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.

 

18
Apr

How Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain Evolved

I’ve published four cozy cat mysteries, starring Black Cat, who, with the aid of his ancestors’ memories, helps his ‘person’ solve mysteries and murder.

 

That was followed by three humorous historical fiction novels set during WWII. An elderly retired government undercover agent, Mrs. Odboddy, believes Nazi spies and conspiracies abound. She is determined to expose and bring the miscreants to justice.

 

Thinking it was time to move on to something new, I remembered a somewhat humorous short story I wrote several years ago about a sewer truck owner. While pumping out a septic tank in a rural community one day, he stumbles upon a drug lab, and uses his truck to facilitate his escape.

 

Sewer truck driver? Cozy mystery? Humor? Sounded like s story that begged to be done in a full length novel, something right up my alley.

 

The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain takes place in the CA Sierra foothills where folks still have wells and septic tanks. Despite my intentions that the story follow a typical humorous cozy mystery concept, as so often in the past, when I started to write, the characters took over and sent me in a completely different direction. Where did a Native American legendary spirit come from?

 

So the story concept” Lou Shoemaker owns a sewer truck, the Pooper Scooper. Her business takes her into the mountainous region pumping out rural septic tanks. There ensues a budding romance with Lou and Deputy Sheriff, Nate Darling. Nate’s sister, Suzanna, has mysteriously disappeared three months previously following a minor motor vehicle accident and has not been seen since. The government is up to some shenanigans, pursuing plans to build a mysterious facility near the town without the knowledge of the city fathers, and the local businessmen aren’t happy. When a drug dealer starts selling drugs to the teens on the Native American reservation nearby, it seems their legendary Spirit Woman, said to protect the community, needs to take a hand. Sightings of a woman and her pet mountain lion are frequently seen at moments of crisis. Nate is even convinced that the elusive woman is his missing sister, suffering from amnesia.

 

It remains to be seen if the Spirit Woman, real or imagination, can bring about a resolution to the town’s troubles and help find Suzanna.

 

Check out the book on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/y7rp7f3x  (ebook $3.99) or contact me directly at Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com  for an autographed paperback. $14.00 and free shipping.

 

 

 

25
Feb

The Elevator Pitch - or If I ever Meet an Agent

The blurb on the back of my latest mystery, “The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountainbriefly outlines the storyline. ‘While the government plans to build a secret facility, housing tract, and big box store that will easily put the local merchants out of business, someone is selling drugs to the teenagers on the nearby Native American reservation…

 The frequent  sightings of a mysterious woman in the woods accompanied by a mountain lion has Deputy Sheriff Nate Darling wondering if she is his missing sister, out of her mind and running with a mountain lion, or is she the legendary Native American Spirit Woman sent to help the troubled town?”

As an author, I always hold out hope for the chance to catch the attention of the big publishing house, but these days, agents are only interested in working with someone famous or possessing a platform of 10,000. We, of lesser fame and fortune must resort to Indie Publishing and self-promotion. Beyond writing a compelling plot and interesting dialogue, we must master the skills of publicist, bookkeeper, full time blogger, cover artist, and skilled orator, always keeping an eye open for opportunities to sell a book we happen to have handy in a large canvas bag.

I’ve become passably competent at most of the above skills, but I recently learned of another talent to master…In the off chance that I should run into that elusive literary agent on an elevator, or sipping a Caramel Macchiato at Starbucks, I must  memorize what is called in the publishing world, an “elevator pitch.” Once I have the agent’s momentary attention, I must deliver a compelling ‘hook,” and within sixty seconds, convince him everyone from a Texas cowboy to a New York stockbroker will buy my book with his last green dollar, and that it will become a Best Seller.

I have practiced my ‘elevator pitch’ in front of a three-way mirror and perfected where to smile, when to pause for special effect, and when to use hand motions to emphasize the final sentence.

Unfortunately, I fear if I should ever be fortunate enough to find myself on that much discussed elevator, in spite of good intentions and hours of practice, I expect the conversation would more likely go something like this.

Uh… You’re that Random House guy, right! Wait. Let me push this button and stop the elevator. I never thought… I have some notes here somewhere. Where is that paper? Well, never mind. I wrote a book, see? You’re not going anywhere special, right? About that book I wrote… You’re gonna love it. It’s called The Spirit Woman of Lockleer Mountain. Do you like cats? There’s a mountain lion. That’s a cat, right? This lady goes missing in an accident and then there’s a mountain lion and a Native American spirit woman shows up. So, about this cat…see….

******

You can purchase this e-book at Amazon for just $3.99 at the following ling. http://tinyurl.com/y7rp7f3x   Let me know what you think.

7
Feb

How to Make Love

Some years ago I found my mother’s teenage scrapbook from (approximately 1930). In it was a handwritten copy of a poem called How to Make Love. It was sent to her by an admirer, Arthur Larson, from Big Falls, Minnesota around 1929-30. I don’t know if Arthur was the author of the poem, but I think more likely this was a poem or song. Copying song lyrics or poems, and mailing them to friends seemed to be a popular pastime among teenagers, (who didn’t have computers or TV’s, remember. Some had no phones).  Mother’s scrapbook contained several different clever ‘sayings’ and poems or song lyrics.

