18
Jun 23

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.

28
May 23

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.

 

22
May 23

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.

23
Apr 23

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.

17
Apr 23

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.

3
Apr 23

Dead Bush Poker

Readers seem to visit my posts about "cats' more than any other, so  I'll post a few short stories I've written about cats. Feel free to comment about your cat if you wish or send my story to a friend who might enjoy reading it.

DEAD BUSH POKER

Elaine Faber

I live in Dead Bush, a small town in Texas. I’m a fine figure of a feline, though some would say, somewhat on the portly side. It must be true, as there is a tomcat that returns to town every spring with a glint in his eye. I haven’t given him a tumble yet, but next spring might be a fine time to consider the offer. I’ve heard that a bit of romance can be revitalizing to one’s health.

Dead Bush sports three saloons, a general store, the bank, a church, a blacksmith shop and a hotel such as nice folks don’t mention in front of the kids. Modern slat sidewalks were added this spring at the suggestion of those specific ladies who live in the aforementioned establishment.

Today, being Founder’s Day, farmer’s wives prepare pies and BBQ sides of beef for a giant banquet and sponsor a square dance out behind the blacksmith’s shop. Bright and early, neighboring farmers trickled into town with planks and sawhorses for the long tables needed to feed the attendees.

Long about 10:00 AM this morning, several raggedy ex-Civil War soldiers rode into Dead Bush on horses that looked like they was rode hard and put away wet. They congregated at the Dry Spell Saloon where they acquired liquid libation and a commenced a serious poker game.

The regulars at the Dry Spell saloon have considered me their personal mascot, ever since the town sheriff found me, the lone survivor of a wagon train massacred by a tribe of renegade Indians. Shorty, the barkeep saves me left-overs from the day’s leavings. This, added to my hunting prowess, leads to my aforementioned portliness.

I’ve heard that cats are almighty scarce and considerable valuable these days. In fact, a number of local farmers have offered Shorty big bucks for me, beings as cats don’t eat much and can keep a barnyard free of rodents and such vermin.

Well, seems these aforementioned soldiers what came to town with their long rifles and powder horns sat and drank well past noon. It caused quite a stir amongst the gamblers when I chanced to wander through the saloon. There commenced talk of some cowpoke that had hauled a cat in burlap sack to a farm in the middle of nowhere, and sold it for a $20 gold piece. One of the soldiers reported big money being paid for cats further out west, and he sudden-like, took a notion to buy me. Shorty declined, saying I couldn’t be bought since I didn’t belong to nobody.

As the drinking commenced, the soldier cajoled Shorty into a poker game with me as the stakes! I sat near the potbelly stove, preening my whiskers, somewhat amused by the stupidity of those soldiers what thought they could buy and sell another living creature. Didn’t the Civil War, just fought, disprove the nation of that opinion?

The scent of barbequed chicken wafting through the open door caught my attention, and I left the fools to their folly. I ambled down the sidewalk, past the wooden cigar Indian in front of the general store, and rounded the nearest banquet table laden with food. The oldest six of Mrs. Barnwhistle’s nine children cornered me straight away and near strangled the life out of me with their stroking and clutching, chucking under my chin, and shifting me from child to child. I’ve learned to put up with such nonsense as long as they don’t pull my tail. It puts their mothers in a fair mood when you allow such nonsense and they get such a kick out of seeing their child all jollified, they’ll offer me a pinch of chicken or a slice of bread and butter. If things get too rowdy after such juvenile mauling, I can easily get away and lick off the sticky jam or mud clinging to my furs.

Raucous laughter from inside the saloon caught my attention. I felt it prudent to check on the doings, as my future as mascot at the Dry Spell Saloon seemed dependent on the turn of their cards.

Empty glasses were lined up in front of the four players hunched over the poker table, and splashes of liquor pooled on the table. Shorty’s chips were considerably fewer than the other three players. My whiskers drooped as chances of remaining the Dry Spell Saloon mascot began to wane.

Shorty’s chips rose and fell as the afternoon wore on. I sat on a nearby table, commiserating with Mr. Casper, a grey-haired old codger who operated a small gold claim in a nearby river. Whenever he came to town, he usually exchanged most of his gold for Shorty’s liquor. The old man was a fool, but he didn’t smell quite as bad as most miners, as being tipsy, Mr. Casper fell in the river more often than most, washing away some of his natural man-stink.

In the late afternoon, the ladies announced that supper was served for any who cared to partake. The saloon emptied except for the four poker players, who found it harder and harder to sit upright in their chairs. Heads lolled and cards tumbled from their hands. More whiskey ended up on the floor than in their glasses. Never in the history of Dead Bush had such a game been played or the stakes so coveted.

