30
Jul

The Restoration Project

My husband, Leland, likes to tell one of his favorite adventures as a boy scout. In 1953, Leland was about eleven years old and lived in Satsop, Washington, with his uncle, Frank, the Scoutmaster for the local Boy Scout troop, That summer, the eleven Boy Scouts made a two-day trip into a nearby region to reforest a field with tree seedlings given to them by a local Forestry Agency.

The boys rode to the planting site in the back of the assistant Scout leader’s truck along with their camping gear and 3-4 flats of pine seedlings in little cups. They set up camp near a river and prepared for the project at hand.

First the restoration site had to be cleared of natural brush or branches, which was gathered and stacked on the far side of the planting site. Leland also remembers picking up litter, bottles, and refuse left by previous campers.

The Forestry Agency provided the scoutmaster written directions of exactly how the tree planting process should take place. The scoutmaster used pre-measured strings to measure approximately 15-20 feet and drove a stake into the ground to indicate where each seedling should be planted.

The scouts followed behind across the grassy field. Natural grass and weeds was cleared about 15” around each stake. This allowed the sunshine to warm the seedling and prevented weeds from encroaching.  The scouts dug a hole with a hand spade and tapped in the seedling, then progressed to the next stake. Over the next  two days, the scouts planted several hundred trees.

Prior to the trip, Leland’s Aunt Emma had made a batch of homemade root beer for the scouts’ camping trip. Not having enough coke bottles to bottle the root beer, Leland and his cousins approached a local tavern owner, who loaned them a case of brown stubby beer bottles, requesting the return of the bottles after the camping trip.

During the bright summer evening following a hard day of planting trees, the boys sat on the side of the hill above the road, laughing and joking and drinking Aunt Emma’s root beer bottled in the brown stubby beer bottles.

Drivers on the road below saw the Boy Scouts, still in their uniforms, laughing and rolling around on the hill, apparently drinking beer. One driver called the local authorities when she got home, scandalized that the local Boy Scout troop should behave in such an unseemly manner.

As the case of root beer dwindled and the boy’s behavior became more rowdy, the sheriff drove up, responding to the call of drunk and disorderly Boy Scouts drinking beer up on the hill.

The scoutmaster explained that the root beer was bottled in borrowed stubby brown beer bottles. The explanation was sufficient to send the sheriff on his way. However, it is unlikely that the jubilation that followed was the satisfaction of the scouts' hard work planting trees, or their amusement at the sheriff thinking there was real beer in the brown bottles. More likely, their hilarity was the result of Leland’s cousin adding raisins to Aunt Emma’s crock of homemade root beer, making it a light alcoholic drink. The following year, only soda bottles were used and Aunt Emma kept a closer eye on her crock of root beer.

The story of the tree planting and the homemade root beer was a closely guarded secret, told only around subsequent campfires where bottles of store bought root beer was the only type of soda allowed.

If you enjoyed this story, please share some of your own childhood memories that resulted in misunderstanding or humorous outcomes.

 

 

6
May

Only in America

Not long ago, a dusty manuscript was found while cleaning a closet in the basement of a Washington mansion. Written by an unknown author in 1992, the document appeared to have been prepared as a magazine article. The article appears below. The reader may choose to determine its authenticity.

………

I was born under a woodpile. My mother taught me all she knew, and I often fell asleep, listening to the thrum of her heartbeat. She shared with me the secrets of the universe, as known to all cats. Instructions in field mouse stalking taught me patience. I learned hygiene by knowing the importance of washing behind one’s ears. I shall never forget those carefree kitten days, filled with peace and love.

I spent my youth basking in the sunshine. One afternoon, the dogcatcher spied us sleeping on the woodpile. Mother escaped, but he cornered me and tossed me into a truck. Mother cried as we drove away, toward… What? I believe it was destiny.

Arriving at the pound, I was put into a small cage surrounded by the pitiful cries of cats and kittens. In the next room, I heard the horrendous din of dogs.

On the sixth day of captivity, a man, lady, and a little girl came to my jail cell. Though it was a new experience, I rather liked being kissed and petted. After some discussion, I was put into a small box. My box jiggled and jounced and vehicle sounds roared. I felt it likely that the end of life as I knew it was near.

