3
May

ALL THINGS CAT - A short story - The No Fly Zone

My latest book, All Things Cat contains twenty-one short stories featuring cats from diverse walks of life and varying periods of time. Some are ‘first-person’ accounts, written by anonymous felines, abandoned by his master, as the prize in an Old West poker game, routing a burglar in a WWII meat market, or adopting the First Family in the White House. Other stories, inspired by news events, contest prompts, holidays, like the story below, were inspired by the legend of an alien space ship in Roswell, New Mexico.

All Things Cat sells on Amazon for just $2.99. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

The No Fly Zone - A short Story from ALL THINGS CAT

Growing up in Roswell, New Mexico, I heard everything from alien crash sites to alien autopsies in secret labs. Dad renamed our business The Alien Bakery in the 50’s when the tourists flood into town, hoping for a UFO sighting. We specialize in decorated cookies shaped like UFO space ships, the Cat from Outer Space and flying saucer shaped cookies.

In the 90’s, we took to the internet and advertised our cookies on UFO blog sites. Our cookies are a big hit with the Roswell tourists.

Every 4th of July, Roswell holds a three-day UFO Festival that attracts thousands of tourists from around the world. Our seven employees work ten-hour shifts, cutting out cookies with cloud-punch cookie cutters, gearing up for the holiday crowds. Dad and I stayed up way past our bedtime last night, putting final colored frosting on the Cat from Outer Space’s collar, and red-hot candies around the bottom of the space ship cookies.

Folks get a kick out of Grandpa’s original sign over the door: SHUT THE DOOR. THIS IS A NO FLY ZONE!

Old Man Foster, blind since childhood runs the newspaper stand next door. He sells papers from all over the country and souvenir copies of the Roswell Daily Record July 8, 1947 issue announcing RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region. The military debunked the story, declaring it remnants of a weather balloon. To this day, UFO-ers are convinced the government covered up a crashed space ship. Dad and Old Man Foster, both experts in astronomy, spend hours talking about the solar system.

Old Man Foster was a child when the alleged space ship landed on his dad’s ranch. Once the word got out, tourists flocked to his news stand, asking questions. Though glad to talk about the solar system and probability of intelligent life in outer space, when questioned about his father’s ranch in 1947, he’d decline. No amount of bribes or persuasion convinced him to break his silence.

This morning, Mirabel sold cookies at the counter. Jocelyn rang up the sales. Dad and I were frosting cookies when there was a commotion at the new stand. We rushed out and found Old Man Foster on the sidewalk, his hair matted with blood, a brick beside his head. I called 911 and we knelt beside him. Dad pulled Old Man Foster into his lap. He began to mumble. “Gotta tell before I die.”

Dad smoothed his hair. “You’re not going to die.”

“The day it crashed. Dad and I…out in the field. It burst through a hole in the cloud, flames shooting out behind... Headed straight for us. Dad pushed me down. ‘Don’t look,’ he yelled. I watched it come down…. So bright! Tried to cover my eyes. A giant flash and…and… I woke up in my room…blind ever since. The military came and took it away. They told Dad not to talk...or they’d put him in jail…”

“Rest now, Mr. Foster. Help is coming.” I patted his hand. Could his story be true? Blinded by the UFO the world declared a myth? An ambulance pulled to the curb. Two men loaded Old Man Foster and roared off down the road.

After dinner, I called the hospital. They said Old Man Foster was never admitted. He wasn’t in any hospital in neighboring counties. Someone said the ambulance headed toward Edwards Air Field where Area 51 is located, but why would they take him there? He’s just an old man with a head injury. Did someone hear him talking about the crashed UFO in 1947? Why would it matter what he said? Who would believe him?

6
Apr

Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot Historical Fiction

How many people download books on their reader when they hear that the book is free on a particular day? For the past three days, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot is FREE at Amazon (04-03-19 through 04-06-19).You can access this free book at http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

This hysterical, historical novel is set during WWII and elderly, busybody Mrs. Odboddy considers herself a hometown patriot, fighting the war from the home front. Having served as an under cover agent during WWI, she assumes that the homeland has Nazi spies as well as conspiracies that must be routed out and she's the one to do it.

Knitting sox for the soldiers, collecting cans and newspapers, serving cookies at the USO, and keeping watch at the coast watchtower for enemy invaders keeps her plenty busy. Imagine her surprised when her old WWI lover shows up with romance on his mind. Distracting as he may be, he doesn't keep her from solving what she believes is a ration book black market conspiracy or coming to the aid of Mrs. Roosevelt when she comes to town.

