14
Feb

The Chocolate Kiss

We quarreled this morning. I threw his favorite blue cup across the room. It shattered when it hit the hearth. I screamed “I hate you!” and ran out the door. I kicked the tires on my car.

I was angry all morning. Every time the phone rang, I was sure he was calling to apologize. Why didn’t he call? I wouldn’t call him. He was wrong, right?

The afternoon dragged by. It’s 5:00 P.M., and I’m leaving the office. … The traffic is terrible and I’m anxious to get home. It’s not that I’m going to apologize. It was his fault that we quarreled, but it’s too tiring to stay mad. I want everything to be okay between us again.

The cars creep along the freeway and I check my watch.

He should be home by now, waiting for me, listening to music, probably drinking a glass of red wine. I’m sure he bought me flowers. I can’t wait to see what kind he chose.

It  started to rain and the leaves swirl across the highway, gathering on the edge of my front window. The windshield wipers swish. They seem to say,“hate-shoo, hate-shoo, hate-shoo.”  My eyes sting with tears as I remember how I said those words. I didn’t mean it. I reach for the cell phone in my purse and touch instead, his gift to me, a melted chocolate candy kiss. I lick the chocolate off my fingers and smile, remembering the night, not so long ago and his words, “This kiss signifies my love.”

Now I'm ready to tell him 'I’m sorry', even if he was wrong. I want his arms around me. I want his lips to caress my throat. I want us to be together.

I don’t see his car. It must be parked in the garage. I know he heard me pull in the driveway, and even now, I can almost see him rushing to the door with a glass of wine and the flowers. In a minute, he will kiss me and whisper, “I’m sorry…”

I turn the handle on the front door. Why is it locked> I turn my key in the door and call his name. The room is empty. Where can he be?

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

****

Hope your Valentine's Day has a better ending. Don't let the day begin or end without saying, "I love you."   Elaine Faber

 

5
Dec

The Christmas Bird

The days grew shorter, the air crisper, the nights longer, and the whisper of leaves on the roof began to awaken each Christmas tree bird in their tissue paper in the attic. Something sang to them, called to them, until they wiggled with joy, crinkling their crepe paper walls. Soon, each Christmas bird ornament would be lifted from his crinkly paper bed where he slept since last Christmas.

As the year neared its end, the Christmas birds felt a thrill from their springy wire clips and gold porcelain bodies to their bright feather tails. The littlest Christmas bird lay warm and snug beneath Gold Bird. How he anticipated the coming holiday season. Soon he would be on the Christmas tree with his fragile glass friends and the others…the round ones with bright colored paint. They were not nearly as beautiful as his Christmas bird friends with their springy wires, delicate glass and pinchey clips that clasped them firmly to each branch. And though all his friends were lovely, he felt he was the most beautiful Christmas tree bird in the attic.

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

Gold Bird’s tail feathers quivered. “Really? Blue glass bird is made of hand-blown glass from Germany, with a fine blue feather tail. Antique bird is missing some tail feathers but he is so fragile, you can see right through him. We all have unique qualities, and all are as beautiful as you.” He fairly shook as he scolded the young bird wrapped beneath him in pink tissue.

“It may be true what you say,” said the saucy little bird. “But, the tree won’t be nearly as beautiful if I’m not right near the top.”

Gold Bird, being older and wiser, turned his head. “You obviously don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas. You don’t deserve to be included in the holiday events. You conceited fellow, it would serve you right if you got left behind this year.”

The Christmas bird trembled. The idea of being left behind scared him a bit. With a slight tremble, he said, “That couldn’t happen, could it? It’s not that you aren’t handsome, but my tail feathers are longer and softer and fluffier than yours, and…my…paint is much shinier.”

Tut tut,” replied Gold Bird. “Not…another…word.”

For several uncomfortable days, the little bird lay silent in his cocoon of crinkly paper. Gold Bird’s warning haunted him. “You conceited fellow, it would serve you right …” Not to be there on Christmas Eve? He could not bear the thought.

The days grew shorter and a soft sprinkle of snow blanketed the roof. The wind whistled past the attic and the dark days edged toward December. Early one morning, footsteps on the attic steps awakened the Christmas birds. They held their breath, as their box was lifted from the shelf and carried down the stairs. “It’s time! Soon we’ll be on the Christmas tree,” the little Christmas bird whispered to Gold Bird.

