A reader spends four to five hours, immersed in a book from cover to cover. If the story is well written, for a time, she forgets her personal life. She sees herself either traveling alongside the main character or, if the writer is talented enough, the reader ‘becomes’ the character as the story moves forward.
She may wish to be transported into a romance where she feels loved and cherished. She may be a frustrated crime fighter who receives satisfaction from following clues and perhaps solving a mystery before the end of the book. She may hope to experience the thrills and chills of a thriller-suspense novel. Or, perhaps to experience life in a different world, or a different time in history. She may hope to learn more of the traditions of people from other lands or other cultures, presented in a fictionalized story.
How do these various types of books come about? Does the reader ever think about what was involved before this story could magically appear on the pages, and land on a bookstore shelf for the reader’s pleasure?
Unless a reader is also an author, it is doubtful she could conceive of the time and energy that goes into writing a novel–plotting, writing, researching, editing, reviewing, formatting, and finally to cover design and publication. Each step takes hours and hours.
The author must first come up with a premise for the story. Some authors outline the entire novel before they ever put fingers to keyboard. Others have a general idea of the story line, and let the story evolve as they write, figuring how to bring it all together in a cohesive manner. She thinks about the characters and the story line most days and often into the night. Every little thread must come together in the end. It is essential to keep the suspense or momentum throughout the middle, lest we lose the attention of the reader. She must keep each reaction and comment true to the personality of the characters as she envisions how they might respond to a certain event. She must make the reader understand the motivation and actions or comments of the character through the dialogue.
The end must make sense, and preferably reach a satisfying conclusion, leaving the reader wishing there was another hundred pages in the story. She wonders where the sequel can be found, if there is one. In ideal circumstances, the characters have become real enough that she can almost see them as next-door neighbors or someone in her circle of friends.
What a challenge and what a victory when a reader comes back to the author and asks, “When is the next book coming out?” That is an author’s highest compliment.
Sometime within the next month, I’ll publish Black Cat’s next adventure. Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary, a dual tale taking place in Fern Lake with the cats, and in Hopfgarten, Austria, as Dorian and Kimberlee follow the clues to a missing treasure. (Pictured above. Hopfgarten Church - Austria)
In 1960, I wrote a poem that was published in my high school newspaper- Analy High School, in Sebastopol, CA. It was probably the first time I thought of cats having a human 'voice,' and the first time I was 'published.' Many years later, I began to write Black Cat cozy mystery series. For a change of pace, here is my poem -
The Cat's Side of It
The alley cat lives a lonely life, mad at his friends and mad at his wife.
When you're mad at the guy, and mad at the gals --Who's a cat go, he can call his pals?
The lonely vigil on a backyard post, unto the night, playing the host
a bottle, a brick, soon lay at your feet.., but who's a cat got? Again, I repeat.
Why ya sleep all day and you roam all night, your nerve as soon be in a terrible plight.
But ya gotta' have friends, be it only the moon, so ya open yer mouth to let fly a tune.
Oh! Then the things you can hear folks say, those sleeping away the best part of the day.
You'd think they'd enjoy hearing my song. After all, what does a human do all day long?
But gamble and smoke and loaf in the park and ruin the day with some foolish lark.
They waste the day.., then curse in the night when I try to inform them of MY pitiful plight.
So what's a cat do when he hasn't a friend and he hasn't a wife on whom to depend?
You'd think folks would be helpful, but instead they just gripe,
When I cry out my sorrow on the fence post at night!
(OK! I was 16 years old! Maybe I wasn't meant to a poet)
Check out the Black Cat mysteries at Amazon
Black Cat’s Legacy, Thumper meets his 'person' and helps pursue a cold case murder. http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm
Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Thumper goes to Texas and confronts an embezzling attorney, a conniving grandmother and a sneaky stable master. He also meets his lady love. http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu
Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Black Cat and his companion are left behind following an MVA and confront increasingly dangerous pranks with the family that takes them in.. http://tinyurl.com/y6vhncq
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 satin 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 bright through the stained glass windows. The scent of flowers and music filled the auditorium. “With this ring, I thee wed,” we each stated, 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 as teenagers, 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 seemed to be 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 our 1958 MGA with the top down toward the lake. 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. The expectations of “the wedding night” created some anxieties for him that many young grooms don’t experience today.