Toss in several lesser known historical events and a romance with her lovely red-headed granddaughter and the town doctor, and you have a rollicking novel that will keep you laughing.

Once you've met Mrs. Odboddy, you'll be glad to know that there are two more Mrs. Odboddy novels available at Amazon for $3.99
Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, and
Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger
(and a fourth to be published soon.

24
Mar

The Sure-Fire Cozy Mystery Template

Let’s pretend for a minute, we’re an author considering writing a new cozy mystery series. What is the secret of a successful cozy mystery series? After careful analysis of numerous successful cozy mystery series,’ we begin to notice a certain template to the storyline of each novel.

If we follow this template of success, our story should begin with a beautiful, blonde, female sleuth, recently divorced with, or without child. She must have a dog or a cat to capture the hearts of animal lovers. The pet doesn’t have to solve crimes, but it helps. Her sweetheart, (who likely resists a committed relationship) is connected to an inept police department, which gives her access to official information and documents generally withheld from the public. She must have a quirky friend, either of another race, gender or combination there-of.

She also needs an unusual profession or hobby. The best jobs or hobbies have already been snagged by other popular mystery series’. These include book store owners, catering services, dog groomers, travel agents, writers, pet sitters, private detectives, cruise ship directors, bakeries, college professors, librarians, etc.

For any hope of a successful series, she’ll need a career that hasn’t been done to death, but one that gives her access to plenty of potential murder victims or crimes. It is a series, remember? She will need lots of suspects. In the end she must succumb to temptation and make terrible judgment choices and at the last moment be rescued by her boyfriend.

We begin the cozy mystery template. Let’s have our potential sleuth own her own septic tank truck giving her access to plenty of overflowing back yards where she is able to spot various, nefarious ‘going’s-on’.
The lady septic pumper-outer and her quirky sidekick find a body in the pump house. Proceed to red herrings, unrequited love, and suspicious characters. Sadly, all have alibis.

Toss in some plumbing trivia, stopped up toilets, (a humorous scene or two involving overflowing toilets, or embarrassing bathroom scenes) and move right on to the climax where our heroine agrees to meet the Home Depot plumbing salesman in the plumbing warehouse, but neglects to tell anyone where she’s going. This is vital to any cozy mystery, a must-be-included situation.

The killer-plumbing salesman strings her up to the rafters, because she’s ‘flushed him out.’ Her death is imminent. However, her dog (or cat, raccoon or gerbil), tracking her scent, leads her detective boyfriend, having finally realized his true commitment to her, to the warehouse.

He arrives just in the nick of time. The killer is apprehended, every toilet is unstopped, and the heroine rides off into the sunset in her sewer truck.

This is a sure-fire formula to a red-hot New York best seller. Several folks have suggested I write this novel, and, stay tuned, I just might do it.

Check out my already published books on Amazon:

Black Cat’s Legacy, Thumper pursues a cold case murder. http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm

Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Thumper goes to Texas and confronts an embezzling attorney. http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Black Cat and his companion are left behind following an MVA... http://tinyurl.com/y6vhncq

Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot, Eccentric Mrs. Odboddy encounters Nazi spies and conspiracies on every hand. http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

Mrs. Odboddy-Undercover Courier, Mr. O carries ‘secret documents’ by train to President Roosevelt. http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb

Mrs. Odboddy-And Then There was a Tiger, Falsely accused, Agnes seeks the missing war bond money. https://tinyurl.com/v96qhuv

All Things Cat, Twenty-one short stories about cats. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htaj

http://www.mindcandymysteries.com

26
Feb

Angels Shall have Guard Over Thee

(This is a much edited scene from Black Cat and the Accidental Angel -- due to space on the website.)

The flagman flipped his sign to STOP.

John stomped his brakes. 9:50 A.M. Why hadn’t he left sooner? Work delays along the mountain highway between Nevada City and Reno were not unexpected this time of year.
Reno - 62 miles

John’s throat tightened. He had to get his Emu hatchlings to the airport by 12:30 P.M.! If they missed the flight, what could he say to his buyers? “Yeah! You trusted me, but I didn’t account for delays, so we missed the plane.” If he lost the sales, like dominoes, he could lose everything. His ranch–his business–even lose the custody of his daughter.
Reno - 60 miles

Traffic crept forward. Another flagman. John whacked the steering wheel. “Let’s go!” Perspiration beaded his forehead. They have to fix a landslide today. I have to make the flight in time. Lord, show me the way.

Another road worker stopped traffic. John’s truck inched forward and came to a stop beside a hitch-hiker. What was a hitch-hiker doing on a mountain road so far from Reno?

The hiker caught John’s eye and extended his thumb.

