28
Apr

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer - An Excerpt

Re-read my 2015 novel again this week and was surprised what a wonderful story it was. Here is a short (edited) excerpt from Brett and Kimberlee's ride across the Texas prairie. Hope you purchase the book.

Heavy clouds formed overhead as Kimberlee’s mare plodded behind Juan with Brett as they rode single file through the underbrush into the valley. Kimberlee caught her breath as she reached the grassy meadow and the wild horses came into view. A streak of lightning crackled across the sky and distant thunder rumbled.

Quantum reared, and took off at a gallop, his black mane whipping as he led his mares away.

Brett gave his mount a kick and sprinted past Kimberlee and Juan. Kimberlee’s horse lunged after him. Kimberlee gripped the body of the horse with her knees. The wind beat at her face. Her heart thumped in time with the thundering hooves. Brett raced beside her, creating a cloud of dust and wind and noise. Adrenaline mingled with terror as she reveled in the exhilaration.

Her body throbbed with each stride of the beast’s surging muscles, driving through her legs. The breath in her throat burned as her mare rode neck to neck with Brett. His horse’s mane whipped against her hands, stinging like fire. Never had she felt so close to death and yet… so alive.

She turned and stared into the horse’s giant brown eye, the dark and the light of it looking like land and water on a distant planet floating through the universe. Her heart soared as she became one with the wind and the grass and the dirt and the noise, overcome with abounding joy. She swallowed a sob, as the ecstasy of the moment washed over her and she wished it would never end. Quantum’s herd pulled away and seemed to disappear in a cloud of dust. Kimberlee’s mare skidded to a halt beside Brett.

Juan pounded up behind them and pulled his horse to a halt. “What’s the big idea?” His face was as dark as the clouds overhead. “You both could have been killed!” Lightning streaked and thunder rumbled.

Wow! That was great. I’ve never had such a thrill.” Brett beat his hat against his leather chaps. Still panting from the exertion, Kimberlee could only nod. Her body tingled, unable to express what she felt.

“We need to get moving. These summer storms can be vicious. We don’t want to be caught out here on the prairie.” Juan turned his horse back toward the ranch. As great drops of rain pelted down, Kimberlee sniffed and tasted the scent of it. Little puffs of dust bounced in the dry earth. The smell of damp earth would forever remind her of this wonderful afternoon.

An unexplained lump rose up in her throat. The exhilaration of following Quantum’s herd filled her heart to overflowing. She couldn’t gulp down her sobs. Rain mingled with tears streaming down her face.

Brett slid off his horse and handed the reins to Juan. “What is it, honey?” He pulled her from the saddle and wrapped her in his arms.

“It was all so wonderful. The wind, the lightning... I… I’ve never felt anything like that before. I needed to be a part of it, to become one with all this. I needed to remember that God is in control and we are powerless to change what happens around us. I don’t know how to explain it.” Tears trickled down her face.

Brett dabbed her cheeks with his handkerchief. “I understand. I−”

Kimberlee pulled her head back. “No. You don’t. I don’t understand it myself. We were riding and the thunder and lightning… It was like, all at once I understood.”

“Tell me, honey. Understood what?”

“With all that’s happened here on the ranch, I didn’t think I could go on. I was losing control, losing… me. I didn’t think I could bear it.”

Kimberlee looked out across the meadow where the rain poured onto the dry earth, and then back at Brett. “Now I understand. It’s not important, none of it. What’s important is you and me, our family.” She waved her hand. “The land… and this. Quantum and his herd. They’re important and the lightning and the thunder. She smiled. “I’m ready now. Let’s go home.”

A streak of lightning slashed across the sky and distant thunder crashed as the storm moved further across the plains. As suddenly as it started, the rain stopped and the sun came out.

The bushes sparkled with clustered rain droplets, catching the sun and glistening like diamonds. The hills jutted up from the prairie floor like mounds of cookie dough. A brilliant rainbow of red, yellow, green and blue circled the top of the canyon. And, there again was the contrariness of the prairie, intense and challenging one minute, and God’s beautiful garden the next.