Several hours later, we reached our honeymoon cottage. My young husband threw himself on the bed, head pounding, eyes aching, a wet cloth held to his forehead. He 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, on the eve of my wedding, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected spaghetti, hamburger, tomato sauce, lettuce, and salad dressing. I soon stood in front of a tiny stove in our honeymoon cottage, cooking spaghetti while my new husband groaned on the bed with a migraine headache.
“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 night before a forgotten memory.
We spent the afternoon under a willow tree in the park, snuggling on a blanket, watching the squirrels. We spoke of which restaurant we would choose for our special dinner that night to celebrate 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 wide and launching into a perfect swan dive into the sparkling water below.
Somewhere between, “Look at me,” and the sparkling water below, something went dreadfully wrong. 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, he had broken his 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 the eve of my one-day anniversary, I heated canned spaghetti sauce and listened to my young husband snore as he slept off the effects of prescribed pain medication.
Tuesday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, being lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore. All afternoon we churned up the beautiful waves in a rented speedboat. Tonight was the night! We would have a romantic dinner to celebrate our two-day anniversary.
The sun shone deceivingly bright on my young husband’s bare legs and before we noticed, they had changed from white, to pink, to bright red.
My young husband moved slowly toward the MGA, each painful step tugging at his sunburned legs. He tried to pull on his trousers, but the effort was too painful. By evening, my young husband lay on the cool asbestos floor tiles (who knew?) of our honeymoon cottage, moaning. “I don’t think I can put my pants on. Sorry, hon. No fancy dinner tonight. 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 at me. After all, I had shopped there three afternoons in a row and had become his newest frequent shopper. I vowed to speak to mother about marriage. If this were going to continue, I needed to learn to cook something besides spaghetti.
Wednesday dawned bright and clear, we slept late… (you get the picture…) We spent the afternoon driving around the lake. In the late afternoon, we stopped at a nice restaurant before any further calamity could strike. 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, and we didn’t eat spaghetti.
After dinner, at a drive-in theater, necking in the front seat somehow didn’t hold its pre-marriage appeal. We determined it would be best to leave when the movie was half over. It was getting very late, 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. A migraine, a broken eardrum, sun-burned legs… 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 expectations of marriage in general, and recipes in particular. By early evening, we bid the honeymoon cottage farewell and started home.
Instead of taking the freeway, a crooked road down the mountain would take thirty minutes off our travel time. We were both eager to reach home and resume…what honeymooners resume.
The air was warm and balmy as we left the resort town. 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 shoved into the canyon to dispose of them? Nearing the bottom of the mountain, we saw the valley stretched before us. The terrible ordeal was nearly 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 just ten minutes sooner on the treacherous road at the top of the mountain. We were safe, thank God, but 80 miles from home. What to do?
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. “Where are you? What has that horrid 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 were in trouble.
Daddy drove an hour and a half, rescued his baby girl and towed the car 80 miles at the end of a rope; a discouraged young bride and disgruntled half-frozen groom.
Perhaps it was a test to see if our commitment was real. If we had felt the disasters of the week predictive of our future, we might have applied for an annulment the next morning. Perhaps we were too naïve, too inexperienced, or too much in love to fully realize the pitfalls of married life that lay ahead. Suffice it to say, we stuck it out.
Fifty-seven years have passed and my husband’s hair is gray and my face is wrinkled. We have endured through sickness and health, successful and business failure, the birth of children and the loss of loved ones, but we continue to face life’s challenges together.
The pungent aroma of cedar clung in the air as I placed the purple nightie back into the hope chest and closed the lid. I closed my eyes, remembering the thrills, frustrations and the romance of that week.
