The Critters Want to Help!

Greetings!

The Critters in the Woods gave me a real talkin’ to this weekend: We want to cheer you folks up! Therefore I clicked some pics of the little fellers and took dictation. This first one is just a starter. Later this week they have an exciting, thriller-action 20 part serial (or so, they can’t count worth a hoot) they want to give out. Look for their acting prowess every weekday! (Um, I only have internet from up here in town. When I get home to the cabin on the weekends its just me and the Critters.)

Click to make it big enough to read!

 

 

Take-A-Break SHORTS!

Yippee! I got all the current batch of Take-A-Break Shorts! uploaded to Kindle and they’re coming LIVE as we speak! They’re a great variety, why not try one?

Soon I think I’ll put some together in a print book too; I love print books.

Next will be more in the Otto & Sock series about the Mennonite guy and his mod girlfriend and how they manage staying together on spaceships roaming the solar system!

 

Oh, I have bee mulling ideas about historical fiction featuring Ma as she was growing up in the South Carolina barrier islands. She used to tell me wild stories about her and her brother Joe! I’m sure she would not mind me embellishing…lots. We’ll see, there’s so much to do!

Wow, if you get any of the Elise t’Hoot series be sure to start with The Might of Defiance about how Elise gets from Earth to communing with weird aliens far our into the galaxy.

Shameless promotion I know, but gee whiz I’m so proud of them all!

Stupid Cupid!

 

I had crush on a shy guy

I’d seen him look my way

I felt the arrow of love

But how to say be mine? Kiss me! Say the word, you got me!

Light bulb, a Valentine!

I picked one out that said ‘You’re on my mind’

I looked high and low, where’d he go?

Then in the bushes, his bare behind bobbin’ up and down

I tore that card up fine as snow

Stupid Cupid

 

On my own, my first job

Imagine my surprise to see

My desk was right beside a man

Who could make me do handstands

All week I felt a barb in my heart

What a way to start!

When he offered to take me to lunch my heart was smitten

He opened up some cat food and called me his kitten

Twice smarter once bitten!

Stupid Cupid

 

At my sister’s wedding

I thought the photographer was hot

He finished with the wedding party and said

he’d like a few shots of just me

I felt the arrow again, okay I said

I followed dreamy to his studio

But wouldn’t you know

He wanted all my clothes off first

I have the feeling I’m utterly cursed

Stupid Cupid

 

I’ll never marry

Never in my life

Never have a husband

never be a wife

and if I ever find that cherub

I’ll jab him with a knife!

Stupid Cupid

Stupid Cupid

Leave me alone

Stupid Cupid!

 

Free Story From Take-A-Break Shorts!

I have a new series of short stories going our to the wide world soon. Most are longer that postable, but here’s one that fits pretty good:

 

1989

He bought a one way ticket

On an airplane made of snow

Flyin’ low

Dyin’ slow

 

Out Of Rehab. Again. He opened the trunk to get his duffel of a thousand patches out. He’d sold his house and most everything in it for Happy Harry. His and Lili’s house, with little Po. Now he’d live here at Pete’s or under a bridge. With the other cracked up Nam vets. He’d flown secret Air Force missions in Laos while she went to Saigon’s medical facilities. He’d got wasted every day. She worked her ass off to be a real doctor. Did it, too.

Pong realized he stared at Lili’s patch from Afghanistan, the official one from the Hagibi Hospital where she worked putting people’s faces back together. Where she adopted that kid. She used to work there. He yanked on the strap and dragged it to his brother’s front door.

***

“I got the tea straight from Singapore. Great isn’t it” Pete topped off Pong’s mug. The kitchen table was supposed to be a cozy, comforting family place to ease anxieties. Crap.

“Yeah, great.” Pete had set him up in the rec room, too much room. Pong had nearly collapsed to see a new drawing table, paints, markers and a stack of poster boards. Not anymore, not without Lili. He remembered being in a little boat in Singapore, with Lili.

Po burst into the front door singing out “I’m home!” The kid stopped cold when he saw Pong. “Hi Pong.”

