For the Busy Business-Parent

Whimsical Bedtime Stories for Children of All Ages



A long time ago, in a land far across the ocean, there lived a kindly old man whose name was Alfonso.

Alfonso lived in a small house, at the end of a small street, in a small town called Villa Macaroni. He shared the little house with a mouse named Minerva! Minerva was very old too. She was also very wise and very friendly, and she and Alfonso often had long talks together.

Yes, she could talk, but she had a tiny squeaky voice, and you had to listen very hard to hear her.

Alfonso was the towns' LampLighter. Every evening, just before it got dark, he had to take his ladder, and his matches, and his lamp oil, and light every street lamp in Villa Macaroni. It was a very important job, because if he didn't get the lamps lit, then all the people would not know which way to walk, and the horses would pull their buggys down the wrong streets. It would be very dark!

One day, as the sun was just starting to set behind the mountain, Alfonso began to get ready for work. He put his ladder by the door, put his matches in his pocket, and went to the big barrel in the corner to fill his bucket with lamp oil. But when he looked in the barrel... what do you think he saw? It was empty!

"Oh no!" he cried, "It can't be empty! Not tonight of all nights." For you see, this was Christmas Eve! "Oh my!" the old man wailed, "If I don't get the lamps lit tonight, then Santa Claudio", (that was what they called Santa Claus in his country), "wont be able to see the town from way up in the air! And all the children will be without presents on Christmas morning!"

Alfonso was very sad. There was not enough time to go to the next village and get more oil. And so he sat in his big brown chair and rocked back and forth. He cried and fretted, and didn't know what to do.

Minerva the mouse heard her friend crying and worrying, and came out of her mouse hole to see what the matter was. When Alfonso told her of his troubles, she became so upset and found herself in such a state that her squeaky little voice got even squeakier and tinier. This was going to be a terrible Christmas!

While Alfonso and Minerva were busy setting and fretting, there came a scratching at the door. The old Lamp Lighter got wearily to his feet and opened the door. There he found two beautiful black cats, with shining yellow eyes looking woefully up at him. They were very hungry and very tired, and looked as if they had traveled a very long way.

"Well!" said the old man, "What do we have here? Two lost kitties in search of a meal and a bed?"

Minerva had scurried back to her mouse hole as soon as she saw the two black beasts, for in all her years she still hadn't come to trust cats. She knew that mice and cats generally didn't get along well together, so she opened her little mouse hole door just a wee bit, and watched and listened.

The old man picked up the two cats and carried them to a thick rug by the fireplace. Then he poured a large saucer of warm milk, and set it down in front of them. The two weary travelers lapped up the wonderful treat in a flash, and then both fell soundly asleep, purring softly as they nodded off.

The visitors had taken Alfonsos mind off his troubles for awhile, but now all of his woes came quickly back. He would not be able to face the townspeople in the morning, he would be too ashamed of not having done his job and having dissapointed all those children.

There was only one thing to do. He would go to bed, get a good nights' sleep, and then he would leave the little town early in the morning, for he felt he could not stay there any more. And so, with a heavy heart, he laid his head on his pillow and tried to rest.

Minerva was still upset with having the two black terrors in the house, but something else was on her mind. She was trying to remember the stories her grandparents had told her long ago. Stories about midnight black cats with gleaming eyes..... eyes as bright and as yellow as sunflowers!.

"They were probably just fairytales" she thought, but still, she wished she could remember! So she thought and thought. She squeezed her tiny eyes shut and she scratched her head with her skinny little tail as she tried her best to to recall the stories.

All of a sudden she remembered! She remembered the stories about the magical black cats! And she knew exactly what must be done!

Now Minerva was deathly afraid of the two black creatures who were sleeping so soundly on the hearth, but she gathered all her courage, put on a brave face, and marched right out of her hole and right up to the beasts. She poked and prodded the pair until they each opened one sleepy eye, and then, ever so softly, she began to speak to them.

Morning came and the old man awoke to the sounds of bells ringing and children laughing. He looked out the window and saw people smiling and talking and having a grand time! Boys and girls were riding new bicycles and playing with lovely new dolls. It was a sight to behold! A Christmas morning sight!

And just then, he saw an even stranger sight. There, in front of the hearth, on the nice warm rug, were the two black cats and his little friend Minerva, all curled up together!

This was truly a confusing day!, thought the puzzled Alfonso. "The townsfolk should be sad, and angry with me for not lighting the lamps," he reasoned, "And these three should certainly not be curled up together so peacefully!"

He picked up Minerva , and gently stroked her fur until she opened her sleepy little eyes and peered up at him. "Look there Minerva!," said Alfonso, as he gestured towards the cheerful sight outside his window. "The people are happy and the children have new toys! I don't understand! Please tell me what has happened!"

Minerva was wide awake now, so she began to tell him what had come to pass. She told of remembering the tales her grandparents had told her, about the magical powers of black cats. She told him how she had faced her fears, and gotten the help of the two wonderful creatures. How the three of them had gone out into the cold, snowy night, and how they had gone to each and every street in the village.

She told him how she had used a mouse-sized tissue to remove a little of the yellow sparkle from each of the cats eyes, and how she had put that sparkle into the lamps, and how that sparkle had made the lamps shine more brilliantly than they ever had before!

She told him how they had done this at each and every lamp, and how when they were done, the town was brighter than it had ever been! It was so bright that Santa Claudio had no trouble seeing the town and delivering his gifts. It was so bright that he even managed to see a few houses on the edge of town that he had never been able to see before! And so he was able to make even more children happy!

"So that...", said Minerva, with a tiny yawn, "that is the way it happened."As she finished speaking, the two black beauties on the rug began to stir. Slowly they looked up at Alfonso and Minerva. And as the old Lamp Lighter looked into the cats eyes his own eyes filled with tears. For they were not the same bright and shining eyes he had seen the night before. Today they different. The magical sparkle was gone and their beautiful yellow color was no more.

The cats had given the kindly old man the most valuable gift they had to offer. They knew they would no longer be able to see as well as before, but to them it no longer mattered. With Minerva's help they had saved Christmas for Alonso's entire town.....and in return, they found a warm and loving home and a fine person to take care of them.

It was a very Merry Christmas !



The Old LampLighter by D. A. Tony Ciango - Copyright 1997 - All Rights Reserved

Many thanks to the folks at MousePad for selected graphics

About the Author:

At the time this story was written, the delightful D.A. Tony Ciango and his wife, Helen, along with Jack & Jill, their two black cats, lived in Titletown, USA, his term for Green Bay, Wisconsin. The web was fairly new to the general public back then and Tony loved to surf the net. If he happened upon images which captured his imagination, often he would be inspired to weave a story around them.

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