25
Feb

The Elevator Pitch - or If I ever Meet an Agent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

******

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

14
Jan

Mrs. Odboddy - A Serialized Novel Experience

Like newspapers and magazines of old, I'm going to post weekly installments of my unpublished Mrs. Odboddy book, Mrs. Odboddy and the Devious Doctor. Each week, there will be a brief recap of the story to date.  Let me know what you think of this concept.

To set the scene. Story takes place in 1944 in small CA town.  Elderly Mrs. Odboddy, a former govt. secret agent from WWI, now fights the war from the home front. In her last book, Mrs. Odboddy And Then There was a Tiger, she rescued a displaced carnival tiger, now temporarily housed in his traveling carnival cage at a friend's farm.

Chapter One

Agnes slung her leg over a limb in the apple tree and reached for a grip on a higher branch. “Hang on, Ling-Ling. Mama’s coming.”

“Meow.”

The cat’s piercing shriek expressed displeasure that her itinerary at the top of the apple tree should be questioned. Godfrey, Agnes’s boyfriend, came around the corner of the house and peered into the branches. “Come down from there this instant. What in tarnation are you doing?”

Agnes pulled her skirt down over her rump, revealing a chubby thigh in flannel stockings. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that I’m rescuing Ling-Ling. She’s been up here since breakfast and she won’t come down. If you’d have come when I called an hour ago, I wouldn’t need to–”

“I came as soon as I could, Lambkins, after I called the fire department. They’re bringing over a ladder. Now, come down before you fall and break your noggin. Leave the climbing to the firemen. They rescue cats every day.” The sound of a siren shrieked in the distance.

“No need. I’ve almost got her.” Agnes loosened her grip on the branch and reached for the Siamese cat, who had climbed higher with each of Agnes’s attempts to reach her. “Just a little more. Come to mama, baby.” Wasn’t that just like a cat? “You rascal. I have half a mind to leave you here, and let you starve. Come here before I…” Crack! Agnes gasped as the branch under her foot gave way. “Saints preserve–”

Godfrey sprang toward the tree just as the branch broke. Agnes flung out her arms and grasped at branches to break her fall. Pieces of twigs and leaves broke loose as she plummeted toward the earth. Godfrey’s image flashed in and out of her thoughts, intermingled with her little ward, Maddie, and her granddaughter, Katherine. What about her attempts to save Shere Khan, the displaced carnival’s tiger? Would he find a home without her help? It’s true. Your life flashes before your eyes just before you die.

Agnes hit the ground with a thud. Her head flung back and thwacked against the apple tree. Then everything went dark.

A voice from far away called her name. “Mrs.Odbddy. Can you hear me?”

Ow.” Her cheek smarted. Had someone slapped her? Her opposite cheek smarted. Another slap? Near dead, and now being attacked? What was the world coming to when an old woman couldn’t fall from an apple tree and die in peace? Agnes opened her eyes. Ling-Ling leaped from branch to branch and dropped lightly beside her hip. “Meow!

Agnes’s head lolled back against the tree. Now she comes down, after I risked my life to… Her dizziness cleared. Godfrey’s face hovered over her, and two others. Firemen? What? Why?

Katherine knelt beside Godfrey and took her grandmother’s hand. “Grandma. Are you all right?” She turned toward the men in heavy overcoats. “Is she okay? Did she break anything?”

“Hard to say, ma’am.” Barnaby Merryweather, the older volunteer fireman, touched the lump on the back of Agnes’s head. “She has some scratches and a sizable bump on the back of her head. Her doctor should check her over to be sure. She took a pretty good whack. Agnes? Do you know what day it is? Who’s the President?”

Ow!” Agnes swatted at the fireman’s hand. “Of course. It’s April 26, 1944, and Franklin D. Roosevelt is the President. Now, help me into the house.” Her hand dropped onto Ling-Ling’s back as she nuzzled under her arm. “I see the wretched cat managed to rescue herself

“If you’d asked my opinion before you risked your fool life, I would’ve told you she’d come down on her own, Grandma.”

“I called Godfrey. When he didn’t come, I thought I’d better get her down.”

“And, just see how well that turned out,” Katherine said, patting Agnes’s cheek. “You could’ve killed yourself.”

