21
Aug

Daddy's Big Hand

In 1950, I was a first grader, one of the first to attend school in the county’s newest rural school house. Two days a month, the yellow Sonoma County Public Library bookmobile visited the school and we were allowed to select a library book! Without today’s technology of televisions, computer games, videos or CD’s, a book was our gateway to another world of fantasy, imagination, and excitement.

We lined up at the bookmobile door in two rows. Squirming, wiggling and chattering, barely able to contain our excitement, we waited our turn to enter the truck. Finally, it was my turn.

The librarian directed me to the two shelves dedicated to beginning readers, and I made my selection. The librarian lectured me about my responsibility to care for library property, and wrote down my name and the book’s title. She tucked a small card into the back cover. The book was mine to enjoy until the bookmobile returned.

Triumphantly, I carried my book down the steps and flashed a smug smile at the fidgeting children still standing in the hot sun. Their jealous gaze followed me into the shade of a nearby tree where I sat down to read.

The book was a treasure, sent to me personally by the President of the United States, who owned the Sonoma County Public Library System and personally sent out the yellow bookmobiles to rural schools, as a symbol of truth, justice and the American Way. This, I knew, in my heart of hearts.

I walked home from school that day, carrying my lunch pail, sweater and my precious library book under my arm. One of my companions suggested we take a different route home. Though this was against my mama’s rules, the chanting of “chicken” cinched my decision to agree.

Several blocks from the school, our path brought us to a deep PG&E worker’s hole, loosely covered by boards. Our leader pranced across the boards and “double-dog dared” us to follow. Another child crossed the teetering boards successfully.

I was afraid, but due to a “double-dog dare,” I had no choice but to give in to peer pressure. Fighting back tears, I clutched my lunch pail, sweater and library book, closed my eyes, and took a precarious step onto the wobbly boards. Flailing my hands outward to keep my balance, my precious book tumbled down between the boards into the dark hole, and surely, into the pits of hell. Horrified, we crouched over the hole and peered into the darkness; surely at least a hundred feet deep. I could barely see the pages flipping gently back and forth. The hole was too deep, and too challenging for our six-year-old minds to comprehend. My precious library book was gone!

I contemplated the outcome of this catastrophe. The President of the United States had personally commissioned the book into my hands, and I had failed him…. miserably. Someone was going to jail. I felt sure they wouldn’t put a six-year-old in jail, but if not me, then who? Suddenly, it became all too clear. They would put Daddy in jail because I was his kid and somebody had to pay for my grievous blunder.

Tears of regret, shame and panic plagued my walk home, where I hid in the closet for hours, despite my mother’s pleas to discuss the problem. I sat in the darkness, crying, imagining what would become of us. Mama would have to go to work. We would be poor, and everyone would point fingers at me, knowing I was the reason my Daddy was in jail.

When Daddy came home that evening, it took him about four seconds to grab me by the collar and pulled me out of the closet. Then, he whacked my bottom. Daddy always could get to the seat of a problem in about four seconds. He bellowed, “What the heck is going on?”

Between tears and trembling, I confessed my disobedience to come straight home and how I’d lost my library book down a hundred foot deep hole. I decided not to mention the part about him going to jail. He'd know as soon as the library police showed up to arrest him.

After dinner, Daddy drove me back to the gigantic, monstrous hole that yawned beneath the boards at least a hundred feet deep, the hole that had swallowed my precious book, the hole that was the cause of his impending incarceration, the ruination of my family, and my everlasting shame.

“Stand back, now,” He said. Daddy leaned over the yawning cavern, reached down with his long arm…and pulled out the book!

Things were easier back then, when I was six years old. No matter what happened, it seemed that I could always count on Daddy to solve enormous, life- shattering problems with one sweep of his big hand. I remember that I snuggled against his shoulder as we drove home, with my very own library book clutched tightly to my chest.

4
Jul

A "Revolutionary" Concept - Independence- A Short Story

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

Millie was the last person Alice wanted to talk to. They had nothing in common. Millie’s husband, George, collected Revolutionary War memorabilia. Their house looked like a war museum. 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? It starts in an hour. They’re having a military band, Viet Nam veteran speakers, and fireworks after the meeting. You’re welcome to ride over with us.”

