Part of the Family

Part II

Tyler ran into the park, avoiding the playground where other boys would be having fun with their dads. Instead he followed the path that led down to the creek, to watch the ducks and swans swimming.

Suddenly he stopped. There on the path ahead was the Canada goose. He had never been able to get this close to it before!

He watched as it pulled at strands of grass and ate them. I’m going to chase it into the water and watch it swim, he thought. In the water the goose was really neat; it looked like a sleek grey boat with a long black flagpole.

But the goose would not be chased. It waddled over to the edge of the creek, right in front of a duck family that was swimming around in the water gobbling up bugs, and there it stood, calmly watching Tyler with his tiny black eyes.

Tyler stepped closer and waved his arms to shoo it into the water. But the goose just raised its wings, stretched out its long neck, and honked a warning.

“Silly goose!” he shouted at it. “Get in the water and swim.”

The goose stood its ground at the edge of the creek, eyeing him warily.

Maybe if I had a stick, Tyler thought. He looked around beside a nearby bush and found a long one. But when he waved the stick at the goose, it stretched out its neck again, hissed and flapped its wings as if to say, “Look out, kid!”

A little girl came skipping along the path with her mom and dad following behind her. “Why are you trying to hit that goose?” she asked.

“I just want it to get in the water. I want to watch it swim, but it won’t go.”

“Do you see that duck family?” the man asked. “That’s why it won’t go in the water.”

Tyler looked at him, puzzled.

“This is a father goose–a gander,” he explained. “He has no family of his own, so he’s adopted this duck family. He always stays near them, watching that nothing hurts them. He’s put himself in between so you can’t get near them.”

“But where’s the ducks’ dad?” Tyler asked.

“We don’t know,” the lady answered. “He just went away–or maybe he got sick and died.”

Tyler nodded, feeling a lump in his throat. He knew all about dads getting hurt and dying. He studied the gander until the lump went away.

“But why does he stick around when he’s not their real dad?”

“Maybe he’s just lonesome and wants to be part of the family,” the man replied. “Maybe he sees that the mother duck needs his help to take care of all those busy babies. What do you think?”

For a minute they watched the many duck babies zipping this way and that to snap up water bugs. Yes, she might need help to watch over them all.

“This gander will fight anything that tries to get near his family,” said the dad. “When he flaps his wings and hisses at you, he means, ‘Look out! One more step and you’re in for it!’ His wings are strong and could give you a few good bruises and if he grabbed your leg with his beak, you’d feel it!”

“But if you want to watch him swim, go sit down a bit,” he suggested. “Once he knows the ducks are safe, he might get back in the water and join them.”

The people walked away. Tyler threw away his stick and sat down to watch; pretty soon the gander did waddle into the creek and swim over to the ducks.

As he watched the unusual family, a thought came to him. What if one of the ducklings decided he didn’t like the gander and tried to chase him away? Tyler smiled as he pictured a tiny duckling chasing a big goose.

“Like you’re doing to Paul?” The words popped into his mind, surprising him, but he realized this was the truth. By refusing to like Paul, by being crabby to him, he was trying to make Paul give up and go away.

So why did Paul stick around? Was he lonely, too? Tyler knew about lonely, about the ache inside that never went away since Dad died. Many times he wanted to cry and there was nowhere to go with his loneliness. If he told Mom how he felt, she might cry, too, and that was worse. Did Paul sometimes feel like that? Did he want to be part of their family so he would not be alone anymore?

Did Mom really need Paul’s help to raise her family? He thought of one little duck trying to look after the whole family. Silly! The gander obviously could do a much better job. He was big and brave enough to stand up for them.

Maybe Paul feels like that, too, Tyler thought. Maybe he thinks we need him. He sat and pondered the idea. And maybe we really do, he finally decided.

Tyler jumped up and started for home. Paul would be there now and might play ball with them. Maybe they could be friends. Paul wasn’t Dad, but having him there might not be so bad after all.

The End

Part of the Family

Tyler tried to slip away unnoticed. No luck! Cassie looked up when she heard the gate open. “Where are you going, Tyler?”

“To the park.” Tyler scowled at the squeaky hinge.