I was released from the box into a lovely house with people running hither and yon. I soon realized the people were there to fulfill my every wish, (as is only right.) My favorite napping place was a spot of sunshine on the dining room table but, for some reason, the lady seemed to take exception.

As time went on, the man and I became great friends. Many times he took me onto his lap in his rocking chair. As we rocked, he would talk and stroke my head. I didn’t understand but sensed his distress. I purred and gazed into his eyes to convey empathy for his problems. He received great comfort from this and shortly, would smile and nod, as though we had solved his problem. Thus, I knew my counsel was good.

As time passed, I learned that my man was very important. We moved to Washington into a big white house. My man’s rocking chair was placed in an oval office with a big red phone. Now, as I understand it, my man had become the most important ‘Man’ in the country and my lady was called the First Lady. I suppose the child was First Child.

When I walked into the oval office, people got excited and said, “Here comes Sox!” They make a fuss, so I suppose I must be important, too.

As I look back over my life, I get goose bumps thinking about our great country. Only in America, can a fellow be snatched from obscurity and blessed with the opportunity to make something of himself. And only in America, can a cat born in a woodpile find himself in the most important seat in the nation, literally in a rocking chair, in the Oval Office, in the White House, counselor to the President of the United States. I think from now on, people shall call me The First Cat!

****

This manuscript was subsequently published in the New York Times whereupon seven reporters came forward to take credit for its content. In the end, verification of the author was never authenticated.

 

14
Feb

The Chocolate Kiss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

 

5
Dec

The Christmas Bird

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

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

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

Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered. “Really? Blue glass bird is made of hand-blown glass from Germany, with a fine blue feather tail. Antique bird is missing some tail feathers but he is so fragile, you can see right through him. We all have unique qualities, and all are as beautiful as you.” He fairly shook as he scolded the young bird wrapped beneath him in pink tissue.

“It may be true what you say,” said the saucy little bird. “But, the tree won’t be nearly as beautiful if I’m not right near the top.”

Gold Bird, being older and wiser, turned his head. “You obviously don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t deserve to be included in the holiday events. You conceited fellow, it would serve you right if you got left behind this year.”

The Christmas bird trembled. The idea of being left behind scared him a bit. With a slight tremble, he said, “That couldn’t happen, could it? It’s not that you aren’t handsome, but my tail feathers are longer and softer and fluffier than yours, and…my…paint is much shinier.”

Tut tut,” replied Gold Bird. “Not…another…word.”

For several uncomfortable days, the little bird lay silent in his cocoon of crinkly paper. Gold Bird’s warning haunted him. “You conceited fellow, it would serve you right …” Not to be there on Christmas Eve? He could not bear the thought.

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

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

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

Christmas Day approached and he missed the entire Christmas season, alone in the box in the corner. On Christmas Eve, the family gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Christmas tree bird lay in his box, imagining the tree with his friends hanging on its branches. Even the scorned round ones were part of the celebration. “The round ones may not be as beautiful,” he lamented,” but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.”

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

Christmas bird thought, “I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like the baby Jesus,” and he imagined the tiny baby sung and warm, lying in a manger, warmed by the breath of the surrounding animals. He heard the daddy tell how Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby, and if we loved and trusted Him, He would take us to heaven and we would never be left behind.  The Christmas bird sniffed, “I know what it’s like to be left behind. How much worse it would be, to be left behind from Heaven.” Then, his box jiggled, the crinkling tissue paper lifted away and the warmth from the fireplace touched his cheek.

The little girl lifted Christmas bird from his box. “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 and she hung the little bird near Gold Bird. Looking down from the tree, the joyous Christmas bird felt the love in the room as the family shared gifts with one another. Carols played on the stereo. The spicy aroma of gingerbread drifted in from the kitchen. The family laughed and sang. Christmas bird wiggled with joy. At last, he was exactly where he wanted to be. Gold Bird swung around from a nearby branch and gave him a tender glance. “Welcome to Christmas, little bird. Did you learn anything?”

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

 

29
Nov

Mom's Silverware - A Thanksgiving Story

(This is a fictionalized story based on my true experience .)

