Today, we are talking with Mildred Haggenbottom. As Agnes’s best friend, she’s likely to have a bit of dirt…rather, some information to add to our character analysis of Agnes Odboddy, the protagonist of the upcoming novel, Mrs. Odboddy – Home Town Patriot. Here’s Mildred now. Thanks for your time, Mildred.
“Won’t you sit down? The kettle’s on and I just pulled a fresh batch of cookies from the oven. I saved my last sugar ration coupon, just for such an auspicious occasion as this. Agnes and I are old buddies. What do you want to know about her?”
On a scale of one to ten, how would Agnes rate as a friend?
“Oh, I think she’d be at least an 11. We’ve been friends for over twenty-five years. She’s the cat’s meow…as the young people say. Oops! There’s the kettle now. Do you take milk or lemon in your tea?”
Sugar, please. How did you and Agnes become such good friends?
“In 1919, it was WWI you know, Agnes and I were assigned to a top secret operation in Berlin. A brave local woman working in a German government office secretly photographed documents and then passed the film to us in a hollowed out book. Sure enough, they caught her, and made her talk. Agnes and I ran for our lives. Wouldn’t you know, that night, the Allies bombed Berlin. We spent three days trapped in a bombed-out building with our handler, Godfrey. After our rescue, due to the chaos in the city, we made our escape. Believe me, after being trapped together for 72 hours in a life or death situation, you come out either hating someone’s guts or friends for life. Godfrey and Agnes…well, that’s another story…”
It sounds very exciting. Can you tell us about Agnes’s peculiarities?
“Indeed, after the Berlin episode, Agnes changed. She became a bit paranoid, fanatically patriotic and determined to root out injustice, regardless of the consequences. Thing is, Agnes has an over-stimulated imagination regarding patriotic issues, particularly during a time of war. More lately, her determination to right wrongs has become…I hate to say it…, well-intentioned, but sometimes misguided.”
How exactly do you mean…misguided?
“Let’s just say, Agnes tends to see conspiracies where there aren’t any. She believes Nazi spies have infiltrated Newbury, and she acts out on such notions in peculiar ways. She’s usually wrong, but her heart is in the right place. People have come to believe she’s a bit tetched’ in the head, if you know what I mean.
Does Agnes have a family?
She was married during WWI. She lost both her husband and her son not long after our Berlin adventure. There was a granddaughter, thankfully. Katherine lives with Agnes now. Most of the time, she keeps Agnes on an even keel…. And, they have a very loving relationship. They’re the best of friends, despite the difference in age. Agnes is a wonderful woman despite her peculiarities. She’s a true home town patriot if there ever was one.”
Thanks, Mildred. Any final words?
Just this... Fair warning to the Nazi spies out there. If you really are skulking around Newbury and you’re reading this, I suggest you peddle your papers somewhere else, because if Agnes stumbles onto you, between her and Chief Waddlemucker, your name is toast!
We’re here today, interviewing Chief Waddlemucker of the Newbury Police Department, seeking information about Mrs. Odboddy. Tell me, Chief, what can you tell us about Agnes Odboddy?
Mrs. Odboddy? She’s a kook, but she’s the salt of the earth; volunteers all over town, knitting socks, winding bandages, collecting papers and cans. She even takes a shift out at the ocean, doing coast watch, but, if you ask me, she is a bit of a queer duck. Everyone knows she’s a bit off her nut, quite eccentric and outspoken. Doesn’t give a hoot about what she says or who she offends. Don’t misunderstand me, she’s my dearest friend and I have great respect for the woman. She does a lot for the war effort, but she does test my patience at times. God bless her.
How is that? She tests your patience in an official capacity or personally?
I’m not one to spread gossip, but I swear, Agnes is in my office every week, either accusing someone of being a Nazi spy or talking about the Black Market or some such nonsense. I see her walking through the door and my head starts to ache. Sometimes I even think my ulcer is directly attributable to that woman.
How long have you known Mrs. Odboddy?
Oh, we’ve been friends for years. She moved to Newbury in 1928. Came directly from Los Angeles where she says she worked with Walk Disney at the Disney Studios when he created the cartoon character, Steamboat Willy. Apparently Walt fired her for some reason I haven’t been able to weasel out of her. Now, tell me, can you believe that story? They show that cartoon at the movies every month. But, she tells all sorts of stories, and with Agnes, you can never determine fact from fabrication.