She came over to the fence. “You should stay here. You know Mom said Paul’s coming over.”

“Paul might play ball with us,” five-year-old Tisha added. “That’ll be so much fun!”

“I don’t like Paul!” Tyler kicked angrily at a tuft of grass.

Tisha’s eyes opened wide. “Why don’t you, Tyler? He’s nice.”

“I don’t like him!” Tyler repeated. “He’s not my dad and he can quit acting like it.

“Our Dad is gone, Tyler,” Cassie reminded him quietly. “Mom says we need accept it.”

Angrily Tyler shoved his hands in his pockets. Maybe they could accept it, but he never would! They should have their own dad like other families did. There never should have been an accident. Or Dad should have gotten better after. He never should have died and left them alone. It wasn’t fair!

And now Paul was coming over, talking with Mom, smiling at her. They said they’re going to get married. Mom would forget all about Dad! Paul was so friendly to them, too, trying to win them over. Tisha was totally on his side already. She would never even remember Dad. Everybody would forget Dad.

“He thinks he can take Dad’s place,” Tyler grumbled, “but he never will. I wish he’d just go away and leave us alone!”

He turned and ran for the park, ignoring Cassie’s call to come back. She thought because she was twelve now that she could tell him and Tisha what to do. That wasn’t fair, either. He could look after himself; he was almost ten. He could help look after the family, too. They didn’t need Paul. Why didn’t he just beat it?

Conclusion tomorrow….

Making a Man of Himself

…………Two of a Kind………….

Perhaps you have heard this story before
but I’m sure you won’t mind if I tell it once more:
of a farmer who lived in a cottage so fine,
whose one major fault was his love of strong wine.

He’d leave all his work for the slightest excuse
and drive off to town with his team and caboose;
he’d drink till the close of the day was at hand,
then bring home a jug of his favourite brand.

The little brown jug was hidden away
on a shelf in the pen where the hogs used to lay.
One night while imbibing too freely of wine,
he dozed off to sleep in the pen with the swine.

The jug was upset; the pig drank the brew
and soon such a feeling no hog ever knew;
he ran ‘round the pen and he tried to jump out,
then playfully rooted the man with his snout.

The pig became dizzy and soon he got sick;
he laid on the floor and started to kick.
He hit the old farmer right square on the nose;
from the pain of the blow Farmer quickly arose.

“You miserable brute,” the old farmer said,
“If I had a gun I’d blow off your head.”
The hog said: “You see, ‘twas that jug on the shelf,
but I’ll never again make a MAN of myself.”

I thought you might find this poem worth reading.
It was written by Saskatchewan poet Roy Lobb, born circa 1892.

TWANGED — A Regan Reilly Mystery —

Book Review:

by Carol Higgins Clark

This story hinges around a priceless artifact, a violin crafted in Ireland, that has now been bestowed on Brigid, an American singer of Irish origin. But along with the gift has come the curse, as everyone wants to remind her. A few people are quite hot under the collar; the violin was supposed to stay in Ireland or disaster would follow.

When Brigid starts receiving threats, the singer’s alarmed family asks CA private investigator Regan Reilly to act as her undercover bodyguard for a time.

By the time you’ve been introduced to the cast of oddball characters involved you suspect most of them of some sort of skulduggery. Someone sends threatening notes to Brigid; someone plans to kidnap her; several people have designs on the violin; a murderer is lurking. One night Regan finds a woman’s body floating in the pool during a party, with strong evidence she’d been pushed in. It’s impossible to tell who’s doing what, or if they’ll get away with it, until the very end.

This is a classic whodunit, well written, fast-paced, that keeps you turning pages, guessing – and chuckling – until the very end. Carol Higgins Clark has delivered another great read.

Someone writing a review of this mystery series has compared Regan Reilly to Nancy Drew. I feel this is not an unjust comparison; there’s excitement and danger, plot twists and turns, but no real heart-stopping horror.  Much more my speed. In my youth I was very fond of Nancy Drew. :)


And He Can’t Even Fly

One morning Skunk was in his burrow brushing every last straw out of his fur with his claws. He did want to look his best before he took his walk in the woods. It wouldn’t do to go about like a ragamuffin. Skunk wrinkled up his nose; some of the woodland creatures showed no sign of self-respect. Like the porcupine. What a mess!