Corrine sighed as the comforting turkey scent wafted through the dining room. She glanced at the clock, mentally judging her Thanksgiving dinner’s preparation with the arrival of the daughter and grandchildren. Her mother’s china, crystal wine goblets, and silverware were lovingly arranged on the dining room table. Corinne continued polishing a silver fork from Mother’s rosewood silverware box and placed it next to a wine goblet.

She thought back to holidays at Mom’s house in year's past. The chandelier lights shimmered and bounced off each shining goblet and silver utensil. Mom would move a spoon a fraction of an inch and then place a chocolate kiss on each plate. “There, to show them how much they are loved.”

Corrine’s husband mumbled something unintelligible from the family room. “What are you doing in there?” Corrine called.

“I’m converting your Dad’s old 8-mm movie films to a CD. We can show the grandkids pictures from your childhood.”

Corrine returned to the kitchen and poured a glass of wine. She pulled her mother’s favorite casserole dish from the cupboard. Her thoughts turned again to memories of past holidays.

She recalled the Christmas and Thanksgiving dinners when mom and “the girls” all wore party dresses specifically chosen for the event. The tradition ended when her mother passed away.

Over the years, Corrine was now “Grandma,” and her daughter took her position in the generational family chain. Different little children bustled through the house. “Where have the years gone?”

Corrine returned to the dining room and placed the polished fork on the table. Using Mom’s silverware was a tradition that had continued for 60 years, throughout years of young motherhood and  the same silverware still appeared on every holiday dinner table. It was a constant, defying the loss of loved ones, gray hair, or climbing through the links of the family chain. One day, the silverware would grace her daughter’s holiday table; a reminder of her childhood holiday memories. Using the silverware would become part of her tradition as she created new memories for her children.

When and where had Mom gotten the silverware? It wasn’t likely to have been a wedding present, since Mom and Dad were married during the Great Depression.

Corrine stood back to admire her table setting. It looked nice. “Oh! I almost forget the chocolate kiss,” she said, adding Mom’s droplets of chocolate love on each plate. Mom would be pleased she had continued the gesture.

“Honey, come take a look at this,” Corrine’s husband called from the living room. “It’s one of your Dad’s old Christmas movies from when you were a baby.”

They sat together on the couch, watching the jumpy black and white film flicker across the bed sheet pinned to the wall. The speckles became Corrine’s mother and dad. It was Christmas Day, 1946. Cousin Dolly and Beverly hugged giant dolls and little Allan sat on the floor in front of the Christmas tree. Corrine, a three-year-old toddler, held an enormous doll. An unbelievably young mother smiled at her from the bed sheet. Corrine’s nine-year-old brother chased little cousin Allan around the room with his new BB gun, making faces at the camera. Big sister and Cousin Wilbur ripped open puzzles and books. Only one last gift remained unopened.

Dad handed a large package to Mom. She smiled, looking uncomfortable in the spotlight. The Christmas wrap fell away. She opened the beautiful rosewood box filled with shiny new silverware. Her face beamed and she mouthed a silent “thank you.”

Corinne gripped her husband’s hand. How Dad must have sacrificed to buy such an expensive gift in 1946 when jobs were scarce and times were hard.

Here was the birth of Corrine’s most precious family tradition; the beautiful rosewood box filled with William Rogers' silverware. A connection she still shared with her mother, one that she would continue to share with her daughter and her granddaughter for years to come.

The oven buzzer sounded. The turkey was done. Corrine wiped  tears from her eyes, picked up her wine goblet and hurried to the kitchen. Time was getting away and the children would soon be here!

 

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.

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.

 

8
Aug

The Slobaviakinsky Golf Course

Here is a fun short story to start your day.

The Slobaviakinsky Golf Course and Convention Center was located in a small, undeveloped country somewhere north of the 23rd Parallel, funded by a US entrepreneurial endeavor to improve the lives of the Slobaviakinsky citizens. They employed one hundred and ten individuals, from grounds keepers to bartenders, to chefs and maids.