“Hey kid. What did you learn in school today?” He felt Lili smile, he’d asked about school like she wanted him to. God forbid if the kid wanted a hug – that was Lili’s job.

In a much subdued tone, Po said, “I have to do a report on a pet. But I don’t have a pet.”

Pong blinked. The kid stood like at the choir in church.  At least the one time Pong had attended church with Lili. He’d seen the kid trail up to stand on the stage with a dozen other kids and belt out some hymn. He remembered the grand days where he and his brother had belted out harmonies at some of the big shows. Jimi Hendrix got top billing but there were instant venues all throughout the milling crowds. He’d met Lili at the Pixly Farm show, where it rained the whole time. They let her sleep in their tent.

“Hey Pong!”

Pete was staring at him. “What?”

Pete patiently said, “I told Po that we could go to the Dog Pound and get a pet.”

Pong saw Po’s eyes dart from his nominal daddy to his own mug of tea. He’d had missed the kid sitting down. Annoyed, he blurted, “You could make up a pet.”

Po took a deep breath. “I read that the Dog Pound mostly kills the big dogs and the black cats.” His eyes lifted toward Pete. “If you don’t want a big dog maybe we could get a black kitten.”

The hope in the boy’s plea would have broken Pong’s heart if the still had one. Apparently, he’d lost his adopted son as well as his wife. He sipped his tea and remembered how he and Lili talked about getting a dog right before her Guard unit dragged her to Afghanistan. She laughed and told him to get a watchdog ’cause she wouldn’t be there to protect him.

A jacket thrust into his face made him jump. Automatically standing to put his jacket on, he asked, “Where to?”

“You stay in outer space most of the time, dude. The Dog Pound. That’s what we’ve been jawing about, right? They close at five so we’d best be movin’ along.”

In the back seat Pong vividly recalled his favorite poster, ‘Movin’ Along!’, the one he’d got prints made of and people came up to get their copies autographed. The cool air in his face via the opened door clued him they’d arrived.

At the counter Po explained that they needed to see the process from the end to the beginning. The woman in charge frowned, saying the public was not allowed in the euthanasia area. Struggling to pay attention, Pong asked, “Can we see Death Row?”

The woman screwed her mouth up for another access denial, but Pete saved the day by asking, “He’s troubled. Can we visit the pets that have been here the longest?”

Pete stopped at the Cat Room that was indeed populated with a preponderance of black kitties. Pong went on to the last chance Dog Room, Po at his heels. Huh.

The room felt so weird, almost electrically frizzy. A neon rainbow sprang from Po to a shaggy auburn double-wide Irish Setter-ish mutt. The mutt looked intently his way. Pong thought about how long he’d tried to draw somebody making the “Tck-Tck” sound you make with one side of your face pulled back when you want a dog to come. He’d messed up too many poster boards trying, no luck. Luck? Really?

He stretched one side of his lips back and “Tck-Tck” erupted. The mutt bounded up and over until giant paws on each shoulder nearly bowled him over.  Once he caught his breath, he knew this was HIS dog. His watchdog.  Or maybe his and Po’s?  Lili had begged him to stop calling Po ‘kid’. “Hey son, what you want to name this colossal creature?”

His son’s face lit bright. “Angel.”

“Down, Angel”. The dog sat obediently, tail wagging like a windshield wiper.  Leaving Pixly he had to get new wiper blades before they got to the interstate. Angel brought his attention back to the here and now with a reverberating bark. He saw Po lean forward to check out Daddy’s demeanor. Pong flung his arms out. That hug felt better than he ever thought one could. Could something go right this time?

The 60’s style flamboyance made his ‘Save a Pet’ posters a big hit, in the restaurants, in vet’s offices, grocery stores, lots of places. One of Pete’s black cats, couldn’t tell Stupid from Cupid, had knocked over a bottle of black ink, stepped in it and walked across the top left corner of Pong’ s first effort. Now they all had black cat paw prints stamped there, like the seal of approval. He shook his head and turned away from the framed posters on the wall. “Lemonade. I came in to get lemonade. He took a Minute Maid out of the freezer and stirred it with water. He heard Po shouting something and squealing. That Angel could wear a guy out! That Angel was a blessing.