I can send you an autographed paperback for $15.00 (free shipping).  Email: Elaine.Faber @mindcandymysteries.com or Amazon e-book is just $3.99

3
Apr

Interview with Mildred Haggenbottom, Mrs. Odboddy's Best Friend

Elaine’s novel, Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot a hysterical WWII fiction novel of suspicion and spies.  Agnes fights WWII from the home front, while seeing conspiracies and Nazi spies around every corner. When Mrs. Roosevelt unexpectedly comes to town to attend a funeral, Agnes is called upon to prove she is, indeed, a hometown patriot.

Interview begins:

I’m Mildred Haggenbottom, Agnes’s best friend, and share the adventures with Agnes in Elaine Faber’s first WWII novel, Mrs.  Odboddy–Hometown Patriot.

Agnes and I have been friends for over twenty-five years. She’s the cat’s meow…as the young people say. How we met…? Let me see.

It was in 1918, during WWI. Agnes and I were United States’ undercover agents, assigned a top secret operation in Paris. We spent three days hiding in a bombed-out building with our handler, Godfrey Baumgarten. Believe me, after 72 hours in a life or death situation, you end up either hating someone’s guts or friends for life. Godfrey and Agnes got quite close…too close, if you ask me… Missing from our lives for 25 years, he showed up in Newbury last week, looking for a million dollars in missing Hawaiian money and wanting to reignite his ‘friendship’ with Agnes. I don’t think she’s trying very hard to keep him at arm’s length, if you know what I mean.

After Paris, Agnes changed. She’s been paranoid, eccentric, and fanatically patriotic ever since. She’s determined to root out injustice, regardless of the consequences. I could hardly believe what she plans to do about the black market ration book scam she thinks she discovered, and when the watch tower burned down at the ocean, she says she can’t explain it because it’s Top Secret. Talk is that she burned it down, herself.

Let’s just say, Agnes tends to see conspiracies and spies under every rock. She believes Nazi spies have infiltrated Newbury. She drives Police Chief Waddlemucker crazy with her notions. She’s usually wrong, but her heart is in the right place.

Agnes lives with her granddaughter, Katherine, who works at the Curls to Dye For Beauty Salon. She does the hair and make-up for the Whistlemeyer mortuary. That certainly turned into quite an adventure, but you’ll have to read the book for the details. Spoiler alert, you know.

Fair warning to the Nazi spies out there. If you really are skulking around Newbury, planning nefarious deeds, I suggest you peddle your papers elsewhere, because if Agnes stumbles onto you, between her and Chief Waddlemucker, your name is toast!

Elaine’s novels include Black Cat’s Legacy; Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer,  Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary, and Mrs. Odboddy–Hometown Patriot, Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was A Tiger,-and lastly, The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain, all available at Amazon - $3.99 for e-book. Or, you can write to Elaine and for $15, she'll send you an autographed paperback copy, (free shipping).

28
Feb

How Characters can Highjack A Story

 

I’m never surprised what my characters highjack the story. I follow their lead until the scene plays out. When this happens, sometimes it takes the story in surprising directions. It is most unnerving and sometimes I have to ask, “How do I get him out of this predicament?” Of course, that’s often when the mischievous character decides to take a vacation and leaves me trying to resolve how to get the character out of the muddle they just created.

My parents used to tell me that as a toddler, I buried my toys in the sand and my dad had to dig around and try to find them. Aha! The proverbial lightbulb flashed over my head! What if years ago, a toddler buried something that wasn’t found until now it it becomes the clue to solving a murder today?

With that concept in mind, I started writing my first novel. I thought it would be a story about a divorcee who wants to solve her father’s cold-case murder, and something she buried as a baby would reappear and be relevant to solving the murder. Quite without intending it to happen, a tuxedo cat (Thumper) jumped into the tale, took over, and became the main character as he used his ancestor’s memories to help her solve the case. Black Cat’s Legacy was born. This led to Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, and Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary. (Available at Amazon in paperback and e-book)

Some people ask, “What do you do when you have writer’s block?” When this happens to me, I ask myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” I conjure up several alternatives, pick one and run with it.

Here’s an example: Let’s imagine I want to write a mystery. The main character is a private detective who I eventually plan to get involved in a murder case. The story starts with my main character innocently frying bacon one Saturday morning. What happens next? What’s the worst thing that can happen? The skillet catches fire.

She pulls the fire extinguisher off the wall. What’s the worst thing that can happen? The extinguisher is empty!

