Saturday, December 17, 2016

SANTA WEARS RED BOXER SHORTS

I woke up with a start. I had been having a perfectly pleasant dream about sugar plums or something when a strange noise had woken me up. It wasn’t a “thump” or a “creak” or any of those other scary noises hat my dad always says are “just the house settling” (whatever that means). No, it sounded like…a voice?

I sat up in bed a few minutes, listening. The sound was far away from my bedroom on the second floor of our house, but it was sort of familiar. Like the sound my dad makes when he’s working in the garage. Sort of grunting and groaning. It made me think that someone was struggling with something. But who?

That’s when it hit me! I remembered what day it was. In all the excitement, I had completely forgotten what night this was: Christmas Eve!

I jumped out of bed and threw on my robe and slippers because now I knew exactly who was making those sounds. I ran downstairs and only had to go back twice when my slipper came off. I went to the fireplace. The plate with the milk and cookies was still sitting on the mantle and the stockings were empty. The Christmas tree lights were unplugged, so I plugged them in to light up the room. I looked at the fireplace. This was where the noises were coming from. I heard them, still  muffled, but louder than they had been upstairs, and saw little flecks of soot falling down from the flue.

“Santa?” I said.

The voice in the fireplace stopped grunting. “Is…is someone there?” it said.

“Yes, it’s me, Santa. Are you okay?”

“Oh, yes! Fine. Just fine. Only…well, frankly I think I’m stuck.”

“Stuck? In the chimney?” I was surprised to hear this since Santa was sort of an expert at coming down chimneys. It’s always surprising when a pro makes a mistake like this.

“Yeah, I’m afraid so. And I’ve still got a lot of stops to make tonight. If I don’t get out of here, it will spoil Christmas for lots of little kids!”

“And we won’t be able to light a fire.”

“That too.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“Do you have a long stick or something?”

“No…but my sister does! She plays hockey!”

“Oh! That should work. Can you go get her hockey stick?”

“I’ll try. Wait here.”

“I’m not exactly going anywhere, am I?”

“Right. Sorry.”

I ran back upstairs, but when I got to my sister’s door I froze. My big sister could get sort of cranky. She hated it when I went into her room and she hated to be woken up. I knew I had to be quick to help Santa, but I also had to be quiet.

I turned the knob very slowly and pushed the door open carefully. It squeaked, but my sister didn’t wake up. I tiptoed across the floor and stepped on a spot that creaked. But still, she didn’t wake up. I went to her closet, where I knew she kept her hockey stick, and opened it, very carefully. I couldn’t see anything in the dark. I thought about getting a flashlight, but I thought the light might wake her up, so I just felt around in the dark. Finally, my hand closed around something long, flat and wooden. The hockey stick! Without thinking, I pulled it out…and knocked her jewelry box off of her dresser. It hit the ground with a crash and a second later the light was on and my sister was glaring at me.

“What are you doing in my room?”

“I’m really sorry!” I said. “I needed your hockey stick!”

“At midnight? What in the world did you need my hockey stick for at midnight?!?”

I told her. She didn’t believe me. So, I had to show her.

“Santa?” I said when we got downstairs.

“Oh, good,” said Santa. “You’re back. Do you have the hockey stick?”

“Yes, it’s right here. And my sister is here, too.”

“Nice to meet you,” said Santa. “Are you going to help me get out of here?”

Well, of course, nobody could refuse to help Santa, no matter how cranky they are. So my sister took the hockey stick and I got a flashlight from the kitchen. I laid down on the hearth and shone the light up into the chimney. My sister then slid the hockey stick up one side of the chimney, sort of wedging it in between the chimney and Santa. We both got covered in soot, of course, but there was no helping that.

“If I can get it high enough,” my sister said, “we can use it like a shoehorn and get you out of here.”

“How you doing, Santa?” I asked.

“I’m fine.”

“I think that should do it,” said my sister, and I got up and held the other end of the stick with her. “On three. One…two…three!”

We titled the stick away from the wall of the chimney, just like it really was a big shoehorn. And a moment later, with a loud pop and a louder thud, Santa appeared in the fireplace.

“We did it!” I cried. “We did it! We…oh!”

Because now my sister was holding up the hockey stick. On the end of it was something large, red and made of cloth. It only took us a moment to figure it out. When we had wedged Santa out of the chimney, somehow the stick had gotten caught on his pants and they’d come off!

Santa got up and stood in the room with us. He still had his red, pointed hat, his red coat and mittens, even his big black boots had stayed on. But he wasn’t wearing any pants!

“I am so sorry, Santa!” said my sister, handing Santa his pants.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Santa, putting on his pants again. “You got me out of there. That’s what matters. Thank you both so much for your help. There’ll be a little something extra in your stockings to show my appreciation.”

“Thank you, Santa,” we both said at the same time.

