Are you tired of the “Stay at Home” order? Need to break free and do some traveling? The only magic answer I have is for you to pick up a book and read your way into another world. Check out this book funnel link. The Dahlonega Sisters are there and waiting for you to join them. ON SALE NOW!
Seems like such a short time ago, our grand dog, Hammie was just a pup. He’s 11 years old now. How time flies, except when you’re confined to quarers for an unknown length of time.
It’s tough right now, trying to find the silver lining in our disrupted world. We’ve been invaded by an invisible, unexpected, and uncontainable virus. As unpredictable as the Corvid-19 journey has been, so have been our responses to it. Confusion, denial, fear, anger, frustration. All reasonable, all understandable. Yet, with any crisis, there is opportunity from which we can benefit. Even Hammie is taking the Shelter in place command seriously.
Some folks use humor to get through the stressful situations. That includes me. I love some of the social media pictures and quotes that make me laugh out loud.
I ignore the rants and raves that do nothing more than stir negative emotions. It doesn’t mean I am oblivious to the seriousness of the situation, but many of the political pokes and ventings do nothing but spread anger and fear. I choose to focus on the positive.
So here are a few of the positive opportunities I’ve been given.
I’m saving lots of money because I traded trips to the casino for daily runs to the store in search of toilet paper. Down to two rolls. I got desperate and ordered some on line. Good news, I found some. Bad news, the deliver day is May 22. I thought it was a typo, but Alexa confirmed it.
I’m getting my daily 10,000 steps in by walking room to room and taking note of the chaos I’ve neglected for some time. Every once in while, I find an object that’s been missing for months. Found a Christmas present I forgot to deliver yesterday. Now won’t they be happy when it shows up in their mailbox. Spreading the joy.
My daily wardrobe consists of sweat pants and a t-shirt. Haven’t had to wash a bra in a week! Just think about the water and soap I’m saving. I saw a Facebook post that said to cut them up to use as a mask when necessary.
I’m not gaining weight because we aren’t eating out. All the burger and chicken are gone by the time I get to the store, so we’re cleaning out the freezer, trying to identify what’s each shriveled, rock hard, frosted package contains.
I’ve got lots of time to clean those closets and organize the pantry now. Could wash windows too. Choosing to save those fun thing in case I get really desperate!
Best part is that I have more time to write, and I am. Veins of Gold is taking form. The Dahlonega Sisters are busy keeping me front and center by my laptop.
The girls wanted me to do something to brighten your day, so they suggested I reduce the price of their first book, The Gold Miner Ring. The e-book is now available for $1.99 at your favorite site. Here’s the link: https://books2read.com/links/ubl/mVrL2p
Stay safe everyone and don’t forget to lighten up. This too shall pass and with a little luck, we’ll all learn something positive from the experience.
What’s your silver lining?
Turning Back the Clock
One puddle at a time
I was born with two left feet, a qualified klutz for sure. You know those exercise videos with music that make it look like you’ve got rhythm? Well, let’s just say there’s a reason I do them behind closed doors. The closest I come to physical coordination is puddle jumping. I love to teach kids how to do it so the water splashes on someone else.
While thumbing through some notes I made in preparation of my next novel, I came across a story I jotted down this summer after a weekend trip to my daughter’s lake house. I found myself laughing so hard I had to run to the bathroom. Maybe you could use a chuckle today, too, totally at my expense, of course.
A dear friend sent me a book, Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry S. Lodge, M.D. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/96597.Younger_Next_Year_for_Women I became engrossed in the claims made by the two male authors. They encouraged, actually, insisted, there is an athlete in each of us and we better find it if we hope to be mobile as we age. Heck, I’m already aged, and more than a little overweight, but somehow their words made it worth a shot.
While at the lake, I relaxed on their redwood deck that sits high above the end of a peaceful cove. With my book in one hand, a glass of pinot noir in the other, and a box of cheesy snacks within an arm’s reach between me and my daughter, I turned the page. Harry’s Rules, the ones I just finished reading, smacked me upside the head. The irony of reading this particular book, while stuffing my face with Cheez-Its, and following each swallow with sips of chilled wine, made me cringe.
Was I just going to read about getting fit or put it in action? I closed the book, stood and brushed the crumbs from my jeans. “Let’s go take the neighbor’s paddle boat out.”
My daughter looked at me with raised brows, but to my surprise, she jumped up and headed up the stairs to the cabin. “Aren’t you going to change into your swim suit?”