“It takes more than a bump to kill an old bird like me.” Agnes touched the lump on her head and twisted her neck from side to side. “Ow.

“Give me a hand, Barnaby,” Godfrey said. One could always count on Barnaby Merryweather, a volunteer fireman for the past twenty years, always the first on the scene in any emergency, whether a kitchen fire or a cat up a tree. Godfrey put his arm under Agnes’s shoulder. “Do you think you can stand, sweetkins?”

“I think so. Let’s give it a try. You’re probably right. I should have called the fire department in the first place.”

 

 

 

 

30
Oct

Jennie's Shopping Trip

Image may contain: text that says 'When you find something you like, so you get all available colors. TNη NkWerks'

A HALLOWEEN STORY JUST FOR FUN

 

Jenny’s shrieks followed Tom as he skipped down the sidewalk to his 57’souped-up T-bird. It didn’t matter. When his girlfriend’s grew tiresome, he’d walk away. Women were like shoes. When the shine was gone, you got a new pair.

It was harder to leave Jenny than some of the others, but why stick around? Women always expected commitment and Tom wasn’t the committing type.

Tom checked his rear-view mirror as he ran his hands through his carrot-red hair. Not to worry. He’d have another girlfriend within the week. He stomped the gas and sped away.

****

Jenny clutched her black cat to her breast, “I should never have allowed myself to care so much.” A brown Maltese, a golden-eyed, pure white cat and a tan blue-eyed beauty from Asian ancestry, hunkered nearby, commiserating with her sorrow.

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

The black and white longhaired cat in her lap gazed up at her and yawned. “Come on, guys, let’s get a snack. Then, I’m going shopping.” Her feline menagerie followed her to the kitchen.

Jenny gazed at the four cats hunkered around a pile of Friskies like the four spokes of a wheel; black, brown, white and tan. She remembered that Tom had a lunch meeting today at a little restaurant on Main Street. “Yes, I think an orange one will work out just fine,” Jenny whispered. “Let the games begin.”

Jenny lifted the lid off a dusty box from a garage top shelf and removed a black hat sporting a long black feather. She ran her fingers over its velvety texture, from nib to tip. “This will do nicely.” A mist of dust rose from the feather and disappeared in a wisp of breeze.

In her closet, she found a black pantsuit with shoulder pads and bellbottom pants, tucked between a tweed suit from the 1980’s, and a much older leather jacket, She shook the wrinkles from the jacket and frowned at the tiny moth hole in the left sleeve.

Had it been that long since she got the last one? She could have sworn it was just a couple years before. It was definitely time for a new one.

Jenny donned the pantsuit and the black feathered hat. She added a bangle bracelet and Lion head Medallion necklace to the ensemble and nodded in satisfaction at the image reflected in her hall mirror.

Jenny drove downtown and parked a half-block from Marvelous Marvin’s Magic Shop, next door to the restaurant where Tom was having lunch.

She stood outside the magic shop, admiring the items in the window. In a few moments, Tom strode down the street, his bright red hair blowing in the wind. Jenny caught his eye, and then dashed into the magic shop. Once inside the door, eerie shrieks and squeals of organ music, enough to chill one’s soul, came from an elaborate sound system.

Tom followed her into the store….. “Jenny, is that you?”

Jenny hurried through the darkened aisles toward a dimly lit corner piled high with boxes, capes, and baskets heaped with assorted magician’s paraphernalia.

Tom followed… until they were in the furthest dark corner, where the black light overhead caused the Magic Marvin’s Magic Shop logos on black shopping bags to glow in a neon aura.

Tom’s gaze followed the drifting feather, caressed by the breeze from the air conditioner. “Jenny? Are you going to a costume party?” His gaze still locked on the swaying feather.

“No, I was waiting for you.”

“For me? Don’t be tiresome. I told you… We have nothing more to talk about.”

“Oh, yes. I think we do.” She tapped her fingernail three times on the stack of black Marvelous Marvin’s shopping bags and whispered, “Dinkle, Dinkle, Catzenwinkle.”

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

Jenny carried the bag to the counter. “I’ll take this one.” She paid for the bag and left the store. Back home, Jenny poured another glass of wine, filled a plate with crackers and cheese and summoned her feline friends.

They came from under the table, from the top of the sofa, from under the bed, off the fireplace mantle, stretching and yawning. Like four spokes of a wheel, black, brown, white and tan, they circled the shopping bag decorated with the vivid face of the cat with glowing eyes.

