16
Apr 24

Here, Kitten, Kitten

 

Feral cats lived in the bushes next to my worksite. I watched the Mama Cat grow heavy with kittens. She eventually came to me, knowing she would be fed.

And then I saw them—three skinny, hungry little waifs, with sticky eyes nearly closed with infection. I crawled under the bushes, trying to catch them. “Here kitten, kitten.”

And the rose-colored kitten came to me. I placed her in a box and went back for the other two.

“Here, kitten, kitten.” I crawled further under the bramble bushes.

How could they know how different their lives would be if they came to me? How could they know there would be catnip toys, three meals a day, no fleas, and a warm bed.

"Here, Kitten, kitten."

I had the tortoiseshell kitten by the scruff of her neck and placed her in the box next to her sister. The box trembled as they scratched toward the top. Their mewing became more insistent as I crawled further into the bushes, trying to reach the black baby. Lord knows I tried, but I couldn't catch him. My fingers brushed the tips of his soft fur as he disappeared into the bushes. I had to leave him behind.

Months have passed and the rose-colored kitten and her tortoiseshell sister scamper through the house, frolic up and down the cat pole, sprawl across my lap and kick and fight each other in mock battle. At night they curl together on a soft bed with tummies full of kitten Friskies and dream of catnip mice.

“Here kitten, kitten.”

They hear my voice and run to me, reaching their little feet up my leg, begging to be picked up, purring with delight as I rub their little heads. They don’t remember the day I left their brother behind. But I do.

And I think of him, living in the bushes, perhaps hungry, perhaps sick, never knowing the joy of a human touch. And I think about the moment he chose to run from me. How could he know that running away would alter his life?

He’s still there, they tell me, those who catch a glimpse of him. He’s a feral cat now, hungry, ragged, one of the untouchables, frightened at the sound of a human voice.

That little black cat represents all the suffering in the world I have no power to change. I think of all the sick bodies I cannot heal, the hungry mouths I cannot feed, those living in oppression I cannot free.

That little cat has a body I could heal, a mouth I could feed, and a life I could make joyful. And, so, from time to time, I return to the bushes, and call, hoping one day he will respond.

“Here kitten, kitten. Please come to me. Let me change your life…”

****

How like that kitten we are, when our Lord calls and we turn away and run, searching for something, not knowing what we seek. Like the black kitten, frightened of what we don’t believe or can’t understand, we run, unwilling to surrender.

Jesus promises to forgive our sins. He promises eternal life and comfort in time of sorrow. He offers a personal relationship with our Him and His Heavenly Father.

Jesus calls, “Come to me, Kitten, Kitten. Trust me and I will show you a better life. Follow Me, and I will fill your life with joy and peace.”

Many hear His call but turn away. And still Jesus calls. “Here Kitten, Kitten. Please come.”

2
Apr 24

Spirit Woman Legends and Lies

 

My latest published novel, Spirit Woman Legends and Lies is now available at Amazon for just $3.99 (e-book). (https://tinyurl.com/ym2t37yy)

The Spirit Woman and her mountain lion companion are once again sighted in the hills near Lockleer Mountain.

Shortly after Joe and his brother, Cyrus, quarrel over the ownership of a winning million-dollar lottery ticket, Cyrus’s mutilated body is found in the mountains, ravaged by the local wildlife.

When stolen hospital drugs are found in the dead man’s home, murder is suspected. Sighting of the Spirit Woman and her mountain lion are once again seen in the nearby mountains. Has she returned to aid the troubled town? And, surely there is enough trouble to warrant her return.

Lou Shoemaker, owner of the local sewer truck, the Pooper Scooper, befriends Rosita Ramirez, a transient with two children, who came to Lockleer Mountain to sell tamales. Soon, gossip erupts about Rosita and the local Baptist pastor. The church deacons fear the gossip will discourage the membership and destroy the church. Deputy Nate and Sheriff Peabody must find and expose a killer and track down the perpetrator of the gossip, or the pastor will be forced to leave the church.

Will the Spirit Woman and her companions resolve the troubles that plague the rural community?

7
Mar 24

Story Behind the Washington D. C. Cherry Trees

Cherry trees are in bloom and no more beautiful than in Washington D. C. this time of year.

Where did they come from? Folks often schedule visits to Washington DC in the spring time to coincide with the blooming of their famous Cherry trees. Have you ever wondered  why Washington has so many cherry trees?

