Susan, Lady of Leisure #1


“Now don’t you be in here with sunstroke next week!” Lynn, the head nurse winked as she waggled her finger at Susan. She cut a piece of the celebratory cake, dropped it onto a paper plate, and handed it to Susan. “Here’s the biggest piece for our guest of honor.”

“Best of luck, girl. You’ll be a lady of leisure now,” said Ethel, another ward nurse. “I’m sure looking forward to joining you – but I’ve got ten more years to go,” she added with a sigh.

“Well, I’m cheating to retire at 55, but with the inheritance from my Uncle James adding a bit to my pension, why shouldn’t I?” Susan admired the neatly formed icing rose on her piece of cake and shoved it to the side of her plate to keep as a souvenir of this party.

Nurse Karen balanced her plate of cake in one hand and patted Susan’s shoulder with the other. “You just enjoy your retirement years. You’ve earned it. And just think: no cranky old ladies hollering ‘Nurse! I need a bedpan.’ Lucky you!”

“I prescribe sunny southern climates all winter for the next twenty years,” said one of the Residents as he shook Susan’s hand.

“That sounds great! But I probably can’t afford that lifestyle if I’m not working 8-5 every day.” Susan chuckled at the mental picture of herself basking in the sun at the Riviera. With her fair complexion, plus being rather pale from years of working indoors, she might look like a boiled lobster if she spent too much time in the sun right off the bat.

Susan’s daughter Rhoda, who had taken time off to join the celebration, told the group, “Mom may not be doing the South Seas every winter, but she’s bought a neat little bungalow in a small southern village right on the coast close to Bournemouth.”

“Good for her,” Nurse Amanda cheered. “When can I come for a visit.” Everyone laughed.

“Will you be renting out a spare room for guests?” Nurse Collin asked in a teasing tone. “My wife would love a weekend down at the coast. Stuck here in Aylesbury all our lives, never toured southern England yet.”

Susan looked around the staff’s lunch room at the coworkers, dear to her heart, who’d come to say farewell. She smiled at the “Happy Days Ahead!” banner someone had tacked on one wall. In spite of the joyful occasion, which marked the end of running back and forth along this ward, she felt tears prick her eyes.

Yes, she’d had her holidays and some hobbies that kept her busy, but the past twenty-five years of her life had been devoted to this place. She’d gone back to nursing to support herself and her two children after Harvey’s death and the work had been a lifeline for her in more ways than one. What would she do now?

Susan made up her mind right there: she would not become a lonely old widow. As she nibbled at her cake her mind started flipping through the possibilities — all the dreams she’d had, some of which she might now be able to fulfill. She chuckled. If she got too bored she could always enroll in university.

Stella, another nurse a few years younger than Susan, wrapped an arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze. “We’ll miss you. You’ve been so good with the patients. You’ve definitely earned your day of rest, Susan. Put your feet up. Read some good books.”

Susan waved her hand upwards. “I sure will. The sky’s the limit!”

At the end of the party Susan circled around the lunch room one last time, gave everyone a hug and left them with a promise to follow the prescribed course of treatment: total rest. Together with her daughter she walked down the hall and pushed the elevator button, dabbing at a few lingering tears.

“This is so sweet,” she said to Rhoda. “Last time on this elevator. Freedom!” They got off by the staff exit and Susan walked out that door for the last time.

To Be Continued…

FULL HOUSE–Book Report

© 2012 by Maeve Binchy

This book is classed as a “Quick Read” and it was. I picked it up at the library last week and read it in one evening. It was also a delightful tale, the story of Dee & Liam, whose adult children still live at home and are totally at ease in the old nest. The young folks are totally focused on their own personal problems and take it for granted Mom look after all their physical needs: the cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.

Then Dee & Liam face a financial and emotional crash and Dee realizes this system can’t go on. But now, how to go about re-educating their offspring after years of “training” them to be careless and self-centered? A rebellion is in order here.

I think this story could be a great eye-opener for teenagers and young adults living at home as well as for parents of teens and young adults.

Back cover blurb:
Rosie moved out when she got married, but it didn’t work out, so now she is back with her parents. Helen is a teacher and doesn’t earn enough for a place of her own. Anthony writes songs and is just waiting for the day when someone will pay him for them. Until then, all three are happy at home. It doesn’t cost them anything and surely their parents like having a full house?

Then there is a crisis and Dee decides things have to change for the whole family…whether they like it or not.

Sometimes You Hit A Homer

Gord and I had just finished shooing a few last gawkers away from the crash site when a car pulled into the driveway and a young woman got out and walked toward us, an inquisitive look on her face.

