Richford’s were still on the stands except for the butler’s.
“What I think happened is the butler removed the Monet from the wall. He had 30 seconds. He put it in an empty stand and went back to his room. He brought the Monet and his other paintings to his room when it was safe.
“Just like Mr. Richford assumed, all the paintings in the butler’s room were his, so did we when we were searching his room.
“When the butler was answering Mr. Dirk’s questions, I touched one. I thought I stained it since my finger was dirty, but he really drew over the painting with those erasable colored markers you used to leave me messages on the refrigerator door.”
“There were erasable colored markers on his desk. I wondered why the one painting looked different than the others like a kid drew it.”
Amazed that his son could formulate a theory based on seeing something as simple as erasable markers, Bagelo asked Dirk, “Where is the butler now?”
“He is in the garage about to drive off,” Dirk said after looking at all the surveillance monitors.
“He is leaving without saying goodbye?” said Junior.
“Stop him!” Charles yelled.
The doors in the garage automatically lowered. Charles arrived first as Bagelo, Dirk and Junior lagged behind.
Charles stared at the butler not knowing what to say when Junior shouted, “That’s the painting! The one with all the trees. In the back seat.”
With a 30-year trust shattered to pieces, Charles moaned, “Why James, why?”
“All these years watching you entertain with those paintings, I became envious. I could never afford to own one in my stature. When I decided to retire, I had to have one. Just one,” mumbled a decrepit man unable to look at his master’s face.
“But why the Monet? It has the least estimated value,” Charles sighed.
“Exactly, I thought you would not miss it, being an unknown painting,” James wept.
Charles needed to know, “Have you been planning this all these years?”
“No sir. It was by impulse. Since I was leaving the next day, I decided to look at your collection one more time. The power went out. I grabbed the Monet and placed it next to mine in one of the empty easels thinking a burglar would get blamed for my treachery.
“While you were questioning the burglar, I brought the Monet with my paintings to my room. I touched up the Monet knowing I could restore it later,” James choked with guilt.
“Should I call the police Mr. Richford?” Dirk wondered.
“Detain him for now. The painting never left the premises,” said Charles. “Bagelo, my insurance agent will send your customary fee through the mail. Thanks a million.”
“Thank my son, Junior.”
“Good show, Junior,” said Charles.
On the way home Junior chuckled, “Hey Dad, I guess the butler really did it.”
“And you solved it. I decided to put all the money the insurance company will pay me in a trust fund for your college education.”
“No joke. Thanks dad,” said Junior as Bagelo’s cellular phone rang.
Junior could not go with his dad on his next case. Governor Trumont asked Bagelo to meet him at the Fairmont Hotel in the Kansas City Plaza to look into the death of his adopted son.
Making the Team
by Daniel Escurel Occeño
(First appeared in the Crowder Quill Fall 2003, a literary-art magazine published by Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri.)
Determined with a summer of practicing, Jerome continued to practice hoping to make the Precious Blood Raiders’ seventh and eight-grade basketball team. A new year with more experience, the eight-grader focused on a goal set after being cut last year.
In Detroit, Michigan houses were usually separated by 10 feet of concrete driveway. Loud noises from next door could easily be heard by disgruntled neighbors.
“Hey Cecilia, how long is your kid going to be dribbling that basketball? We had to put up with that all summer. I thought he would stop once school started. Tell him to go to the park like most kids,” urged Yolanda.
Cecilia laughed. “Jerome’s got the basketball bug. I was hoping he would grow out of it like Alvin and just stick to school work.”
“I don’t want to listen to that thumping sound the rest of the school year,” reiterated Yolanda.
“I’ll have to talk with Jerome,” agreed Cecilia.
After hanging up the phone, Cecilia opened the side door and screamed out, “Jerome! Quit dribbling that basketball. You’re disturbing the neighbors. Get in the house! Your daddy will be home soon.”
Jerome grumbled, “Mom! I have to practice. Coach Hannigan won’t pick me for the team if I am not good enough. There are only 12 uniforms.”
“Hannigan! He’s a plumber volunteering to coach. You have better things to do this year. You will be going to high school next year. If you don’t pass the high school entrance exam, you won’t be accepted at a good private Catholic high school. You’ll be stuck in the public school system,” snickered Cecilia.
