“Hurry. Come see.” yelled Victoria Scarlett Jones as she ran up the sidewalk toward her house. Gasping for breath, she yelled as loud as her six year-old voice could on this chilly Christmas Eve. Although the Joneses lived in Florida and the only white in White Christmas was the silky smooth sand at the beach, this Christmas Eve had dawned crisp and quite cool. Victoria Scarlett had spent most of the afternoon playing outdoors.
“Mama, come on out here. There’s something you’ve just got to see. Come now, will you, please?” Victoria Scarlett puffed hard as she skipped up the front doorsteps.
Bursting into the front door and racing straight into the kitchen, Victoria Scarlett saw Mama frying bacon and boiling grits for supper. Victoria Scarlett was breathless as she skidded to a halt next to the kitchen table.
Catching her breath, Victoria Scarlett seemed to burst with pride as she smiled sweetly and said, “Mama, I’m begging you to come with me.”
“Child, please,” said Mama. “What is so important that I have to stop making supper and go this instant to see about it? Aren’t you about ready to put icing on the Christmas cookies we baked this morning?”
“Mama, cookies can wait. Right now, there is a BIG BLACK BEAR IN OUR BACKYARD.”
“What’s that you say?” Mama looked surprised; like she did the first time she saw two alligators crawl up onto the banks of Watermelon Pond.
Patiently, Victoria Scarlett repeated herself. “There’s a big black bear in our backyard. A VERY BIG BLACK BEAR and I want you to come see it NOW! I want you to be the very first person to lay eyes on it, Mama.”
Victoria Scarlett smiled as she grabbed Mama’s apron. Then, she put her arm around Mama’s waist and gave her a little hug. Mama grabbed Victoria Scarlett and gave her a big hug. Then, a frown crossed Mama’s face. “A bear? In our backyard? Victoria Scarlett Jones, you know I have told you since you were a tiny tot, to never tell a lie. I especially don’t want you to do it on Christmas—when we’re celebrating Jesus’ birthday. [make this more active: VSJ, don’t be telling me a lie—especially on Christmas!] A big black bear, indeed.”
“But, Mama, that’s why you need to come see for yourself. You’ll see I’m not fibbing. I tell you what, Mama, I will hold your hand and then you won’t have anything to worry about,” said Victoria Scarlett with a knowing grin.
The frown was leaving Mama’s face. “Well, I guess it would help if you held my hand,” Mama said as she turned off the stove. She gave the gravel-ly grits one last stir and forked the bacon onto a paper towel to drain. Then, Mama wiped her hands on her big, red Christmas apron and Victoria Scarlett took Mama’s hand in hers.
Without words, only smiles between them, they left the kitchen. Victoria Scarlett led Mama. They tip-toed out the back door. “Wait Honey,” said Mama. “Go back and close the door. But, be as quiet as a mouse. We don’t want that big black bear in our backyard to hear us coming to spy on him.” Victoria Scarlett obeyed Mama and closed the door without making a sound. [there’s no reason for this; keep the first sentence, delete the rest.]
Next, Mama and Victoria Scarlett tiptoed in the soft, green grass around the corner of the house. When they arrived in the backyard Mama began to frown again. She said, “Victoria Scarlett Jones, I do not see a big black bear in our backyard at all. Are you trying to pull an April Fool’s joke on me?”
“Mama, we are not THERE yet. But, there really is one. You can count on it, just as sure as you can count on Christmas. I’m not fooling you.” Victoria Scarlett picked up a twig and pointed it toward the biggest tree in the yard. “You see that big old oak tree over there?”
Mama said, “Sure, I see it, but I didn’t think we were looking for oak trees. I thought we were coming to see a big black bear in our backyard.” Mama grinned and all frowns left her face.
“Oh, Mama,” said Victoria Scarlett, “THE BIG BLACK BEAR IN OUR BACKYARD IS BEHIND THAT BIG OLD OAK TREE. So, you’d better get ready.”
Mama started shaking and acted like she was truly scared. “Victoria Scarlett, I…, uh…don’t want to go around behind that tree alone. Are you coming with me?”
Feeling quite important at this moment, Victoria Scarlett straightened her shoulders, held her head high and said, “Certainly I will. I’m not afraid.”
“Oh, thank you, Honey,” Mama said. “I’m sure glad my big girl is with me.”
Victoria Scarlett took Mama’s hand once again and they bravely walked around the tree. And what do you think they saw?
They looked at the ground and there in the black dirt, Victoria Scarlett had smoothed a big area with her hand. Then, with a small stick, she had drawn the OUTLINE OF A BIG BLACK BEAR.
With a deep breath and a big bear-grin on her face Mama said, “Oh, I do see now. I see the big black bear in our backyard.”
“Merry Christmas, Mama. I drew him just for you.”
Mama grabbed Victoria Scarlett up in her arms and said, “Do you know what I do to little ladies who take me on bear hunts in the backyard—little girls who make my Christmas happy? I give them BEAR HUGS!”
Victoria Scarlett squealed. Mama chuckled. Hugging each other tightly, the two of them plopped down in the dirt and laughed and laughed and laughed. [cut this]
Do not use capitalization for emphasis. Use your words. The girl’s name is a bit difficult to say. It doesn’t flow out of your mouth. If you’re seeing this as a possible picture book (which it could be with some work), you need everything easy to say aloud.
Aside from you telling us the setting is Christmas, there is nothing in this story that makes it a Christmas story. I’d drop the whole Christmas angle.
What I liked best: The relationship between the mother and daughter.
Magazine ready? Almost. But I’d suggest working it into a picture book.