Gord rolled his eyes heavenward. “Whenever there’s a crime everyone and his pup wants to see the blood,” he grumbled.

I winked at my fellow officer. “I don’t see any pup. Just a nice looking lady.”

“Well, you deal with her, Mike. Tell her, ‘Sorry. No bodies today’.” He turned to talk with the tow truck driver and the two of them walked away.

As I watched the woman coming toward me, I guessed her to be in her late-twenties. Not pretty, exactly, but neat. Sandy blond hair fastened behind her head with a clip. Her outfit, a soft green skirt and matching flowered top, coordinated nicely.

Amanda always liked color-coordinated outfits. A twinge of grief hit me. Poets probably call this feeling “bittersweet.” Sweet memory; bitter grief. Co-ordinated sentiments?

This lady didn’t look like your usual crime-scene spectator. Did she have some business here? Neighbors had told us the owners were away on vacation so perhaps this was some friend or relative checking up on things.

She watched the tow truck driver haul away the car the young hoods had totaled, then she turned to me. “What happened, Officer?”

“We’re still investigating, ma’am, but it appears a couple of teen boys held up a gas station and tore off when police tried to stop them. They lost control making a turn, spun out, and hit this garage.”

She frowned. “I hope they weren’t killed!”

“No, just stunned a bit. They ran when our officers got here, but they’re in custody now.”

“Well, I’m sorry they crashed, but at least they’ll get the chance to think it over.”

“Yeah. Probably for six months or so.” I noticed her different accent. Out of state. “And what brings you here this morning, ma’am?”

“My friend asked me to meet her here. I wonder if she knows about this? She didn’t say anything when I talked to her earlier.”

“Your friend?”

“Brianne Rancourt. She’s been house-sitting for these folks while they’re on holidays.”

“Ah. We’ll need to talk to her.”

“We planned to meet here, check on the place, then do lunch. Shall I call her, sir?” She turned her huge peepers on me — nice denim blue ones — and my pulse did a quick double blip.

I took a deep breath. “Uh… Just give me her number and I’ll get the investigating officer to contact her.” I grabbed my notebook and she rattled off the pertinent info, then waited as I relayed it to headquarters.

She eyed the damage. “Brianne will be so shocked. She’s been house-sitting here for the past two weeks and never had any trouble. I feel sorry for the owners, coming home to this.”

Her tone, soft and gentle now, reminded me of the folks at my wife’s funeral. They’d give me a hug or pat me on the shoulder as they filed past, murmuring, “I’m so sorry, Mike.” Or they’d look at my kids and say, “This is so sad!”

I jerked my mind back to the present. “How long have you known Ms Rancourt?”

“Only ten days, actually. My Aunt lives here in Houston. She had a bad fall and broke her hip, so I took time off work and drove down from Great Falls to help her out. I met Brianne at the hospital; her aunt’s on the same ward.”

“Great Falls, Montana? Ah! That explains your accent.”

Her eyes sparkled. “Actually, we don’t have an accent. It’s you Texans that talk funny.” I chuckled at the way she drawled this last sentence.

I flipped to a new page in my notebook. “I should take down your name and number as well, ma’am.”

Her eyebrows lifted. “Really? But it’s purely coincidence that I’m here now, sir.”

I put on my best stern-cop frown, avoiding those curious blue eyes. “Perhaps we’ll need to contact you for some reason.”

“Okay. I’m Shannon Ryan. As I said, I live in Great Falls. Age thirty-one — in case you need that, too.” I couldn’t miss the hint of teasing in her voice.

I grinned. “I admire your honesty, ma’am. Most women I know stop at twenty-nine.” That made her smile.

Amanda had always joked that she was going to quit counting birthdays when she hit thirty. I’d laughed and told her I’d just have to grow old all by myself then. Those words came back to haunt me now. We never dreamed she wouldn’t live to see thirty; we never foresaw a fatal aneurysm snatching her away from me and the kids.

I focused on my notebook. “Married or single?” Police records didn’t require that, but hey. We can do things different here in Texas, right?

“I’m a widow.”

That got my attention. “I’m sorry to hear that. For long?”

She sighed. “It’s been ten years for me. And Brianne was widowed two years ago. I guess that’s why we hit it off so well when we met. We can commiserate.”

My brain did the math. “You must have been married real young then?”

“Yeah. I was seventeen when we got married; Brad was eighteen. Young and foolish, folks said, but we were very much in love. He was killed in a car accident on his way home from work one night. Four sweet years — far too short.” She blinked back some tears.

I nodded sympathetically. “I hear you, ma’am. I lost my wife four months ago. Feels like our time together was far too short, too.”

“My condolences,” she murmured. “Those first few months alone are a long, hard walk.”

