Tag Archives: children’s story

Leon Meets a Mudge

A dragon and a mudge! Made by Tally Heilke.

Leon the dragon was sitting on the riverbank, dipping his toes in the water and sighing to himself, when he saw a little roly poly black mudge hop up beside him and lean over to take a drink.

“Hello, little mudge,” said Leon.

“Yikes!” said the mudge. “A dragon!” It turned around and starting hopping away as fast as it could.

“Wait!” said Leon. “I’m not going to hurt you! I’m a nice dragon.”

The mudge stopped hopping. “Are you sure?” it said.

“Very sure,” said Leon.

“But I hear dragons like to eat mudges like me for snacks!” said the mudge. It was so scared it was shivering.

“I have never eaten a mudge in my whole life,” said Leon, “and I don’t want to eat you. I promise.”

The mudge didn’t come any closer, but it didn’t keep hopping away, either.

Leon said, “I’m too sad to eat anything right now, anyways.”

“What are you sad about?” asked the mudge.

“It’s my first birthday tomorrow,” said Leon.

The mudge smiled. “That’s something to be happy about!”

“Not for me,” said Leon. “When dragons reach their first birthday, their family throws a big special party for them.”

“I love parties!” said the mudge. It hopped a tiny bit closer.

“I do, too,” said Leon, “but at a dragon’s first birthday party, they are supposed to show everyone what colour their fire breath is.”

“Fire breath!?” shouted the mudge. “Yikes!” It hopped a little bit further away.

“The problem is that I can’t breathe any fire yet!” said Leon. “I haven’t breathed fire even once.”

“I thought all dragons could breathe fire,” said the mudge.

“Well, not all dragons,” said Leon. “Some dragons breathe other things, like ice or fog or wind or mud, but all of the dragons in my town breathe different colours of fire.”

“So why can’t you?” asked the mudge. It hopped a little bit closer again.

“I don’t know,” said Leon. “That’s why I’m so sad. If I go to my party and everyone finds out that I can’t breathe fire, they will all laugh at me!”

“Have you practiced?” asked the mudge.

“Yes,” said Leon. “I’ve been practicing every day for months.”

“Why don’t you try for me?” said the mudge, and hopped all the way back to where Leon was so it could watch.

“Okay,” said Leon. “Here I go.”

Leon stood up straight and tall, put his shoulders back, stretched out his wings, squeezed his fists tight, took a deeeeeep breath, closed his eyes, and blew all of his breath out as hard as he could.

“See?” he said. “No fire.”

“Are you sure you’re doing it right?” asked the mudge.

“That’s exactly how my dad does it when he breathes fire,” said Leon.

“Are you swallowing a tickle in the back of your throat?”

“What do you mean?” asked Leon.

“Well, I am just a mudge,” said the mudge, “and we mudges can’t breathe fire, but we can breathe bubbles.” The mudge closed its eyes, wriggled its body, and blew three shiny little bubbles, which floated off on the wind. “When I breathe bubbles,” said the mudge, “I take a deep breath, and then I feel a little tickle at the back of my throat. If I swallow the tickle, then bubbles come out, but if I don’t swallow the tickle, all I get is air.”

Leon thought about this for a moment. He wasn’t sure if he had ever felt a tickle in his throat like that. “It’s worth a try,” he said, “but I sure hope I don’t start breathing bubbles! I’m a dragon, not a mudge.”

“There’s nothing wrong with being a mudge,” said the mudge. “I like being a mudge!”

Leon said, “I guess I like mudges, too.” The mudge smiled at Leon, and Leon smiled back.

Then Leon stood up straight and tall, put his shoulders back, stretched out his wings, squeezed his fists tight, and took a deeeeeep breath. He felt a little tickle at the back of his throat that he had never noticed before, so he swallowed with a big gulp, closed his eyes, and blew all of his breath out as hard as he could.

“Yikes!” shouted the mudge.

“What happened?” said Leon, because his eyes were still closed.

“You did it!” said the mudge. “You breathed lots of fire!”