What other kind of stories have you heard? Care to share?
I never repeat gossip, but she claims to have worked for the government during WWI as an undercover agent. Claims she was in Berlin on some sort of secret mission involving German high government officials in 1919. She brags about this all the time, but I don’t believe a word or it.
Sounds like Agnes is quite a character. Does she have any family?
She lives with her granddaughter, Katherine, a lovely girl. Works at the Curls to Dye For Beauty Salon, but I hear she’s going to start moonlighting down at Whistlemeyer’s mortuary, doing hair and make-up on the dearly departed. That should be interesting.
Thank you, Chief Waddlemucker, for talking with me. You’ve given me some great insight into the real Mrs. Odboddy.
Ahem… Well, everyone knows I have a reputation for being the soul of discretion. I would never consider spreading gossip about the private lives of Newbury citizens.
By the way, if you print one word of what was said here today, I’ll disavow it and toss you in the clink for slander and jaywalking. There’s the door. Give Mrs. Odboddy my best regards, won’t you? I’ve always been quite fond of the woman.
Can you tell us a little about yourself, Mrs. Odboddy?
"Mrs. Odboddy sounds so old. I’m only 70. My friends call me Agnes. I live with my Siamese cat, Ling-Ling, and my granddaughter, Katherine. She lost her fiancé on the Arizona, at Pearl Harbor last year and she’s still a little bit lost. She works in a Beauty Salon here in Newbury. My volunteer work keeps me busy, and, as I’m sure you’re aware, every citizen must to be a home front warrior. There are Nazi spies and conspiracies everywhere."
Besides looking for Nazi spies, what kind of volunteer work do you do??
"I volunteer at the Boyles Springs Military Base USO several times a month, just up the Northern California coast. I also roll bandages at the hospital and work on the paper drive. Our ladies’ group at the church knits socks for the military. Probably my most enjoyable service to the war effort is on the coast watch every other Wednesday. As for Nazi spies, I’m sure that Sofia Rashmuller, the new gal in our knitting circle at the First Church of the Evening Star and Everlasting Light is a Nazi spy. Her dyed red hair is a dead giveaway."
But, Agnes…Your hair is dyed red.
"I beg your pardon! I do NOT dye my hair. I may freshen it from time to time with a henna rinse but I would never dye my hair. Fast women and European spies do that. I should know. I saw enough of them during WWI when I worked as an undercover agent for the USA. Of course, I was much younger then, but we saw some action, and I lived to tell about it."
Can you tell us about your WWI adventures?
"Of course not. If I told you the details, I’d have to kill you."
Did you ever kill anyway?
"Don’t be ridiculous… Well, there was that one time… Never mind. Next question?"
Okay. I can see that’s a sensitive subject. Let’s talk about these conspiracies you mentioned. What kind of conspiracies?
"Did I mention that I also volunteer at the Ration Book Center, addressing and sending out the ration coupon books to the neighborhood? Rationing is really terrible. Imagine. Only one pound of coffee per adult every six weeks! And the price of eggs! Actually, I’ve solved that problem."
Agnes? You were telling us about conspiracies?
"Oh, yes. This week, while addressing ration books, I came across a Black Market conspiracy. Someone is stealing ration books from the mailboxes at empty houses. I’ve convinced my friend, Jackson Jackson, to drive my Model A and I’ll bring my Brownie camera. We’ll catch the thief in the act."
I can see how that might go wrong. Are you sure….
"Really, young man! Where is your adventurous spirit? Where were we? Oh yes. Chickens. I’m getting six free chickens this afternoon. I’m not quite sure what we’ll do with them until Saturday, when Jackson is building us a coop. Guess we’ll just have to stick them in the bathroom."
In the bathroom? Really, Agnes. Are you sure that’s such a good idea?
"Why not? I’ll call them Mrs. Whistlemeyer, Sophia, Mildred, Clara, Abigail, and Myrtle, after my friends and associates. They’re just chickens, after all. What could possibly go wrong?"