“That’s all right. Now, I think you two had better go back to bed. No, no! Rules are rules. You must be in bed when I go to work. Good night and merry Christmas.”

We said good night and merry Christmas to Santa and we both went to bed.


The next morning, there were lots of great presents for us and our stockings were so full they almost tore apart. But my sister and I had another reason for being especially happy about that Christmas. Every kid in the world knows that Santa wears a red suit with white trim and a red hat with a white puff at the end and black boots and mittens...

But my sister and I were the only kids in the world who knew that Santa also wears red boxer shorts.

Friday, November 25, 2016

THE TRIBULATIONS OF MISS ELLA FUNT

This is a story I wrote a few years back. It concerns the amazing adventure of a stuffed elephant named Miss Ella Funt. I hope you enjoy it. I think you will.


Support your community's Toys For Tots drive by donating a new and unwrapped toy today. For more information visit their website. You can  make Christmas merry for some lucky child.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

OWEN HARRIS: PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR

GREETINGS, FELLOW BELIEVERS!!


My name is Owen Harris. I am ten years young, I live in Santa Mina, California and I am a paranormal investigator. My card:

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Aren’t you a little young to be a paranormal investigator?” Well, maybe. But Mozart wrote symphonies when he was nine and Einstein knew how to do tough math stuff when he was a kid. Who’s to say I’m not a paranormal investigator prodigy?

I guess the question I get asked most often is…“Are you afraid of anything?” And the answer is, no. No, I am not. Not even kind of. Nope. Which is lucky because here in Santa Mina, there’s all sorts of weird paranormal stuff going on. Let me tell you a little about the adventures I've had here so far...

My family (me, my dad, my stepdad, and my baby stepsister, Carol) moved to Santa Mina last summer and things were weird right from the start. For one thing, there was definitely something strange living in Carol's closet. With the help of my new friends, Los and Kelly, we found out that it was a ghost! 

Then, a few weeks later, we learned the truth about the weird old lady across the street. I thought she was a wicked witch, but there was more to it than that. That's the thing about these investigations of mine, they never quite turn out the way I think they're going to. Sometimes people you think are bad guys turn out to be good guys, and vice versa.



Then school started, and I found out there was a mysterious woman calling herself the Huntress living in Santa Mina. She wasn't interested in learning about the supernatural, like me. She just wanted to shoot it! Not only that, but she bears a striking resemblance to my teacher. Being a paranormal investigator seems to get more dangerous every day!



Well, with all this going on, you might think I was psyched for Halloween, but I wasn't. I mean, when you've seen REAL monsters and ghosts and werewolves and witches, all that fake stuff is pretty boring. In fact, I wasn't even going to go out trick-or-treating last year. But then I met Lily, and my whole world was turned upside down...




To learn more about Owen's adventures, pick up your copies of his books HERE.


Saturday, October 8, 2016

SHELLY HOBBES AND THE SOUTHSIDE VAMPIRE

Inspired by 'The Sussex Vampire' by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


On Halloween night, I went over to Shelly’s house for a scary movie marathon. All four of our parents were at a costume party across town so we’d have the house to ourselves. The plan was to sit on the couch, watch bad horror movies and eat the candy we were supposed to be giving to trick-or-treaters.

But, as is usually the case with these stories, that’s not exactly how it turned out.

About halfway into our first movie there was a knock on the door. We had the porchlight out so we weren’t expecting trick-or-treaters. With a groan, Shelly hit pause, picked up the bowl of candy and carried it to the door. I heard her talking to whoever it was:

“Really? Tonight? I can’t have one night alone with my boyfriend?”

“Er, what?” It was clearly not trick-or-treaters.

“Fine, come in.”

Shelly came back into the living room with a kid about our age who was not wearing a Halloween costume and who looked very bewildered.

“Shelly, what’s going on?” I asked.

“We have a client, Warren,” said Shelly.

“We do? How do you…?”

“One, he isn’t a trick-or-treater, because, a, he isn’t wearing a costume and, b, he’s too old. Two, he’s not a friend because I only have one friend and he’s sitting on this sofa next to me. Three, he’s our age, he probably goes to our school which means he’s probably heard of me. Four, it’s Halloween night and he’s not at home, like us, or at a party, like normal teenagers. Balance of probability: He’s a client.”

“Right, got it.”

“Well, that answers my first question,” said the client.

“Which was?”

“Is this where Shelly Hobbes lives?”

“And that leads us to my first question,” said Shelly.

“Which is?”

“Who is she?”

“Who is who?”

“The girl you’ve come to see me about.”

“How did you know?”

“When a guy comes to me for help, it almost always has something to do with a girl. Men are very simple that way.”

“Well, wait a minute,” I said. “That's not true.”

“Isn't it?”

“No! Men think about other things besides girls.”

“You spend ninety percent of your time with a girl, following her around and doing whatever she says even if you don't know why.”

“Well, I...it's just...yeah, okay.”

