WFOL 2024 Challenge

Winterfest Guests


by Lindariel


Zach and Geoffrey took turns playing hacky-sack as they waited in the Tunnels underneath Stan Kaczmarek’s Juniper Street building to escort some Helpers Below to the Tunnel community’s beloved Winterfest celebration. This year, George Robinson, his wife Shirley, and their adult son Thaddeus would be coming to the party from a new location – their second grocery store, which had enjoyed an outstandingly successful opening earlier that year in July.

“Aw, shoot!” Zach exclaimed when he miscalculated his latest tap and sent the small sand-filled bag flying out of his reach. “Your turn.”

“Thanks,” Geoffrey replied, as he ran to gather up Zach’s miss. “I wonder why Mr. Robinson and his family asked for extra help getting to the Tunnels?”

Zach shrugged. “Don’t know. My guess is they’re probably bringing some last-minute donations for William.”

“Yeah,” Geoffrey agreed. “But isn’t Winterfest supposed to be a thank you for our Helpers? I know William tries to organize our supplies so we don’t have to call on Helpers for extra food and stuff for their own party.”

“That’s right, Geoffrey,” George Robinson called out from the secret door leading into the supply closet of his new grocery store. “We do have some extra donations this year, but they aren’t for Winterfest. Come see!”

Geoffrey quickly pocketed the hacky-sack ball, and the two boys eagerly followed Mr. Robinson through the supply closet and into the large freight warehouse for the grocery store.

“Welcome, boys!” Shirley Robinson called. “Thaddeus will be down shortly with the last basket.”

The boys gaped in surprise as Mrs. Robinson pointed to four bushel-baskets full of late winter vegetables she and her family had picked just that morning from the building’s rooftop garden.

“Are you kidding me?” Zach exclaimed. “I didn’t think there’d be any more vegetables after that early frost.”

“We didn’t either,” Thaddeus called, as he brought in a fifth bushel basket full of winter squash. “But Mr. Kaczmarek told us about the frost forecast, and we were able to cover the winter garden section with plastic just in time to save this late harvest.”

Geoffrey ran over to the corner and pulled out the handcart they had been regularly using since July to bring down fresh vegetables harvested from the rooftop garden to help enrich the meals William prepared for the Tunnel community, and the five quickly loaded the bushel baskets onto the cart for transport Below.

“Zach, why don’t you lead the way, and Geoffrey and I can take the first shift pushing the cart,” Thaddeus suggested.

“My dear,” George murmured to Shirley, gallantly extending his arm to escort his beloved wife of thirty-two years. “May I lead you Below?”

“You certainly may, my good Sir,” Shirley replied, beaming at him.

* * *

“George! Shirley! And Thaddeus!” William called as Zach and Geoffrey’s party arrived at the Tunnel kitchens. “My goodness! I wondered why you’d asked for an early escort to Winterfest. What have we here?”

Shirley gave William a big smacking kiss on the cheek along with an enthusiastic hug and pat on the back. “We thought you might like to enjoy a portion of our good fortune. Stan warned us about the frost forecast two months ago, and we were able to save all the plants in the winter garden.

We picked the last of it today and brought you one bushel of each vegetable. The rest will go to the dining hall in Stan’s building and our produce counter in the grocery store.”

Thaddeus and Zach began unloading the baskets of vegetables. “We have beets, winter squash, collard greens, turnips, and cabbage,” Thaddeus noted.

“And I know just where to put them,” William responded. “Zach, why don’t you put the baskets of beets and turnips back on the cart and take them down to the first root cellar. Geoffrey, go get Eric and Samantha to help you put the rest over in the cooling room where we stored the lettuces this Summer.”

The boys hurried off to carry out their tasks, while William invited the Robinson family to sit at the counter and rest for a moment after their long walk, passing them large mugs of tea.

“You got here just in time,” William stated. “I was about to take my last tins of cookies down to the Great Hall and finish setting up. When the boys get back from their errand, they’ll take you to the grand staircase. I’ll see you at the main door for the opening.”

* * *

The festivities in the Great Hall were well underway when George, Shirley, and Thaddeus at last had a chance to speak with Vincent and Catherine.

“My goodness!” Shirley exclaimed. “You two are positively glowing with newlywed happiness.”

Catherine hugged Shirley, blushing. “Thank you, Shirley! It’s so good to see you again.”

Vincent shook George’s hand. “We are indeed very happy. Thank you again for helping William with the food for our reception here in the Great Hall.”

“Think nothing of it,” George replied. “We were honored to help with your wedding. Something we long hoped for.”

“Dad,” Thaddeus interjected. “Look over there. Isn’t that Ms. Corrales with Kipper and Stan?”

“It certainly is,” Vincent replied. “Ms. Corrales – Luz – is being welcomed this evening as a new Helper.”

“Oh, we must go thank them both,” George urged. “Stan was so kind to offer us the space in his building for our second grocery location, and Ms. Corrales got all of our plans expedited by the New York City Planning Commission. Excuse us, please, Vincent, Catherine. It’s wonderful to see you two looking so happy.”