Jerome proudly pronounced, “My report card is on Dad’s desk. I got all B’s and an A in English.”
“OK, but practice dribbling in the basement. You won’t hurt the concrete floor. I don’t want the neighbors complaining,” promised Cecilia.
At the supper table Jerome was about to go study when his dad stated, “You have good grades son. It’s not all A’s but good enough to pass the high school entrance exam. If you go to a good private Catholic high school, you can choose any college to go to. You’ll be able to get a good paying job.”
“I want to play basketball Dad,” pleaded Jerome.
“We’ve talked about that already,” insisted Alvin.
With a rational voice Jerome argued, “You said, as long as I can get A’s and B’s I can try out for the team. Coach Hannigan’s first practice is next Monday.”
“Hannigan! The Plumber? Is he still coaching? He was my coach. The school cannot really afford to pay a real coach. Coach Hannigan volunteers, but he knows how to get the real athlete out of a kid. He even drove the bus. We almost won the City Tournament my seventh-grade year. Holy Name barely beat us in the semi-finals. Good Shepard destroyed us for third place because we didn’t care. It wasn’t the finals. I was the only seventh-grader on the starting five. In eight-grade I was the tallest kid at five-eight. I had to guard six-three centers. We only won half the games,” explained Alvin.
Smiling, Jerome went to study in his room.
Using folding chairs and pretending the chairs were trying to steal the basketball, Jerome practiced dribbling in the basement ever day after school and on weekends until the first day of practice. For hours Jerome dribbled and zigzagged around the chairs while protecting the basketball with his body.
Coach Hannigan’s first three days of practice just ended. The seventh and eight-graders were told to sit in the bleachers until Coach Hannigan called them to the locker room. Jerome counted only twelve students left after the three days of fundamental drills, fast break drills, and continuous “wind spirits” at the end of every practice.
Two of Jerome’s eight-grade friends had left for the locker room when Coach Hannigan yelled out, “Jerome! You’re next!”
“I made the team Coach Hannigan?” smiled Jerome.
“You made the team. I hated to cut you last year. You improved tremendously this year. What number do you want?” asked Coach Hannigan.
After tossing Jerome a red jersey, Coach Hannigan declared, “Number eleven is the white jersey. I am counting on you to start at point guard. I’ll see you tomorrow after school.”
All excited, Jerome grabbed the white jersey and the matching shorts, dressed into his school clothes, and hurried to tell his parents that he might be starting the first game.
Judy’s Butterfly House
by Daniel Escurel Occeño
(First appeared in the Crowder Quill Fall 2003,
a literary-art magazine published by Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri.)
On Judy’s 7th birthday Aunt Donna gave her a birthday gift. “What is it, Aunt Donna?” wondered Judy after tearing open the box.
“It’s a butterfly house,” replied Aunt Donna.
“Butterflies can live in it!” Judy bellowed frenziedly and shrieked. “Neat.”
After Judy’s birthday party, Judy’s mother hung the butterfly house on a tree branch outside Judy’s bedroom window.
Every morning for a week Judy woke up and looked outside her bedroom window at the butterfly house for hours. No butterflies flew around the butterfly house. No butterflies were inside.
One afternoon Judy walked in her bedroom, looked outside her bedroom window, and saw a butterfly. The exquisite and delicate butterfly flew around the butterfly house, folded its wings upward, and entered the butterfly house through the opening.
Judy clapped and clapped. Judy was so happy. Judy ran to the kitchen yelling, “Mother! Mother! There is a butterfly in my butterfly house. It is sleeping in it.”
“What kind of butterfly is it?” asked Judy’s mother.
“I don’t know,” giggled Judy.
“I meant, what color is it?” smiled Judy’s mother.
Judy shouted out, “It’s orange, yellow and black with white dots.”
“It’s probably a monarch butterfly,” assumed Judy’s mother.
Judy ran back to her bedroom, looked out her bedroom window, and waited for the monarch butterfly to wake up and fly out of the butterfly house.
Judy’s mother looked up monarch butterflies on the internet and learned that the four-winged monarch butterflies took about a month to develop from egg to adult and live another two to six months in the summer.