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

The 4th of July was such a nuisance. The fireworks always made the neighborhood dogs bark and the next morning, the streets were a cluttered mess.

Alice went to bed early. She pulled the pillow over her head and closed her eyes…It helped block out the sound of fireworks down the street.

Alice jerked and twisted. What? What was that? She opened her eyes to find herself standing in the middle of a battlefield! The boom-boom of nearby firecrackers became the sound of a beating drum. The sun blazed down on men wearing brilliant red jackets. Sweat poured from their faces as they marched in a straight row toward an outline of shadowy figures in buckskin, hiding behind rocks and trees.

Redcoats? English soldiers? A battlefield? She didn’t belong here! She couldn’t be here. That’s it!  She must be dreaming. Wake up! Wake up! The field would soon be littered with dead and dying men. She turned to run.

Someone grabbed her arm, and yanked her down behind a rock. Her heart pounded. She could smell the sweat on the man crouched beside her.

Grimaces lined the faces of the older soldiers, knowing what was to come. “Hold the line, men. Steady now.”

Younger soldiers, terrified of the unknown, sniffled as each beat of their drum brought the redcoats closer. Though the ragtag soldiers were outnumbered by the advancing troops, they had the advantage with 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, step by step.

Alice 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 stood the redcoats, frozen in time, guns at the ready, feet in mid-step. The flag drooped, unmoving. The drummer’s drumstick hung above his drum, suspended in mid-air.

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

She opened her eyes and blinked against the darkness in her room. “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, thinking of the day when her dream had been the reality for young men and old who would not live to see another sunrise.

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

Alice 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 later from wounds inflicted during battle
17,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from disease
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers were wounded or maimed
1 in 20 men

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.

Alice called and left a message on Millie’s answering machine. “This is Alice. 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.”

Alice returned to her bedroom. Boom! Another firecracker cracked in the night. Alice stared at her reflection in the dresser mirror. “Does that child have any idea what he’s celebrating or why? We all take so much for granted.”

 

28
Apr

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer - An Excerpt

Re-read my 2015 novel again this week and was surprised what a wonderful story it was. Here is a short (edited) excerpt from Brett and Kimberlee's ride across the Texas prairie. Hope you purchase the book.

Heavy clouds formed overhead as Kimberlee’s mare plodded behind Juan with Brett as they rode single file through the underbrush into the valley. Kimberlee caught her breath as she reached the grassy meadow and the wild horses came into view. A streak of lightning crackled across the sky and distant thunder rumbled.

Quantum reared, and took off at a gallop, his black mane whipping as he led his mares away.

Brett gave his mount a kick and sprinted past Kimberlee and Juan. Kimberlee’s horse lunged after him. Kimberlee gripped the body of the horse with her knees. The wind beat at her face. Her heart thumped in time with the thundering hooves. Brett raced beside her, creating a cloud of dust and wind and noise. Adrenaline mingled with terror as she reveled in the exhilaration.

Her body throbbed with each stride of the beast’s surging muscles, driving through her legs. The breath in her throat burned as her mare rode neck to neck with Brett. His horse’s mane whipped against her hands, stinging like fire. Never had she felt so close to death and yet… so alive.

She turned and stared into the horse’s giant brown eye, the dark and the light of it looking like land and water on a distant planet floating through the universe. Her heart soared as she became one with the wind and the grass and the dirt and the noise, overcome with abounding joy. She swallowed a sob, as the ecstasy of the moment washed over her and she wished it would never end. Quantum’s herd pulled away and seemed to disappear in a cloud of dust. Kimberlee’s mare skidded to a halt beside Brett.

Juan pounded up behind them and pulled his horse to a halt. “What’s the big idea?” His face was as dark as the clouds overhead. “You both could have been killed!” Lightning streaked and thunder rumbled.

Wow! That was great. I’ve never had such a thrill.” Brett beat his hat against his leather chaps. Still panting from the exertion, Kimberlee could only nod. Her body tingled, unable to express what she felt.

“We need to get moving. These summer storms can be vicious. We don’t want to be caught out here on the prairie.” Juan turned his horse back toward the ranch. As great drops of rain pelted down, Kimberlee sniffed and tasted the scent of it. Little puffs of dust bounced in the dry earth. The smell of damp earth would forever remind her of this wonderful afternoon.