As George hurried his wife and son over to greet Stan and Luz, Vincent murmured in his wife’s ear, “Father does have a knack for matching the right Helper with the right opportunity.”

“He does indeed,” Catherine agreed. “William told me that the Robinsons brought down five more bushels of late winter vegetables for his root cellar and cooling room. That rooftop garden idea has been even more wildly successful than I ever imagined.”

“Your garden too, My Love,” Vincent purred. “Stan’s warning helped save your winter plants at the Hobart Street rooftop.”

“You mean OUR garden, My Own,” she replied. “We’ll have to check it tomorrow morning. Who knows? We may have a late harvest to share as well.”



  1. I love the idea of the rooftop garden and getting a tip-off to cover before the hard freeze. (I lost an entire crop of lettuce one year because of inadequate covering.) The general feeling of warmth and camaraderie of this piece really puts me in the perfect mind of Winterfest, with sharing an abundance of vegetables and greeting both new and old friends. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Actually we have the perfect selection of helpers for the needs, as Vincent said. Great idea with those gardens on the roof. It’s good to see the grocery store thriving, to see Stan helping out, and it makes my heart rejoice again with our newlyweds who also started their own garden! This is such a positive story about kind-hearted people sharing sincerely what they have. I’m glad that the ever-growing tunnel community has its food needs met. I was happy to read it.

  3. I have heard of rooftop gardens. I think they are a wonderful idea and could go a long way of helping food sustainability.
    This just shows help can come from necessities as well as love and compassion. Filling tummies and hearts at the same time.

  4. You’ve shown the true spirit and practice of sharing and nurturing in this community, something that should be done far more often in the “real” world as well. Thank you for writing this story!


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CABB logo: crystal and rose




CABB logo: crystal and rose







by AM

“Local temperature is 89 degrees with a heat index of 102. Stay inside if you can. Drink plenty of water and remember, don’t overdo it. It’s a scorcher out there today, folks”.

Catherine cursed the weatherman as she wiped the sweat off her forehead.  “Great. What a perfect time for the air to go out.”

The thought of going outside made her cringe. It was Sunday, so her office would be locked.

“I need to get out of this heat. I’ve got it!” Catherine giggled as she had a wonderful idea.

She went through recycling looking for something she could use.

“Nothing,” she said, frustrated.

She hurriedly changed into a comfortable t-shirt and jeans and hurried to the nearest store. She would’ve run if it hadn’t been so hot.

She sighed with relief when she stepped foot into the cool store.

She picked up some water guns.

No, too violent, and would be frowned upon, she thought as she put the guns down.

She went searching for safer things.

Balloons? No, leaves a mess to clean up.

Her eyes lit up when she saw them. “Spray bottles!!! Perfect!! Hmmm. There’s 50. That should be plenty.”

She grabbed up all the bottles and headed to pay.

It seemed like forever before she headed back to her apartment with her treasures. Instead of going directly to her apartment, she headed to the tunnels. It wasn’t long before she ran into Eric.

“What’s in the bags?” he asked

“It’s a surprise, and I need you to do me a favor. Could you gather all the kids and bring them here?”


“Oh, and Eric?”

Eric turned to look at her.

“Bring as many buckets of water as you can.” She winked at him.

He returned in record time with all the tunnel kids, each carrying two buckets full of water. Catherine passed out the spray bottles and helped fill them up. Once all the bottles were filled, boundary lines were drawn, and safe places declared, they were ready.

“On your mark, get set, GO!” Catherine yelled.

The fight began in full force. Laughter, shrieks, and happy screams echoed through the tunnels as the children chased and sprayed each other. Catherine found herself in the crossfire several times, but laughed as hard as the children. When bottles emptied they were quickly refilled, and the fun continued. Soon adults came to find out where the happy noises were coming from. Some smiled, shook their heads and went back to their previous activity. Some helped by refilling empty buckets. Others just couldn’t help joining in the fun. Catherine noticed Vincent walking towards them.

“I need to borrow that,” she said to Kipper.

He smiled and handed her his full bottle. She placed the bottle behind her back, walked calmly up to Vincent, and sprayed him in the face.

His look of shock made Catherine laugh. Vincent calmly watched the children play for a few minutes before casually picking up a bucket that was a quarter full. He turned to Catherine.

“Vincent, you wouldn’t dare.”

“Perhaps, but then how would I return the favor?”

With that, he dumped the bucket over her head. The children erupted with laughter to see Catherine soaked.

A tapping on the pipes made them all stop. Dinner.

Groans quickly spread among the children. They reluctantly started handing the bottles to Catherine.

“Vincent, why don’t you keep them for the next time?”

The children’s eyes danced with glee. Vincent put the bottles in the buckets and handed them to the children to carry.

“Would you join us, Catherine?” Vincent asked.

“I would love to.”

Vincent took her hand and they followed the children to dinner.