A Short Love Story – The Chocolate Kiss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ghost of Mokelumne Hills – A Cat’s Story

                             Elaine Faber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Are you a ghost?”

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

“Why hasn’t anyone helped you before?”

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

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

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

“What can we do? We’re cats!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where did this come from?” Mom asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Man’s Choices – A Short Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The No Fly Zone – Roswell Space Ship Crash 1947

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

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

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

SHUT THE DOOR   THIS IS A NO FLY ZONE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

Meow!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

WWII FACTS About Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings FACTS

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

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

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

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

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

OXTAIL STEW

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

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

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

A Caregiver For a Tiger – Desperate Doings

Following is an excerpt from Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings. Agnes has received a call that Shere Khan’s caregiver, has quit. Agnes has tried unsuccessfully to date to find a permanent home for the displaced carnival tiger. What to do? What to do?

****

Agnes hung up the phone and put her hand to her throbbing forehead. She was running out of money to feed Shere Khan and still hadn’t found the tiger a permanent home. Now, her caregiver had given notice. What able-bodied man in the county would be willing to clean the tiger’s cage and feed him? The dreaded option of destroying Shere Khan returned, as the city council recommended. Only after Mr. Higgenbottom allowed the tiger’s caravan to be parked at his farm, was the city councils’ edict temporarily lifted.

Was it time to ask the Almighty for another intervention? Feeling on pretty good terms to ask for another intercession, she knelt by the side of the bed, and bowed her head.

“Lord, it’s me, Agnes Agatha Odboddy. Yes, I know you must be pretty disappointed with me most days, but I do my best, Lord, really, I do. You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m in another jam. It’s not about me this time, Lord, it’s for Shere Khan. I know you’re busy with the war in the Pacific and all, so I’ll get straight to the point. I need a caregiver for the tiger right away, and I need a permanent home for–”

Bing… Bong… The doorbell? Agnes lifted her head, and then bowed it again. “Someone’s at the door, Lord, but I’ll be right back. I’d appreciate it, Lord, if You could ponder on a solution while I’m gone. Uh…Amen!”

Agnes flung open the front door. “Oh, my stars. You! What are you doing here?” She grabbed the visitor’s arm and pulled him inside. “Was it your idea to come or did God send you?”

He shrugged. “Well, I… I guess it was mine.”

In the past, due to her inability to keep her nose out of things that didn’t concern her, Agnes often found herself in a pickle. As a result, she would get on her knees and bargain with the Lord for deliverance. Thanks to the Almighty’s benevolence, her conundrum always reached a satisfactory solution. But, never in her history of misadventures had He answered her prayer before she even finished her request and got to the ‘Amen,’

There sat Charles, the young man from Albuquerque, who risked his life last summer to help her.

“Charles, how do you feel about working with animals, like chickens and cows, … or… other animals?”

“Oh, I love animals, and I’m looking for a job. That’s why I came. What did you have in mind?” His smile brightened.

“As it happens,” Agnes said, “a friend needs a ranch hand. Um…how about cats? You okay with cats? I mean, really, really big cats…?”

*****

To purchase this Amazon e-book, go to: https://tinyurl.com/5xah4cnt  ($3.99) or contact me directly at Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com for a paperback copy. Mailed within USA for $15 – free shipping.

You can read all my books for FREE on Kindle Unlimited. See if that’s right for you.

 

Thumper Stalks a Seagull – Black Cat’s Legacy

Excerpt from Black Cat’s Legacy    http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

(With the help of his ancestors’ memories, Thumper has the thoughts and emotions of a human. Thumper adds plenty of humor to the plot, as he attempts to help his mistress solve mysteries and a cold case murder.)

****

Thumper stepped onto the sand, lifted a front foot, shook it, and placed it down again, picked up his left front foot, shook it and moved forward. How he hated sand between his toes, but it was a necessary evil if he wanted to walk on the beach and make nice with the tourists. Every so often between the step and shake, he would hop, and shake off any sand clinging between the toes on his back feet. Step, shake, step, hop, step, shake, hop. He traversed the short stretch of beach toward Amanda. Maybe she had a cookie in her pocket.

