30
Oct

Jennie's Shopping Trip

Image may contain: text that says 'When you find something you like, so you get all available colors. TNη NkWerks'

A HALLOWEEN STORY JUST FOR FUN

 

Jenny’s shrieks followed Tom as he skipped down the sidewalk to his 57’souped-up T-bird. It didn’t matter. When his girlfriend’s grew tiresome, he’d walk away. Women were like shoes. When the shine was gone, you got a new pair.

It was harder to leave Jenny than some of the others, but why stick around? Women always expected commitment and Tom wasn’t the committing type.

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

****

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

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

The black and white longhaired cat in her lap gazed up at her and yawned. “Come on, guys, let’s get a snack. Then, I’m going shopping.” Her feline menagerie followed her to the kitchen.

Jenny gazed at the four cats hunkered around a pile of Friskies like the four spokes of a wheel; black, brown, white and tan. She remembered that Tom had a lunch meeting today at a little restaurant on Main Street. “Yes, I think an orange one will work out just fine,” Jenny whispered. “Let the games begin.”

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

In her closet, she found a black pantsuit with shoulder pads and bellbottom pants, tucked between a tweed suit from the 1980’s, and a much older leather jacket, She shook the wrinkles from the jacket and frowned at the tiny moth hole in the left sleeve.

Had it been that long since she got the last one? She could have sworn it was just a couple years before. It was definitely time for a new one.

Jenny donned the pantsuit and the black feathered hat. She added a bangle bracelet and Lion head Medallion necklace to the ensemble and nodded in satisfaction at the image reflected in her hall mirror.

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

She stood outside the magic shop, admiring the items in the window. In a few moments, Tom strode down the street, his bright red hair blowing in the wind. Jenny caught his eye, and then dashed into the magic shop. Once inside the door, eerie shrieks and squeals of organ music, enough to chill one’s soul, came from an elaborate sound system.

Tom followed her into the store….. “Jenny, is that you?”

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

Tom followed… until they were in the furthest dark corner, where the black light overhead caused the Magic Marvin’s Magic Shop logos on black shopping bags to glow in a neon aura.

Tom’s gaze followed the drifting feather, caressed by the breeze from the air conditioner. “Jenny? Are you going to a costume party?” His gaze still locked on the swaying feather.

“No, I was waiting for you.”

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

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

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

Jenny carried the bag to the counter. “I’ll take this one.” She paid for the bag and left the store. Back home, Jenny poured another glass of wine, filled a plate with crackers and cheese and summoned her feline friends.

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

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

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

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

18
Oct

Midnight Madness

Based on true facts regarding a FULL MOON on Halloween...a fiction story. Midnight Madness

Even six weeks after the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001, the nation continued to mourn the loss of over 3000 innocent victims when two airplanes crashed into the towers.

Several days ago, the editor of the Sacramento Daily Sun editor burst into my office. “Clive,” he said. “Pack your bags. You’re going to Salem, Massachusetts, to cover their Halloween celebration. Let’s give the subscribers something to think about besides the 9/11 tragedy.”

He had me at, ‘pack your bags!’ With yet another gut-wrenching editorial in my computer about the 341 firemen lost in the Towers, I was up for anything to get away from the twenty-four-seven news cycle.

October 31 is big news in Salem. Every year, 250,000 visitors swarm the city to experience haunted houses, costume balls, live music, dances and holiday parades. This year, due to a full moon scheduled on October 31, the first full moon on that date since 1974, Salem planned even more spectacular events. Apparently, the occurrence of a Halloween full moon happens only four or five times each century! The next one isn’t expected for another twenty years─October 31, 2020!

Entering Salem, I was impressed by the witches and goblins, pumpkins and ghouls decorating houses and businesses, much like we decorate for Christmas back home. Witches are big in Salem all year long, due to the history of the Salem witch trials, but this year, even more so, what with the full moon phenomenon. Apparently, Salem’s city fathers thought the citizenry had grieved the 911 tragedy long enough, and should get their minds back onto business as usual. Let the nation grieve if it must. Salem would strike while the moon was full!

Cornstalks lined the streets. Jack-o-lanterns hung from each lamp post. Shopkeepers dressed in witch and warlock, ghost and vampire costumes, hawked merchandise. Every shop window displayed witches and cauldrons, spirits and ghouls. Tourists clamored through the town atop horse drawn hay wagons and carts.