“You’ve never remarried? Not currently, uh, involved?” Man, you’re nervy, Mike, I chided myself. But I had to ask.

“No.” She hesitated a moment. “I was engaged briefly three years ago, but that really blew up in my face. I run a daycare and it turned out he had an agenda. An ‘unnatural interest’ in children. I’ll admit a few red flags did pop up, but I so much wanted a home and family of my own that I reasoned them away.”

“The snake!” I spat the word out, thinking of my own innocent kids.

“Yeah. How could I have not seen it? And the scandal when he was arrested really sank me. Headlines like: ‘Day care operator’s fiancé arrested for trafficking in kiddie porn’ and ‘Police investigate pedophile’s involvement with day care owner.’ I’d never left him alone with any of the kids in my care — I testified to that in court — but my business was toast. I had to sell my house and start up elsewhere.”

I gritted my teeth. “I know what I’d like to do with someone like that!”

“So I’m sure you can understand why I try not to think about marriage anymore. I’m scared to hope again for fear it’ll be ‘Three strikes, you’re out’.” She smiled then, but the tears made her eyes glisten.

She shook her head and fixed her eyes on the garage. “Anyway, this isn’t all about me, so I’d better get on my way.” She turned and walked toward her car.

Should I just let her go? Something about this lady impressed me. She’d been through the mill and could still smile. I could use someone like that in my life — someone who’d understand.

A nagging voice piped up. It’s too soon to get involved, Mike. Just drop it!

Yeah, too soon. Yet I was so lonely! The emptiness had set in as soon as the last relative left. Every day my house felt empty: the loving greetings, the noisy meals together, the hugs and kisses were all gone. Every night my bed felt lonelier.

What will people think? They’ll say you didn’t love Amanda much if you find someone else so soon.

Stuff it, I retorted. I need someone. The kids need a mother. I’ve prayed God would send me someone who’ll love my kids. And if this is my someone, I’m not letting her walk away.

“Shannon, wait…” I called. She stopped and turned around.

“I’ve been thinking — since you’re down here alone and don’t know the city, perhaps you might, uh, like an unofficial police escort? Maybe for some shopping or sightseeing? And there are some really neat cruises in the Gulf you might want to take in while you’re here.”

She was quiet for a moment. Wrestling with her own nagging voices, most likely.

“Don’t give up on finding love,” I encouraged her. “After all, not everybody strikes out. Sometimes you hit a homer on the third swing.”

Something seemed to click and her face broke into a beautiful smile. “You know,” she said, “a police escort might not be such a bad idea. Might save me from some other slippery snakes. Yeah, I’d like to look around this town more, with a little help. Since you’re offering.”

Her smile seemed to bring the sunshine into my world again. I held out my hand. “My name’s Mike Andrews, by the way. And I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old who’d be glad to spend time with someone who likes children.”

She reached out and shook my hand. “Pleased to meet you, Mike. And I do like children. In fact I always wanted house full.”

I gave her my biggest smile. “I’m with you on that one.”

Troy’s Wake-Up Call


As a reward for our recent hard work, our sales team had chosen to spend a few days at a resort renowned for its golf greens. I was coming in with my small plane and everything was A-okay.  Visibility was great; the tarmac stretched out invitingly; my landing gear was unfolding as it should.

It would have been a perfect landing — if only those crazy birds had stayed put.

In my descent I could see the fairway on my left farther up. I also took note of the winding stream below as I brought my small plane down, focused on the strip of asphalt ahead. I never saw the two birds they say rose up from the river below. I only felt a violent jerk as something hit the prop and I lost control.

I vaguely recall a tumbling, falling sensation, the far-off wail of sirens. I remember thinking at one point, Guess my buddies will have to play without me, ‘cause I won’t be making it to the fairway today.

I woke up flat out on a bed, hearing blimps and bleeps from machines and soft voices. Definitely hospital sounds. I tried to open my eyes or turn my head, but my body was like stone. I couldn’t stay awake.

I came to later, hearing familiar voices right near my bed. My wife, Lacey, my mom and dad. They were murmuring, talking about the crash of a small plane, a bird in the prop. Bit by bit the memory came back to me.  I tried to make some noise. I tried moving my hand, my foot — anything to let them know I was awake — but my body wouldn’t co-operate. I couldn’t even tell that I even had arms or legs. Maybe I didn’t? That thought scared the living daylights out of me. But I couldn’t open my eyes to check.


“How long do you think it will be until he comes out of this, doctor?” I could hear the fear in Lacey’s voice.

Another voice, professional, yet kind. “We can never be sure. A lot of patients with similar injuries come to within a week or two. Some don’t.”