Jenny sipped her wine and tossed each cat a bite of cheese, grasped the shopping bag and tipped it upside down, “This is Tom,” she said.

Out spilled a carrot-orange striped cat onto the floor. He gazed wildly around the room, his big round eyes filled with terror… The four cats nibbled their cheese and watched the newcomer with some amusement.

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

17
Jul

Mixing History with Fiction - Mrs. Odboddy and The Tuskegee Airmen

A fiction author must take great care not to alter history, but where’s the harm in tossing our character into actual historical events? Don't confuse my fictional story with factual events (marked true),

In Mrs. Odboddy Hometown Patriot, while volunteering  at a watch tower on the beach, elderly Agnes Odboddy spots a Japanese air balloon bomb (true) headed for shore. She uncovers a ration book conspiracy and becomes romantically involved with an FBI agent searching for missing Hawaiian funds.(true) And she meets Mrs. Roosevelt. Our fictional character and our plot weave these historical facts into the fiction story. http://tinyurl.com/hdbvzsv

In my second WWII era humorous mystery/adventure novel, Mrs. Odboddy – Undercover Courier, Mrs. Odboddy continues to fight the war from the home front in her bumbling, charming way..

Agnes and her granddaughter, Katherine, travel by train from California to Washington DC to join Mrs. Roosevelt on her Pacific Island tour(true). Agnes is asked to hand-carry a package to President Roosevelt. She believes it  contains secret war document! (Why not, right?) She expects Nazi agents to attempt to steal her package. (Could happen!) Along the way, she meets some intriguing characters who greatly hinder as well as aid her in her mission. She suspect one of them to be a Nazi spy. (true)

Agnes befriends David and Samuel, two Black soldiers bound for the Tuskegee Air Base, where they are to be trained as pilots with the first all-Black fighting flying squadron.

And here is a bit of REAL history about the  resiliant Tuskegee soldiers who became pilots.

Due to the extreme loss of pilots in battle, and the many Black men who wanted to fight for American, it became expedient to set up a program to train Black fighter pilots, bombardiers, and air support staff. A number of Black men with higher education and pre-war flying experience were selected to train as fighter pilots, in a segregated squadron.

The most successful 'all Black' squadron was the 99th squadron. They began to fly bombing missions in the spring of 1943.

Nine hundred ninety two Black pilots were trained in Tuskegee from 1941-1946. They were credited with 1578 combat missions, 179 bomber escort missions, destroyed 112 enemy aircraft in the air, and another 150 on the ground. Nine hundred fifty rail cars tracks and motor vehicles were destroyed. One destroyer was put out of action. Forty enemy boats and barges were destroyed. Multiple citations were awarded to these brave men, along with many silver, bronze, air medals, and eight purple hearts.

Segregation of the troops ended in 1945 and the Black soldiers were united with other brave American troops.

And now, back to our fictional story… When Mrs. Odboddy's train reaches Tennessee, Agnes and Katherine friends learn more than they wish to know about the JIM CROW laws facing her new friends.  Befriending a Black wounded veteran changes the trajectory of her mission. When she arrives in Washington, she faces a different kind of challenge that taxes her determination as a home front warrior.

Read Mrs. Odboddy - Undercover Courier and get the full story about Agnes and the Tuskegee airmen. The book will amaze and amuse all the way from California to Washington, D.C and shed a bit more light on a slice of American history. For adventure, unbounded humor, and a bit of WWII history, check out the

E-book  at Amazon for $3.99  http://tinyurl.com/jn5bzwb 

Or contact me directly for an autographed paperback copy, mailed free to your home for $13.00. Elaine.Faber@mindcandymysteries.com.

 

 

27
May

Three Elements For a Great Reader Experience

– Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary

A reader wants to feel she is personally experiencing or observing the events in the story, therefore, the  author must write the story in such a way to allow the reader to experience the story in this manner.  So, have you ever wondered why you've read some books that create this feeling and others that are just...ok?   To successfully create such a scene, it must include the following three elements.

  1. What does the character see? (The setting seen through the character’s POV)
  2. What does the character think or feel? (How does the current situation personally affect him?)
  3. What does the character say or do about the situation? (Dialogue or action, or both.) I will use a condensed/edited scene from my latest novel, Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey's Diary to illustrate.