The last thing I wanted to do was expose more of my rolls of fat and cellulite. “Naw. We’re not going in the water, just in the boat.”
I’m sure you know what happens next, but I did promise to entertain you, so I’ll continue.
With towels and sunscreen in hand, my daughter returned and we walked down the thirty-something steps to her neighbor’s dock. We hoisted the paddleboat over the side of the dock and my daughter held onto one of the ropes The other was tethered to the dock.
“Go ahead and get in.”
Leading with my right foot, I tried to step into the swaying object without success. Then I tried my left foot. Somehow, I managed to plop down on the hard plastic bump between the two seats, but at least I was in it and not the lake.
With the ease of an experienced sailor, my daughter climbed in, released both ropes, and we were off. We peddled together for a while until my legs tired, a good twenty foot, for sure. Taking turns pumping our legs, we rode out to the end of the cove and back. The hot July sun burned overhead, almost as much as the calves of my legs, but it was a pleasant experience and reminded me of the many options available to exercise our bodies into shape.
We made our way back to the side of the neighbor’s dock and my daughter jumped out, pulling the front rope tight so I could climb out. I stood and wobbled, trying to find my balance on the waves, then put a foot on the platform. The back of the boat swung away from the dock stretching my legs apart. Too late to do anything else, I simply sat down in the water.
Of course, I’m not what you’d call a swimmer, so I treaded water, trying to figure out how I was going to get to shore or back on the deck.
“Stand up.” My daughter shouted between belly laughs. “Stand up.”
Fortunately, the water was only waist high. Laughter echoed from the top of the hill where my husband stood watching as I hoisted myself up on the end of the dock. My daughter’s fiancée, too polite to laugh out loud, fiddled with his cell phone to avoid eye contact, but asked if I needed help.
“I’m good, thanks.” I laughed as hard as the others. “Did you get all that on video?”
It was fortunate that I had left my phone on the deck and didn’t try to avoid the inevitable dunk, possibly breaking a leg or arm. By the time I climbed the thirty-something steps back to the cabin, my jeans laden with lake water, I felt I’d gotten a good start on my new exercise program, although I anticipated in the future it would be on dry land.
It’s been six months since my husband and I started getting serious about exercise. We average twenty-five to thirty miles a week and I’m thirty pounds lighter. I doubt I’ll ever succeed at the exercise videos, although I still try occasionally, and I haven’t been kayaking or water skiing, but I still love puddle jumping. I feel younger than I did last year, so that’s a plus.
I remember a time when I enjoyed checking the mailbox for an unexpected card or letter from a friend. No one writes letters anymore. Cards are sent electronically through Facebook or email. The only things that appears in my mailbox are bills and store adds.
There was a time when you didn’t need to let the recorder pick up phone calls because every one of them was important. Now I’m forced to sign up for the “No Call” list to avoid solicitors who interrupted every evening meal. While that helped for a while to reduce some unwanted calls, the intrusions returned, especially as I neared the blessed age of Medicare eligibility.
The changes to social media fill me with joy and sorrow. I miss the personal warmth of a hand-written letter or a phone call from a friend who just wants to chat. Still, the instant gratification of finding needed information with the click of my keyboard makes life easier, especially for a writer.
If you can relate to this short story, please hit the like button or leave me a message with your own thoughts. I’d love to hear from you.
I Must Have Blinked
Dark clouds and Monday blues. Just the excuse I need to avoid starting painting woodwork. Blue masking tape’s been in place for months, yet the paint’s lid remains sealed. Procrastinator? Yes.
The phone rings. I check the clock. Right on time. The recorder picks up. Same message. Karen Adams says she can help me, but I ignore her offer. Instead, I grab a dust cloth and move from curio cabinet to coffee table searching for a distraction. A photo album, covered in a fine layer of dust, calls to me and I settle down on the couch.
The miniscule date on the photo reveals May 1957. We’re at the zoo. One brother on each side, pudgy little girl in the middle holding a wicker picnic basket. I glance at the numerous snapshots with the scalloped edges and close my eyes. My grandmother’s holding the Brownie box camera and urging us to smile. The corners of my lips curve up. Happens every time.
The next page moves me forward a decade. Mom, dad, three brothers and a sister on the steps of my grandparent’s front porch. I’m wearing a black and white taffeta dress. Easter service, dressed in our best. Happy family, eager to hunt eggs and snitch a few jelly beans before chicken dinner. It must be 1964 because my little brother looks about 4 years old. He’s still alive, happy and full of life.
