16
Jun

57 Years Ago Our Honeymoon Story!

 

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

June 17, 1962 was a perfect day. The sun beamed bright through the stained glass windows. The scent of flowers and music filled the auditorium. “With this ring, I thee wed,” we each stated, and we were man and wife, twenty years and eighteen-years-old respectively.

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

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

The sun shone hot on our heads as we drove our 1958 MGA with the top down toward the lake. The excitement of the day took a toll on my young husband. His head began to throb and maybe nerves played a role as well. The expectations of “the wedding night” created some anxieties for him that many young grooms don’t experience today.

Several hours later, we reached our honeymoon cottage. My young husband threw himself on the bed, head pounding, eyes aching, a wet cloth held to his forehead. He begged to be allowed to die in peace. He wasn’t up to dinner at a fancy restaurant. “Tomorrow, honey,” he promised, “just let me go to bed.”

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

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

Monday dawned bright and clear, a hot and perfect June day and we slept late, lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore, headaches and anxieties of the night before a forgotten memory.

We spent the afternoon under a willow tree in the park, snuggling on a blanket, watching the squirrels. We spoke of which restaurant we would choose for our special dinner that night to celebrate our one-day anniversary. We swam and frolicked in the lake. My new lord and master climbed a nearby diving board. “Hey, Hon, look at me,” he shouted, spreading his arms wide and launching into a perfect swan dive into the sparkling water below.

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

The local emergency room confirmed, indeed, he had broken his eardrum. The doctor advised bed rest and a quiet night…

As a recently married woman, I pushed a grocery cart through a tiny grocery store in the resort town and selected hamburger, tomato sauce and French bread. On the eve of my one-day anniversary, I heated canned spaghetti sauce and listened to my young husband snore as he slept off the effects of prescribed pain medication.

Tuesday dawned bright and clear, and we slept late, being lulled by the lapping waves on the nearby shore. All afternoon we churned up the beautiful waves in a rented speedboat. Tonight was the night! We would have a romantic dinner to celebrate our two-day anniversary.

The sun shone deceivingly bright on my young husband’s bare legs and before we noticed, they had changed from white, to pink, to bright red.

My young husband moved slowly toward the MGA, each painful step tugging at his sunburned legs. He tried to pull on his trousers, but the effort was too painful. By evening, my young husband lay on the cool asbestos floor tiles (who knew?) of our honeymoon cottage, moaning. “I don’t think I can put my pants on. Sorry, hon. No fancy dinner tonight. Maybe tomorrow?”

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

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

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

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

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

Instead of taking the freeway, a crooked road down the mountain would take thirty minutes off our travel time. We were both eager to reach home and resume…what honeymooners resume.

The air was warm and balmy as we left the resort town. Driving the mountain road was difficult, with switchbacks and no roadside safety rails. Slowly maneuvering hairpin curves, eyes wide, we saw broken, twisted cars in the canyons below. Had they run off the road or shoved into the canyon to dispose of them? Nearing the bottom of the mountain, we saw the valley stretched before us. The terrible ordeal was nearly over.

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

As a mature, experienced wife of four days, able to handle any emergency, I dropped coins into the telephone. Daddy answered, and I said, “Daddy, come get me….” whereupon, Daddy exploded. “Where are you? What has that horrid beast done to my baby girl?” I explained that the beast had done nothing that I didn’t want done, but never the less, the axle on the MG was broken and we were in trouble.

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

Perhaps it was a test to see if our commitment was real. If we had felt the disasters of the week predictive of our future, we might have applied for an annulment the next morning. Perhaps we were too naïve, too inexperienced, or too much in love to fully realize the pitfalls of married life that lay ahead. Suffice it to say, we stuck it out.

Fifty-seven years have passed and my husband’s hair is gray and my face is wrinkled. We have endured through sickness and health, successful and business failure, the birth of children and the loss of loved ones, but we continue to face life’s challenges together.

****

The pungent aroma of cedar clung in the air as I placed the purple nightie back into the hope chest and closed the lid. I closed my eyes, remembering the thrills, frustrations and the romance of that week.