3000 Cherry Trees In January, 1910, Japan sent 2000 cherry trees to Washington as a good will gesture. Sadly, upon arrival, they were found to be diseased and infested with insects. To protect American growers, President William H. Taft ordered the trees burned. Letters from the Secretary of State to the Japanese Ambassador expressed deep regret to all concerned. Good will was maintained and in 1912, Japan again sent more than 3000 additional cherry trees from 12 different varieties to Washington D.C. Two thousand trees were planted on the White House grounds, and the remainder planted around the city and along the Potomac River from the Lincoln Memorial south toward Potomac Park. They grew and blossomed each spring to the delight of thousands of Washington visitors.

War is Declared Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack in December, 1941, four cherry trees were cut down in retaliation by vandals. Letters poured into the National Parks Commission, calling for “cutting all the Japanese trees down and replacing them with an American variety.” Throughout the rest of the war, in hopes of preventing future damage and ill will, the trees were no long called 'Japanese' cherry trees, but referred to as those ‘oriental flowering cherry trees.’ The National Cherry Blossom festival, an annual springtime event since 1935 was suspended and did not return until 1947.

Cherry Blossom Festival At the Cherry Blossom festival, princesses and a queen are crowned. In 1957, a wealthy Japanese business woman donated a crown for the festival queen. It contains more than two pounds of gold and 1,585 pearls. The queen wears the famous piece for just a few moments when she is crowned. It is then replaced with a miniature crown of gold with a pearl topping each point. The queen wears this crown for the remainder of the evening and she keeps it as a momentum of the event.

The Japanese government generously donated another 3,800 trees to Lady Bird Johnson in 1965. Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Ryuji Takeuchi, wife of Japan’s ambassador reenacted the original planting ceremony of 1912.

Cuttings from the Trees In 1982 and on several occasions since, cuttings from the original 1912 cherry trees were returned to Japan to replace trees destroyed during the war and when the course of a river destroyed a number of them.

Where are We Now? Private funds were donated between 1986 and 1988 to replant another 676 trees to restore the trees to the original number. Between 1997 and 2011, cuttings from the surviving 1912 cherry trees were propagated to ensure preservation of the 1912 trees’ genetic lineage. These will be used in subsequent replacement plantings both in Washington and in Japan. Thus, the original 1912 gift will ensure a cycle of giving between Japan and the United States.

25
Feb 24

A Short Love Story - The Chocolate Kiss

We quarreled this morning. I threw his favorite blue cup across the room and it shattered on the hearth. I screamed “I hate you!,” and ran out the door. I kicked the tires on my car.

I was angry all morning. Every time the phone rang, I was sure he was calling to apologize. Why didn’t he call? I wasn’t about to call him. He was wrong, right?

The afternoon dragged by. Now it’s 5:00 P.M., and I left the office. … The traffic was terrible and I was anxious to get home. It’s not that I was sorry. It’s his fault we quarreled, but it’s too tiring to stay mad. I want things to be the same between us.

The cars crept along the freeway and I checked my watch.

He should be home by now, waiting for me, listening to music, drinking a glass of red wine. I’m sure he bought me flowers. I can’t wait to see what color he chose. If they’re red, I know he still loves me.

Rain and leaves swirled across the highway and gathered on the edge of my windshield. My eyes stung with tears as I remember saying, “I hate you.” The wind shield wipers swished, and seemed to repeat, “hate-shoo, hate-shoo, hate-shoo.” I didn’t mean it. I reached in my purse for my cell phone and touched a melted chocolate candy kiss, his gift to me. I licked the chocolate off my fingers and smiled, remembering the night not so long ago and his words, “This kiss signifies my love.”

How I yearn to tell him I’m sorry, even if he was wrong. I want his arms around me. I want his lips to caress my throat. I want everything to be as it was before we quarreled.

I pull into the driveway, but I don’t see his car. It must be parked in the garage. I know he heard me pull in, and even now, I imagine him rushing to the door with a glass of wine and the flowers. In a minute, I’ll be in his arms. He’ll kiss me and whisper, “I’m sorry…”

I turn the handle on the front door. Why is it locked? I pull my key from my purse  and unlock the door. The room is empty. I call his name. Where can he be?

A gust of wind rushes in, slamming the door behind me. My heart pounds as my gaze is drawn to another chocolate candy kiss as it rolls off the table. A single sheet of paper flutters in the air and settles to the floor...

20
Oct 23

The Ghost of Mokelumne Hills - A Cat's Story

                             Elaine Faber

Did you ever hear what happened at the Leger Hotel in Mokelumne Hills? Probably not, because I doubt there was anything in the papers about it. Nobody cares much about ghosts anymore. Well, it happened sort of like this.

