19
Oct

Harvest Jack's Rebellion - A Holiday Story

“If I’ve told you once,” Papa Red Warty Thing said. “I’ve told you a dozen times not to stray so far. Look at you. You’re already at the end of your tendrils and into the road. When the tractor comes, 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. They never stray past the first twist in their vines.”

Harvest Jack’s pumpkin cousins gasped. Such disrespect! Such defiance! And with Halloween and Thanksgiving right around the corner. Unheard of in polite Cucurbita Pepo society! They turned away from the disobedient cultivar and buried their tendrils and stems beneath their prickly leaves.

“That child shall be the death of me yet,” Sweet Sugar Pie declared. “How does he ever expect to become a pumpkin 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 smirk carved on his face.”

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 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. He was about to be crunched into a fritter.

A raven swooped down and landed on his stem. “It serves you right for 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 cousins.

Directly in the path of the tractor, Harvest Jack’s future was destined to be ground into pulp.

Suddenly, he heard guttural, humanoid sounds reverberating through his stem. Harvest Jack felt himself lifted and then 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… do I get to 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 in anger.

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

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

Sweet Sugar Pie screamed. “According to today’s media, if the lad wants to be a cherry pie, then he’s a cherry pie! It’s your fault, Papa Red Warty Thing. You were always too lenient with the lad!”

 

8
Oct

A Halloween Story - Jenny's Shopping Trip

Jenny’s shrieks followed Tom as he skipped down the sidewalk to his 57’souped-up T-bird parked at the curb. Like many times before, when his girlfriend’s grew tiresome, he’d walk away. Women were like shoes. When the shine wore off, you got a new pair. 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 with Asian ancestry, hunkered nearby, commiserating with her sorrow.

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

The black longhaired cat in her lap gazed into her eyes and yawned. “Come on, guys, let’s get a snack. Then, I’ll go shopping.” Her feline menagerie followed her to the kitchen.

Jenny gazed at the four cats hunkered around a pile of Friskies like four spokes of a wheel; black, brown, white and tan. Didn’t Tom have a lunch meeting today at a little restaurant on Main Street? Jenny whispered. “Let the games begin.”

Jenny lifted 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.” Dust rose from the feather and disappeared in a wisp of breeze.

In her closet, she found a black pantsuit. The height of 1980’s fashion with shoulder pads in the jacket and bellbottom pants. 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 and topped off her ensemble with a bangle bracelet and a lion head medallion necklace. She nodded, satisfied with 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, staring at the items in the window. In a few minutes, Tom strode down the street, his head held high, his bright red hair blowing in the wind. He spotted Jenny just as she dashed into the magic shop. Once inside the door, eerie shrieks and squeals of organ music, enough to chill one’s soul, blared through an elaborate sound system.

Startled to see her there, 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 Halloween decorations and magician’s paraphernalia.

Tom followed her into the furthest dark corner, where the black light overhead reflected a neon aura off the logo on Magic Marvin’s Magic Shop black shopping bags.

Tom’s gaze followed the drifting feather on Jenny’s hat, caressed by the air conditioned breeze. “Jenny? Are you headed to a costume party?” His gaze stayed locked on the swaying feather.

“No,” Jenny whispered, “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 long red fingernail three times on the stack of black Marvelous Marvin’s Magic Shop bags and whispered, “Dinkle, Dinkle, Catzenwinkle.”

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

Jenny laid the bag on the counter. “I’ll take this one.” She paid and left the store.

Back home, Jenny poured another glass of wine, and filled a plate with crackers and cheese, and set the shopping on the floor. “Come my lovelies,” she cooed.

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. He gazed wildly around the room, his big round eyes filled with horror… The four cats nibbled their cheese and glared at the newcomer with amusement.

