My Summer Reading List

In this post I’m going to compliment two other writers for their fiction, their stories put together with such skill and style.

Mary Higgins Clark and Carol Higgins Clark have joined forces, together with their sleuths Reagan Reilly and Alvirah Meehan, to solve a number of cases and rescue targeted victims from the clutches of unscrupulous people. Although these books are classed as crime fiction, so yes, there are crimes in each book, the stories are far more “human interest” with a dash of humor thrown in.

Their books seem “middle class family setting”, not sordid, steamy, or sinister. These are crimes that could happen to anyone, such as a forged will and a lost child, cases Alvirah solves in the book All Through the Night. Or the phoney investments scam carried out by one smooth talker in The Christmas Thief.

Both sleuths have a number of prior cases, but Deck the Halls is the first book where Alvirah and Reagan join forces. They must rescue Reagan’s business-owner father and his chauffeur from kidnappers asking an outrageous ransom. I have to marvel at the plotting skill of these two writers as a number of characters bring clues which fit together like pieces of a jigsaw that finally points to the whereabouts of the victims, who have been left to drown on a leaky houseboat.

In the second of this series, The Christmas Thief, a scammer who preyed on the rich and on one lottery winner in particular — a friend of Alvirah Meehan. After his release from prison, with the help of two bumbling cohorts and a starry-eyed poet, he searches for the takings he’s stashed in a unique place. He plans to cut down the tree he hid his loot in before he went to prison; to his dismay, someone else has claimed this particular tree and is about to haul it away. Just finished this story — a good mix of funny and suspenseful.

I take my hat off to these ladies for skillful writing and realistic story lines and look forward to reading more of their works this summer.

 

The Road I Did Take

No doubt everyone is familiar with Robert Frost’s lament in his poem, The Road Not Taken. Our writing prompt one day was to stand at that crossroads ourselves — and choose the other road. What do we find at the end of it?

THE ROAD NOT TAKEN

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

My Own Imagined Journey:

I stood for a few moments contemplating the two roads, then chose to follow the one more travelled by. For hours I walked on the gravelled path, descending at times into little wooded valleys. At one point I caught the smell of the sea and concluded the coast couldn’t be far off.

Over one last hill I went, paused on its brink and took in the blue horizon. Then I spied near the shore below me a neat little town with folks strolling here or there. Beyond it I saw a busy harbor scene with half a dozen ships at anchor. Sailors were carting kegs and trunks off or onto several ships.

I quickened my steps and arrived in the town an hour later, feeling the need of some nourishment. I stopped a friendly-looking stranger to inquire where I’d find an inn and he steered me in the direction of the Crab & Crow. There I found a cheerful hostel with a decent meal on offer and a room where I could spend the next few nights.

For several days I wandered back and forth through the town, enjoying the feel of the place and the good humor of the inhabitants. I decided to put down some roots in this congenial spot, so I found myself a job braiding rope and located a tiny house for rent.

In time I made the acquaintance of my neighbor, a ship captain who told me of all his voyages across the seas. Something began to stir within me, a vague unrest I couldn’t understand, a feeling there must be something more for me than this quiet life.

Then one day the Captain says to me, “I’m to take another ship across to France. You should come along for the ride. We can always use a man on board who can mend our ropes.” My spirit was roused and I felt a yearning such as I’d never known before. Dreams of gliding over the briny deep and visions of exotic places filled my mind.

I walked down to the pier one morning with the Captain and stood surveying his vessel, its sails billowing in the wind. A surge swelled in my bosom and swept me up to castles in the air. I had the same sensation that I’d had a year before when I stood at the crossroads and chose the path that brought me here. Now my little home and present life were on one hand and another road was beckoning to me.

I quickly accepted the Captain’s offer. Had I only known where this road would take me!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

And there I leave you to imagine a suitable ending for this tale.

The Hazards of “Wish Counselling”

Although this puts me out of sync with Fiction on Friday, I wrote this story yesterday in response to the Daily Prompt, which was:
You’re a genie who’s just been emancipated from your restrictive lamp. You can give your three wishes to whomever you want. Who do you give your three wishes to, and why?

So this is the thanks I get. You tell some people the truth and they toss you in the lake.

Of all the people who could have found me today, it had to be a teenage girl. Vexations untold!