I flip the page to see more. It’s empty. Discolored photo sleeves void of any clue another brother and sister joined the family. No trips to the zoo, no graduation pictures, no proms, no hint that life continued after the death of a child. Cancer does ugly things to families.
The gloomy day needs no support, so I close the book and select another album. The phone interrupts my thoughts. I check the clock. Right on schedule. This time it’s Susan, her offer similar to Karen’s. “Call me back at 1-800-555-1234.” The calls are not welcomed. They’ve become irritating. “Mind your own business” I chastise to no one.
I refocus and am transported to another life, one with a husband and daughter. A snapshot of them fishing near a crystal clear lake. Happy family outings. Smiles without guilt for being alive. Pages filled with tree, flowers, mountains and rivers, family and friends. Years of happiness. I feel my mood elevating, just as the sun breaks through dark clouds.
I close the album and place it on top of the one from our twenty-fifth anniversary. Perhaps there will be a 50th someday. I walk past the recorder and hit the delete button. The huge, undisturbed mound of pamphlets awaits my attention. Medicare decisions must be made, but not today, I have a few more weeks before the 65. I shake my head and wonder how that day arrived so soon. I must have blinked.
This is one of my favorite fiction short stories I’ve written. It features our grand dog as a hero. I hope you enjoy it.
The Finishing Touch
Finally, I’m going to finish my novel. The thought danced in my head as I packed the last few items in a suitcase. The tattered manuscript, with all its scribbled edges and sticky notes, was already stuffed in a padded pouch with my laptop. Food for a week, essential chocolate and wine stash included, were secured in the oversized cooler. The plan was simple. No television, no internet access, no interruptions. Just me and the computer. Oh, and one sixty-five pound grand dog, Hammie.
Convincing my husband that I could survive alone for a few days in our daughter’s summer home in Missouri at the Lake of the Ozarks required a plan of action. I memorized the exact procedure for turning on and off the water source and for operating the heating unit. Short of using flash cards, I demonstrated on paper that I could recognize and eliminate (or avoid) venomous snakes and spiders. Emergency phone numbers were entered into my speed dial and I promised to call him every evening reassuring him I hadn’t been murdered by a stranger lurking in the woods. At first I rejected his insistence that I take our daughter’s black lab with me. An unspoken sense of insecurity made me agree.
I appreciated his concerns and knew he would worry until I returned, but my desire to accomplish a task started years earlier pressed me forward. “Our forty-four years of marriage have been a blessing,” I reasoned with my spouse, “but a week of independence to complete my first novel is a necessity.” He didn’t share my passion for writing, but he respected it.
Splashes of crimson dappled the nearly bare hills, the result of nibbling cold fronts that visited the area the past few weeks. I made a brief pit stop in Kingdom City to stretch my legs and empty my bladder. Of course my four-legged friend needed to do the same. As he stopped and sniffed every few feet, I laughed, remembering my daughter’s warning that he’d want to check his “pee mail” too.
Back on the road, I sang along with Willie Nelson as he strummed his guitar to On The Road Again. Hammie stared out the window. I swear he shook his head as if to remind me I can’t carry a note. Too bad. My car, my rules. Soon, the billboards boasted the many venues near Bagnell Dam, my exit. The sparsely populated countryside reminded me of cherished excursions in my grandpa’s ‘57 Ford Fairlane. The blacktop road twisted and turned for the next twenty minutes. I slowed to a crawl at the last turn where the tree covered road narrowed to one lane. At the crest of a hill, I made a sharp left onto the graveled driveway where the red wood A-frame, greeted me.
I turned off the engine and set the parking brake. Leaves blanketed the ground all the way down the steep hill to the water’s edge. No cars or neighbors were visible at the other few cabins that shared the remote cove. “Looks like we got the place to ourselves, Hammie.” His tail wagged approval as I attached his leash and helped him leap from the car. He tugged hard, ready to romp. “You can’t run free until I set up the wireless fence. Sorry buddy. With the door key in one hand and the lead in the other, I unlocked the door and entered my sanctuary.
First order of business was kicking up the heat. I pulled up the shades on the dozen windows that enclosed the Florida room to allow sun to filter in. “You’ll have to wait inside while I unpack the car.” Hammie whined and showed me his best pitiful look. “Save the guilt. It doesn’t work on me, remember?” As if he understood my announcement, he sauntered into the sun room.