Returning to the kitchen, I dropped a pinch of salt into the spaghetti bubbling on the stove. Much like a pinch of salt adds a touch of flavor to a desired recipe, it takes a touch of adversity to appreciate the full flavor of life. I smiled at the memory of a honeymoon cottage by the shores of a sky-blue lake, and a tiny stove, where another pot of spaghetti bubbled three nights in a row.

Despite the unexpected events that occurred that week, it was the most wonderful, exciting, perfect honeymoon a woman could ever experience, because I was with the man I love

 

11
Jun

Preview from Black Cat and The Clue in Dewey's Diargy

If you've been following my blog you know I have another novel coming this Fall - Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey's Diary - a dual tale of adventures in Fern Lake with Black Cat and Angel, and Dorian and Kimberlee as they ,pursue a lost treasure   in Austria and Germany. Kimberlee's adventures in Austria mimic my own experiences in 1987 when I visited the area. The church pictured IS the Hopfgarten church in the story. Here is an excerpt with Kimberlee, the day she leaves Dorian at her conference and strikes out on her own.

*****

On the outskirts of Salzburg, Kimberlee stopped at an endearing pension. She followed the path to the front door and rang the bell. A stout, older woman answered. “Wilkomen! Kumm in! (Welcome. Come in).

Kimberlee held up her overnight case. “Do you have a room?”

The woman smiled. “Ya. I hef nice room. This way, please.” She led Kimberlee to a room next to the garden filled with pink and yellow tulips and tall gladiolas. The room contained plain, solid wood furniture. A thick feather comforter and feather pillows lay atop the double bed. A vase of fresh flowers adorned the nightstand. French doors led out to the garden. “Is good?”

“Yes, it’s lovely. How many Euros?” Kimberlee pulled out several bills.

The hostess took two bills. “Is enough. Breakfast is 7:00 A.M.”

“Thank you. That will be fine.” Kimberlee set her overnight case on the floor. She opened the French doors, stepped into the garden, and was immediately enveloped by the scent of flowers. A green, carved wooden bench sat beside a fish pond where red and black koi fish bobbed. How she wished Brett could see this. Wouldn’t it have been better to wait and share this beautiful experience with a loved one? Her first day in this beautiful country had already presented so many wondrous sites.

She sat on the bench and watched the koi glide back and forth across the pond, nibbling at a mossy rock, pausing to bask in a ray of sunshine. Would she have experienced the day the same way if Brett had been with her?

The spacious, green, lush meadows, the sense of oneness created by the similarity of the houses, the tinkle of the cows’ bells and the serene agelessness of the castles high atop the hillsides. The way the church bells rang every hour. How the peaceful countryside had affected her! The violinist’s song had touched her heart. The fairytale town transported her to another time and place. In truth, the day’s events left her feeling as though she had stepped into another dimension. Her soul felt refreshed and her faith reaffirmed.

A sudden thought! Spending the day alone had provided such unexpected reactions. As pleasant as it would be to share with a loved one, would she have experienced it the same way? Perhaps, a day spent in solitude was as rewarding as when shared by another.

She revisited the events of the day, from meeting the little cat, to the musician on the church steps, to the castle on the hill, to the mists in the meadows and the cows in the field. And, finally, to a bench beside the koi pond, remembering each beautiful moment in the beauty and stillness of the garden.

She closed her eyes, breathed in the scent of flowers,. In the distance, a church bell chimed. Resolved not to forget a minute of the day’s events, Kimberlee picked up a pen and filled her journal with all she had seen and felt this wondrous day.

*****

Black Cat and the Accidental Angel is Free at Amazon June 12, 13, 2019.     http://tinyurl.com/y6vhxncq

 

30
May

CREATING A BOOK COVER

 

 

 

There are as many ways to design a book cover as there are books. Nonfiction book covers, particularly political books seem to lean toward THE TITLE against a plain background and the author’s name. Many cozy mystery novels present an artist’s rendering of a scene, often including a dog or cat. I prefer using photographs on my book covers and believe the book cover should suggest the plot of the novel. There should be a consistency in the design of a series. Using the same color and size font for the title and a similarity in design helps readers recognize a particular series.