Kimberlee laughed until tears ran down her cheeks.

Huh! She wouldn’t think it’s so funny if sand was stuck between her toes.

Thumper took another step and stopped, his front foot in midair. Twenty feet away, a seagull swooped down and landed by a partially eaten piece of hotdog bun, half buried in the sand. Every hair on Thumper’s back stood on end. Prey!

As if in slow motion, the mighty hunter lowered his front foot. He squinched his eyes, flattened his ears and scrunched his rear into the sand. He rocked forward and back until he balanced on all four feet. Wheels whirred inside his cat brain.

Like the great and mighty Bastet, cat god of old Egypt, I am the avenging angel of death. His tail gently waved from side to side, like a serpent rising from a snake charmer’s basket, as he crunched his rear lower in the sand. He shifted his back legs from left to right, calculating wind, versus thrust, versus distance, versus velocity; X minus 3 to the velocity of 12 divided by pi-R- squared. (Perhaps the calculations are more difficult when you have six toes on each foot.) In a split second, he calculated the exact formula necessary to traverse the distance between him and the seagull. The song of his people continued in his head, as he entered a Zen-like state.

I am swift of foot. My aim is true. Prepare to die, villainous seagull. Your seconds on earth are numbered. Your thieving ways shall be your demise. I will crunch your bones and suck your marrow. My tongue cries out for the taste of dripping blood. Surely, the memories of my ancestors have prepared me for this decisive moment. Evil seagull, prepare to meet your doom.

With these last majestic thoughts, with a virtuous heart, a mighty spring and four feet spewing sand in all directions, he launched into his calculated flight path. His heart was brave, intentions noble. His aim was true as he shot across the sand.

Having spied the cat even before landing beside the hotdog bun, the seagull had apparently pre-programmed her own algebraic calibrations and was airborne a millisecond before Thumper’s ETA─a perfect WW where two webbed feet left their mark in the wet sand.

Thumper’s gaze followed the seagull across the expanse of sparkling blue water until she circled directly over his head. A blob of gray-white, toothpaste-like consistency splatted in the sand near his front foot.

Ha. You missed me.

The seagull disappeared behind a conspiratorial cloud. Thumper flicked his tail, sprang into the air, twisted and landed in his footprints and padded toward the cabins. The thing was really too skinny to bother with, anyway.

Watching the Radio – The Teddy Bear’s Picnic

In 1950, when I was a child, my family’s favorite past time was listening to the radio. In the afternoons, Mama listened to Our Gal Sunday, Amos and Andy, Fibber Magee and Molly while she ironed pillowcases and sheets.

My favorite show was an hour-long children’s show on Saturday morning, Big Jon and Sparkie – No School Today. Jon Arthur almost single-handedly produced the show. He was also the various voices of his characters and used sound effects and music to enhance the realism. His main character was an elfin creature named “Sparkie”, who, like Pinocchio wished to be a real boy. Their adventures often included solving mysteries involving various characters called Daffodil Dilly and Mayor Plumpfort.

I would awake early Saturday morning, take my blanket and alarm clock into the dining room, and lay on the floor in front of the radio. Mama wouldn’t allow me to turn on the radio until 8:00 AM, so I watched the clock creep toward the exciting hour. At exactly 8:00 AM, on went the radio, the volume real low, and I was transported into Big Jon and Sparkie’s world. The theme song was “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.” I can still remember the words…

It’s picnic time for teddy bears. The teddy bears are having a lovely time today. Watch them… catch them unawares. See them picnic on their holiday. See them gaily gad about, how they play and shout. They never have any cares. Beneath the trees, where nobody sees, they hide and see as long as they please, ’cause that’s the way the teddy bears have their picnic.

Technology marched on. We got our first television in 1952, which provided new family entertainment. Live pictures made my imaginary world of mysteries and elfin creatures seem dull and lifeless. Saturday morning, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse cartoons tempted me to abandon Big Jon and Sparkie.