Eventually, Smitty Rosenblatt passed out. George Waddlebaker went broke. Shorty hung in there, though blurry-eyed and slump-shouldered, as he continued to fight for his meezer. Poor Shorty looked ready to throw in the towel. Seeing the inevitable handwriting on the wall, I slipped through the front door and headed out onto the prairie, intending on a stay of four or five days, considering how revitalizing was an extended trip also to one’s health.

Besides, there was no sense watching Shorty go broke and the winner attempting to claim his prize. Mostly, I had no intention of being strung to the back of a saddle in a burlap sack until the old soldier found a farmer with a rat-filled barn and a $20 gold piece.

Someday, when folks sit around spinning yarns, they’ll tell the tale of a Founder’s Day when a cat was the prize in the highest stakes ever passed hands in a poker game in Dead Bush. As for me, I’ll continuing as the Dry Spell Saloon mascot, and when I retire to the back room on my burlap sack, I’ll think about next spring when old Tom comes ’acallin.’

28
Mar 23

Reviewing the Rules of Writing Good Dialogue

 

Readers love to read a novel full of dialogue. Often they have no idea that, as writers, we have rules we must follow to keep the dialogue interesting. Every sentence in a novel must move the story forward. This keeps reader's interest whether it is a fiction story, a devotional, or an article about keeping aphids off rose bushes.

Let’s pull back the curtain on an author as she creates her compelling story.

Don’t repeat the question or person’s name when giving an answer. Example:

George: "Lucy? Do you want to go to the movies with me?"

Lucy "Yes, George, I’d love to go to the movies with you." (Sounds like the utterances of a robot.)

Readers may not even notice when a skilled writer gives an oblique reply.

George: "Do you want to go to the movies with me?"

Lucy: "It depends. What’s playing and when did you have in mind? I have a very busy social life, you know. (Aha! We’ve moved the goalpost on the story. Lucy may have another suitor.)

We don’t use conversation to impart information. (Example)

George: “So? You’ll go with me if you aren’t too busy?”

Lucy: I have a date with Tom next Saturday night. You know, Tom–my mother’s second cousin’s nephew by marriage? He’s a troubled guy, votes Democrat, but he has a charming personality.”

We don't use meaningless chit-chat in dialogue. Every conversation should have a purpose, give a clue to something yet to come in the story, or suggest a potential conflict. Example:

George: "You’re going out with Tom? I thought he was in jail for murder."

Lucy: "He’s out now. He was falsely accused. Now he’s receiving death threats against him or anyone associated with him.”

George: “Really, Lucy?” George raises his eyebrow. “Is it wise to date a guy like that?”

Don’t use conversation to impart lengthy bits of back story. Example:

George: "You should be dating me, not Tom. Don’t you realize that I was the one who saved your mother from a burning building that she had purposely set that night when she was despondent over her divorce, and then she learned that she was my father’s long-lost twin sister, separated at birth by their evil stepmother?"

Lucy: Gasp! “I’ve been away at college way too long. Good grief. Does that make us cousins?”

George: “Maybe kissing-cousins. So is it a date?”

Lucy: "As long as they haven’t arrested me yet for killing my college roommate, who recently died under questionable circumstances when she was smothered in her sleep.”

Review: Each sentence delivers new information.

Give oblique answers to a question.

Don’t use the person’s name in your response.

Don’t use conversation to impart lengthy back story.

Don’t repeat the question just asked. The goal is to keep the reader turning pages!

Wow! Writing a book isn’t as easy as you thought, right? I had to keep all these things straight while writing a compelling event that hooks the reader on page one, an exciting middle, and a satisfying and thrilling conclusion. But, it was easy for Mrs. Odboddy to be the prime suspect in a burglary, involved with a counterfeit ring, lose the war bond money, meet a tiger and still win at the end. Mrs. Odboddy – And Then There was a Tiger will keep the reader turning pages and looking backward to the previous Mrs. O books, or forward to Mrs. Odboddy's Desperate Doings. Join Mrs. Odboddy on this rollicking adventure as she tackles adversity in this hysterical romp at the Newbury Harvest Fair, even as she fights the war from the home front during WWII.

3
Mar 23

A Short Short Love Story

As though carved in ivory, she stood ankle deep in the pool, peering into the murky pond. She tipped her head gracefully, the back of her long neck pale and white beneath the afternoon sun.

He stared, entranced by her beauty. He came often to the park to rest in the shade beneath the trees, to bask in the sun or visit with friends, but, never had he seen such a lovely creature as he beheld that late autumn day. Afraid to move for fear she might disappear, he stood, immobile, his gaze roaming across her soft, supple body. He gasped, realizing that he had ceased to breathe.