Three trips to the car finished the task and I decided it was time for a break for both of us. I filled Hammie’s bowl with water and tucked a dog treat in my pocket, a bribe in case it was needed later to get him back inside. After flipping the switch on the wireless contraption, I picked up the second collar and slipped it in place. Long ago I resolved that I’d never fully understand how the machine knew how far a ninety-foot circumference was and how it could relate it to an animal. “Time to breathe in a little of this country air, buddy.” Hammie’s tail wag and pitiful moan as he nudged his nose on the door handle summed it up perfectly. I grabbed a bottle of water before heading to the deck.
The lake’s water near the dock was low and still, stirring only when an acorn dropped from a nearby tree where a squirrel packed away its final stash for the winter. Hints of late afternoon sun filtered through the towering oaks that still clenched some of their vegetation, perhaps as a cloak in anticipation of the deep cold inching closer by the hour. Leaves rustled beneath the elevated cabin as Hammie explored within his allotted space. I leaned on the railing and listened to the distinctive rat-tat-tat of a woodpecker interrupted, or perhaps accompanied by, the chirp of a cardinal warning others that company had arrived.
The temperature dipped quickly as the sun slowly disappeared. “Think it’s time to go in Ham.” A flash of the biscuit brought him running. Two crunches and the treat disappeared. “How about dinner? You getting hungry? Me too.”
After we ate, I closed all the shades and headed to the bedroom to read for a while. Hammie joined me, circling around and plopping down, then pressing his back into my side. I smiled and stroked his shiny coat. With the added warmth and enhanced sense of security, I sent a silent “thank you” to my husband.
We settled into a routine over the next few days with the majority of time devoted to my novel. Whenever Hammie wasn’t exploring the enticing animal scents in his designated circle, he curled up at my side with his backend toward me to show his true feelings. His deep sighs made me laugh. I guessed even dogs get bored with my writing.
So far, my plan had come together with only minor interruptions. The final chapter neared completion, yet I was distracted by something. I put the laptop in sleep mode and stood up. Perhaps the tedious attention required to complete the edits or maybe the isolation from human contact was taking its toll, but the continuous hammering by a visiting woodpecker wore on my nerves. I took my cell phone and Hammie onto the deck and searched near the roof for the enemy. I located his head pounding on the side of the cabin. A Pileated Woodpecker, one not often seen back home. My irritation turned to awe.
The sharp red crest and white underwing color of the crow-sized bird deserved to be captured, at least on my phone so I could show hubby upon my return. I needed to get the best angle. “What do you think Ham?” I swear he shook his head no. Ignoring his warning, I contemplated my move. Common sense stepped aside for the risk-taker I had become and I pushed the wooden lawn chair close to the edge of the deck. With the phone in my pocket, I worked my way higher, placing one foot on the top of the chair and the other on the hand railing, steadying myself by gripping the side of the cabin with both hands.
Perfect, I thought, as I focused in on the knocker. Unfortunately, I hadn’t planned on how to balance myself with both hands working the phone’s camera. I tapped the screen, pleased with the result for a nanosecond, until my foot slipped off the railing. My head crashed against the redwood railing, sending stars and instant pain. I plummeted down the fifteen foot drop to the ground, landing on my already injured skull. I screamed as unbearable pain split my skull and sent me into a blackened state.
“Honey. Honey, please wake up.”
The whisper of the faded plea stirred in a distant corner of my mind. The pain. Oh, the pain. Why so much pain? I struggled to raise my hand to message my temple, but something weighed my arm down.
“Babe, I’m here.”
I struggled to open my eyes, feeling caught between stages as if coming out of a dream. Where am I? Who’s calling me? As the fog in my brain dissipated, the stabbing leg pain intensified, then my arm joined forces with the excruciating headache. I twisted and how could turned trying to escape the torture.
“Honey, I’ll get the nurse. Hold on.”
The voice traveled closer then faded as I sensed the release of warmth from my hand. Something heavy warmed my left leg. Think, I urged myself. Flashes of memory interrupted the agonizing battle inside my body. Footsteps, rushing around the room, unfamiliar voices shouting commands to each other.
“I thought we’d lost you.” The voice that called me honey choked.
Think harder. People tugging on an arm, tape ripping, alarms. I hear alarms. I’ve heard those before, many times, but where? “Nooo!” This time I heard my own shout as the voices faded away, my futile attempts to stop the drugs from sending me back to the dark place.
Six weeks later, with my discharge papers signed, hubby wheeled me to the car. A metal contraption kept my neck in place while my left leg and right arm had progressed to temporary casts. My eyes grew moist as I neared the car. My daughter smiled from behind the wheel. Hammie anxiously bounced up and down in the back seat. An unexpected and welcomed sight.