I suppose he wants a ride. What could he say? 'I’m going your way at two miles an hour with an empty passenger seat, but somebody once said hitch-hikers might steal your money or kill you.’ What harm could this kid do? If he was planning to rob someone, he chose the wrong pickup truck full of baby Emus. John rolled down the passenger window. “Ride, Mister?”

The kid’s expression seemed to say, “Life isn’t so good lately. Can you help?”

John unlocked the door. “Get in.” What did he have to lose besides his money or his life?

The hiker dropped his backpack to the floor and slid into the truck “Thanks. I’m Peter.” He needed a haircut and a shave. His jacket was frayed and stained with perspiration. Oddly, his fingernails were clean and trimmed.

“I’m John. Nice to meet you. Where you headed?”

“My uncle’s ranch is right on the main highway, just outside Reno. Could you drop me there?”

The cars crept forward. John checked his watch. “I’ve got a plane to catch at 12:30 P.M. If I miss the flight, I’m cooked.” He jerked his head toward the chicks in the rear.

Peter tapped the dashboard clock. “There’s plenty of time. Once we get past the roadwork, it’s less than an hour to Reno.”

“You don’t understand what’s riding on getting my chicks on that flight.” John waved toward the flagman.

“Couldn’t you ship them tomorrow? What difference would one day make?”

John huffed. “Ever hear of an Emu? They get six-feet-tall. The airlines won’t take them past two weeks old. That’s today and they’re already 30 inches tall. I could lose everything if I…” Whoa! Hold it. He’d just met the guy ten minutes ago and was spilling his guts to him. John shrugged. “Look. I shouldn’t dump on you. Let’s say, I have to make this flight, and leave it at that. Okay?”

Peter leaned back and sighed. “You’re not the only guy in this truck with troubles.”

“You’re too young for troubles. What’s your story?”

Peter nodded toward the floor frowned. “Huh! See this backpack? That’s everything I own. I’ve got the world’s troubles on my shoulders, and that’s the truth.”

John shrugged. “If you say so.” The cars inched forward. 10:22 A.M. Just over an hour to make the flight.

“By the way. Do you know your Bible?” Peter asked.

John cheeks flushed. “I…I…I guess so. Maybe not as well as−”

“What you said about your chicks reminds me... Listen… He is my refuge and my fortress: He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou trust: His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.”

John’s shoulders relaxed. “Under His wings shalt thou trust... Say! That’s good.”

Before long, they were in the valley with traffic moving along at normal speed.

Reno - 13 miles

John checked his wristwatch. 10:49 A.M. “I’m going to make it!”

Peter pointed to a red marker on a driveway beside the road. “That’s my uncle’s place.”

John stopped beside the marker. “Should I drive you up to the house?”

“Nah! I don’t want to keep you. You’ve got–”

“Uh-oh! What’s going on up there?” Another long line of cars had stopped a short way ahead. “Must be an accident. I'll never make it now.”

“Don’t worry. See that dirt road?” Peter pointed off to the right. “It goes about a mile and doubles back to the highway, beyond all that traffic.”

“Sounds good. Thanks…and for the encouragement. Means a lot…”

Peter waved and trudged up the driveway.

John’s truck kicked up dust as he turned onto the dirt road. “Wait!” Peter’s backpack lay on the floor! He hit the brakes. Why hadn’t he taken it when he got out of the truck? "There’s just enough time to get to the airport. If I go back, I might miss the flight. But, it’s all he owns… I have to go back.” John turned the truck, raced back down the dirt road and turned into Peter’s uncle’s driveway where he spotted a woman watering flowers.

“Morning.” John hefted the backpack. “Could you give this to Peter?”

“Peter?”

“Yeah. He left it in my−”

“I don’t know any Peter.”

John’s eyebrows rose. “I just dropped him at the end of your driveway. Said this was his uncle's place.”

The woman shook her head. “Not in my driveway.” She backed toward the house.

“Sorry. I must be mistaken.” Back at the road, the red marker flapped on the pole. This was the right place. John unzipped Peter’s backpack to look for a phone number or an address…. He pulled out underwear, toothbrush, a notebook. A paper fell from in John’s lap.

Highway 20 - August 31 - 9:50 AM Red pickup truck
There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague
come nigh thy dwelling.
For He shall give His Angels charge over thee…to keep thee
in all thy ways.

Chill bumps careened down John’s neck. Today was August 31. He’d picked up Peter on Highway 20, at exactly 9:50 A.M. “He was waiting for me! How is that possible?”