Mom was Dad rented a room at the Leger Hotel the week before Halloween. The Hotel brochure said the place was haunted, Of course, they took Sissy and me along because we were still too young to stay home alone. Mom had some idea that kittens would enjoy the cultural experience.

Sissy and I stayed in the room while they went exploring. How did mom think we could have a cultural experience from the hotel room? I think it was an excuse because she couldn’t be away from us.

Sissy and I spent the first hour exploring every nook and cranny, looking out the window onto the 2nd floor balcony where the prostitutes used to sit, advertising their wares. I didn’t make that up. That’s what we heard the maid say. We crawled in the fireplace and under the claw-foot tub in the bathroom. We felt “something”, but we couldn’t exactly figure out what it was.

That’s when I heard the voice. My hair stood on end and my tail fluffed up. I just made out the faint wispy outline of an old guy on the sofa, wearing an old miner’s hat. His face was covered with gray whiskers and he was missing a few teeth. He looked pretty scary!

Sissy was sleeping. She’s not like me. She’s all quiet and prissy. I’m usually awake and looking for trouble. So this old guy waves a gnarled hand and says, “Can ya’ help me? I need help to move on.”

There wasn’t anyone in the room, so I figured he must be talking to me, so I says, “Are you talking to me? I’m a cat.”

“I can see that. Maybe you can help me more than anybody, you bein’ a cat and all.”

“Are you a ghost?”

“Yeah. Guess so. Name’s Joe Harrigan. I died in 1876. My partner and me had a little mine nearby and we usta' come to town on weekends. They hanged me for killin’ my partner, but I didn’t. I shoulda’ gone on to whatever comes next, but since I was innocent, they couldn’t send me to Hell, but bein’ convicted for murder, all official-like in a Court a’ Law, Heaven said they couldn’t take me neither. I’ve been stuck here in this room ever since, tryin’ to get somebody to help me clear my name so's I can cross over.”

“Why hasn’t anyone helped you before?”

“Some folks can see me, but I can’t make them hear me. They run off yellin,’ “I seen a ghost! I seen a ghost!” and change rooms. Sometimes there’s a dog stay in the room. They can see and hear me, but they growl or hide under the bed. Maybe cats is more understandin’?”

Sissy was awake now. She puffed her fur up, and her eyes got all big. “Whaaat’s going on?”

“Calm down, scardy-cat. It’s just an old ghost. They hanged him so he can’t move on. He wants us to help him.”

“What can we do? We’re cats!”

I was about to agree when Mom and Dad came in. The ghost melted away, so we couldn’t ask any more questions.

“What’s up with Sissie Amber? She looks like a porcupine!” Mom said.

“Maybe she’s seen a ghost!” says Dad, and both of them fell down laughing on the bed and got all kissie. Sissie and I tossed sand from the litterbox onto the hearth, to let them know what we thought about such nonsense.

A while later, Mom and Dad went to dinner and locked us in the room. We waited for the ghost to come back again but he didn’t. Mom and Dad came back and went to bed. We could see ghostly shadows all over the room and chased them around for the next three hours until Mom tossed us into the bathroom.

About 6:00 AM, I clawed the door and woke up Dad. He hasn’t needed an alarm clock since we came to live here. I just claw the door and howl, and like Pavlov’s dog, he’s out of bed, opens the door, and feeds us. Just three or four days of repetition and humans are fairly easy to train.

Mom and Dad went off to breakfast and left us in the room. So much for day two of our cultural experience. The old guy showed up about 9:00 AM. His aura faded in and out, much fainter than the day before. His hands trembled when he spoke. “Look, girls, I think I’m about at the end of my rope…no pun intended… If I don’t get some help movin’ on pretty soon, I don’t think I’ll ever make it.”

“But, you never said how we could help you,” I exclaimed.

“There’s a secret panel in the back of the old armoire in the corner. I hid a paper inside the panel. My partner writ out his will, tellin’ how he accidentally shot hisself’ cleanin’ his gun. After I buried him, I was grieving’ his death and come to town to get drunk. I hid that Will in the armoire before I went to the bar. I told um’ my partner was dead and they thought I kilt’ him to get the mine all to myself. One thing led to another until someone got a rope. They had a trial, but I was so drunk, I plumb forgot to tell um’ about that air’ Will in the armoire. So they hanged me.