NO! I don’t want to lie here another week or two, I want to get up, move around. Then his last words buzzed around in my brain, torturing me. Some don’t. Ever.

“When he does come to again, what are the chances that Troy will live a normal life?” Dad’s voice. Always the optimist, he wouldn’t take ‘never’ for an answer.

“That’s impossible to determine until he wakes up and we assess how much neurological damage has been done.”

Hours passed — or was it days? I came to many times and tried to move, but it was like someone had set me in concrete. What I wouldn’t give to at least say a few words, find out what was going on! When the doctor was in the room I tried my hardest to scream, but not even a squeak came out.

I lived for the visits of my family. Lacey brought Kyle and Tianna. They were full of questions. Lacey explained, “Daddy’s in a coma. It’s like he’s asleep. But maybe he can hear us, so talk to him.”

Poor kids. They didn’t understand, but they tried. Kyle told me about school. Tianna told me about the new girl on our street. Their voices were like a lifesaver to a drowning sailor. If only I could communicate just how much those visits meant to me.

I made a vow. When I come out of this, I’m going to tell them every day how sweet their voices sound.

Even the medical people brightened my dark world. How I wish I could tell them that! I knew from the few comments the nurses made right by my bed that they were moving me, washing me, but I felt nothing. Much as I hated to be so helpless, their snatches of gossip as they worked with me reassured me that I was still in the land of the living.


Then came that marvelous day when my eyes opened.

If you only knew what it’s like to live in grey shadows for days — or was it even weeks? — and then one day be able to see light and color and people. Wonderful is far too small a word; it’s like saying the Grand Canyon is large. And to see the faces of Lacey, the kids, my parents, standing around me with great big grins. To see the hope shining in their eyes.

The only thing that it was the day I took my first step. It was the first step of my new life as a husband, a father, a son. Thank God for second chances!

How Cozy Is This Cozy?

I’ve been doing some more fiction writing lately and decided I’d reactivate this site so I can post some of my newest compositions and a few book reviews. So I’ll start with reviews of some recent cozy mysteries I’ve read.

Cozies: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Or Rather, The Odd:

Probable Claws, Book 2 in the Vanessa Abbot Cat Protection League Cat Cozy Mystery series, written by Nancy C. Davis

I love cats and I enjoy a cozy mystery, but this book didn’t thrill me much. A reader has to be into cat “mental telepathy” to find it enjoyable. The cat owner (and sleuth, if you can call her that) doesn’t have to figure anything out. She simply listens to what her omniscient cats are telling her about whodunit.

Now, if you do enjoy fantasies where cats solve mysteries, this is a great book for you. The mystery itself is valid, though the plot is elementary and the cast limited. The pace could be perked up with less talk, more action, and more emotions brought out in the dialogue. The conversations don’t move the plot along like they could. And the police detective blabbing so much info at the crime scene, discussing the suspects in front of all and sundry, is quite unorthodox.

The So-So:

Have you ever read a book that you thought kind of dragged along to an improbable conclusion, then checked online and found enthusiastic write-ups that leave you wondering what’s wrong with your judgement — or the reviewer’s ?

I recently read Murder in Cottage #6 (Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series Book 1) then reviewed the reviews on Amazon. This book has 22 five-star ratings, 1 four-star, and the customer reviews are so upbeat. “An entertaining suspenseful book”; “Loved it”; “Another great read for this cozy mystery series.”

My impression: If you say so. My rating: three-star max. The plot’s okay, though I thought Liz and her friend acted both foolish and out of character toward the end. Actually the last chapter portrays the crook as obtuse as well, if she never twigs onto the fact that she’s being followed all over town all day. I found the dialogue is stilted; no one talks that formally these days.

A good editor could have worked wonders with this one. In fact, the whole story could have been reduced by about 30% just by eliminating all the repetition. For example (direct quote):
Liz couldn’t help but notice the big yellow stain on his shirt. “See you’re lookin’ at that spot on my shirt,” Seth said.
(Well, yeah. The writer just told us that. You didn’t have to.)

The writer has done the character’s thoughts in italics and these tend to repeat the conversation you just read. A lot of stuff like (not an actual excerpt):
He glared at her furiously. “What are you doing here anyway?” he demanded.
Oh, dear, she thought to herself. He’s angry with me for coming. I should have stayed away.

I can’t tell you how many times I read, either in dialogue or thought, that the detective is a hopeless bumbler who will never be able to solve the case on his own. Actually she makes the detective a caricature, a lecherous dimwit. I don’t appreciate that treatment of authority.

I hope that some kind editor has taken the writer of this series, Dianne Harman, in hand and helped her work out the flaws I am seeing (fussy me) so the second book in the series will be much improved.

