Fernando’s Wish – Holiday Contest Entry

12 Dec

I’m participating in Susanna Leonard Hill’s holiday story contest. Here are the rules:

1) Must be appropriate for kids,

2) Must be no more than 350 words, and

3) Severe weather must play a role in the story.

I confess, my earlier attempt was a leaky sieve that I couldn’t bear to expose to the blogging elements. But when I heard that San Francisco (all of California) was going to be hit with a severe storm nicknamed “The Pineapple Express,” I was inspired to take another stab at writing something that would, ah, hold water. It’s 345 words. Oh, and I decided to use Maine, our home-away-from-home as the setting for the story.

So ho-ho-ho! Here we go:



Fernando’s Wish

By Jilanne Hoffmann


One Christmas Eve night on a tiny island in Maine, the wind howled. Waves frothed among the rocks, and foam frittered across the path leading to the lighthouse, where the keeper and his son, Fernando, waited out the storm.

“Papa,” said Fernando. “Will Santa still come?”

“If we survive the night,” said Papa. “That will be gift enough.”

The shutters rattled. Rain sprayed through the cracks around the door.

In his heart, Fernando knew Papa was right, but in his head, he wished for a bag of marbles.

“I must check the light,” said Papa. “Ships depend on us.”

He took a lantern and climbed a ladder through an opening in the ceiling to the lighthouse tower, leaving Fernando alone.

The wind eased, and the room fell silent except for the logs hissing in the wood stove.

“Papa!” yelled Fernando. “It’s over!”

“Don’t be fooled,” came Papa’s voice from above. “It’s the hurricane’s eye. We are only halfway safe.”

Papa’s footsteps grew faint as he trudged up the spiral stairs of the tower.

Fernando stuffed rags into cracks around the door.

One bag of glorious cat’s-eye marbles, he wished. One handful.

Fernando stoked the fire. The ceiling creaked.

“Papa?” called Fernando.

No answer.

The wind resumed its howling. The ceiling creaked again.



Shards from the light’s glass fell through the hole in the ceiling.

“Help!” cried Papa. “I’m trapped!”

Fernando climbed through the hole and pulled planks of wood from the broken stairs off of Papa’s legs until he was freed.

Exhausted, they climbed down and lay on their beds by the stove, then fell into a deep sleep.

The next morning they awoke to the sound of a hundred hammers.

“Who could that be?” yawned Papa.

A note and a wrapped present lay next to Fernando:

Sorry for crashing into the light. Will send elves to fix damage tomorrow.

Love, Santa

Fernando tore open the wrapping. Green cat’s-eye marbles clicked in Fernando’s hands.

“Merry Christmas, Papa!” said Fernando. “I’m going to thank the elves!”

“Bring tools,” said Papa. “Let’s help them, too!”



58 Responses to “Fernando’s Wish – Holiday Contest Entry”

  1. Lynn A. Davidson December 12, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    This story made me laugh when Santa’s note. Wonderful story! 🙂

    • Lynn A. Davidson December 12, 2014 at 6:52 pm #

      Correction: ‘when he read Santa’s note’

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 12, 2014 at 9:11 pm #

      Thank you! I spent a long time trying to decide if that would work. I’m glad it worked for you! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Carrie Rubin December 12, 2014 at 8:08 pm #

    You nailed it. Great story!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 12, 2014 at 10:40 pm #

      Thanks, Carrie. I’m still not happy with the ending, but I ran out of time. 😀

    • apmartin2014 December 14, 2014 at 9:33 pm #

      So glad you had another try. This is a delightful story! 🙂

      • Jilanne Hoffmann December 14, 2014 at 10:02 pm #

        Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. AND I’m glad I didn’t give up, too. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Letizia December 13, 2014 at 6:51 am #

    What a charming story! I love Santa’s note! You should get your son to add drawings.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 13, 2014 at 9:37 am #

      He’s been busy decorating the house. Perhaps I’ll pull him off that job and set him to work on some illustrations. But his enthusiasm for Christmas may be hard to subdue. 😀

      • Letizia December 13, 2014 at 9:53 am #

        True, it might have to wait until the new year, haha!

  4. teresarobeson December 13, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    I’m so glad you turned a scary moment into something funny! This was really delightful (and Papa is wise). 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 13, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      I was wondering if that would work. Thank you! And I’m so glad you like Papa. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 13, 2014 at 10:00 am #

      You wouldn’t happen to be related to any Robeson’s in Central Illinois, would you?

  5. Doris Stone December 13, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    Beautiful story! Thank you for sharing!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 13, 2014 at 9:39 am #

      Thank you, Doris! It was fun to write. Susanna’s contest is fun. I love reading everyone’s stories! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  6. Lady Fancifull December 13, 2014 at 8:23 am #

    Foam frittered! Loved that.