“Bein’ dead sorta’ cleared my head and I remembered the Will, but it was too late. I’ve been ‘ahoverin’ ever since, hopin’ someone would find the Will and clear my name, so’s I can get a crack at Heaven, which it’s doubtful I deserve, but I’d like to give it a try!”

Sissy and I jumped off the bed and clawed at the door of the armoire. We got the door open and began clawing at the back wall of the paneling.

“That’s it!  Right there!  Give it all you got, girls. If you push on it, it sorta’ slides in. There! You can see the paper stickin' out?”

“You can do it, SissyAmber! Go for it!”

Amber had plenty of practice pulling thumbtacks out of bulletin boards and pulling papers off the wall. She grabbed the paper with her teeth and pulled it out.

Old Joe was pretty excited. Mom and Dad came into the room about then and saw us pawing at the paper.

“What have you girls been doing? What’s that?” Mom picked up the faded paper with teeth marks in the corners… I was quick to explain that if anybody was in trouble, I didn’t have anything to do with it... Mom read the paper.

Joe, he didn’t shoot me. I done it kleenin my gun.  I got no fambly and my frend Joe Harrigan otta have my shar a the mine. Sined July 1876  George Wales

“Where did this come from?” Mom asked.

“It looks like they were inside the armoire,” Dad said. “The door’s open and the paneling on the back wall is pushed in.”

“Let’s take it down to the manager and see what they make of it.”

Mom and Dad put on our collars and leashes and carried us downstairs to the manager’s office. At last, our cultural experience!

“Our girls found this in the armoire up in Room two. This old paper looks like a handwritten Last Will and Testament. Your Historic Society should see this,” Mom said.

“My goodness, yes. I know the name, Joe Harrigan. He was hanged for killing his partner, old George. They say Joe haunts Room two. Indeed, the Historic Society will be very interested! Poor old Joe. So, he was innocent after all. He’s buried up on boot hill. Folks go up to see his headstone. Your cats are heroes!”

Mom and Dad drove us to the cemetery and found old Joe’s headstone. Poor old guy. I guess The Leger Hotel added a postscript to their brochures about the ghost of the miner who was hanged by mistake at the hotel. I don’t think anybody in the news media paid much attention. Hopefully, someday, the courts will clear his name.

We never heard about old Joe’s ghost again. I think he must have been able to move on. I expect St. Peter gave old Joe a fair trial when he got to Heaven. He sure never got one at the Leger Hotel in Mokelumne Hills!

30
Sep 23

A Man's Choices - A Short Story

I’ve been sitting on this cement mall bench for hours, watching the people rush by. Old women carrying shopping bags, young women pushing strollers, and absentee fathers dragging weekend children to the theater. “Excuse me. Have you…?” I reached toward one after another. None glanced my way. Teens dashed back and forth, throwing popcorn at the mall-birds. They travel in packs: the teens…not the birds, thumbing cell phones. They seem unable to be separated from someone on the other end. No one looks my way. Could I be invisible?

I don’t have a cell phone, or for that matter, any friends I could call who would want to talk to me. Here I sit, alone in the midst of a bustling crowd, picking at the peeling paint on the bench. How did this happen? In another lifetime, I had things to do and places to go. In another lifetime, I breathed and ate and slept and played and did all sort of things. What happened?

Maybe I am dead. Is this what it’s like to be dead?

I remember folks saying that when you die, you go to Heaven. Heaven has streets of gold, angels glorying in God’s presence and animals. Lots of animals. There’s supposed to be music, art, nature, and love, all rolled into a package tied with a ribbon. Just pull off the ribbon, open the package, and there you are…Heaven.

If that’s all true and I’m dead, I must have missed the train to Heaven, because I’m sitting on a bench in the mall, alone, and  invisible.

My wife and I used to go to church, at least several times a year. That’s where I learned about Heaven. Yes, I used to have a wife and friends, and we even had a dog. A small spotted dog we called Spot. Go figure. My wife made a pot roast every Sunday night and Spot would dance on his back feet for a bite. Spot died a month after my wife passed away. I haven’t touched a bite of pot roast since then…

Wait. There’s a Marine in a uniform coming toward me. I’ll thank him for his service and maybe we’ll talk for a few minutes. But, what if I speak to him and he walks on by? It will just prove my suspicions that I’m really…dead. Why take the chance? Do I really want to know? He’s probably on his way somewhere important. He wouldn’t have the time for an old guy like me.

My wife always made us shake hands and thank any military person we met. Policemen and firefighters, too. It was important, she said, because they caught a lot of flak from people who took them for granted, or even verbally abused them. Couldn’t figure out why folks would do. They’re just here to help folks.