I’m a genie, you see; I live in this fancy corked vase — have for several centuries now. You can believe I’ve seen lot of different types over the years and granted a lot of wishes, sensible and stupid, but whenever I see a teenage girl peering in at me I know my job’s going to be tough. If you’ve ever tried to please a teenage girl, you know what I mean.

Anyway, this rather plump girl comes plodding down the path not far from the shrub where I’d been left by my last liberator. I feel the thump, thump of her size ten clodhoppers — then I hear her stop. I gather she saw this squirrel dash up a tree, so she wanders into the bushes with her eyes on the squirrel and steps on my vase. People do that from time to time, then usually go on their way, not bothering to look inside.

Anyway, this girl picks up my bottle, lifts the cork and peers in at me. “Hey!” she shouts. “Are you a real genie? Wow, is this my lucky day or what? Outta there, you!”

So I waft out in my little cloud — my bit of fanfare, you know — and she asks if I have a name. Dumb question. “I’m Mabella,” I inform her.

That was considerate of her, actually. Most people just start with “Gimme.”

“And you can grant me all my wishes, Mabella?”

“Ha! In your dreams. Listen, let’s go over the ground rules right off. I can only grant you three wishes. Once those are gone, so am I.”

“That’s all? I can think of about twenty things already.”

“One, two, three, ciao. So I’d advice you to take your time. I’ve found that when people know they can have free stuff, they start babbling out whatever pops into their heads and later they wish they’d given the matter more thought.”

I could see the wheels of her mind turning. She almost seems to have some sense.

“I can believe that,” she says. “So how can I make the best use of my three wishes?”

“You’re in luck. Seeing the downside of some demands, I’ve gotten into Wish Couseling in recent years. I suggest you make a list of all the things you’d like to have, then from your list pick the three most important things — three things you can’t do for yourself. Maybe I can even help you decide. I’ve fulfilled a lot of requests and seen the results, so I can tell you what works in the long run and what doesn’t. Just don’t say the words “I WISH” until you’ve decided.”

“Okay.” She nods and pulls a scrap of paper out of her cargo pants pocket. Then she fishes around and finds a stubby pencil that looks like a chipmunk worked on it. (Hmm … She might wish to be cured of the habit of chewing on wood.)

She sits down on the grass and writes List of Wants: A size four body.

“Uh… Well,” I say, “I can give you that in five seconds. But remember: you’ll need to maintain it yourself. If you want to stay a size four, you’ll have to eat like a size-four person. Otherwise you’ll be size sixteen again before you know it.”

She sighs, scratches that out and writes: Mild case of anorexia.

“How about a lifetime membership at a local gym?” I suggest. She groans and rolls her eyes.

Then she writes: Fame; Singing talent like J-Lo.

Ah, yes, teenage girls. I knew this wasn’t going to be a picnic. If she knew how much work is involved in maintaining a singing career and dealing with obsessed fans, she might think twice. I won’t go there.

Then she writes: Hunky teen boyfriend.

“I can bring one of those along in a jiffy,” I told her, “but I can’t make him stay. You have to do that.”

“I do? How?”

“You have to be the kind of person he will want to spend time with.”

She sighs forlornly.

Although my former clients’ affairs are confidential, I decide to share one. “One day a sixty-year-old man found me. Right off he wished for a million dollars, a yacht and a young blond bombshell. So I delivered his goods. It took her about half an hour to assess the situation, get her hands on the million and be gone. The old man was so mad he threw me down a well — and it wasn’t my fault at all. I hope he’s at least enjoying his yacht. I put it up in Alaska where the harbor wasn’t so crowded.”

“That was pretty heartless of her.”

“Would you stay with a dirty old man whose only feeling for you was lust?”

“Gross! No, I sure wouldn’t.”

“And a teenage boy might feel the same, right? Or what do you want him for?”

“Ummm. Because everybody else has one. To hang out with. To impress my friends, I guess. You know.”

“If you just want him for an ornament, if you’re not prepared to be the kind of person he could love to be with — someone that actually cared about him — he may not want to hang around, either. Besides, you wouldn’t want your friends to admire him too much or they’d try to steal him.”

“True. But couldn’t you give me someone who’d never look at any of my friends?”

“Do you want a real human being or a cardboard cutout? I can’t manufacture flawless people; I only work with what’s here already.”

