22
Jun

A Fourth of July Short Story

Agnes pulled in her driveway and stepped out of her Prius. Her neighbor, Millie, hailed 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’s husband, George, was a Revolutionary War collector. Their house looked like a museum full of Revolutionary War relics. Why did Millie put up with such nonsense?

Millie ran up, breathlessly, “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 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. Snubbing Millie wasn’t very nice, 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 British shirt. Agnes sighed. Who cared about all that stuff anymore? What difference did it make, anyway, two hundred years later?

The Fourth of July was such a nuisance. The fireworks always got all the neighborhood dogs barking and the streets were a cluttered mess the next morning.

Agnes preferred closing the blinds and going to bed early. Kids down the street were already shooting off fireworks. She closed her eyes…

Agnes jerked and twisted, thrashing her pillow. What? Why was she in the middle of a battlefield? The boom-boom of fireworks became 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 stared at the soldiers moving forward with guns drawn. Redcoats? From England? What?How did she get here? She didn’t belong here! She couldn’t be here. The field would soon be littered with dead and dying men. She turned and tried to run. She must be dreaming. 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, they had the 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.

She had to get away. This couldn’t be real! She knew she was dreaming! Why couldn’t she wake up?

The drumbeat stopped. Silence! What happened? She peeked around the rock. There was the enemy, frozen in time, guns at the ready, feet in mid-step. The flag drooped, unmoving. The drummer’s drumstick hung suspended in mid-air, above his drum.

Agnes lifted her head toward the brilliant sky where scattered patches of clouds gathered as though suspended from wires on a stage. Overhead, a bird hung motionless.

She opened her eyes, and blinked against the darkness in her own bedroom. “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 minds. She shuddered. There was a day when her dream had been the reality for many others.

She turned toward the window. It had begun to rain and rivulets streaked the glass, curving and twisting as they traversed the pane. Outside, the tree in the backyard wavered in the wind of an unseasonable summer shower. The Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks must have ended by now. Agnes put her hand to her pounding heart. It was just a dream. Everything was fine. Just a dream.

Agnes rose from her bed and found a book about 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 American Revolutionary soldiers died during the war
8,000 more 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 men 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 called Millie’s answering machine and left a message. “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 bedroom with her cat. Boom! Another firecracker cracked in the night. Agnes turned to her cat. “Does that child have any idea what he’s celebrating?”

Agnes’s cat blinked as though he had no answer to the provocative question.

 

5
Jun

REPRINT Our Honeymoon Story (58 years later)

With our 58th wedding anniversary next week, I thought it was time to share our honeymoon story again. Hope your honeymoon wasn't quite as eventful, but still filled with love and good memories.

While sorting through my cedar hope chest recently, I uncovered my wedding gown and honeymoon nightie. A few shreds of rice still clung to the polyester material. I thought back on the days of our unusual honeymoon as I folded and smoothed the purple nightie.

June 17, 1962 was a perfect day. The sun beamed through the stained glass windows. The scent of flowers and music filled the auditorium.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” and we were man and wife, twenty years, and eighteen-years-old respectively.

Following the reception, consisting of wedding cake and fruit punch, we raced through torrents of rice, eager to reach our secret honeymoon motel in a nearby lake resort town. That night, we planned to celebrate by having dinner at a real restaurant.

While dating, we had eaten at hotdog stands, drive-in movie snack shacks and BBQ’s with family, but we had never gone to a real restaurant. A candlelight dinner at a restaurant was a rite of passage, signifying that we were now married adults. It would be a cherished memory, a perfect beginning to our wedding night.

The sun shone hot on our heads as we drove with the top down on our 1958 MGA.   The excitement of the day took a toll on my young husband. His head began to throb and maybe “nerves” played a role as well. In our day, “the wedding night” created some anxieties than many young grooms don’t experience today.  Several hours later, we reached our honeymoon cottage on the shores of a sparkling lake. My young husband threw himself on the bed, head pounding, eyes aching, a wet cloth held to his forehead, and begged to be allowed to die in peace. He wasn’t up to dinner at a fancy restaurant.

“Tomorrow, honey,” he promised, “just let me go to bed.”

A brand new blushing bride, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town on my wedding eve, and selected spaghetti, hamburger, tomato sauce, lettuce, and salad dressing. I soon found myself in front of a tiny stove in our honeymoon cottage, cooking spaghetti on my wedding night while my husband groaned on the bed.

“I hope this isn’t a sign of what’s ahead,” I thought, as I added a pinch of salt to the boiling water. “This is NOT how I planned my wedding night.”

Monday dawned bright and clear, a hot and perfect June day and we slept late, lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore, headaches and anxieties of the day before a forgotten memory. We spent the afternoon in the park in the shade of a willow tree, watching the squirrels. We kissed and spoke of where we would have our special dinner that night, a celebration of our one-day anniversary. We swam and frolicked in the lake. My new lord and master climbed a nearby diving board.

“Hey, Hon, look at me,” he shouted, spreading his arms and launching himself in a perfect swan dive into the sparkling water below.