I said ‘hello’ to a teenage boy a few minutes ago, but he didn’t stop. Didn’t even turn his head. Probably too busy–probably has a girlfriend, maybe a job at McDonald’s, and for sure, a cell phone. It was in his ear. Literally, stuck to his ear, like a hearing aid. He was talking to someone. Or maybe not. Maybe he was talking to himself. I do that a lot lately, because if I speak to someone, they don’t hear a word I say. But why should they if I’m invisible…or dead.

Wife always wanted kids, but it never happened for us. Probably for the best. I never had much interest in sports, and teenage boys like sports. I wouldn’t have been a very good father to a boy. Or a girl, for that matter. What do I know about raising a girl? She probably would have run away and got into all sorts of trouble. Now, why would I think such a thing? I was married to a good woman. She would have made sure a girl child would turn out alright. Having kids would have been okay. It would be nice to think someone gave a rip if I died. If you don’t have kids, there’s nothing left on earth to  show you were ever here.

It’s nearly five o’clock. This bench is hard and cold. I’ve been here most of the afternoon. I should walk back to the bus and go home. I should go, but it’s a long way to the bus stop and my feet hurt. I walked too far this morning…all around the mall, past Macy’s, past the shoe store where I bought a pair of shoes once. Brown shoes.

My wife saw an ad in the newspaper and insisted we buy a pair. Wonder whatever happened to those shoes? Haven’t seen them for a while. Maybe they’re in the back of the closet where I used to store my golf clubs and fishing poles.

We used to take weekend trips in the motor home. I fished and usually managed to include a game of golf. But that was before my wife died. Before my world turned dark and hopeless. Before I gave away my golf clubs and fishing poles and sold my motor home. I guess that’s when I turned my back on everyone. When I stopped returning friend’s calls and stopped going to church, even several times year. I think that’s when it happened. I guess the truth is, it’s not that I’m really dead. I just chose to become invisible.

****

“What? What did you say?” There’s a man standing in front of me. He’s about my age. Has gray hair and a mustache. He nodded toward the chess tables nearby.

“I didn’t mean to startle you. I asked if you played chess. Would you like to play a game?”

I stared at my hands. “I…I used to play when I was younger. Haven’t played for years,” I mumbled. “Are you sure you want to play with me?”

“No mistake,” the man says. “I saw you were alone. But, if you’d rather not, I understand. I’ll ask someone else.” He started to turn away.

“No. No.…” I stumbled to my feet. Surprisingly, they didn’t hurt any more. “Thanks. I mean, yeah, I’d love to play.”

He reached out his hand. “Name’s Walter. What’s yours?”

We shook hands and my fingers tingled at his touch. I wouldn’t have felt that if I was dead, would I? “Mine’s Darwin. Nice to meet you.” We walked to the chess table.

He sat and opened his chessboard and dumped out the pieces. “You come here often, Darwin? My friend and I used to come every afternoon, but he moved to a nursing home across town. Sure do miss him. We spent a lot of afternoons here together.” Walter held out two chess pieces. “Black or white?”

“You choose,” I said. My heart was beating so fast, it was hard to catch my breath. The cement bench didn’t even feel cold or hard at all.

“I’ll take black,” Walter said. “How do you feel about meeting here a couple days a week?”

“That sounds nice. Maybe you’ll think I’m not as good a player as you,” I said.

Walter carefully set up the pieces. “Then, I’ll teach you. You’ll be fine. After a couple games, I like to go over to Denny’s and have a bite to eat. What do ya’ say?” He turned the chessboard so the white pieces faced me.

I felt a crushing sensation in my chest, almost painful, and wonderful, all at the same time. I’m not dead after all, and I must not be totally invisible. Maybe I just felt that way because I turned my back on all that was good in my life. Maybe when my wife died, I just gave up. I thought I had nothing more to live for. I was wrong. It’s all about the choices we make. We can choose to keep on living, or choose to become invisible.

“Your move, Darwin. Let’s see if you have game.” Walter grinned at me, like a friend.

The muscles in my jaw twitched. It was a smile. I remember that feeling, though I haven’t felt one for a long time.

7
Aug 23

Dorian's Search and Rescue Dog, SAM

Based on a true account written by a rescue worker and his dog, the following is an 'outtake' from my cozy mystery novel, Black Cat's Legacy that never made it into the final version. Black Cat's Legacy is FREE at Amazon 08-07-23 through 08-11-23. http://tinyrul.com/lrvevgm

****

Dorian and her Search and Rescue dog, Sam, are called to Oklahoma City following the bombing of the Alfred Murrah Bldg in 1995.