“This is getting so complicated,” she wailed.

Then she wrote on her list: One billion dollars.

I chuckle over that one. “These days it’s a billion. Inflation, I guess.”

I grin at her. “Back in 1934 I was liberated by a farmer hard-hit by the Depression and he requested the greatest amount he could think of right then: ten thousand dollars. So I handed it over in cold hard cash. He went out and bought his wife new furniture, his family all new clothes, and himself a new car. Made a few ‘loans’ to friends down on their luck. He’d intended to pay off his mortgage, too, but his money ran out before he got to that and he lost his farm.”

“Maybe he should have asked for rain?”

“That was his second wish: six inches on his wheat crop. So I obliged, but the land was so crusted most of it ran off. Still, he had about the greenest field in the area. The grasshoppers found it a refreshing change from tumbleweed and fence posts.

“Anyway, back to your billion. Yes, I could do that for you, but just remember that people have kidnapped and murdered for less. Better use some of it to hire a bodyguard. Here’s another heads up: you’ll have a ton of friends while the money lasts, but don’t count on them. Really, you’d be better off with $1000 and a financial planner. That way you’d learn to handle money on a small scale before hitting the big bucks.”

“Hmm… How come this always comes back to me doing stuff and learning stuff? Do I dare ask for instant popularity? Can you make my friends all love me?”

“Don’t waste a wish on that,” I tell her, “when you can do it so easily yourself. Just love all your friends and they’ll love you in return.”

She muses for a minute. “But my friends are all zeros. I don’t want to love them.”

“So why do you want a bunch of zeroes loving you?”

Suddenly she jumps up. “You know, Mabella, you sound just like my mom! She probably put you up to this.”

She grabs my bottle. “IN,” she orders. Then when I’m in she jams the cork into the hole, jogs to a nearby lake, and throws me in.

So here I am, floating on the waves and getting seasick. I sure hope the next person who finds me is a fisherman who only wants a new boat and the biggest fish in the lake. That I can do.

Teenage girls are just too temperamental. I sure don’t wish for another one.

Grandma’s Birthday Party — Part III

Concluding chapter:

Still holding Joyce’s arm, Steve turned to Brian. “We’re not having Mom’s 80th Birthday ruined by a squabble between you two. Dad’s coming in a few minutes. Can you just cool it long enough for us to get his feelings on the matter.”

“They’re here,” Darryl announced.

The doorbell rang and Rick & Emily walked in, followed by Grandpa.

Rick waved. “Hi, everybody. We’ve brought Grandpa, so you’d better be on your best behavior now.”

Grandpa slowly walked into the room and Rick closed the door behind him. Then he stepped over to Uncle Steve, his father, and whispered something in his ear. Steve frowned.

Hugs and kisses were exchanged all around, but it seemed to Todd that Grandpa wasn’t his usual self. Had he caught wind of the argument, too? As Jim & Jenny hugged Grandpa, Todd caught the glimmer of a tear in the old man’s eye.

Then Grandpa looked toward Brian and Sylvie and smiled. “So, everything set for Mom’s birthday party? The Seniors Centre is spoken for, the cake’s ordered, the guests invited.”

Brian flushed. “Uh…we were just discussing that last part. Joyce was to invite the guests and she thinks…uh…she decided not to… ”

“Come, Dad.” Cassie took his arm and led him to the recliner. “Let’s all sit down and then we can discuss all these details. Let me get you some iced tea first.” She gave a sharp look at her brother-in-law in passing and he followed them into the living room.

Soon everyone was seated in the living room. Grandpa inspected his three children in turn as if picking up some bad vibes. “Now, what were you saying, Brian? Joyce decided what?”

Joyce started. “My brothers left it to me to put the announcement in the paper, but I feel strongly that we shouldn’t throw open the doors for everyone and his pup. You know there are always so many who come just because it’s a party and there’s free food. People Mom wouldn’t even know.”

“I wanted to spare her that, so I thought it best if we’d just phone the ones we want to come,” she said, leaning back into the sofa cushions. “But Brian doesn’t see it that way and he’s being so stubborn about it.”

Brian turned to his dad. “You and Mom are friends with half the people in town and goodness knows how many more out of it. We’ve already phoned all your special friends, but we’d decided an announcement in the paper would take care of letting everyone else know. That was to go in last week.” He gave Joyce a sharp look.