This fall I will publish a cozy cat mystery, the fourth in the Black Cat series. Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary is a dual tale that takes place in California and also in Austria. While Black Cat and Angel are embroiled in village intrigue and riveting drama along the shores of a No. California resort town, Dorian and Kimberlee attempt to find a long-lost treasure they believe is still hidden in the small Austrian town of Hopfgarten. The story moves back and forth between Black Cat’s wisdom and Angel’s snarky wit, and Kimberlee unexpected challenges in a foreign country.

It all started with a message written in a WWII diary from a soldier who befriended a German soldier during the battle of Normandy. Following the war, Dewey records in his diary, a mysterious message he receives from his friend… The treasures is in Hopfgarten….touch the feet of the babe…

Kimberlee reads Dewey’s diary just before she and Dorian embark on an Austrian vacation. Of course, they must go to Hopfgarten to follow the clues written in a diary more than 50 years before.

Kimberlee’s Austrian adventure includes many of my 1987 personal experiences when I traveled through castles and villages, saw cows with bells around their necks, visited 1000 year old churches in Salzburg, and finally into Hopfgarten. It was there I encountered many of the events included in Kimberlee’s adventure, and first imagined the story of a missing treasure and Dewey’s diary.

The novel is currently being edited with an expected publishing date this fall. So, finding the right photographs for my Black Cat mystery was very important. I wanted the photos to suggest both parts of the story. It had to include a cat to represent Black Cat. I wanted his foot on a diary to suggest that important plot point. It must also suggest the other half of the story in Europe. There are plenty of Europe pictures, but the search was on for the right black and white tuxedo cat.

I requested photographs, from an online cat group, of black and white cats with their paw raised so a diary could be photo shopped under it. I received over 100 lovely pictures. Sebastian, pictured above, was the closest to my need. However, another picture was eventually selected from Shutterstock. The cover will include the cat with his foot on a diary and a shadowed castle behind.

I’m looking forward to publishing Black Cat and the Clue in Dewey’s Diary. I think my readers will enjoy this new and exciting dual story. Let me know how you feel about a book with basically two stories interwoven throughout.

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

18
Jun

A Peek Into 'Black Cat and The Key to the Treasure'


    From my Work in Process: Black Cat and the Key to the Treasure


Kimberlee travels alone in Germany while her friend attends a conference...
Salzburg, Germany: As Kimberlee passed through the countryside, the terrain varied as the road rose and fell through hills and valleys. Around every corner, another picture postcard vista appeared. With no particular agenda, Kimberlee frequently stopped to photograph a scene.

In a green meadow, the only sound was the breeze shaking the leaves on the shrubs alongside the road. The tinkling of shiny brass bells hanging from the collars of a flock of sheep or a group of black and white cows grazing nearby produced a stirring in the heart of a captivated tourist. In another place, the gentle terrain rose up through the pasture to where a fine mist clung to the hillside. The sound of tinkling bells confirmed more animals hidden among the distant trees.

Fewer vineyards dotted the hillside as Kimberlee approached Salzburg; the town where Mozart lived, played his harpsichord and wrote melodies. Several hundred years later, his name is still a household word and millions of people enjoy his music.

She reached the center of the city, parked her car, and began to walk. Ancient ivy-laden buildings with sagging tile roofs covered the sidewalk courtyards. Church spires peeked out from behind red tile rooftops. She passed a church with dates carved into the wall reading 1200-1400. How incredible! One church was said to be 1000 years old.

Faint music drew her toward the town square where a street musician stood on the steps of an ancient church played Ave Maria on his violin. While tourists clustered around the steps, pigeons flew from rooftop to rooftop, as though drawn by the haunting melody.

Kimberlee paused. The lingering notes echoed off the surrounding ancient buildings and filled the courtyard with music such as one might imagine in Heaven. Her thoughts drifted back to another time. She imagined the cobbled streets filled with horse-drawn carriages. Perhaps one held a princess and her ladies-in-waiting. Over there, a knight in shining armor on his trusty steed, ready to joust with a dragon.