“Good. Now we’ve settled that,” she said, turning to our guest, “who is she?”

“My sister, Mabel. My name is Clark, in case anyone’s interested.”

“Sorry, I got carried away. What’s going on with Mabel?”

Clark seemed hesitant to say. His eyes kept darting back and forth between us, as if he was trying to make up his mind about us. Then he took a big breath and said, “She’s a vampire.”

“Good night, Clark,” said Shelly getting up and going to the front door. “Have a happy Halloween.”

“Aren’t you even going to listen to me?”

“Not if you’re going to waste my time with nonsense.”

“It’s not nonsense!”

“There’s no such thing as vampires!”

“I know that!” said Clark, testily. “I didn’t say that my sister is a walking corpse that can only be kept in her coffin by a stake through her heart. But she is a vampire. She’s been drinking blood!”

The room filled with an uncomfortable silence. I was sure I had misunderstood Clark. How could this be true? Shelly seemed less concerned and more intrigued. She sat back down on the sofa with me and bid Clark tell her everything.

“It started a few weeks ago,” he said. “She’s not the same. She used to be really upbeat and happy all the time. Now she’s sort of…I don’t know, gloomy. She used to sit outside on the back porch, reading or just lying in the sun. Now she hates to go outside. And even when she’s inside she prefers to be in the dark. She’s actually started wearing sunglasses all the time. Then, just today…” He was clearly having a hard time telling us. “I don’t even know how to…”

“Just tell me exactly what happened as you saw it happen,” said Shelly, sternly.

“Right. Well, she was…she was drinking our dog’s blood!”

I looked over at Shelly and she didn’t seem to have been affected at all by this bizarre statement. She simply said, clearly and firmly, “Exactly what happened. Exactly as you saw it happen.”

Clark sighed. “I got home from school and I was looking for Mabel. I had gotten an A on my history test and I wanted to tell her. She knew I had been worrying about that and…well, I couldn’t find her anywhere in the house. I was surprised to see her in the backyard. But when I saw what she was doing…”

“What was she doing?” I asked.

“She was kneeling on the grass, bent over. I couldn’t see what she was doing at first. Then I went outside and called to her. She turned around. She had blood on her mouth and hands. And I saw she was kneeling over our dog, Fergus. He was whimpering, in a lot of pain, and I saw he had blood in his fur. I ran over, pushed Mabel out of the way and saw a big cut in Fergus’s neck. I didn’t want to believe it, but there it was, right before my eyes. My sister was drinking my dog’s blood.”

Again, I was more than a little concerned when Shelly seemed to register no emotional response to this horrifying pronouncement. I mean, yeah, we’d been through a lot together, but I thought for sure this would be too much for her. But, no. She was still in Sherlock-mode. Sitting, hands tented, thinking hard.

“What did she say?” I asked when I realized Shelly wasn’t going to ask.

“Nothing. I asked her what she was doing and she refused to tell me. I told her to go inside and clean up while I took Fergus inside and got him cleaned up. The cut wasn’t deep, and it was actually pretty easy to take care of it myself. Of course, I thought about taking him to the vet at first. But then I’d have to tell them what happened. Then our parents would find out and…”

“You didn’t tell your parents?”

“They’re out of town on business. But even if they weren’t, I don’t think I would have. That’s why I came to you. I thought you could give me some advice. What am I supposed to do about this?”

For a while nobody said anything. Shelly was still deep in thought, I was shocked and Clark was just anxious for Shelly’s answer. Finally, it came.

“Today’s incident notwithstanding,” she said at last, “have your sister and the dog gotten along?”

“Yes. Of course. She loves that dog. That’s why this whole thing is so—”

“Clark, I need you to calm down.”

“Calm down? How can I be calm? My sister is—”

“Probably going through something difficult and the last thing she needs is her brother jumping to conclusions.”  As she said this she took out a chocolate bar from the bowl, unwrapped it and handed it to Clark. He took it in his hand and was about to bite into it, but Shelly said, “No, just hold it for a minute.”

“What? Why?”

“Just indulge me, please.”

“You don’t think she was drinking the dog’s blood?” I asked.

“I don’t want to shock you completely, Warren, but, no, I do not believe that a suburban teenager has suddenly decided to indulge in rituatlistic bloodletting with a beloved family pet.” Here she snatched the chocolate out of Clark’s confused hand and said, “You have something on your face. Right here.” She touched her upper lip with her finger. Clark rubbed his own lip. “That’s good,” said Shelly.

“Sorry, what was all that about?” asked Clark. I admit I was a little confused too.

“Did you enjoy the chocolate?” she asked.

“I didn’t eat any chocolate.”

“Are you sure? Cuz there’s some on your lip right now.”

Clark again rubbed his lip and realized that not only was there chocolate on his face, but also on the fingers of both his hands. “It melted while you were holding it,” Shelly explained, “and you transferred it to your mouth when you rubbed your lip.”