Somewhere between “Look at me,” and the sparkling water below, something went dreadfully wrong with his perfect dive. He hit the water with a resounding “kersplash.” Breaking the surface of the water, he held his hand to his left ear.

“I think I broke something.” The local emergency room confirmed, indeed, a broken eardrum. The doctor advised bed rest and a quiet night…

As a recently married woman, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected hamburger, tomato sauce and French bread. On my one-day anniversary, I stood in front of the tiny stove, my young husband sleeping off the effects of pain medications.  The water lapped onto the shore next to our honeymoon cottage as I sighed and heated  spaghetti sauce.

Tuesday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, being lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore. All afternoon we streaked across the beautiful waves in a rented speedboat, churning up the water. We looked forward to a romantic dinner that night to celebrate our two–day anniversary. The sun shone deceivingly on my young husband’s bare legs and they changed from white, to pink, to bright red.

My young husband moved slowly toward our car, each painful step tugging at his sunburned legs. He tried to pull on his trousers but the effort was too painful. My young husband lay on the cool asbestos tile floor (who knew?) of our honeymoon cottage, moaning.

“I don’t think I can put my pants on. Sorry, Hon. No fancy dinner. Maybe tomorrow.”

A fairly jaded wife, I pushed a grocery cart through the tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected hamburger, tomato sauce and cookies. The storeowner smiled. After all, I had shopped there three days in a row and was his newest most-frequent shopper. I vowed to speak to mother about marriage. If this were going to continue, I would need to learn to cook something besides spaghetti.

Wednesday dawned bright and clear, we slept late…  We spent the afternoon driving around the lake. In the late afternoon, we stopped at a nice restaurant before any further calamity. We celebrated our three-day anniversary. It was as romantic as I had imagined. My husband’s head didn’t ache, his ear didn’t throb, his sunburn had faded to a dull pink, his pants were on, we didn’t eat spaghetti and I didn’t have to cook.

After dinner, at a drive-in theater, necking in the front seat somehow didn’t have its previous pre-marriage appeal. We determined it would be best to leave when the movie was only half over. It was getting very late, you see, nearly 9:30 after all, and we were anxious to return to our honeymoon cottage

Thursday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, lulled by the waves…

By late afternoon, we thought about the events of the week so far. A migraine, a broken eardrum, a sunburn, and it became clear that we should cut our honeymoon short and return home before any further disaster occurred. I felt the need to speak to mother about marriage in general and recipes in particular.  By early evening, we bid the honeymoon cottage farewell and started for home.

We were both eager to reach home and resume…what honeymooners resume. The air was warm and balmy as we left the resort town. A crooked road down the mountain would take 30 minutes off our travel time. Driving the mountain road was difficult, with switchbacks and no roadside safety rails. Slowly maneuvering hairpin curves, eyes wide, we saw broken, twisted cars in the canyons below. Had they run off the road or were they shoved into the canyon to dispose of them?  At the bottom of the mountain, the valley stretched before us, and the terrible ordeal was finally over.

My young husband shifted gears and revved the engine. Nothing happened. He shifted to another gear and stepped on the gas. Nothing happened. The car coasted into a convenient gas station. He crawled under the car, and found….a broken axle. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he thought about what might have happened if the axle had broken at the top of the mountain on the winding road. We were safe, thank God, but how would we get home, 80 miles away?

As a mature, experienced wife of four days, able to handle any emergency, I dropped coins into the telephone. Daddy answered, and I said, “ Daddy, come get me….” whereupon, Daddy exploded,

“What’s wrong? Where are you? What has that beast done to my baby girl?” I explained that the beast had done nothing that I didn’t want done, but never the less, the axle on the MG was broken and we needed a tow.

Daddy drove for an hour and a half, rescued his baby girl and towed the car 80 miles unceremoniously at the end of a rope; a discouraged young bride and disgruntled half-frozen groom.

If we had seriously analyzed the disasters of the week, and felt them to be prophetic of our future life together, we might have applied for an annulment the next morning.  Perhaps we were too naïve, too inexperienced, or too much in love to realize the pitfalls that lay ahead.   58 years have passed and my husband’s hair is gray and my face is wrinkled. Through our marriage, we have encountered sickness and health, success and failure, joy and sorrow, but we continue to face life’s challenges together.

I placed the nightie back into the hope chest.  The pungent aroma of cedar clung in the air as I closed the lid.  I closed my eyes, thinking for a moment of those exciting, wonderful days and relived the thrills, frustrations and romance.

Returning to the kitchen, I put a pinch of salt into the spaghetti bubbling on the stove. Like a pinch of salt, it takes a touch of adversity to enhance the flavor to appreciate the fullness of life.  I smiled at the memory of a honeymoon cottage by the shores of a sky-blue lake, and a tiny stove, where another pot of spaghetti bubbled three nights in a row. Despite the unusual circumstance we shared that week, it was the most wonderful, exciting, perfect honeymoon a woman could ever experience, because I was with the man I love.