The musician drew his bow across the strings, and the final note hung in the air. He lowered his hand. The audience stood motionless. Someone coughed, and the spell was broken. Generous visitors tossed money into the violin case at the musician’s feet before they wandered away.

Kimberlee opened her purse. “That was absolutely lovely! Thank you,” she said, as she dropped a few euros into his case.

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 multiple staircases reaching in all directions. Inside the castle, armor, ancient guns, javelins, chains and torture devices covered the walls. Stepping out onto the balcony, the entire city and valley lay below. It was like peeking into the pages of a storybook.

Rainy mists on the distant mountains beckoned hikers upward into the cold crisp air. To the left–rivers, towers, cathedrals, graveyards, and church spires. To the right–cobblestone streets with horse-drawn carriages, and sidewalk cafes, musicians, and archways where street vendors hawked their wares beneath colorful awnings.

After wandering around the castle for an hour and taking dozens pictures, she returned to the city below.

She came upon a street artist, sitting on a short stool, his backpack and palette of paints by his side. He leaned into his easel and applied the finishing touches to a watercolor painting of the church, where the musician had played his moving aria on the steps. Could she be one of the colorful blobs that represented the tourists?
Unable to resist the appeal of the drawing and the memory of the thrilling experience, she purchased the picture. She would have it framed and hang it in her bedroom, a constant reminder of the poignant melody that had stirred her heart.

What a magical city! After a hearty meal and very strong coffee, Kimberlee returned to her car. She drove to the outskirts of town to look for a pension for the night. Brett would be thrilled to hear about all the things she had seen today. How she missed him and wished he was by her side.

23
May

Excerpt: And Then There Was a Tiger (WWII novel)

This is an edited scene from my next novel, coming this summer. And Then There Was a Tiger. Watch for announcement of publication.

Agnes took Maddie’s hand and marched her down the aisle towards the back parking lot to the tiger exhibition. “Morning, Mrs. Williams. So, you’ve come to see the tiger, too?”

“I’ll admit, the idea makes me a bit nervous. You don’t suppose it’s a wild one, do you?”

“Can’t imagine they’d let it perform out in the open if it was.” Agnes grinned down at Maddie and squeezed her hand. “I suspect it hasn’t eaten any little girls for a while.”

“Grandma!” Maddie sidled closer to Agnes’s leg. “That’s not funny.” Her eyes were as bright as sparklers on the Fourth of July.

Agnes’s heart warmed, seeing Maddie’s pleasure. It wasn’t likely she had ever met a tiger face to face. For that matter, meeting a tiger was a first for her too.

The spectators gathered in front of a boxcar-like caravan with a painted canvas draped over the front bars. Brightly colored yellow spoked-wheels jutted from beneath the wagon.

The crowd heard grunts and grumbles behind the canvas. They eagerly awaiting the first sign of the emerging tiger.

Roar!

The tiger’s cage creaked and swung open. A young man emerged, dressed in a blue and yellow shirt and red trousers. He stepped down the metal step carrying a short red and white striped stick resembling a magician’s wand. He bowed to the audience, then glanced back toward the open door, drew a whistle from his pocket and blew a shrill note. “Don’t be shy, Shere Khan. Come on out and say hello to the nice people.”

Scratching sounds came from behind the canvas, like the sound one might imagine a tiger would make as it rises from a metal floor, intent on hunting its prey. An orange nose appeared through the open door and the beast leaped onto the ground. Yellow eyes roamed the crowd.

The spectators murmured and took a collective step backwards. Coming to see a tiger was one thing–actually seeing one three feet away, unchained and unrestrained, was quite another.

“Shere Khan.” The trainer waved his stick in a circular motion. “Wave hello to the nice people.”

“Is he dangerous?” Someone called from the audience.

“Only when he’s hungry.” The trainer chuckled. “Up! Shere Khan!”

Shere Khan sat back on his haunches, lifted his front feet and waggled one foot.