One by one, the Christmas birds were lifted from the box. The young Christmas bird lay wrapped in his soft tissue wrapping. He heard the squeal as his friends were hung on the tree. He faintly heard music and children laughing. He even smelled the cookies!

“It’s almost time,” he whispered to Gold Bird. “It’s nearly my turn.”…but Gold Bird’s fluffy tail no longer tickled his nose. The ornament box was tossed into the corner; empty, except for the little Christmas bird. “Wait! What happened? I’m still here.” Overlooked in mother’s haste, he was left behind. His comfortable bed, now a prison, his beautiful body still swaddled in crinkly tissue paper. Muffled Christmas sounds reached his ears. A tiny plastic tear formed in his little red eye. “I was conceited and proud, and now I’ve been left behind.”

Christmas Day approached and he missed the entire Christmas season, alone in the box in the corner. On Christmas Eve, the family gathered to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The Christmas tree bird lay in his box, imagining the tree with his friends hanging on its branches. Even the scorned round ones were part of the celebration. “The round ones may not be as beautiful,” he lamented,” but they are on the tree, and I’ve been left behind.”

After supper, the family gathered by the Christmas tree. The little girl read from the Bible. “They wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and lay Him in a manger.”

Christmas bird thought, “I’m wrapped in swaddling clothes, like the baby Jesus,” and he imagined the tiny baby sung and warm, lying in a manger, warmed by the breath of the surrounding animals. He heard the daddy tell how Jesus came to earth as a tiny baby, and if we loved and trusted Him, He would take us to heaven and we would never be left behind.  The Christmas bird sniffed, “I know what it’s like to be left behind. How much worse it would be, to be left behind from Heaven.” Then, his box jiggled, the crinkling tissue paper lifted away and the warmth from the fireplace touched his cheek.

The little girl lifted Christmas bird from his box. “Look, Mommy! It’s another Christmas birdie. He has a red tear in his eye. Can we hang him on the Christmas tree?”

Daddy lifted her and she hung the little bird near Gold Bird. Looking down from the tree, the joyous Christmas bird felt the love in the room as the family shared gifts with one another. Carols played on the stereo. The spicy aroma of gingerbread drifted in from the kitchen. The family laughed and sang. Christmas bird wiggled with joy. At last, he was exactly where he wanted to be. Gold Bird swung around from a nearby branch and gave him a tender glance. “Welcome to Christmas, little bird. Did you learn anything?”

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

 

30
Oct

Jennie's Shopping Trip

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

A HALLOWEEN STORY JUST FOR FUN

 

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

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

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, I was waiting for you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8
Aug

The Slobaviakinsky Golf Course

Here is a fun short story to start your day.

The Slobaviakinsky Golf Course and Convention Center was located in a small, undeveloped country somewhere north of the 23rd Parallel, funded by a US entrepreneurial endeavor to improve the lives of the Slobaviakinsky citizens. They employed one hundred and ten individuals, from grounds keepers to bartenders, to chefs and maids.

The biggest and finest golf course and convention center within 3000 miles, it was chosen to hold the annual European golf tournament. News of Tiger Woods’s attendance assured financial and national attention, and every room in the convention hotel was reserved in advance

Tiger had shipped his personal all electric golf cart with leather seats, titanium steering wheel, state-of-the-art sound system and beverage center, and golf clubs with gold gilt grips, ahead of his arrival. They placed a tarp over cart beside the CEO’s office, lest anyone should attempt to pilfer same and sell it at New York Southey’s Auction House.

Unbeknownst to the tournament organizers, or CEO, years long before the course was built, beneath the manicured grass, there was a maze of tunnels connecting the 1st through the 19th hole, built by a secret society where covert operations were planned. Discussions were underway beneath the turf as to how to scuttle the approaching tournament, lest the location of the tunnels should be discovered and future doings thwarted. A final plan was voted on and passed.