I ate lunch at a little diner and delighted in the attentions of a charming waitress with long black hair, sparkling gold eyes and fluttering lashes. With a glance, Jenny churned up feelings I hardly remembered, being a widower well past middle-aged, and an almost regular church goer.

Imagine my surprise when she handed me a napkin with a message inside. Meet me outside tonight. 11:25 P.M. Come alone. I must see you.

I left my lunch half-eaten and stumbled outside to ponder the situation. With her charms, she had the pick of any young man; what could she possibly want with me? I interviewed shopkeepers and snapped photos of the holiday events that day and well into the evening. Even knowing it was a fool’s errand, at 11:15 P.M, I was drawn back to the diner like a moth to a flame.

****

At 11:20 P.M. Jenny wiped down the last table, flipped over the CLOSED sign and locked the café door. She had nearly given up hope of finding a middle-aged man with silver-white hair and mustache. What were the odds that Clive should walk through the door at the last possible moment to change her destiny?

Jenny wrapped her cape around her shoulders and stepped out the front door. There Clive stood, as she had hoped! She was blessed with a sixth sense about the future, knowing when the phone would ring or a visitor was at her door. An oppressive spirit had even settled on her the morning of September 11, feeling something evil on the horizon. She had powers over men, but on this night of night, with the full moon overhead on this auspicious date, her fate lay in the hands of this stranger. Without his cooperation, she could not escape the family curse.

“Hello. Thanks so much for coming.” Jenny placed her small white hand on Clive’s arm, hoping to bend his will to her own needs. “You’re the only one who can help me.”

“I’m happy to oblige. But, why do you ask a stranger? Don’t you have family or friends who could help you?”

Jenny lowered her head, brushing her lashes against her pale face. She allowed her lip to tremble as a tear trickled down her cheek. A white curl tumbled on her forehead, seemingly out of place among her mass of black curls.

“Here, here, now. None of that.” Clive brushed Jenny’s hair back into place. “I’ll help you if I can, my dear. Don’t cry.” He tipped up her chin and dried her tears with his handkerchief. “Now, give me a smile and tell me all about it.”

“I fear you’ll think me crazy, sir, but I swear I speak the truth.” Jenny sat on a bench and began an inexplicable tale.

“I am a descendent of the judge who unjustly hanged Sarah Good as a witch in 1692, right here in Salem. Since Sarah Good’s death, the judge’s descendants have suffered a terrible curse. Upon the rare occasion, only about four or five times each century, when the full moon is overhead on All-Hollow’s Eve, any female descendent between the age of 18 and 29 is in grave danger.

“As the full moon is upon us this night for the first time in 27 years, and to avoid the curse, I must find a middle-aged man with long silver-white hair, who resembles the judge who sentenced my poor ancestor, Sarah, to death. Before midnight, a drop of this man’s blood must be placed on a particular stone that stands at the edge of town.” Jenny’s pale lips trembled.

“Would you shed a drop of your blood on Sarah’s commemorative stone to save me from the curse?”

“What kind of curse, my dear?” Clive raised perplexed eyebrows.

“It is so terrible, I dare not speak it aloud.” Whispering these words, Jenny clung to Clive’s shoulder and wept piteously. Would it be enough to convince him to go with her to the stone? And, once there, could she muster the courage to do what she must do to stave off the curse?

****

Clive was speechless. Never had he encountered such a stunning creature that so captivated his heart within minutes of meeting. Never has such a ridiculous tale so captured his imagination. He was inclined to leap from the bench, take her by the hand, and race to the stone in question. Only with great difficulty did he pummel his rash impulses into submission and sit back on the bench, staring into the starry sky.

The full moon hung blood-red over the city, casting an orange glow across the sidewalks, still churning with costumed tourists, jostling and laughing, their joyous songs of nonsense carried into the black sky on the night wind.

The young woman stirred in his arms, her sobs finally ceased. She dashed tears from her cheeks and looked up at him. “You will help me, won’t you? I’m so desperate. We only need a teeny-weeny drop of blood, really. I’d be ever so grateful.”

If she truly believed her outrageous tale, considering the unusual request, even a gentleman couldn’t help wondering, how grateful? On the other hand, just exactly how much was a teeny-weeny drop of blood and just how crazy was this charming girl?

Clive shivered. A wind rustled the corn husks tied to the lamp posts. A thin cloud crept across the center of the moon, seeming to cut it in half.