 

27
May

Three Elements For a Great Reader Experience

– Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary

A reader wants to feel she is personally experiencing or observing the events in the story, therefore, the  author must write the story in such a way to allow the reader to experience the story in this manner.  So, have you ever wondered why you've read some books that create this feeling and others that are just...ok?   To successfully create such a scene, it must include the following three elements.

  1. What does the character see? (The setting seen through the character’s POV)
  2. What does the character think or feel? (How does the current situation personally affect him?)
  3. What does the character say or do about the situation? (Dialogue or action, or both.) I will use a condensed/edited scene from my latest novel, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary to illustrate.

What does he see? Setting: Black Cat watched as a woman wearing dark glasses and a large black hat that shaded her face crept through the gate. Rosebush stickers on the fence caught at her sleeve. She paused, unhooked the thorns and then, tip-toed down the sidewalk toward the house.

Black Cat lowered his ears and crept past the corner of the house. What was she up to? His gaze swept toward the Wisteria vines where Angel’s golden tail swished back and forth beneath the hanging purple flowers. Angel!

What does he think (or feel?) Perhaps this woman intended to steal something from the front porch. He crept closer. It was his duty to protect the family’s belongings. He could almost see tomorrow's front page headlines in the Fern Lake Gazette. Plucky Local Cat Foils Attempted Grand Larceny. Despite overwhelming odds, the daring and 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…Maybe his photo…

The portly woman dashed the last few steps up the sidewalk, leaned down, and yanked Angel by her tail, out from under the bush.

Meow!

What does he say or do? Dialogue or Action: Black Cat raced across the lawn. Angel! He leaped at the woman’s arm, teeth bared. The woman jerked away. His fangs caught the edge of her sleeve and ripped through the material. Having missed to connect with her arm, he tumbled to the grass with a shriek. “Brett! Brett! Help! Help!

The thief waddled down the sidewalk with Angel, desperately thrashing against her hip. Still grasping the thrashing cat, with one hand, the woman struggled to open the front gate . “Stop fighting me, you little…”

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

Once she reached her door, the woman flung Angel onto the passenger seat, and flopped into the driver’s seat. Before she could slam the door shut, Black Cat leaped into her 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. As though through a haze, he heard Brett yelling. Angel huddled on the front passenger seat, her nails clinging to the vinyl seat, frozen with fright, mewing pathetically, Black Cat! Black Cat!

****

 

To learn what happens next, you can purchase Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary for $3.99 at Amazon https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

Let me know your thoughts regarding this writing process. What thoughts to you have regarding how authors create a more satisfying read?

2
May

Kilcuddy Kitty - A WWII Cat Tells All - A short story from All Things Cat

Kilcuddy Kitty stretched out in the sunny butcher shop window, anxiously awaiting Shamus O’Reilly. Any minute now, he’d arrive to open the shop. The first rays of morning  light up the posters in the window.

Beef Kidneys−$.39 a pound,

Oxtails−$.15 a pound,

Beef bones−$.10 a pound.

Since the attack on Pearl Harbor last December, housewives accepted the scarcity of meat available at the butcher shop, knowing that the best cuts were sent to the troops. Dealing with the restrictions of rationing without complaint is considered patriotic.

Kilcuddy Kitty rolled in the sun, recalling last night’s events after Shamus flicked out the lights and locked the doors. Kilcuddy had settled to nap atop the roll of butcher paper behind the meat counter. Shattering glass in the back room roused him from slumber. He leaped to the top of the counter. Hunkered down, ears pricked and muscles taunt, his gaze riveted toward the doorway.

Footsteps crunched through broken glass! Fear smell emanated from a masked figure entering the shop. A flashlight's beam streamed over the glass counter toward the cash register. Kilcuddy’s hair stood on end. The tip of his tail flipped from side to side.

The thief moved closer.

With a mighty leap, Kilcuddy Kitty landed on the intruder’s shoulders. Yoww!!

The thief shrieked, jerked from left to right, trying to dislodge the claws digging into his back. In his frenzy, his torchlight fell to the floor. Kilcuddy tasted warm blood as he sank his fangs into the man’s neck.

With a curse, the prowler grabbed Kilcuddy by the back of his neck and flung him across the room. Thump! Kilcuddy landed in a heap. Dazed, he heard frantic mumbling and scuttling as the intruder plunged through the darkness and escaped out the back window. The thud of his footsteps faded away as he pounded down the alley.

Kilcuddy lay on the floor, his ears ringing, head aching, tasting the man’s blood . Odd, human blood tastes different than chicken blood. Sweeter, somehow. Or, was it the satisfaction of protecting Shamus’s shop that tasted so sweet? Without a doubt, he had foiled the attempt to rob the store and steal the best cuts of meat...

Pushing last night’s memories from his mind, Kilcuddy Kitty rolled over and presented his tummy to the warm morning sunshine. Shamus would soon be here. What fine beef trimmings or snippets of kidneys would he spoon into Kilcuddy’s bowl as a reward for thwarting the burglar? Do cats ever receive medals for bravery? Perhaps he’d be Grand Marshall in a parade and sit beside the mayor’s pretty wife.