The biggest and finest golf course and convention center within 3000 miles, it was chosen to hold the annual European golf tournament. News of Tiger Woods’s attendance assured financial and national attention, and every room in the convention hotel was reserved in advance

Tiger had shipped his personal all electric golf cart with leather seats, titanium steering wheel, state-of-the-art sound system and beverage center, and golf clubs with gold gilt grips, ahead of his arrival. They placed a tarp over cart beside the CEO’s office, lest anyone should attempt to pilfer same and sell it at New York Southey’s Auction House.

Unbeknownst to the tournament organizers, or CEO, years long before the course was built, beneath the manicured grass, there was a maze of tunnels connecting the 1st through the 19th hole, built by a secret society where covert operations were planned. Discussions were underway beneath the turf as to how to scuttle the approaching tournament, lest the location of the tunnels should be discovered and future doings thwarted. A final plan was voted on and passed.

Three days before the tournament, the head landscaper entered the CEO’s office. The distraught man wrung his hands and blurted out his terrible story. During the night, someone had torn out the sound system in Tiger’s golf cart and shredded the leather seats. The golf bag holding his precious gilt-edged clubs was slashed with marks that looked like wild animal teeth. Knowing Tiger Wood’s sensitive nature, the CEO feared that hearing of the offense, he might refuse to attend. In such a case, would the tournament even proceed?

Much to their surprise, Tiger grudgingly agreed to use a standard golf cart if they provided a cooler filled with his favorite beverage and a CD player.

Two day before the tournament, the CEO found his head electrician awaiting his arrival. During the night someone had destroyed the wiring to the PA system, making it impossible to announce the events over the loud speakers. What would Tiger’s adoring fans say if they could not hear about his prowess on the field? Since the hotel was already fully booked and international news media already on their way, they were determined to fix the system and save the tournament.

The secret society called another emergency meeting. Scuttling Tiger’s golf cart hadn’t worked. Destroying the PA sound system hadn’t worked. Drastic measures were needed. In desperation, a final deterrence was needed.

One day before the tournament, the CEO’s head chef was waiting. That morning, he had found rat droppings on the kitchen counter, on the stove and in the pantry. Bags of flour were torn open. The freezer was unplugged and hundreds of pounds of meat had thawed. The refrigerator’s electric cord was chewed in half. Apparently, rodents had invaded the hotel. The health inspector would likely shut down the kitchen, putting the entire tournament at risk.

The clever CEO snapped his fingers. “Set up barbecues on the patio with bricks and screens. BBQ all the meat for the guests tonight. Have the local markets and bakeries bring bread, fresh fruit and pastry for breakfast tomorrow. Gather the portable microwaves from each room to prepare whatever else is needed. Contact another dozen food trucks to serve the tournament guests tomorrow. We’ll make it work.”

In despair, the secret society shrugged and gave up. None of their efforts had derailed the tournament. They would have to take their chances of discovery.

On tournament day, Tiger Woods faced the top ten world champion golfers. On the 19th hole, he was one stroke from winning the tournament. He eyed the ball, drew back his club, but as he swung, his foot slipped on a leaf. His ball arced to the left off the fairway, into the trees. The crowd erupted in a collective moan. TV cameramen trailed Tiger into the woods where he found his ball on a mound of dirt, evidence of a major gopher hole.

Tiger stomped the mound flat, smacked his ball onto the green where it slowly rolled and plopped into the cup. Tiger said. “The club better set out poison before the gophers get onto the fairway.” He moved onto the green to the adulation of his adoring TV fans.

In the tunnel below, a number of ground gophers wept as their worst nightmare came to fruition. Tiger’s attendance at the tournament had revealed their secret location. It was only a matter of time until the secret tunnels would be destroyed and their existence doomed. There was only one solution. A quick vote was pass and decision made to move their network of tunnels into the International Culinary School garden next door. Unbeknownst to them, Wolfgang Puck’s world renowned Annual Cooking Contest was scheduled to be held there next spring.

****

Do you prefer fantasy short stories or do you prefer reading non-fiction articles?

If you enjoy fiction stories, check out my cat anthology of short stories . All Things Cat http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak  (Amazon e-book $2.99) 

22
Jun

A Fourth of July Short Story

Agnes pulled in her driveway and stepped out of her Prius. Her neighbor, Millie, hailed from across the street. “Yoo-hoo! Agnes! Wait up. Happy Fourth of July!” She scurried across the street.