Clive glanced at his watch. 11:40 P.M. “Well, let’s get on with it. Can we walk to the stone?” He would humor her and see where all this would lead. His hand rested around a small penknife in his pocket. If a tiny drop of blood is all it takes to satisfy her fantasy and win her gratitude, I can do that.

The wind whistled overhead as the cemetery loomed into view. Groups of tourists ambled amongst the grave stones. Raucous laughter burst from the direction of Bridget Bishop and Martha Corey’s graves, also victims of the 1692 Salem witch trials. One would think it was an amusement park rather than a cemetery from the sound of merriment coming from the shadows.

Jenny squealed as a man dressed as a vampire loomed from the bushes.

Clive put his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. She was really a dear little thing, and his heart stirred. He wanted so to calm her fears. Perhaps he’d bring her coffee in bed tomorrow morning…

Sarah Good’s commemorative stone gleamed in the moonlight.

Jenny ran her fingers over the grooves in the stone forming the letters– Sarah Good 1653 – 1692 “Poor thing. I’m so sorry, Sarah. Please forgive my ancestor.” Jenny glanced at her watch. “Are you ready?” She drew a huge serrated bread knife from her purse. “We don’t have much time. I only have two more minutes. Clive?” Jenny’s beautiful smile, only moments ago holding so much promise, faded, replaced by a fiendish leer. Only his blood splashed across the accursed stone would make her smile now.

At the sight of Jenny’s wild eyes gleaming in the moonlight, Clive stepped back. The thrill of the lovely lady and moonlight adventure faded and common sense finally prevailed. Jenny had no intention of settling for a pricked finger and a drop of blood. With the knife in her hand, she crept closer and closer with murder in her eye.

“Hold on, there, young lady.” He backed away, glancing left and right. Where had all the costumed tourists gone? The witches and ghosts and even the vampire had disappeared at the first sight of Jenny’s knife.

In the distance, the town clock began to strike. Twelve o’clock…the witching hour. Bong…bong…bong. The hour that a real witch, if there was such a thing, might easily murder a stranger to thwart her twisted notion of an imaginary family curse.

Bong…bong…bong. Clive’s dull life suddenly held a great deal more appeal. How he wished he was back in New York, playing cards with a neighbor, and had never heard of Salem. Bong…bong…bong.

Bong…bong… Jenny shrieked and rushed at him, the knife raised...

Paralyzed with fear, Clive put up his hands, closed his eyes and held his breath, waiting for the death blow. Bong! Midnight!

Seconds ticked by. Clive ran his hands up and down his chest. “I’m still alive?” He opened his eyes.

Jenny’s cape and the bread knife lay on the ground, but… Where was Jenny? She had waited seconds too long past the stroke of midnight and the curse had taken her…but where? How?

Sarah Good’s gravestone gleamed in the moonlight. A small black cat hunched beside the stone, her tail whipping around her black toes. A white blaze crept over her nose, across one golden eye, ending beside her ear. She stared up at Clive, terror in those golden eyes, such as to soften the hardest heart.

“Jenny?” Clive walked closer to the stone. Wasn’t there a fable about witches turning into black cats? He’d never believed such tales before, but... He stroked the little cat and peered into her eyes. “Jenny?” He gasped. Jenny’s golden eyes stared back. The curse! It was true. Poor Jenny. “She needed my blood to protect her from the curse. She still needs me.”

He would write his 2000 word newspaper story about Salem, about the haunted houses and the costume ball and the decorations and the Halloween parades. The story would be colorful and for a few minutes the Sacramento Daily Sun readers could forget the tragedy that took almost 3000 lives on September 11.

He would write about tonight being the first full moon on October 31 for the last twenty-seven years, but, he would not write about a 300-year-old curse that turned a Salem witch into a little black cat. Who would believe it?

Clive cradled Jenny in his arms as he walked back to town. “Don’t worry, Jenny. You don’t have to worry ever again. I promised to help you, and I won’t abandon you now.”

1
Oct

Interview With June Gillam - Thriller Author - House of Hoops

 

Today, I welcome my author friend, June Gillam to my site with an interview about her latest novel.

Welcome, June. With the launch of your fourth thriller novel, can you share a few ideas about your writing journey?

"Why do you think someone would enjoy reading this particular story?"

