20
Sep

The ENTRUPENEURAL DOLLY - Almost a True Story

 

My brother walked me to and from school when I was in the first grade. Mama didn’t want me to walk alone through town because there was just  a general store, a post office, a gas station, one church and four beer joints.

We walked on the opposite side of the street when we got to the beer joints where men gathered on the sidewalk, drinking out of paper bags. When my brother told me they had beer and whiskey in the bags, I asked him why the beer didn’t leak through the paper bag? He said, “Shut your mouth and grab that beer bottle in the bushes.” We took the beer bottle into the General Store and redeemed it for 2 cents.

We pressed our noses to the glass candy case and discussed the merits of one candy versus another. Candy cigarettes or wax coke bottle filled with cool-aid, which meant we could chew the wax all the way to school. We chose and the two cents worth was carefully weighed on a little scale.  Inside the glass case, the clever storeowner also displayed various dolls and other tempting toys.

One of the dolls had a fuchsia colored dress that fanned out behind her. She had beautiful brown wavy hair and movable arms. Her lovely eyes opened and closed. Never in my life had my five-year-old eyes beheld anything so beautiful. The candy lady said she cost a dollar, a considerable amount of money in 1948.

What was the likelihood of getting a beautiful doll that cost a whole dollar? We were lucky to get one small toy, a pair of pajamas and a new sweater for Christmas. I cried and begged, promised I would go to bed without a fuss, eat all my Brussels sprouts and brush my teeth five times a day if she would buy me the doll. My alligator tears fell on deaf ears.  Mama said she wouldn’t give me a dollar if she had one, what with the economic climate we lived in. Then, she said, “Go talk to your Daddy.”

Daddy was not impressed with my argument either.   “Furthermore,” he said, “Mama works in the apple packing plant and earns less than a dollar an hour.  You can buy three pounds of hamburger for a dollar. You can buy several loaves of bread for a dollar or three gallons of gas for a dollar. I will not pay $1.00 for a doll. You can’t get blood out of a turnip.”

Well that was pretty obvious, even to a five- year-old. It seemed like a pretty poor excuse for not giving me a dollar.

I left Daddy with a better understanding of the value of a dollar. It was also obvious that that Daddy didn’t know much about  vegetables. I still had no idea how I could obtain the dolly, now an unreachable, impossible dream. And yet, every day on the way home from school, we stopped at the General Store where I stood for ten minutes dreaming of what it would be like to own that dolly.

Perhaps I had enough in my piggy bank. I shook out all the pennies and nickels on my bed; there weren’t that many. I had 24 cents. I sat with paper and pencil and struggled with the math.  If I had 24 cents and needed a $1.00, how much did I still need?   The concept was beyond me.

Begging my mother had resulted in a vague speech about the weather. Daddy had demonstrated his poor understanding of vegetables in general. My piggy bank left me wanting, and my brother said I still needed $.76. After discussing it with family members, I figured I would have to earn the money.

That night I dreamed about the dolly. In my dream, I could feel her soft wavy hair. I sat her up and laid her down and watched her eyes blink open and close, open and close.  When I awake, my fingers were still  feeling the smooth texture of her satiny skirt and the rough edges of the lace. I was obsessed with the dolly.

I remembered the men standing on the corner, or squatting by the wall, drinking from paper bags near the beer joints. I remembered how they tossed the bottles into the bushes. I remembered that each bottle was worth 2 cents!  Daddy had said, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” which made slightly more sense than his lecture about blood and turnips.   If I walked around the back of the beer joint, I could pick up the beer bottles, cash them in and save up the .76 cents.

For several weeks, I dragged dirty beer bottles out of the bushes on the way home from school. Each was worth several pennies apiece, and each night I dropped a few more pennies in the piggy bank.

When I had saved a dollar, I rushed to the store. My dolly was still in the glass case. She would be mine at last.  The store lady rang up the sale.

“That will be $1.03,” she said. Tears sprang to my eyes and down my cheeks.