She grabs her cell phone to call the fire department. What happens next? What’s the worst thing that can happen? Dead battery!

She runs, screaming, to the front door. “Help! Fire, fire! Help!” She flings open the door.

A handsome neighbor appears and puts out the fire; 275 pages later they have fallen in love, the killer never appears, and eventually our characters ride off into the sunset… A love story…Well, you get the picture.

The characters in this illustration just ran away from me. I had planned this scene to be about a mystery, with a kitchen fire, and intended to have the killer sneak up behind the lady at the stove, but the characters had another idea and a handsome neighbor appears, instead. My 30-second characters took control and turned my illustration upside down into a love story.

When I write, I’m never totally in control. I’m sort of along for the ride.

8
Feb

The Valentine's Day Chocolate Kiss

This is a repeat post, but always a good one when Valentine's Day is near.

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

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

The afternoon dragged by. It’s 5:00 P.M., and I’m leaving the office. … The traffic is terrible and I’m anxious to get home. It’s not that I’m going to apologize. It was his fault that we quarreled, but it’s too tiring to stay mad. I want everything to be okay between us again.

The cars creep along the freeway and I check my watch.

He should be home by now, waiting for me, listening to music, probably drinking a glass of red wine. I’m sure he bought me flowers for Valentine's Day. I can’t wait to see what kind he chose.

It started to rain and the leaves swirl across the highway, gathering on the edge of my front window. The windshield wipers swish. They seem to say, “hate-shoo, hate-shoo, hate-shoo.”  I remember how I said those words and tears sting my eyes. I didn’t mean it. I reach for the cell phone in my purse and touch instead, a melted chocolate candy kiss. I lick the chocolate off my fingers and smile, remembering the night, not so long ago and his words, “This kiss signifies my love.”

Now I'm ready to tell him 'I’m sorry', even if he was wrong. I want his arms around me. I want his lips to caress my throat. I want us to be together.

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

I turn the handle on the front door. Why is it locked? I turn my key in the door and call his name. The room is empty. There are no Valentine flowers. Where can he be?

A gust of wind rushes in, slamming the door behind me. My eyes are drawn to a chocolate candy kiss as it rolls off the table. A single sheet of paper flutters for a moment, then settles to the floor...

****

Hope your Valentine's Day has a better ending. Don't let the day begin or end without saying, "I love you."   Elaine Faber

 

25
Jan

Cont. Chapter One - Mrs. Odboddy's Desperate Doings

See previous post, dated January, 2022, for the beginning of Chapter One. In summary, Agnes was rescuing her Siamese cat, from the apple tree when she fell... and....

Agnes hit the ground with a thud. Her head flung back and thwacked against the apple tree. Then everything went dark.

****

The story continues....

A voice called her name from far away. “Mrs. Odboddy. Can you hear me?”

Ow.” Her cheek smarted. Had someone slapped her? Another slap? Near dead, and now being attacked? What was the world coming to when an old woman couldn’t fall from an apple tree and die in peace? Agnes opened her eyes. Ling-Ling leaped from branch to branch and dropped lightly beside her hip. “Meow!

Her head lolled back against the tree. Now she comes down, after I risked my life to…  Several faces hovered over her. Godfrey’s face and two others.  Fireman? Why?

Katherine knelt beside Godfrey and took her hand. “Grandma. Are you alright?” She turned toward the men in heavy overcoats. “Did she break anything?”

“Hard to say, ma’am.” Barnaby Merryweather, the gray-headed volunteer fireman, touched the lump on the back of Agnes’s head. “She has some scratches and a sizable bump on the back of her head. Her doctor should check her over to be sure. She took a pretty good whack. Agnes? Do you know what day it is? Who’s the President?”

Ow!” Agnes swatted at the fireman’s hand. “Of course. It’s April 26, 1944, and Franklin D. Roosevelt is the President. Now, help me into the house.” Her hand dropped onto Ling-Ling’s back as she nuzzled under her arm. “I see the wretched cat managed to rescue herself.”

“If you’d asked my opinion before you risked your fool life, I would’ve told you she’d come down when she was darned good and ready, Grandma.”

“I called Godfrey. When he didn’t come, I thought I could get her down, myself.”