“I still don’t get it,” said Clark.

But I did. “What she means is that just because there was blood on your sister’s mouth, that doesn’t mean that she was drinking it. You’ve got chocolate on your mouth but you haven’t eaten any…actually, would you like some? For real, this time. We’ve got plenty, you might as well…”

“Never mind, Warren,” said Shelly. “The point is that I need you to tell me what you saw and let me draw conclusions. You provide the evidence, I provide the solution. Fair?”

“Okay, fine,” said Clark, wiping his mouth with the tissue I handed him. “I get it. But if she wasn’t drinking his blood, what was she doing?”

“Probably trying to help the poor animal. Blood gets on her hands, she absent-mindedly touches her mouth, and the next thing she knows her brother is calling for Van Helsing.”

“Who?”

“Never mind. Your sister’s not a vampire, that’s the point I can’t believe I’ve had to put so much effort into making.”

“But what about her behavior? Staying inside? The dark glasses?”

“At the risk of sounding like a guidance counselor, changes in habits and behaviors are fairly common symptoms of turning fourteen! It’s got nothing to do with the dog.”

“But, wait,” I said. “Something still doesn’t add up.”

“You’re right,” said Clark. “If she was just trying to help Fergus, why didn’t she tell me?”

“That is a little peculiar. I have a theory, but I’ll need to confirm it. Now, obviously, I can’t leave because I promised my parents I wouldn’t. But don’t worry, Clark. I’m putting my best man onto it.”

There was a long silence. Clark kept looking around the room as though he were looking for Shelly’s best man.

“She means me!” I said at last.

“Right. Warren, I need you to go with Clark back to his place.”

“You want me to interview Mabel?” I asked.

“I want you to try. She wouldn’t speak to her brother, she probably won’t open up to a stranger about it. Still, you’re cute and charming, she might tell you something useful.”

“Thank you.”

“For what?”

“You just said I was…never mind.”

“But I actually need you to do something more than ask questions. I need you to take Fergus to your father.”

“Fergus? Why?”

“I need him to examine the wound on Fergus’s neck. How did it happen? If it had been just an innocent accident, why didn’t Mabel just tell Clark about it? No, we need to know exactly what happened. Don’t worry,” she added when she saw Clark’s expression, “your parents don’t need to find out.”

I was less confident that my dad wouldn’t feel obligated to tell Clark’s parents, but for the time being, I was happy to pretend that I was to keep Clark from freaking out. He drove me to his house on the south side of town. It was almost midnight before I made it back to Shelly’s.

“Where the heck were you?” she asked. I’d never seen her so concerned.

“It took me longer to get back because I had to wait for the bus.”

“The bus? Didn’t Clark drive you back?”

“No, he had a lot to talk about with his sister.”

“Huh? Why are you smiling? What’s going on?”

I was enjoying myself. It’s not often that I got to do this to Shelly.

“The case is solved,” I said, simply.

“It is? What happened?”

I told her.

As we were walking up to the front door, Clark told me, “Mabel’s been locked in her room since it happened,” he told me. “The two of us have just been watching TV downstairs. Then I got the idea to talk to Shelly and…”

“Wait, wait,” I said. “Two of us? Is there someone else here besides you and Mabel?”

“Yeah. Jack. Friend of mine. He comes around all the time. What?”

I was scowling at him. “This is information you should have given to Shelly.”

“Why? Jack had nothing to do with this…wait, do you think he did?”

“I don’t know, do I? This is the first I’m hearing about him.”

I met Jack as soon as we got inside. He was a year older than Clark, which meant he was out of school. No college, no job, he just sort of…hung around. He had clearly made himself very much at home in Clark’s house and I shuddered to think what his parents would think when they got home. But what really put me off was the pocket knife he kept playing with. Flicking it open, closing it, opening, closing, over and over again. And, maybe it was my imagination (which, admittedly, was sort of in high gear, this being Halloween and me being at the home of an alleged vampire), but I was pretty sure I saw a dark stain on the blade. Like blood.

Before we took Fergus to see my dad, I thought I should at least try to talk to Mabel. Clark brought me to her bedroom door and knocked.

“Mabel? Someone here to see you.”

“Who is it?”

“Er…” Clark looked at me. He didn’t exactly know how to introduce me and, frankly, I wasn’t sure either. “His name is Warren. He wants to ask you about Fergus.”

“I know this sounds weird,” I said. “But I’m friends with Shelly Hobbes. She’s a detective and she wants to help.”

It wasn’t easy to convince her to open her door, but, in the end, she did. I don’t know how good a judge I am of this kind of thing, but I got the distinct impression that she did find me cute and charming like Shelly had said…and now, fifteen years later I’m wondering if the only reason she did say that was so that I would have confidence enough to get her to open up to me. I must remember to ask her about that later.  The point is that she agreed to talk to me, but only me. Clark went back downstairs with Jack.