Dorian’s Search and Rescue team heard of the Oklahoma bombing and immediately flew from Northern CA to Oklahoma to assist in search and rescue operations.

At the bombing site, Dorian and Sam were taken to the nursery area where day care was provided for the workers' babies and toddlers.  It was an area hardest hit by the blast and there were few survivors among the children who had been in attendance that day.

Where children once played as their parents worked, a pile of rubble stood several stories high with twisted beams, shards of glass, aluminum, wood and chunks of metal and concrete slabs protruding in all directions.  Beneath the rubble laid the remains of the babies and their caregivers.

Sam and other rescue dogs were directed to cross the rubble to search for any sign of victims, or should God be merciful, a survivor.  The rescue dogs could wiggle into places where grown men could not reach. Sam was trained to whine when he found a dead body and bark if he found a survivor. On that sad day he did not bark….

When one of the dogs gave the alert by either a bark or whine, the frantic rescue workers would concentrate on removing blocks of concrete or twisted steel in a rescue attempt. Unfortunately, when the victim was reached, inevitably an orange plastic body bag would be passed down the line of workers into the pit of twisted rubble. The little broken body of a child would be lifted out and placed into a basket and sober rescue workers would respectfully carry it to the morgue truck where parents waited and prayed for news of their child. The same sad scene was repeated throughout the day and the next, as multiple children were located. Each time a body was brought up from beneath the rubble, a mother’s heart would soar with hope and then plunge into despair when her child was identified.

Further into the building and away from the demolished section of building, a rescue dog located a survivor, buried deep in the rubble. Attempts were underway to clear the area where the young woman was trapped beneath mounts of cement and rubble. There came a call from the temporary command station, announcing that everyone must evacuate the site because another incendiary device had been discovered. The rescuers explained to the victim they had to leave her but would return as soon as they were able. She begged them not to leave her alone. Sadly, they left her trapped beneath the rubble, not knowing if they would be able to return or if another blast would ultimately take her life.  Imagine her terror as the hours passed, realizing that rescue was near but at any moment, she could die. It was several hours before the bomb scare was declared a false alarm and the rescuers returned and successfully removed her from her cement and metal prison. Thankfully, the young woman survived.

Pieces of falling debris made the area unsafe and Dorian and her fellow teammates wore helmets while they crawled among the dangerous rubble directing their dogs back and forth.  Sam went repeatedly into areas felt to be unsafe for human rescuers. Each time he ventured into such an area, he put his life at risk for the sake of those people trapped below.

By the end of the day, Sam was coughing and sneezing from the dust and pollution in the air. Though Dorian wore a mask to cover her face and protective gear for her hands and feet, Sam worked all day breathing the foul air and walking on sharp shards of concrete rubble without the benefit of any protective gear.  In the afternoon, Sam was sent to a mobile SPCA van.  Volunteer veterinarian staff washed his eyes and ears and put healing lotion on his cracked and bleeding feet.

Though Dorian and Sam would have stayed longer, the directors of the rescue mission felt the physical and emotional drain was too much for a dog and handler to volunteer longer than a single day.  Many other volunteers and dogs from across the country came and took their place in the following days, repeating their rescue efforts until the rubble was cleared and the last body was removed.

Sam was a true unsung hero as he risked his life in an attempt to save others on one of America’s darkest days.

 

7
Jul 23

The No Fly Zone - Roswell Space Ship Crash 1947

To commemorate the alleged July 8, 1947, spaceship crash on at Roswell, New Mexico, the following fictional story is presented. ******

I grew up in Roswell, New Mexico where old timers still whisper about alien crash sites and witnessing alien bodies on slabs in secret military labs.

Once the story of the alien spaceship crash on a local farm began to circulate in 1947, and tourism exploded in hopes of a UFO sighting, Dad renamed our family bakery The Alien Bakery. We specialized in decorated flying saucer cookies shaped like space ships from the movie, Cat from Outer Space and a replica of the main character, a cat named Jake. Customers get a kick out of  Dad’s sign over the door:

SHUT THE DOOR   THIS IS A NO FLY ZONE!

In the 90’s, we created a website and advertised our cookies on UFO blog sites. Tourists continued to swarm Roswell and they all stop by our bakery for our famous cookies.