“Just see how well that turned out,” Katherine patted her grandmother’s cheek. “You could’ve killed yourself.”

“It takes more than a bump to kill an old bird like me.” Agnes touched the lump on her head and twisted her neck from side to side. “Ow.

“Give me a hand, Barnaby,” Godfrey said. One could always count on volunteer fireman,Barnaby Merryweather, a volunteer fireman, whether for a kitchen fire or a cat up a tree. Godfrey put his arm under Agnes’s shoulder. “Can you stand, sweetkins?”

“I think so. You’re right. I should have called the fire department in the first place.”

Barnaby and Godfrey helped Agnes into the house where they lowered her onto the sofa. Barnaby’s son, Benjamin, followed Katherine inside.

“Now I mean it, Agnes. Your doctor needs to check that bump,” Barnaby said. “It looks like it’s swelling up more.”

“Agnes knows what’s best for her, Dad. Maybe she doesn’t want to see the doctor.” Benjamin said. “It’s not your decision, old man.”

Barnaby scowled. “Thanks, Son! Where did you get your medical degree?”

“Just sayin’ she knows how she feels better’n you,” Benjamin snapped.

Barnaby, a long-term citizen of Newbury, had recently handed Merryweather Shoe Repair  over to Benjamin. Word was, they argued about replacing the heel on a shoe almost as much as how to run the volunteer fire department.

Agnes rolled her eyes at the two Merryweather men. “Stop bickering. I’ll contact the doctor later, if my head still hurts.”

Barnaby pulled the straps on his hat. ”Next time your cat goes for a climb, Agnes, stay out of the tree!” He and Benjamin turned and stomped out the front door.

Agnes glanced between Katherine and Godfrey. “Why were they here in the first place? I didn’t call them.”

Godfrey ducked his head. “I told you before, plum blossom. We needed their ladder to rescue the cat. Then, by gum, you fell smack at my feet. We should call the doctor. You never know about a head injury.”

Humph! Head injury, my Aunt Fanny. It’s just a little bump. Katherine? Can you fix me a cup of tea and bring me a headache powder?” Agnes stared at Katherine. Her mouth pulled into a frown. “Why on earth are you wearing that ridiculous hat?”

Katherine’s hands went to her head. “Hat? I’m not wearing a hat.” She glanced at Godfrey, then back to Agnes.

“My dear!” Godfrey patted Agnes’s hand. “You must lie down. I’ll get  an ice pack for your head.” He hurried toward the kitchen, paused at the door, and looked back. “I’m calling the doctor.”

“Whatever for? I told you I’ll be just fine… Katherine, would you be a dear and bring me a headache powder? My head hurts like the dickens.” Agnes swiped angrily at tears on her cheeks.

“Agnes, my sweet,” Godfrey said, his cheeks as pale as cottage cheese. “You already asked Katherine…" He sighed. "Never mind. I’ll get you that cup of tea.”

*****

. The three Mrs. Odboddy mystery/adventures are available on Amazon (ebook) for $3.99.

Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, and Mrs. Odboddy And Then there was a Tiger

Hope you enjoyed the excerpt.

16
Jan

Sneak Preview.... Mrs. Odboddy's Desperate Doingss

If you haven't yet met Mrs. Odboddy, you'll enjoy all her books, the last titled Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger where she attempts to save a displaced carnival tiger.

This is the beginning of her next adventure... Mrs. Odboddy's Desperate Doings... to be published soon.

Chapter One 

Agnes slung her leg over a limb in the apple tree and reached to grip a higher branch. “Hang on, Ling-Ling. Mama’s coming.”

“Meow!”

The cat’s shrill yowl announced her displeasure that Agnes should question her agenda to reach the top of the tree. Agnes’s boyfriend, Godfrey, peered into the branches. “Agnes! Come down this instant. What in tarnation do you think you’re doing?”

Agnes yanked her skirt down over her rump in an attempt to cover her chubby thigh and flannel stockings. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that I’m trying to rescue Ling-Ling. She’s been up here for hours and won’t come down. If you’d come when I called you over an hour ago–”

“I came as soon as I could, Lambkins, after I called the fire department and asked them to bring a ladder. Now, come down before you fall and break your noggin. Leave the climbing to the firemen. They rescue cats every day.” A siren shrieked in the distance.