Lightning slashed overhead. Dark clouds gathered beyond the foothills. There’d be rain by nightfall. John glanced at his watch. 11:15 A.M. .There was just enough time… time to get the chicks to their flight. Maybe he’d even get home before the storm hit.

Faith! For He shall give His Angels charge over thee…

Check out my books at Amazon in print and e-books
Black Cat’s Legacy http://tinyurl.com/lrvevgm
Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu
Black Cat and the Accidental Angel http://tinyurl.com/07scsm2
Mrs. Odboddy-Hometown Patriot http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv
Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb
Mrs. Odboddy – And Then There Was a Tiger http://tinyurl.com/y96qshuv
All Things Cat – (short cat story collection) http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

14
Feb

A Valentine Story - The Secret of the Bells

This fiction story is based on my own experience in Austria in 1987 when I was told about the 'secret of the bells.'

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 cacophony of 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 an entire 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 enjoy this short story, please check out my published novels on Amazon. Black Cat's Legacy, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, Black Cat and the Accidental Angel, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, Mrs. Odboddy - Undercover Courier, Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger, and All Things Cat (short story collection about cats).

21
Jan

Shoko Interviews Ling-Ling from Mrs. Odboddy Adventures

    Mrs. Odboddy And Then There Was a Tiger

Shoko, a lovely Canadian Siamese cat who writes a daily blog at CANADIAN CATS MEEZERS AT LARGE interviews Ling-Ling, the cat in the book Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger
Ling-Ling - Interviewee

>

Shoko – InterviewerSurmising a rodent intruder in the package, I promptly extricated said rodent by tooth and claw, thus eliminating smelly threat level to zilch.
(a) Did you kill that thing in the package?
Unfortunately, no. It entered the house and in my ensuing pursuit, many household items were severely damaged and it got away. (Not my fault!)

2. Does Mrs. Odboddy's antics ever get in the way of her feeding you on time? Or providing you with enough attention?

Mrs. Odboddy knows better than to neglect my head scratches. But, on rare occasions, when Mrs. O. doesn’t come home at night, I must rely on others to provide my victuals.

3. What is it like living with an eccentric old woman who 'fights the war" from the home front? What makes her a hometown patriot? Feeling compelled to expose conspiracies and spies, and her multiple volunteer projects, Agnes is often away from home. Her amusing tales ‘after the fact’ almost makes up for it, though she is prone to stretch the truth when it puts her in a better light.

4. Since we are both Siamese, we sort of look alike. Is it possible we are related? Descended from royal blood myself, it is doubtful that we are related, though I suppose it is possible. Have you done a DNA test through Ancestry.com yet?

5. When your former mistress, Lilly, is released from Japanese Internment camp, will you go back to live with her or stay with Mrs. O.? Agnes assured me that after the war when Lilly comes home, I will remain here. Now that I’ve blessed their home for some time, I’m sure Agnes would miss my sparkling personality and humble nature.

6. If Mrs. Odboddy can't find a home for the tiger, Shere Khan, any chance she'll bring him home to live with you? How do you feel about that? Oh my stars! It’s one thing to bring a homeless cat into one’s life, but I don’t think Shere Khan would fit in our bed. I don’t plan to give up my spot any time soon.

7. Which of Mrs. Odboddy's three published books is your favorite? My biggest role was in Hometown Patriot (http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv), so I suppose that’s my favorite. When Mrs. O put six chickens in the bathroom, I did a pretty good job of messing with that project, if I do say so myself. MOL!!!

8. Should an elderly lady like Mrs. Odboddy have a boyfriend? Do you want her to marry Godfrey? How would you feel about calling Godfrey…”dad?” Every old lady should have a boyfriend, or a ‘friend-boy,’ as the case may be. Godfrey’s pretty cool but Mrs. O will never marry him. She’s too set in her ways and I expect Godfrey would cramp her style.

9. Why does Mrs. Odboddy keep getting in trouble with Chief Waddlemucker? Because she can’t keep her nose out of everyone’s business and the Chief often gets in the way of her shenanigans. In spite of it all, they are still friends.

10. What can you tell us about Mrs. Odboddy as a secret agent during WWI? Does she still consider herself a secret agent? If I told you all I know about her WWI activities, I’d have to kill ya’. Without a doubt, she’ll never stop tracking down Nazi spies and wartime conspiracies, even though I’d prefer her home scratching my head or knitting! Oh my! There she goes again, and it’s time for my dinner.