My husband helped me make the painful transition from chair to car, and then settled into a back seat driver position. The dog wiggled and squirmed until he managed to gently place his nose on my shoulder, the rest of him pressed in the gap between the seats.
“I thought you might like a visit from your buddy. He visited you a few times while you were in the medically induced coma.”
“I felt his heavy body snug against mine, but I thought it was my imagination.” I stroked his furry head in appreciation. My recollection of the accident was limited to memories before the fall. Some things continued to puzzle me, like how my husband got the call after I fell. I glanced at him and started to ask again, but not wanting to test his already frayed patience. He read my thoughts and shook his head.
“Look, I’ve told you everything I know. You’re phone flew out of your hand when you fell and somehow it dialed me. I heard the screams and the continuous bark and knew something bad had happened, so I called the emergency number you left with me.”
Hammie’s eyes met mine and I studied his face for the answer and nodded. “You were right. I shouldn’t have tried it. But how did the phone dial itself?”
The black lab’s lip curled upward.
“That’s his “Elvis” smirk.” My daughter’s laughter filled the air.
“Guess it will be his little secret.” But silently I knew.
My husband’s hand extended toward me, a grin on his face as he handed me the phone. “Great picture of the woodpecker.”
The total eclipse that spanned across the US provided many people with a unique reason to celebrate with family and friends, creating lifetime memories. Today seems like the perfect day to post a story from my childhood. Hope you enjoy it.
Won’t you please share one of your special memories with me?
This story is both humorous and true. Life is full of opportunities to laugh and love. Thanks to my hubby for providing both.
The cushion of the dining room chair has a permanent imprint of my derriere on it from many hours pecking away at my laptop. The large bay window in my living room, clearly visible from where I sit, offers enough room for imaginary acquaintances (also known to some writers as characters) to visit me as I sip a steamy cup of java and contemplate my next chapter. Unlike the coffee table that collects newspapers, magazines and soon-to-be discarded mail, the nook must be clear of distractions for my visionary friends.
There’s one item that owns the right hand corner of the nook, but normally I’m able to ignore its presence. My husband negotiated a place for his weather alert radio, the one that only chooses to blast its warnings while I’m writing an intense scene or when I’m sound asleep in the middle of the night. It purpose is important, but its timing leaves much to be desired.
One gloomy afternoon, tired of winter’s thievery, I gazed through the nearly translucent sheers to the barren yard across the street and imagined the towering maple tree budding out with hints of spring. Bright yellow tulips appeared and the succulent smell of honeysuckle filled my senses. I was nearly in the zone when a foreign object interrupted my view.
I furrowed my brow as I focused in on the intrusive disruption, my mind struggling to accept the unexpected sight. I closed my eyes and opened them again. It was still there. Perhaps it was my husband’s idea of a sick joke, I thought. Regardless, it had to go. I pushed back my chair, taking caution to not make a sound, my eyes locked on the stationary object as I stood in place. The reddish-brown, furry creature looked me straight in the eye and then dashed under the nearby couch.
A squirrel! How could a squirrel be sitting in the alcove of my living room window? I did what came naturally. I yelled for my husband. “Honey! There’s a squirrel!”
“What?” his faded response came from the bedroom.
“A squirrel!” I squealed as I retreated from my visitor.
“Where?” he asked as he dragged himself away from the television.
“In the living room.” My voice elevated to a scream as my knight-in-shining-armor made his way to my side.
“What’s he doing in here?” he asked as he searched the room and saw nothing.
I shot him a glare in response to his silly question. “How would I know?” I pointed to the corner of the room where the anxious animal sought refuge. “He’s under the couch.”
“I’ll be darned. We’ll have to let him out through the French doors,” he said as he moved toward the dining room.
“Great thought, but remember?” I tried to keep from doing an eye roll as I pointed to the doors that lead to our deck. Last month when air was coming in around the door frame, I’d asked him to fix it. His answer to nearly every household problem involved a large roll of duct tape.
He avoided making eye contact with me. Instead, he searched the room and found a plastic gate we use to keep our black, sixty pound grand-dog, Hammie, from exploring the lower level of the house when visiting. The energetic dog is deathly afraid of it and won’t get near it.
“What are you going to do with that?” I questioned.
“You’re going to keep the squirrel from going into the other rooms,” he said as he handed the expandable object to me.