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

26
Aug

A Chance Encounter = A short story

Rolling thunder drowned out the clanging church bells across the street. Lightning zig-zagged across the sky. Fear clutched my heart as Mother Nature crashed around me. Was this reality, or had I been caught up in a time warp that transported me to another place–magical, ethereal, and terrifying? Stay calm. It’s just a sudden summer storm. A torrent of water rushed down the Austrian cobbled street, threatening to overflow the gutters onto my feet. Were the bells warning of some disaster? Had war been declared? Had someone assassinated the President? Did Austria even have a President?

Cold spines of rain stung my face and bounced off the pavement onto my legs. Another clap of thunder and a flash of lightning made me jump. I pulled my sweater tighter around my chest and huddled closer to the wall beneath the narrow, striped canopy. And then a man stepped beneath the awning and tilted his umbrella over my head. “Do you wish to share my umbrella?”

“Thank you, how kind.” His presence soothed my fear. My pattering heart slowed. “The storm came up so quickly, it caught me quite unawares.”

“Sudden storms are not unexpected at this time of year.”

We stood side by side beneath the canopy, watching the ribbons of lightning zigzag across the afternoon sky, chatting about bells and clouds and weather. I tilted my head toward the church towers. “Why are they ringing the bells? Is there an emergency? The street is flooded.”

“The priests ring the bells to frighten the storm clouds toward the next village.”

I suppressed a smile, doubting that bells could drive away the clouds. “If that’s true, I’m sorry to say, it’s not working. It’s been raining buckets for twenty minutes.”

“Oh, it’s working fine.” A smile lit up his face. “But, the next village also rings their bells, and the storm clouds get confused, so they drift back here again. From village to village they drift. Soon they will find a quiet place where they can rest.”

I was pleasantly amused, but did not wish to dispute his quaint belief in the magical power of the bells. As we talked, we stood shoulder to shoulder. His scent comforted me–a woodsy manly scent, strong and secure.

A train whistle pierced the air. At the sound, he turned. “My train... I’m sorry, I must go. You will be alright?”

“I’ll be fine. Thank you for sharing your umbrella and for the secret of the bells.”

He caught my hand and lifted it to his lips. “It’s been a pleasure. I wish we had more time to… Good-bye.”

We looked deep into each other’s eyes and in those few seconds, as his lips brushed my fingertips, I was whirled through another time warp. In that instant, surrounded by the lightning and the chiming of the bells, it was as though we shared a lifetime together, infinite days and endless nights of love. I heard the blare of a hundred marching bands, saw the night sky explode in a fifty years of New Year’s Eve fireworks, felt the coolness of a thousand springtime rains, the color of a hundred rainbows, and an untold myriad of golden sunsets…

The rain stopped as he released my hand, waved a final farewell and strode toward the train. As he disappeared into the station, the blare of marching bands…became the tinkling bells around the cow’s necks in a nearby field. A final streak of lightning…replaced the image of fireworks in the night sky. The sun came out…and cast sparkling rainbows through the dewdrops dripping from the awning.

His scent lingered, but as I reached for the place where he had stood, the memory of his touch melted through my fingertips. I ran toward the station, “Wait! I don’t even know your name. Wait!”

The whistle blew and the train clacked down the track. The magic spell was broken. Was it a crack in time and space? Was it another lifetime of love that two strangers shared in those few moments, or was it just a dream caused by the magic of the bells and the storm clouds?

****

Years have passed. I’ve had the best life one could hope for–marriage, a satisfactory career, and children. But, every time I hear church bells, I close my eyes and remember a summer storm in a faraway land.

I am reminded of church bells echoing from mountaintop to mountaintop, as the storm clouds scramble from village to village in their frantic search for a silent, peaceful place. Finally, they drift onto a quiet hillside where the only sound is the tinkling of cow’s bells, as they amble across the meadows and disappear into the mist…. and I remember the man I loved who was only a dream.

*****

If you enjoyed this story, please go to Amazon and look for my eight cozy mystery/adventures ($3.99 e-book) and an anthology of 'cat' stories ($2.99).

 

 

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.

 

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