Monarch eggs hatched in three to twelve days.
After two weeks the larvae would develop into two-inch long caterpillars. It took another two weeks for the outer skin of the caterpillars to shed miraculously into colorful adult monarch butterflies. Monarchs would have bright colors of yellow, orange, black and white.
A diet of the plant milkweed made the monarch butterflies poisonous to birds.
Since the larvae of monarch butterflies would only eat the plant milkweed, Judy’s mother planted milkweeds underneath the butterfly house.
Before summer had turned to fall, a bounty of monarch butterflies stayed in Judy’s butterfly house.
by Daniel Escurel Occeño
(First appeared on Storygift Gift Card, self-published)
Back in the 80’s families from the Philippines started moving to the city of Automoville. Decades later in rows of streets more than fifty Filipino families inhabited the Spanish styled homes. Filipino children coined the phrase “Pinoyville”, a little town of Filipinos in a major city of millions.
At Hail Holy Spirit Catholic Church Sister Fatima arrived with ten Filipino children from an orphanage in Manila hoping to create awareness for her charity. The need to help abandoned children in the Philippines was a major task for the Catholic Church so Filipina nuns along with orphan children were sent to major cities heavily populated by Filipinos in America and the rest of the free-market world.
A week before Christmas children canvassed the streets for a good cause.
Excited and filled with spiritual love, Marissa charged on. “Let’s go to that big house.”
“It’s the biggest house I have ever seen,” said Beth.
Intimidated by the lavish façade, Ray mumbled, “Who lives there?”
“I don’t know,” said Marissa.
While looking around for someone, Beth whispered, “I heard some really mean old lady.”
“She must be rich.” Altruistic Marissa urged the other children. “We have to invite her.”
As several children gathered in the front courtyard, an elderly lady looked out the window and murmured, “Americanos!”
“Hey you kids. You kids get out of here. Leave her alone. Her grandson is a millionaire in the Philippines. He is a senator,” yelled a man dressed in a chauffeur’s outfit.
“So! We’re in America,” Ray declared.
“Yeah. But he can cause trouble for your relatives back home.” The driver pointed out.
“We want to tell her about our Christmas party for orphan children,” said Marissa.
All of sudden the front door swung opened and an elderly lady holding an umbrella ran out. She raised the umbrella above her head, started shaking it, and yelled as loud as she could. “Go away! Go away and leave me alone.”
Marissa yelled back, “You’re a mean old lady! I hate you. We only wanted to know if you wanted to help the underprivileged children. We are having a lunch for them at Hail Holy Spirit on Christmas day. They are poor children. You are rich. You’re a mean old lady.”
When Marissa arrived home, she asked her dad about the elderly lady that lived in the great big house.
“Papa. Who lives in the great big house?”
“The great big one with the old lady.”
“Oh! You mean Lola. Everybody calls her Lola. Her children are rich. Even her grandchildren are millionaires in the Philippines. One is now a senator.”
“That is what her gardener said. Her son the senator can cause trouble for our relatives in the Philippines.”
Marissa’s mom was quietly listening to the conversation, and then she scolded, “Why are you bothering her? Don’t bother her.”
Still emotional with goodwill, Marissa asserted, “Mother! We were inviting her to Sister Fatima’s Christmas lunch for the orphan children. If she is rich, maybe she can help the orphanage in Manila?”
“I don’t care. I don’t want you going near that house again,” insisted Marissa’s mom.
Marissa’s dad laughed. “Kuriput!”
“Speak English papa. My friend Beth is here.” Marissa asked, “What is Kuriput?”
Marissa’s dad explained. “It means Lola is stingy. Very stingy. She won’t give you any money. Her children don’t visit here. They left her here in America after life went back to normal in the Philippines. People can now conduct business and own companies without worrying about the government taking it.”
“She lives in that big house all by herself. Her kids are in the Philippines. They don’t visit her?” Beth wondered.
Marissa started to understand the elderly lady’s situation. “Really!” Marissa was shocked.
The day before Christmas the elderly lady that lived in the great big house peeked through a window and watched a shivering seven years old girl continuously ringing the doorbell. She remembered the words that were said the last time and was too ashamed to face Marissa again. The little girl finally stopped and walked home.