Mrs. Odboddy - And Then There Was a Tiger (http://tinyurl.com/y96qshuv)

Check out this and the two other Mrs. Odboddy books available at Amazon $3.99 ebook.
Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot
Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier

25
Dec

Remembering The YEAR OF THE CHRISTMAS STICK

Christmas Stick
This is a reprint of a post I wrote several years ago:

In the early 1980’s, when my kids were young teenagers, we had to close our business, leaving us in considerable debt. Collection agency calls were daily occurrences. One month, I had to pay my house payment with the Visa card. We gave up a 1972 Cadillac convertible to settle a business obligation. The IRS emptied our meager bank account (without notice) to pay the overdue California sales taxes, resulting in bounced checks all over town.

These days we would say we were financially challenged. We said we were "broke." No way was there extra money for a Christmas tree.

My husband brought home a beautiful manzanita branch, mounted it on a base and decorated it with red Christmas balls. Not the traditional Christmas tree, to be sure, but pretty. We set our few presents underneath.

Hubby and I were prepared to deal with the substitute tree, trusting that things would be better next year. The kids hated it, calling it the Christmas Stick. They were embarrassed when their friends, who had lovely trees with presents, came to visit.

We muddled through that financial disaster, took a second mortgage on the house at 14% interest (true) and paid off all the debts. Over the next few months, we borrowed from a family member to pay off the mortgage and by the next Christmas, we were back on our feet. The kids had toys and we had a real Christmas tree.

I was thinking the other day that sometime in our life, we should all have a Year of the Christmas Stick. A year when we can’t afford to buy the children expensive gifts that break before New Year’s Day. A season where we do without the luxuries we’re used to: Christmas trees, lights in the front yard, presents and expensive holiday outings. A year when we walk in the footsteps of folks out there, by virtue of unemployment, natural disaster or illness, who are without a tree and without gifts. For that matter, maybe some are even without a home with a chimney for Santa to slid down, such as this year, following the dreadful fires in L.A. and northern California.

It’s been over fifty years since the Year of the Christmas Stick. This Christmas Day, as our family stumbles from the table loaded down with ham and cookies and all the fixings and we gaze at our ten- foot- tall Christmas tree with gifts piled high,we might remember the Year of The Christmas Stick and it's humbling message.

We are grateful for the important things. We are blessed with our families, our health, our faith, all gifts from God. We remember to share our bounty with those who are in need. We remember that there are some folks who might think they were blessed to have a Christmas Stick with a few presents underneath, even if it was just sweaters and pajamas and sox, like my kids got that one Christmas so long ago.

I remember how hard things were when we closed the business and struggled to make ends meet, wondering how we could make good on our business debts, keep our home and feed our kids. We struggled and persevered and made do with a manzanita branch for a Christmas tree. Looking back, I remember and can't help but thank God for the opportunity to experience the Year of the Christmas Stick. We all learned lessons that I hope we will never forget.

15
Dec

The Christmas Miracle

Anthony crouched next to the telephone booth behind the Rescue Mission. He pushed back a strand of dirty hair and wiped a ragged sleeve across his nose. He was sick of hot dogs and beans at the Rescue Mission and their phony Christmas spirit. He hated the sight of plastic Christmas trees, fake Santa’s and the city’s hollow Christmas cheer.

Last Christmas, his family had hiked through snow to cut down a Christmas tree. He and Mom watched holiday movies, sipping hot chocolate. His name was on most of the presents under the tree. He was always the tallest Wise Man in the Christmas Eve Nativity play. Life was good, but not good enough. He had brindled under Dad’s strict rules. ‘Be home by eleven. Clean up your room. No girl friends in your bedroom.’

Feeling that his life was unbearable and the rules unfair, and dreaming of being his own boss, he left home. He’s show them. He would find a job, rent an apartment, and buy a nice car. Such wonderful plans at the time…

Several months had passed and none of his plans had worked out. Without a high school diploma, he couldn’t find a job. Without a job, he couldn’t even rent a room, and the car he wanted? A pipe dream.

He shivered in the cold and pulled a wallet and ring box from his pocket. Now, look at me; a common thief, homeless and hungry. What a fool I am. I want to go home.

Anthony counted the money in the wallet$267. The glow of the light pole glinted off the diamond in the platinum engagement ring. Was it enough? Maybe with the stolen money and if he pawned the ring, it would be enough for a bus ticket home…All the way across country. But, what if Mom and Dad turned him away? What if…? Anthony stepped into the phone booth and dialed the familiar number. The phone rang three times.

“Hello?” His mom’s voice... So warm, so reassuring. Would she…?
“Hi, Mom. It’s me, Anthony.” Tears stung his eyes. “Umm…Mom? Can I come home?”

****
Mark slumped onto his fiancé’s sofa. “What am I going to do? He took everything, all my money and…even Mom’s ring.”

Martha sat beside Mark and took his hand. “Why did you have your mom’s ring with you?”