“I don’t think you hurt Fergus,” I said.

“I didn’t! I would never hurt Fergus. I love him. He’s the sweetest dog in the world.”

“But you have to admit how strange all this must look.”

“I know. But I can’t tell Clark about it because…”

I had a hunch. That’s all it was, a hunch. But I played it and it paid off. “Mabel, did Jack hurt your dog?” She looked up at me, the look on her face part surprise and part relief, which is all I needed to know to be sure I was right. “That’s why you didn’t tell Clark, right? You know he likes Jack so you didn’t want to upset him.” Mabel nodded, but didn’t speak. I think she was trying not to cry. “Your brother is very worried about you,” I said. “That’s why he came to see my friend tonight. He’s not mad, he’s just scared. You should tell him what happened. If not for his sake…for Fergus’s. Who knows what Jack might do next?”


“So,” I was telling Shelly some time later, “I didn’t need to take Fergus to see my dad after all. After Mabel told Clark that she had seen Jack cut its throat with his trusty knife, it all came out. I figured they wouldn’t want me around, so I slipped out and waited on the corner for the bus. By the way, remind me never to take public transportation on Halloween ever again for the rest of my life…what?”

Shelly was positively beaming at me. “Warren…you’re amazing!”

“What? No, I was just doing what you said.”

“I never knew about Jack. You saw the knife, you made the connection. You solved this one, sweetie.” Before I could protest that she would have come to the same conclusion if she had been there instead of me, she threw her arms around me and kissed me and I suddenly stopped caring because now we were sitting on the couch, kissing passionately…

And that was the exact moment her parents came home.

THE END

Shelly Hobbes: Master Detective and Shelly Hobbes Returns are available for purchase HERE in print or ebook format. Also available through Amazon and other online retailers.


Sunday, August 21, 2016

BOOTS

Enjoy this free sneak preview of the latest Galleons Lap book, 'Boots,' based on the fairy tale "Puss In Boots"  by Charles Perrault.


CHAPTER ONE

It all began, as these things so often do, with something very small. Sometimes it’s a pebble rolling down a mountain. Sometimes it’s a butterfly landing on the butt of a guy who’s sunbathing facedown. This time it was a hole in the fence. Not a big hole. Just a sort of crack at the bottom. A gap between two boards slightly bigger than the gaps between the other boards. Something most people probably wouldn’t even notice.

But it was enough for the cat to get out.

If you were to ask the humans who fed this cat in exchange for the pleasure of his company (they would describe themselves as his “owners,” but what do they know?) they would tell you that their faithful and obedient cat never left their yard. They would have been thoroughly shocked to discover that their cat was neither faithful nor particularly obedient and did, in fact, leave the yard through the hole in the fence pretty much every night.

What do cats do when they go out at night? All sorts of things. Sometimes they look for food. Sometimes they chase birds or mice. Sometimes they just prowl around looking cool, perhaps remembering a time when they were not so different from lions and tigers. But most of the time they’re looking for love.

Well, maybe not “love” in the sense that we use the word. In their case, the urge is less romantic and more…let’s say “primal.” In any case, this is supposed to be a kids’ book, so let’s just say that the cat—the one that got out through the whole in the fence and whose name history does not relate so let’s call him “Tom” to make things easier—went out at night to spend time with female cats before going home to his yard where his delusional owners were convinced he stayed every night.

One of the myriad female cats that Tom would spend his evenings with was the beloved, purebred pet of a Wealthy Woman who was just as clueless about her cat’s nighttime activities as Tom’s owners were about his. In fact, had she known that her perfect, elegant, immaculately groomed Puss (which is what we’re calling her for the purposes of our story) was involved in an assignation with a mangy beast like Tom, she would have been shocked.

But whether she wanted to believe it or not, the evidence was undeniable. After a few weeks of increased appetite, lethargy and barfing, the Wealthy Woman was forced to call the Veterinarian who came ‘round at once and declared, “Puss is going to have kittens!”

The usual number of months later, Puss did, indeed, give birth to a litter of six kittens. Five of them were the image of their mother, with barely any trace off their ne’er-do-well father in them. This pleased the Wealthy Woman as she was mainly concerned with the way things looked. The sixth kitten however was, in this woman’s opinion, horrible to behold.

He looked almost exactly like his father, that is he was a tabby cat, orange fur with white patches. In fact, he had four white patches on each of his paws, which rather made him look like he had on shoes of some kind. But his feet weren’t the only reason the Wealthy Woman disliked him.

The kitten was disfigured. His left ear hadn’t quite finished growing and was short and shriveled. This is what it looked like:

"How horrible!" cried the Wealthy Woman.

"What?" said the Vet, who, of course, had come to deliver the kittens. "He's not so ugly."