“No need. I’ve almost got her.” Agnes loosened her grip on the branch to reach for the Siamese cat as she climbed higher. “Just a little more. Come to mama, baby.” Wasn’t that just like a cat? “You rascal. I have half a mind to leave you here, and let you starve. Come here before I…” Crack! Agnes gasped as the branch under her foot gave way. “Saints preserve–”

Godfrey sprang toward the tree as Agnes flung out her arms and grasped at branches to break her fall. Pieces of twigs and leaves pummeled Godfrey’s head. As she plummeted toward the ground, images and questions flashed through her mind. Godfrey’s image intermingled with her little ward, Maddie, and her granddaughter, Katherine. Would Shere Khan, the displaced carnival’s tiger, find a home without her help? It’s true. Your life flashes before your eyes just before you die.

Agnes hit the ground with a thud. Her head flung back and thwacked against the apple tree. Then everything went dark.

*****

What follows is a wacky adventure where Agnes struggles to find justice not only for the tiger but for the community, as she faces personal conflict and drama at every turn. Guaranteed, you'll laugh at her antics in every chapter.

Let me know if you wish to reserve an autographed copy. If you read on a device, all Mrs. Odboddy's adventures are just $3.99 (ebook) at Amazon.

 

8
Jan

The Funny Query Letter Contest

Writers hoping to acquire an agent to represent us and sell our manuscripts to famous publishers, must send the agency a ‘query’ letter to introduce our work. The ‘query’ letter should contain the following information: The general plot, the desired audience, explain why it would sell well, show our knowledge of spelling and punctuation, indicate the word count, and tell a bit about our qualifications as the writer .

Several years ago, a popular agency held a contest among its followers to see who could write the funniest, worst, query letter. The letter had to include the required information.

I submitted the following query letter to the contest.

Dear Ms. Writer’s Agent:
Since I won the 3rd grade spelling be and a composition contest in 7th grade, that why I’m qualified tobe a writer and giveing you the honor to be my first queery letter.
My book is about these two fat ladies who go on vacation ...at Saint Lucus Morturary and Day Spa.. "We fix your hair - coming and going." Kind of a mystery romance janrah, and therefore,lots of fat women will read this kind of book, so that’s how I know it would be well- received all around the world.
Your publish company was reccommended to me by my good friend, Lize Snotwittle, (my referral) who wrote you a queery letter last year. You sent her a nice letter but you didn’t publish her book. So I know you are a reputuble agency what wouldn’t do anything wrong.
My novel is 47,567 words long, up to page 102. I haven’t counted the words any further yet. Are you suppose to count “a” as a word the same as “zillionaire,” which is what one of my heroines is?
Should I quit my job and be a fulltime writer?.

Sincerely, Elaine Faber

I won their contest with my letter.

Even though the agency did not decide to represent me, I have successfully published nine cozy mystery/adventure novels. If you enjoy a good mystery with lots of laughs, hope you will consider purchasing one of the following. Amazon e-books are just $3.99.

Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot                     http://tinyurl.co/hdvzsv

Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier                   http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb

Mrs. Odboddy And Then there was a Tiger      http://tinyurl.com/yx72fcpx

Currently working on the fourth Mrs. Odboddy adventure, to be published very, very soon! Keep watching!

 

 

9
Dec

The True Meaning of Christmas

The days grew shorter, the air crisper, the nights longer, and leaves whispering on the roof awakens each Christmas tree bird wrapped snug in their tissue paper in the attic. Something sang to them, called to them, until they wiggled with joy, crinkling their crepe paper walls. Soon, each Christmas bird ornament would be lifted from his crinkly paper bed where he slept since last Christmas.

As the year neared its end, the Christmas birds felt a thrill from their springy wire clips and gold porcelain bodies to their bright feather tails. The littlest Christmas bird lay warm and snug beneath Gold Bird. How he anticipated the coming holiday season. Soon he would be on the Christmas tree with his fragile glass friends and the others…the round ones with bright colored paint. They were not nearly as beautiful as his Christmas bird friends with their springy wires, delicate glass and pinchey clips that clasped them firmly to each tree branch. And though all his friends were lovely, he felt he was the most beautiful Christmas tree bird of all.