“I was taking it to have it cleaned after work, but the jeweler’s was closed when I got there.” Mark kicked the side of the coffee table, knocking over a cup. Coffee wicked into the doily, turning the edges brown. He put his hand over his eyes and lowered his head. “It was supposed to be your Christmas present.”

“Oh!” Martha’s face flushed. “Tell me what happened.”

“The kid stepped out of the shadows. It looked like he had a gun in his pocket. He demanded money. I gave him my wallet and then he said, ‘Empty your pockets,’ almost like he knew I had something more. I didn’t want to give up the ring, but he kept jerking his hand, like he was gonna shoot. I took out the ring box and he snatched it and ran. I just stood there like an idiot. I thought I was going to die.” Mark knuckled his eyes.

“Oh, Mark. You could have been killed!”

“Your ring is gone and a weeks’ pay,” Mark groaned. “How can I even make my car payment? Why do these things happen?”

“We don’t always understand why bad stuff happened, but we have to trust that God has a plan. Even when bad things happen, there’s usually some good come out of it.”

“What good can come from this? Mom’s never going to forgive me for losing her ring, and I can’t afford to buy you another one.”

Martha put Mark’s arm around her shoulder. “Give me a hug. I’d marry you, even with a paper cigar band around my finger.”

Mark pulled her into an embrace. It’s my own fault. I shouldn’t have gone into that neighborhood after dark.

****
The bell over the shop door tinkled when a portly man entered the neighborhood pawn shop the next afternoon. He glanced around the shop and walked straight to a glass case filled with rings and watches.

An elderly man stepped through the curtain in the doorway into the back room. “Afternoon.” His head dipped in greeting. “Help ya? In the market for somethin’ shiny?” His eyes danced in expectation as he ran a hand over his week-old bearded chin.

George peered at the rows of diamond rings in the glass case. “Interested in your diamond rings.” He glanced up at the clerk. “And, don’t think you can pull a fast one. I know a real diamond from a chip a’ glass.”

The clerk threw up his hands. “You can trust me. I’m an honest man.” He unlocked the cabinet. “Which one ya’ fancy?”

George pointed. “Third from the left, second row.”

“Nice choice. Bought it off a kid just this morning. His grandma’s ring, he said. Nice platinum mounting, quarter carat diamond. It’s yours for two hundred bucks.”

“Sounds like a lot. Let me see it.”

“So yer’ getting hitched?”

“Nah! Puttin’ a ring on her finger to shut her up. Insurance!” He chuckled. “So she don’t leave me. You know how it is. Women!”
The elderly clerk nodded. “Sure. All alike.”

George held the ring up to the light. “I’ll take it.” He pulled a bundle of bills from his Warehouse for Stout-Men’s breast pocket, counted out nine twenties and laid them on the counter. “$180 cash. That enough?” He raised an eyebrow.

“Bein’ as its cash, it’ll do.” The old man stuffed the bills into his pocket. He produced a silver ring box from under the counter, inserted the ring and handed it to George. “Need a bag?”

“Nah!” George tucked the ring inside his suit jacket. “Got a receipt?”

“The way I figger,” the old man said, “With no need for counting the money so exact, there’s no need for a receipt.”

“Sure great doin’ business with an honest man.” The doorbell tinkled overhead as the cold air struck George’s face. He stooped into the wind and walked away.

That evening, George and Lisa strolled along the snowy sidewalk outside Macy’s Department Store. Lisa stopped beside the display window. She grabbed George’s arm. “Oh, look Georgie. Will you buy me that pretty dress for Christmas? Will ya, Georgie?”

He shook his head. “I’m not gonna buy some dumb dress. I bought you something nice this afternoon.” He reached into his pocket and drew out the silver ring box.

“Oh, Georgie, for me?” Lisa’s eyes glittered as bright as the diamond inside the box. She slipped the ring on her finger. “Oh, it’s beautiful. Now we can get married. Let’s drive to Reno tomorrow! Can we, Georgie?” She touched his cheek and drew his face down for a kiss.

He jerked his head back. His cheeks warmed. “Knock it off, Lisa.” He scowled. “You know I hate it when you get all smoochie in public. For once, will you pretend you’re a lady?”

Her face crumpled. George put his hands on her shoulders. “Hey! I’m sorry. You know I love ya’, Baby. Give me a kiss. Aren’t you my fi-ance’ now?” Lisa wrapped her arms around his stout middle and tilted her head for a kiss. George’s lips barely grazed her forehead. He looked around to see if anyone was watching. The shoppers on the sidewalk scurried past without a glance.