“Not so ugly? Are you blind! Look at that horrible ear of his! And he looks like a mangy alley cat. He’s a freak!” And she called for one of her servants to take the kitten to the well and drown him.

“No!” said the Vet. “You mustn’t do that!”

“Well I’ll not have that thing living under my roof!”

Any way you look at it, she wasn’t a very nice lady, but that’s okay because she won’t be in the story much longer.

“Then I’ll take him. I’m sure I can find someone to give him a good home.”

“If you must,” said the Wealthy Woman.

The Vet walked back to his house with the newborn kitten in his arms. Of course, he would’ve been happy to look after the cat himself. But he was so busy taking care of other people’s pets he didn’t have time to keep one himself. But he was confident that, when he got to his own village, he’d find someone willing to adopt the kitten.

“What’s wrong with your cat?”

“Ugh! What a weird-looking thing!”

“Mommy, is that cat sick?”

Everyone he passed saw the kitten’s misshapen ear and wrote the poor little guy off as a freak. Nobody wanted to adopt a cat who was deformed (however slightly) when there were plenty of normal-looking cats in town.

The Vet was just beginning to lose hope as he passed through the market place to pick up some milk and bread before going home. And that’s where he met Corie.

“Ooooh! He’s so cute!”

A little girl had spotted the tabby kitten and ran straight up to the Vet.

“Yes, he is, isn’t he?” said the Vet. “Would you like to hold him?"

He handed the kitten to the girl. As she reached out for it, the Vet noticed a deep, red scar on her left hand, as though she had been burned and it had not healed properly.

“Corie!”

A man’s voice called out and the girl stopped smiling at once. She turned around to face her father who was looking crossly at her. The Vet could tell at a glance that this was a successful businessman. He wore fine clothes, as did the two boys with him, who were clearly his sons.

That was the first time the Vet noticed what the little girl was wearing: It looked suspiciously like a boy’s suit that had been haphazardly resewn into a girl’s outfit. This struck the Vet as odd. If her father was so rich, why didn’t his daughter wear new clothes? Or, at least, girl clothes?

“What is that thing?” he growled at the kitten in his daughter’s arms.

“It’s a kitten, Father,” said Corie. “He belongs to this man.”

“You can have him if you want him,” said the Vet. “I was trying to find someone to take care of him when I—”

“Absolutely not!” roared the girl’s father, eyeing the cat’s bad ear. “I know better than to buy damaged goods. I’ve already spent enough gold today.”

“On a hat for Brian and a flute for Sean,” said Corie, defiantly. “But I haven’t gotten anything. It’s not fair!”

“Life’s not fair, girl! And you’d do well to remember that and hold your tongue in the future!”

“The kitten is free,” said the Vet. He was now determined that this girl should have this kitten. At first his only concern was for the well-being of the cat. But seeing the way this girl was treated by her father, he felt certain that she needed a companion as well.

“Free?” said the girl’s father. He grumbled to himself as he thought it over. “Fine! But it had better not be any trouble!”

“It won’t be, Father, I swear.” She turned back to the Vet. “Thank you so much for…what’s his name?”

“You know, he doesn’t have one yet.”

“I get to name him?” said Corie, very excited. She took a good long look at the happy kitten in her hands. She saw his deformed ear, just like everyone else, but she thought it was cute. And then she looked at his paws. “He looks like he’s wearing little boots…That’s it! Boots!”

“Hurry up, girl!” roared the girl’s father. “Or I’m leaving you behind!”

Corie thanked the Veterinarian again and ran after her father and two brothers, who were bragging about the expensive gifts their father had bought and teasing their sister for her ugly kitten.

But Corie didn’t care that her prize hadn’t cost a single coin. To her, Boots was worth more than all the gold in the world.

And, before our story is done, he would prove himself a most valuable cat, indeed!


TO BE CONTINUED...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

REMEMBER

A Poem by Me (Templeton)

If you ever feel like nothing and you want a slice of cake,
If you worry about hedgehogs and the actions they might take,
If you think you have an oboe in your attic or your den,
If your auntie went to Denmark and she hasn’t come again,
If your name is really “Henry” but your friends all call you “Sue,”
If you can’t remember Wednesday and you don’t know what to do,
If you’re gonna run for congress or you lost your favorite wheel,
If your best friend who’s a lizard doesn’t care how tall you feel,
If there’s something weird occurring and you don't know what to say,
Remember that I love you. See? Now everything's okay.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

DON'T MOVE THE WASHING MACHINE

Carol and Greg were very excited. They had bought their first house and were ready to move in. They had struggled for many years, but now they were finally ready to settle down and start their new life together. Everything was going really well, until they found the note.

Stuck to the fridge with a magnetic calendar from their realtor was a note. Stuck to the note was a post-it from said realtor which read:

“The previous owners wanted me to leave this for you. Maybe you can figure out what it means.”