“I did?” said Leon. He slowly opened one eye, then slowly opened the other one. A wisp of smoke was hanging in the air, and the wind blew it away as he watched. “I did it!” he said to the mudge. “I breathed real fire, didn’t I?”

The mudge cheered and hopped up and down.

“What colour was my fire?” asked Leon.

“Why don’t you try again with your eyes open, and see for yourself?” said the mudge.

So Leon stood straight, stretched out his wings, took another deeeeeep breath, swallowed a tickle, and breathed out without closing his eyes. He saw lots of green fire go shooting out over the water. When he closed his mouth, the fire turned into smoke and blew away.

“Hooray!” said Leon. “Now I can go to my party tomorrow and everyone will see my green fire. Thank you for helping me, little mudge.”

“You’re welcome,” said the mudge. “You’re a very nice dragon. Maybe dragons aren’t so scary, after all.”

“My name is Leon,” said Leon. “What’s your name?”

“Silly dragon. Mudges don’t have names!” said the mudge. “We are all just called ‘mudge.'”

Then the mudge took Leon to meet some of the other mudges, and they all became good friends and had many adventures together.

Plush figures by Tally Heilke, available through her Etsy store.

Jef and the Sad Sack

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There was a boy who lived in an attic. His name, when he bothered to remember it, was Jef.

In some ways, Jef was a very normal boy. He liked catching bugs in his hands, and jumping on things, and running around and around and around in circles, all over his attic.

But in other ways, Jef wasn’t very normal at all. He didn’t have a favourite colour, or a favourite animal, or a favourite food. He didn’t have a favourite anything, because no one had ever taught him what a “favourite” was. He slept on top of an old wooden desk and used the rainwater that leaked through the roof to fill his baths. He never got to play with other boys or girls, or visit the park, or eat chocolate or candy.

In fact, Jef never got to leave his attic at all, and he didn’t get to have visitors, either! The only person who ever came to see him was the man at the trapdoor, and he never wanted to talk to Jef or jump off things or catch bugs. All he ever did was look grumpy and bring Jef bowls of carrot soup. He wasn’t a very nice man. Actually, he was a very bad man, but since no one had ever taught Jef the difference between good people and bad people, he didn’t realize it.

Sometimes Jef was sad. Sometimes he was lonely. Sometimes, during the night, when it was dark and the wind was blowing through the rafters, he felt scared. Most of the time, Jef was very hungry.

One morning—Jef always knew when it was morning because he could see the sunshine through a crack in the wall—one morning, Jef was lying on his desk and feeling even hungrier than usual. There had only been two lumps of carrot in his soup the night before, and normally he got three or four. He was too hungry to even play with the ant that was crawling past his face!

Jef’s tummy rumbled, and he sat up and poked at it with his finger. “There’s no use rumbling, Mr. Tummy,” he said. “I’ve got nothing to put inside you, unless you want me eat this ant!”

His tummy rumbled again, louder. Jef could see his belly button wiggling. “No, sir, Mr. Tummy,” he said. “I will not eat that ant, no matter what you say!”

Again his tummy rumbled, even louder this time, and it kept on rumbling so hard that Jef’s desk began to shake, and then the floor began to shake, and then the roof began to shake. Jef began to think that maybe all this rumbling wasn’t actually coming from his tummy!

He jumped down off his desk and went to peek out through the hole in the wall. Instead of seeing two big brick buildings with the sun rising between them, like he normally did, Jef saw a round, silver spaceship covered in blinking blue and green lights flying right towards him! He jumped out of the way, and only just in time. The spaceship came crashing through the wall, scattering bits of wood and brick all over the place.

A door on the side of the spaceship flopped open and a funny little grey-haired, blue-skinned alien jumped out. It was about the same height as Jef, but it had four arms, a round belly, a big, wide nose, and enormous eyes. It was wearing spectacles that were bigger than its face, and they were taped together in the middle.

“Bother and trouble,” it said. “Trouble and bother. What is it this time? The Pompter Valve? The Jumbly Filter? The Warston Gauge?” It popped open a panel on the side of the spaceship and started poking at wires and tapping little beeping buttons.