What does he see? Setting: Black Cat watched as a woman wearing dark glasses and a large black hat that shaded her face crept through the gate. Rosebush stickers on the fence caught at her sleeve. She paused, unhooked the thorns and then, tip-toed down the sidewalk toward the house.

Black Cat lowered his ears and crept past the corner of the house. What was she up to? His gaze swept toward the Wisteria vines where Angel’s golden tail swished back and forth beneath the hanging purple flowers. Angel!

What does he think (or feel?) Perhaps this woman intended to steal something from the front porch. He crept closer. It was his duty to protect the family’s belongings. He could almost see tomorrow's front page headlines in the Fern Lake Gazette. Plucky Local Cat Foils Attempted Grand Larceny. Despite overwhelming odds, the daring and plucky feline protected his master’s valuable rhododendron plant from the clutches of a 200 lb. female assailant determined to…so forth and so on…Maybe his photo…

The portly woman dashed the last few steps up the sidewalk, leaned down, and yanked Angel by her tail, out from under the bush.

Meow!

What does he say or do? Dialogue or Action: Black Cat raced across the lawn. Angel! He leaped at the woman’s arm, teeth bared. The woman jerked away. His fangs caught the edge of her sleeve and ripped through the material. Having missed to connect with her arm, he tumbled to the grass with a shriek. “Brett! Brett! Help! Help!

The thief waddled down the sidewalk with Angel, desperately thrashing against her hip. Still grasping the thrashing cat, with one hand, the woman struggled to open the front gate . “Stop fighting me, you little…”

Not my Angel… Black Cat sprinted through the gate, leaped over the hood of the car, and scrambled around the open car door.

Once she reached her door, the woman flung Angel onto the passenger seat, and flopped into the driver’s seat. Before she could slam the door shut, Black Cat leaped into her lap. She grabbed her purse and struck at his head, knocking him sideways. His head struck the dials on the radio and he fell to the floor, momentarily stunned. As though through a haze, he heard Brett yelling. Angel huddled on the front passenger seat, her nails clinging to the vinyl seat, frozen with fright, mewing pathetically, Black Cat! Black Cat!

****

 

To learn what happens next, you can purchase Black Cat and the Secret in Dewey’s Diary for $3.99 at Amazon https://tinyurl.com/vgyp89s

Let me know your thoughts regarding this writing process. What thoughts to you have regarding how authors create a more satisfying read?

2
May

Kilcuddy Kitty - A WWII Cat Tells All - A short story from All Things Cat

Kilcuddy Kitty stretched out in the sunny butcher shop window, anxiously awaiting Shamus O’Reilly. Any minute now, he’d arrive to open the shop. The first rays of morning  light up the posters in the window.

Beef Kidneys−$.39 a pound,

Oxtails−$.15 a pound,

Beef bones−$.10 a pound.

Since the attack on Pearl Harbor last December, housewives accepted the scarcity of meat available at the butcher shop, knowing that the best cuts were sent to the troops. Dealing with the restrictions of rationing without complaint is considered patriotic.

Kilcuddy Kitty rolled in the sun, recalling last night’s events after Shamus flicked out the lights and locked the doors. Kilcuddy had settled to nap atop the roll of butcher paper behind the meat counter. Shattering glass in the back room roused him from slumber. He leaped to the top of the counter. Hunkered down, ears pricked and muscles taunt, his gaze riveted toward the doorway.

Footsteps crunched through broken glass! Fear smell emanated from a masked figure entering the shop. A flashlight's beam streamed over the glass counter toward the cash register. Kilcuddy’s hair stood on end. The tip of his tail flipped from side to side.

The thief moved closer.

With a mighty leap, Kilcuddy Kitty landed on the intruder’s shoulders. Yoww!!

The thief shrieked, jerked from left to right, trying to dislodge the claws digging into his back. In his frenzy, his torchlight fell to the floor. Kilcuddy tasted warm blood as he sank his fangs into the man’s neck.

With a curse, the prowler grabbed Kilcuddy by the back of his neck and flung him across the room. Thump! Kilcuddy landed in a heap. Dazed, he heard frantic mumbling and scuttling as the intruder plunged through the darkness and escaped out the back window. The thud of his footsteps faded away as he pounded down the alley.