The note itself read:

“Dear new owners,

Welcome to your new home. We hope you will be as happy here as we were. Before you get too comfortable, though, we have one very important thing to tell you:

Don’t move the washing machine.

Ever. For any reason. Do not move it at all. If it breaks, buy a new one, but find someplace else to put it because you must not ever move the washing machine from its current location. Seriously. I know this sounds insane but, trust me, I’m being totally serious.

Sincerely,
Chris Davis.”

Carol and Greg took turns reading the note and trying to figure out what Chris was on about. The laundry room was really a sort of atrium between the kitchen and the garage. On one side was a cabinet for storing cleaning supplies, and on the other was the washer and dryer. Both of which looked perfectly normal. Not exactly state of the art, but not ancient either. And, when they did their first load of laundry, they worked fine. Neither of them understood why the previous owner had been so adamant about not moving the washing machine, but they also saw no reason why they would need to move it. So, they threw away the note and promptly forgot all about it.


Two years passed before the washing machine started giving them trouble. No matter how evenly they tried to balance the load, it rocked back and forth. The clothes came out with undissolved patches of soap powder on them. And, finally, Carol went down to move the laundry and stepped in a puddle of water in her stocking feet. It was leaking.

Greg, completely forgetting the warning from the previous owner, mopped up the water with some old towels, then prepared to move the washer so that he could find the source of the leak. There wasn’t much room in the small atrium to maneuver the large, cumbersome machine,, but soon he had pulled one side away from the wall far enough that he could get in and try to fix it…

Which is when the pig jumped out at him.


At first he didn’t realize that it was a pig. All he saw was a bluish blur jumping past his face and scrabbling frantically on the kitchen linoleum. He heard his wife scream and he ran into the kitchen, which is when he realized what it was. A blue pig, more or less, but with two long tails instead of a small, curly one and horns coming out of its head. It was squealing and running all over the downstairs, knocking things over and making a terrible mess as it did so.

Once they had regained their senses (more or less) Carol and Greg tried to catch the pig, but it was much too fast for them. Finally, after chasing it into a corner, they were able to trap it under a laundry basket, which Greg sat on to keep it from escaping.

“Oh, good, you caught her.”

Carol and Greg looked up to find a stranger in their home. He might have passed for a normal farmer, had he not had skin almost as blue as the pig’s.

“Mayzie,” he seemed to say to the pig, “you should be ashamed of yourself. Barging into these nice people’s home and making such a mess. Honestly,” he added to Carol and Greg, “I hope she didn’t give you too much trouble. Well, I’ll take her home now.”

Greg got up and the blue farmer picked up the now docile pig (evidently called “Mayzie”) in his arms. He then walked toward the laundry room, Carol and Greg following him closely.

“Well, so long,” he said with a smile and he climbed behind the washing machine. But when Greg looked behind the machine a moment later, there was no sign of him. No sign of anything except the bare wall and the wires and hoses connected to the washing machine.


Greg fixed the washing machine more quickly than any human being has ever fixed a washing machine before, pushed it back into place then, as an added precaution, bolted it to the wall so that it could never be moved again.


Neither Carol nor Greg ever spoke of this incident again for as long as they lived.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

THE SWORD TREE

Once there was a boy named Tristan who was at that age  (12) when boys start looking for a vocation in life. What some might call a “job.” So, he went to see his village’s careers counselor and took the aptitude tests and personality tests and they determined what the ideal job for him would be. They narrowed it down to three options:

1. GREEN GROCER
2. HERO
3. STANDUP COMEDIAN

Well, green grocer seemed kind of boring and standup comedy hadn’t been invented yet, so Tristan thought he should look into the middle one. Being a hero didn’t necessarily pay very much, there was a lot of travel involved and a certain amount of risk. But the hours were flexible and there was a great deal of prestige attached to the position. Plus there were perks like getting to ride a horse, marrying a princess and having someone write a fairy tale about you someday. So Tristan decided to go for it.

Of course, there are some things every hero needs…well, two, really. One was a horse (which he had; a nice sort of horse called Irene) and the other was a sword. But swords were expensive and Tristan was poor. He had nothing to trade for a sword and the Village Smithy did not work on credit.

“How can I be a hero without a sword?” he asked Irene who, of course, did not know as she was a horse.

“You must go East!” said a creepy voice. Tristan turned around and saw a Creepy Dude creeping out of the bushes. “Go East to the land of Dunsmore! There on a tree on a hill on an island in a lake in a bigger island in a bigger lake grows the Sword Tree! Go there and pick a sword and you can be a true hero!” So saying, the Creepy Guy attempted to creep back into the bushes but, instead, fell over and crawled the rest of the way until he was out of sight.

“Wow. That guy was creepy,” said Tristan. “But I don’t have any other ideas so, let’s go to Dunsmore!”