With the click of a key in the back room, Shamus O’Reilly arrived at last. “Begorra, the window is shattered and me clean floor is covered with glass.” The shop owner rushed to the cash register and punched the proper keys. The drawer popped open, revealing neat rows of bills from yesterday’s sales. “Sure and the saints have blessed me. Me money is still here!”

Seeing nothing further amiss, Shamus swept up the broken glass , mumbling such words as cannot be repeated in a G-rated short story.

Kilcuddy Kitty cruised against the cash register, his whiskers a-tingle, his back arched in sheer joy and anticipation, as he patiently waited for Shamus to lavish him with the praise and treats he so richly deserved.

His mouth watered as he contemplated his reward. Would it be a whopping $.62 a pound salmon steak, such as the mayor’s wife bought each Friday afternoon? Didn’t Shamus always tuck away the best cuts for her? Though, where she got all the ration coupons for each Friday's purchase gave one pause... Other housewives rarely had enough money or meat coupons for such weekly culinary delights.

At last, Shamus stalked into the shop, shaking his broom. “So, there you are, Kilcuddy Kitty, standing about as usual, while I clean up the mess. Like as not you slept right through the scoundrel breaking me fine window. What luck he didn’t come inside and steal me hard-earned cash. You’re a poor store minder, you worthless cat. Me thinks I should get rid of you and get a good watchdog!”

What? What? The unfairness of it! Kilcuddy Kitty arched his back and hissed. The ingratitude. After all I’ve done! His tail puffed up like a bristle brush. He sprang off the meat counter. How unjust the master. How unmerited the disparagement. Hadn’t he warded off the perpetrator, risked life and limb, and suffered a bonk on the noggin when he was so unceremoniously pitched against the wall? Where was his praise, his medal and parade? Where even the scrap of meat in his bowl? Oh, deliver me from the injustice of man.

Shamus stood with his broom in his hand as Kilcuddy Kitty dashed into the storeroom, leaped through the broken window and bounded down the back alley, howling. And fare thee well, Shamus O’Reilly, for I’ll never darken your doorstep again.

Kilcuddy never forgave old Shamus or returned to the butcher shop.

Every Saturday night, you’ll find Shamus at Sean O’Flanahan’s pub, whining to all who will listen. “Alas, later that day, I found a flashlight on the floor and blood on the cash register. Me good cat, Kilcuddy Kitty, must have run the bugger off before he could steal me money. And, now because of my sins, I’ve lost me best pal.” Whereupon, Shamus weeps and orders another beer. Soon his drinking buddies tire of his whining and turn their backs on him.

And what, might you wonder, happened to Kilcuddy Kitty? Folks say he took up with the mayor’s pretty wife. When asked if he’ll ever forgive Shamus and return to the butcher shop, Kilcuddy Kitty winks and says. “Why should I? Life is grand with the mayor’s wife. Every Friday she takes another ration book to Shamus O’Reilly’s butcher shop and buys the best cuts of meat. I love the salmon, but some have asked. ‘How does she come by so many ration coupons?’

“I think there’s something fishy going on…”

****

If you enjoyed this story, your might enjoy all 21 short stories about cats found in my short anthology

All Things Cat..   Amazon $2.99     http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

 

22
Apr

A Day in Salzburg with Kimberlee

This is a scene from the dual tale, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary. While the cats face their own challenges in Fern Lake, Kimberlee has gone to Austria and Germany where she follows clues to a lost treasure in gold coins, stolen during WWII. One day, while site-seeing alone, she visits Salzburg. The following is her experiences in the city. https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s (Amazon e-book $3.99)

 

As Kimberlee passed through the countryside and the forests, the terrain varied and the road rose and fell. Around every corner, another picture post card vista appeared. With no particular agenda, she stopped frequently to take a photograph.

In some green meadows, the only sound was the tinkling of shiny brass bells, hanging from the collars of a flock of sheep or a small group of black and white cows. In other places, the gentle terrain rose up into a fine mist clinging to the side of hillside. Hidden in the distant mist, tinkling bells confirmed grazing animals, unaware of how their bells produced such stirring in the heart of a captivated tourist.

The vineyards on the hills and meadows became fewer as Kimberlee approached Salzburg where Mozart first played his harpsicord and wrote melodies. Hundreds of years later, people would still know his name and enjoy his music.

Ancient ivy covered buildings with sagging tile roofs covered the courtyards along the sidewalk. Church spires peaked out above nearby houses with red tile rooftops. She paused beside a church with dates carved into the walls reading 1200-1400. How incredible! One church was said to be 1000 years old!

Violin music drew her toward the town square where a street musician stood on the steps of an ancient church, playing Ave Maria. Pigeons flew from rooftop to rooftop, appearing to be as mesmerized by the music as the cluster of tourists gathered on the steps.

The haunting melody echoed around the square. It touched her heart as it carried her away from this world and back into another time. It was easy to imagine the cobbled streets filled with horse-drawn carts. Perhaps a princess and her ladies in waiting passed by, or a knight in shining armor, after a joust with a dragon.

The musician drew his bow across the strings and as he lowered his hand, the final note hung in the air. The tourists stood spellbound and silent. Another moment, and the spell was broken and more generous visitors tossed money into the violin case at his feet.