“So what if a few extras come,” he continued. “However… It’s almost too late now. But the thing is, Joyce went ahead and decided this all on her own.”

“It’s not such a big thing really,” Cassie said, handing Grandpa a glass of iced tea. “We’ll just phone a few more folks…”

Brian thumped the arm of his chair. “Which we wouldn’t have to do if Joyce had just done what she was supposed to in the first place! It IS a big thing! She can be so…so positive that she’s right. Nobody can tell her anything.”

Grandpa digested this for a moment to digest, then he laughed. “Say, this is just like old times. You two used to have some real rows when you were tikes. One would say ‘Yes’ and one would say ‘No!’ and you’d go at it for half an hour.”

He looked out the window as if gazing back over the years. “But you’d sure stick up for one another, too. Why, I remember the times, Brian, when you’d beg your big sister to take you to the park because you weren’t able to go there by yourself. Even if she had something else she wanted to do she’d take your hand and off you’d go together… You had complete faith in her back then; you knew she’d stand up to them if the big kids bullied you.”

Brian cleared his throat and looked at his shoes.

“Remember the time a stranger offered you a ride. He had this cute little pup in his car and he wanted you to come along home with him because he had a boy just your age. You two could play with the pup, he said. When Joyce saw you heading for that car she came running and dragged you back, screeching so much everyone on the block turned to look. That stranger laid quite a bit of rubber on the road getting out of there. Her being right paid off that day; if it wasn’t for her you might not be with us today.”

“I can dimly recall that,” said Brian softly.

“I remember.” Joyce chuckled. “You were furious when I wouldn’t let you go play with that boy and his puppy.”

“I guess you understood the situation a lot better than I did. Thank God.”

Their father nodded. “Yes, Thank God. And, Joyce, remember the time when you and Brian went swimming at the pond, then you got that cramp and went under. I don’t know how Brian managed to drag you out, being so scrawny at the time, but he saved your life.”

Joyce nodded soberly. “That’s right.”

“We thanked God many times over for that one, too.” Then Grandpa chuckled. “And when you were in grade eight you almost tore your hair out trying to pass geometry. Your brothers both patiently explained it many times until you finally got a handle on it.”

Brian grinned at her. “Pie are square.”

“And remember when we got our first computer, the year you started high school, and Brian figured the thing out lickety-split. So that’s who you called every time you crashed the thing. Now you work with one every day.”

“I still call on him when I have problems,” Joyce admitted, smiling at Brian.

“And Brian, I think Joyce gave you your love of good books, ’cause she was always reading to you once she learned how herself…though you probably don’t recall those times.”

“Yeah, some.” Brian nodded at Joyce. “I think you kept it up until I was in third grade or so. Then you helped me get my grammar straight.” He laughed. “You never dreamed I’d be an editor someday.”

“Well, enough reminiscing,” said Grandpa, setting his drink down. “We have a party to plan. And we want to make it the best one yet.”

He was quiet a moment. A tear trickled down his cheek. “Because this is going to be the last one.”

Joyce gasped. “Dad! What’s wrong?”

“We didn’t want to spoil the party, so we were planning to gather the family together afterward to tell you all together, but I just can’t hold it in anymore. Mom saw the doctor a few days ago. He says she has acute leukemia. He gives her about six more weeks in this old world.”

There was a collective gasp. Tiffany threw her arms around Todd. Brian, Joyce, and Steve embraced each other, all of them in tears. Then the cousins were all hugging one another and Grandpa, each other, their aunts and uncles.

Aunt Cassie squeezed Todd’s mother and whispered, “They say the family that plays together stays together. In this case it’s the family that weeps together.”

Sylvie nodded as they watched Brian, Steve, and Joyce hugging each other. “Thank God,” she murmured.

Grandma’s Birthday Party — Part II

Jim eyed his mother-in-law, then his Uncle Brian. “Tornado — Red Alert, “ he called out. “Everybody to the basement!”

Brian stopped mid-stride and looked around, then out the window. “Tornado? What are you talking about? The sky is clear.”

“The atmosphere in here looks pretty stormy, Dad.” Todd looked from his father to his aunt, then back again. “The way you came marching in here, you look like a thundercloud about to zap somebody.”