Kilcuddy lay on the floor, his ears ringing, head aching, tasting the man’s blood . Odd, human blood tastes different than chicken blood. Sweeter, somehow. Or, was it the satisfaction of protecting Shamus’s shop that tasted so sweet? Without a doubt, he had foiled the attempt to rob the store and steal the best cuts of meat...

Pushing last night’s memories from his mind, Kilcuddy Kitty rolled over and presented his tummy to the warm morning sunshine. Shamus would soon be here. What fine beef trimmings or snippets of kidneys would he spoon into Kilcuddy’s bowl as a reward for thwarting the burglar? Do cats ever receive medals for bravery? Perhaps he’d be Grand Marshall in a parade and sit beside the mayor’s pretty wife.

With the click of a key in the back room, Shamus O’Reilly arrived at last. “Begorra, the window is shattered and me clean floor is covered with glass.” The shop owner rushed to the cash register and punched the proper keys. The drawer popped open, revealing neat rows of bills from yesterday’s sales. “Sure and the saints have blessed me. Me money is still here!”

Seeing nothing further amiss, Shamus swept up the broken glass , mumbling such words as cannot be repeated in a G-rated short story.

Kilcuddy Kitty cruised against the cash register, his whiskers a-tingle, his back arched in sheer joy and anticipation, as he patiently waited for Shamus to lavish him with the praise and treats he so richly deserved.

His mouth watered as he contemplated his reward. Would it be a whopping $.62 a pound salmon steak, such as the mayor’s wife bought each Friday afternoon? Didn’t Shamus always tuck away the best cuts for her? Though, where she got all the ration coupons for each Friday's purchase gave one pause... Other housewives rarely had enough money or meat coupons for such weekly culinary delights.

At last, Shamus stalked into the shop, shaking his broom. “So, there you are, Kilcuddy Kitty, standing about as usual, while I clean up the mess. Like as not you slept right through the scoundrel breaking me fine window. What luck he didn’t come inside and steal me hard-earned cash. You’re a poor store minder, you worthless cat. Me thinks I should get rid of you and get a good watchdog!”

What? What? The unfairness of it! Kilcuddy Kitty arched his back and hissed. The ingratitude. After all I’ve done! His tail puffed up like a bristle brush. He sprang off the meat counter. How unjust the master. How unmerited the disparagement. Hadn’t he warded off the perpetrator, risked life and limb, and suffered a bonk on the noggin when he was so unceremoniously pitched against the wall? Where was his praise, his medal and parade? Where even the scrap of meat in his bowl? Oh, deliver me from the injustice of man.

Shamus stood with his broom in his hand as Kilcuddy Kitty dashed into the storeroom, leaped through the broken window and bounded down the back alley, howling. And fare thee well, Shamus O’Reilly, for I’ll never darken your doorstep again.

Kilcuddy never forgave old Shamus or returned to the butcher shop.

Every Saturday night, you’ll find Shamus at Sean O’Flanahan’s pub, whining to all who will listen. “Alas, later that day, I found a flashlight on the floor and blood on the cash register. Me good cat, Kilcuddy Kitty, must have run the bugger off before he could steal me money. And, now because of my sins, I’ve lost me best pal.” Whereupon, Shamus weeps and orders another beer. Soon his drinking buddies tire of his whining and turn their backs on him.

And what, might you wonder, happened to Kilcuddy Kitty? Folks say he took up with the mayor’s pretty wife. When asked if he’ll ever forgive Shamus and return to the butcher shop, Kilcuddy Kitty winks and says. “Why should I? Life is grand with the mayor’s wife. Every Friday she takes another ration book to Shamus O’Reilly’s butcher shop and buys the best cuts of meat. I love the salmon, but some have asked. ‘How does she come by so many ration coupons?’

“I think there’s something fishy going on…”

****

If you enjoyed this story, your might enjoy all 21 short stories about cats found in my short anthology

All Things Cat..   Amazon $2.99     http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak

 

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.

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

26
Oct

Harvest Jack's Rebellion - A Halloween Short Story

“If I’ve told you once,” Papa Red Warty Thing said. “I’ve told you a dozen times not to stray so far way. Look at you. You’re already out into the road. The tractor is coming along any minute. You could be smashed flatter than a fritter!”