I stifled a laugh as I looked at the wide gaps between the diagonals. “I don’t think this is going to do it.” As silly as the idea was, I held onto it as if somehow it would frighten the squirrel like it does the cautious dog.
Meanwhile, the intruder dashed back to the window seat, trying desperately to escape the maddening conversation, I’m sure. I listened as my husband pulled the tape from the door frame, and I tried to decide what to do if the animal scurried my way, knowing I’d drop the gate and run the other way screaming like a little girl. The noise from the tape being ripped away sent the squirrel dashing back and forth from the window seat to underneath the couch.
A blast of cold winter air greeted me as the patio door opened. My husband returned to the living room and tried to lure the errant critter out from his hiding place. I offered him a broom from the kitchen, still gripping the useless gate. He poked the handle under the sofa sending the critter into the middle of the room. Fortunately, it saw the opportunity to flee and made a direct path out the door onto the deck.
“Should’ve got a picture,” my husband suggested as he watched the animal leap off the deck and out of sight.
“Can you imagine if Hammie had been here?” The vision of the dog charging around the room brought roars of laughter as we went room to room looking for the port of entry. There were no holes in the ceiling or walls. The glass fireplace doors were closed. Nothing appeared disturbed. We surmised that it must have slipped in through a door left ajar briefly earlier in the day when my husband filled the bird feeder.
I shook my head in frustration as hubby resealed the door with more gray tape, resolving he’d be responsible for removing the gummy residue come spring, which couldn’t come soon enough for me.
As I sat back down at my computer, I worried the vision of the squirrel would distract me from reconnecting with my characters. I tried to recreate a mental picture of yellow tulips and green leaves budding from the tree, instead a furry fictional friend introduced himself. “The name’s Zippy. Better get typing.”
Anxious that the squirrel might find his way back into the house, my husband decided removal of its nest in the tree would reduce the chance of another visit. Perhaps it would encourage the animal to relocate to a neighbor’s yard, he thought. Using a long pole, he poked the sturdy structure. The squirrel lunged from a nearby branch and charged down the pole to within inches of my husband’s face. He tossed the pole to the ground, barely escaping the attack.
“Maybe it’s protecting babies,” he surmised. A few weeks later, when there was no sign of activity, he tried again. This time he succeeded, but not without paying a price. As spring made its appearance, the irate squirrel began its revenge. Empty nut shells were deposited all over the freshly stained deck. The roots of nearly every potted plant my husband sat outside were bitten off. When tomato seedlings, carefully nurtured for months in preparation of spring, were planted in the garden, it dug them up. Twine, stored in a box on the deck, was strung across the floor, down the steps and out into the yard. Every day the struggle continued between man and beast.
As spring turned to summer, the battle intensified, sending my husband over the edge. In anticipation of the next attack by the enemy, hubby placed two large, flat rocks on the corner posts of the deck, ready to chase the enemy away at the first sighting. The next morning, both rocks were gone, the heavy objects pushed off the posts into the garden, damaging some plants when they landed. A record number of curse words were used and included a threat to get a pellet gun.
Nothing prepared either of us for the final blow. My amateur horticulturist spouse grows Plumeria plants and had the joy of having a seed pod develop on one of the plants. The unique event entitles the owner to name any successful growth of a new plant from one of the seeds. The process is tedious and often unsuccessful. The crazed animal gnawed the roots off the three remaining six inch stems that had survived months of nurturing. It was official. The squirrel won.
As fall faded to winter and skies turned grey, I needed inspiration for my next story. With new cushions on my dining room chairs and a full pot of coffee brewed, I settled down in front of my laptop and gazed out the bay window hoping to reconnect with my imaginary friends. A disturbing object next to the weather alert radio caught my attention. My eyes locked in on it as I pushed back my chair. It did not move, nor did I scream, but the laughter it brought was loud enough to be heard throughout the house. My daughter, who was blessed with a sense of humor too, left us a gift while we were out. The life-size squirrel statue looks just like Zippy.
This was another honorable mention contest winner
Saturday Writers Elements in Writing Anthology #9
The writing prompt for this story was “Fear the Challenge.”
As the summer winds down and temperatures cool, perhaps you’ll relate my tempered love of fall. Enjoy and drop me a line if you have time.
Ah, how I love fall. It’s a nearly perfect season when hillsides are filled with splashes of vibrant crimson and gold. A time when nature’s chilling breeze orchestrates a blissful dance of leaves drifting to the ground. Apple orchards celebrate the season with mounds of pumpkins stacked on bales of hay. Children dash in and out of corn mazes, squealing with delight. Large barreled pots compete for attention with boastful yellow, rusty maroon and faded purple mums spilling to the ground. The taste of sweet, mellow cider lingers on my lips. I envision long, leisurely walks in thick woods and mesmerizing evenings spent snuggled near crackling bonfires.