I’m hoping all mothers, grandmothers and basketball fans will enjoy House of Hoops because it’s a many-layered suspense novel set in 2019 between Halloween and New Year’s Day, 2020, before Covid-19 changed our world. So in that way, it’s a sort of escape back to better, or at least more normal, times. Hillary Broome is the mother of a twelve-year-old basketball phenom named Claire, and is set in Sacramento, where Hillary handles public relations for a still-under-construction community center near the NBA basketball arena downtown, the site of continuing controversy among Sacramentans.

"Is this is a series? If so, tell us about the other books. "

In House of Cuts, the first book in the series, young reporter Hillary Broome’s article on a grisly murder catapults her byline from California into the national limelight and threatens to expose a shameful secret that could ruin her career—as well as bring her to the crazed killer’s attention. Hillary teams up with a lonely detective in a race to catch the cutthroat before he can get to a woman who's begun to fill a void in Hillary's heart left by the mother who abandoned her years ago.

A powerful California developer collapses at a funeral in the second book, House of Dads, which throws reporter Hillary into a network of jealousy and greed. In the midst of a new romance, she's forced to investigate foul play from disgruntled home-owners, mortgage bankers, and her own family members spiraling into homicidal madness.

In House of Eire, Hillary flies to Ireland on a family vacation and digs into her Irish roots, but finds herself uncovering deadly secrets in the land of a thousand welcomes, secrets that put at stake the lives of friends and family, including Hillary’s six-year-old daughter Claire.

By Book 4, House of Hoops, Hillary’s found a niche working public relations for a soon-to-open community center near Sacramento’s downtown Golden 1 Center as she aims to be a good mother to her volatile twelve-year-old basketball phenom daughter. Her attention is diverted by a former professor who’s determined to demonize the community center as symbolic of gentrification in need of destruction.

"Where do the ideas for your books come from?"

Mostly from problems I see in our culture. For example, House of Cuts came about when my husband was forced to take early retirement from the L. A. Times due to their financial strategy. This just about killed my husband because he so identified himself with his job. I wondered what if it was a butcher whose little shop was forced out of business by a big superstore moving in. What if he was bent on revenge at losing his identity? That was the origin of Melvin the Butcher.

"Where can we get your book?"

The eBook is $3.99 and paperback is $10.99 for now and later will join the other three Hillary Broome novels on Audible. https://amzn.to/34h2IZd It is available on Amazon and other outlets on its Halloween and basketball-themed launch party over my  Zoom launch. (see below) Zoom launch purchasers of House of Hoops will get a chance to name a character in Book 5 of the series, House of White Crows.

June Gillam's Book Launch
Time: Oct 7, 2020 05:00 PM Pacific Time (US and Canada)
Link to Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

"Give us your brief bio."

Sacramento native June Gillam started out as a poet before realizing her poems wanted to become stories. Her Hillary Broome novels resist placement into traditional genres and are like the proverbial Box of Chocolates: June says her work best fits into “the social problem novel,” in which various characters personify issues around region, class, race, gender, or economics to form an important part of the plot. Mostly, June loves exploring what can transform a normal person into one mad enough to kill. Her books are published by her Gorilla Girl Ink imprint, and the story of how she got that name is on her website. She has taught English at San Joaquin Delta College since 1990 and is happily involved in several Northern California writing groups, one of which she thanks in House of Hoops Acknowledgments as Elaine’s Lunch Bunch.

 

 

24
Oct

REPRINT: Harvest Jack's Rebellion A Halloween Story


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

 

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

 

Harvest Jack’s cousins gasped in horror. Such disrespect! Such defiance! Unheard of in polite Cucurbita Pepo society! They turned away from the disobedient cultivar and buried their tendrils and stem under their prickly leaves.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harvest Jack heard the engine and turned toward the sound. “Uh Oh!” The seeds in his belly shook in terror. Papa Red Warty Thing was right, after all. He was about to be crunched into a fritter and there was nothing he could do about it.

 

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

 

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

 

It appeared that Harvest Jack, on the other hand, was going to be smashed flat and ground into pulp by the tractor tires.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Sweet Sugar Pie glared at Papa Red Warty Thing and shook her sticky leaves at him. “I knew this would happen. This nonsense is your fault.”

 

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

 

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

 

“That’s what you think,” Sweet Sugar Pie screamed. “According to politically correct social media, if the lad wants to be a cherry pie, then he’s a cherry pie!”

 

“You’re to blame, Sweet Sugar Pie. You were always too lenient with the boy. I should never have married someone from the other side of the field!”

 

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