On Christmas day around 11:30 A.M. in the biggest house in Pinoyville, a garage door elevated and a black limousine drove out. The limousine drove to the parking lot of Hail Holy Spirit Catholic Church. Christmas Mass was over.
A woman opened the church basement’s door, started yelling and waving her arms, “Maligayang Pasko! Maligayang Pasko everyone.”
“Papa! Look! It’s Lola. She came to our Christmas party. Wow. She is all dressed up.” Marissa yelled back, “Merry Christmas Lola!”
Embarrased, Marissa’s dad said, “Hoy! Hoy! Marissa. Don’t call her Lola. She is not your grandmother. Call her Mrs. Sorgon.”
“Hi Mrs. Sorgon. Thank you for coming to our Christmas party,” Marissa smiled.
“No. Thank you, Marissa.” Mrs. Sorgon shouted with joy, “Can you kids help me bring in the presents? I have presents for all the children. If we run out, I can get more.”
Father Bob wrote the children’s names in separate pieces of paper, drew from a bag the order of names of whom could select a present, and then it was time for Christmas lunch.
Merry Christmas from Daniel Escurel Occeño
Virginia’s Duck Egg
by Daniel Escurel Occeño
In Gubat, Philippines families raised chickens to survive. A chicken house in the backyard with chickens wandering about was a common sight.
One afternoon five-year old Virginia came running in the kitchen looking for her mother after playing outside.
“Mommy, Mommy! Look what I found.”
“Virginia, where did you get that?”
“By the river underneath the bridge.”
Virginia’s mother scolded, “I told you to never go there. You’re only five and you can’t swim. That river is deep, taller than you. If you fell in, you would drown.”
“Okay mother, I’m sorry,” apologized Virginia. “But can I keep it?”
Still angry Virginia’s mother mumbled loudly “Go ask your father.”
Virginia scampered to the backyard and then screamed “Papa! Papa! Where are you?”
“I’m in here inside the chicken house,” yelled Virginia’s father.
“Look!” While she held an egg in the palm of her right hand, Virginia asked “Can I keep it? Can I? Mommy said to ask you.”
“Where did you get that?”
“It’s not one of your chicken eggs. I found it.”
“That’s not a chicken egg. It’s a duck egg.”
“A duck egg?” With eyes wide opened and amazed Virginia asked, “How do you know? It’s white like a chicken egg.”
“Duck eggs are bigger,” clarified Virginia’s father.
“Can I keep it if it grows into a duck?”
“Don’t you want to eat it?”
“Yucky! No way. Won’t it hatch like your chicken eggs?”
Virginia’s father explained after throwing feeds to a rooster. “I don’t have an incubator. Without the mother duck it won’t hatch because you need to slowly warm the duck egg for it to grow inside the shell. The egg underneath the body warmth of the mother duck would hatch it. Bring it inside and put it in the refrigerator.”
With frown in her face Virginia remarked, “I guess. I don’t want to eat it. You can eat my duck egg if you want.”
“Wait! One of my hens just laid six eggs. It is a fairly big hen so another egg placed underneath her stomach just might work,” eagerly said Virginia’s father.
All excited Virginia shrieked, “Really?”
“We can try it,” said Virginia’s father.
Virginia asked “How long? How long before the baby duck will be born?”
“Well, chicken eggs usually hatch after 21 days,” answered Virginia’s father.
For a week Virginia awakened before her father to look in the chicken house to see if the eggs hatched. The hen just softly cackled after seeing Virginia. Virginia went back inside the house shortly after.
After three weeks, one morning, Virginia’s father yelled through the window while Virginia was still eating her breakfast. “Virgie! Virgie! Come here quick.”
“What is it? I wasn’t done eating my breakfast,” said Virginia.
“Look. The little duck thinks the hen is her mother. She is following the hen around like the other six baby chicks. She will grow to a full-size mother duck now. The hen will teach her to eat so she can survive,” announced Virginia’s father proudly.
Daniel Escurel Occeño, a Filipino/American writer for children in the Philippines.
To E-mail Daniel: firstname.lastname@example.org