It’s nearly perfect, this autumnal equinox. Yet, anticipation of what follows disturbs my pleasures of October and November and causes my emotions to rise and fall like the swells of the sea. The joy of the season is tempered by the impending void that is left when the page turns into winter.
In the silence of the night, roof tops are christened with a fine layer of glistening white. It is a signal to dress in layers before taking my morning walk. I round the corner of my three mile hike with my spouse and notice the chill has disappeared into delightful warmth that urges me to shed my windbreaker. Enjoy the moment, I repeat to myself like a mantra needed to survive the inevitable.
We return home and I am drawn to the bay window for another glimpse of the masterful day. Even after a lifetime in the area, the contrast of Missouri’s unpredictable weather still amazes me. Yesterday’s gray clouds brought gale-force winds that stripped many trees of their treasures. I pause to admire the inch of muted foliage that camouflage the fading green earth. A beautiful carpet left by nature. The sun glistens through the nearly bare branches and my heart wants to stay suspended in this place until spring arrives.
Then poof! The spell is broken with the sound of our electric garage door opening. With it comes a familiar knot in my stomach that begins to tighten in anticipation of the task ahead. Mentally, I prepare to enter the war zone.
The childhood joy of diving into large piles of raked leaves evaporated many years ago. In its place is a yearly battle between nature and man. I hear the grinding pull of the cord and the mulching mower is cranked up. The battle has begun. I watch my husband take off with a vengeance. No leaf is safe from his quest to reclaim the well-manicure yard he spent nearly two decades perfecting.
My partner of forty-plus years views the arrival of the unwanted visitors as an intrusion on his space. His constant wrath toward the harmless innate objects begins with the first leaf that glides to the ground, daring to lay claim to his sacred ground. Each year, his passion swells to obsession and it pushes me to dark places where angry words linger behind pursed lips. We dangle at opposite ends of the spectrum as I struggle to understand the need to alter the natural occurrence of fall.
I force the worn leaf rake to serve as my accomplice in the vengeful attack on the helpless victims entangled in the chain-link fence. My unwilling weapon rebels by tightening its spokes around the metal structure. I choke back expletive phrases that threaten to escape my clenched jaw just as the hum of the motor stops. It is my cue to come help hold the large body bag. I pretend to ignore the signal, but guilt forces me to give up the battle with the fence and toss the rake to the ground in order to fulfill my obligation as a cohort in this crime.
With my place by the commander’s side, I steady the flimsy container as the dusty remains are deposited. My body is positioned to avoid eye contact with the enemy for surely my fellow warrior will realize I am a traitor. The internal struggle rises in my throat and urges me to speak my mind, but I have done so before to no avail, so I hold my tongue. The warfare will end soon enough.
I return to the hillside to search for my weapon which has become one with the muted masses that soon will face a dismal fate. I pry its fingers from the tight hold on the fence and continue my disheartened efforts. My mind drifts to poetic words I think that I shall never see, a poem as lovely as a tree. The sweat on my brow slowly dissolves the anger in my heart.
With the emerald land temporarily restored to its fiscal owner, the weapons are cleaned and stored away. We retreat to the safety of our shelter, dusty and worn. My gray-haired, weary warrior advances toward the bay window and nods as he admires the recapture of his territory. I am moved by the moment and step closer to him.
“Good job babe.”
He grins, pleased with his victory, and bends down to plant a pleasurable reward on my lips.
His comforting embrace warms me and I try to savor the moment. Tears dampen my cheeks as I watch autumn slip silently into winter. How many more battles await us? I fear the answer.
My Sunday morning started off with my coffee splashing out of the cup onto the front seat of my car. Of course there were no stray napkins around to soak up the mess before it stained the upholstery, my pants leg and part of the sleeve on my coat.
Then there were the fifty-mile an hour winds that helped push me across the parking lot of church. The weather man predicted another snow filled day in Missouri with the high of 32. Guess I shouldn’t complain since it was 72 degrees yesterday. Seems Mother Nature refuses to allow us to enjoy spring type weather for more than 24 hours.
The lunch plans I had looked forward to all week were cancelled because of the snow prediction. All minor disappointments in the big scheme of things, but I could feel myself slipping like a Slinky down a long staircase. It’s been a hard winter with too many similar days.