Kimberlee opened her purse. “That was absolutely lovely! Thank you.” She put money into his case and wandered on.

She ran to catch a tram climbing to the top of the hill where a medieval castle overlooked the city, a cold and barren place with steps everywhere. The rooms were filled with armor, ancient guns, javelins, chains and torture devices. Looking down from the balconies into the valley was like peeking into the pages of a storybook. Rainy mists on the distant mountains beckoned hikers upward into the cold crisp air. Off to the left, rivers, towers, cathedrals, graveyards, and church spires. Off to the right, cobble-stone streets with horse-drawn carriages, sidewalk cafes, musicians, and archways, where street vendors hawked their wares on the street corners.

Returning to the city below, Kimberlee came upon a street artist, his back against the wall, his easel and backpack by his side. The watercolor drying on his easel was of the scene where the musician had just played his stirring aria on the church steps. Unable to resist the desire to memorialize the moment, she purchased the picture. She would have it framed and hang it near her bedroom, where it would be a constant reminder of the musician, his poignant melody and the day spent in the magical city.

 

 

 

10
Apr

Lesson of the Apple Boxes

In 1950, I was 8-years-old, and the apple industry was the major industry in our town. My mother worked in an apple-processing factory and Daddy was a carpenter. Our parents felt children should be industrious, therefore, my teenage sister and brother were required to care for me while they picked up worked in the apple orchard, picking up apples for five cents a box. On a good day, they could earn $5.00 to $10.00. This was considered good money for a teenager, and with their earnings, they bought their own school clothes.

Most days, I brought my dolls to the field and spent a good part of the day stacking apple boxes on end to make my house. My imaginary plates and dishes consisted of sticks and leaves and clumps of dirt. Daddy said I should not waste the entire day, though, and required me to pick up at least ten boxes of apples every day.

Being a spoiled and willful child, there were many days I played with my dolls late into the afternoon and no amount of scolding from my sister could make me complete the required task.

Day after day, I fell so short of Daddy’s expectations, that one night he warned if I didn’t meet my quota the next day, he would spank me. Our parents believed in the biblical admonition, spare the rod and spoil the child, which was rarely, if ever, required in our house.

As I had no recollection of Daddy ever spanking me before, I’m pretty sure his threat fell on disbelieving ears. The next day, I played all day in the apple field. My sister’s warnings were of no avail and by the end of the day, I had only three or four boxes to my credit.

We returned home and I began to play. There was no mention of my disobedience to Mama or Daddy. So much for that problem...

In those days, our toys didn’t come from a store with a sound chip and an interactive computer screen attached. We had to use our imagination and made our own toys. On this evening, I tied a string to an empty oatmeal box and found a couple of long sticks to use for drumsticks. It made a fine toy drum and I went about the house thumping out a tune.

Daddy found me pounding away on my new toy. He towered over me as I sat on the floor with my drum and asked, “Did you finish your ten boxes of apples today?”

I gulped. “No. I forgot.”

“Then, I’m sorry, but I told you I’d spank you if you didn’t obey me.” He picked up one of my drumsticks and applied it to my seat of knowledge. Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NIV

Daddy definitely loved me that day. Using my own toy against me was far more humiliating than the spanking. With the absolute absurdity of childish logic, I screamed, “You’ll be sorry! Tomorrow, I’ll pick up 100 boxes.” That would show him!

I worked all the next day. My sister took pity and helped me late in the afternoon. Together, we finished the last fifteen boxes and completed the goal of 100 boxes (an astonishing accomplishment for an 8-year-old, looking back on it). And I earned $5.00 for my efforts!

Victory! Daddy would be so sorry. He’d regret punishing me. I’d show him! Thus, thought the child. I was yet to learn the lesson of responsibility he was trying to teach.

With great pride and indignation, I announced that night, “I picked up 100 boxes of apples today, so there!”

Did I expect him to fall down in shock and remorse, apologize and vow to never again accuse me of being lazy? Maybe. Instead, he replied, “I knew you could do it. Now you can do that every day…”

I recall this event so clearly, but I can’t recall my response. Disbelief? Shock? Tears? My pride had backfired. Now I’d be required to continue this backbreaking expectation every day? Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 NIV

Of course, Daddy didn’t really mean it. “You did great, honey, but if you’ll just do your ten boxes every day, I think that’s enough for a little girl.”

I still brought my dolls to the apple field every day. I built houses out of apple boxes and made dishes out of leaves. However, I was careful to stop playing in plenty of time to accomplish the required ten boxes of apples. Daddy taught me a hard lesson that day, one I never forgot.

Daddy never again challenged my ability to live up to a required expectation. He claimed this particular victory. With this valuable lesson, I learned about pride, obedience and work ethics; one day with 100 boxes of apples, an oatmeal box, and a stick. Surely the lesson helped develop my character and my values throughout my life. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 KJV

3
Apr

Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger - Excerpt Scene

Mrs. Odboddy and Then There was a Tiger

In this edited scene, Agnes, Godfrey, Vincent and Katherine are locked in a library on the third floor of a San Francisco mansion. A gas leak in the house is in danger of exploding and burning down the house. How are they to escape?