Brian glared at his sister. “Well, somebody here needs zapping. Maybe they’d get hit with a little common sense.”

Aunt Joyce bristled. “If anyone here needs common sense…”

Brian gritted his teeth. “Your aunt has taken it upon herself….”

“I don’t want Mom’s party turning into a free-for-all. And if you weren’t so obstinate, you’d admit I’m right.”

“A free-for-all?” Jenny repeated.

Brian stuck out his chin. “Of course you’re right, Joyce. You’ve always been right, ever since we were kids and I tried to correct some crazy idea you had.”

“And you never would admit it when my idea was better!”

“Whoa, you two,” Todd interrupted. “Would one of you care to explain what this is all about?”

“Your Aunt Joyce has ruined Grandma’s birthday.”

“I’ve saved it from being spoiled by a bunch of party-crashers. You’re too stubborn to…”

“Mom,” Jenny demanded, “what exactly did you do?”

“It’s what she didn’t do,” said Brian. “Without consulting any of the rest of us, she decided to NOT put the announcement in the newspaper. Now nobody knows about the party.”

Everyone looked at Joyce. “You didn’t?” said Aunt Cassie.

“No, I didn’t. Do you know how it works when someone announces a party. Everyone who’s ever so much as said hello to that person — and a lot who haven’t — show up for the free eats.”

“But how will Grandma’s friends find out about it if we don’t announce it?“ Jenny asked.

Brian clapped her on the back. “Finally someone’s talking some sense! That’s just what I said.”

“We can get a list of their friends from Grandpa and Grandma,” Joyce explained. “Then we’ll call the friends and personally invite them. That way none of them will miss the party because they didn’t see the announcement. Plus, their friends would appreciate a personal invitation a lot better.”

“Hmph,” said Brian. “Mom and Dad know practically everyone in town. Do you know how much phoning we’ll have to do?”

“That’s right,” said Uncle Steve. “You really should have talked this over with us, Joyce.”

Joyce plopped her purse onto a chair. “This is a family affair. We don’t have to invite everybody in town. And this way people like the Tanners won’t show up to spoil the evening. I’m doing this for Mom’s sake.”

“The Tanners have known Mom and Dad for years! Folks will want them to come. Where’s your head, Joyce?” Brian threw up his hands in frustration.

“I know you’re good friends with their son, Brian. But the Tanners have a drinking problem. At the Franklin’s golden anniversary last month at the Seniors’ Center, they came bringing their bottles with them. They spiked their punch in the cloakroom and got pretty tipsy.”

“Well, we don’t want that.” Tiffany paused. “Do you really think it would be a problem?”

“No!” Brian declared.

“Yes,” Joyce countered.

“You’re just being paranoid — and you’re letting your wild imagination ruin Mom’s birthday celebration.”

The cousins looked back and forth from Joyce to Brian. Then they looked at each other and shook their heads.

“Now Brian, let’s not overreact here.” His wife squeezed his arm gently. “The party isn’t ruined. We’ll just start calling people.”

Brian snorted. “No, if Joyce wants to do things her way we’ll just let her. But we’re not going to be there.” He gave his two sons a pointed look, daring them to disagree.

“If you’re going to be like that, we won’t be there, either!” Joyce snatched up her purse and headed toward the door.

Uncle Steve grabbed her arm as she passed. “Just a minute, you, two.”

Grandma’s Birthday Party

Part One:

“I think it’s so great that you still have your grandparents,” Tiffany said to Todd as they walked up the steps to his Uncle Steve’s home. “And a family that gets along so well — not everyone has that.”

Todd nodded. “Yeah, we have a lot of reasons to be thankful. We’ve been able to celebrate Grandma’s birthday every year, but this one will be the party to end all parties.” Todd and his wife were joining the family this evening to plan some last-minute details of Grandma’s eightieth birthday coming up in four days.

Uncle Steve opened the door just as Todd reached toward the doorbell. “Hello, nephew. Hi Tiffany. Glad you could make it. Come on in. Darryl, Jenny and Jim, Matt and Shelby are here already.”

Tiffany glanced at Todd and he whispered in her ear. “You’ll remember Matt & Shelby when you see them. He’s Uncle Steve’s son; they were at our wedding, but moved to BC two months later. Jenny is Aunt Joyce’s daughter; she and Jim live in Nova Scotia.”