I’m not a dumpster diver, but I do get down in the dumps sometimes and wander around aimlessly looking for direction. Sometimes it’s hard to find my way back to the main road. I began considering the familiar options.
Hubby refused to play Sorry, Chinese Checkers or Dominoes with me anymore. He headed to the bedroom to watch some sports. I roamed through the kitchen to look for some comfort food.
Chocolate’s my first crutch in desperate times. There are three problems with that choice: weight gain (which I certainly don’t need); there isn’t a speck of the dark sweet treat in the house; it’s still Lent and I gave it up for forty days, that’s why there’s none in the house!
Wine is my second choice. Too bad my daughter and I consumed it all last night as we played cards and celebrated her birthday. Besides, drinking wine before noon just isn’t a good idea if you want to get anything accomplished the rest of the day.
As I walked through the dining room (my official writing space), my laptop glared at me. No, really, it did. If I knew how to program it, my screensaver would say STOP PROCRASTINATING! Still, I wasn’t ready to commit to hours glued to the keyboard without some assistance. I wandered through the house looking for another distraction.
Tucked in the nightstand drawer I locate the MP3 player my daughter’s boyfriend loaded for me some years ago. (Please, you didn’t think I did it myself did you?) I turned it on and it immediately shuts itself off. So I begin searching for a new battery and find one in the freezer (someone told me it makes them last longer). I spent the next five minutes warming it up before I insert it into the small music player.
I gathered all the papers for a new project I’m supposed to be working on and sat down by the computer, but my hands were cold from messing with the AA, so I headed back to the bedroom and dug out a sweater that was packed away in hopes that it wouldn’t be needed again.
Finally, I forced myself to begin pecking away on the keyboard, but instead of working on the new project, I started writing this post. The good news is that I was no longer headed down the dark depressing road; I was playing in the alley. Maybe I’ll find my way back before the day is done.
What do you do when grey skies hover overhead? What are the little distractions that help you procrastinate?
Like chameleons, the maples transform their luscious green cloaks to crimson and gold foliage. Shorts and T-shirts are replaced with long sleeves and jeans on my early morning walks. The last few tomatoes have been plucked from the vines and the stakes stored in the garage until next year’s harvest. These unmistakable signs of fall stir a conflict of emotions within me.
Fields of pumpkins ready for harvest, colorful baskets of mums and the sweet smell of cider bring a smile to my face. I cringe at the thought of frigid winter winds, shoveling mounds of heavy snow and scrapping ice from frozen windshields. Red and green store displays with signs that warn of the number of shopping days until Christmas cause my blood pressure to rise in frustration.
National Novel Writing Month (NANOWRIMO) http://nanowrimo.org/en/faq/how-nanowrimo-works
has the ability to elevate all those emotions within 30 days. Still, I cannot resist the challenge of setting a lofty goal and working diligently to achieve it.
The first time I challenged myself to participate in the NANOWRIMO experience, excitement filled my every thought. With nothing more than two characters created in my mind some ten years prior, I counted the hours waiting for November 1. Pads of yellow paper and a selection of the finest writing pens rested patiently on the table. Much like nuts hoarded by squirrels, bags of chocolate were stashed in secret places. Thirty day warnings were given to my husband and daughter of the madness ahead.
Surprisingly, the first three chapters flowed like melted butter across a mound of warm mashed potatoes. Before then end of week two, the side dish had stiffened and the melted goo sat atop the mountain in a pool waiting to be stirred. By week three, I was ready to toss the unattractive mound into the trash, but the encouragement from the staff who support NANOWRIMO insisted that if I warmed up the concoction in the microwave, it wwould be edible once again. There were roadblocks and detours, but on November 31, I had completed 55,000 words and my first novel.
Excitement, surprise, frustration, hope, and a sense of accomplishment all rolled into one large binder. The roller coaster ride was exhilarating and well worth the late nights in front of my computer.
Procrastination, lingering doubts and limited resources have kept the book in manuscript form. Still, when the weather changes and the email from NANOWRIMO arrives reminding that I need to prepare, the urge to start another book tugs at me until I relent.
Last year, my story came to an end after just 25,000 words. Brief disappointment joined my list of emotions, still, I accomplished more than I had in the 11 months prior to the event. I’m confident that when I start the rewrites, the book will develop into a sequel to my first novel.
My mind is already buzzing with new characters, plots and possibilities. Will you be joining me along with the thousands of others who always wanted to write a book? I’d love to hear your thoughts.