My brother walked me to and from school when I was in the first grade. Mama didn’t want me to walk alone through town because there was just a general store, a post office, a gas station, one church and four beer joints.
We walked on the opposite side of the street when we got to the beer joints where men gathered on the sidewalk, drinking out of paper bags. When my brother told me they had beer and whiskey in the bags, I asked him why the beer didn’t leak through the paper bag? He said, “Shut your mouth and grab that beer bottle in the bushes.” We took the beer bottle into the General Store and redeemed it for 2 cents.
We pressed our noses to the glass candy case and discussed the merits of one candy versus another. Candy cigarettes or wax coke bottle filled with cool-aid, which meant we could chew the wax all the way to school. We chose and the two cents worth was carefully weighed on a little scale. Inside the glass case, the clever storeowner also displayed various dolls and other tempting toys.
One of the dolls had a fuchsia colored dress that fanned out behind her. She had beautiful brown wavy hair and movable arms. Her lovely eyes opened and closed. Never in my life had my five-year-old eyes beheld anything so beautiful. The candy lady said she cost a dollar, a considerable amount of money in 1948.
What was the likelihood of getting a beautiful doll that cost a whole dollar? We were lucky to get one small toy, a pair of pajamas and a new sweater for Christmas. I cried and begged, promised I would go to bed without a fuss, eat all my Brussels sprouts and brush my teeth five times a day if she would buy me the doll. My alligator tears fell on deaf ears. Mama said she wouldn’t give me a dollar if she had one, what with the economic climate we lived in. Then, she said, “Go talk to your Daddy.”
Daddy was not impressed with my argument either. “Furthermore,” he said, “Mama works in the apple packing plant and earns less than a dollar an hour. You can buy three pounds of hamburger for a dollar. You can buy several loaves of bread for a dollar or three gallons of gas for a dollar. I will not pay $1.00 for a doll. You can’t get blood out of a turnip.”
Well that was pretty obvious, even to a five- year-old. It seemed like a pretty poor excuse for not giving me a dollar.
I left Daddy with a better understanding of the value of a dollar. It was also obvious that that Daddy didn’t know much about vegetables. I still had no idea how I could obtain the dolly, now an unreachable, impossible dream. And yet, every day on the way home from school, we stopped at the General Store where I stood for ten minutes dreaming of what it would be like to own that dolly.
Perhaps I had enough in my piggy bank. I shook out all the pennies and nickels on my bed; there weren’t that many. I had 24 cents. I sat with paper and pencil and struggled with the math. If I had 24 cents and needed a $1.00, how much did I still need? The concept was beyond me.
Begging my mother had resulted in a vague speech about the weather. Daddy had demonstrated his poor understanding of vegetables in general. My piggy bank left me wanting, and my brother said I still needed $.76. After discussing it with family members, I figured I would have to earn the money.
That night I dreamed about the dolly. In my dream, I could feel her soft wavy hair. I sat her up and laid her down and watched her eyes blink open and close, open and close. When I awake, my fingers were still feeling the smooth texture of her satiny skirt and the rough edges of the lace. I was obsessed with the dolly.
I remembered the men standing on the corner, or squatting by the wall, drinking from paper bags near the beer joints. I remembered how they tossed the bottles into the bushes. I remembered that each bottle was worth 2 cents! Daddy had said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” which made slightly more sense than his lecture about blood and turnips. If I walked around the back of the beer joint, I could pick up the beer bottles, cash them in and save up the .76 cents.
For several weeks, I dragged dirty beer bottles out of the bushes on the way home from school. Each was worth several pennies apiece, and each night I dropped a few more pennies in the piggy bank.
When I had saved a dollar, I rushed to the store. My dolly was still in the glass case. She would be mine at last. The store lady rang up the sale.
“That will be $1.03,” she said. Tears sprang to my eyes and down my cheeks.
“Why is it $1.03,” I asked. She explained that the government didn’t have enough money to pay all the relief checks to the lazy men who squatted on the sidewalk next door and drank beer out of paper bags, so that’s why a little girl had to pay 3 cents more than she should have to, in order to buy a dolly. She said the government needed my 3 cents to help pay off the 258 billion dollar national debt. … (Imagine! that's what it was in 1948. Sounds pretty good by today’s standard, doesn’t it?)
After a bit of negotiating, I got the store lady to agree that I could take the dolly home if I gave her my dollar today and brought her 3 cents tomorrow. If I couldn’t get 3 cents by tomorrow, I would return the dolly and she could keep the dollar and sell the dolly to another little girl. I was the one gambling, not her. They say a con man is born every minute. I figured if I couldn’t find two more beer bottles on the way home, mama would be so embarrassed by my gambling, she would give me the 3 cents. I would probably get a spanking, but it was a risk I was willing to take.