Millie was the last person Agnes wanted to talk to. They had nothing in common. Millie’s husband, George, was a Revolutionary War collector. Their house looked like a museum full of Revolutionary War relics. Why did Millie put up with such nonsense?

Millie ran up, breathlessly, “Are you coming to the Independence Day celebration at the Vet’s Memorial Building tonight? They’re having a military band, Viet Nam veteran speakers, and fireworks after the meeting. You’re welcome to ride over with us.”

Agnes lifted her grocery bags from the back seat. “Sorry, can’t make it. Gotta’ get these things inside. Frozen stuff. Talk to you later.” She hurried into the house. A twinge of guilt gripped her chest. Snubbing Millie wasn’t very nice, but Millie was so gol-darned boring. Every conversation somehow turned to her latest E-Bay purchase. A Minute Man rifle. A battered sword. A faded British shirt. Agnes sighed. Who cared about all that stuff anymore? What difference did it make, anyway, two hundred years later?

The Fourth of July was such a nuisance. The fireworks always got all the neighborhood dogs barking and the streets were a cluttered mess the next morning.

Agnes preferred closing the blinds and going to bed early. Kids down the street were already shooting off fireworks. She closed her eyes…

Agnes jerked and twisted, thrashing her pillow. What? Why was she in the middle of a battlefield? The boom-boom of fireworks became the sound of a beating drum. The sun blazed down on men dressed in brilliant red jackets. Sweat poured from their faces. They marched in a straight row toward an outline of shadowy figures in buckskin, hiding behind rocks and trees.

Agnes stared at the soldiers moving forward with guns drawn. Redcoats? From England? What?How did she get here? She didn’t belong here! She couldn’t be here. The field would soon be littered with dead and dying men. She turned and tried to run. She must be dreaming. Wake up! Wake up!

Someone grabbed her arm, dragged her from the line of fire and pulled her down behind a rock. Her heart pounded. Perspiration trickled down her forehead. She crouched beside the men, so close she could smell their sweat. Older soldiers grimaced, their lined faces knowing what was soon to come. “Hold the line, men. Steady now.” Younger soldiers, terrified of the unknown, sniffled as the enemy advanced, step by step to the beat of their drum. Though the ragtag soldiers were outnumbered by the advancing troops, they had the advantage of the cover of trees and rocks. The men primed their guns with powder and ball and squatted in the dirt, waiting, waiting as the formidable enemy advanced.

She had to get away. This couldn’t be real! She knew she was dreaming! Why couldn’t she wake up?

The drumbeat stopped. Silence! What happened? She peeked around the rock. There was the enemy, frozen in time, guns at the ready, feet in mid-step. The flag drooped, unmoving. The drummer’s drumstick hung suspended in mid-air, above his drum.

Agnes lifted her head toward the brilliant sky where scattered patches of clouds gathered as though suspended from wires on a stage. Overhead, a bird hung motionless.

She opened her eyes, and blinked against the darkness in her own bedroom. “I was dreaming!” Dreams were, after all, just snatches of thoughts and memories, sounds and sights stored willy-nilly in one’s mind and pulled into a fractured scenario to haunt our restless minds. She shuddered. There was a day when her dream had been the reality for many others.

She turned toward the window. It had begun to rain and rivulets streaked the glass, curving and twisting as they traversed the pane. Outside, the tree in the backyard wavered in the wind of an unseasonable summer shower. The Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks must have ended by now. Agnes put her hand to her pounding heart. It was just a dream. Everything was fine. Just a dream.

Agnes rose from her bed and found a book about the Revolutionary War in her library. She sat in a rocker and began to read:

For the sake of independence, farmers, storekeepers, bankers, men from all walks of life, rebelled at the tyranny England imposed on their fledgling nation. Ill equipped, with antiquated guns and untrained, the Continental soldiers chose to fight a highly-trained army made up of Englishmen, German mercenaries, and Hessians.

The Revolutionary war lasted over eight years.
The estimated population in America in 1776 was three million.
80,000 militia and Continental Army soldiers served at the height of the war
25,000 American Revolutionary soldiers died during the war
8,000 more Revolutionary soldiers died from wounds inflicted during battle
17,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from disease
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers were estimated to have been wounded or maimed
1 in 20 able-bodied men living in America died during the war.