The Good:

The Dune House Cozy Mystery Series by Cindy Bell. One day journalist Suzie Allen is informed that her long-forgotten Uncle Harry has unexpectedly left her Dune House, a beautiful house on the beach that was once a Bed and Breakfast. She and her best friend, Mary, head for the town of Garber, on the East Coast ( Maine?) to restore the old place. I’ve read three of these books. In ‘chronological order’, they are:
Seaside Secrets
Boats and Bad Guys
Treasured History
Hidden Hideaway
Dodgy Dealings

The REALLY Good:

I’ve been reading Joanna Carl’s series, A Chocoholic Mystery, and am enjoying them immensely. The stories are skillfully told; the plots are believable; the characters are likable. Lee McKinley, the heroine, is brave but not brassy, mouthy, or foolishly dashing into disasters. Plus a few sidebar details about the history of chocolate in each book.

There are about fifteen in all, but so far I’ve read (in the series ‘chronological order’):
The Chocolate Cat Caper
The Chocolate Frog Frame Up
The Chocolate Puppy Puzzle
The Chocolate Mouse Trap
The Chocolate Bridal Bash
The Chocolate Jewel Case
The Chocolate Snowman Murders

So if you’re looking for a cozy to fill a long winter evening, these books are scary but no heart-stopping-terror, some romantic interests but no profanity or erotic scenes.

Closed For Now

Hello, dear Readers.

I appreciate all the LIKES and all my followers and apologize for not posting on this site as I originally intended. Alas, for the time being my story fountain has run dry.

At this point, considering my current struggle with leukemia and the slow downhill slide my health seems to be taking, I’ve decided to go back to one blog for my poetry and fiction. I don’t want to shut this site down completely — who knows what the future may hold? But until further notice this blog and my poetry blog,, will be inactive.

All my prose and poems — except for haiku — will be posted on my main blog,

For the time being I plan to continue posting haiku occasionally on http://treetophaiku as well.

Aprosopol Romance

Today’s WP Prompt says to create a new word and explain its meaning. Here’s mine:


I find that in most romance novels nowadays the main characters are aprosopol.

Prosopol is a Greek word meaning respect, as in “to have respect for someone.” Hence, aprosopol means without respect or no respect.

You could say contemporary romances are contramorous. The Latin word contra means against and amor means love.

I haven’t read so many contemporary romance novels in my life, but lately have investigated this genre again via e-books and I have been quite disappointed.

It seems to me that in years gone by the male MC and female MC met and usually fell in love — or at least into like. Even where they didn’t always see eye to eye they often had a certain basic respect for one another. There was usually some hope of them actually coming to terms by the last chapter.

Modern day romances tend to be so formulaic; I think most of us could write one in our sleep. Male MC meets female MC and detests her. Blah! He’d never marry this woman; she’s haughty, impulsive, headstrong, emotional. She won’t listen to his common-sense approach at all. NO WAY will he ever get involved with her!

And/or female MC meets male MC and loathes the man. He’s arrogant, unreasonable, unpredictable, insufferable. NO WAY is she ever going to be interested in him. So Chapter Two starts out with him spitting nails at her and she spits them right back at him. Lots of glaring, head tossing, fuming, insulting.

For the first few chapters every meeting they have serves to reinforce each one’s negative opinion of the other. However, somewhere near the end of chapter Two you get some physical attractions kicking in:
A) He’s thinking, “I want nothing to do with her, even if she’s knock-down drop-dead gorgeous.”
B) She’s thinking, “I’m keeping my distance from this ruggedly handsome hunk even if his physique sends hot flashes through my system.”

So they continue to spit nails at each other for another several chapters, but by now every second page mentions how he’s struggling to resist his attraction to her and/or she’s fighting the fascination she has with him. At this point it seems to be all sex appeal; they still manifest little respect for each other — but the world is turning.

Two thirds of the way through the novel either he gets himself into some sort of predicament or she does. He rides out with the posse and gets winged by the bad guys, or she falls in the river and needs to be rescued. His ship sinks and she must alert the authorities, or he’s in jail and/or about to be lynched for some false charge and she must step forward to plead his case even if she detests him. Or maybe she is at the mercy of some villain or gossip and he must rescue her/offer her refuge/marry her even if he’s averse to doing so.

In the end they get it together somewhat grudgingly, yet with promise of lots of steamy snuggles to come. (Though in some books these start to appear about Chapter three already!) So the theme actually seems more like “lust conquers all” than “love conquers all.” You just wonder if they are really going to live happily ever after when they detested each other so thoroughly at the outset.

I contrast this with the Biblical story of Ruth, where two people who admired and respected each other worked together on behalf of a destitute widow. And in doing so they found love for each other. Here I see so much better prospects for a true “Happily ever after.”