Every 4th of July, Roswell holds a three-day UFO Festival that attracts thousands of tourists from around the world. Our seven employees work ten-hour shifts, cutting out cookies of spaceships, cloud shapes, and a cat cookie that looked like Jake, the cat from The Cat from Outer Space movie. Dad and I stayed up way past our bedtime last night, putting colored frosting on Jake’s collar and red-hot candies around the bottom of the spaceship cookies.

Old Man Foster, blind since childhood, has owned the newspaper stand next door for as long as I can remember. He sells papers from all over the country and souvenir copies of the Roswell Daily Record, July 8, 1947 issue announcing RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region. The military debunked the story the next day, declaring it remnants of a weather balloon. To this day, die-hard UFO-ers are convinced the government covered up a crashed spaceship. Dad and Old Man Foster, both experts in astronomy, spend hours talking about the solar system. Oddly, the subject of the alleged spaceship crash seems to be off limits in their lengthy conversations.

Old Man Foster was 9 years old when the alleged space ship landed on his grandad’s ranch. Tourists have flocked to his news stand, asking questions, due to his relationship to the incident. Though glad to talk about the solar system and his belief in the probability of intelligent life in outer space, when questioned about the 1947 incident, he’d decline. No amount of bribes or persuasion could convince him to break his silence. His reluctance to discuss the matter often convinced the tourists that the UFO stories were true.

This morning, Mirabel sold cookies at the counter. Jocelyn rang up the sales. Dad and I were frosting cookies when there was a commotion outside at the news stand. We rushed out and found Old Man Foster on the sidewalk, his hair matted with blood, a brick beside his head. I called 911 and we knelt beside him.

Dad pulled Old Man Foster’s head into his lap. “What happened? Who hit you? Were you robbed?”

The old man turned toward Dad’s voice, opened his sightless eyes, and began to mumble. “Gotta tell before I die.”

Dad smoothed his hair. “You’re not going to die.”

“The day it crashed. Gramps and I… out in the field. It burst through a hole in the cloud, flames shooting out behind... Headed straight for us. Gramps pushed me down. ‘Don’t look,’ he yelled.” He shook his head and sighed. “I didn’t listen. I watched as it tumbled from the sky…. So bright! Tried to cover my eyes. A giant flash and… and… I woke up in my room… blind ever since.

“Gramps said the military took it away. They warned Gramps… ‘Don’t ever talk… or we’ll put you in jail.’ The next day… next day… they claimed it was just a weather balloon. We never told that I was blinded by the crash. I never told…” His head rolled to the side. He closed his eyes and seemed at peace, having shared his darkest secret.

“Rest now, Mr. Foster. Help is coming.” I patted his hand, shocked by the tale he shared, the event he had refused to discuss his entire life. Could it be true? He was blinded by witnessing the Roswell crash that has been denied and surrounded by secrecy all these years?

An ambulance pulled to the curb. Two men loaded Old Man Foster and roared off down the road. I hoped that his injuries were minor and he’d soon be back at his news stand.

After dinner, I called the hospital to check up on him. They said there was no record of Old Man Foster ever being admitted. In spite of numerous calls to all the hospitals in the neighboring counties, I couldn’t ever locate him. We never saw him again...

Someone said the ambulance headed toward Edwards Air Field Military Base, but no one could figure out why they would take him there? He wasn’t retired military. Did someone overhear him talking about the UFO crash in 1947? What difference would it make so many years later? Who would believe him? He was just an old man talking nonsense after getting hit in the head.

****

For other short stories (about cats) see my anthology All Things Cat.  http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak (Amazon$2.99-ebook)

3
Jul 23

Edited Scene from Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary

This is an excerpt from the cozy mystery, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary. While Kimberlee follows clues to a treasure in lost gold coins in Austria, Black Cat and Angel are home in Fern Lake when unexpected deviltry is afoot....

****

Black Cat reached the corner of the house and skidded to a stop. Who is that?

A woman wearing dark glasses and a large black hat crept through the front gate and pulled it closed behind her. She tip-toed down the sidewalk toward the house. Did she imagine she couldn’t be seen from the house? Black Cat lowered his ears. What is she up to? She’s up to no good, that’s for sure.

On the other side of the gate, the woman’s car motor rumbled, its driver side door hanging open.