Returning to the kitchen, I dropped a pinch of salt into the spaghetti bubbling on the stove. Much like a pinch of salt adds a touch of flavor to a desired recipe, it takes a touch of adversity to appreciate the full flavor 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 unexpected events that occurred that week, it was the most wonderful, exciting, perfect honeymoon a woman could ever experience, because I was with the man I love
If you've been following my blog you know I have another novel coming this Fall - Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey's Diary - a dual tale of adventures in Fern Lake with Black Cat and Angel, and Dorian and Kimberlee as they ,pursue a lost treasure in Austria and Germany. Kimberlee's adventures in Austria mimic my own experiences in 1987 when I visited the area. The church pictured IS the Hopfgarten church in the story. Here is an excerpt with Kimberlee, the day she leaves Dorian at her conference and strikes out on her own.
On the outskirts of Salzburg, Kimberlee stopped at an endearing pension. She followed the path to the front door and rang the bell. A stout, older woman answered. “Wilkomen! Kumm in! (Welcome. Come in).
Kimberlee held up her overnight case. “Do you have a room?”
The woman smiled. “Ya. I hef nice room. This way, please.” She led Kimberlee to a room next to the garden filled with pink and yellow tulips and tall gladiolas. The room contained plain, solid wood furniture. A thick feather comforter and feather pillows lay atop the double bed. A vase of fresh flowers adorned the nightstand. French doors led out to the garden. “Is good?”
“Yes, it’s lovely. How many Euros?” Kimberlee pulled out several bills.
The hostess took two bills. “Is enough. Breakfast is 7:00 A.M.”
“Thank you. That will be fine.” Kimberlee set her overnight case on the floor. She opened the French doors, stepped into the garden, and was immediately enveloped by the scent of flowers. A green, carved wooden bench sat beside a fish pond where red and black koi fish bobbed. How she wished Brett could see this. Wouldn’t it have been better to wait and share this beautiful experience with a loved one? Her first day in this beautiful country had already presented so many wondrous sites.
She sat on the bench and watched the koi glide back and forth across the pond, nibbling at a mossy rock, pausing to bask in a ray of sunshine. Would she have experienced the day the same way if Brett had been with her?
The spacious, green, lush meadows, the sense of oneness created by the similarity of the houses, the tinkle of the cows’ bells and the serene agelessness of the castles high atop the hillsides. The way the church bells rang every hour. How the peaceful countryside had affected her! The violinist’s song had touched her heart. The fairytale town transported her to another time and place. In truth, the day’s events left her feeling as though she had stepped into another dimension. Her soul felt refreshed and her faith reaffirmed.
A sudden thought! Spending the day alone had provided such unexpected reactions. As pleasant as it would be to share with a loved one, would she have experienced it the same way? Perhaps, a day spent in solitude was as rewarding as when shared by another.
She revisited the events of the day, from meeting the little cat, to the musician on the church steps, to the castle on the hill, to the mists in the meadows and the cows in the field. And, finally, to a bench beside the koi pond, remembering each beautiful moment in the beauty and stillness of the garden.
She closed her eyes, breathed in the scent of flowers,. In the distance, a church bell chimed. Resolved not to forget a minute of the day’s events, Kimberlee picked up a pen and filled her journal with all she had seen and felt this wondrous day.
Black Cat and the Accidental Angel is Free at Amazon June 12, 13, 2019. http://tinyurl.com/y6vhxncq
There are as many ways to design a book cover as there are books. Nonfiction book covers, particularly political books seem to lean toward THE TITLE against a plain background and the author’s name. Many cozy mystery novels present an artist’s rendering of a scene, often including a dog or cat. I prefer using photographs on my book covers and believe the book cover should suggest the plot of the novel. There should be a consistency in the design of a series. Using the same color and size font for the title and a similarity in design helps readers recognize a particular series.
This fall I will publish a cozy cat mystery, the fourth in the Black Cat series. Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary is a dual tale that takes place in California and also in Austria. While Black Cat and Angel are embroiled in village intrigue and riveting drama along the shores of a No. California resort town, Dorian and Kimberlee attempt to find a long-lost treasure they believe is still hidden in the small Austrian town of Hopfgarten. The story moves back and forth between Black Cat’s wisdom and Angel’s snarky wit, and Kimberlee unexpected challenges in a foreign country.