Each day for a week, he returned to the pond, hoping to catch a glimpse of her. Each time, his heart surged when he found her standing motionless and lovely, ankle deep in the pool. She filled his thoughts by day and his dreams at night.

Compelled to declare his love to anyone who would listen, he spoke often of her to his friends and to his mother. She tried to dissuade him from his purpose. “Forget this foolishness, my dear son. Such a union between you is not possible. The differences are too great.”

He turned a deaf ear to her wisdom, believing that one day his love might conquer their differences and that she might return his love.

Winter turned to spring. Cherry blossoms bloomed pink and white. Children laughed and robins sang. Little boys ran through the grass. The red and green triangles of kites filled the pale blue sky.

Each day he paced beside the pond, watching his beloved, but never finding the courage to speak. He felt unworthy. What had he to offer?

He sat on the grassy shore, adoring her from a distance, fearing any declaration of love might frighten her away. The afternoon sun warmed his back and its rays reflected off her snow-white head as she gazed into the pond, seemingly intent only on the unimagined thing she sought beneath the water. What so held her attention and captivated her mind?

Each day, he tried to gather his courage, determined to speak to her. Each day, he tried to tell her how much he loved her–how beautiful she was. But each day, he returned home, having never spoken a word.

Spring became summer and for a time when he came to the park, he would wait in vain. His heart would nearly burst with concern. Was she ill? Had she found another love? Where had she gone?

One late afternoon as he waited, she limped toward the pond. She was hurt! What happened? Why had he not declared his love sooner? Perhaps he could have protected her.

She paused at the water’s edge. Each beat of his heart pounded in his head. He stepped forward. He must speak! The words seized in his throat.

She moved into the pond.

At last, with a gasp, he found the courage. “Wait! My love! I must tell you what is in my heart.” She stepped further into the water, as though she could hear or understand his message.

Didn’t she care even a little? She must have noticed him, day after day, hovering on the bank, even though he was unable to speak. Couldn’t she see how he felt? Was her heart so hardened that–?

He turned at the sound of laughter on the shore. Two boys threw stones that struck the water with a plop, each one coming nearer to the place his darling waded.

As she stepped deeper into the pool, a stone struck the back of her head. She stumbled.

How dare they strike his beloved? He rose up in a rage and flew at the boys. Again and again he struck their heads, their shoulders, and their legs. They fled screaming toward their nannies, sitting nattering in the sun beside their prams parked in neat rows beside the painted benches.

He stepped into the pond. The chilled water covered his feet.

His precious stumbled toward the shore, a step, and then two, and collapsed on the grass. He rushed to her side and stood helplessly as she lay slumped on the slippery embankment. Slowly, she arose. Not a word did she speak. Not a glance in his direction.

Perhaps she was blind. Perhaps she couldn’t see how much he wanted to help her.

Then, she stumbled a few steps… and lifted gracefully into the darkening sky, and disappeared into a cloud...

He knew she would never return. Her beautiful pale body would never again stand beside the pond; never again wade into the pool and lean gracefully into the water. He lowered his head and tears trickled from his tiny black eyes.

Children ceased to laugh. The robins ceased to sing and as if the sun had followed his beloved behind the gathering clouds, a shadow passed across the grass.

Again, his mother’s words echoed through his head. “Do not return to the pond, my son. Such a union is not possible. The difference between you is too great.”

He heard a sound and looked up. She was coming back? Perhaps she loved him after all.

She swooped down, down and circled in a graceful arch over his head. Then she spread her wings, turned and flew into the setting sun.

In his heart he heard her say. “It’s not as if I didn’t care. I knew you were always there, loving me, and helping me. But, can’t you see, my dear? We can never be together. Even though our hearts are one, I am an egret and you are a crow.”

9
Feb 23

Excerpt - PowWow Dance from Spirit Woman Novel

This is an excerpt from my fictional novel, The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain, available at. Amazon... ebook is $3.99. Enjoy an edited dance scene from Lou's visit to a Native American Pow Wow. 

Lou filled a thermos with coffee and grabbed her camera. If she’d judged her time correctly, she’d get to the Native American reservation in time to see the first Pow Wow dance.

Lou backed down the driveway, headed toward the reservation. Even with November’s chill, the warm sun melted the night’s dew 0ff shrubs and trees causing a mist to rise, almost as if it was raining upside down.

A chipmunk skittered across the road. She waved as she passed several cars. Everyone who lived on the mountain exchanged friendly waves and greetings.

Lou heard the thrum of drums and people cheering as she neared the reservation’s recreation hall. She followed the noise to where the visitors were seated in a circle and found a seat near the front.