Jef didn’t know what to do. He’d never had an alien spaceship crash into his attic before. I expect you haven’t, either! Jef was a very curious little boy, so he decided he should at the very least say hello.

He walked up to the alien and tapped it on one of its four shoulders.

The alien jumped in surprise and put two of its hands over its two hearts. “Oh dear!” it said. “You startled me! What are you doing here, little boy?”

“This is where I live,” said Jef.

“You live here?” said the alien. “Little boys aren’t supposed to live in attics. They’re supposed to live in bedrooms.”

“What’s a bedroom?” asked Jef.

The alien shook its head sadly. “You don’t know what a bedroom is? Humans can be so very strange… Hmph!” It went back to fiddling with the wires on its spaceship.

Jef didn’t much like being called “strange,” especially not by a four-armed blue alien with gigantic spectacles, but he was so very curious about the spaceship that he decided not to be mad. “What are you doing to your spaceship?” he asked the alien. “Are you trying to fix it?”

“Yes! Something is wrong with it, but I don’t know what. It started flying crooked as I was going past Earth, and then I lost control and crash-landed all the way down here!” The alien took its spectacles off and rubbed them on its shirt. “My eyesight isn’t what it used to be. Can you read what it says underneath this blinking red light?”

Jef looked at the tiny little words, but it was no use. “No one has ever taught me how to read!” he explained.

The alien wrinkled its wide, flat forehead. “Haven’t you ever been to school?”

“What’s school?” asked Jef.

“Oh dear,” said the alien. “Oh dear, and oh bother. Humans, eh? Humans. School is where you learn important things, like reading and writing and long division and arts and crafts. But I think you can still help me. Take this pencil and copy down the letters you see onto this paper, but bigger. Then I can read them.”

“Okay,” said Jef. He took the pencil and paper that the alien had pulled out of its shirt pocket and started copying the letters. These were the letters he copied:


“There,” he said, when he had finished. “What does this say?”

“Oh, of course!” said the alien. “It says ‘screw loose.’ So that means all I have to do is tighten this here…” He took a screwdriver out of his back pocket and reached up to the engine on the side of the spaceship. There was a screw sticking out a little ways, and the alien used its screwdriver to tighten it back in. “Problem solved!” he said. “At least, I hope so. Thank you so much for your help! Oh, and silly me, I haven’t properly introduced myself. I am YoboHogo, space explorer. What’s your name?”

It took Jef a few seconds to think of his name, because he hadn’t used it in a while, but at last he remembered. “I’m Jef,” he said.

“Pleased to meet you, Jef,” said YoboHogo. “Now I suppose I must be on my way.” He closed the panel on the side of the spaceship and started to climb back in through the door.

“Where are you going?” asked Jef. He didn’t want YoboHogo to leave, not so soon! He had too many questions to ask about what space was like, and how it felt to have blue skin.

“I’m on my way to visit my aunt and uncle on Mars,” said YoboHogo. “And thanks to that loose screw, I’m already late!”

“What are aunts and uncles?” asked Jef. “Can I come visit them with you?”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” said YoboHogo. “What would your parents think?”

“What are parents?” asked Jef. “Do you mean the man at the trapdoor?”

“Doesn’t even know what parents are?” muttered YoboHogo. “Lives in an attic, never taught how to read… You poor boy. Maybe you had better come with me, after all.”

“Hooray!” cried Jef, and in a flash he had crawled into the spaceship behind YoboHogo and settled himself into one of the soft, comfortable seats inside.

YoboHogo pulled the door of the spaceship closed and then buckled Jef tightly into his seat. “Hold on tight while we’re taking off!” he said. He grabbed onto four different controls, one with each hand, and started to twist and turn them all at the same time. The spaceship growled and rumbled and grumbled and howled, and then with a flash of light it zipped backwards out of the hole in the roof of Jef’s attic and zoomed up into the sky.

In just a few seconds the spaceship was so far off the ground that Jef could see for miles and miles in every direction. There were houses everywhere, and big, tall, glass buildings, and roads filled with teeny tiny cars, and mountains, and lakes… Jef had never imagined that all of these things had been surrounding him in his little attic. The only things he had ever known about, for as long as he could remember, were the attic, the trap door, and the brick walls he could see through the crack. Seeing all of these things made Jef feel very, very small.