Papa Red Warty Thing was right. The urge to see the world was strong in the most adventurous Cucurbita Pepo in the community. Unlike his more obedient and littlest cousins, Baby Boo, Wee-be-Little, and Jack-be- Little, who never strayed past the first twist in the vine, Harvest Jack was determined to see more of the world than the front and rear end of his closest relatives.

Twisting back toward his parents, Papa Red Warty Thing and Sweet Sugar Pie, unruly Harvest Jack huffed and declared, “I’d rather be a fritter than bored to death, lying face up in the sun like the rest of you.”

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

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

Papa Red Warty Thing shivered. “I never thought I’d say this, but if he doesn’t change his attitude, he’s likely to end up gutted, with holes in his skin in the shape of an ugly face!”

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

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

Papa Red Warty Thing was wrong, for by now, Harvest Jack had wandered into the road and lay directly in the path of the giant tractor grinding its way down the road, swooping up all in its path, and dumping the unfortunate ones into a hopper to be carried off to an uncertain future.

Sweet Sugar Pie shrieked, “It’s coming! Beware!”

Harvest Jack heard the engine and turned toward the sound. “Uh Oh!” The seeds in his belly shook in terror. Papa Red Warty Thing was right, after all. He was about to be crunched into a fritter and there wasn’t anything he could do about it.

A raven swooped down and landed on his stem. “It serves you right for being disrespectful and wandering into the road. Papa Red Warty Thing warned you, didn’t he?”

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

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

Suddenly, Harvest Jack felt himself lifted from the dirt. Guttural, humanoid sounds reverberated through his stem and then he felt the cool, earth beneath his bottom. What had happened? He found himself lying just inches from Papa Red Warty Thing and Sweet Sugar Pie.

Somehow, he’d escaped the wheels of the tractor and was back in his very own field. How warm and good the sun felt on his face.

“Oh, Papa Red Warty Thing! You were right,” Harvest Jack cried. “I shouldn’t have disobeyed. I’m so happy to be back where I belong. I’ll never disobey again. I promise I’ll grow up and become a Harvest dinner pie, but can I choose which kind of pie I want to be?”

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

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

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

“What’s wrong,” Harvest Jack cried. “I thought you wanted me to grow up to be a Harvest dinner pie. You said I could choose what kind of pie I wanted to be.”

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

“Did you hear the lad?” Sweet Sugar Pie screamed. “Apparently, according to political correctness today, if the lad wants to be a cherry pie, then he’s a cherry pie!”

“You’re to blame for this, Sweet Sugar Pie. You were always too lenient with the boy. I knew I should never have married someone from the other side of the field!”
*******
All the critters names are varieties of pumpkins.
If you enjoy my stories, please check out my seven published novels, including All Things Cat - A book of short stories about cats. http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak (Amazon $2.99 ebook)

19
Feb

The Conscientious Objector


One of the stories from my book - ALL THINGS CAT HTTP://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak
The Conscientious Objector
The old woman, Broomtilda, took me in when I was a wee kitten and named me Tinkleberry. Her idea, not mine…Over the years, as she grew frailer, it became difficult for her to find enough work around the village to buy bread and cheese. Were it not for the old cow in the byre, we would have no milk for my breakfast and Broomtilda’s dinner.

One night, Broomtilda tucked her shoes under the bed, pulled the covers up to her nose and went to sleep with only milk for her dinner. Come dawn, being too weak to rise, she called me to her side. “I have provided all your needs until today, Tinkleberry. Now, you must go, my friend, kill a small beast and bring me meat, for I no longer have the means to feed us. If you fail, I shall perish.”

That she should ask me to kill a living creature went against my very soul, for unlike my feline brethern, I have long been a conscientious objector. “You know I would do anything for you, dear Broomtilda,” I said, “but to kill even the smallest living creature, I cannot do. Please do not ask me to pay such a price in return for your kindness.”

“How can you answer thus, when I am ill and hungry? Have I not always provided for you?”

The tears in her eyes wrenched my heart, and yet I trembled in horror at the thought of killing even the smallest vole. “Isn’t there another way to meet our needs?”

“Only one, but I dare not speak of it. It’s far too dangerous,” she wept.