All for the sake of following generations, so we could have the freedom to make laws and live by our own rules as established by the Declaration of Independence.

Agnes called Millie’s answering machine and left a message. “This is Agnes. Sorry I couldn’t make it tonight. I hope you had fun. I promise I’ll come with you next year. Our freedom is important, isn’t it? We need to remember what the holiday cost our forefathers. It really matters.”

Agnes returned to her bedroom with her cat. Boom! Another firecracker cracked in the night. Agnes turned to her cat. “Does that child have any idea what he’s celebrating?”

Agnes’s cat blinked as though he had no answer to the provocative question.

 

5
Jun

REPRINT Our Honeymoon Story (58 years later)

With our 58th wedding anniversary next week, I thought it was time to share our honeymoon story again. Hope your honeymoon wasn't quite as eventful, but still filled with love and good memories.

While sorting through my cedar hope chest recently, I uncovered my wedding gown and honeymoon nightie. A few shreds of rice still clung to the polyester material. I thought back on the days of our unusual honeymoon as I folded and smoothed the purple nightie.

June 17, 1962 was a perfect day. The sun beamed through the stained glass windows. The scent of flowers and music filled the auditorium.

“With this ring, I thee wed,” and we were man and wife, twenty years, and eighteen-years-old respectively.

Following the reception, consisting of wedding cake and fruit punch, we raced through torrents of rice, eager to reach our secret honeymoon motel in a nearby lake resort town. That night, we planned to celebrate by having dinner at a real restaurant.

While dating, we had eaten at hotdog stands, drive-in movie snack shacks and BBQ’s with family, but we had never gone to a real restaurant. A candlelight dinner at a restaurant was a rite of passage, signifying that we were now married adults. It would be a cherished memory, a perfect beginning to our wedding night.

The sun shone hot on our heads as we drove with the top down on our 1958 MGA.   The excitement of the day took a toll on my young husband. His head began to throb and maybe “nerves” played a role as well. In our day, “the wedding night” created some anxieties than many young grooms don’t experience today.  Several hours later, we reached our honeymoon cottage on the shores of a sparkling lake. My young husband threw himself on the bed, head pounding, eyes aching, a wet cloth held to his forehead, and begged to be allowed to die in peace. He wasn’t up to dinner at a fancy restaurant.

“Tomorrow, honey,” he promised, “just let me go to bed.”

A brand new blushing bride, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town on my wedding eve, and selected spaghetti, hamburger, tomato sauce, lettuce, and salad dressing. I soon found myself in front of a tiny stove in our honeymoon cottage, cooking spaghetti on my wedding night while my husband groaned on the bed.

“I hope this isn’t a sign of what’s ahead,” I thought, as I added a pinch of salt to the boiling water. “This is NOT how I planned my wedding night.”

Monday dawned bright and clear, a hot and perfect June day and we slept late, lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore, headaches and anxieties of the day before a forgotten memory. We spent the afternoon in the park in the shade of a willow tree, watching the squirrels. We kissed and spoke of where we would have our special dinner that night, a celebration of our one-day anniversary. We swam and frolicked in the lake. My new lord and master climbed a nearby diving board.

“Hey, Hon, look at me,” he shouted, spreading his arms and launching himself in a perfect swan dive into the sparkling water below.

Somewhere between “Look at me,” and the sparkling water below, something went dreadfully wrong with his perfect dive. He hit the water with a resounding “kersplash.” Breaking the surface of the water, he held his hand to his left ear.

“I think I broke something.” The local emergency room confirmed, indeed, a broken eardrum. The doctor advised bed rest and a quiet night…

As a recently married woman, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected hamburger, tomato sauce and French bread. On my one-day anniversary, I stood in front of the tiny stove, my young husband sleeping off the effects of pain medications.  The water lapped onto the shore next to our honeymoon cottage as I sighed and heated  spaghetti sauce.

Tuesday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, being lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore. All afternoon we streaked across the beautiful waves in a rented speedboat, churning up the water. We looked forward to a romantic dinner that night to celebrate our two–day anniversary. The sun shone deceivingly on my young husband’s bare legs and they changed from white, to pink, to bright red.