They flew higher and higher, until the sky turned black and Jef could see the whole Earth way below them, like a big blue and green ball hanging in space.

“Isn’t it pretty?” said YoboHogo. “Your attic is down there somewhere, far, far away, so far away that it’s just a tiny speck, and we can’t even see it.”

“A tiny speck?” said Jef. “Far, far away? Ooooh…” Suddenly he started to cry.

“What is it?” asked YoboHogo. “What’s wrong?”

Between sobs, Jef said, “I’ve never been outside of my attic before, and I’m scared! What if I never see it again?”

“Don’t be sad,” said YoboHogo. “Don’t be scared. You’re on an exciting new adventure now!”

But Jef couldn’t stop crying.

“I know what you need,” said YoboHogo. “Wait right here.” The alien got out of his seat and bustled off into another part of the spaceship. After a couple of minutes he came back carrying a bowl and a little blue bag with a zipper and a bell at the top. “You’re probably hungry for breakfast. Here: eat this.” He handed Jef the bowl.

Jef didn’t recognize what was inside. “This isn’t carrot soup,” he said.

“No,” said YoboHogo. “It’s cereal. I hope you like space cow milk.”

Jef tried the cereal. It was delicious! He liked it far more than watery carrot soup. He ate it all up, and felt much less hungry, but it only made him feel a little bit better. He still missed his attic.

“Now, try this,” said YoboHogo, handing Jef the little blue bag. “It’s a Sad Sack. Next time you start to feel sad, scared, or worried, just open the Sad Sack up and put those feelings inside. You can try it now, if you want.”

Unzipping the bag, Jef held it up and looked inside. “How does it work?” he asked.

“Tell it how you feel,” said YoboHogo.

That sounded like a silly thing to do, but Jef thought it was worth trying, so he said, “I’m sad because I miss my attic.” The bell at the top of the Sack started to jingle, and the Sack shook a little bit in Jef’s hands, and then ZIP!, it zipped itself shut. Even though Jef hadn’t put anything inside it, the sack didn’t look quite as empty as it had before.

“Feel better?” asked YoboHogo.

And Jef did! He stopped crying and wiped his eyes. Something strange was happening to his face. “I feel… funny,” he said.

“Uh oh,” said YoboHogo. “You aren’t getting space-sick, are you?”

Jef had been sick before, and it didn’t feel like that. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I’m all warm and fuzzy inside. What does that mean?”

“Oh,” said YoboHogo, “that just means you’re happy! Don’t you know what happiness feels like, Jef?”

It wasn’t like anything Jef had ever felt before. The corners of his mouth were rising up towards his eyes and he wanted to jump up and down! It was kind of like when he was running around and around his attic in circles, or playing with a caterpillar in his hand, but way better. “What do people do when they’re happy?” asked Jef.

“Well, sometimes they laugh,” said YoboHogo, “like this.” And he laughed, “Ha ha ha ha!” while his round belly wobbled.

Jef tried it: “Ha ha.” It sounded strange, but it felt good. He tried again: “Ha ha hah hah.” And then suddenly he couldn’t stop! “Hah hah hee hee ho ho ho!” he laughed, and YoboHogo laughed with him.

“Now you’ve got it,” said YoboHogo. “It sure is nice to laugh sometimes. But remember, even though you can put your sadness and fear into the Sad Sack, that doesn’t mean it goes away. You have to let those feelings out every now and then, so the Sack doesn’t get too full.”

“Okay,” said Jef, but what he was really thinking was that he never wanted to be sad or scared again, not when being happy felt this good! He put the Sad Sack into his pocket.

“It’s time for us to head to Mars,” said YoboHogo. “It’s going to take a little while to get there, so you can go take a nap on the bed in the back.”

“What’s a bed?” asked Jef.

“A bed is what you sleep on.”

“I sleep on a desk,” said Jef.

YoboHogo said, “I think you’ll like a bed better than a desk.” He led Jef to the bed and tucked him in under the blankets. The bed was so soft and comfortable and warm that Jef fell asleep in three seconds flat!