He hoped the broad stripe down his back was spotless. After all, no other animal had such a neat white stripe that contrasted so pleasingly with the blackness of his fur.

The raccoon had that silly mask – and the rings on his tail that he often bragged about. Skunk didn’t find them one bit appealing, but he always agreed with Raccoon that his tail was attractive. No point in being rude.

He left his burrow and ambled along the path through the woods; soon he met up with one of the rabbits.

“Hey, Skunk. Where are you off to?”

“Just taking my morning walk. Good to get some fresh air you know. Keeps a body in good form.” Skunk fluffed his tail and waved it front of Rabbit. He knew all the rabbits were jealous of his beautiful long tail.

What a pity rabbits had only a stump. Oh, well, some of us have it and some don’t, Skunk thought to himself. I must be charitable.

“I’ll join you,” said Rabbit. “I haven’t been around the woods this morning myself.” So the two wandered along the trail together, though it took Rabbit some effort to plod at Skunk’s slow pace.

They came around a curve in the road and there they saw Grouse preening himself in front of his three sisters. When Grouse saw them, he spread out his tail fan and strutted around quite vainly.

“Are you ever beautiful today,” Rabbit told him.

“Well thank you! I think so, too,” Grouse replied.

“Good day,” mumbled Skunk, and kept right on walking.

“Disgusting display of pride,” he thought to himself. He was rather annoyed at Rabbit for his silly gushing. After all, Rabbit hadn’t said anything nice like that to him.
Once they were out of earshot of the grouse, Skunk told Rabbit, “He’s not so beautiful at all. He’s just a bird – and the way he shows off is repugnant.”

“Well… maybe you’re right.”

Fox happened by right then. “Where are you two off to?”

“We’re just out for a walk. It’s such a nice day, even if some creatures do spoil it with their obnoxious vanity. If you continue down this path you’ll come across the grouse clan and see his Highness strutting his stuff.”

“Oh, really.”

“Acting like a peacock, isn’t he, Rabbit?”

“Well, umm…”

“Rabbit thinks so, too,” said Skunk. “He’s just too mousy to say it.”

“I should run along then, and see what you’re talking about.”

“Here comes Groundhog,” said Rabbit. “I wonder how he’s doing with his new burrow?”

“Hi, fellows. What have you been doing this morning?”

“We met up near my place and decided to walk together. Then we came upon a very interesting sight.”

“Oh? What am I missing?”

“Grouse parading around and crowing about his beautiful self. We couldn’t watch him for long; it was too nauseating.” Skunk rolled his eyes.

“Well, maybe it wasn’t…” Rabbit began

Skunk cut him off. “Anyway, soft thick fur like we have is better than feathers any day.” He fluffed up his coat and swished his plumy tail emphatically.

Two crows were sitting in a tree above them eavesdropping. One of them croaked to the other, “How revolting! Do you think we should warn Grouse that Skunk is saying nasty things about him?”

“No. Why ruin his day? And what could he do anyway: run around and tell people they shouldn’t believe the stories Skunk is spreading about him?”

“I guess that wouldn’t accomplish much.”

“Skunk’s harsh tongue will tell on itself. The woodland folk know the truth, or will find out soon enough. They say it’s those who are vain themselves who find it so repulsive in others.”

“Isn’t that the truth,” the other replied. “And for all that, poor Skunk can’t even fly.”

Paula’s Picnic

Part Three

As Derrick and his friend strolled toward the group around the picnic table, Paula took a good look at her. Slim and tanned, wearing a mini-skirt and what was probably a designer blouse, she looked like a million dollars. Paula glanced down at her own very practical clothes and felt like an ugly step-sister in the presence of Cinderella.

“Hey, guys! Have you left some for us?” Derrick called to some of the fellows who were sitting on a blanket.

“Hey, Derrick,” one of them called, “glad you could make it. You’re just in time to say a table grace.”

“You should introduce us to your friend,” Ryan Pinder added, looking quite impressed with what he saw. The blonde flashed him a grateful smile.