What, indeed? Thanks, Agnes. We’ll continue this conversation another day.
"Delighted. Would you care for some tea? We’re completely out of coffee until next week."
Even before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, there was strife between Japan and the United States as early as 1907 when the US passed immigration laws making it challenging for Japanese citizens to immigrate to the US. In 1924, an Immigration Act effectively barred Japanese from entering the US, even making it difficult for Japanese war brides to return to the US with their husbands.
Saddened by the deteriorating relations between the countries, in 1924, Reverend Sidney L. Gulick, a missionary to Japan, founded a committee called World Friendship Among Children. They began collecting dolls from United States children, planning to send them on a good will mission the children of Japan and scheduled to arrive in time for their national doll festival on March 3rd.
The committee collected 12,739 blue-eyed, blonde haired dolls, and dressed them in typical American clothes. They attached a message to each doll. “May the United States of America and Japan always stay friends. I am being sent to Japan on a mission of friendship. Please let me join the doll festival on March 3 in your country” The dolls carried a passport which read, “This doll is a good citizen of the United States of America. She will obey all the laws and customs of your country. Please take care of her while she is with you.”
The dolls were well-received by the children in schools and kindergartens around Japan. As a return good-will gesture, in November, 1927, fifty-eight Japanese Ambassador dolls were returned to the United States. Each was named for a particular province or Japanese town, such as Miss Akita, or Miss Ehime. Each stood 81 cm tall and was exquisitely dressed in authentically styled kimonos of fine silks and brocades, each created and valued at $2,400 (by today’s monetary standards).
The American Friendship dolls and the Japanese Ambassador dolls were displayed in museums and places of honor until the war in 1941. Sadly, large numbers of the US Friendship Dolls were destroyed in Japan during the war and most of the Japanese Ambassador Dolls in the US were put in storage or lost.
To date, at least 270 of the American dolls and 35 of the original Japanese Ambassador dolls have been recovered in Japan and America by people interested in preserving history. Many hold places of honor in museums, schools and collections both in Japan and the U.S. Many of the Japanese Ambassador dolls make their way annually back to Japan in time to celebrate the March 3rd Japanese Doll festival.
Reverend Gulick’s family continues to make and send dolls to the children of Japan in a continued friendship gesture. Since 1986, they have sent approximately ten dolls each year to schools in Japan, each dressed in traveling clothes and carrying a handbag and a passport.
A local Sacramento author, Shirley Parenteau, has written a delightful children’s book about the Friendship Dolls called SHIP OF DOLLS. It can be purchased at her website, www.shirleyparenteau.com or at Amazon under the title SHIP OF DOLLS.
As I child, I collected storybook dolls. I still have several of my childhood dolls on display in china cabinets. Tell me about your favorite doll or doll related story. I’d love to hear from you.
Agnes pulled into the driveway and stepped out of her Prius.
Her neighbor, Millie, hailed her from across the street. “Yoo-hoo! Agnes! Wait up. Happy fourth of July!” She scurried across the street.
Millie was the last person Agnes wanted to talk to. They had nothing in common. Millie and her husband, George, were antique buffs. Her house looked like a museum full of relics from the Revolutionary War. Why did Millie put up with such nonsense?
Millie, out of breath from rushing, said, “Are you coming to the Independence Day celebration at the Vet’s Memorial Building tonight? They’re having a military band, Viet Nam veteran speakers, and then fireworks after the meeting. You’re welcome to ride over with us.”
Agnes lifted her grocery bags from the back seat. “Sorry, can’t make it. Gotta’ get these things inside. Frozen stuff. Talk to you later.” She hurried into the house. A twinge of guilt gripped her chest. It wasn’t very nice, snubbing Millie like that. But, Millie was so gol-darned boring. Every conversation somehow turned to her latest E-Bay purchase. A Minute Man rifle. A battered sword. A faded shirt. Agnes sighed. Who cared about all that stuff anymore? What difference does it make, anyway, two hundred years later? Who cares?
The fourth of July was such a nuisance. The fireworks just got all the dogs in the neighborhood barking and the streets were a mess the next morning.
Agnes preferred closing the blinds and going to bed early.
