Fernando’s Wish – Holiday Contest Entry

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 thoughts on “Fernando’s Wish – Holiday Contest Entry

  1. Lady Fancifull says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

        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. !

          • Lady Fancifull says:

            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

      • Laurel Leigh says:

        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 says:

          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. 😀

  2. FictionFan says:

    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 says:

      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?

  3. Susanna Leonard Hill says:

    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 says:

      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? 😀

  4. Catherine Johnson says:

    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 says:

      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!

    • Jilanne Hoffmann says:

      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!

  5. Ste J says:

    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?

  6. Sheila says:

    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!

  7. Vanessa-Jane Chapman says:

    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 🙂

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