When Jef woke up, he had been sleeping so deeply that he’d forgotten where he was. What was he doing all wrapped up in these blankets? Why was he so warm? He wasn’t used to being all covered up like this! He yelled and kicked the blankets off.

Then he remembered that he was in a bed aboard YoboHogo’s spaceship, flying through space towards Mars, far away from his quiet, dark attic. For a minute he was scared again, but then he felt the Sad Sack in his pocket. He took it out, opened the zipper, and said, “I’m scared because I’m way up in space!” The bell jingled, the Sack filled up a little bit more, and then it zipped itself shut, and Jef felt better again. He put the Sack back in his pocket, got out of the bed, and went looking for YoboHogo.

He found the alien at the front of the spaceship, sitting in the pilot’s seat and flying with the four joysticks. Where the blue-and-green Earth had been before, there was now a big red planet, covered in white swirling clouds.

“You’re awake!” said YoboHogo, when he saw Jef. “Did you like the bed?”

“Mmhmm,” said Jef, nodding, but he didn’t tell YoboHogo that he’d had to use the Sad Sack again, because he wanted YoboHogo to think he was too brave to need it.

“That’s Mars up ahead,” said YoboHogo. “We’re almost there. Pretty soon you’ll get to meet my aunt and uncle. They’re very nice people. I’m sure you’ll like them.” The alien helped Jef strap into his seat for the landing, and then the spaceship swooped down through the clouds of Mars and went zooming past the red mountains and over the red valleys.

Soon they came to a round blue house sitting on top of a tall, red, dusty hill. The spaceship landed a little ways away. Before they opened the door and got out, YoboHogo gave Jef a little pill to swallow, to help him breathe the Mars air, since air on Mars is very different from air on Earth. The pill made Jef’s mouth and throat feel ticklish.

YoboHogo opened the door of the spaceship and helped Jef down the ladder onto the ground. Two other aliens had come out of the round blue house and were waving their four hands to say hello.

“That’s my aunt and uncle!” said YoboHogo. “Wave hello to them!”

Jef waved, even though he only had two hands to do it with.

YoboHogo said, “Let’s go see if they have supper ready for us.” He took Jef’s hand and led him up the hill to the round blue house. He gave his aunt and uncle each a big, four-armed hug.

“It’s so nice of you to visit!” said YoboHogo’s Uncle UmburBumbur, who had dark blue skin, a belly shaped like a basketball, and big square glasses. “And who is this friend that you brought with you?”

“This is Jef,” said YoboHogo. “I crashed into his attic on Earth. He has spent his whole life sleeping on a desk and eating nothing but carrot soup, so I decided to bring him with me.”

“Oh, you poor dear!” said YoboHogo’s Aunt AndaManda, who had green skin and teeny tiny little glasses shaped like half-moons. “Come on inside. We’ll feed you waffles and strawberries and apple pie. Have you ever had ice cream, Jef?”

Jef hadn’t ever had ice cream—can you imagine?—so he shook his head.

“Poor dear!” cried Aunt AndaManda again. “Poor, poor dear! Quick, Uncle UmburBumbur: get the ice cream!”

They rushed him inside and Uncle UmburBumbur fetched the ice cream from the freezer. Jef took one careful little bite and his face lit up into an enormous smile. He loved it! He started scooping big spoonfuls of ice cream into his mouth, even faster than he could swallow.

YoboHogo laughed. “Slow down, Jef. Slow down! Save some room for the waffles and strawberries!”

When Jef had eaten two heaping bowls of ice cream, Aunt AndaManda give him a waffle covered in strawberries and whipped cream, and he gobbled that up, too, and asked for more.

“Careful, Jef,” said Aunt AndaManda. “You might give yourself a tummy ache.”

“Oh, fiddle faddle,” said Uncle UmburBumber. “Fluff ‘n’ puff. Let the boy eat! He’s had nothing but carrot soup his whole life…”

“Yes, please let me have some more,” begged Jef.