    PS For what it’s worth (only because you said you weren’t happy with the ending, I would have liked it to end with Fernando opening the parcel to find the marbles, or even Merry Christmas Papa said Fernando. I wasn’t sure re the thanking of the elves and the helpful Papa and Fernando with tools. But that’s just MY opinion.

    Santa’s note and the marbles are a lovely full stop, the end, for me!


    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 13, 2014 at 9:48 am #

      Yes, I was wondering about that myself. Thanks for saying that. I agree with you! 😀 I seesawed between that ending and having a final illustration spread where we see Papa, Fernando, and the elves all working together to fix the lighthouse. Maybe Fernando turns the spiral staircase into a marble run. Hmmmm….too many ideas…

      But thank you again for your comment. That’s very helpful!

      • Lady Fancifull December 13, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

        I hoped you wouldn’t mind. I wouldn’t have made it except for your own comment. Glad it was helpful.

        And I don’t suppose I made any inroads on the Teflon Shield with Lynn Shepherd’s homage to Bram Stoker. ? I hope Monday ‘s post will be more irresistible. !

        • Jilanne Hoffmann December 14, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

          Shields up. Teflon holding. No weak spots found. All’s ready for new onslaught this coming week.

        • Lady Fancifull December 14, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

          I have a weird and whacky and wonderful Finnish book (in translation) coming tomorrow, and it should appeal to writers! And Wednesday sees a marvellous minor classic of English fiction set in London just at the start of the second world war. I was moved to re-read that one.I suspect by Friday (yes I’m back to 3 this coming week) I should have finished and written my current YA book review. Mind you, I’m only half way through, so there is always the chance it might go terribly wrong and fail to garner the star rating needed to get on the blog

          I’m determined to bypass that shield

        • Jilanne Hoffmann December 14, 2014 at 2:06 pm #

          Reinforcements on the alert. Working overtime to mend any breaches in the shield. Give me your best shot! 😀

  7. Laurel Leigh December 13, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    This story makes me smile. And it makes me want to live in a lighthouse. I love the alliterative lines along the way. And happy birthday!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 13, 2014 at 10:03 am #

      Thanks, Laurel! I’ve still got a lot of work on it to get it where I think it needs to be.

      And thanks for the b-day wishes. 12-13-14 Makes me wonder what’s going to happen today. 😀

      • Laurel Leigh December 13, 2014 at 10:11 am #

        Good point. You could have another child, learn to count in Tamil, or run stairs. The possibilities are pretty endless when you think about it. I on the other hand absolutely know what the day is going to bring–climbing on my roof to clean tree gunk that blew in from the last storm. I think you are getting the better end of the deal for today. And cake, right?

        • Jilanne Hoffmann December 13, 2014 at 11:30 pm #

          I picked garbage out of the piles of leaves deposited on the sidewalk in front of our place today, compliments of the “storm of the decade.” Didn’t want it to end up in the bay. Weather tends to make me understand just how inconsequential I am. But then i console myself with cake. 😀

  8. Mrs. P December 13, 2014 at 7:11 pm #

    Santa’s not was the clincher…great story! Good Luck…you’ve got my vote. 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 13, 2014 at 11:28 pm #

      I think Santa misjudged his landing. Thanks for the vote! We’ll see how things shake out. There are quite a few entries, many of them far better than this story, I think.

      • Mrs. P December 14, 2014 at 5:23 am #

        The author is often her own worst critic. And put down your book reviewer hat and enjoy the ride! 😀

        • Jilanne Hoffmann December 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

          Just so long as I don’t have to ride in the sleigh. Santa is an unreliable driver. 😀

  9. Cecilia December 13, 2014 at 10:57 pm #

    well done, a sweet story with a fun ending.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 13, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

      Thank you, Cecilia! I didn’t want it to be too serious. Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Sylvia Liu December 14, 2014 at 7:08 am #

    This was so well written, I could hear and feel the wild weather. Nice ending.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 14, 2014 at 12:57 pm #

      Thank you, Sylvia! I’ve got to check out more of the entries. They’re so fun to read! Thanks for stopping by!

  11. Patricia Tilton December 14, 2014 at 10:53 am #

    Loved how you turned a potentially scary story into something funny. Love the originality and Santa’s note.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 14, 2014 at 12:59 pm #

      Thank you, Patricia! I was hoping that the combination of danger and humor would work together and not be jarring. I’m glad it worked for you. Thanks for stopping by!

  12. FictionFan December 14, 2014 at 11:42 am #

    Drama, tension, peril, humour and marbles! Perfect Christmas story. 😀 And I gather from Laurel’s comments that belated birthday wishes are in order too – 21 is such a great age! Enjoy – and, yes, definitely cake!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 14, 2014 at 1:04 pm #

      Ha! Thank you! You are not too late! My birthday was yesterday, and I’m still celebrating. We’re going to see a production of A Christmas Carol tonight. I hope it’s filled with drama, tension, peril, humor and, well, I guess a goose instead of marbles. 😀

      As far as cake is concerned, right now I’m staring at chocolate cake layered with chocolate meringue and buttercream. It’s covered in tiny chocolate bits. Would you like a piece?