He closed his little red eyes and dreamed of Christmas Eve. From the top of the tree, he would look down on the family gathered by the fireplace. Being part of the celebration made him feel truly alive. “I’ve been thinking,” he whispered in a trembling voice. “You are lovely, Gold Bird, but, you know, I’m the most beautiful Christmas bird.”

Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered. “Really? Blue glass bird was made in Germany with hand-blown glass and a blue feather tail. Antique bird is missing tail feathers, but so fragile, you can see right through him. We are all unique, and as beautiful as you.” His tail feathers shook as he scolded the young bird.

“It’s true,” said the saucy little bird. “But, the tree won’t be complete if I’m not right near the top.”

Gold Bird, being older and wiser, turned his head. “You obviously don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas. It would serve you right if you got left behind this year.”

The Christmas bird trembled. “That couldn’t happen, could it? It’s not that you aren’t handsome, but my tail feathers are fluffier than yours, and…my…paint is─”

Tut tut. Not…another…word.”

For several days, the little bird lay in his crinkly paper as the thought haunted him. “It would serve you right …” Not to be there on Christmas Eve? He could not bear the thought.

The days grew shorter and a soft sprinkle of snow blanketed the roof. The wind whistled past the attic and the dark days edged toward December. Early one morning, the Christmas birds heard footsteps on the attic steps. They held their breath, as their box was lifted from the shelf and carried down the stairs. “Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree,” the little Christmas bird whispered to Gold Bird.

One by one, the Christmas birds were lifted from the box. The young bird heard his friends squeal as they were hung on the tree. He heard music and children laughing. He even smelled cookies!

“It’s almost time,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “It’s nearly my turn.”…but Gold Bird’s fluffy tail no longer tickled his nose. The ornament box was tossed into the corner; empty, except for the little Christmas bird. “What happened? I’m still here.” Overlooked, his comfortable bed was now a prison, his beautiful body still swaddled in crinkly tissue paper. He heard muffled Christmas sounds. A tiny plastic tear formed in his little red eye. “I was conceited and proud, and now I’ve been left behind.”

Christmas Day approached and he lay alone in the box. On Christmas Eve, the family gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Christmas tree bird imagined his friends hanging on the tree branches. “The round ones may not be as beautiful as me,” he lamented,” but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.”

After supper, the family gathered by the Christmas tree. The little girl read from the Bible. “They wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and lay Him in a manger.”

“I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like the baby Jesus.” The little bird imagined the tiny baby sung and warm, lying in a manger, warmed by the breath of the surrounding animals. He heard the daddy tell how Jesus came as a tiny baby, and if we loved and trusted Him, He would take us to heaven and we would never be left behind.  The Christmas bird sniffed, “I know what it’s like to be left behind. How much worse it would be, to be left behind from Heaven.”

Then, the crinkling tissue paper in his box lifted and he felt the warmth from the fireplace. “Look, Mommy! It’s another Christmas birdie. He has a red tear in his eye. Can we hang him on the Christmas tree?”

Daddy raised her up and she hung the little bird near Gold Bird. The joyous Christmas bird felt the love as the family opened gifts. The spicy aroma of gingerbread drifted in the air. Christmas bird wiggled with joy as the family sang carols. At last, he was exactly where he wanted to be. Gold Bird swung around from a nearby branch. “Welcome to Christmas, little bird. Did you learn anything?”

The tear in his eye shimmered in the light from the fireplace. “I understand,” he whispered. “Christmas is not about who is most beautiful, who has the brightest springy tail. It’s not about carols or turkey dinner, or even about presents under the tree. The true meaning of Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus, God’s gift for us. When we accept His love and believe in Him, we will never be left behind.”

 

19
Oct

Harvest Jack's Rebellion - A Holiday Story

“If I’ve told you once,” Papa Red Warty Thing said. “I’ve told you a dozen times not to stray so far. Look at you. You’re already at the end of your tendrils and into the road. When the tractor comes, you’ll be smashed flatter than a fritter!”

Turning toward his parents, Papa Red Warty Thing and Sweet Sugar Pie, unruly Harvest Jack huffed, “I’d rather be a fritter than bored to death, lying face up in the sun like my cousins, Baby Boo, Wee-be-Little, and Jack-be-Little. They never stray past the first twist in their vines.”