“You call that a kiss?” Lisa waved her ring in front of George’s face. “We’re engaged, right? Well? What do you say? Are we going to Reno tomorrow, or not?”

“Listen, Baby. I got too much going on right now. I hadn’t exactly thought about getting married so soon. Can’t you be my fi-ance’ for a year or two–?

“A year or two? I don’t want to wait that long. Pretty soon, I’ll be too old to have babies, and–”

“Babies? What babies? First you’re talking marriage and now you’re talking babies? I didn’t plan on havin’ no…”

Lisa’s face paled. She pulled off the ring and shrieked, “Just as I thought. The only reason you bought me a ring was you figured it would keep me quiet. Well, it won’t work, George. I’m not waiting a year or two, or a month or two! We’re through!” Lisa pitched the ring into the street where it disappeared under two inches of snow. She whirled and ran down the street, waving. “Taxi!” Lisa jumped into a passing cab and before George had time to catch his breath, the cab turned the corner and disappeared.

George plunged into the street in search of the ring. As he dodged between cars, kicking at the snow, cursing, a cab driver called 911. “Better come quick. There’s going to be an accident. Some crazy man is running in front of cars in front of Macy’s Department Store.”
Within minutes, two policemen had George handcuffed and headed for the station, under arrest for disturbing the peace.

“But, you don’t understand,” George whined. “I wasn’t trying to cause a wreck. There’s a diamond ring out there under the snow!”

“Uh huh... It’s Christmas Eve,” the officer said. “Maybe Santa will tuck one in your stocking, tonight. In jail!”
****
Christmas morning, George was released after a thorough psychiatric consultation determined that he was no risk to himself or society.
In the next cell block, the pawn shop owner was being booked for selling stolen property, the result of an undercover sting operation….

Across town, Lisa sat red-eyed and sniffling, wondering if a George in the bush was better than no George at all...

Martha and Mark attended Christmas morning church services with Mark’s mother…

Outside of town, a flock of crows huddled in a tree near a hill where children swooshed through the snow in new, bright-re Christmas sleds. Roused by the children’s laughter, a crow rose up and swooped over the treetops, across the town square and landed on the warm metal roof of Macy’s Department Store.

As the sun melted the snow, the crow spotted something glittering in the street. He swooped down and picked up the bright object, flew over the park and past the church parking lot where Mark and Martha were walking with other parishioners after the service. Attracted by the crowd, the crow circled back. Now, his attention was caught by a shiny gum wrapper tossed out a car window.

The crow dropped the ring and dove for the silvery paper, picked it up and flew away. The ring plummeted down and landed at Mark’s feet. He leaned down. “What on earth?” Chill bumps raced up the back of his neck. “Why, it’s Mom’s engagement ring…! How on earth…?” Mark turned and looked up.

The sky was empty except for a crow, flying away with a shiny gum wrapper in its beak. “It’s like it fell from Heaven. It’s a miracle!” Mark slid the ring on Martha’s finger and pulled her into his arms.
****
Eighteen hours later, Anthony peered wearily from the window as the bus pulled into an Omaha bus terminal. Will they forgive me? Will they let me stay and go back to school? Maybe I could work in Dad’s store and earn my room and board.

An hour later, Anthony’s mother opened the front door and Anthony stepped into his living room. His dog rushed out, body squirming, tail a-wag. A Welcome Home banner stretched across the fireplace. A Christmas tree sparkled with lights. The aroma of turkey and stuffing wafted from the kitchen. Tears flooded Anthony’s eyes. “Mom. I–”

“Welcome home, son. Dinner will be ready as soon as your Dad gets home.”

9
Dec

Thumper Reviews Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer


Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer

A book review by Thumper, the cat with the memories.

Thumper’s the name. We just got to Grandmother’s Texas ranch and I met this babe…a cream tabby vixen with eyes the color of mustard and stripes the color of marigolds. Yowza! It was love at first sight.

After a brief courtship and an ‘understanding,’ Noe-Noe and I were hanging out by the river where we overheard Grandmother’s lawyer and the stable master talking. Seems the lawyer was upset that Grandma plans to change her beneficiary from the Children’s program he sponsors to either my person, Kimberlee, or her cousin, Dorian. Worse yet, he intends to kill Grandmother.

Well, let me tell you, it was enough to twitch the whiskers off a striped skunk! Noe-Noe and I vowed to keep the old gal safe, even though Grandmother’s reason for bringing the family to Texas isn’t the sweet family reunion she claimed. She has an ulterior motive to destroy Kimberlee’s family. In spite of Grandma’s wicked agenda, Noe-Noe and I agreed we had to protect the old biddy. She is family after all, and isn’t it every cat’s duty to protect his family?