The Cuss Cash Jar

“Shitski! The remote died!”

As the Machete Mania show segued into The World’s Best Hamster Clips, Jeannie levered up from the sofa and went for batteries. She returned to see a bunch of jittery rodents running along a zip line over a realistic chasm full of cats. Her husband Elroy slouched on the couch oblivious.

As she turned to announce ‘bedtime’ for her 9 year old son, there he stood grinning, holding out the Cuss Cash jar. “What, you want me to count it for you?”

“You talked dirty and owe a buck.” Tommy grinned wider and shook the jar.

“I did not. Perhaps you mis-heard my recollection of the name Shitski. Your cheesy smile brings it all back to me. I was out walking Roscoe, my beagle/bloodhound mutt, and there before me a shaded park bench beckoned:

I plopped and Roscoe laid across my feet. No sooner had I closed my eyes than somebody that smelled expensive sat right next to me. I looked over and he stuck out a beringed hand.

“Madam, I am Ivan Shitski.” He nodded toward the fuzzy Chihuahua thing he had on the blingy leash that attached to a blingy collar. “This is Katerina the Great.”

At the sound of his voice, Roscoe woke up barking and slobbering. I had to jerk hard on his leash to keep him from having a taco snack. The Russian leaned away from us and the rat dog jumped into his lap. I jerked Roscoe’s leash again and said, “Shut it!”

The evil eye that Russky gave my now peaceful hound prompted me to make a wager. I said, “Sir Shitski, I’ll bet you $100 my dog is smarter than yours.”

He turned his nose up and said that he wouldn’t want to take my money because his darling had won shows. I asked if he was scared old Roscoe would bust his supreme confidence.

He said, “Ha! Fine, I’ll bet a dime.”

Elroy asked, “Dime bag?”

“Shut it, Elroy. Now, back to the vivid memory.”

The Russky stood up and placed the rat dog on the ground. When he unclipped Kate the Great, he showed the thing two fingers that he twirled around twice. The fuzzy runt got on her hind legs and walked around old Ivan twice, then sat all perky right in front of him with goggle-eyed adoration.

I stood and showed Roscoe an L-shape, just finger out and thumb up you know, and unclipped him. That mutt ran fast enough to make grass fly up behind him. As Ivan laughed, I pulled my Ruger SP-101 from my inside back holster with the safety already off. “Ivan, that dog is smarter by an order of magnitude because he knows not to be anywhere near me with a loaded gun ready to fire.”

Jeannie peered straight at her solemn son. “Ivan silently picked up his tarnished treasure and gave me that same cheesy smile as you. He didn’t even pay up. Now go to bed.”

“Yes, Ma’am.” He replaced the jar, laughed and trotted to the bathroom with a spring in his step. Had he glimpsed cats chowing down on clumsy hamsters?

She snuggled back into Elroy’s arms.

“Jean, don’t you think he’s going to figure you changed that Russian’s name to suit yourself when you saw him with that jar?”

She pinched his arm. “No, he won’t figure nothing because he takes after you.”

“You made that up?”

“Shit yeah! Plus his head will be too full of kitties and hamster parts.” She dug for Elroy’s wallet and put two dollars in the jar, then clicked in search of any show without rodent carcasses.

Long-Legged Geeky Girl

Whew! I’ve been up to my ears in busy so have missed posting for a while…sorry! I did just enter an essay contest and thought I might share my non-fiction entry. Go GIRLS!

 

Long-Legged Geeky Girl

Mary Ellen Wall

 

“What are you all red-eyed about?”

“High waters. All I got is high waters. Bell bottoms gotta drag the floor!”

“Prissy girls.” Mama went back to her crossword puzzle and I stomped back to my room to take off those durn blue jeans that showed my ankles as soon as possible. It wasn’t my fault I wasn’t born a boy. Tossing my book bag and shedding my shame, the treasure spread across my bed stole my attention.

My Bookmobile treasure: Pollinators, Geology and the Inland Sea, The Science of Fire, Storm Dynamics. With a fluffed pillow at my back and my bare giraffe legs stretched out before me, I reached for the nearest tome. The 8th grade science fair was only 27 days away. Hmmm, weather instruments.