The boom-boom of fireworks turned into the sound of a beating drum. The sun blazed down on men dressed in brilliant red jackets. Sweat poured from their faces. They marched in a straight row toward an outline of shadowy figures in buckskin, hiding behind rocks and trees.
Agnes ran back and forth on the battlefield, as the soldiers moved forward with guns drawn. Redcoats? From England? A battlefield?
Agnes jerked and twisted, thrashing her pillow. How did she get in the middle of a Revolutionary War battlefield? I don’t belong here! Wait. I can’t be here. The field will soon be littered with dead and dying men. She turned and tried to run. Wake up! Wake up!
Someone grabbed her arm, dragged her from the line of fire and pulled her down behind a rock. Her heart pounded. Perspiration trickled down her forehead. She crouched beside the men, so close she could smell their sweat. Older soldiers grimaced, their lined faces knowing what was soon to come. “Hold the line, men. Steady now.” Younger soldiers, terrified of the unknown, sniffled as the enemy advanced, step by step to the beat of their drum. Though the ragtag soldiers were outnumbered by the advancing troops, the advantage lay in their favor, as they took advantage of the cover of trees and rocks. The men primed their guns with powder and ball and squatted in the dirt, waiting, waiting as the formidable enemy advanced closer and closer.
I’ve got to get away. This can’t be real! I must be dreaming! Why can’t I wake up?
The drumbeat stopped. Silence! She peeked around the rock. There stood the enemy, immobile on the field, guns at the ready, feet in mid-step. The flag drooped unmoving, despite a brisk breeze. The young drummer’s drumstick hung suspended in mid-air, above his drum.
Agnes lifted her head toward the brilliant sky scattered with patches of clouds as though suspended from wires on a stage. Overhead, a bird hung motionless as though frozen in time. What happened?
She opened her eyes, blinked against the darkness as she lay in her bed. The boom-boom of the fireworks had ceased. A nightlight glowed across the room. I was dreaming! Dreams were, after all, just snatches of thoughts and memories, sounds and sights stored willy-nilly in one’s mind and pulled into a fractured scenario to haunt our restless nights. She shuddered. There was a day when her dream had been another’s reality.
She turned toward the window. It had begun to rain and rivulets streaked the glass, curving and twisting as it traversed the pane. Outside, the tree in the backyard wavered in the wind of an unseasonable summer storm. The celebrations had ended and fireworks ceased.
Agnes put her hand to her pounding heart. It was just a dream. Everything was fine. Just a dream. It doesn’t matter now.
Agnes rose from her bed and found a book on the Revolutionary War in her library. She sat in a rocker and began to read: For the sake of independence, farmers, storekeepers, bankers, men from all walks of life, rebelled at the tyranny England imposed on their fledgling nation. Ill equipped, with antiquated guns and untrained, the Continental soldiers chose to fight a highly-trained army made up of Englishmen, German mercenaries and Hessians.
The Revolutionary war lasted over eight years.
The estimated population in America in 1776 was three million.
80,000 militia and Continental Army soldiers served at the height of the war
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers died during the war
8,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from wounds inflicted during battle
17,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from disease
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers were estimated to have been wounded or maimed
1 in 20 able-bodied white free males living in America died during the war
All for the sake of following generations, so we could have the freedom to make laws and live by our own rules as established by the Declaration of Independence.
Agnes left a message on Millie’s answering machine. “This is Agnes. Sorry I couldn’t make it tonight. I hope you had fun. I promise I’ll come with you next year. Our freedom is important, isn’t it? We need to remember what the holiday cost our forefathers. It really matters.”
Agnes returned to her room with her cat. The rain had stopped.
Boom! Another fire-cracker cracked in the night. “Does he have any idea why he’s celebrating, or just having fun?”
Agnes’s cat blinked and though he had no answer to the provocative question.
While doing research for the WWII novel I’m currently writing, I often find information of little remembered history from WWII. I recently learned of the Friendship Train sent to France and Italy following the war.
Much of Europe was devastated during WWII and following the war, the people continued to suffer years of deprivation, limited food supplies and a slow reconstruction of their towns.
