1
Jan

Excerpt from Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer

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Here is a scene from Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer.The family is at Grandmother'sTexas horse ranch. She is teaching Kimberlee and Dorian how to make Apricot Jam when the trouble starts. .

“What should I do while Dorian picks the apricots?” Kimberlee looked around the large kitchen, ready to assist in the jam making process.

“Get a big kettle from under the counter and several large mixing bowls. The sugar and Sure-Jell is in the cupboard over the oven. The jars are already washed and stacked on the counter. We’ll have apricot jam before you know it.”

Kimberlee banged around the kitchen, following orders.

“Fix up a large kettle with cold water and ice. After the apricots sit in the boiling water for a few minutes, we’ll drop them into ice water. That loosens the skins so they slip right off. Once the pits are cut out, we’ll be ready to start the jam.”

The kitchen door squeaked open and Amanda came in, clutching the black and white cat to her chest. His long black hair covered his body. His legs with snowy white feet, dangled almost to her knees.
“Fumper says he’s hungry, Mama.” She staggered across the room, her arms wrapped beneath the compliant cat’s black legs.

Kimberlee shook her head. “I don’t think so, sweetheart. Daddy Brett gave him breakfast early this morning.”

“Uh-huh. He’s hungry. He tode’ me so. He wants some bacon.” Amanda squinched up her mouth and glared at her mother.

“Amanda. Don’t make naughty faces at Mama. Now, you run on and take Thumper outside to play. There’s a good girl.” Kimberlee gave her head a pat, and a little push toward the back door. Confrontation with a five year old in front of Grandmother wouldn’t impress anyone.

“Amanda, you come on back here.” Grandmother spread her arms wide. “Come and give Grandma some sugar.” She turned to Kimberlee. “If Amanda wants to feed da kitty bacon, that’s dust’ what her can do, ’cause Grandma says so.”
Amanda stood by the door, the cat clutched against her chest. Her gazed moved from her mother to Grandmother.

Kimberlee stepped between her and Amanda. “Please don’t contradict me when I discipline her, Grandmother. It just confuses her and makes it harder for me.” She knelt beside Amanda. “Now run along, Amanda. Go find Nanny.” She gestured toward the yard.

The muscles tightened in Grandmother’s face tightened. How dare she chastise me in front of the child, right in my own kitchen?
Amanda sidled across the room and put her hand on the refrigerator handle. She paused, waiting for the winner of the tug-a-war to make the final decision.

Grandmother couldn’t hide her smile. See how well her plans to take Amanda from Kimberlee were already working? Amanda was already accepting her authority and turning against her mother.

Kimberlee gave Amanda’s shoulder a shove toward the door. “I said, take Thumper outside!”

The warmth crept up Grandmother’s cheeks. She made a half-hearted effort to control her voice, without much success. “Kimberlee, where are your manners? You’re still a guest in my house. I said the child may do as she pleases. If Amanda wants to feed the cat caviar, she can feed the cat. I won’t hear another word on the matter.”

Kimberlee’s cheeks flamed. The kettle slipped from her fingers and clattered to the floor as Dorian stepped through the door with a pan full of apricots.

“What’s the matter? What’s wrong?” Dorian set the apricots on the table, picked up the kettle and placed it on the counter.

"Amanda and I are having a difference of opinion as to whether Thumper needs bacon. Grandmother feels that since it’s her kitchen, she should make the final decision, and I feel that Amanda and Thumper should get outside before one of them gets spanked. Now, if you’ll excuse me…” She rushed through the swinging door. Her feet pounded up the stairs. A bedroom door slammed.

Grandmother turned toward Dorian, the faint smile of success on her lips. “Just a little disagreement. Nothing to worry about. Now, if you’ll wash those apricots and put them on to boil for a few minutes, I’ll show you how to get the skins off in a jiffy.”

Dorian glanced between Grandmother and the door Kimberlee had disappeared through. “Perhaps we can get back to this later. I think I’ll go see if she’s okay.”

“She’s just having a snit…” The swinging door between the kitchen and the hallway sprang back and forth as Dorian hurried from the kitchen. “I swear, I don’t know what she’s so upset about. What difference does it make if the child feeds the cat or not?”

“Grandma?” Amanda dropped Thumper, her hand still on the refrigerator door. Her eyes were wide.

Margaret turned. “Amanda?” The inside of her head felt like a bottle rocket on the fourth of July. She lifted her foot off the pillow, stood and shuffled across the kitchen. She yanked open the refrigerator and grabbed the bacon. “Here! Feed the damn cat.” The plate of bacon clattered onto the counter.

Amanda set the plate of bacon on the floor in front of Thumper. “Here, Thumper. Eat you bacon.”

Grandmother limped out of the kitchen into the library. The fax machine on the desk hummed, and then began to spit out a printed report. Her heart thumped. Was it the information from the detective agency? Information that would prove Kimberlee an unfit mother and lay the groundwork to get custody of darling Amanda? She ripped the paper from the fax machine as the library door squeaked open.

“Grandma?” Amanda stood in the doorway, holding Thumper upside down in both arms.

Grandmother whipped her head around, shoving the paper behind her back. “What is it, now? Can’t you see I’m busy?” She felt her cheeks warm. How silly to feel guilty. The child couldn’t know what I’m looking at.