      • FictionFan December 15, 2014 at 6:29 am #

        Bah, humbug! Scrooge would probably have quite enjoyed marbles. Ooh, and yes, please!

  13. Susanna Leonard Hill December 14, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    Wonderful story, beautifully written, Jilanne! Santa’s note made me laugh out loud! I’m glad everyone was safe and Fernando got his marbles, and in the spirit of Christmas they went out to help the elves! Thanks so much for joining in the holiday fun! (And I hadn’t heard about the Pineapple Express, but what a great name!)

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 14, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

      Thanks, Susanna! Yes, the Pineapple express dropped quite a bit of rain in a very short period of time. We are thankful for the water! It was a great Christmas present.

      I just offered a piece of my birthday cake to another blogging friend. Would you like a piece of chocolate cake? 😀

  14. Catherine Johnson December 15, 2014 at 7:09 am #

    Wow, what an unexpected twist! This is definitely the stormiest entry I’ve read. So sweet that they went to help the elves.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 15, 2014 at 9:16 am #

      I don’t know. I’ve read some pretty stormy (and hilarious) ones. And I’m still unsure of the ending. If I ended it with Fernando wishing his father a Merry Christmas, it felt like it needed an additional beat. But ending it with helping the elves is in the spirit of Christmas, so I don’t know how to resolve my problem. Perhaps thinking of another ending….Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Alayne Kay Christian December 15, 2014 at 7:22 am #

    I almost missed this one. I thought I had read them all and commented. So glad,it finally caught my eye. Love the funny twist. I actually laughed out loud. Very cute.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 15, 2014 at 9:18 am #

      Thank you, Alayne! There are so many it’s easy to miss stories. I spent part of last night trying to find any I’d missed, and there were several! I still don’t think I’ve read them all. Thanks for stopping by!

  16. Ste J December 15, 2014 at 8:07 am #

    I wasn’t expecting the ending but I do like it, it is always good when there is a twist and it is the season for miracles as well. I wonder if the elves get overtime for the extra work?

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 15, 2014 at 9:23 am #

      I’m thinking time and a half and then an extra pint and log for the fire when they’re finished. And maybe a trifle with a smidgeon of brandy for good measure.

      • Ste J December 15, 2014 at 9:30 am #

        Generous, I want to work for you!

      • Ste J December 24, 2014 at 2:08 am #

        Have a wonderful Christmas and new years!!!!

        • Jilanne Hoffmann December 25, 2014 at 1:25 am #

          You, too! We are in the mountains for the holidays, so I think we’ll take a midnight walk on New Year’s Eve. See as many stars as we can. Cheers!

  17. heylookawriterfellow December 15, 2014 at 8:37 am #

    Oh, Jilanne! You grabbed me with the first paragraph. What a vivid scene you create!

    I also loved how you took such dramatic material and added a little glint of whimsy. Santa drives like my grandma.

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 15, 2014 at 9:30 am #

      Thanks, Mike! So the song doesn’t go “Grandma got run over by a reindeer”? Instead it’s “Grandma hit the wall and crashed the Caddy, coming home from our house Christmas Eve. You may think she drives a little crazy, but as for me and Grandpa, we’re relieved. No one was injured!”

      • heylookawriterfellow December 15, 2014 at 10:30 am #

        Grandma’s family was just trying to drum up a lawsuit. The Big Guy was innocent on that occasion.

  18. tchistorygal December 20, 2014 at 2:34 am #

    Great Story Jilanne! I don’t know how you packed so much suspense into 345 words. I clearly need more practice. This would make a wonderful picture book! 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 20, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

      Thank you! It’s like writing poetry. Compression, compression, compression. Happy holidays!

  19. Sheila December 23, 2014 at 6:16 am #

    I love this. You’ve captured the feeling of the storm and the magic of Christmas all in just a few hundred words. I love the ending too because they were thoughtful enough to help the elves. That’s a great message for a children’s book or any kind of book. Now I’m in the Christmas spirit for present wrapping!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 23, 2014 at 11:35 pm #

      Thanks, Sheila! Merry Christmas! We are in the mountains, but it’s too warm for snow. So we’ll just have to imagine Santa and his reindeer showing up in the mud. 😀

  20. Vanessa-Jane Chapman December 31, 2014 at 12:42 am #

    Ahh, how lovely! I’d have been gutted if he didn’t get the marbles, and was content with just surviving! 😉 Although, I’m thinking Santa should help with the fixing himself if he made the damage! Happy new year to you 🙂

    • Jilanne Hoffmann December 31, 2014 at 1:01 am #

      Yeah, I gave Santa a break since he’d been up all night delivering presents. Maybe I should’ve made him do additional public service work. 😀

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