Aunt Cassie swished by in her long dark skirt. “I’ve set out punch and snacks on the kitchen counter. Help yourselves when you’re ready.”

Todd and Tiffany walked into the living room and exchanged hugs and greetings with his brother Darryl and the cousins gathered there.

Jenny gave Tiffany a big hug, saying “Now I finally get to meet Todd’s wife. Welcome to the family. I see you two are being fruitful and multiplying. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” said Tiffany. “I’ve really enjoyed being a part of your family and am looking forward to meeting the rest at Grandma’s party.”

“We all are. But are you going to be there? Mom tells me your baby’s due in a couple of weeks — which means any day now.”

“I hope Junior can wait a bit — at least until the next day!”

“Yeah,” said Todd. “We’d be disappointed to miss Grandma’s big do. Mind you, not TOO disappointed.” He put his arm around Tiffany and winked at Jenny. “If we’re in on another birthday party instead.”

Jim laughed. “You wouldn’t want to miss that one, I’m sure.”

Todd grinned, then glanced back at Jenny again. “Your Mom not here yet?”

Jenny shook her head. “I don’t know what’s keeping her. Your Dad and Mom are coming, too, aren’t they?”

Todd shrugged. “I’m sure they will. I thought they’d even beat us here.”

Jenny frowned. “You know, Todd, I’m getting wind of a little difference of opinion between my mom and your dad. I heard her talking on the phone yesterday evening — I think it was to Uncle Brian — and she seemed pretty upset about something. I’m hoping this blows over and doesn’t spoil Grandma’s special day.”

Todd’s brows arched. “My folks haven’t said anything to me. Can’t imagine what they’d quarrel about – especially right now.”

“Well, your dad can be pretty stuck on his own ideas sometimes.”

Todd bristled. “If I recall correctly, Aunt Joyce can be pretty insistent at times, too.” Tiffany nudged his arm.

“Well, yes, she can. I have to admit that.”

Aunt Cassie caught the last part of this conversation in passing. “I hope they can set aside their differences for Grandma’s sake. I’ve been looking in on her more lately; it seems she’s not as strong as she used to be. I was surprised how pale she looked last week.”

Jim nudged his wife. “Here’s your mom now.”

They all looked out and saw Joyce get out of her car, holding a cell phone to her ear. She appeared to be having an angry conversation with someone, waving her arms at times.

“I hope she wasn’t talking like that while driving.” Jim’s tone was reproachful.

“And here come Brian and Sylvie,” said Cassie as Todd’s father and mother got out of their car and stood on the street.

“Dad’s talking on his phone, too.” Todd saw his father run his hand through his hair impatiently. “He seems pretty upset. Why aren’t they coming in?”

“You don’t suppose they’re talking to each other, do you?” Tiffany asked.

Todd frowned. “When they’re only fifty feet apart?”

“I hope not,” Jim added. “They both look like tornadoes about to touch down on someone. Maybe us.”

They watched Joyce shut her phone with a snap and stuff it in her purse. She shot an angry glance at her brother, then hurried toward the house. Aunt Cassie rushed to open the door.

Todd’s father shut his phone at the same moment and rammed it into his pocket. He turned to his wife to discuss something with her.

Joyce charged into the house. Her eyes fastened on Todd and she hissed, “Your father is a pig-headed imbecile!”

Jaws dropped all over the room. Aunt Cassie gasped. But before anyone could answer, the door banged open and Brian marched in, his trembling wife in tow.

To be continued…


 

This is Part One of my reply to the Write 101 Day Fourteen challenge:

Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force. How does that make you feel?

Forgotten Again

Old man, alone now,
buys his own gift,
pays for his own
dinner on Friday–
with a glass of cheer–
at an obliging restaurant.
He can’t wait for Father’s Day
to discover he has been
forgotten again.

C. Goodnough

I’ve reblogged and slightly changed this. I’ve written it as fiction — yet I’m thinking it’s sadly true.

“I’m Helping Grandma”

The timer dinged just as Sara was writing “Mom” on the cake. She finished the word, swiped her fingers on a dishcloth and grabbed some potholders, hoping the brownies hadn’t burnt around the edges by now. She opened the oven door and gave them a gentle poke in the middle. Ah, just right. As she set the brownies on a rack to cool their scent mingled with the smell of caramel squares and cinnamon cookies.