“Well, I don’t intend to sit here and wait…” Godfrey picked up the desk chair and flung it against the window. With a crash, shards of glass burst out and tumbled to the ground. He went to the window. “Help! Somebody. Call the police!” A few cars passed by the house, but none appeared to see the broken glass. “They can’t hear me. We’re going to have to get out by ourselves.”

Vincent unzipped his pants and slid them down his legs. “Serious times call for serious actions. Katherine? Take off your dress.”

Katherine’s cheeks burned. “Really, Vincent. I realize this is a life and death situation, but we can’t… I mean, my grandmother is standing right here. I love you and even though you say we might die, this isn’t…” She glanced at Agnes and Godfrey. He was sliding off his trousers and Agnes was unbuttoning her dress. “Grandma! You, too? I can’t believe you would…”

Grandma pulled her dress over her head and handed it to Godfrey. “Oh, hush. Don’t be such a prude and take off your dress. Can’t you see he means to tie our clothes together to make a rope so we can climb out the window?”

“Oh!” Katherine ducked her head, unzipped the side zipper and slid it over her head. She handed the dress to Godfrey and stepped behind the desk. Godfrey pulled down the drapes, tied their two pairs of trousers together end to end, and added Katherine’s dress to the end of the clothing rope. “It’s still not long enough,” he said, adding Agnes’s dress to Katherine’s. “We’re going to need your two under slips. Ladies? I’m sorry, but this is no time for modesty.” The noticeable smell of gas crept ominously beneath the door. “And, you’d best hurry if we’re going to get out of here alive. The slightest spark and this place will blow.”

Agnes peeled off her slip and stood in her rubber corset and stockings with the patriotic holes.

Chill bumps raised on Katherine’s arms. The faint scent of gas made her nauseous. She stepped over to the window, stripped off her slip and stood in her brassier and panties. Elastic bands on her upper thighs held up her less than perfect nylons. Her face flushed when Vincent’s gaze traveled from her face to her knees and back again. His cheeks pinked up and he jerked his head away. His voice trembled as he knocked out the remaining window glass. “Katherine? You’ll go first. You’re the lightest. Take off your shoes. When you get down, run to the nearest house and call the police.”

Godfrey had removed his undershirt revealing a clump of grey hair clustered on his barrel chest. He attached his undershirt to the end of Katherine’s and Agnes’s slips. “I think it will reach pretty far down. You may have to jump the last few feet.” He had tied a small loop in the end for her foot and tied his undershirt to the radiator beneath the window.

Vincent placed the pillow from the office chair over the edge of the windowsill. “Up you go, Katherine. Sit on the edge and put your foot in the loop. As soon as you safely can, jump, so we can get Agnes down next.”

Katherine followed his instructions and climbed out the window. What would people think, seeing a woman, dropping from a third floor window on a rag rope wearing nothing but her underwear? She held tight to the clothing as the men lowered her over the edge and down the side of the building. First she was facing the wall, and then the cloth rope swung and spun her around so she faced the street. She heard material ripping when she was about seven feet above the ground. Lest the material should tear and prevent Grandmother’s escape, she pulled her foot from the loop and tumbled to the ground. Pain shot through her hip and she felt the breath knocked from her. She glanced up in time to see Agnes appear in the window as Vincent pulled the rope back up the wall.

****

The third Mrs. Odboddy adventure, Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger is FREE at Amazon until 04-26-20, and then is just $3.99 in e-book. Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, and  Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier are books one and two. Read all three Mrs. Odboddy mystery/adventures for a hilarious WWII historical fiction treat.    http://tinyrul.com/yx72fcpx

 

22
Mar

Mrs. Odboddy And Then There Was a Tiger - A WWII Historical Fiction Novel

OVERVIEW: While the ‘tiger of war’ rages across the Pacific during WWII, eccentric, elderly Agnes Odboddy, ‘fights the war from the home front’. Then she finds a rat-filled shoebox on her porch, her house is trashed and she is implicated in the Wilkey’s Market burglary! In her own bumbling, hysterical manner, Agnes is determined to get to the bottom of things.

Then a traveling carnival with a live tiger joins the parishioners’ Harvest Fair at The First Church of the Evening Star and Everlasting Light. Agnes bears some of the responsibility when counterfeit bills are discovered at the carnival, and the war bond money goes missing. She’s in trouble again. Her attempts to restore the war bond money lead her into harm’s way. A friend’s betrayal results in a harrowing experience as Agnes learns more about carnival life and tigers than she bargained for.

 

 (Excerpt from Mrs. Odboddy – And Then there was a Tiger)

(At the tiger's performance at the carnival)

For the next ten minutes, the trainer put the tiger through his paces. Probably declawed, and totally dependent on a human to provide his meat on the end of a stick, the tiger was as tame as a housecat. “Does anyone want to pet Shere Khan? He’s very friendly,” the trainer said.

Agnes touched Maddie’s cheek. “What do you think?”