So Aunt AndaManda kept the food coming. Jef had another waffle with strawberries, three pieces of apple pie, and then one more bowl of ice cream for dessert. When he was finished there was a stack of dishes in front of him that was as tall as he was. Uncle UmburBumbur whisked the dishes away into the sink and began washing them.

“To bed with you now, I think!” said Aunt AndaManda. “All that space travel, and all that food, and you’re so far away from home… A good night’s sleep will do you well! YoboHogo, would you show Jef to the guest room?”

YoboHogo brought Jef up the stairs and down the hallway and showed him into the guest room, where there was a nice, big, soft bed waiting. “I told you my aunt and uncle were nice people, didn’t I?” said YoboHogo.

Jef tried to say, “Yes,” but he had eaten so much food that all he could do was roll onto the bed and lie on his back, staring at the ceiling with his mouth open. He looked down at his tummy, and it seemed almost as big and round as all of the aliens’ tummies were! “Oooooh,” he moaned.

“What’s wrong?” asked YoboHogo. “Did you get a tummy ache?”

Jef nodded. The food had all tasted so good, but now he wished he hadn’t eaten so much of it. He remembered that he still had the Sad Sack, though, so he took it out, opened it up, and said, “I feel sick because I ate too much yummy food and got a big tummy ache!” The bell jingled, the Sack swelled up nice and full, and the zipper went zip! and shut tight. Right away Jef’s tummy felt a little better.

“Jef, have you been remembering to let some of your bad feelings out of the Sad Sack now and then, like I told you to?” asked YoboHogo.

Actually, Jef had forgotten all about letting his feelings out. Besides, it felt so nice to put all of his sadness, scared feelings, and tummy aches into the Sack. Why would he want to let any of those things back out again? Why shouldn’t he make himself feel better all the time? Jef decided to tell a lie. “Yes, I’ve been letting them out,” he said.

“Good,” said YoboHogo. “It’s very important, you know. Well, have a nice sleep! I’ll see you in the morning.” He turned out the light and closed the door.

Jef fell asleep and dreamed of mountains of waffles and strawberries, covered in snow made of ice cream.


The next morning Jef was woken up by the happy singing voice of Aunt AndaManda. “Wake up, wake up, sleepy little boy!” she sang. “You wouldn’t want to miss breakfast, would you?”

Jef sat up and asked, “What’s breakfast?”

“Breakfast is the meal you eat in the morning,” said Aunt AndaManda. “Haven’t you ever eaten breakfast before?”

Of course, Jef hadn’t. He was only used to getting carrot soup for supper. He didn’t know that people usually ate three meals every day instead of just one. “Oh boy!” he said. “Do I get to have more waffles?”

“No,” said Aunt AndaManda. “Here on Mars we eat waffles for supper and have chicken and potatoes for breakfast!”

Jef didn’t know what chicken and potatoes were, so he didn’t know how silly it was to eat them for breakfast. He just thought they sounded delicious—and, of course, he was right. “Hooray!” he said, and he jumped out of bed with a giant smile.

YoboHogo and Uncle UmburBumbur were already downstairs waiting. Everyone sat down, and Uncle UmburBumbur said thank you for the food, and Jef started eating as fast as he could. Yum yum yum! The chicken and potatoes were so delicious. Jef especially loved the gravy. He even ate a big bunch of broccoli! This time, though, Jef remembered to stop eating before he gave himself another tummy ache.

When everyone was done eating and Uncle UmburBumbur had taken the dishes away, YoboHogo said, “We’ve had such a wonderful time visiting you here on Mars, Aunt AndaManda and Uncle UmburBumbur, but I think I should bring Jef home.”

“Oh no!” said Jef. “But I want to stay here!”

“We can’t stay on Mars forever,” said YoboHogo. “I have lots more exploring to do, and it’s time for you to go back to Earth.”

This made Jef very sad. He had been having so much fun here on Mars. His smile drooped down into a frown, and then into a very sad face. He sniffled, and was almost going to cry, but before he did, he took out the Sad Sack and opened it up. He said, “I feel very sad because I want to stay here on Mars and not go back to Earth.”

The Sad Sack shook and swelled up very full, and the bell jingled, and the Sack began to shake harder and harder.