While Drew Pearson, a popular journalist of the time, visited Europe during 1947, he heard that the Communists were being thanked for sending a few carloads of grain to the Europeans. Feeling that the United States could do more to help our European neighbors; he conceived the vision of the Friendship Train. His suggestions appeared in his newscast columns on October 11, 1947. He asked our citizens to donate food and clothing to help the people of France and Italy. I’m sure he must have been amazed at the response to his request.
Immediately, towns, cities, and the citizens of every state in the USA collected food for the Friendship Train. The plan was met with such enthusiasm that competition among the communities, counties, and states began for collecting and sending the largest contribution.
Five weeks later, on November 7, 1947, the Friendship Train began its trek beginning in Los Angeles and ending in New York City. Although the train traveled through only eleven states, every state sent boxcars or trucks filled with goods to meet the Friendship Train at a junction. When it arrived in New York, we had collected and shipped $40 million in food and supplies to Europe aboard the 700-car American Friendship Train.
No money was ever spent in the process. The transportation by rail and truck, the loading of the boxcars and trucks, the loading and the use of the ships was all provided by volunteers and donations. The train's mission was an incredible display of goodwill from the people of the United States to France and Italy.
Every package had this label: "All races and creeds make up the vast melting pot of America, and in a democratic and Christian spirit of good will toward men, we, the American people, have worked together to bring this food to your doorsteps, hoping that it will tide you over until your own fields are again rich and abundant with crops." Also on every label were these words, "This gift is sent to you by: 'first and last name and address of donor.’” This message was written in Italian and French and printed beside the American flag.
In 1949, France reciprocated by collecting 49 boxcars full of gifts donated by the French citizens and returned to the USA in their Merci Train as a thank-you for our generosity. One boxcar went to each state. Upon arrival, the gifts were distributed in various ways. Some freely given, others auctioned off and many items placed in local museums. The boxcars, called 40 and 8 boxcars were vintage, having been used to transport troops during WWI and then again during WWII. Many veterans remembered being transported across Europe in these boxcars. The Merci Train cars were restored and kept in museums across the country as memorials to those who had fought and died. Most of these boxcars have survived, many now over 100 years old, and are on display in museums in 43 states.
More information about the Friendship Train and the Merci Train can be found on the internet.
The novel: Authors write from our hearts and can’t help but inject many of our own ideas, humor, personality, fears or interests into our characters, particularly the protagonist. Though limited to the physical capabilities of a feline, Thumper, the cat in the Black Cat Mysteries, is best described as having human emotions, thoughts, ideas, and knowledge. With this in mind, Thumper, therefore, is much of me.
>As a POV character in Black Cat’s Legacy, Thumper has waited for someone to return to solve the cold case murder from 25 years ago at the lodge. With the aid of his ancestors’ memories, he points out clues to help Kimberlee and her associates solve the mystery. Of course, someone stands in the way and creates chaos. Throw in a bit of romance and intrigue, a touch of espionage and a smidgen of fantasy and you have a real page turner.
The sequel: The author engages in a clever dance, writing a sequel to create what happens next. Assuming a mixed audience of fans from our first book and new readers starting with book two, we must give enough of what happened before to understand why this and that is happening in book two without spoiling book one.
Thumper plays a bigger POV role in the sequel, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer. By meeting his soul-mate, Noe-Noe, a cream tabby with eyes the color or mustard and stripes the color of marigolds, he has opportunity for more POV scenes and humorous conversations. Set on a Texas horse ranch, Thumper must stop a killer bent on harming Grandmother, even though he doesn’t like her very much as she has her own wicked agenda.
The third in the series: The third novel in a series must tie up all the loose ends within the three books, leaving the reader contented with the conclusion. As authors, we must answer all the questions satisfactorily and yet leave just the hint of a possible future plot.