“Why is it $1.03,” I asked. She explained that the government didn’t have enough money to pay all the relief checks to the lazy men who squatted on the sidewalk next door and drank beer out of paper bags, so that’s why a little girl had to pay 3 cents more than she should have to, in order to buy a dolly. She said the government needed my 3 cents to help pay off the 258 billion dollar national debt. … (Imagine! that's what it was in 1948. Sounds pretty good by today’s standard, doesn’t it?)

After a bit of negotiating, I got the store lady to agree that I could take the dolly home if I gave her my dollar today and brought her 3 cents tomorrow. If I couldn’t get 3 cents by tomorrow, I would return the dolly and she could keep the dollar and sell the dolly to another little girl. I was the one gambling, not her.   They say a con man is born every minute. I figured if I couldn’t find two more beer bottles on the way home, mama would be so embarrassed by my gambling, she would give me the 3 cents.  I would probably get a spanking, but it was a risk I was willing to take.

I walked home, clutching my dolly to my heart, scanning the ditches. It seemed as if someone had gleaned every single bottle. I scoured the bushes and searched the garbage cans outside the beer joints. Near my house, two beer bottles were lying under the rose bushes. With the 4 cents from the bottles, I was able to square my debt with the candy lady.

Mama was mad when she heard how I got the money to buy the doll. She forbade me to collect any more beer bottles. She said, “If you ever want something that bad again, you should ask me for the money.”

Now isn’t that what I had done in the first place?

****

Seventy-two years later, the  dolly still resides in my china cabinet, my first entrupeneural venture.

Tell me about your first adventure selling mistletoe or  berries store to door. How did you earn your first dollar?

If you enjoyed this story, please check out my fiction novels on Amazon or contact me for a paperback copies of one of my eight published cozy mystery books.

 

26
Jul

Agnes Agatha Odboddy Reveals All - Interview with a Patriot

 You're an elderly woman. How did you acquire  knowledge about conspiracies and the ability to expose spies? Do you have an assistant to help with your investigations?
To answer your questions, I'm not your run of the mill cozy mystery sleuth. I gained my experience in 1919, during WWI, as one of the United States' most experienced and secret undercover agents stationed in Europe, along with my partner, Godfrey Baumgarten.  I've taken an oath not to disclose any of our secret missions that greatly influenced the outcome of the war... Godfrey? Suffice it to say that during the three days we were trapped under a bombed-out building, we became very close...but that's ancient history.
After the way, Godfrey disappeared from my life. Imagine my surprise, when several years ago, in 1942, at the age of 70 something, (a woman never gives away her exact age) he suddenly reappeared! He declared his undying love, expected me to reciprocate, and suggested he should park his boots under my bed. Well! As an almost regular church-goer, naturally, I refused.  Despite my confused feelings, and hesitant to engage in a romantic entanglement (at least at the moment), he remains a good friend and often assists me as I expose Nazi spies and conspiracies.
Faced with another war with Germany, and being  too old to volunteer for active duty, I am determined to fight the war from the home front. Godfrey helps me accomplish that goal. With the likelihood that Nazi spies live in our home town, I am determined to expose their seditious activities. The war also provides local scalawags the opportunity to engage in conspiracies, civil disruption of current events, and black market skullduggery. In Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, I pursued a ration book conspiracy and a local Nazi spy.  http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
 
What is your greatest satisfaction when investigating a crime or bringing a spy to justice?  
Let's exchange the term 'investigating' with 'pursuing' a crime as the time I was asked to carry a package across  country by train from California to President Roosevelt in Washington, D.C.. When Colonel Farthingworth at the local military base, said he didn't trust the mail with his package, I was convinced it contained secret military documents. Several suspicious characters on the train, also convinced me that one of them was a Nazi spy, determined to steal the package. Then, an unexpected situation in Albuquerque caused me to miss the train. I was forced to join forces with a disabled homeless black veteran. God bless him. Together, we devised an ingenious alternative way to reach Washington. Successfully quelling all odds and completing one's mission is most satisfying. You'll find this story in Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier.  http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb
 