“What’s happening to it?” asked Jef. “Why is it shaking so hard?”

“Haven’t you been letting your feelings out?” said YoboHogo.

Jef knew he couldn’t lie again. “No,” he admitted. “I didn’t want to be sad or scared anymore.”

“If you haven’t been letting your feelings out, then the Sack has gotten too full!” said YoboHogo. “Now all of those feelings are going to come out whether you want them to or not. Here they come!”

The Sad Sack jumped out of Jef’s hands onto the floor and shook around and around and around until suddenly POOF!, out jumped a little yellow monster with ugly red eyes, a flat, piggy nose, four stubby legs, a brown-and-yellow tail, and sharp bristly hairs all over its body. It hissed like a cat and leapt up onto the table.

“It’s a Sadness Monster!” cried Aunt AndaManda. “Look out!”

The Sadness Monster spotted Jef, flicked its tail, and pounced onto his head. It grabbed Jef’s head with its legs and wrapped its tail around his neck, and suddenly Jef began to feel so sad, and so scared, and so sick all at once that he didn’t know what to do!

“Help me!” said Jef. “Oh, please help me!” Before he could stop himself, he started to cry and scream and sob and wail.

Then he felt twelve arms wrap around him tight, as YoboHogo, Aunt AndaManda, and Uncle UmburBumbur all gave him a big, warm group hug. All three of them started to cry with Jef, helping to share his sadness and fear.

The Sadness Monster howled and yowled and hissed, but it quickly began to shrink, smaller and smaller, until pop!, it disappeared.

The three aliens let go of their hugs and lifted up their glasses and wiped their eyes on their sleeves. “How do you feel, Jef?” asked YoboHogo. “Are you all right?”

Jef wasn’t sure how to feel. He was still a little bit sad, but he felt much better now that the Sadness Monster was gone.

YoboHogo said, “That’s what happens when you put all of your bad feelings into the Sad Sack and never let them out. If you store up too many at once, they turn into a Sadness Monster and attack you! But if you have people who love you, like your family or your friends, they can help share your sad or scared or sick feelings, and then those feelings aren’t so bad.”

“Thank you for helping me,” said Jef. “I wish I had family or friends back on Earth, though! There’s nobody to help me with my feelings in my attic except for the man at the trapdoor, and all he ever goes is look grumpy and bring me carrot soup.”

“Hmm,” said YoboHogo. “Hmm hmm hmm. Maybe we can do something about that! I have an idea we can try once we get back to your attic.”

Aunt AndaManda gave Jef some waffles and ice cream to take along for the flight back to Earth, and Uncle UmburBumbur picked up the Sad Sack and gave it back to Jef.

“Thank you!” said Jef. “Maybe I can come visit you again someday.”

“We would like that very much,” said Uncle UmburBumbur.

Jef gave Uncle UmburBumbur and Aunt AndaManda both one last hug, and then he and YoboHogo went back to the spaceship, got inside, and blasted off for Earth.


When they made it back to Jef’s house, there were workmen up on the roof trying to repair the hole that YoboHogo’s ship had made in Jef’s attic. The workmen looked up and saw the spaceship and were so scared that they dropped all their tools and went running away down the street.

YoboHogo flew the spaceship through the hole into the attic again and he and Jef climbed out. As much as Jef had loved Mars and hadn’t wanted to leave, it felt good to be back in his familiar home again.

“Here you are, safe and sound,” said YoboHogo. “And before I leave, I’d better put my plan into action!”

“What plan?” asked Jef. “What are you going to do?”

“Watch and see,” said YoboHogo. He had Jef hide behind his old desk, and then went to the trapdoor and stomped on it three times, stomp stomp stomp.

After a few seconds, Jef heard the sound of footsteps, and the trapdoor swung open. The man at the trapdoor stuck his bald head up, frowning and grumbling. “You workmen always have some new complaint!” he said, and then he saw YoboHogo and his spaceship. The man’s eyes grew extra wide, and his mouth opened up in a big “O”. “Wh-who are you?” he said. “Wh-what in the world are you?”