Three days before the tournament, the head landscaper entered the CEO’s office. The distraught man wrung his hands and blurted out his terrible story. During the night, someone had torn out the sound system in Tiger’s golf cart and shredded the leather seats. The golf bag holding his precious gilt-edged clubs was slashed with marks that looked like wild animal teeth. Knowing Tiger Wood’s sensitive nature, the CEO feared that hearing of the offense, he might refuse to attend. In such a case, would the tournament even proceed?

Much to their surprise, Tiger grudgingly agreed to use a standard golf cart if they provided a cooler filled with his favorite beverage and a CD player.

Two day before the tournament, the CEO found his head electrician awaiting his arrival. During the night someone had destroyed the wiring to the PA system, making it impossible to announce the events over the loud speakers. What would Tiger’s adoring fans say if they could not hear about his prowess on the field? Since the hotel was already fully booked and international news media already on their way, they were determined to fix the system and save the tournament.

The secret society called another emergency meeting. Scuttling Tiger’s golf cart hadn’t worked. Destroying the PA sound system hadn’t worked. Drastic measures were needed. In desperation, a final deterrence was needed.

One day before the tournament, the CEO’s head chef was waiting. That morning, he had found rat droppings on the kitchen counter, on the stove and in the pantry. Bags of flour were torn open. The freezer was unplugged and hundreds of pounds of meat had thawed. The refrigerator’s electric cord was chewed in half. Apparently, rodents had invaded the hotel. The health inspector would likely shut down the kitchen, putting the entire tournament at risk.

The clever CEO snapped his fingers. “Set up barbecues on the patio with bricks and screens. BBQ all the meat for the guests tonight. Have the local markets and bakeries bring bread, fresh fruit and pastry for breakfast tomorrow. Gather the portable microwaves from each room to prepare whatever else is needed. Contact another dozen food trucks to serve the tournament guests tomorrow. We’ll make it work.”

In despair, the secret society shrugged and gave up. None of their efforts had derailed the tournament. They would have to take their chances of discovery.

On tournament day, Tiger Woods faced the top ten world champion golfers. On the 19th hole, he was one stroke from winning the tournament. He eyed the ball, drew back his club, but as he swung, his foot slipped on a leaf. His ball arced to the left off the fairway, into the trees. The crowd erupted in a collective moan. TV cameramen trailed Tiger into the woods where he found his ball on a mound of dirt, evidence of a major gopher hole.

Tiger stomped the mound flat, smacked his ball onto the green where it slowly rolled and plopped into the cup. Tiger said. “The club better set out poison before the gophers get onto the fairway.” He moved onto the green to the adulation of his adoring TV fans.

In the tunnel below, a number of ground gophers wept as their worst nightmare came to fruition. Tiger’s attendance at the tournament had revealed their secret location. It was only a matter of time until the secret tunnels would be destroyed and their existence doomed. There was only one solution. A quick vote was pass and decision made to move their network of tunnels into the International Culinary School garden next door. Unbeknownst to them, Wolfgang Puck’s world renowned Annual Cooking Contest was scheduled to be held there next spring.

****

Do you prefer fantasy short stories or do you prefer reading non-fiction articles?

If you enjoy fiction stories, check out my cat anthology of short stories . All Things Cat http://tinyurl.com/y9p9htak  (Amazon e-book $2.99) 

22
Jun

A Fourth of July Short Story

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

Millie was the last person Agnes wanted to talk to. They had nothing in common. Millie’s husband, George, was a Revolutionary War collector. Their house looked like a museum full of Revolutionary War relics. Why did Millie put up with such nonsense?

Millie ran up, breathlessly, “Are you coming to the Independence Day celebration at the Vet’s Memorial Building tonight? They’re having a military band, Viet Nam veteran speakers, and fireworks after the meeting. You’re welcome to ride over with us.”

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

The Fourth of July was such a nuisance. The fireworks always got all the neighborhood dogs barking and the streets were a cluttered mess the next morning.

Agnes preferred closing the blinds and going to bed early. Kids down the street were already shooting off fireworks. She closed her eyes…

Agnes jerked and twisted, thrashing her pillow. What? Why was she in the middle of a battlefield? The boom-boom of fireworks became the sound of a beating drum. The sun blazed down on men dressed in brilliant red jackets. Sweat poured from their faces. They marched in a straight row toward an outline of shadowy figures in buckskin, hiding behind rocks and trees.