A wave of oohs, aahs and nervous titters broke out in the audience.
They inched forward, clapped and laughed. They weren’t afraid. Not really. They knew he was tame. Heads nodded and smiled.

For the next ten minutes, the trainer put the tiger through his paces. After each trick, he gave the cat a treat from the bag at his waist. At one point, the tiger lay on the platform, gazing at the crowd, looking like an enormous, striped housecat.

Agnes dabbed her hankie across her forehead again as her thoughts turned to Shere Khan’s distant furry relatives. Too many had fallen prey to the hunter’s guns and the clothing industry, now that Hollywood starlets fancied fur coats. Shere Khan’s native cousins should be thankful that fox fur coats had more recently become more fashionable this season than tiger. Even so, the threat imposed by poachers was still very real. She envisioned wealthy and unscrupulous hunters stalking an unsuspecting prey, seeking tiger skin rugs and tiger heads mounted over their bars.

It was hard to imagine this gentle giant pursuing an antelope, leaping on its back, killing it with one snap of his jaws. Hard to imagine his jowls covered in the life’s blood of the still warm antelope, snarling to fend off predators determined to steal his bounty. Hard to imagine the beast dragging his kill through the underbrush, perhaps to a nearby den where two or three cubs awaited their first taste of meat. Such was a wild tiger’s life in the jungle.

This tiger was probably hand-raised, likely declawed and now totally dependent on a human to provide his meat on the end of a stick. It was doubtful he’d ever seen an antelope, and even if starving, wouldn’t know what to do if he saw one.

The trainer’s voice snapped her back to the present. “Does anyone want to pet Shere Khan?” The trainer pointed to Maddie. “You?”

Maddie glanced up at Agnes.

“What do you think?” Agnes touched Maddie’s cheek. “Do you want to pet him?”

“I…I…think so. Yes!” She pulled away from Agnes and stepped closer.

Maddie reached out her hand and touched Shere Khan’s head, then ran one finger over his ear. “He’s so soft.” She stroked down the tiger’s neck and scratched his ear.

Shere Khan turned toward the caress, opened his mouth and yawned, showing long sharp teeth. His eyes sought Maddie’s face and their eyes locked in a gaze that seemed to connect their soul. At last he blinked and lowered his head onto a giant paw.

Seeing Maddie’s delight, several other children rushed forward.

The trainer motioned them back. “Just one at a time.”

Maddie returned to Agnes. “He only likes me. See how he’s turning away from the other children?”

Indeed, Shere Khan stood and ambled back toward his caravan, apparently he'd had enough public adulation. Within seconds, he was up the steps and out of sight.

Agnes reached for Maddie’s hand. “Are you ready to go back now?”

Maddie's gaze was fixed on the spot where Shere Khan had disappeared. She rubbed her fingers together, seeming unable to relinquish the sensation of the tiger’s ear, reluctant to forget the rumble in his throat as she stroked his face. The child seemed lost in the memory of a special shared moment with a creature from the wild, reluctant to return to her life where troubling events were a daily occurrence. “Shall we go, sweetheart?”

Maddie blinked. “I remember, before I was born, we were in Heaven and we played in a meadow with baby lambs and goats. Was Shere Khan remembering, too, Grandma?”

“What strange ideas you have, child. Where do you come up with such things?” Played together in Heaven? What could have put such a thought into her head?

Maddie’s eyes were aglow, her smile as innocent as an angel. She looked as though she was truly catching a glimpse directly into Heaven where she had played in a meadow with a tiger.

Goosebumps crept up Agnes’s arms. Maybe Maddie was remembering. Hadn’t Pastor Lickleiter just preached on this text and encouraged the congregation to memorize the Bible verse? The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the young lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. (Isaiah 11:6 KJV)

Wolves? Leopards? Lions? Who’s to say there wasn’t a tiger among them?

12
Apr

Excerpt from Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot

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The reporter frowned. “ Odboddy! Please tell me in your own words just what caused the fire at the watch tower. I understand you were alone when the fire started.”