Amanda shifted the cat to her shoulder like a baby and patted his back. “Fumper’s not hungry. He doesn’t want any bacon.”
****
Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer is available at Amazon in print or e-book... even free under the Kindle Unlimited program.

16
Dec

The Christmas Bird

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The air grew crisper, the nights longer and the whisper of leaves falling on the roof began to awaken each Christmas tree bird from their yearlong slumber. They wiggled with joy, crinkling the crepe paper walls of their divided cubicles in the ornament box. Soon, the Christmas bird ornaments would be lifted from their crinkly crepe paper beds where they had slept in the attic since last Christmas.

As the special day grew nearer, the thrill of the season crept through their springy wire clips, their porcelain gold and silver bodies and their fluffy feather tails.

The youngest Christmas bird lay in the middle cubicle under Gold Bird, wrapped snugly in soft white tissue paper. “Christmas is coming!” He shook with excitement. Soon, he would be high on the tree with his Christmas bird friends and the round ones, who weren’t nearly as beautiful as his Christmas bird friends with their feather tails and pinchy clips.

He closed his little red eyes and dreamed of Christmas Eve. From the top of the Christmas tree, his family would gather by the fireplace. He could almost hear the music and smell the cookies.
“I’ve been thinking that I am the most beautiful Christmas bird,” he whispered to Gold Bird, who lay wrapped in tissue above him.

Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered. “Really? What makes you think so? Blue glass bird is made of hand blown glass and has a lovely feather tail. Antique bird is missing his tail feathers, but he’s so fragile, you can see through his porcelain body. Most of us are much more beautiful than you.” He shook as he scolded the young bird.

“I don’t care. The Christmas tree wouldn’t be as beautiful if I wasn’t right near the top.” The little bird twitched all over.

Gold Bird huffed. “It would serve you right if you were left behind this year. You don’t know anything about the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t deserve to hang on the Christmas tree.”

The Christmas bird trembled. That he might not celebrate the season scared him a bit, but not quite enough. His voice trembled. “I didn’t mean to be conceited. It’s not that I think you aren’t very handsome, but my tail feathers are longer and softer and fluffier than yours, and… my… paint is much shinier−”

“Tut tut,” Gold Bird said. “I won’t listen to hear another word.”
For several days, the young bird lay in his cocoon of crinkly paper, haunted by Gold Bird’s words. “You conceited fellow, it would serve you right …” and he would shudder. Unthinkable! Not to be on the Christmas tree? Not to be part of Christmas Eve? He couldn’t bear the thought.

The days grew shorter and the nights longer. Snow blanketed the roof. The wind whistled through the trees, their bare branches just visible through the tiny attic window. The long days of November edged into December.

One morning, the Christmas birds awoke to footsteps clunking up the attic steps. The Christmas bird held his breath, not daring to wiggle. “It’s time! Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree!”

One by one, his friends were lifted from the cubicles beside him. He heard them squeal as they were hung on the tree. Beneath his tissue coverings, he faintly heard the music. He could hear the children chattering; he could even smell the cookies.

“It’s nearly my turn,” he whispered. But, there was no answer.
Gold Bird’s fluffy tail no longer tickled his nose. He waited. The box was tossed into the corner; empty except for the littlest Christmas bird, hidden under the tissue in the middle cubicle.
His comfortable box now a prison, his beautiful body and fluffy tail lay beneath the crinkly tissue paper. A tiny plastic tear formed in his little red eye. Gold Bird was right. I’ve been conceited and proud, and now I’ve been left behind.

He lay alone in the corner through the entire month of December. The faint sounds of Christmas filtered through his tissue paper. The Christmas season was nearly over and he had missed everything.

On Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree bird imagined the tree with his Christmas bird friends hanging with the others, the ones he had scorned. They may not be as beautiful as I, but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.

He heard the little girl’s voice. “They wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and lay Him in a manger.”

I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like baby Jesus. He imagined the tiny baby wrapped sung and warm, lying in the straw, surrounded by the cows. He imagined the shepherds bringing their sheep down from the hills to worship the babe. He thought of the Wise Men who brought gifts to welcome His birth.

He heard the daddy tell how Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby and if we loved and trusted Him, He promised to come again and take us to heaven and we would not be left behind. The Christmas bird blinked back a tear. I know what it’s like to be left behind. How terrible to be left behind from Heaven.

Then, the tissue paper lifted. “Look, Mommy! Here’s another Christmas birdie, all alone in the box. Oh, he looks like he has a tear in his eye! Can I hang him on the Christmas tree?”

The Christmas bird was whooshed up to the top of the tree where his hook fastened to a branch next to Gold Bird. Looking down from his lofty perch, he saw the family gathered around the tree. There was such love in the room! He even smelled the Christmas cookies! At last, he was exactly where he needed to be.

Gold Bird gave him a stern but loving glance. “Did you learn anything, my little friend?”

As he swung from side to side on the pine branch, the light from the fire reflected in the gold tear in the little bird’s eye. “I understand,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “Christmas is not about who is more beautiful or cookies or even the gifts people give to one another. The true meaning of Christmas is God’s gift to the world, the birth of Jesus Christ. When we accept God’s Gift of love, one day He will come back for his children and we will never be left behind.”

Gold bird swung around on his hook. “Welcome to Christmas, Christmas bird!”

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