Jerry Peterson, the writer and his books


You're going to love these kids


Meet Derick and his buddy, Cody

I taught at the middle school level at one time. The experience triggered memories of when I was the age of my students. For my friends and me, nothing we did ever seemed to go right. But we, like my guy students, kept trucking on.

Out of those memories came the Cody & Me stories . . . best buds, Cody Debbs and Derek Wilson, the stories written by Derek as essays for his English teacher. So hang on for everything from a thrill ride down Mount Crashmore on a snow saucer to a disastrous experience of mowing lawns for money. Several of the stories in this first set are indeed Christmas stories.

I bring you more in this anthology. My favorite is "EZ and the Jake", a bittersweet story of a son and his father during the father's last days.

So here now is a sample for your reading pleasure, the first story in the book:

Derek Wilson
Mrs. Engstrom’s class
Marshall Middle School
January 5

Christmas at my house

I don’t know about you, Mrs. Engstrom, but my mom starts decorating for Christmas late, like the week before. Like on Monday before Christmas, she has my dad get out the stepladder and put up garland all around the living room. Then he brings down her collection of nutcrackers from the attic, and the best go on the mantel with the ballet shoes Mom wore when she danced in the Nutcracker Ballet when she was my age. My mom was once a kid, can you believe that? I don’t.

Anyway, then comes the Christmas tree. It’s always almost twice as tall as my dad because we have high ceilings in our old house. Anyway, we don’t decorate our tree until Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition, Mom says.

This year, my Uncle Bill from Florida brought his family up, to beat Santa Claus here he said. His family includes my cousin Normie. Normie’s four and a real pain in the butt. I didn’t mean to write that, Mrs. Engstrom, but he is.

After Christmas Eve dinner, which is always brats and sauerkraut–it’s a tradition, Mom says–we get the Christmas tree all decorated, well, almost. Dad’s up on the stepladder, finishing, leaning way out to put the star on the top of the tree, and Uncle Bill’s holding the ladder, keeping it steady, when Normie decides to pull my dog Rex’s tail. Rex, he doesn’t like that, so he whipped around just as Mom was bringing in hot chocolate for everybody. And Rex bangs into Mom, and the cups of hot chocolate go off the tray onto Uncle Bill who leaps back, and the ladder and my dad go over into the tree, and the tree goes down with a crash, and the star catches on the garland and all the garland comes down.

Mom, she sees the garland pulling away from the mantel, and she runs to stop it, but it’s too late. The garland rakes off her nutcracker collection and Great Grandma’s antique oil lamp  with it that we’ve got up on the mantel. The lamp’s lighted because we always and only light it on Christmas Eve–it’s a tradition, my Mom says–and it breaks and sets the tree on fire.

Uncle Bill sees that and he pulls Dad out, and they run to the kitchen for our fire extinguisher, but it only dribbles out a little powder. Dad’s yelling for Uncle Bill to get the water hose up from the basement and for me to call 911, and I do while he’s flailing at the flames with his sweater. But before anyone answers, three firemen bust through our front door with fire extinguishers of their own and put out the fire. They were going back to the station from an accident call, they tell us, when they saw the fire through our window.

Mom was so happy the house didn’t burn down that she made hot chocolate again, for everybody this time and insisted the firemen stay and have dessert with us, and Dad pours a round of Leinenkugel Stout and brings out cigars that he insists the firemen smoke with him and Uncle Bill, the cigar making Uncle Bill sick and up-chuck on Normie. Well, he deserved it, the pain in the butt.

Anyway, Mrs. Engstrom, Mom says this will be the Christmas she won’t ever forget, and I guess I won’t either–poor Rex, his tail's probably bent forever.