Anyway, I’ve managed to invent a new word for the Daily Prompt — and write my rant about contemporary romance — all in one post.

The Castle of Blood

Once Upon A Time…

Trembling with every step, I made my way down the dim corridor of the castle. I knew what was ahead and I dreaded it, but one of the noble princes of our land had commanded me to appear there and I could not escape my fate.

At the end of the hall a woman waited, grasping in her bony fingers a long rubber band. I shuddered as I advanced toward her. She wanted my blood.

Where, oh, where, can my fairy godmother be staying these days? Why does she not swoop down to rescue me from this ordeal?

For me there has been no reprieve from this long corridor and this constant bloodletting. Oh, so many times I had to present myself to this woman with the sinister smile. So many times she reached out and took hold of my arm, drawing me into her room. So many times — yet it was never enough. All too soon she wanted yet more.

I cringed as she punctured my vein, laughing all the while. She would take my blood and spin it, twirl it, torture it. Would she love to do the same with my body, I wonder? Thankfully, permission has not been granted her to torture my flesh — and she is not allowed to pierce my jugular vein. So I have escaped with my life.

She drained enough blood to fill three pots, relishing the bright red tone. Then she released me and I fled that terrible enclave. Outside the castle door my knight in shining armor waited to carry me off to his mansion, where I might recover until the next summons comes and they want yet more of my precious blood.

As we walked back to our carriage, we heard a sound like a bull frog and turned to see what odd creature was lurking nearby. At last our eyes located the source of this unearthly sound: up in a pine tree beside the castle a raven peered down at us. No doubt he was disappointed there was no flesh for him to feast on.

My reply to today’s WordPress prompt isn’t quite a fairy tale, but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

The Wizard of Sherwood Forest?

It seemed to Dorothy that the tornado was losing some of its strength — she and the various things caught up with her seemed to be spinning more slowly. She felt a sensation of descent, like being in an elevator going down. Yes, the twister that carried her away from Kansas was finally dropping her back to earth again.

The tips of her toes brushed some tree tops. Green leaves fluttered around her now. She held tight to her dog, fearful of losing him among the branches that reached for them as they tumbled down in a clearing right next to a brooklet.

Dorothy let go of her small fellow traveler, who shook himself vigorously and let out a few yips. Gingerly she got to her feet and dusted herself off. “Oh, Toto! Are you all right? I don’t think I have any broken bones, but look at my dress! It’s a mess — and so many rips. Whatever will Mother say when I get home?”

She surveyed the clearing. “And which way is home? I’m so glad to be out of that horrible wind — but this can’t be Kansas. We never had such huge trees as this. Which way should we go?” Dorothy climbed onto the trunk of a toppled tree trunk and looked around. “I see a path over there. Let’s go, Toto.”

Half a mile away two men peered out from under a group of sheltering trees. “What a gale! I haven’t seen a wind like that for many a year,” said the taller man. He stood up and grabbed his bow and quiver of arrows off the ground.

“I was certainly glad to be in the shelter of these strong oaks, Little John,” his companion said as he surveyed the litter of small branches around them. “Though I wondered if the wind might have brought them down on our heads before it passed. Then he laughed heartily. “Whatever would the Sheriff of Nottingham say if, when he’s tried so hard to capture Robin Hood all these years, he found me done in by an oak limb?”

Suddenly the two men froze. “Is that a dog I hear?” Robin muttered. “Whatever would a dog be doing wandering here in Sherwood Forest?”

“Where there’s a dog, there’s undoubtedly a master,” Little John replied. “And who is he, I wonder?” He grabbed an arrow and fitted it to his bowstring, ready to take aim.

Robin pointed toward the far end of the road where a young girl was coming into view. “The dog seems to be with that young waif. Look at her dress, will you. Such garments as I’ve never seen on an English child. She’s a real ragamuffin! Must have been fearfully tumbled about in that storm.”

Little John slipped the arrow back into his quiver. “No need to fear a mistress that small,” he murmured. They listened as the girl talked to her dog.

“It looks like the road divides up ahead, Toto. Which way should we go? Oh, how I wish I were home and not stumbling around in these woods!”

The two men stepped out from their hiding place in the trees, startling Dorothy and setting Toto to barking furiously. Dorothy gasped when she saw their longbows and grabbed Toto in her arms so they wouldn’t hurt him.

“Lost, are you, little maid?” the one man asked. “How come ye to be in the forest alone? Where is your home?”

Wherever can I be? Dorothy wondered. I can barely understand what they’re saying. But she answered bravely. “I’m from Kansas, sir. The twister picked me up and carried me away from my home. It dropped me here in the woods and I’m trying to find my way home.”