Mrs. Odboddy sighed, lowered her eyes and stared at her fingernails. She sat back down on the sofa chair. Here we go. Shouldn’t be too hard to convince them I was responsible. “You see, I…”

For some reason, now that it was time to relate a lie and take responsibility for a foolish act, her mouth went as dry as a prairie cactus flower. She took a quick breath and tried again. “It was like this. I was watching the coastline and…”

Her mind went blank. What did we decide I was supposed to say? That’s right. Kicked over the heater. “I turned on the heater. There was this squirrel, see. It climbed up the legs on the watch tower, or maybe it climbed up the ladder. I didn’t exactly see how it got in, but then it jumped over the wall. It startled me and I made a swipe at it with my purse and…and that’s when I accidently knocked over the heater…” Agnes glanced at the reporter and Ritchie. Were they buying it, or not?

“A squirrel… At the beach? Then what happened?” Harvey’s eyebrows touched the edge of his brow line. He wasn’t buying her story.

I’d better beef it up a little. “Well, maybe it wasn’t a squirrel. Maybe it was a…seagull. Now that I think of it, I’m sure it was a seagull. Anyway, I knocked over the heater and the spark ignited the kerosene and started the fire. I tried to put it out, but it spread too fast. I barely escaped with my life!”

Agnes’s heart thumped. She touched her nose with a shaking hand. In spite of the tingle at the end of her nose, it didn’t seem to be growing like Pinocchio’s.

“A seagull. Makes a little more sense. Why didn’t you say that the first time?” The reporter glanced toward Ritchie.

Ritchie’s hand covered his mouth. His shoulders shook.

Was he actually giggling? “I was embarrassed to say that a seagull startled me. You see, I’ve been terrified of seagulls ever since I was a baby and a seagull landed near my baby blanket and tried to pick…out…my…eyes…” Good grief. This blasted fib was spinning out of control with every breath. Why was this so hard? She’d been telling tall tales for years and never had so much trouble making the details sound right.

Harvey stood and glanced at his wristwatch. “So, let me get this straight for the newspaper story. In the middle of April, when it was close to 75 degrees at the ocean, a squirrel that wasn’t a squirrel but was really a seagull came over the wall. You have a fear of seagulls because one tried to peck out your eyes when you were a baby, and when you tried to chase it away, you accidently knocked over the heater and the watch tower caught on fire. You couldn’t put it out with the fire extinguisher hanging three feet away on the wall, and you barely escaped with your life. Is that about right?”

“You’ve got it! That’s exactly how it happened. Are we done now?”

Agnes jumped up from the sofa chair and opened the front door. “Thank you so much for dropping by. I’m looking forward to your story. Good-bye!

Harvey and Ritchie stood and stepped onto the porch. “Uhh. Okay. Good-bye.”

“Say hello to your aunt, won’t you?” Agnes closed the door and leaned against it. She put her hand over her eyes. Good grief! Katherine was going to have a cat-fit when she saw that whopper in print.

Mrs Odboddy Hometown Patriot is available at Amazon in e-book for $3.99 http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

10
Feb

All Things Cat - Stories to warm the cat-lovers heart

I read that when cats are cuddling and kneading you, and you think it's cute, they're really just checking your vitals for weak spots. Kandyse McClure

If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve man, but deteriorate the cat. Mark Twain

From the beginning of recorded time, cats have shared our lives, gained our trust, protected our harvests and warmed our beds. They were likely the first aboard Noah’s ark and the last ones off, not wanting to get their feet wet.

Over the centuries, cats were both revered and worshipped in ancient Egypt and reviled during the dark ages when they were thought to consort with the devil.(Upon occasion, considering some of my cats’ antics, I’ve had my own suspicions about their continued devil consorting.)

Currently, cats have taken over millions of American families. Cats have become one of the most popular subjects of Facebook and You-Tube videos. With so many people enjoying cats and cozy-cat mysteries, I felt a book of short stories about cats would be well-received. I compiled twenty-one of my best short stories that are either about a cat or include a cat and published a little book called All Things Cat. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

All Things Cat stories range from humorous to heartrending, 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, the prize in an Old West poker game, routing a burglar in a WWII meat market, overcoming self-doubts about his hunting/stalking abilities, and adopting the First Family in the White House. Likely, these feline authors had no intention of sharing their innermost thoughts, dreams and fears with the world, but, as an author, that’s what I’m here for, right?