Sara looked around, satisfied. The chocolate icing was made and could be spread in a moment once they’d cooled. The cinnamon cookies sat in a plate on the table, as artistically displayed as she could manage. The other squares were iced, cut, and waiting for the brownies to join them on their platter. The teapot and kettle were ready for action. Now she could take a short break.

Her eyes returned to the masterpiece: the cake for her mother-in-law. Covered in blue icing, it read “Happy Birthday, Mom” in bright pink letters with an icing bow across the top and scrolled pink loops around the edges. She grinned, delighted that her nervousness didn’t show up in squiggly lines and loops. Surely her mother-in-law would be pleased.

Sara glanced at the clock. Another half hour until the guests would arrive, forty-five minutes until Dad brought Mom to the party. There was nothing left to clean; she’d been up early polishing her kitchen and dining room until they shone. Time for a breather. She’d leave all the food here in the kitchen until the ladies arrived.

Before she left the room she took her mother-in-law’s gift down from the fridge and set it on the table, too. A gift-wrapped box with a big bow on top, it would have been too hard for Kyle’s little fingers to resist. But he was napping now and likely wouldn’t wake up until the door bell started ringing.

Just to be sure, Sara peeked into her three-year-old son’s bedroom. Kyle was zonked out. It was safe for her to rest awhile. Then she grabbed a magazine, sat in the recliner, and put her feet up. She thumbed through the glossy pages of Parents Today and came to an article for making play dough. It was accompanied by a photo of play food, including a birthday cake. She thought of her cake, smiled with satisfaction and put her head back.

She was decorating cakes in her dream when a thump from the kitchen woke her up. She glanced at her watch. She must have dozed off for ten minutes. But she hadn’t heard the doorbell; anyway, it wasn’t time for folks to come yet. She let down the footrest and listened.

Then from the kitchen came Kyle’s voice. “Mommy. I’m helping Grandma.”

If there were a record established for ‘broad-jump from a sitting position’ Sara broke it. Could she make it in time?

She flew to the kitchen, then stopped.

No!

Kyle sat on the floor amidst shreds of wrapping paper, pulling Grandma’s new sweater out of the box with chocolate-covered hands. Grandma hadn’t arrived yet.

He beamed up at her, his face slathered with pink, blue and chocolate icing. “I’m opening Grandma’s present for her so she won’t have to.”

Sara’s jaw dropped as she looked around the room. How could two little hands accomplish so much destruction in such a few minutes? Cookies and squares were scattered across the table. He’d found her spatula and cut a corner off the birthday cake with it, leaving pink and blue icing smears in his wake.

Sara didn’t trust herself to speak — or she’d screech. Which wouldn’t change anything, right? She glanced at the clock, took Grandma’s sweater from Kyle’s colorful hands and stuffed it back into the box. Without a word she scooped him off the floor and headed for the bathroom sink. She still had ten minutes.

As to Grandma’s sweater, well… Sara thought of how Grandma always said as Kyle snuggled on her lap, “Enjoy your children when they’re little.” Now her words would be put to the test.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Since I missed posting Fiction on Friday, I’ll post my tale today. Hope you enjoy it. Need I say this story is based on an all-too-true incident. I’d be glad to hear how you’d react if you faced the situation Sara did.

 

 

Wise Words for Moms on Father’s Day

“Wait Till Your Pa Comes Home”

by Edgar A Guest

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet never a boy of three of four
but has heard it a thousand times or more.
“Wait till your Pa comes home, my lad,
and see what you’ll get for being bad.”

“Wait till your Pa comes home, you scamp!
You’ve soiled the walls with your fingers damp,
you’ve tracked the floor with your muddy feet
and fought with the boy across the street;
you’ve torn your clothes and you look a sight!
But wait till your Pa comes home tonight.”

Now since I’m the Pa of that daily threat
which paints me as black as a thing of jet
I rise in protest right here to say
I won’t be used in so fierce a way;
no child of mine in the evening gloam
shall be afraid of my coming home.

I want him waiting for me at night
with eyes that glisten with real delight;
when it’s right that punished my boy should be
I don’t want the job postponed for me.
I want to come home to a round of joy
and not to frighten a little boy.