Agnes stared at the soldiers moving forward with guns drawn. Redcoats? From England? What?How did she get here? She didn’t belong here! She couldn’t be here. The field would soon be littered with dead and dying men. She turned and tried to run. She must be dreaming. Wake up! Wake up!

Someone grabbed her arm, dragged her from the line of fire and pulled her down behind a rock. Her heart pounded. Perspiration trickled down her forehead. She crouched beside the men, so close she could smell their sweat. Older soldiers grimaced, their lined faces knowing what was soon to come. “Hold the line, men. Steady now.” Younger soldiers, terrified of the unknown, sniffled as the enemy advanced, step by step to the beat of their drum. Though the ragtag soldiers were outnumbered by the advancing troops, they had the advantage of the cover of trees and rocks. The men primed their guns with powder and ball and squatted in the dirt, waiting, waiting as the formidable enemy advanced.

She had to get away. This couldn’t be real! She knew she was dreaming! Why couldn’t she wake up?

The drumbeat stopped. Silence! What happened? She peeked around the rock. There was the enemy, frozen in time, guns at the ready, feet in mid-step. The flag drooped, unmoving. The drummer’s drumstick hung suspended in mid-air, above his drum.

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

She opened her eyes, and blinked against the darkness in her own bedroom. “I was dreaming!” Dreams were, after all, just snatches of thoughts and memories, sounds and sights stored willy-nilly in one’s mind and pulled into a fractured scenario to haunt our restless minds. She shuddered. There was a day when her dream had been the reality for many others.

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

Agnes rose from her bed and found a book about the Revolutionary War in her library. She sat in a rocker and began to read:

For the sake of independence, farmers, storekeepers, bankers, men from all walks of life, rebelled at the tyranny England imposed on their fledgling nation. Ill equipped, with antiquated guns and untrained, the Continental soldiers chose to fight a highly-trained army made up of Englishmen, German mercenaries, and Hessians.

The Revolutionary war lasted over eight years.
The estimated population in America in 1776 was three million.
80,000 militia and Continental Army soldiers served at the height of the war
25,000 American Revolutionary soldiers died during the war
8,000 more Revolutionary soldiers died from wounds inflicted during battle
17,000 Revolutionary soldiers died from disease
25,000 Revolutionary soldiers were estimated to have been wounded or maimed
1 in 20 able-bodied men living in America died during the war.

All for the sake of following generations, so we could have the freedom to make laws and live by our own rules as established by the Declaration of Independence.

Agnes called Millie’s answering machine and left a message. “This is Agnes. Sorry I couldn’t make it tonight. I hope you had fun. I promise I’ll come with you next year. Our freedom is important, isn’t it? We need to remember what the holiday cost our forefathers. It really matters.”

Agnes returned to her bedroom with her cat. Boom! Another firecracker cracked in the night. Agnes turned to her cat. “Does that child have any idea what he’s celebrating?”

Agnes’s cat blinked as though he had no answer to the provocative question.

 

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

 

22
Jan

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

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

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

Morning Match  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I open the glass door.

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

He rattles the screen latch again and meows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I suspect all those poets had a cat.

*******

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

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

Contact her at jfbvaughan@comcast.net.

 

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)

8
Oct

Short Story - The Slobaviakinsky Golf Course

The Slobaviakinsky Golf Course and Convention was located in a small, undeveloped country called Slobaviakinsky, somewhere north of the 23rd Parallel. The golf course was funded by a United States grant as an entrepreneurial endeavor to improve the lives of the 1,673,489 citizens of Slobaviakinsky. The convention center employed 312 individuals, from grounds keepers to bartenders, to chefs and maids.

As it happened to be the biggest and finest golf course and convention center within 3000 miles, it was to be the location of the annual European golf tournament. News of Tiger Woods’ attendance had spread far and wide, assuring the event would bring financial and national attention to the not so thriving country. As a result, every room in the convention hotel was reserved.