Black Cat’s heart thudded. Perhaps the woman intended to steal something from the front porch. He crept forward. He would have to stop her. He could almost see the front-page headlines in tomorrow’s newspaper. Plucky Local Cat Foils Attempted Grand Larceny. Despite overwhelming odds, the plucky feline protected his master’s valuable rhododendron plant from the clutches of a 200 lb. female assailant determined to…so forth and so on… Perhaps even his picture and…

His gaze swept toward the Wisteria vines where Angel’s gold tail swished beneath the purple flowers. Angel! The portly woman sprinted up the sidewalk, leaned down, and yanked Angel out from under the bush.

Meow!

Clutching the struggling cat, Angel writhed and twisted. “Oh no, you don’t, my pet.” She turned and hurried back toward her street.

Black Cat raced across the lawn. Angel! He leaped at the woman’s arm, teeth bared. She jerked away. Having missed his target, he tumbled to the grass with a shriek. “Help! Help.”  

The woman waddled to her car, struggled to open the front gate with one hand while grappling with the thrashing cat. Once she got the door open, she flung Angel onto the passenger seat and flopped into the driver’s seat.

Not my Angel… Black Cat sprinted through the gate, leaped over the hood of the car, and scrambled around the car door.

Before she could slam the door shut, Black Cat leaped into the kidnapper's lap. She grabbed her purse and struck at his head, knocking him sideways. His head struck the dials on the radio and he fell to the floor, momentarily stunned.

Angel huddled on the front passenger seat, her nails clinging to the vinyl seat, frozen with fright, mewing pathetically, Black Cat! Black Cat!

The cat-napper hit the gas and the car plunged down the driveway, spewing gravel. She reached the street and gunned the engine. Her tires squealed, leaving patches of rubber as she roared past the lodge and headed for the outskirts of town...

To order this e-book from Amazon... www.https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

 

18
Jun 23

WWII FACTS About Mrs. Odboddy's Desperate Doings FACTS

Due to the need to feed and supply the troops during WWII, the federal government established a rationing system to conserve crucial food and supplies which required Katherine and Mrs. Odboddy to reimagine how to shop using a ration book and still cook delicious meals. The system wasn’t perfect. Whenever the government announced an item would soon be rationed, citizens stood in line in front in front of the market, with intentions of buying up as much as possible. Many folks planted a Victory garden to supplement  vegetables and fruit, and canned any overflow to use the following winter.

The rationing program involved giving a number of “points”, which came in the form of stamps printed inside a ration coupon book. These were distributed throughout the war to each person including the children.  Restricted items required a certain number of points, along with money.

Tires were rationed first, starting in January 1942, just weeks after Pearl Harbor.  Consumers could no longer buy new tires; and were required to patch or have the treads replaced on existing tires. Multiple tire issues were the result of poor quality tires and poor condition of the roads. Health care professionals, fire and police could purchase new tires, also buses, and certain delivery trucks, with specific approval.

Black market trading in everything from tires to meat plagued the nation, including the black market purchase of ration books. Rationing brought about increased black market activity because  certain foods were rationed, starting with sugar in May 1942. Coffee was restricted to one pound per adult every six weeks for a period of time, followed by meats, fats, canned fish, cheese, and canned milk.  Folks with extra ration coupons befitted by selling them on the black market. In  Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, Mrs. Odboddy recognized the issue of stolen ration books and set about to expose the criminals involved.

In the latest Mrs. O novel, Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings, we expanded on the issue of ration books, cooking with limited supplies and relying on Victory gardens to supplement fruits and vegetables. Cuts of meat were rationed, often leaving only the internal organs to include liver, heart, neck bones and ox tail available for purchase. Below is the original recipe for Oxtail Stew,

OXTAIL STEW

Dredge three large oxtails in flour and brown with an onion in butter or shortening. Add two tablespoons of bacon grease. Toss the floured meat into the frying pan with a diced onion and brown on all sides. To a large kettle, add two cups of canned beef broth, two cups of water and two cups of canned tomatoes. Add a bay leaf, a teaspoon of salt and a dash of pepper. When the meat and onion are nicely browned, add to the kettle liquid, turn down the burner to simmer, and cook for three hours. During the last hour, add half a cup of carrots, half a cup of chopped celery, a tablespoon of parsley and six potatoes from the Victory garden. Just before ready to eat, thicken the gravy with flour or corn starch.

The stew is delicious, hearty with vegetables and fairly inexpensive and can be cooked during the day, while pursuing other activities. Mrs. Odboddy would set an oxtail stew 'aboil, as she plotted how to expose the town's popular thieving doctor, after seeing him steal art work from the neighbor, or in an effort to find a home for their displaced carnival tiger, Shere Khan.

All these wonderful WWII mystery adventures are available at Amazon for $3.99 ebook.