She tried to hush Toto, who was still barking and wriggling, trying to escape her hold. “Please don’t hurt my dog, fellows. He’s only wanting to protect me.”

“Indeed he is, young maid, and the good Lord knows you have need of some protection if you’re wandering in Sherwood Forest alone. You can set him down; we won’t hurt him.”

“Thank you, sir.” She set Toto down. He stayed right beside her, eyeing the two men dressed in green.

Dorothy frowned. “Say, did you say this is Sherwood Forest? I’ve heard of that.” She paused a minute, trying to recall where she’d heard that name. “Isn’t that where Robin Hood lived?”

“Lived? He lives here right now. Indeed, it’s Robin Hood you’re talking to right now, and this is my good friend Little John.” Robin clapped the shoulder of the man beside him.”Welcome to this part of merry old England.”

“Excuse me, Mr. Hood sir, but I thought you were only a fable.”

“A fable?”

“Yes, like a fairy tale.”

“A fairy tale! Goodness me, girl, that’s even worse.” He sounded huffy. “I hope I’m more than a fairy tale. I was rather hoping with time I’d be a legend.”

“Oh, yes, sir! That’s it.” Dorothy quickly replied, hoping she hadn’t offended him too much. “Legend is certainly the better word. Yes.”

“And where might Kansas be, wee maiden?” Little John asked. “I’ve never heard of it. Your accent is not from this part of England, I’m sure. I can barely understand you.”

“I speak American, Mr. John, sir. Just like my Pa and Ma and all the other people in our country.” She paused a moment more. “Say, if you really are Robin Hood, then do you rob people?”

“Only the rich. No point robbing the poor; they have nothing to take. Well, we do snatch the odd pig or cow now and then. My merry band of men has to eat, too.”

Dorothy thought of her father, a poor farmer. It would cause him grief to have someone steal their cow or one of their pigs. She looked up at the man and stated firmly, “It’s always wrong to steal.”

“A Sheriff’s child, are you? Or maybe the daughter of a Judge?” Robin Hood asked, and the two men laughed.

“It IS!” Dorothy shook her finger at them. “It’s wicked. You should say sorry and give back what you’ve taken.”

“So much you do not know about current affairs in England, little maid. But come with us now and we’ll see if my friend, Friar Tuck, might hap to find a place for you until we can find out where you belong. It won’t do to have you wandering in the forest alone like this. There are wolves — and other wicked men, too, who might sell you for a slave. You wouldn’t want that.” He winked at her.

The prospect of wandering in the woods at night scared Dorothy and being sold as a slave was even worse. So she and Toto meekly went along with Robin and Little John to Friar Tuck’s cottage. There the three men pondered how to get the maid and her dog back to her parents in Kansas — wherever Kansas was — and meanwhile where to get her some decent English clothes.

Written in response to today’s Daily Prompt

The Lost Coin

fireworks-235813_640Happy New year to all my readers! I haven’t been feeling so inspired to write fiction lately, so I’ll post a story I wrote long ago but have never shared publicly. This is my version of one of the miraculous incidents recorded in the Bible.


Who dropped it?

Was it a Roman soldier, striding along the dock, digging out the boat fare from his little leather bag? Maybe he had spent a few days at the spa in Tiberius for refreshment and was on his way back to his post.

Perhaps, hurrying to the boat, he slipped on a greasy spot and one of his coins went flying. He heard it splunk as it hit the water. He shrugged and hurried on. What was one coin, anyway?

Was it a servant girl, sent to the dock to buy fish for the family’s supper? Perhaps it was her first time handling money and her hands shook as she was paying for the fish? To her horror, one silver coin slipped between her fingers. It hit the dock and before she could grab it again it rolled along a plank and over the edge. She heard it splunk as it hit the water.

Oh, what would mistress say if she came back with not enough fish?! Would the master even accuse her of stealing it? But with a smile and a nod the kind fisherman handed her all the fish she needed and waved her on her way. She would have been so grateful!

Or was it a young boy, waiting while his merchant father inspected some cargo. Perhaps his father had given him this silver coin to amuse himself through the long business talk.
Maybe he was flipping it in the air because he liked the way it sparkled in the sunshine? Then he missed catching it! With a small thump the coin landed on the dock and rolled over the edge. He heard it splunk as it fell into the water. Quickly he ran to the edge of the dock and watched it sink down, down, down.


The Bible does not say who dropped it. But God had a plan for this little silver coin.

A fish was swimming around under the dock, looking up, waiting for some juicy bug to light on the surface. Suddenly something sparkly flashed through the water, coming down, down, toward him. A huge silver beetle! Yum!