In the novel, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel Thumper and Noe-Noe are left behind following an MVA. Thumper suffers a head injury and memory loss. For whatever reason, Noe-Noe says, “Call me Angel. I’m here to take care of you,” refusing to share their previous life. What follows is a journey where Thumper, now called Black Cat in their new home on an Emu farm, experiences a spiritual journey of human emotions that include fear, loss, grief, shame, faith, jealousy, despair and joy as he learns, with the assist of divine intervention, that there are more important things than knowing your own name. (yes…there is an angel)
What’s next? In spite of my intention that my journeys with Black Cat are finished, one never knows what tomorrow brings. After all, as the muse for his character, he still lives within me, kicking and screaming to get out, wanting to share yet another adventure, even as I turn my attention to another series set during WWII.
http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm Black Cat’s Legacy - Amazon
http://tinyurl.com/lg7yvgq Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer - Amazon
http://tinyurl.com/nczzkd6 Black Cat and the Accidental Angel - Amazon
The Book Cover
A buyer picks up a book with a snappy, good looking, brightly colored cover with an easily read title and intriguing picture suggesting the story line. An appealing cover convinces the potential buyer to check the back for the book summary which should convince him to purchase.
How we present ourselves to the world when we go out in public, our clothing, our hair style, and our countenance is like a book cover. People have an impression of us based on appearance. It may not be fair, but it’s true. They instantly decide if they want to know us better or not. If, on first meeting, we are carelessly dressed, with poorly styled hair, and messy clothes, we create a poor impression. We may be the most likable person in the world, but if our appearance gives the wrong impression, who wants to take the time to find out? A nicely dressed, clean appearance and pleasant demeanor provides a good first impression, just like a well-designed book cover.
The Right Editor
To be successful, an editor goes through a manuscript looking for spelling errors, poor punctuation, poorly written sentences or scenes that don’t make sense. She inspires the author to dig deeper, to help the reader experience the story better, suggesting corrections in a gentle but constructive manner. She suggests changes that move a story to a journey, where the reader becomes one with the protagonist.
We all need an ‘editor,’ a ‘best friend’ brave enough to point out our faults, to tell us when we need to change our deodorant or pick the spinach from our teeth. She may point out the need to lose weight, stop drinking, or apologize when we’ve crossed the line. These are hard to hear but if we listen to our ‘editor,’ we can become better friends, parents, siblings.
Besides the main characters, a good story has interesting supporting characters. They are the friends, relatives, or even the pets of the protagonist. They provide the main character someone to interact with. Often they lead to the conflict that drives the story or help bring about the solution.
The supporting characters in our lives are much the same. They are our friends, neighbors, sisters, or the person that gets under your skin. They perform a role in our lives, not as close as our ‘editor,’ but close enough to add companionship or drama to our life. They keep life interesting. Without them we’d be like the guy on the island, talking to his beach ball.
Reviewing the Plot
The plot is the action in the story. It is about a hard-boiled detective, bringing the killer to justice, or the romance with the boy next door. A good plot sucks you in and takes you willingly along an adventure with a particular protagonist. During the journey you experience the adventure, both good and bad as if you were the character. You laugh or cry, are scared or surprised, just like the hero. At the end, you wish the story wouldn’t end and you look for the sequel so you can spend more time with these characters that have become friends.
Our lives are each a plot that varies from our neighbor. Our individual experiences could fill a library. We’ve raised children, had long and varying careers, raised families, overcome illness or grown up in rural America, maybe without electricity or running water. The list goes on and on.
A good story must have conflict or it isn’t a story. The girl next story must have a rival for her boyfriend. The CIA agent must have a villain to pursue. The puppy can’t find his way home. All these examples create conflict; something that prevents the main character from easily fulfilling the goal of the story line. If the CIA agent catches the villain on page one, where is the adventure? If the girl’s boyfriend doesn’t flirt with her best friend and break up with her, where is the romance? If the puppy isn’t lost, he’s just a puppy.
In our lives, things come along to give us grief. None of us has lived without conflict, whether it is in the form of lost loved ones, business reverses, children that disappoint, a sick pet, or a missed opportunity.
Without conflict we would not experience joy. If everything went totally right every day, we’d cease to appreciate anything. We have to experience pain to know joy, conflict to know triumph, and overcome problems to appreciate success, just as a book must have conflict so the hero can prevail.
A good book has a beginning, a middle that holds your attention, and an end. An author writes his story with these things in mind. The beginning jumps out with an event that convinces the reader to travel this journey with the main character. A mystery must be revealed within the first few pages to keep the reader’s interest. A romantic situation must present itself quickly to draw the reader in. This brings us to the middle.