Harvest Jack’s pumpkin cousins gasped. Such disrespect! Such defiance! And with Halloween and Thanksgiving right around the corner. Unheard of in polite Cucurbita Pepo society! They turned away from the disobedient cultivar and buried their tendrils and stems beneath their prickly leaves.

“That child shall be the death of me yet,” Sweet Sugar Pie declared. “How does he ever expect to become a pumpkin pie acting like that? It’s your fault. Your ancestors never looked like the rest of us. They were always rebellious.”

Papa Red Warty Thing shivered. “If the lad doesn’t change his attitude, he’s likely to end up gutted, with an ugly smirk carved on his face.”

Sweet Sugar Pie waved her sticky leaves in dismay. “Don’t even think such a thing. My family has a proud history of becoming harvest pies for the past 72 generations. Grandma Sirius Star would roll over in her mulch if she heard of such a vulgar future for one of our clan. I know that some of the Rock Star and Howden crew across the field plan to be gutted and carved up. Some even look forward to lighted candles stuck where their innards used to be. That’s not the future I want for our boy.” A drop of morning dew trickled from her stem, down her rounded middle, and plopped into the dirt.

“Now. dear. Don’t carry on so. The season isn’t over yet. It’s just growing pains. I’m sure he’ll come to his senses when he matures a bit.”

Papa Red Warty Thing was wrong, for by now, Harvest Jack had wandered into the road and lay directly in the path of the giant tractor grinding its way down the road, swooping up all in its path, and dumping the unfortunate ones into a hopper to be carried off to an uncertain future. Sweet Sugar Pie shrieked, “It’s coming! Beware!”

Harvest Jack heard the engine and turned toward the sound. “Uh Oh!” The seeds in his belly shook in terror. Papa Red Warty Thing was right. He was about to be crunched into a fritter.

A raven swooped down and landed on his stem. “It serves you right for wandering into the road. Papa Red Warty Thing warned you.”

How he wished to be alongside little, white, cousin Baby-Boo, or little cousin Wee-be-Little’s tiny, orange body. Their future was assured. They would become cute little decorations, perched alongside a costumed vampire doll in the middle of a mantle, or maybe in a wheelbarrow surrounded by harvest leaves and acorns and a couple Rock Star or Howden’s. Even his distant cousin Lil’ Pumpkemon with his white body and orange stripes might end up on the front porch with his larger cousins.

Directly in the path of the tractor, Harvest Jack’s future was destined to be ground into pulp.

Suddenly, he heard guttural, humanoid sounds reverberating through his stem. Harvest Jack felt himself lifted and then felt the cool earth beneath his bottom. What happened? He was lying just inches from Papa Red Warty Thing and Sweet Sugar Pie. Somehow, he’d escaped the wheels of the tractor and was back in his own row of cultivar cousins. “Oh, Papa Red Warty Thing! You were right,” Harvest Jack cried. “I’ll never disobey again. I promise I’ll grow up and become a Harvest dinner pie, but… do I get to choose which kind of pie I want to be?”

“Of course you can, my dear,” Sweet Sugar Pie cooed, stretching her loving tendrils over her son. “Your great aunt was a pumpkin streusel pie with a gingersnap crust, and your great-grandfather was a pumpkin cheesecake.”

“Good! When I grow up, I want to be… let me think! I know just the thing. I want to be a cherry pie!”

Sweet Sugar Pie glared at Papa Red Warty Thing and shook her sticky leaves in anger.

“What’s wrong,” Harvest Jack cried. “You said I could choose what kind of Harvest pie I wanted to be.”

“My dear, you can’t be a cherry pie, because you’re a pumpkin.” Papa Red Warty Thing patiently explained.

Sweet Sugar Pie screamed. “According to today’s media, if the lad wants to be a cherry pie, then he’s a cherry pie! It’s your fault, Papa Red Warty Thing. You were always too lenient with the lad!”

 

8
Oct

A Halloween Story - Jenny's Shopping Trip

Jenny’s shrieks followed Tom as he skipped down the sidewalk to his 57’souped-up T-bird parked at the curb. Like many times before, when his girlfriend’s grew tiresome, he’d walk away. Women were like shoes. When the shine wore off, you got a new pair. Women always expected commitment and Tom wasn’t the committing type.