What happened to our fun-filled family reunion? Grandma’s on a roll to disrupt Kimberlee’s life. The attorney plans to kill Grandma and now we’re suspecting the stable master is hiding a secret identity! It’s turned into a series of cat-astrophies that shouldn’t happen to a dog.

Speaking of a dog, cousin Dorian brought her dog to Texas, too. When Kimberlee took him for a walk out on the desert, she almost stepped on a rattlesnake. Yikes! Good thing I wasn’t with her. I’d rather face a killer any day of the week. A rattlesnake? …not so much.

If I was of a mind, I could clue you into what’s behind some of the mysteries around here. If you read my first book, Black Cat’s Legacy, you already know that with the aid of my ancestors’ memories, I helped Kimberlee solve some of the Fern Lake mysteries. Same thing here in Texas. There’s the stable master, for instance. Thanks to my great grandfather’s memory, I know that he was involved when Kimberlee’s father was murdered. And, what about Grandmother’s sinister plot with regard to Kimberlee’s little girl? Things are going from bad to worse and there’s only so much a cat can do.

I can’t wait to go home to Fern Lake. Here’s the problem. When we leave, Kimberlee says I have to say farewell to my soul-mate, Noe-Noe. (Big cat sigh). Kimberlee once said, ‘Why do we lose the things we love and things that bring us grief, hang around like warts on the end of your tail?’ That was paraphrased, of course, but you get the drift. Perhaps the fates will intervene and things will turn out okay. Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer is a cozy mystery, after all!)

***

Elaine Faber’s short stories have appeared in multiple magazines and fourteen anthologies. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Cat Writers Association, and Northern California Publisher and Authors. Elaine enjoys speaking on mystery panels and book signing events. Black Cat’s Legacy and Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer are light romance and cozy cat mysteries. who with the aid of his ancestors’ memories, Thumper (Black Cat) helps Kimberlee solve the mysteries. The third book in the series is Black Cat and the Accidental Angel.

All novels are available at Amazon in print and digital. http://tinyurl.com/q3qrgyu

13
Nov

Balaam's Donkey- And Then There was an Angel

BALAAM’S DONKEY: One interesting story from the Bible describes the prophet Balaam who was instructed by God to deliver a specific message. Three times Balaam beats his donkey when it stops in the middle of the road. Finally the donkey turns and speaks aloud, “I can’t move forward?" The donkey adds, "Can’t you see that Angel with a sword, standing right in front of us, blocking the road? Why are you beating me?”

Balaam answers, “Because you won’t obey. If I had a sword, I’d kill you!” Finally he sees the angel who delivers God’s message and Balaam obeys. (Loose translation.)##The amazing thing is that Balaam wasn’t the least bit amazed when his donkey spoke aloud to him. Instead, he argues and curses the donkey. Something to think about…But I'm quite familiar with other talking animals. (See my three cozy cat mysteries where Black Cat narrates a good deal of the story).

ANGELS IN THE BIBLE: The Bible includes many interactions and conversations between angels and humans. The most remembered− the Archangel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary to foretell the birth of Jesus Christ.* Angels directed the shepherds to the stable where Jesus was born.** Following Jesus' Resurrection, an angel rolled back the stone and spoke to Mary Magdalene.***

DO WE STILL BELIEVE IN ANGELS? In the US, a 2008 survey polled 1,700 respondents, and found that fifty-five percent of Americans, including one in five of those who say they are not religious, believe that they have been protected by a guardian angel during their life. Thousands of personal accounts have reported interactions with angels.

DO OTHER RELIGIONS BELIEVE IN ANGELS? Angels are part of many religions including Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism and are mentioned in the Bible as well as in the Qur'an and Hadith. All religions agree that angels are divine spiritual beings sent by God as messengers to comfort, or to protect in time of great need.

FINAL THOUGHTS: In the middle century, art and mythology depicted angels as female and artists added wings. Nowadays, angels could look like any one of us. The prophet in Hebrews admonished us to be kind, even to strangers, as they may be angels in disguise.Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Hebrews 13:2

Whatever success you’ve achieved in business is likely due to the help of many people who mentored and helped you. Now you can be someone’s angel by mentoring, helping and encouraging others.

Angels lend a helping hand in time of need. Who knows? The person you meet on any particular day may need an angel. Or…he may BE an angel. Donkeys can be stubborn and contrary. Sometimes they hold back when they should move forward. It’s your choice. Donkey…or angel?

* Luke 1:26
** Luke 2:10
*** Matthew 28:5

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