“I want you all to meet Kelsey Hallstrom, an old friend…and my new personal trainer.”

“Personal trainer! What kind of training are you needing, Derrick?” Brad asked as he stood up to shake her hand.“I’m Brad Miller. Pleased to meet you, Kelsey.”

“Oh, he needs a lot of training! You’ll have quite a job on your hands, lady!” one of the other fellows joked as he shook hands with her.

“Physician heal thyself,” Derrick countered with a laugh and a playful punch.

“I decided I needed to go join a gym and get into shape. Too much sitting in an office. And who should I meet there but Kelsey! She’s come back to her old stomping grounds and now she’s going to whip me into shape.” He gave her a warm smile.

“You look pretty fit for the job,” Ryan commented, giving her the once over. “Maybe I should get into fitness, too.”

The way he said it made Paula uncomfortable. She wondered, should a Christian be so open with those kind of looks and comments? Maybe Ryan was just paying a compliment, but she would be embarrassed if some man looked her over like that.

Kelsey just winked and flashed another big smile at Ryan. “I work at it.”

Paula glanced at Derrick. He was looking at Kelsey almost as if he was seeing her for the first time. What was he thinking?

The couple arrived at their table and more introductions were exchanged. “Welcome to our little group, Kelsey,” said Anne. “ Shall we make room for both of you here, or are you going to join the guys, Derrick?”

“Yeah, I’ll leave Kelsey in your care.” He smiled at Paula. “I know you’ll be good for her.” And he walked over to join the fellows on the blanket.

Paula moved over to make a space on the bench beside her and Kelsey sat down, smiling at her. A feeling of jealousy flashes through Paula’s mind, followed by the words, “”Let go and let God.” They brought her a moment of comfort. If it was God’s will for her and Derrick to get together, He’d work it out for them. If it wasn’t meant to be, she wanted to let it go.

Anne brushed a buzzy fly away from Kelsey’s arm. “Did I hear you’re back in your old stomping grounds?”

“Yes, I grew up here in Parkerton. I came back here in March, after my divorce.”

Well, I’m sorry to hear that…about your divorce, I mean,” said Sally.

“Yeah. Not nice,” Kelsey sighed. “Derrick and I went to High School together. Actually, we dated a few times, but then Shawn came along and swept me off my feet. I wish I’d stayed on them.”

She glanced toward Derrick and smiled. “I’m sure I’d have done so much better.”

“The burgers are ready,” one of the grillers called. “Everyone gather round and we’ll sing a table grace song.”

“Oh, dear. I don’t know any of that religious stuff,” Kelsey whispered nervously as they gathered in a circle around the table.

“That’s okay,” Paula assured her. Inwardly she wondered about Derrick getting involved with someone who didn’t know “religious stuff”. And I shouldn’t think he’s so involved. He may only have asked her here because she needs friends, she reminded herself.

After the blessing they lined up for the food. Kelsey went to stand beside Derrick in the lineup and Paula watched her talking and laughing with the guys. Disapproval washed through her thoughts. But if Kelsey doesn’t know the Lord she probably doesn’t see the harm in random flirting, Paula thought.

Then she thought of her teen years and remembered the way she’d acted around boys. She blushed, then smiled. You’ve come a long way, yourself, girl — with God’s help!

While she was standing in line waiting for her food, Paula sighed a prayer, “Lord, please grant me a pure heart, free from jealousy, and a love like Yours for those who need to hear about You.”

Hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Sad to say, the rest of the story isn’t written yet, but at least you’ve found out who this new lady is. If enough readers are interested in where the story goes from here, I’ll post some more as time goes on.

In my mind the setting for this story is back in the early 70s, when we were newly married and started attending churches in the protestant evangelical sphere. I was trying to capture the tone of those times as well as the people and the picnics I remember.


So Who Is She?


Part Two

A dozen people were already at the picnic spot when Paula arrived. She started to unload her stuff when a voice behind her asked, “Can I help you carry something?”

It was Brent Waters. Brent with the kinky red hair, faded grey eyes and the joie de vivre of a tortoise. He smiled shyly at her and picked up her lawn chair. “It’s a decent enough day for a picnic, isn’t it?”