The middle is the crux of the story, where the character struggles to overcome the obstacles, but events go from bad to worse, and when all seems lost, we come to the end. The reader leaves the dishes in the sink to see what happens next.
The ending must tie up all the loose strings, solve all the puzzles and reach a conclusion that is acceptable to the reader. Did you ever read a 300 page novel and the main character dies on the last page. You want to heave the book against the wall!
As children, walked, then learned to run, got educated and grew up, leading us to the middle.
During our middle years, we usually married, raised children, and worked. Some of us divorced, overcame tragedies, lost loved ones and reacted to these events in ways that were affected by left-over impressions from our childhood.
As we age, our lives are now the result of experiences that affected us in the middle years. We may have retired, became widows or widowers, live alone or with children or pets. Thoughts of mending personal fences, writing wills, visiting that long-lost friend begins to occupy our minds. Whether we think of it consciously or not, we’re creating a satisfying end to our life story.
And the Satisfying Conclusion
In a satisfying end to a novel, the hero gets the girl, the killer is revealed, the interplanetary mission is successful, the puppy finds a new home. A satisfying ending leaves the reader wanting to spend more time with the characters. The challenge for the writer is to keep creating stories that satisfy the reader and keep him wanting to buy the sequel.
In an attempt to create a satisfying end, we question. Are there still things we want to do, places we want to go, folks we want to see? Have we accomplished all we hoped for or are there still unfulfilled dreams that might still come true?
Why not follow your dream? What better time than now? What are you waiting for? It’s never too late to start.
They were feral cats, living next to my work site at Kaiser. My daughter and I fed the mama cat every several days as her tummy swelled. As the weeks passed, she came to our call, knowing she would be rewarded with food. Finally, she was skinny and we knew the kittens were born. Several weeks passed. Each day we thought, “Today we will see the kittens,” but days followed days and we gave up and thought the kittens must have died.
One day, we saw the three skinny little waifs. The rose colored kitten and the black kitten both had sticky eyes. One of the black kitten’s eyes was completely shut. The third kitten, a tortoiseshell, looked like her mother. All had multiple toes on each foot. We fetched a cardboard box and filled it with towels. I crawled under the bushes, trying to catch them.
“Here kitten, kitten,” The rose-colored kitten came to me. I placed her in the box and went back for the other two. “Here, kitten, kitten.”
How could they know how their lives would be changed if they let me catch them? Toys, good food, immunizations, no sticky eyes, no fleas, and a warm bed to sleep in.
“Here, kitten, kitten,” and I had the tortoiseshell sister by the scruff of her neck. The box trembled with their mewing and insistent scratching. Their cries inspired me to go back for the black baby. I crawled further into the bushes, closer this time to the little black cat. The tips of my fingers brushed his soft fur and he scampered away. My lunch hour was nearly over and I had to leave him behind. I couldn’t help thinking how his decision to run could change his life forever.
Several months passed and the rose-colored kitten and her tortoiseshell sister became comfortable in my house. They frolicked up and down the cat pole, sprawled napping across my lap, kicked and fought mock battles, and attacked catnip mice. At night, with full tummies, they curled together on a soft bed.
“Here kitten, kitten.” The sisters hear my call and run to me, no matter where they might be. They reach up my leg, purring and rubbing their little heads into my hands begging to be picked up. They don’t remember the day I left their brother behind. But, I do and it hurts me to think of him, living in the bushes, perhaps hungry, perhaps sick, never knowing the joy of a human touch.
He’s still there, they tell me, those who catch a glimpse of him from time to time. He’s a feral cat now, one of the untouchables that scoot into the bushes at the sound of a human voice, frightened and hungry.
There is so much suffering in the world. I think of all the sick bodies I cannot heal, the hungry mouths I cannot feed, the people living in oppression I cannot free. I have no power to change these things. But, I have the power to heal this little cat’s body, a mouth I could feed, a life I can change. Because I cannot do even this simple thing, I feel a sense of personal failure.
And so from time to time, I return to those bushes, and with a prayer, I crawl beneath the stickers on hands and knees. Lord, this time, let me catch this little kitten. Let me change just one small injustice in this world.
“Here, kitten, kitten. Please come to me.”