Having things “just as he liked it,” our boy, Tiger, had shipped his personal all electric golf cart with leather seats, titanium steering wheel, state-of-the-art sound system and beverage center, and golf clubs with gold gilt grips, ahead of his arrival. The cart was now parked on the lawn beside the CEO’s office and covered with a tarp, lest anyone should attempt to pilfer same and sell it at New York Southey’s Auction House.

Unbeknownst to the organizers of the tournament, or for that matter, the golf course’s CEO, long before the course was built at this location, beneath the manicured grass, a secret society had created a maze of tunnels connecting the 1st through the 19th hole. The secret society had planned their covert operations in this location for years and had no desire to risk discovery. Discussions were underway beneath the turf, as to the best way to scuttle the approaching tournament, lest the location of the secret tunnels should be discovered and future doings of the participants thwarted.

At last a plan was voted on and passed, likely to wreck the event.
Three days before the tournament, the CEO found his head landscaper outside his office, awaiting his arrival. The distraught man stood wringing his hands. He blurted out his story. During the night someone had torn out the sound system in Tiger’s golf cart. The leather seats were shredded. The golf bag holding his precious clubs was slashed with marks that looked like the teeth of a wild animal. Knowing Tiger Wood’s erratic moods, the CEO feared that such an attack might result in his refusal to participate. In such a case, would the tournament even proceed?

Much to their surprise, Tiger grudgingly agreed if they promised to provide a cooler with his favorite beverage, he would use a standard golf cart.

Two day before the tournament, the CEO found his head electrician awaiting his arrival. During the night someone had destroyed the wiring to the PA system, making it impossible to announce the events over the loud speakers. Could the tournament proceed if Tiger’s adoring fans could not hear about his prowess on the field? Since the hotel was booked up and news media from around the world were already on their way, they would try to fix the system and save the tournament.

Learning this, the secret society called another emergency meeting. Scuttling Tiger’s golf cart hadn’t worked. Destroying the PA sound system hadn’t derailed the tournament plans. Drastic measures were needed. The timing of the plan had to be perfect.

One day before the tournament, the CEO found his head chef awaiting his arrival. Upon coming to work that morning, he had found what appeared to be rat droppings all over the kitchen, on the stove and in the pantry. Bags of corn meal were torn open. The freezer had thawed during the night thawing hundreds of pounds of meat. He found the refrigerator’s electric cord chewed in half. Obviously, the hotel had been invaded by rodents. With the health inspector due today, the kitchen would likely be shut down putting the tournament in extreme jeopardy.

The clever CEO snapped his fingers. “Have the maintenance crew jimmy up barbecues on the patio with bricks and screens. We’ll BBQ all the meat for the hotel guest’s dinner tonight. Have the local markets and bakeries bring bread, fresh fruit and pastry for breakfast tomorrow. We’ll bring all the portable microwaves from each room to prepare whatever else we need to feed the guests. Contact another dozen food trucks to serve the tournament guests tomorrow. We’ll make it work.”

In despair, the secret society shrugged and gave up. None of their efforts had derailed the tournament. They would have to take their chances of discovery.

On tournament day, Tiger Woods faced the world’s top ten golfers. On the 19th hole, he was one stroke from winning the tournament. He eyed the ball, drew back his club and swung. His foot slipped on a leaf. His ball sailed into the air, then diverted to the left and landed in the trees next to the 19th hole. The crowd erupted in a collective moan. TV cameramen trailed him and his caddy into the woods. Tiger’s ball lay on the top of a mound of dirt, evidence of a major gopher hole.

Tiger stomped down the mound, creating a level field, smacked his ball onto the grass where it slowly rolled across the green and plopped into the hole. Tiger turned to his caddy. “Better notify the CEO about this gopher hole. He should set out poison before they get onto the green,” he said, moving onto the green to the adulation of his adoring fans.

In the tunnel below, a number of ground gophers cringed in trepidation. As they had feared, Tiger Woods’ attendance at the golf tournament had resulted in the discovery of their secret location.

Their existence was doomed. In a matter of time, their secret tunnels would likely be destroyed. There was only one solution. They moved their network of tunnels into the International Culinary School garden next door. Unbeknownst to them, Wolfgang Puck was scheduled to hold his world renowned annual cooking contest there next spring.
****
If you enjoyed my story, consider purchasing one of my mystery novels on Amazon (ebook $3.99) or check out some of my other articles or short stories on this website.