“Whatever it might be, I shall do as you demand, if it keep me from breaking my vow as a conscientious objector.” I bowed my head, my hair bristling in dread.

She lifted her frail hand. “You must make your way to yonder mountain. High on the top beside a river, you’ll find a cave where a wicked leprechaun dwells,” she said. “Perhaps you can trick him into revealing where he hides his gold. Even if you can steal one small coin, it would feed us for many weeks. Go, now Tinkleberry. My life is in your paws, small friend.” My mistress fell back upon the bed, her voice a bare whisper. “If you cannot bring back a piece of gold, our days on this earth are numbered.”

I set out to do as she had bid. Though against my conscience to kill, my wits would be tested if I was to fool the evil leprechaun, steal a coin, and live to tell the tale.

The trail to the mountain was steep. With each step, I cast about in my mind how to fulfill such a task. And with each step nearer the cave, I had no clear plan how to dupe the leprechaun from his gold.

“Halt. Who goes there?” The shrill voice of the wicked leprechaun called out from beneath the log that spanned the river. His words chilled my heart. It was now or never! “Answer, Cat, or I’ll turn you to stone.”

Panic seized my heart. And an idea popped into my furry head. “I’m just a harmless pussy cat out for a stroll in the woods. My, what a lovely river you have here, Sir Leprechaun. I love what you’ve done with the place.” A little honey-talk goes a long way toward soothing a malevolent spirit, or so I’m told. I sashayed across the log, humming an Irish ditty, and bowed low. “My name is Tinkleberry. (Her idea, not mine.) Pray tell, what might your name be, kind sir?”

The leprechaun’s demeanor softened somewhat. “My name is Merichandrick. What do you seek?” He grumbled.

“A spot of tea would be lovely. I’m weary from my travels.” I looked wistfully toward the gnome, hoping to convey abject vulnerability and candor. To my great relief, he invited me to step inside his abode.

“Come on in and I’ll light the fire.” I followed him into the grotto, aware that he might have a trick up his sleeve. Was he planning to toss me into the stew pot once inside? My nerves tingled, prepared for the worst.

“Sit over there.” The imp shuffled toward the fire as I scanned the cave.

Fearing treachery, I kept one wary eye on my host as I gazed around. A green and red parrot in a cage, hung from a golden hook. “Oh, what a lovely bird,” I posited, sidling closer to the cage. Where was he hiding that blasted pot of gold? Near the back of the cave, something lay hidden beneath a red blanket.

The little man turned. “Will you be after spending the night?” said he, with a wicked glint in his eye.

He likely plans to kill me as I lay sleeping. “If I’m so invited,” says I with a yawn, patting my paw against my mouth, giving him a good view of my sharp fangs, in case he had any funny ideas. “Let us drink our tea and I’ll curl up for the night just yonder on your lovely red blanket.”

He shook his mop of green curls. “Not there,” he shrieked, panic shining from his wicked eye. “Best you should sleep closer to the fire.”

“As you wish, and I thank you kindly for the hospitality,” says I. Oho! The gold is beneath the blanket. Once the little man sleeps, I’ll snatch a coin and be on my way. He’ll be none the wiser from the loss of one coin.

My host set out two mugs, poured the tea and shoved one toward me. Expecting a trick, I sneezed, and as he reached for a handkerchief, I switched the mugs. Indeed, my mug was drugged, for the evil goblin drank and fell immediately into a stupor.

As I reached to snatch a gold coin from the pot beneath the blanket, the parrot shrieked, spewing vile curses. Murderous rage filled my heart. Would the cursed bird ruin everything? All I needed was one small coin to save my mistress.

A conscientious objector no more, I leaped at the cage and knocked it to the dirt floor. The door flew upon and the now repentant parrot squawked and flapped on the ground. One swift snap of my jaws, and the bird would curse no more.

Broomtilda traded the gold coin for six chickens and a second cow. Bossy gives us enough milk to sell and pay for bread and vegetables.
As a recovering conscientious objector, only occasionally must I venture into the woods, highjack an unsuspecting rabbit and fetch it home for the stewpot. If our fortune changes for the worse or the old cow dies, the wicked leprechaun still has a pot full of gold coins, and I know where he lives.

If you enjoyed this story, I urge you to purchase the book, All Things Cat, with 21 of my short stories about cats or in this case... written by the cat!

Back to Top