If anyone has any information about its origins, please let me know.

                           How to Make Love (author unknown)

Do you want your girl to love you? Do you want to be her beau?

Then I’ll tell you how to do it, boys. I’ll tell you all I know.

Put on your bib and tucker and scrub your face real hard.

Part your hair right in the middle, boys, and slick it down with lard.

Put your dirty hat on sideways. Pull your Sunday pants up short

Get a red bow tie and a rubber band, and show her you’re a sport.

Get yourself some drug store perfume, and sprinkle it on your clothes.

And a dime’s worth will be plenty, boys. To tickle her little nose.

Use your buggy and your harness, and curry your trotting mare.

And buy her a pretty lasso, boys, and get your lady fair.

Tie a ribbon on your buggy whip, get a pair of yellow gloves

And take her to the county fair, and buy her what she loves.

Tell her she is prettier than a movie actress

Talk about her pretty curls, and about her handsome dress.

Get yourself a gold front tooth, and a Sears and Roebuck ring

A double note harmonica, and learn to play and sing.

Talk about her family, her granddad and her pap.

And before you know it, she’s sitting on your lap.

Tell her she is so pretty, she takes away your breath.

And before you know it, she’s a hugging you to death.

But, if she does not love you, boys. Just make her jealous then.

Tell her you love somebody else and she is just a friend.

Take her out to the dances and flirt with other girls.

Hug um’ close and whisper soft, and get them all awhirl.

Laugh out loud with the others, but to your girl don’t speak

And when she comes around you, boys, just turn from her your cheek.

Just follow these directions and she will be your wife

Or else she’ll marry somebody else… and hate you all her life!

 

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.

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
Apr

A Day in Salzburg with Kimberlee

This is a scene from the dual tale, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary. While the cats face their own challenges in Fern Lake, Kimberlee has gone to Austria and Germany where she follows clues to a lost treasure in gold coins, stolen during WWII. One day, while site-seeing alone, she visits Salzburg. The following is her experiences in the city. https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s (Amazon e-book $3.99)

 

As Kimberlee passed through the countryside and the forests, the terrain varied and the road rose and fell. Around every corner, another picture post card vista appeared. With no particular agenda, she stopped frequently to take a photograph.

In some green meadows, the only sound was the tinkling of shiny brass bells, hanging from the collars of a flock of sheep or a small group of black and white cows. In other places, the gentle terrain rose up into a fine mist clinging to the side of hillside. Hidden in the distant mist, tinkling bells confirmed grazing animals, unaware of how their bells produced such stirring in the heart of a captivated tourist.

The vineyards on the hills and meadows became fewer as Kimberlee approached Salzburg where Mozart first played his harpsicord and wrote melodies. Hundreds of years later, people would still know his name and enjoy his music.

Ancient ivy covered buildings with sagging tile roofs covered the courtyards along the sidewalk. Church spires peaked out above nearby houses with red tile rooftops. She paused beside a church with dates carved into the walls reading 1200-1400. How incredible! One church was said to be 1000 years old!

Violin music drew her toward the town square where a street musician stood on the steps of an ancient church, playing Ave Maria. Pigeons flew from rooftop to rooftop, appearing to be as mesmerized by the music as the cluster of tourists gathered on the steps.

The haunting melody echoed around the square. It touched her heart as it carried her away from this world and back into another time. It was easy to imagine the cobbled streets filled with horse-drawn carts. Perhaps a princess and her ladies in waiting passed by, or a knight in shining armor, after a joust with a dragon.

The musician drew his bow across the strings and as he lowered his hand, the final note hung in the air. The tourists stood spellbound and silent. Another moment, and the spell was broken and more generous visitors tossed money into the violin case at his feet.

Kimberlee opened her purse. “That was absolutely lovely! Thank you.” She put money into his case and wandered on.

She ran to catch a tram climbing to the top of the hill where a medieval castle overlooked the city, a cold and barren place with steps everywhere. The rooms were filled with armor, ancient guns, javelins, chains and torture devices. Looking down from the balconies into the valley was like peeking into the pages of a storybook. Rainy mists on the distant mountains beckoned hikers upward into the cold crisp air. Off to the left, rivers, towers, cathedrals, graveyards, and church spires. Off to the right, cobble-stone streets with horse-drawn carriages, sidewalk cafes, musicians, and archways, where street vendors hawked their wares on the street corners.

Returning to the city below, Kimberlee came upon a street artist, his back against the wall, his easel and backpack by his side. The watercolor drying on his easel was of the scene where the musician had just played his stirring aria on the church steps. Unable to resist the desire to memorialize the moment, she purchased the picture. She would have it framed and hang it near her bedroom, where it would be a constant reminder of the musician, his poignant melody and the day spent in the magical city.

 

 

 

10
Apr

Lesson of the Apple Boxes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I gulped. “No. I forgot.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

22
Jan

MORNING MATCH - A short story by a visitor - Judy Vaughan

Today, I'm sharing a short story by my writer friend, Judy Vaughan.