It all started with a message written in a WWII diary from a soldier who befriended a German soldier during the battle of Normandy. Following the war, Dewey records in his diary, a mysterious message he receives from his friend… The treasures is in Hopfgarten….touch the feet of the babe…
Kimberlee reads Dewey’s diary just before she and Dorian embark on an Austrian vacation. Of course, they must go to Hopfgarten to follow the clues written in a diary more than 50 years before.
Kimberlee’s Austrian adventure includes many of my 1987 personal experiences when I traveled through castles and villages, saw cows with bells around their necks, visited 1000 year old churches in Salzburg, and finally into Hopfgarten. It was there I encountered many of the events included in Kimberlee’s adventure, and first imagined the story of a missing treasure and Dewey’s diary.
The novel is currently being edited with an expected publishing date this fall. So, finding the right photographs for my Black Cat mystery was very important. I wanted the photos to suggest both parts of the story. It had to include a cat to represent Black Cat. I wanted his foot on a diary to suggest that important plot point. It must also suggest the other half of the story in Europe. There are plenty of Europe pictures, but the search was on for the right black and white tuxedo cat.
I requested photographs, from an online cat group, of black and white cats with their paw raised so a diary could be photo shopped under it. I received over 100 lovely pictures. Sebastian, pictured above, was the closest to my need. However, another picture was eventually selected from Shutterstock. The cover will include the cat with his foot on a diary and a shadowed castle behind.
I’m looking forward to publishing Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary. I think my readers will enjoy this new and exciting dual story. Let me know how you feel about a book with basically two stories interwoven throughout.
How many people download books on their reader when they hear that the book is free on a particular day? For the past three days, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot is FREE at Amazon (04-03-19 through 04-06-19).You can access this free book at http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
This hysterical, historical novel is set during WWII and elderly, busybody Mrs. Odboddy considers herself a hometown patriot, fighting the war from the home front. Having served as an under cover agent during WWI, she assumes that the homeland has Nazi spies as well as conspiracies that must be routed out and she's the one to do it.
Knitting sox for the soldiers, collecting cans and newspapers, serving cookies at the USO, and keeping watch at the coast watchtower for enemy invaders keeps her plenty busy. Imagine her surprised when her old WWI lover shows up with romance on his mind. Distracting as he may be, he doesn't keep her from solving what she believes is a ration book black market conspiracy or coming to the aid of Mrs. Roosevelt when she comes to town.
Toss in several lesser known historical events and a romance with her lovely red-headed granddaughter and the town doctor, and you have a rollicking novel that will keep you laughing.
Once you've met Mrs. Odboddy, you'll be glad to know that there are two more Mrs. Odboddy novels available at Amazon for $3.99
Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, and
Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger
(and a fourth to be published soon.
Let’s pretend for a minute, we’re an author considering writing a new cozy mystery series. What is the secret of a successful cozy mystery series? After careful analysis of numerous successful cozy mystery series,’ we begin to notice a certain template to the storyline of each novel.
If we follow this template of success, our story should begin with a beautiful, blonde, female sleuth, recently divorced with, or without child. She must have a dog or a cat to capture the hearts of animal lovers. The pet doesn’t have to solve crimes, but it helps. Her sweetheart, (who likely resists a committed relationship) is connected to an inept police department, which gives her access to official information and documents generally withheld from the public. She must have a quirky friend, either of another race, gender or combination there-of.
She also needs an unusual profession or hobby. The best jobs or hobbies have already been snagged by other popular mystery series’. These include book store owners, catering services, dog groomers, travel agents, writers, pet sitters, private detectives, cruise ship directors, bakeries, college professors, librarians, etc.
For any hope of a successful series, she’ll need a career that hasn’t been done to death, but one that gives her access to plenty of potential murder victims or crimes. It is a series, remember? She will need lots of suspects. In the end she must succumb to temptation and make terrible judgment choices and at the last moment be rescued by her boyfriend.