“I…I…think so. Yes!” Maddie stepped closer. She ran one finger over Shere Khan’s head. “He’s so soft.” She stroked the tiger’s neck and scratched behind his ear.

Shere Khan turned into the caress, opened his mouth and yawned, showing long sharp teeth. His eyes sought Maddie’s face and their eyes locked in a gaze that seemed to connect their souls. At last, Shere Khan stood and ambled back toward the door of his caravan,

“Well, guess the show is over, folks. Our star has had enough public adulation.” The trainer chuckled and turned away.

Agnes reached for Maddie’s hand and gave it a shake. “Are you ready to go back now?”

Not responding, Maddie stared at the caravan door.

“Maddie? It’s time to go back.”

Maddie had not moved. She rubbed her fingers together, seeming unable to relinquish the sensation of the tiger’s ear, reluctant to forget the rumble in his throat as she stroked his face.

“Maddie?” Agnes searched Maddie’s face. The child seemed lost in the memory of a special shared moment, reluctant to return to her everyday life. “Shall we go, sweetheart?”

The child blinked. “I remember when we played together with baby lambs and goats in a meadow in Heaven…before I was born. Do you think he remembered, too?”

“What strange ideas you have, child. Where do you come up with such things?” Agnes grasped Maddie’s hand and hurried her away.

Played together in Heaven? What could have put such a thought into her head? Agnes glanced at Maddie’s face. Her eyes were aglow, her smile as innocent as an angel. Her face looked as though she truly remembered a day in Heaven when she played in a meadow with lambs and a tiger.

Goosebumps crept up Agnes’s arms. Hadn’t Pastor Lickleiter just preached on this text last Sunday? The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6 KJV)

Wolves? Leopards? Lions? Who’s to say there wasn’t a tiger among them.

*****

To purchase Mrs. Odboddy and Then There was a Tiger --- Go to https://tinyurl.com/y96qshuv

Amazon e-book - $3.99

Or contact me directly for a signed paperback copy $13.00. Mailed free to your home..

Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com

 

8
Mar

Exceedingly Handsome

Just for  Sunday afternoon fun, I'm presenting a short story, obviously written by a CAT, telling his family history to readers willing to suspend disbelief... and smile. Let me know what you think.

Until my father’s death, my family lived on a profitable little farm in Killarney, Ireland. Though I knew that an enchanted magic spell had changed me from a boy into a small cat at the time of his death, Mother would never discuss the details. Even as a cat, she loved me as a son. As time passed, Mother grew frail and I grew into a fine tabby-striped tom cat with four white feet and a fine reputation as a hunter.

One day she called me to her bedside. “Tabkins, I can no longer provide our bread and cheese. You must restore our good fortune or surely we will perish.” And so she began her tale of trickery and enchantment, deviltry, and a magic spell that had plagued our family since my father’s death.

 

Some years ago, our farm possessed six orange trees, three cows, and a potato patch, all sufficient to meet our needs. A wicked green leprechaun from a nearby mountain-top coveted, and tried often, to obtain our land by trickery, but father repeatedly rebuffed his guiles. In revenge, the evil creature fogged Father’s mind with a magic spell, causing him to fall into the river. To thwart my efforts to save Father’s life, he waved his magic wand again and changed me from a good-looking youth of comely bearing into a tabby-striped cat. Though the world profited by the addition of an exceedingly handsome cat, my father drowned. The leprechaun then cast a spell upon the three cows, causing them to give no milk. The orange trees ceased to bear fruit and the potato patch gave us only scant potatoes.

 

“You must seek out the leprechaun,” Mother said, “and retrieve the magic wand. Perhaps it will restore you to a human lad and our land into a profitable farm.” The tears in her eyes wrenched my heart, and yet I trembled in horror at the thought of facing the evil creature.

 

She lifted her frail hand. “Make your way to yonder mountain. High on the top beside a river, you’ll find the cave where the wicked leprechaun dwells,” she said. “Go, now, Tabkins. Our future is in your paws.”

 

I set out as she bid, knowing that facing a leprechaun, no matter how exceedingly good-looking I might be, my feline cunning would be sorely tested if I was to fool the evil leprechaun, steal the magic wand, and live to tell the tale.

 

With every step up the mountain, I cast about in my mind how to dupe the leprechaun into reversing his magic spell or stealing his wand. I came at last to the river.

 

“Halt. Who goes there?” The wicked leprechaun called from beneath the log that spanned the stream. “Answer, Cat, or I’ll turn you to stone.”

 

Panic seized my heart. An idea popped into my furry head. “I’m just a harmless pussy-cat out for a stroll. My, what a lovely river you have here, Sir Leprechaun.” A little honey-talk is always good to sooth a malevolent spirit. I sashayed across the log, humming, Katie From Killarney, and bowed low. “My name is Tabkins. Pray tell, what might your name be, kind sir?”

 

The leprechaun’s eyes narrowed. “My name is Merichandrick. What do you seek?”

 

“Perhaps a spot of tea? I’m weary from my travels.” I looked wistfully toward the cave, conveying abject vulnerability and friendliness.

 

“Come on in and I’ll light the fire,” said he, his green mouth atwitch, his brain surely swirling with some deviltry.