Paula glanced around. “Yes, I hope we’ll have a good time.” she answered. And mentally added, If you’d just beat it and Derrick would come to help this damsel in distress.
Right now, however, Derrick was nowhere to be seen––and for once Paula was glad. No point him getting wrong ideas about her and Brent.

Sounds of laughter came from several ladies sitting together beside the picnic table. Brent must have decided that’s where she’d want to be, because he unfolded her chair right beside Melinda.

“Hi,” Paula said as she sat down.

“Hi, Paula. Good to see you. Looks like we’re going to have a great day for our picnic,” said Anne.

They all chatted for awhile, mostly about how the kids did in school last term and workplace woes. Someone fired up the barbecues and started grilling.

Finally Paula couldn’t help herself. She said to Sally, another single lady sitting nearby, “Looks like most of our group is here. I don’t see Derrick, though. I wonder if he’s going to make it?”

Sally grinned at her and she turned red, then was annoyed with herself. ‘Oh, how can you guess?’ she thought with a sigh.

Then Melinda turned to her with a really sober look and said, “You know, I heard…”
“Melinda!” someone shouted. “Tamara needs the bathroom. She’s calling frantically.”
Melinda jumped up and ran toward her toddler, scooped her up, and dashed to the ‘Ladies.’
Paula was almost glad. That look said ‘bad news’ and she wasn’t sure if she could take it. Not right here, with everyone watching her reaction. She’d find Melinda later.

Just then Derrick’s car pulled into the parking lot. Paula glanced at Sally and saw her wink.
Derrick jumped out, his usual dashing self, and the tingles went up and down Paula’s spine again. Then he hurried around to open the passenger door and the most gorgeous blonde Paula had ever seen got out of the car. She and Derrick walked toward the others.
For a second Paula’s mind went blank, then scrambled for a reasonable explanation. Maybe it’s his cousin, in town unexpectedly––and what else could he do but bring her along? At least they’re not holding hands.

He can’t have a girlfriend! Paula inwardly screamed. Not after what he said at the singles’ group the other night. Not after the way he winked at me. He can’t have somebody else!

And now, dear readers, would you like to hazard a guess?  Who is this lady?

Travel Tales to Tickle Your Fancy

Since a number of you who read this blog are travellers, I think you’ll want to hear about a new book that’s just gone live on Travel Tales from Exotic Places Like Salford by Vancouver resident (and Brit ex-pat) Julian Worker. I was asked to write a review for The Story Cartel and here’s what I’ve said:

You need to take your time with this book, savoring it like chocolate truffles, and it’s set up in sections so you can do that. Rather than using chronological order the writer divides his book geographically, describing spots tourists would most likely want to visit and giving directions on how to get there, as well as some encounters he’s had with the locals.

Mr Worker gives some historical background as well as thorough details of the area he’s writing about. By the time I was done reading about some of these places I was ready to pack my bags and go! His description of the soccer/football match had me cheering, too, though I have no interest in that sport. And his last few pages about his trials with customs inspectors and linguistic misunderstandings made me chuckle. There are no accompanying pictures, but most places mentioned will have internet ads and websites if a person wishes to take a look.

I found this book intelligently written, well crafted and well edited. The writer shows due respect and sensitivity to various cultures and customs. If you enjoy visiting other countries or reading about others’ travels, you will really enjoy this book.

My First AMAZON Book Review!

History was made at this house yesterday when I wrote up and posted my very first AMAZON book review. I was so excited I promptly followed with another! (I’ll post that one on Tuesday.)

I’d like to know how you others feel about the reviews you read on AMAZON. I’ve been checking out some books listed that I’ve read lately — and some I haven’t — and reading the reviews. I’m getting the impression the majority of reviewers just want to complain. Several of Carol Higgins Clark books I’ve read and really liked were trashed right, left and center.

All I can say is, “To each his own.” Some readers like salt, some like sugar, some like lemon and some like bland and some prefer a steady diet of junk food. I have my own likes and dislikes. I read Wuthering Heights because it’s considered a great classic; I considered it a great waste of time–unless you want to read a book that shows you how NOT to be. I’ll admit, it portrays the futility of being a greedy, miserable tyrant. Charles Dickens did much the same thing with Scrooge, but Scrooge got the picture and changed before it was too late, so I found A Christmas Carol very inspiring.