Tom checked his rear-view mirror as he ran his hands through his carrot-red hair. Not to worry. He’d have another girlfriend within the week. He stomped the gas and sped away.

****

Jenny clutched her black cat to her breast, “I should never have allowed myself to care so much.” A brown Maltese, a golden-eyed, pure white cat, and a tan blue-eyed beauty with Asian ancestry, hunkered nearby, commiserating with her sorrow.

Reflections from the high window bounced off Jenny’s wine glass and cast a rainbow across the far wall. She took a sip and lifted her head. “Lord knows, an orange one won’t make me feel any better, however…” A faint smile twitched her lips. “On the other hand, perhaps an orange one is just what I need.”

The black longhaired cat in her lap gazed into her eyes and yawned. “Come on, guys, let’s get a snack. Then, I’ll go shopping.” Her feline menagerie followed her to the kitchen.

Jenny gazed at the four cats hunkered around a pile of Friskies like four spokes of a wheel; black, brown, white and tan. Didn’t Tom have a lunch meeting today at a little restaurant on Main Street? Jenny whispered. “Let the games begin.”

Jenny lifted a dusty box from a garage top shelf and removed a black hat sporting a long black feather. She ran her fingers over its velvety texture, from nib to tip. “This will do nicely.” Dust rose from the feather and disappeared in a wisp of breeze.

In her closet, she found a black pantsuit. The height of 1980’s fashion with shoulder pads in the jacket and bellbottom pants. She shook the wrinkles from the jacket and frowned at the tiny moth hole in the left sleeve. Had it been that long since she got the last one? She could have sworn it was just a couple years before. It was definitely time for a new one.

Jenny donned the pantsuit and the black feathered hat and topped off her ensemble with a bangle bracelet and a lion head medallion necklace. She nodded, satisfied with the image reflected in her hall mirror.

Jenny drove downtown and parked a half-block from Marvelous Marvin’s Magic Shop, next door to the restaurant where Tom was having lunch.

She stood outside the magic shop, staring at the items in the window. In a few minutes, Tom strode down the street, his head held high, his bright red hair blowing in the wind. He spotted Jenny just as she dashed into the magic shop. Once inside the door, eerie shrieks and squeals of organ music, enough to chill one’s soul, blared through an elaborate sound system.

Startled to see her there, Tom followed her into the store. “Jenny, is that you?”

Jenny hurried through the darkened aisles toward a dimly lit corner piled high with boxes, capes, and baskets heaped with assorted Halloween decorations and magician’s paraphernalia.

Tom followed her into the furthest dark corner, where the black light overhead reflected a neon aura off the logo on Magic Marvin’s Magic Shop black shopping bags.

Tom’s gaze followed the drifting feather on Jenny’s hat, caressed by the air conditioned breeze. “Jenny? Are you headed to a costume party?” His gaze stayed locked on the swaying feather.

“No,” Jenny whispered, “I was waiting for you.”

“For me? Don’t be tiresome. I told you… We have nothing more to talk about.”

“Oh, yes. I think we do.” She tapped her long red fingernail three times on the stack of black Marvelous Marvin’s Magic Shop bags and whispered, “Dinkle, Dinkle, Catzenwinkle.”

Tom disappeared. The top shopping bag now displayed the a vivid orange-striped cat with glowing eyes, staring wildly from its paper prison.

Jenny laid the bag on the counter. “I’ll take this one.” She paid and left the store.

Back home, Jenny poured another glass of wine, and filled a plate with crackers and cheese, and set the shopping on the floor. “Come my lovelies,” she cooed.

They came from under the table, from the top of the sofa, from under the bed, off the fireplace mantle, stretching and yawning. Like four spokes of a wheel, black, brown, white and tan, they circled the shopping bag decorated with the vivid face of the cat with glowing eyes.

Jenny sipped her wine and tossed each cat a bite of cheese, grasped the shopping bag and tipped it upside down, “This is Tom,” she said.

Out spilled a carrot-orange striped cat. He gazed wildly around the room, his big round eyes filled with horror… The four cats nibbled their cheese and glared at the newcomer with amusement.

“Tom has come to live with us. Welcome your new changeling companion.” Jenny tossed Tom a bite of cheese, folded the shopping bag and shoved it into the trash .

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