I followed him into the grotto, wary of any trick up his sleeve, sure that he had thoughts of tossing me into his stew pot. I scanned the cave, searching for the wand, keeping one wary eye on my host.

 

“Sit over there.” The imp pointed toward the fire.

 

“Oh, what a lovely bird,” I posited, sidling closer to a green and red parrot, its cage hanging from a golden hook, all the while seeking the hiding place of the magic wand. In a chair near the back of the cave, I spotted a pot of gold. Something long and thin poked from beneath a nearby red blanket. Aha! It must be the wand I seek.

 

The little man turned. “Will you be after spending the night?” said he, with a wicked glint in his eye.

 

“If I’m so invited,” says I with a yawn, patting my paw to my mouth, “Let us drink our tea and I’ll curl up for the night just yonder on your wee red blanket.”

 

He shook his mop of green curls. “Not there,” he shrieked, panic shining from his wicked eye. “Best you should sleep closer to the fire where it will warm your exceedingly handsome fur.”

 

“As you wish, and I thank you kindly for the hospitality,” says I. Oho! Once the little man sleeps, I’ll snatch the magic wand from beneath the blanket and skedaddle.

 

My host poured two mugs of tea and shoved one toward me. Expecting a trick, I sneezed, and as he reached for a handkerchief, I switched the mugs. Indeed, the mug was drugged. Soon after the evil goblin drank, he fell into a stupor.

 

Without further ado, I grabbed the magic wand, wrapped in a paper containing the magic spell, and hurried back to the farm.

 

Mother waved the wand, read the magic words, and the spell was broken. I was instantly changed back into a young man, even more comely than before. Soon, thereafter, the cows began to give milk, the orange trees blossomed and bore fruit, and this spring, we had a bumper crop of potatoes.

 

The leprechaun still lives in the cave with his parrot, but without his magic wand or his evil spells, his complexion has turned from green to a sallow yellow, and, embarrassed by his looks, he rarely leaves his cave.

 

As long as fortune smiles, we’ll leave him be, but if the cows go dry or the potato crop should ever fail, I happen to know where I can find an exceedingly ugly yellow leprechaun and a pot o’ gold.

Leave a comment for a chance to win a free copy of All Things Cat ...Twenty-one short stories all about cats or....

 check out my book of short stories, All Things Cat, on Amazon in e-book for just $2.99.  http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak  

3
Mar

Advice on How to Write a Short Story

The ideal short story contains the following elements: A compelling title, interesting characters, an unusual setting, an intriguing goal or situation, and a good conclusion, perhaps with a twist.

Suppose there were two short stories in a magazine. Both stories are about women who have an unexpected event occur in their lives. Which of the two titles below would get the most readers?

The Mall Purse (A housewife finds a purse at the mall)

The Abandoned Baby on the Doorstep (Fortune Teller finds baby)

Although the housewife may have a fascinating tale of how she reunites the purse with the owner, unless we added the words, “bloodstained purse” to the title, it is likely that the most read would be the one about the character with a diverse job, setting and situation. The reader would want to know–what exactly does the fortune teller do with a baby left on her doorstep? If she’s a real fortune teller, shouldn’t she have known the baby would be there? And, for that matter, wouldn’t she know who left it on her doorstep in the first place. Just sayin’…

Once an unusual character, setting and goal are chosen, an author begins the body of the story. He must identify the main character, the problem he faces, a conflict or two along the way that threatens his solving the problem, and the solution, all within the limit of 1000 to 2500 words. There is no room for backstory, character development, personalities, subplots, red herrings, and minor conflicts along the way, misdirection of the culprit, conflicted romance, or intrigue. All those story details can only be explored in a novel.

From time to time, it is helpful for authors of full length novels to enter contests and submission requests for stories of limited word counts. Without the luxury of75- 80,000+ words to ‘make it work,’ the author must make the short story compelling, outline the problem and bring about a convincing solution in short order. The process or writing a limited word story sharpens and challenges an author to make each word count, yet tell a story with a fun plot and a satisfying conclusion, in a very limited space.

My book of short stories, All Things Cat, includes 21 short stories, all related in some way to a cat. I’ve incorporated both past and present times, unusual locations, situations and circumstances. Some stories are self-narrated BY the cat. Some are stories from my personal experiences, but most are fiction based on ideas taken from holidays, story prompts, contest submissions, and even a couple excerpted scenes from my full-length novels. I’ve introduced witches, poker players, burglars, and members of the First Family, to name but a few. I’ve tried to incorporate all the aspects of a good short story into each tale.

When an author of full length novels publishes a short story, we demonstration our storytelling abilities, style, and writing skills. Like tasting samples at the grocery store, in hopes the customer will buy the product. With a short story, the author hopes to encourage the reader to travel on another journey with the characters we create in our full length novels. My main goal is to share my make believe world, and bring a bit of fun and laughter into the reader’s life. Hope you’ll travel this journey with me.

All Things Cat is available in e-book at Amazon for $2.99. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak. What a fun book for the cat lover or as a gift for the cat lover in your life.

 

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