We begin the cozy mystery template. Let’s have our potential sleuth own her own septic tank truck giving her access to plenty of overflowing back yards where she is able to spot various, nefarious ‘going’s-on’.
The lady septic pumper-outer and her quirky sidekick find a body in the pump house. Proceed to red herrings, unrequited love, and suspicious characters. Sadly, all have alibis.
Toss in some plumbing trivia, stopped up toilets, (a humorous scene or two involving overflowing toilets, or embarrassing bathroom scenes) and move right on to the climax where our heroine agrees to meet the Home Depot plumbing salesman in the plumbing warehouse, but neglects to tell anyone where she’s going. This is vital to any cozy mystery, a must-be-included situation.
The killer-plumbing salesman strings her up to the rafters, because she’s ‘flushed him out.’ Her death is imminent. However, her dog (or cat, raccoon or gerbil), tracking her scent, leads her detective boyfriend, having finally realized his true commitment to her, to the warehouse.
He arrives just in the nick of time. The killer is apprehended, every toilet is unstopped, and the heroine rides off into the sunset in her sewer truck.
This is a sure-fire formula to a red-hot New York best seller. Several folks have suggested I write this novel, and, stay tuned, I just might do it.
Check out my already published books on Amazon:
Black Cat’s Legacy, Thumper pursues a cold case murder. http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm
Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Thumper goes to Texas and confronts an embezzling attorney. http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu
Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Black Cat and his companion are left behind following an MVA... http://tinyurl.com/y6vhncq
Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot, Eccentric Mrs. Odboddy encounters Nazi spies and conspiracies on every hand. http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
Mrs. Odboddy-Undercover Courier, Mr. O carries ‘secret documents’ by train to President Roosevelt. http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb
Mrs. Odboddy-And Then There was a Tiger, Falsely accused, Agnes seeks the missing war bond money. https://tinyurl.com/v96qhuv
All Things Cat, Twenty-one short stories about cats. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htaj
(This is a much edited scene from Black Cat and the Accidental Angel -- due to space on the website.)
The flagman flipped his sign to STOP.
John stomped his brakes. 9:50 A.M. Why hadn’t he left sooner? Work delays along the mountain highway between Nevada City and Reno were not unexpected this time of year.
Reno - 62 miles
John’s throat tightened. He had to get his Emu hatchlings to the airport by 12:30 P.M.! If they missed the flight, what could he say to his buyers? “Yeah! You trusted me, but I didn’t account for delays, so we missed the plane.” If he lost the sales, like dominoes, he could lose everything. His ranch–his business–even lose the custody of his daughter.
Reno - 60 miles
Traffic crept forward. Another flagman. John whacked the steering wheel. “Let’s go!” Perspiration beaded his forehead. They have to fix a landslide today. I have to make the flight in time. Lord, show me the way.
Another road worker stopped traffic. John’s truck inched forward and came to a stop beside a hitch-hiker. What was a hitch-hiker doing on a mountain road so far from Reno?
The hiker caught John’s eye and extended his thumb.
I suppose he wants a ride. What could he say? 'I’m going your way at two miles an hour with an empty passenger seat, but somebody once said hitch-hikers might steal your money or kill you.’ What harm could this kid do? If he was planning to rob someone, he chose the wrong pickup truck full of baby Emus. John rolled down the passenger window. “Ride, Mister?”
The kid’s expression seemed to say, “Life isn’t so good lately. Can you help?”
John unlocked the door. “Get in.” What did he have to lose besides his money or his life?
The hiker dropped his backpack to the floor and slid into the truck “Thanks. I’m Peter.” He needed a haircut and a shave. His jacket was frayed and stained with perspiration. Oddly, his fingernails were clean and trimmed.
“I’m John. Nice to meet you. Where you headed?”
“My uncle’s ranch is right on the main highway, just outside Reno. Could you drop me there?”
The cars crept forward. John checked his watch. “I’ve got a plane to catch at 12:30 P.M. If I miss the flight, I’m cooked.” He jerked his head toward the chicks in the rear.
Peter tapped the dashboard clock. “There’s plenty of time. Once we get past the roadwork, it’s less than an hour to Reno.”