I had a jelly jar in my hand wondering what to use as a membrane when I saw the fancy syrup bottle with the plastic handle and spout in the trash. Ditch the spout. The jelly jar went back to Mama’s canning supplies. The smaller opening would mean a little balloon would fit lots easier and still be big enough for a pointer. A needle would poke the balloon. Dootdootdoot…what the hoot? Epiphany! A toothpick, flat rounded end stuck down. Glue, where’s the glue?

The two poster boards were a breeze to do. One had a wild tornado in the center with a spotted cow and a couple trees in it. Labels and arrows artfully drawn noted the meteorological details. The other had a precis of my EXPERIMENT. The harder part turned out to be affixing the index card to the bottle neck. Scissors! Tape! Where’s the durn tape?

I added another reading from the nightly weather report; the toothpick had a great range against the card which gave me pretty good space to record the data. The weather guys said a band of storms were on the way. Great! I might get a couple data points in the low range right before the science fair; the top of the card looked a bit blank.

Me, the biggest idiot in the room. The guy to the left of me had put an Apollo capsule model together. On the right, the guy with a hamster in a cage kept trying to make the critter run in the wheel. Across from me the guy had a printed, full color diorama of the Grand Canyon. Several boys had volcanoes. I had taped the cow tornado picture to the front of the table and whapped up a poster full of news of the record-breaking storm swarm and a fairly well drawn map to put in its place. Was it hokey? The boys had more polished displays. Except for me, all the contestants in the gym were boys.

Seeing the strange high school teachers quizzing the Apollo fellow reminded me of a Wild Adventures show including a warthog. Me, the warthog, now realizing lions approached. Could I still run? Where were the exits? I blinked at hearing someone knock on the table and there they stood, directly in front of me. Holy bovines.

“Miss, please explain why you brought this mess here.”

Mess? By golly, warthogs got tusks. “Sirs, Ma’am, I made this barometer from ordinary items and calibrated the device using the National Weather Association certified reports that are televised each evening.” Here I pointed at the data on the card. “There are 23 data points taken before Wednesday. On that day, the barometric pressure got so low, the diaphragm busted. This ‘mess’ is the evidence that my barometer worked.” I did not add that the sight of that balloon getting sucked way into that bottle and popping while Mama clutched my little sisters under the kitchen table and screamed at me to join them will amaze me to the end of my days.

Well, 1st place won me a whopping $50. The April 3, 1974 avalanche of ravaging tornadoes allowed me to proceed directly to the Woolco Department Store where I purchased a gleaming new Brother sewing machine. I figured out how to use it. From then through now, I choose the material for my clothes, I select the patterns and alter as I please. And my pants are always the right length.

Crazy Maniac About BOOKS!

Since I was a we little tyke, I’ve devoured books (I even ate part of one about the 3 Little Kittens). We didn’t have that many around the house so I read Mama’s few (Gone with the Wind and such) including the full set of Golden Encyclopedias. What an education for a single-digit kid!

The Bookmobile stopped by the shopping center we walked to for groceries (Winn-Dixie) and I really had to beg ’em to give me a library card. Oooh, how I treasured that card. They limited me to 3 books for a while, but extended it all the way to 10 after noting my care and fervency. Andre Norton and Arthur C Clarke were early favorites, and cook books – I started cooking all kinds of goodies. History and science were my absolute favorites, and I have the firm belief the Bookmobilers stocked more just for me.

The biggest shock about being on a ship far out to sea in the USNavy was being BOOKLESS but for the few I brought with me. Back in port: Buy more books NOW.  I don’t want to neglect the wonder of libraries, it’s just that the school libraries were substandard and the Louisville Free Public Library was way too far away to walk or bike. Yeah, the bus. The bus costs cash and transfers were daunting for a lone youngster.

Now:

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That’s over 7000 books in my cabin library! Plus a few hundred more elsewhere. And I write some as well! What else can I do but make an attempt sort a few out (including – sigh – duplicates)?