Fellow writer Joel Canfield is a real fan of Raymond Chandler’s Private Eye Marlowe. I like Joel’s protagonist for all the ways he’s NOT like Phillip Marlowe. If you are into mysteries, you may want to check this one out.

Here’s my unabridged review of A LONG HARD LOOK by Joel Canfield:

While I’m not really a mystery reader — and I abhor horror! — I found this book a compelling, fast-paced read and relatively easy on my poor nerves.

This tale echoes Chandler’s writing in that the protagonist is giving you a play-by-play account with only subtle hints of back-story. But in my opinion Canfield’s protagonist is more like “Phillip Marlowe meets Joe-Hardy.” He’s human; he has feelings; he’s rash at times. Unlike Marlowe, who relates cold details — I went here; found this body; shot that guy; too bad — Phil Brennan shares his motives and feelings as he gives the reader a first-hand account of events.

The story starts as Phil, an on-the-wagon not-really-private-eye, to do a small favor for Gil, a sobbing computer technician with a guilty conscience. Or so it seems. Will Phil correct an error on Gil’s computer at work?

Sure. Why not? The task seems simple enough — and the pay is good.

Thus Phil is dragged into involvement with a dysfunctional family by helping Gil — who’s found dead the next day. Phil is soon called on the carpet by Gil’s employer-dad for that favor and threatened with fates worse than death  — IF he doesn’t find Gil’s murderer.

Phil meets Gil’s sisters one by one and he falls for one of them. The focus shifts to family dynamics: a long-lost brother (or potential brother-in-law, in this case) meets four “sisters” and finds them spinning in a crazy situation. One is older and more level-headed. One has been a pawn in a strange game. One is a suspect. Did she murder Gil? If not, who did? How can they fix what’s broken here.

As sisters will, they all hen-peck him – one with a stiletto even — and he bears it patiently. But then, in spite of their wise counsel, he tries rattling another bush to see what he can flush out.

He shouldn’t have.

The story has a few spots that could be polished. There’s a lot of dialogue in this book; a few times I had to go back and work my way down to figure out who was talking. Daddy makes a brief appearance in Phil’s office soon after his computer-tech son, an incident that’s never touched on again. For all that his life has been threatened he isn’t too concerned about keeping his door locked.

However, the story is well written. Phil Brennan makes you care about him. When the story’s done you wish him well and would like to know what happens to him next.

Paula’s Picnic

Tingles ran up and down Paula’s spine as she thought of meeting Derrick at the Sunday School picnic. A rosy glow spread across her face as she recalled his remark at the singles’ Bible Study last week – and the way he smiled at her as he said it. She neatly divided the onion, then chuckled. Here I am slicing onions and not even crying. This must be love!

He might not even show, she chided herself. Perhaps he’ll have ‘another engagement’. She could almost hear him saying, “So sorry, just can’t make it.” And the day would be completely ruined.

Derrick was the life of the party. When he was there she had a whale of a time. When he wasn’t, the whole occasion was like oatmeal without salt. Like a gray sky, threatening to rain any minute on a half-hearted parade.

Somewhere in the back of her mind a caution light flashed about ‘life of the party” types. She’d met a few that were pretty unstable when the party was over and real life began. But when you’re 28, your eyes are wide open – at least mine are, she told herself. If he isn’t for real I’ll just drop it. Anyway he seems to have a serious side; look how faithfully he attends church and participates in our Bible Study discussions.

She forced her mind back to the onions that hadn’t made her cry. By now they were all neatly sliced; she slid them into the ‘pack-&-go’ container. This was an ‘everybody-brings-food’ picnic: some families were bringing burgers; some hot dogs & buns; some the condiments. She was bringing tomatoes and onions; the single guys, the pop; other ladies were bringing pies. And the older couples would bring all their advice and life experiences to share. (And this time she was going to listen carefully to what they said about making a marriage work.)

They’d all have a great time together. If Derrick was there.


This is Part One of a story I started one day. Look for Part Two on Monday, Aug 25th and Part Three on Wednesday.