Judy  grew up in Northern New Mexico surrounded by sacred mountains and engrossed in the lives of horses and other animals. She left the family ranch for boarding school in Colorado and then attended Carleton College and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. She has composed stories since childhood, and began to hone the craft of writing after forty years practicing neurology.

Morning Match  

This morning, before I raise my eyelids, the cat’s paw-steps crinkle the surface of the comforter pulled to my chin. His indentations push down. They are somatosensory taps along my thigh. He might be walking in snow while I am the ground below.

A dream vanishes into the ringtone of the smart phone alarm, set today to prompt me to meet the washing machine repairman during a “window” from eight to one. “Ask him to come as early as possible,” I had told the receptionist yesterday though I have no other deadline short of their arbitrary “window.”

Awake now, I give Match his morning hug and cue him back to his sleep-spot on top of the fuzzy acrylic coverlet, folded at the end of the bed. He bypasses it, and jumps to the floor, his crepuscular self on the move at daybreak.

I don a tattered robe and hobble to the kitchen. I push the start button on my single service coffee maker.

Bangs and scuffles make me imagine the repairman at the door, sounds not unlike someone organizing their tools outside the home of a scheduled client. But it’s way too early; It’s just Match banging the door of the linen closet.

I think of all the poems that begin with the author at the breakfast nook, ceramic cup in hand, interrupting their writing to muse over the décor, the kettle or some bird outside the window. On a segue way to a solitary mood.

And there’s my bird through the sliding glass door. In the yard, an overgrown lavender shrub feeds the local hummingbirds through the damp spring. Last year’s nests stand out in the skeletons of my neighbor’s trees, and a green male Anna’s clicks as he explores the clustered back yards in my cul-de-sac. The click call, generated by a pop of air from his throat is as loud as a mobile phone notification.

I open the glass door.

The cat hears it. I let him slip through a narrow opening and crouch behind the locked screen. That’s his catio. He can’t see the bird clearly at his age, but he chirps his attention. I check the latch. Match wants to go out---the loamy smell and the swoop of the birds lure us both. Volunteer lettuce has sprouted in the wine barrel; I might broadcast a few more seeds later today.

He rattles the screen latch again and meows.

“I get it Match, but, no.” I close the sliding glass and distract him with fresh water. I push a cup of Sweet and Creamy coffee through the machine into a souvenir mug that uses three x-es to write “Relaxxx in Ireland.”

Match never wanted to be an indoor cat. As a kitten with a demanding meow, he appeared at my daughter’s home, black with white markings, the most prominent of which was a 5-millimeter spot on his forehead. A dot. Like Match.Com, the dating service that was easing me into grandmotherhood twelve years ago.

Adopted into my home, he was exhausting. His dog-like demand for my attention included biting and scratching to initiate communication. If I kept him busy, he was a lot of fun. As in tricks. He would retrieve small toy mice or bring me a toilet paper roll as a gift. I easily taught him to jump when cued around furniture or through a hoop. Escape was his favorite game, and one day he succeeded. He disappeared.

I sip the coffee and relive the grief I felt. How I let my neighbor convince me to take in an elderly stray and made her take him back the next day. How I told everyone about my “Labrador retriever cat.” For years. Tearing up every time.

Five years later, I got the call. “Did you lose a cat? ‘Match Dot Com’ on his microchip? He’s at the County Animal Shelter. He’s injured. Do you want him back?”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes,” I said.

When I lifted his skeletal body from the shelter crate to my bosom, he snuggled and purred. He’d been found eleven miles from my house.

I move aside to let the repairman do his job. I get a rag and clean the grimy surfaces of the washer revealed during the repair. The technician, Gregor, is polite, but not as chatty as I’d want. I’ve only recently learned to restrain myself from asking about national origins. The price is as quoted, and the app on his smart phone processes my credit card. Match leaves his strangers-are-here hiding place seconds after Gregor’s van pulls away.

I reheat the last ounce of Sweet and Creamy, sit back down and open the Mac. Match jumps to the other chair then onto the kitchen table where he looks at me with an owl-like stare. His eyes, once pure green, are now checkered with iris atrophy. They look like the mosaic eyes of a Byzantine virgin. A scar has widened one tear duct. A larger one in his right axilla leaves a patch of skin devoid of hair and warm to the touch. It marks the site where an open wound almost sent him to euthanasia when he was brought in from his five years of feral life.

I must have half a dozen pictures of him on Facebook in this very pose, the owl stare hinting at a possible stealth attack, or maybe just a wise proof-read.

I suspect all those poets had a cat.

*******

Judy lives in Elk Grove, California, and writes with Elk Grove Writers and Artists. Works in progress include her New Mexico memoir, Strawberry Roan. Her stories have placed in short story contests and have been published in NCPA Anthologies.

She is a member of the California Writers Club, Northern California Publishers and Authors, and the New Mexico Book Association.

Contact her at jfbvaughan@comcast.net.

 

24
Oct

REPRINT: Harvest Jack's Rebellion A Halloween Story


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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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