My young husband moved slowly toward our car, each painful step tugging at his sunburned legs. He tried to pull on his trousers but the effort was too painful. My young husband lay on the cool asbestos tile floor (who knew?) of our honeymoon cottage, moaning.

“I don’t think I can put my pants on. Sorry, Hon. No fancy dinner. Maybe tomorrow.”

A fairly jaded wife, I pushed a grocery cart through the tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected hamburger, tomato sauce and cookies. The storeowner smiled. After all, I had shopped there three days in a row and was his newest most-frequent shopper. I vowed to speak to mother about marriage. If this were going to continue, I would need to learn to cook something besides spaghetti.

Wednesday dawned bright and clear, we slept late…  We spent the afternoon driving around the lake. In the late afternoon, we stopped at a nice restaurant before any further calamity. We celebrated our three-day anniversary. It was as romantic as I had imagined. My husband’s head didn’t ache, his ear didn’t throb, his sunburn had faded to a dull pink, his pants were on, we didn’t eat spaghetti and I didn’t have to cook.

After dinner, at a drive-in theater, necking in the front seat somehow didn’t have its previous pre-marriage appeal. We determined it would be best to leave when the movie was only half over. It was getting very late, you see, nearly 9:30 after all, and we were anxious to return to our honeymoon cottage

Thursday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, lulled by the waves…

By late afternoon, we thought about the events of the week so far. A migraine, a broken eardrum, a sunburn, and it became clear that we should cut our honeymoon short and return home before any further disaster occurred. I felt the need to speak to mother about marriage in general and recipes in particular.  By early evening, we bid the honeymoon cottage farewell and started for home.

We were both eager to reach home and resume…what honeymooners resume. The air was warm and balmy as we left the resort town. A crooked road down the mountain would take 30 minutes off our travel time. Driving the mountain road was difficult, with switchbacks and no roadside safety rails. Slowly maneuvering hairpin curves, eyes wide, we saw broken, twisted cars in the canyons below. Had they run off the road or were they shoved into the canyon to dispose of them?  At the bottom of the mountain, the valley stretched before us, and the terrible ordeal was finally over.

My young husband shifted gears and revved the engine. Nothing happened. He shifted to another gear and stepped on the gas. Nothing happened. The car coasted into a convenient gas station. He crawled under the car, and found….a broken axle. Sweat beaded on his forehead as he thought about what might have happened if the axle had broken at the top of the mountain on the winding road. We were safe, thank God, but how would we get home, 80 miles away?

As a mature, experienced wife of four days, able to handle any emergency, I dropped coins into the telephone. Daddy answered, and I said, “ Daddy, come get me….” whereupon, Daddy exploded,

“What’s wrong? Where are you? What has that beast done to my baby girl?” I explained that the beast had done nothing that I didn’t want done, but never the less, the axle on the MG was broken and we needed a tow.

Daddy drove for an hour and a half, rescued his baby girl and towed the car 80 miles unceremoniously at the end of a rope; a discouraged young bride and disgruntled half-frozen groom.

If we had seriously analyzed the disasters of the week, and felt them to be prophetic of our future life together, we might have applied for an annulment the next morning.  Perhaps we were too naïve, too inexperienced, or too much in love to realize the pitfalls that lay ahead.   58 years have passed and my husband’s hair is gray and my face is wrinkled. Through our marriage, we have encountered sickness and health, success and failure, joy and sorrow, but we continue to face life’s challenges together.

I placed the nightie back into the hope chest.  The pungent aroma of cedar clung in the air as I closed the lid.  I closed my eyes, thinking for a moment of those exciting, wonderful days and relived the thrills, frustrations and romance.

Returning to the kitchen, I put a pinch of salt into the spaghetti bubbling on the stove. Like a pinch of salt, it takes a touch of adversity to enhance the flavor to appreciate the fullness of life.  I smiled at the memory of a honeymoon cottage by the shores of a sky-blue lake, and a tiny stove, where another pot of spaghetti bubbled three nights in a row. Despite the unusual circumstance we shared that week, it was the most wonderful, exciting, perfect honeymoon a woman could ever experience, because I was with the man I love.

 

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