Several dancers entered the makeshift arena wearing brightly colored circular-feathered headdresses. One of the men wore yellow face paint. His shirt was decorated with designs in brightly colored bead work. Bells on his ankles jangled as he gyrated and spun to the drumbeat, and his robes swirled behind his body. His boots were made of animal fur with tassels that twirled as he twisted.

One man left the circle and a woman entered. As she danced, she moved forward and then back from the yellow-faced dancer. Embroidered and beaded designs depicting spiritual beings covered her vivid red shawl and fringed skirt. Her hair was plaited with a headband decorated with a beadwork design. The couple moved closer together, but never touched. Each dancer spun faster as the drum beat quickened, their ankle bells keeping time to the rhythm.

As the dance quickened, Lou felt the sexual tension well up in her body. At last, the woman approached her partner, whipped off her shawl and held it at arm’s length. The man grabbed the shawl and flung it around her shoulders, pulling her close to his body, as if in an embrace. The drum beat stopped.

I now pronounce you man and wife? Was that the meaning of the dance? Lou turned at a touch on her sleeve. Emmy stood behind her, smiling. “It was beautiful. I could feel the intensity of it. Was it a marriage dance?”

“Yes. A ritual dance from long ago,” Emmy said. “When a young woman was ready to marry and selected a mate, as they danced, she offered him her shawl, signifying her interest in marriage. If he agreed, he wrapped it around her body and pulled them together. This dance is only symbolic, commemorating customs from our ancestors’ days.”

“It reminds me of a Bible story.” Lou said. “A young widow named Ruth went to the winnowing harvest and caught Boaz’s eye. Ruth’s mother-in-law sent her to a winnowing festival. That night, Ruth crept in and lay at Boaz’s feet, a sign she was willing to be his wife. Come morning, finding her there, he came to an understanding with another kinsman who had first right of refusal for Ruth’s hand. Never underestimate the power of a woman when she sets her sights on a mate.”

11
Dec 22

Remembering "The Christmas Bird" A Christmas story

The days grew shorter, the nights longer, and the whisper of leaves on the attic roof awakened each Christmas tree bird wrapped in tissue paper. Something 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 had slept all year.

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. 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 pinchy clips that clasped them firmly to each branch. All his friends were lovely, but in his heart, he felt he was the most beautiful Christmas tree bird.

He closed his little red eyes and dreamed of Christmas Eve. He would feel truly alive looking down at the family on Christmas Eve. “I’ve been thinking,” he whispered to Gold Bird in a trembling voice. “You are lovely, but you know, I’m the most beautiful one.

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

“That may be true,” said the saucy little bird. “But, the tree wouldn’t be perfect if I’m not right near the top.”

Older and wiser Gold Bird, turned away. “You’re missing the true meaning of Christmas. It would serve you right to be left behind.”

The Christmas bird trembled. “It’s not that you’re not handsome, but my tail feathers are fluffier, and…my…paint is─”

Tut tut. Not…another…word.”

Gold Bird’s words haunted him. “It would serve you right …” Not to be on the Christmas tree? He could not bear the thought.

A soft sprinkle of snow blanketed the roof. The wind whistled past the attic. Early one morning, their box was 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. His friends squealed as they were hung on the tree. He heard music and children laughing. He even smelled cookies!

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

On Christmas Eve, the family gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Alone in the box, the Christmas bird imagined his friends high in the tree branches. “The round ones are not as beautiful as me,” he cried,” but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.”

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

The little bird imagined the tiny baby sung and warm, lying in a manger, warmed by the breath of the animals. “I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like baby Jesus.” Daddy told how Jesus came as a tiny baby, and if we loved and trusted Him, we would never be left behind. The Christmas bird thought, “I was left behind. How much worse, to be left behind from Heaven.”

Suddenly, the crinkling tissue paper in his box lifted and the  warmth from the fireplace warmed his delicate glass body.

“Look, Mommy! It’s another Christmas birdie. He has a red tear in his eye. Can we hang him on the Christmas tree?”

Daddy lifted her up to hang the little bird near Gold Bird. The joyous Christmas bird watched the family open gifts. The spicy aroma of gingerbread was 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 one. Did you learn anything?”

The red 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 clip or feather tail. It’s not even about carols or turkey dinner, or who gives the most expensive gifts. The true meaning of Christmas is the greatest gift of all, God’s gift to us, the birth of Jesus. When we accept His love and sacrifice, and believe in Him, we will never be left behind.”

And with the lesson learned, for years, the brightly colored Christmas bird with his springy clip and feather tail was never left behind again.