The fish opened its mouth as wide as it could, anticipating the delicious crunch, and into its mouth went the coin. But it was not juicy and squishy. It was a cold, hard lump!

The fish tried to swallow but the coin was too big. He tried to spit it out but it wouldn’t budge. He wiggled this way and that, he swam in big circles, he leaped from the water and back down. But nothing would shake this awful hard thing loose from his mouth. It was stuck!


“Hey, Simon, wait a minute!”

Simon Peter, who was following Jesus into the house, stopped and turned to see who was calling him. Several men were coming toward him through the crowd, those men who came around once in awhile to collect the tribute money to help pay for the upkeep of the temple.

“Your Master is staying with you right now, isn’t He?” one of them asked.

“Yes,” Peter replied, then looked around at the crowd of people. Why did they ask? The whole town of Capernaum knew that Jesus was staying at his house!

“Your Master pays tribute, doesn’t He?” another man continued. “We’re collecting. Everyone needs to pay the tax to keep up the temple.”

Peter frowned. Did He? Did Jesus pay tax for the upkeep of the temple? Well, Jesus seemed to want to live just like everyone else and obey all the laws, so He probably did.

“Yes,” answered Peter. “I believe so. I’ll go and ask Him.” But he walked into the house wondering.

Why should Jesus have to pay for the upkeep of the temple? Jesus was the Son of God–and God was the owner of the temple. Why, that would be like making Herod’s sons pay for the upkeep on their palace!

Jesus looked up at Peter as he entered the house. “Peter,” He asked, “From whom do the kings of the earth demand tribute money? From their own people, or from the foreign lands they have conquered?”

“From the foreigners,” Peter answered, puzzled.

“Then the children are free?” Jesus asked.

“Well, yes,” Peter replied, more puzzled yet.

Jesus knew what the men had asked for. He knew the question going through Peter’s mind. And he wanted to teach an important lesson to the people listening. So He explained that it was true; as God’s Son, He should not have to pay for the temple upkeep, for the temple was His Father’s earthly house.

“But we must obey the laws of the land as much as possible while we are in this life. We don’t want to offend them and cause needless trouble.”

“Take a hook and line,” He instructed, “and go down to the lake. Throw your hook into the water. The first fish you catch, open its mouth and you will find a coin. Take that coin to the tribute collector and pay the tribute for you and me.”

Peter, still puzzled, hunted through the fishing gear that he had set aside when Jesus first called him to be a disciple. A fish with a coins in its mouth?

Well, we’ll see, he thought. He found a line and a hook and headed toward the lake of Galilee.


By now the fish may have carried that awful coin in its mouth for several days. Perhaps he had swum from one end of the lake to the other searching for food, but not able to chew anything. Pressing hard on the same spots all day and all night, the coin was like a bad toothache.

He was swimming slowly in the water near Capernaum when a tiny silvery thing splashed into the water not far away. Other fish darted away, frightened by this odd-looking bug, but the big fish was so hungry!

He opened his mouth as best he could and caught the tiny thing. But it was not a bug at all. It was a sharp barbed thing that jabbed into the roof of his mouth and there it stuck.

Now something was tugging on this sharp hook. It dug deep into the roof of his mouth. He wiggled and tried to break free, but he was so weak he could hardly resist. He was being pulled closer to the shore, the hook jabbing him every time he jerked back. Finally exhausted, he gave up the fight.

Peter, standing knee-deep in the shallows, reached down and lifted the limp fish out of the water. Holding its jaws open with one hand, he carefully removed the hook. Then he poked a finger into its mouth and felt the coin.

Peter was amazed. How could it be that, in this whole huge lake, the one fish with a coin stuck in its mouth would get caught on his hook? How could it be that Jesus would know that? Grasping the coin with his finger and thumb, he gave a little tug and out it came.
Now he looked at the fish. “Someone will be happy to catch you someday, “ he said, “but you’d better fatten up a bit first.” And he tossed it back into the lake.

Then he examined the coin, marvelling. “Truly Jesus is the Lord and ruler of all Creation!” he declared as he waded back to shore.


For awhile the exhausted fish floated in the shallow water near the shore. Then he opened and closed his mouth a few times–just to be sure.

The hook was gone! That horrible big lump was gone! What a relief! He flipped his tail back and forth, pushing himself into the deeper water.

His mouth was very sore, but not too sore to nibble from the weeds growing on the lake bottom. Small water beetles swam among the weeds; he would eat lots of those. Never again was he going to be tempted by sparkling things that fell from the blue above!

He swirled his fins and away he swam, so glad to be free. Being a fish, he had no idea that he was part of one of Jesus’ miracles.