Looking back, I think giving up radio shows for television took away something special about ‘watching the radio’. Wrapped in my blanket on a chill Saturday morning while my family slept in late, I used my imagination to create the characters and see the events in Big Jon’s quaint little tales. My seven-year-old creations were far more interesting than the Hollywood produced flickering black and white characters.

Over the past 70+ years, with the advent of even more technology, big screen wonders, U-tube, the I-phone, the internet, much of entertainment has advanced even more. I wouldn’t want to give up all the forms of current day entertainment, but there is something to be said for wrapping yourself in a blanket,laying on the floor in front of the radio, and watching the clock tick slowly toward 8:00 AM until it’s time for…The Teddy Bear’s Picnic.

A Summary About my Published Novels

All e-book novels are $3.99 at Amazon

Black Cat’s Legacy reveals a cat with his ancestors’ memories.   When Kimberlee comes to the lake resort, she must solve her father’s cold case murder and Thumper realizes his legacy to help her solve the crime. Introducing the characters, part of this series is written from the cat’s POV.

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer. Thumper goes with his family to Grandmother’s Texas horse ranch where they encounter wild horses, an embezzling attorney, a foreman with a secret identity, a fake children’s society, and a murder plot to do in Grandmother before she can change her will. Thumper meets his soul-mate. Together, they must prevent a murder.

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel. Thumper has lost his memory after an MVA, ends up on an emu ranch in No. CA with a female companion. “Call me Angel. I’m here to take care of your,” she says. They must help this new family resolve issues that put a child at risk. Back in Fern Lake, Kimberlee and family try to find their lost cats. Written about 75% from Thumper’s POV, he faces very ‘human issues’ of love, loss, rejection, jealousy, failure as he regains his memory and learns there are more important things than knowing your own name. A more spiritual story… there MAY be an angel!

Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary.  While Black Cat and Angel face challenges in Fern Lake, Kimberly has found a diary with clues to a missing WWII fortune in gold coins. The clues take her to Austria where she races the clock against a stalker determined to find the gold first. 50% is told by Black Cat and 50% from Kimberlee’s POV.

All Things Cat

An anthology of 21 short stories all about cats, written by cats, and stories including a cat from every walk of life, time frame and social environment. Some excerpts from the previous published cat novels. (Amazon e-book $2.99)

Another Series set during WWII in No. California. Mrs. Odboddy adventures:

Mrs. Odboddy – Hometown Patriot. Elderly eccentric Agnes Agatha Odboddy has issues of distrust and suspicion as she fights the war from the home front, believing conspiracies and spies abound in her small town. Filled with hysterical scenes, it includes much of ‘life’ as lived by citizens during an era of rationing and deprivation during WWII. When Mrs. Roosevelt visits, Agnes’s suspicions become reality and she must prove she is, indeed, a hometown warrior. (First place Fiction Award- NCPA 2017)

Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier.  Asked to hand carry a ‘package’ to President Roosevelt in Washington, Mrs. O is sure NAZI spies will join her cross country train from CA to Washington, D.C. A laugh on every page guaranteed as this eccentric elderly WWI retired spy faces challenges in every state across the USA. (Third Place Cover and Design Award – NCPA 2018)

Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger.  As the tiger of war crosses the globe, Mrs. O is challenged by the woes of a displaced carnival tiger. Carelessly, she loses the War Bond money and must redeem her good name, find the money while defeating crime. Add a bit of elderly romance and you have the recipe for humor on every page. (Second Place Gen Fiction Award – NCPA 2019)

Mrs. Odboddy’s Desperate Doings

Agnes faces agonizing challenges, as she continues to seek a permanent home for the displaced tiger. To add to her dismay, she is convinced the beloved local doctor is heading an art theft ring and is determined to expose him. The onset of mysterious headaches, hallucinations and fainting spells places a toll on all of her efforts.

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain

While the small-town reels at the announcement of an unexplained government facility to be built in their community, a mysterious woman is sighted in the woods. Is she the woman who disappeared after a recent MVA, or is she the embodiment of a Native American Spirit Woman said to appear when the town is in trouble? Strange gifts left on Judy’s doorstep further complicate the situation.