An unexplained lump rose up in her throat. The exhilaration of following Quantum’s herd filled her heart to overflowing. She couldn’t gulp down her sobs. Rain mingled with tears streaming down her face.

Brett slid off his horse and handed the reins to Juan. “What is it, honey?” He pulled her from the saddle and wrapped her in his arms.

“It was all so wonderful. The wind, the lightning... I… I’ve never felt anything like that before. I needed to be a part of it, to become one with all this. I needed to remember that God is in control and we are powerless to change what happens around us. I don’t know how to explain it.” Tears trickled down her face.

Brett dabbed her cheeks with his handkerchief. “I understand. I−”

Kimberlee pulled her head back. “No. You don’t. I don’t understand it myself. We were riding and the thunder and lightning… It was like, all at once I understood.”

“Tell me, honey. Understood what?”

“With all that’s happened here on the ranch, I didn’t think I could go on. I was losing control, losing… me. I didn’t think I could bear it.”

Kimberlee looked out across the meadow where the rain poured onto the dry earth, and then back at Brett. “Now I understand. It’s not important, none of it. What’s important is you and me, our family.” She waved her hand. “The land… and this. Quantum and his herd. They’re important and the lightning and the thunder. She smiled. “I’m ready now. Let’s go home.”

A streak of lightning slashed across the sky and distant thunder crashed as the storm moved further across the plains. As suddenly as it started, the rain stopped and the sun came out.

The bushes sparkled with clustered rain droplets, catching the sun and glistening like diamonds. The hills jutted up from the prairie floor like mounds of cookie dough. A brilliant rainbow of red, yellow, green and blue circled the top of the canyon. And, there again was the contrariness of the prairie, intense and challenging one minute, and God’s beautiful garden the next.

I can send you an autographed paperback for $15.00 (free shipping).  Email: Elaine.Faber @mindcandymysteries.com or Amazon e-book is just $3.99

8
Feb

The Valentine's Day Chocolate Kiss

This is a repeat post, but always a good one when Valentine's Day is near.

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 for Valentine's Day. 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.”  I remember how I said those words and tears sting my eyes. I didn’t mean it. I reach for the cell phone in my purse and touch instead, 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 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. There are no Valentine flowers. Where can he be?

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

 

9
Dec

The True Meaning of Christmas

The days grew shorter, the air crisper, the nights longer, and leaves whispering on the roof awakens each Christmas tree bird wrapped snug 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 tree branch. And though all his friends were lovely, he felt he was the most beautiful Christmas tree bird of all.

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

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

“It’s true,” said the saucy little bird. “But, the tree won’t be complete 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. It would serve you right if you got left behind this year.”

The Christmas bird trembled. “That couldn’t happen, could it? It’s not that you aren’t handsome, but my tail feathers are fluffier than yours, and…my…paint is─”

Tut tut. Not…another…word.”

For several days, the little bird lay in his crinkly paper as the thought haunted him. “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, the Christmas birds heard footsteps on the attic steps. They held their breath, as their box was lifted from the shelf and carried down the stairs. “Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree,” the little Christmas bird whispered to Gold Bird.

One by one, the Christmas birds were lifted from the box. The young bird heard his friends squeal as they were hung on the tree. He heard music and children laughing. He even smelled 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. “What happened? I’m still here.” Overlooked, his comfortable bed was now a prison, his beautiful body still swaddled in crinkly tissue paper. He heard muffled Christmas sounds. 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 lay alone in the box. On Christmas Eve, the family gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Christmas tree bird imagined his friends hanging on the tree branches. “The round ones may not be as beautiful as me,” 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.”

“I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like the baby Jesus.” The little bird 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 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, the crinkling tissue paper in his box lifted and he felt the warmth from the fireplace. “Look, Mommy! It’s another Christmas birdie. He has a red tear in his eye. Can we hang him on the Christmas tree?”

Daddy raised her up and she hung the little bird near Gold Bird. The joyous Christmas bird felt the love as the family opened gifts. The spicy aroma of gingerbread drifted in the air. Christmas bird wiggled with joy as the family sang carols. At last, he was exactly where he wanted to be. Gold Bird swung around from a nearby branch. “Welcome to Christmas, little bird. Did you learn anything?”

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

 

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.

 

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