I walked home, clutching my dolly to my heart, scanning the ditches. It seemed as if someone had gleaned every single bottle. I scoured the bushes and searched the garbage cans outside the beer joints. Near my house, two beer bottles were lying under the rose bushes. With the 4 cents from the bottles, I was able to square my debt with the candy lady.
Mama was mad when she heard how I got the money to buy the doll. She forbade me to collect any more beer bottles. She said, “If you ever want something that bad again, you should ask me for the money.”
Now isn’t that what I had done in the first place?
Seventy-two years later, the dolly still resides in my china cabinet, my first entrupeneural venture.
Tell me about your first adventure selling mistletoe or berries store to door. How did you earn your first dollar?
If you enjoyed this story, please check out my fiction novels on Amazon or contact me for a paperback copies of one of my eight published cozy mystery books.
Here is a fun short story to start your day.
The Slobaviakinsky Golf Course and Convention Center was located in a small, undeveloped country somewhere north of the 23rd Parallel, funded by a US entrepreneurial endeavor to improve the lives of the Slobaviakinsky citizens. They employed one hundred and ten individuals, from grounds keepers to bartenders, to chefs and maids.
The biggest and finest golf course and convention center within 3000 miles, it was chosen to hold the annual European golf tournament. News of Tiger Woods’s attendance assured financial and national attention, and every room in the convention hotel was reserved in advance
Tiger had shipped his personal all electric golf cart with leather seats, titanium steering wheel, state-of-the-art sound system and beverage center, and golf clubs with gold gilt grips, ahead of his arrival. They placed a tarp over cart beside the CEO’s office, lest anyone should attempt to pilfer same and sell it at New York Southey’s Auction House.
Unbeknownst to the tournament organizers, or CEO, years long before the course was built, beneath the manicured grass, there was a maze of tunnels connecting the 1st through the 19th hole, built by a secret society where covert operations were planned. Discussions were underway beneath the turf as to how to scuttle the approaching tournament, lest the location of the tunnels should be discovered and future doings thwarted. A final plan was voted on and passed.
Three days before the tournament, the head landscaper entered the CEO’s office. The distraught man wrung his hands and blurted out his terrible story. During the night, someone had torn out the sound system in Tiger’s golf cart and shredded the leather seats. The golf bag holding his precious gilt-edged clubs was slashed with marks that looked like wild animal teeth. Knowing Tiger Wood’s sensitive nature, the CEO feared that hearing of the offense, he might refuse to attend. In such a case, would the tournament even proceed?
Much to their surprise, Tiger grudgingly agreed to use a standard golf cart if they provided a cooler filled with his favorite beverage and a CD player.
Two day before the tournament, the CEO found his head electrician awaiting his arrival. During the night someone had destroyed the wiring to the PA system, making it impossible to announce the events over the loud speakers. What would Tiger’s adoring fans say if they could not hear about his prowess on the field? Since the hotel was already fully booked and international news media already on their way, they were determined to fix the system and save the tournament.
The secret society called another emergency meeting. Scuttling Tiger’s golf cart hadn’t worked. Destroying the PA sound system hadn’t worked. Drastic measures were needed. In desperation, a final deterrence was needed.
One day before the tournament, the CEO’s head chef was waiting. That morning, he had found rat droppings on the kitchen counter, on the stove and in the pantry. Bags of flour were torn open. The freezer was unplugged and hundreds of pounds of meat had thawed. The refrigerator’s electric cord was chewed in half. Apparently, rodents had invaded the hotel. The health inspector would likely shut down the kitchen, putting the entire tournament at risk.
The clever CEO snapped his fingers. “Set up barbecues on the patio with bricks and screens. BBQ all the meat for the guests tonight. Have the local markets and bakeries bring bread, fresh fruit and pastry for breakfast tomorrow. Gather the portable microwaves from each room to prepare whatever else is needed. Contact another dozen food trucks to serve the tournament guests tomorrow. We’ll make it work.”
In despair, the secret society shrugged and gave up. None of their efforts had derailed the tournament. They would have to take their chances of discovery.
On tournament day, Tiger Woods faced the top ten world champion golfers. On the 19th hole, he was one stroke from winning the tournament. He eyed the ball, drew back his club, but as he swung, his foot slipped on a leaf. His ball arced to the left off the fairway, into the trees. The crowd erupted in a collective moan. TV cameramen trailed Tiger into the woods where he found his ball on a mound of dirt, evidence of a major gopher hole.