How can you carry on with your work without being discouraged, when people don't believe in your mission? 
That question reminds me of when a Japanese air balloon bomb struck and burned down the watchtower near the ocean, the military declared that air balloon bombs were a 'classified top secret'. They asked me to take the blame for burning down the tower to keep the real reason a secret. The Newbury Daily Gazette sent a reporter and I had to invent a tall tale as to how and why it happened. I don't think he believed that a 'squirrel, or maybe it was a seagull', knocked over the electric heater and started the fire. It sounded quite reasonable to me. Read about it in Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot. I'm never at a loss to lie... I mean, to explain my behavior that often goes awry.....  http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
 
 
Have you ever broken the law while going about your investigations? 
Oh, my, of course not... Well, there was the time I sneaked into the casket factory, following the fellow that stole the ration books. Or maybe the time we stowed away in a boxcar, headed for Washington, D.C. or... or the time that I crawled through the bathroom window into the Gently Used Clothing and Shoes second-hand store, looking for the war bond money I accidentally misplaced in Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger. As a law-abiding senior citizen, and as well intentioned,  I'm at a loss to understand why these things continue to happen to me.   http://tinyurl.com/yx729cpx
Do you enjoy a good mystery adventure with a less than typical cozy mystery sleuth?
To read about these and other adventures with the obstreperous Mrs. Odboddy, all Amazon books listed are $3.99 e-book
 
!
27
May

Three Elements For a Great Reader Experience

– Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary

A reader wants to feel she is personally experiencing or observing the events in the story, therefore, the  author must write the story in such a way to allow the reader to experience the story in this manner.  So, have you ever wondered why you've read some books that create this feeling and others that are just...ok?   To successfully create such a scene, it must include the following three elements.

  1. What does the character see? (The setting seen through the character’s POV)
  2. What does the character think or feel? (How does the current situation personally affect him?)
  3. What does the character say or do about the situation? (Dialogue or action, or both.) I will use a condensed/edited scene from my latest novel, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary to illustrate.

What does he see? Setting: Black Cat watched as a woman wearing dark glasses and a large black hat that shaded her face crept through the gate. Rosebush stickers on the fence caught at her sleeve. She paused, unhooked the thorns and then, tip-toed down the sidewalk toward the house.

Black Cat lowered his ears and crept past the corner of the house. What was she up to? His gaze swept toward the Wisteria vines where Angel’s golden tail swished back and forth beneath the hanging purple flowers. Angel!

What does he think (or feel?) Perhaps this woman intended to steal something from the front porch. He crept closer. It was his duty to protect the family’s belongings. He could almost see tomorrow's front page headlines in the Fern Lake Gazette. Plucky Local Cat Foils Attempted Grand Larceny. Despite overwhelming odds, the daring and plucky feline protected his master’s valuable rhododendron plant from the clutches of a 200 lb. female assailant determined to…so forth and so on…Maybe his photo…

The portly woman dashed the last few steps up the sidewalk, leaned down, and yanked Angel by her tail, out from under the bush.

Meow!

What does he say or do? Dialogue or Action: Black Cat raced across the lawn. Angel! He leaped at the woman’s arm, teeth bared. The woman jerked away. His fangs caught the edge of her sleeve and ripped through the material. Having missed to connect with her arm, he tumbled to the grass with a shriek. “Brett! Brett! Help! Help!

The thief waddled down the sidewalk with Angel, desperately thrashing against her hip. Still grasping the thrashing cat, with one hand, the woman struggled to open the front gate . “Stop fighting me, you little…”

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

Once she reached her door, the woman flung Angel onto the passenger seat, and flopped into the driver’s seat. Before she could slam the door shut, Black Cat leaped into her lap. She grabbed her purse and struck at his head, knocking him sideways. His head struck the dials on the radio and he fell to the floor, momentarily stunned. As though through a haze, he heard Brett yelling. Angel huddled on the front passenger seat, her nails clinging to the vinyl seat, frozen with fright, mewing pathetically, Black Cat! Black Cat!