“You don’t understand what’s riding on getting my chicks on that flight.” John waved toward the flagman.
“Couldn’t you ship them tomorrow? What difference would one day make?”
John huffed. “Ever hear of an Emu? They get six-feet-tall. The airlines won’t take them past two weeks old. That’s today and they’re already 30 inches tall. I could lose everything if I…” Whoa! Hold it. He’d just met the guy ten minutes ago and was spilling his guts to him. John shrugged. “Look. I shouldn’t dump on you. Let’s say, I have to make this flight, and leave it at that. Okay?”
Peter leaned back and sighed. “You’re not the only guy in this truck with troubles.”
“You’re too young for troubles. What’s your story?”
Peter nodded toward the floor frowned. “Huh! See this backpack? That’s everything I own. I’ve got the world’s troubles on my shoulders, and that’s the truth.”
John shrugged. “If you say so.” The cars inched forward. 10:22 A.M. Just over an hour to make the flight.
“By the way. Do you know your Bible?” Peter asked.
John cheeks flushed. “I…I…I guess so. Maybe not as well as−”
“What you said about your chicks reminds me... Listen… He is my refuge and my fortress: He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”
John’s shoulders relaxed. “Under His wings shalt thou trust... Say! That’s good.”
Before long, they were in the valley with traffic moving along at normal speed.
Reno - 13 miles
John checked his wristwatch. 10:49 A.M. “I’m going to make it!”
Peter pointed to a red marker on a driveway beside the road. “That’s my uncle’s place.”
John stopped beside the marker. “Should I drive you up to the house?”
“Nah! I don’t want to keep you. You’ve got–”
“Uh-oh! What’s going on up there?” Another long line of cars had stopped a short way ahead. “Must be an accident. I'll never make it now.”
“Don’t worry. See that dirt road?” Peter pointed off to the right. “It goes about a mile and doubles back to the highway, beyond all that traffic.”
“Sounds good. Thanks…and for the encouragement. Means a lot…”
Peter waved and trudged up the driveway.
John’s truck kicked up dust as he turned onto the dirt road. “Wait!” Peter’s backpack lay on the floor! He hit the brakes. Why hadn’t he taken it when he got out of the truck? "There’s just enough time to get to the airport. If I go back, I might miss the flight. But, it’s all he owns… I have to go back.” John turned the truck, raced back down the dirt road and turned into Peter’s uncle’s driveway where he spotted a woman watering flowers.
“Morning.” John hefted the backpack. “Could you give this to Peter?”
“Yeah. He left it in my−”
“I don’t know any Peter.”
John’s eyebrows rose. “I just dropped him at the end of your driveway. Said this was his uncle's place.”
The woman shook her head. “Not in my driveway.” She backed toward the house.
“Sorry. I must be mistaken.” Back at the road, the red marker flapped on the pole. This was the right place. John unzipped Peter’s backpack to look for a phone number or an address…. He pulled out underwear, toothbrush, a notebook. A paper fell from in John’s lap.
Highway 20 - August 31 - 9:50 AM Red pickup truck
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague
come nigh thy dwelling.
For He shall give His Angels charge over thee…to keep thee
in all thy ways.
Chill bumps careened down John’s neck. Today was August 31. He’d picked up Peter on Highway 20, at exactly 9:50 A.M. “He was waiting for me! How is that possible?”
Lightning slashed overhead. Dark clouds gathered beyond the foothills. There’d be rain by nightfall. John glanced at his watch. 11:15 A.M. .There was just enough time… time to get the chicks to their flight. Maybe he’d even get home before the storm hit.
Faith! For He shall give His Angels charge over thee…
Check out my books at Amazon in print and e-books
Black Cat’s Legacy http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm
Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu
Black Cat and the Accidental Angel http://tinyurl.com/07scsm2
Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb
Mrs. Odboddy – And Then There Was a Tiger http://tinyurl.com/y96qshuv
All Things Cat – (short cat story collection) http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak
This fiction story is based on my own experience in Austria in 1987 when I was told about the 'secret of the bells.'