Other stories were inspired by a plethora of situations, news events, contest prompts, holidays, and the like. They illustrate how cats affect, impact or enrich our lives through their contributions or companionship.

The stories are set in both past and present and in diverse surroundings: Salem, Massachusetts, a pirate ship off the coast of Maine, a haunted hotel in the Sierra Mountains, Roswell, New Mexico, and the oval office in Washington, D.C., to name but a few locations.

Also included are excerpts from my novels, Black Cat and the Lethal Lawyer, and Black Cat’s Legacy, and Mrs. Odboddy - Hometown Patriot.

So, whether you are a cat lover or a reader who enjoys stories about cats, I expect you would enjoy reading All Things Cat. Just $2.99 for an Amazon e-book. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

21
Oct

Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier - Excerpt on a Train


Mrs. Odboddy - Undercover Courier - Agnes travels by train and carries a package to President Roosevelt that she is sure contains secret wall documents. This is a scene from her first morning after sleeping on the train. Full of righteous pride, she is off to a bad start this morning...

Agnes hurried down the aisle before anyone else could beat her to the washroom. After brushing her teeth, washing her face, and smearing cold cream across her face, Agnes glanced into the mirror. She chuckled, noting that the cold cream made her face resemble a clown. Mid-chuckle, her smile faded. My purse! She’d left it in her berth, with the secret documents for President Roosevelt inside!

Agnes threw open the bathroom door and plunged down the aisle, cold cream still smeared over her face. What had she done? Oh, Lord above. Protect this idiot from her foolish ways.

The empty berth shrieked condemnation for her carelessness and neglect. Her purse was gone.

Oh, nooooo! Where was the porter who was supposed to be on guard, watching their belongings?

Agnes raced toward the far end of the car and found the porter, his head lolled to the side, his chair tipped back against the wall, sound asleep,.

“Porter! Wake up!”

The young man jerked. The legs of his chair slammed to the floor. He jumped to his feet, his eyes blinking. “Yes, ma’am?” He touched his cap, his eyes wild, scanning from left to right. As he came to full wakefulness, he peered at Agnes, her cold-creamed face contorted in rage. His eyes looked like black marbles floating in pools of milk. He stepped back, his trembling hands outstretched. “I’m sorry. I won’t do it again!”

“Porter! Did you see someone getting into my berth? I’m the second one from the end.” Agnes pointed down the aisle.

The porter’s face turned several shades lighter. “No, ma’am. Sorry ma’am. I…I… I’m afraid I fell asleep.” He hung his head. “Are you going to tell my boss?” He lifted his head.

Agnes reached up and touched her cheek. “Oh, my goodness!” I didn’t even wash my face. No wonder I scared the living daylights out of him. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped at her cheeks. “I left the bathroom in such a hurry… But, then I discovered my purse missing from my berth!” Her heart raced as she uttered the dreadful words. And vanity clouded my good judgment! I’m such a fool.

His mouth trembled. Was he more concerned about her purse or getting caught sleeping on the job? “Missing? You’re sure you didn’t misplace it?” He hurried down the aisle toward her berth.
Agnes followed on his heels.

The porter yanked back Agnes’s curtain and glanced around her bed. Only the Bible lay on her pillow–. He slid the suitcases from side to side and tossed the pillow to the other end of the bed. “Have you checked in your suitcase?”

“Don’t you think I’d remember if I put it in my suitcase?” Agnes huffed. What kind of an idiot does he think I am? On the other hand, what kind of an idiot was she to leave her purse sitting on the bed with secret documents inside and run around the train with cold cream smeared on her face? Chill bumps raced up her arms as the realization of the loss hit home. She had failed the President of the United States of America on the first day out the door. She blinked to hold back tears as the porter rifled through both of her suitcases.

“Can you describe it, ma’am? What was inside?”