TA DA! a few years ago I started a BOOKSTORE! Old Lady Who? is named after Mama who adored Jimmyold lady who Rogers, the Blue Yodeler. It’s an Independent Bookstore among the thousands on Abe Books. I found myself amazed when I realized I hadn’t told any of you about it! Need a book? Give Abe Books a look and maybe do a search for Old Lady Who? I put one of these stickers on each order.

So, problem solved, right? Sell them until I have room to walk.  Of course not. Don’t worry, if I need therapy for this obsession, I’ll buy a BOOK on it!

book order

A Favorite Christmas Story

I just like this one. Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays to each and all!

 

The Christmas Cactus

 

Shivering, she pulled herself up from the hearth using her cane and put the poker back on its hook. “I shouldn’t ought to have let that burn so low.” She eyed the four logs left, judging whether they’d be enough to get her through the night or not. Nope. Susie wobbled to her overcoat and went out to woodpile on the front porch in the blowing snow and retrieved four more fair-sized ones. She fretted about forgetting to do it in the daylight; she forgot so much anymore.

The fresh logs she’d just loaded in the fireplace still laid there, not wanting to burn. Working the bellows until she got a flame made her sweaty. She thought about taking the darned overcoat off because with two sweaters on it would cut off her circulation but good. Coming down with pneumonia wouldn’t be very smart, though.

Next she knew, she stood at the coatrack with her coat hung. Chilled to the bone, her hand fondled the other coat there, and she wiped the tears from her face. “Stanley, help me out here, will you please?” His camouflaged hunting coat felt so blessedly warm as she buttoned it up. “Yes, Stan, I’ll make us some tea.”

Instead of making the tea, she plopped heavily into the padded kitchen chair by the fire. Staring at the flames, she remembered how Stan would have brought in plenty of wood, and he would have banked it better. He more than once told her she didn’t have a lick of sense and she believed it. That Christmas cactus she’d insisted on getting so many years ago bloomed right on time anyhow, up until he went onward to the pearly gates. Since then, it hadn’t done its duty at all. She angrily remembered the tea and heaved up to put the kettle on the stove. The propane he’d put in heated it up quick and she fixed a little pot of chamomile.

On the way back to her warm seat, she glanced over to the miserable cactus. She stopped, her tensed body falling slack. “Oh Stan, would you look at that!” She gently cradled the bright red blossom and smiled in that contained Mona Lisa way he liked. “Thank you, lover, I’m warm nose to toes now.” She sat and sipped her tea, hugging his coat tightly, feeling his embrace as they watched the fire dance. Merry Christmas.

christmas-cactus-in-hand

Kids and Cars

“Wait a minute! You’re going too fast!” Kate followed Darlene down a path she had not seen before. She stretched her neck and stubby legs as far as she could. Concentrating on speed, the descent into the ditch surprised her. She slowed on the wet rocks when she Turtle 007saw where they were headed.

She’d avoided this edge of the woods because of the awful whooshing noises. Her Uncle Harold had been smashed flat, an ugly, gruesome mess his shell could not prevent. Her neck retracted some with that awful remembrance. “Darlene, Mama said to stay away from the road. Terrible things happen here.”

Her friend kept on walking around a curve in the ditch. “It’s okay, silly. Look! The great big super-noisy machines that were here just before the last big rainstorm did this.”

The ditch now went under the road! They walked through the smooth-rock tube and came out the other side as safe as could be. Climbing up the ditch, she looked around at this side of the woods. Then she looked at the dreaded road. Oh no!

“Darlene, over there! That’s Daddy at the side of the road!” Her Dad was going to cross the road to find her! The path back was too long, how could she show him a safe way across?

Her Dad started across the road, his neck stretched out very far.

Kate went to her side of the road and a big noisy car rushed by. She panicked, then withdrew her head to see her Dad was okay, his head slowly emerging from his own shell. He resumed trudging deliberately across the road.

Another big noisy came, very loud Turtle 008and slow. Kate trembled as it crept toward her Dad. The big green noisy stopped very close to him. A two-legged animal, a human, got out and picked up her Dad. The human set her Dad down on Kate’s side and went away.

His head raised very high when he saw her. “Kate, I told you not to cross the road!”

“Dad! Let me show you the safe way across!”