****

 

To learn what happens next, you can purchase Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary for $3.99 at Amazon https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

Let me know your thoughts regarding this writing process. What thoughts to you have regarding how authors create a more satisfying read?

10
Apr

Lesson of the Apple Boxes

In 1950, I was 8-years-old, and the apple industry was the major industry in our town. My mother worked in an apple-processing factory and Daddy was a carpenter. Our parents felt children should be industrious, therefore, my teenage sister and brother were required to care for me while they picked up worked in the apple orchard, picking up apples for five cents a box. On a good day, they could earn $5.00 to $10.00. This was considered good money for a teenager, and with their earnings, they bought their own school clothes.

Most days, I brought my dolls to the field and spent a good part of the day stacking apple boxes on end to make my house. My imaginary plates and dishes consisted of sticks and leaves and clumps of dirt. Daddy said I should not waste the entire day, though, and required me to pick up at least ten boxes of apples every day.

Being a spoiled and willful child, there were many days I played with my dolls late into the afternoon and no amount of scolding from my sister could make me complete the required task.

Day after day, I fell so short of Daddy’s expectations, that one night he warned if I didn’t meet my quota the next day, he would spank me. Our parents believed in the biblical admonition, spare the rod and spoil the child, which was rarely, if ever, required in our house.

As I had no recollection of Daddy ever spanking me before, I’m pretty sure his threat fell on disbelieving ears. The next day, I played all day in the apple field. My sister’s warnings were of no avail and by the end of the day, I had only three or four boxes to my credit.

We returned home and I began to play. There was no mention of my disobedience to Mama or Daddy. So much for that problem...

In those days, our toys didn’t come from a store with a sound chip and an interactive computer screen attached. We had to use our imagination and made our own toys. On this evening, I tied a string to an empty oatmeal box and found a couple of long sticks to use for drumsticks. It made a fine toy drum and I went about the house thumping out a tune.

Daddy found me pounding away on my new toy. He towered over me as I sat on the floor with my drum and asked, “Did you finish your ten boxes of apples today?”

I gulped. “No. I forgot.”

“Then, I’m sorry, but I told you I’d spank you if you didn’t obey me.” He picked up one of my drumsticks and applied it to my seat of knowledge. Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. Proverbs 13:24 NIV

Daddy definitely loved me that day. Using my own toy against me was far more humiliating than the spanking. With the absolute absurdity of childish logic, I screamed, “You’ll be sorry! Tomorrow, I’ll pick up 100 boxes.” That would show him!

I worked all the next day. My sister took pity and helped me late in the afternoon. Together, we finished the last fifteen boxes and completed the goal of 100 boxes (an astonishing accomplishment for an 8-year-old, looking back on it). And I earned $5.00 for my efforts!

Victory! Daddy would be so sorry. He’d regret punishing me. I’d show him! Thus, thought the child. I was yet to learn the lesson of responsibility he was trying to teach.

With great pride and indignation, I announced that night, “I picked up 100 boxes of apples today, so there!”

Did I expect him to fall down in shock and remorse, apologize and vow to never again accuse me of being lazy? Maybe. Instead, he replied, “I knew you could do it. Now you can do that every day…”

I recall this event so clearly, but I can’t recall my response. Disbelief? Shock? Tears? My pride had backfired. Now I’d be required to continue this backbreaking expectation every day? Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 NIV

Of course, Daddy didn’t really mean it. “You did great, honey, but if you’ll just do your ten boxes every day, I think that’s enough for a little girl.”

I still brought my dolls to the apple field every day. I built houses out of apple boxes and made dishes out of leaves. However, I was careful to stop playing in plenty of time to accomplish the required ten boxes of apples. Daddy taught me a hard lesson that day, one I never forgot.

Daddy never again challenged my ability to live up to a required expectation. He claimed this particular victory. With this valuable lesson, I learned about pride, obedience and work ethics; one day with 100 boxes of apples, an oatmeal box, and a stick. Surely the lesson helped develop my character and my values throughout my life. Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 KJV

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