2016 Winner: NAPOLEON AND JOSEPHINE by Maria Therese Qualkinbush


So there I was, sitting on the porch in a rocking chair. It was chilly and I was wearing my cheerleader’s jacket, jeans and pink runners.

I was waiting patiently.

Ok, I admit it, not waiting patiently at all! I had been rocking fitfully in the chair for – what — it had to be coming on an hour now. I chewed on a stray pen cap. Yup, that’s me, the bane of pen caps everywhere.

The paperboy, Jonathon, came biking around the corner, throwing newspapers on the door steps. He coasted down a hill, the neighbor’s bad tempered donkey, Coffee Bean, nipping at him as he rode past. He came to a stop at my house.

“Good morrow, my friend of friends,” he said theatrically.

“Hi, Jonathon. Um, you’ve been reading Shakespeare again, haven’t you?”

“No. I mean nay! You wrong me!” Jonathon was homeschooled and a dork.

He grinned, pleased with himself, keeping his distance from my gate.

“Forgive me for not coming closer, but I am fearing of your beast, a fowl-tempered fowl with fire for brains and a blade for a beak!”

“Uh, he’s in the bushes over there, you might want to throw me the paper”

He did.

“Mine eyes have beheld umm, how would you say ‘trouble’…? Whatever — mine eyes have beheld much trouble of late. The constables were conversing on dire topics. Why, may I ask, are you holding court out in such a frigid clime?” he said.

It took me a moment to comprehend his words. “Oh, I’m waiting for a present. The UPS truck should be here soo-”


A UPS van raced around the corner of our street, gravel flying. The grin melted off Jonathon’s face. He completely forgot he was trying to speak like Shakespeare.

“Got to go, Humming Birdy is coming! Don’t want to get run over or get talked to death. Bye!”

“Uh. Bye,” I replied.

Bertha Perter, or Humming Birdy, was the UPS Lady. She drove like a maniac, driving at full throttle then screeching to a stop in front of a house she was delivering to, then pulling away, leaving gravel and exhaust hanging in the air. She was also the town chatterbox. I was torn between running inside or waiting. I stayed. I wanted that present as soon as possible!

I looked up the road, the UPS truck was coming up the street. It was driving at full velocity, as usual. It was ten doors down…nine… then it stopped with a squeal of the tires, sending a cloud of gravel into the air. Humming Birdy, a skinny, dark haired lady in her early twenties, hopped out, holding a cardboard box. She raced up to the house. The door opened and she handed the package to Mrs. Dixon. She grinned and told Birdy something. Birdy smiled broadly, then laughed. They conversed and laughed some more.

“Argh!!! Hurry up already!!!” I thought, in anguish. After what seemed like hours she said goodbye to Mrs. Dixon and trotted back to her truck. Eight houses away…seven…six… five… then she stopped again at the Nelson house! The Nelson’s Guinea hens screeched. I developed an uncontrollable twitch in my right eye. She rang the bell, then left the box on the porch.

Humming Birdy returned to driving. I leaned forward in the chair. Thankfully, the truck drove right past the rest of houses and stopped in front of my house.

I flew out of my chair, cleared the steps in a single jump and bounded across the yard. Not that I was eager to talk to her, but I was eager to get my present! I was almost by the fence in the front of the yard when an unexpected ambush came leaping out of the shrubs on my left. Napoleon, a full-grown white goose, jumped on me, knocking me down, hissing, honking, pecking, flapping his wings, and pretty much trying to kill me. He was obviously in a good mood because he was going easy on me.

Now, some things you need to know about our geese: we have two: Napoleon, and his mate, Josephine; and, you never know where the pair are going to be, with Napoleon hopping out of nowhere and busting out some ninja-goose moves. Why? Because whenever Josephine saw an empty nest, she had the urge to sit in it. It didn’t matter if it were a chicken nest or a fallen robin nest, Josephine would squeeze herself in there, settle in, and Napoleon always felt obligated to protect her, wherever they went. I usually remembered to be more cautious when I crossed the yard, but today I was too distracted and excited. Humming-Birdy got out, looking very concerned. Napoleon, feeling he had done his job, waddled clumsily off my belly and disappeared back under the bush, hissing loudly at Tiptoe, my fat orange tabby before climbing under the shrubs.

“You alright?” Humming Birdy asked.

“Ugh! I think so.” I said, rubbing my arm where the psychopathic goose had pecked me.

“Ok, well, did you know that the Smiths were burning trash yesterday? It’s true! Last night I forgot to feed my cat and this morning she ripped up my favorite slippers! Last night a burglar broke into the Miller’s house, I actually think it might have been my cat, cat-burglar, get it? Ha ha ha! The Nelsons must be still on vacation because I delivered them a package yesterday and it’s still there. Anyway this new movie came out in the theater? It’s called, well I forget but something involving roses, or elephants! I don’t know!” she said in one breath and tossed me my package.

“Right, well, umm, thanks, Birdy, I really have to go. I have some cookies in the oven, and –“

“Oh, can’t your mom take them out?”

“No, she’s out.”

“Your dad then, I know he’s home, I can see his car. Do you think it will rain today?”

My face brightened.

“Oh, yeah, it probably is, you probably don’t want to get rained on, bye!”

“Yeah, you’re right, bye, and don’t forget to feed your cat or your neighbor will get robbed!”  Humming Birdy leapt into her truck, as squealing joyously, I rushed back inside, this time being careful to give Napoleon and Josephines’ bush a wide berth.

I went straight to my room, since I knew what it was.

An art kit. It consisted of colored pencils, paint brushes, pots of paint, some little canvasses, pastels, thick drawing paper — everything. I drew until my mom yelled:

“Go brush your teeth!”


Minutes later, I said goodnight to my parents and hopped into bed. I closed my eyes, ready to sleep-in tomorrow, which was Saturday. But little did I know I was going to wake up very, VERY early.


I woke up to the crazed squawking of the Guinea hens, and the braying of the donkeys, both of which belonged to the Nelsons, the neighbors who lived behind us.

It was one AM.  I jammed on my slippers, and took off downstairs. I got to the front door and flung it open. I started out onto the porch, then saw a skinny man in black run around the side of the house. He was holding a bag, and I glimpsed Mrs. Nelson’s favorite broche sticking out of the top.

“Uh. HEY, STOP!” I yelled. The guy just sped up — he was at the fence, about to vault over it when he tripped. He fell face first into a bush near it, and I heard the sickening crunch of breaking eggs. Then the furious hissing and beating of the wings as two very infuriated geese jumped him. They pecked, beat, honked-at, pummeled, and wing-slapped the burglar. He cowered as he was bullied by a pair of barn fowl. I heard sirens wailing, and the Nelsons jogged around the corner of my house. The police arrived seconds later. I told them what happened. The nice policewoman I was talking to laughed at the still-dazed burglar.

“You got egg on your face, eh?” she said.

I giggled, as I glanced at the captured burglar who had yolk all over his face, in his hair, and dripping off his chin.

“Hey, I recognize this guy, that’s Bertha Peter’s renter isn’t it? Well, I know how he found out about the Nelsons being on vacation.” said a policeman.

“No need to worry, Mrs. Nelson, all your valuables are here,” a burly policeman said, handing the bag to her.

“We caught the cat burglar. He won’t be coming here again.”

I smiled, “Yes, well, Napoleon and Josephine never did like cats.”


Authors Note: When I wrote, “Whenever Josephine saw an empty nest, she had the urge to sit in it,” it was based on what Napoleon Bonaparte (who wasn’t a goose) once said, “Whenever I see an empty throne I have the urge to sit in it.”