Tiger stomped the mound flat, smacked his ball onto the green where it slowly rolled and plopped into the cup. Tiger said. “The club better set out poison before the gophers get onto the fairway.” He moved onto the green to the adulation of his adoring TV fans.
In the tunnel below, a number of ground gophers wept as their worst nightmare came to fruition. Tiger’s attendance at the tournament had revealed their secret location. It was only a matter of time until the secret tunnels would be destroyed and their existence doomed. There was only one solution. A quick vote was pass and decision made to move their network of tunnels into the International Culinary School garden next door. Unbeknownst to them, Wolfgang Puck’s world renowned Annual Cooking Contest was scheduled to be held there next spring.
Do you prefer fantasy short stories or do you prefer reading non-fiction articles?
If you enjoy fiction stories, check out my cat anthology of short stories . All Things Cat http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak (Amazon e-book $2.99)
A fiction author must take great care not to alter history, but where’s the harm in tossing our character into actual historical events? Don't confuse my fictional story with factual events (marked true),
In Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, while volunteering at a watch tower on the beach, elderly Agnes Odboddy spots a Japanese air balloon bomb (true) headed for shore. She uncovers a ration book conspiracy and becomes romantically involved with an FBI agent searching for missing Hawaiian funds.(true) And she meets Mrs. Roosevelt. Our fictional character and our plot weave these historical facts into the fiction story. http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
In my second WWII era humorous mystery/adventure novel, Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier, Mrs. Odboddy continues to fight the war from the home front in her bumbling, charming way..
Agnes and her granddaughter, Katherine, travel by train from California to Washington DC to join Mrs. Roosevelt on her Pacific Island tour(true). Agnes is asked to hand-carry a package to President Roosevelt. She believes it contains secret war document! (Why not, right?) She expects Nazi agents to attempt to steal her package. (Could happen!) Along the way, she meets some intriguing characters who greatly hinder as well as aid her in her mission. She suspect one of them to be a Nazi spy. (true)
Agnes befriends David and Samuel, two Black soldiers bound for the Tuskegee Air Base, where they are to be trained as pilots with the first all-Black fighting flying squadron.
And here is a bit of REAL history about the resiliant Tuskegee soldiers who became pilots.
Due to the extreme loss of pilots in battle, and the many Black men who wanted to fight for American, it became expedient to set up a program to train Black fighter pilots, bombardiers, and air support staff. A number of Black men with higher education and pre-war flying experience were selected to train as fighter pilots, in a segregated squadron.
The most successful 'all Black' squadron was the 99th squadron. They began to fly bombing missions in the spring of 1943.
Nine hundred ninety two Black pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941-1946. They were credited with 1578 combat missions, 179 bomber escort missions, destroyed 112 enemy aircraft in the air, and another 150 on the ground. Nine hundred fifty rail cars tracks and motor vehicles were destroyed. One destroyer was put out of action. Forty enemy boats and barges were destroyed. Multiple citations were awarded to these brave men, along with many silver, bronze, air medals, and eight purple hearts.
Segregation of the troops ended in 1945 and the Black soldiers were united with other brave American troops.
And now, back to our fictional story… When Mrs. Odboddy's train reaches Tennessee, Agnes and Katherine friends learn more than they wish to know about the JIM CROW laws facing her new friends. Befriending a Black wounded veteran changes the trajectory of her mission. When she arrives in Washington, she faces a different kind of challenge that taxes her determination as a home front warrior.
Read Mrs. Odboddy - Undercover Courier and get the full story about Agnes and the Tuskegee airmen. The book will amaze and amuse all the way from California to Washington, D.C and shed a bit more light on a slice of American history. For adventure, unbounded humor, and a bit of WWII history, check out the
E-book at Amazon for $3.99 http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb
Or contact me directly for an autographed paperback copy, mailed free to your home for $13.00. Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com.
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.
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.
– 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.
- What does the character see? (The setting seen through the character’s POV)
- What does the character think or feel? (How does the current situation personally affect him?)
- 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.
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 $3.99 at Amazon https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s
Let me know your thoughts regarding this writing process. What thoughts to you have regarding how authors create a more satisfying read?
Kilcuddy Kitty stretched out in the sunny butcher shop window, anxiously awaiting Shamus O’Reilly. Any minute now, he’d arrive to open the shop. The first rays of morning light up the posters in the window.
Beef Kidneys−$.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
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.
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