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1
Aug

Dead Bush Poker - A short cat story

I live in Dead Bush, a small town in the center of Texas. Our town sports three saloons, a general store, the bank, one church without a steeple, a blacksmith shop and another establishment such as nice folks don’t talk about in mixed company. Modern wooden slat sidewalks was added this spring in deference to the request of those specific ladies who live in the aforementioned establishment.

On Founder’s Day, the local farmer’s wives bake pies and hams and sweet potatoes for a giant banquet and sponsor a square dance out behind the Blacksmith’s shop. Bright and early this morning, neighboring families with all the kids trickled into town looking for a good time.

Not long after, several soldiers still wearing raggedy Civil War uniforms rode into Dead Bush on worn out horses. The soldiers commenced to drink and gamble and ordered steak dinners at the Dry Spell Saloon where, among other things, such entertainment and libation is encouraged.

I sleep in the back of the saloon, ever since the town sheriff found me, the lone survivor of a wagon train massacred by wild Indians.
I don’t belong to nobody, but Shorty, the barkeep saves me left-overs from the day’s leavings. That, added to my hunting prowess, fares me well. Since I’m the only cat for miles around, the regulars at the saloon adopted me as a mascot. I’m a fine figure of a cat, though some would say, somewhat on the portly side. It must be so, as to the validation of the roaming tomcat what comes through town every spring. Up until now, I haven’t given him a tumble.

Cats are almighty scarce and considerable valuable in this county. A number of local farmers have offered Shorty big bucks for me, beings as cats can keep a barnyard free of varmints without half trying. There are some folks from the big cities who haul cats in their saddlebags to small farming towns, assured of a quick sale and a $20 gold piece. The farmers soon learn they don't know nothin' about varmint huntin.'

Well, seems these soldiers what came to town sat and drank well past noon. I caused quite a stir when I wandered through the saloon. One soldier took a notion to buy me, having heard about cats being worth big money up the river. Shorty declined, saying I couldn’t be sold since I was a free spirit and didn’t belong to nobody.

As the gambling and drinking progressed, the soldier plied Shorty with enough palaver and drink that he was finally cajoled into a card game with me as the stakes.

I sat near the potbelly, preening my whiskers, somewhat amused by the stupidity of these humans what thought they could buy and sell another living creature. Wasn’t that decided by the Civil War after all?

The poker game progressed and it seemed my future as mascot at the Dry Spell Saloon was dependent on the turn of their cards.

Four players hunched over the poker table, cards fanned in their hands, empty glasses lined up in front of them. Shorty’s chips were going fast. Holding on to the Dry Spell Saloon mascot didn’t look promising.

The size of Shorty’s chips rose and fell as the afternoon wore on. I sat on a nearby table, commiserating with Mr. Casper, an old codger who operated a small gold claim in a nearby river. The old man was a fool, but he didn’t smell quite as bad as the other miners, as being tipsy a good deal, he fell in the river more often than most, washing away some of his natural man-stink.

In the late afternoon, the neighbor ladies announced their Founder’s Day supper was served. The saloon emptied except for the four poker players who found it harder and harder to sit up straight. Heads lolled and cards tumbled from their hands. More whiskey landed on the floor than in their glasses. Never in the history of Dead Bush had such a game gone on for so long or the stakes so roundly coveted. I was, indeed, a prize.

Eventually, Smitty Rosenblatt passed out. George Waddlebaker went broke. Shorty hung in there, though blurry eyed, he continued to fight for his meezer. Poor Shorty’s stack of chips got even smaller.

Seeing the inevitable handwriting on the wall, I slipped out the front door and headed out of town onto the prairie, intending on being absent for a few days. An occasional vacation is always revitalizing to one’s health and seemed particularly attractive today.

Besides, there weren’t no sense being around when Shorty went broke and the soldier attempted to claim his prize. I didn’t plan to spend the next week strung to the back of a saddle in a burlap sack until the old soldier found a farmer with a rat-filled barn and a $20 gold piece.

I’m the only cat worth her salt in Dead Bush, and I intend to keep it that way. At least until next spring, when that tomcat comes back to town.

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