Rolling thunder drowned out the clanging church bells across the street. Lightning zig-zagged across the sky. Fear clutched my heart as Mother Nature crashed around me. Was this reality, or had I been caught up in a time warp that transported me to another place–magical, ethereal, and terrifying? Stay calm. It’s just a sudden summer storm. A torrent of water rushed down the Austrian cobbled street, threatening to overflow the gutters onto my feet. Were the bells warning of some disaster? Had war been declared? Had someone assassinated the President? Did Austria even have a President?
Cold spines of rain stung my face and bounced off the pavement onto my legs. Another clap of thunder and a flash of lightning made me jump. I pulled my sweater tighter around my chest and huddled closer to the wall beneath the narrow, striped canopy. And then a man stepped beneath the awning and tilted his umbrella over my head. “Do you wish to share my umbrella?”
“Thank you, how kind.” His presence soothed my fear. My pattering heart slowed. “The storm came up so quickly, it caught me quite unawares.”
“Sudden storms are not unexpected at this time of year.”
We stood side by side beneath the canopy, watching the ribbons of lightning zigzag across the afternoon sky, chatting about bells and clouds and weather. I tilted my head toward the church towers. “Why are they ringing the bells? Is there an emergency? The street is flooded.”
“The priests ring the bells to frighten the storm clouds toward the next village.”
I suppressed a smile, doubting that bells could drive away the clouds. “If that’s true, I’m sorry to say, it’s not working. It’s been raining buckets for twenty minutes.”
“Oh, it’s working fine.” A smile lit up his face. “But, the next village also rings their bells, and the storm clouds get confused, so they drift back here again. From village to village they drift. Soon they will find a quiet place where they can rest.”
I was pleasantly amused, but did not wish to dispute his quaint belief in the magical power of the bells. As we talked, we stood shoulder to shoulder. His scent comforted me–a woodsy manly scent, strong and secure.
A train whistle pierced the air. At the sound, he turned. “My train... I’m sorry, I must go. You will be alright?”
“I’ll be fine. Thank you for sharing your umbrella and for the secret of the bells.”
He caught my hand and lifted it to his lips. “It’s been a pleasure. I wish we had more time to… Good-bye.”
We looked deep into each other’s eyes and in those few seconds, as his lips brushed my fingertips, I was whirled through another time warp. In that instant, surrounded by the lightning and the chiming of the bells, it was as though we shared a lifetime together, infinite days and endless nights of love. I heard the blare of a hundred marching bands, saw the night sky explode in a cacophony of fireworks, felt the coolness of a thousand springtime rains, the color of a hundred rainbows, and an untold myriad of golden sunsets…
The rain stopped as he released my hand, waved a final farewell and strode toward the train. As he disappeared into the station, the blare of marching bands…became the tinkling bells around the cow’s necks in a nearby field. A final streak of lightning…replaced the image of fireworks in the night sky. The sun came out…and cast sparkling rainbows through the dewdrops dripping from the awning.
His scent lingered, but as I reached for the place where he had stood, the memory of his touch melted through my fingertips. I ran toward the station, “Wait! I don’t even know your name. Wait!”
The whistle blew and the train clacked down the track. The magic spell was broken. Was it a crack in time and space? Was it an entire lifetime of love that two strangers shared in those few moments, or was it just a dream caused by the magic of the bells and the storm clouds?
Years have passed. I’ve had the best life one could hope for–marriage, a satisfactory career, and children. But, every time I hear church bells, I close my eyes and remember a summer storm in a faraway land.
I am reminded of church bells echoing from mountaintop to mountaintop, as the storm clouds scramble from village to village in their frantic search for a silent, peaceful place. Finally, they drift onto a quiet hillside where the only sound is the tinkling of cow’s bells, as they amble across the meadows and disappear into the mist…. and I remember the man I loved who was only a dream
If you enjoy this short story, please check out my published novels on Amazon. Black Cat's Legacy, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, Mrs. Odboddy - Undercover Courier, Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger, and All Things Cat (short story collection about cats).