Agnes shrugged. “It was black…um…well, never mind what it contained. It had my wallet and my money and…and…my train ticket and passport.” Tears trickled down her cheeks.

“I’ll question the passengers before report it to the conductor.” The porter’s face contorted again.

Weren’t they two of a kind? Both brought low by their own carelessness. “I’ll finish up in the washroom while you look.”

The porter nodded and hurried off, leaving Agnes to return to her interrupted ablutions.

Agnes washed the cold cream from her face and stared into the washroom mirror. The wrinkles in her forehead had deepened over the past few minutes and the sparkle that folks said she carried in her eyes seemed to have abandoned ship.

Agnes straightened her shoulders and forced a smile. She gave her hair a final pat and stepped out the washroom door, climbed into her bunk and pulled the curtain. She laid her head back on the pillow, clutched the Bible to her chest and began to pray.

Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier Purchase this book at Amazon (e-book $3.99) at http://tinyurl.com/jn5zwb

19
Feb

Govt. Restrictions: One lb Coffee Every Six Weeks

Research while writing my WWII humorous mystery/adventure, Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, and Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier, led to interesting facts about how folks lived during WWII.:

Rationing: American housewives willingly gave up their precious food, clothing, tires, and other goods to aid the war effort. Ration stamp booklets were issued and many items including sugar and fresh fruit could only be purchased with the appropriate ration stamp.

Due to blockades affecting Brazilian ships attempting to bring coffee and sugar to the USA during part of 1942-43, coffee was rationed to one pound every six weeks per adult. (This alone would be reason to go to war, wouldn’t it?)

Beef was in short supply and costly, as well as eggs, resulting in many resident chickens in suburban backyards. (In Hometown Patriot, Agnes obtains six chickens. Because she has no chicken coop immediately available, she puts them in the bathroom. What could possibly go wrong?)

Tires: A citizen only had ration stamps for five tires during the entire war. By today’s standards, that sounds sufficient, but bumpy roads and poor tires led to multiple flat tires even with speed limits of 35 mph.

Doctors and public safety professionals were allowed additional tire and gasoline stamps. Gasoline required ration stamps and folks were limited to only four gallons per week. Folks relied on car pool, buses, bicycles or had to walk. Men who worked out of town often had to board away from home for indefinite periods of time. (I am the result of my father’s weekend only visits while Daddy worked at the Vallejo, CA Mare Island shipyard. Whoops!)

Such shortages of food and other supplies led to black market ration books or ‘arrangements’ between friends willing to sell extra stamps for highly desired items. (Because of weekly trips to the USO to serve cookies, Agnes has to purchase a friend’s tire stamp. She also discovers a ration book conspiracy and sets out to expose the culprits.)

Victory Gardens: Many items in short supply were rationed. Citizens were almost required to plant a victory garden or appear unpatriotic. Suburban front yards were soon converted to rows of cabbages, zucchinis, tomatoes and carrots. Vegetables with a high yield requiring limited space to grow became the main ingredient of Meatless Monday. Even Mrs. Roosevelt planted zucchini in the White House Rose Garden.

Watch Towers: Ever fearful of another Japanese air attack on the West Coast, and the limited availability of newly discovered radar technology, volunteers became the ‘early warning system’ in watch towers every several miles along the California and Oregon coastline. (Agnes has an exciting encounter while serving at the watch tower in Hometown Patriot. You won’t want to miss this! )

Can you share an account of a WWII event or experience? Are you acquainted with a family member with memories of WWII? Wouldn’t they enjoy reading my novels? Only $3.99 at Amazon. Guaranteed to produce a chuckle or your money back!

Mrs. Odboddy–Hometown Patriot -Available in e-book and print at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv Agnes attempts to expose a ration book conspiracy and deals with the return of an old WWI lover.

Mrs. Odboddy Undercover Courier –Agnes travels across country by train, carrying a package to President Roosevelt. She is sure it contains secret war documents, and NAZI spies will try to steal her package. Amazon – http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb

Next time, I’ll talk about another WWII event or experience.

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