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet that is ever his Mother’s way
of saving herself from a bitter day;
and well she knows in the evening gloam
he won’t be hurt when his Pa comes home.

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co


One day in a store I overheard a frustrated mother say to her misbehaving boy, “Your father’s going to kill you when we get home.”

Really?

What a HORRIBLE thing to say to a child. As Mr. Guest points out in this poem, that father wouldn’t have appreciated the role of murderer one bit.

If she’d say, “Your dad’s going to punish you,” it might have been fitting. But kill him? Thank God she was lying! You may say it’s just an expression, but it is a lie.

Someday, about ten years down the line, I can hear her telling her son, “Don’t do drugs. Drugs will ruin your life. They will kill you.”

Will he believe her?

(P.S.: This isn’t fiction; got my Chrisses crossed today.)

 

SPECIAL DELIVERY

Seagulls walk on days like this, I thought as the wind hustled me down the city sidewalk. I kept my mouth shut against the blender of dust, last year’s leaves, bird poo and bug bits swirling around me.

A piece of paper — no, an envelope — twirled past me, tick-ticking as bounced off the concrete. I glanced over my shoulder to see if anyone was pursuing it, but it appeared to be unaccompanied on its outing.

At one point it flopped on the sidewalk, exhausted, but when I caught up to it the wind sent it sailing again, sweeping it over the traffic and into the next block. It didn’t have to wait for the WALK light like I did.

A queue had formed at the bus stop; there I noticed the envelope had landed again. A teen boy stepped on it obliviously, working his thumbs on his cell phone. I heard the beep, beep of an electronic game. He looked up only long enough to board the bus and flash his pass.

I snatched up the envelope before anyone else could step on it, then looked around to see if anyone was running after it. Nada. I boarded, waved my bus pass at the driver and found a seat.

As the bus pulled away I examined the envelope. No stamp, so it wasn’t mailed. The insignia at the top left said “Delorme & Pederson, Attorneys at Law.” Hmm…

Across the front, written in a neat script, was the name Mrs. Amy Allen. That’s it.

I sighed a prayer. Lord, how can I get this back to Amy Allen? Would she be listed in the phone book directory? Who Was Mr. Amy Allen? Why couldn’t it be Mrs. Kathy Klompenhaus or Mrs. Gloria Ganucci?

Oh, well. Best return it to the lawyers — impressively stamped by a teen’s sneaker — and let them deal with it.

At home I set the envelope on the counter to drop off in the morning and set about making supper. Kelly would be home in half an hour and needed a quick meal before his meeting this evening. And I’d promised myself a shower to wash off all this street dust.

I don’t spend much time on Kijiji; occasionally I skim through the Hobbies & Crafts column to see if someone’s selling scrapbooking supplies á la cheap. Alone this evening, I felt an urge to go online and see if there’d be any interesting offers.

I scrolled through the first page of ads and was on the second when an ad piqued my interest. For sale: six rubber stamps. Hmm… I clicked on the ad and read it through, then my jaw dropped as I read: Contact Amy Allen, 304-3622.

It can’t be the same one. I grabbed the phone and punched in the number.

“Hello?”

My words tumbled out. “Hi. I saw your ad for rubber stamps and I’m interested. But I also need to know…are you that Amy… I mean…did you lose a letter in the wind today?”

“A letter? You found my letter?” She sounded shocked.

“I found one, sent from Delorme & Pederson, addressed to Amy Allen.”

“Oh, thank goodness! I was hoping and praying it would turn up somehow,” she exclaimed. “I picked it up at my lawyer’s office today, but it blew out of my hand and I had no idea how I’d ever find it again! I’m being called as witness in a lawsuit.”

“I didn’t know how I’d locate you, either, until I saw your ad on Kijij. Are you home this evening? I’ll bring the letter over.”

“Thank you so much,” she said. “I’ll put on some coffee, if you’d like.”

“That would be great. Do you do a lot of scrapbooking?”

“Not so much lately. And you can have these stamps if you want them. They can be my payment for a SPECIAL DELIVERY letter.”

THE END

Written for today’s Writing 101 prompt: Finding A Letter.
The goal was to be brief; one of you editors will have to help me with this. I haven’t mastered brief yet.