“I am YoboHogo!” said YoboHogo, holding all four of his arms out wide and shaking them around. “I have come from Mars to live in your attic! Boogidy-boo!”

The man in the trapdoor squeaked like a big mouse and ran back down his ladder, letting the trapdoor fall shut behind him.

“I think my plan is working!” said YoboHogo to Jef.

“How is it working?” asked Jef. “I don’t understand.”

“You’ll see,” said YoboHogo. “Just wait here. You’ll see. Now, it’s time for me to go do some more exploring. I’m off to Venus next! Goodbye, Jef. I’ll see you again someday soon.”

Jef gave YoboHogo a big hug and said, “Goodbye, YoboHogo!”

Then YoboHogo climbed into his spaceship, started up the engines, and flew off into space, making the whole attic rumble.

Jef sat on his desk and waited for YoboHogo’s plan to work. He wondered what was supposed to be happening, and how long he was supposed to wait.

After a while, he heard footsteps climbing the ladder to the trapdoor. Was the man at the trapdoor coming back again so soon?

The trapdoor opened up and someone stuck their head through, but it wasn’t the man at the trapdoor. It was a woman in a blue hat. “I don’t see an alien or a spaceship,” said the woman in the blue hat. Then she saw Jef. “Oh, hello, little boy,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Hi,” said Jef. “I’m Jef.”

The woman in the blue hat climbed all the way up into the attic. She was wearing a blue shirt, too, and she had a shiny badge stuck onto her shirt. “What are you doing up here all alone, Jef?” she asked.

“I live here,” said Jef. “I’ve lived here for as long as I can remember. But I just got back from a visit to Mars.”

“Is that so?” said the woman in the blue hat. “You know, you look familiar, Jef. I think maybe I’ve seen a picture of you before. Yes, I’ve definitely seen your picture back at the police station. It’s been hanging on the wall there.”

The man at the trapdoor climbed up behind the policewoman and said, “It was right here, I tell you! A big round silver spaceship, and a blue alien with giant glasses and four arms!”

“There’s no spaceship,” said the policewoman, “but there is my new friend Jef. I’ve been looking for him for a long time, and now I’ve found him! Why don’t we all go to the police station to celebrate?”

The man at the trapdoor didn’t seem very happy about going to the police station, but Jef was excited. He didn’t know what a police station was, or why the policewoman had been looking for him, but it sounded like an adventure, and he now knew how much fun adventures could be.

Jef got to ride in a car all the way to the police station. It was kind of like YoboHogo’s spaceship, but it stayed on the ground and didn’t go as fast. When they got to the police station, a man and a woman were waiting for them.

“These are your parents,” said the policewoman as they got out of the car. “Do you remember them?”

Jef didn’t, but he did remember YoboHogo talking about parents once, and saying that he was supposed to have some. It turned out he did, after all! He hoped they would be as nice as Uncle UmburBumbur and Aunt AndaManda.

Jef walked up to his parents and said, “Hi. I’m Jef!”

“Hello, Jef,” said his parents. They were both looking at him and crying.

Jef knew what to do about that. He reached into his pocket for the Sad Sack, but to his surprise, it was gone! How could he help his parents now?

Then he remembered: there was another way to help people when they were sad. He reached out his arms and gave both of his parents a big, warm hug.


Year of Stories – Week 14

Welcome to week 14 of the Year of Stories!

Free this week is From, a 3,100-word western-inspired drama. Read it now! You can also buy it for 99¢ in the Store.

People change. Places change. Dean Cooper knows that as well as anyone. Change is the only constant thing in his life; he accepted that fact a long time ago. But when he decides to stop in at his childhood home one day, will he find its new owners’ changes so easy to handle?

The highlighted Store release for this week is Jef and the Sad Sack, a 5,300-word sci-fi children’s story. Read it now for only $0.99!

There is a boy who lives in an attic. His name, when he bothers to remember it, is Jef. No one ever comes to visit Jef except the man at the trapdoor, until one day a spaceship crashes into Jef’s attic and whisks him away on a fantastic adventure!

To read previously released stories, check out the Year of Stories page.