Tristan and Irene arrived at Dunsmore the following day. Dunsmore was a nice sort of kingdom ruled over by a nice sort of king. The people there were very friendly, until Tristan asked how to get to the Sword Tree. Then they got very nervous and advised him not to speak of such things any more. But Tristan was going to be a hero when he grew up, and he needed a sword. So he kept asking around about the Sword Tree until the Royal Guards picked him up and took him to the King.

“Why are you asking about the Sword Tree?” asked the King.

“Cuz I need a sword,” said Tristan, which made sense.

“No one is permitted to go to the tree on the hill in the lake on the island in the…no, that’s wrong. What is it again?”

The Prime Minister answered. “Tree on a hill on an island in a lake in a bigger island in a bigger lake, sire.” That was his main job, reminding the King of things like that.

“But how am I to get a sword? I have but three gold coins and one which I thought was gold but which was actually just chocolate.”

“Why do you need a sword so badly?”

“Because I’m going to be a hero when I grow up!”

“A hero, eh? Tell you what, I’ll make a deal with you: I have a quest that needs questing. Complete the quest and I’ll help you get a sword from the Sword Tree.”

This struck Tristan as very fair so he agreed.



The quest the King had in mind was rescuing his daughter, Princess Sue, from a tower which was guarded by a giant. Several days ago, he had captured her and locked her in the tower, vowing only to release her if she agreed to marry him. She said no, so she was still being kept there. All Tristan had to do was distract the Giant long enough to let Princess Sue escape…but how do you distract a Giant? Especially when you don’t even have a sword?

“I may not have a sword,” said Tristan, hiding in the trees where the Giant couldn’t see, “but I have a horse! Okay, Irene, here’s the plan,” and he whispered his plan into Irene’s ear. She nodded to show she understood and they sprang into action: Irene trotted out where the Giant could see her and began to dance. It was a pretty good dance, too. Especially for a horse. And, after all, a dancing horse is not something you see every day, and the Giant was captivated. In fact, he was watching Irene so closely, the he didn’t even notice Princess Sue letting herself out through the front door and joining Tristan among the trees.

“Okay, that’s enough!” shouted Tristan and Irene ran back to the trees, let Tristan and Princess Sue climb on her back, and sped back to the castle for all they were worth.

“Aw, is that all?” said the Giant, disappointed. “Well, it was a pretty good show while it lasted. So, Princess Sue, are you ready to say you’ll marry—hey, where’d she go?”



“Well done, Tristan!” said the King. “You have returned my daughter, Princess Sue, who has been missing, lo, these many days. Now, I will fulfill my half of the bargain and do what I can to help you get to the Sword Tree.”

The King called his many advisors together and each of them gave Tristan a useful item which he would need on his quest:

The Prime Minister gave him two copper coins.

The Chancellor gave him two silver coins (“Don’t get them mixed up,” he said).

The Captain of the Guards gave him a dagger with a gold handle.

The Head Magic Guy gave him a single pearl.

And Princess Sue gave him a little bag to carry it all in (and a kiss on the cheek! Tee hee!).

Tristan thanked them for their gifts and made his way toward the lake.



At the shore of the lake, was a ferryman. “Pay me your opinion to get across,” he said. Tristan knew that a person’s opinion was sometimes called his “two cents” so he gave the two copper coins to the ferryman. “Your horse has to stay behind,” said the ferryman. “She’d sink the boat.”

“Sorry, Irene,” said Tristan, but she didn’t mind being left behind. In fact she took a nap and slept through the rest of the story.

The ferryman took Tristan across to the island in the center of the lake. He started walking across to the lake in the center of this island, but the lake was entirely surrounded by thorns and briars. Taking out the gold-handled dagger, he cut a path through the thorns and found himself at the banks of another lake with another (slightly shorter) ferryman asking for two silver coins.

“Good thing I didn’t get the coins mixed up,” he said to himself. He paid the ferryman and made his way to the second island. He climbed to the top of the hill and saw, to his dismay, that the Sword Tree was guarded by a manticore! He had to…

Oh, right, sorry.  A manticore is a kind of animal with a lion’s head, eagle’s wings and a long scorpion-like tail. They’re not too nice.

“All I have left is the pearl. Oh well, here goes noting.” He held up the pearl defiantly and said, “BE GONE FOUL BEAST!!!” But nothing happened. He tried waving it around, tossing it up in the air, holding it up while saying magic words he’d read in storybooks but nothing worked. Finally he was forced to conclude that this was not a magical pearl imbued with great power and strength…it was just a normal pearl. “But how am I going to get past the manticore with a plain, ordinary…”

“Hey, is that a pearl?” asked the Manticore. “it’s pretty!”

“Er, yeah it is. Hey! You can have it if you let me take a sword from the tree.”

“Sweet deal!” So Tristan gave the pearl to the Manticore who stepped aside long enough for Tristan to choose a really cool sword from the tree. “It’s customary,” said the Manticore, “for heroes to name their swords.”

“Is it? Okay, then I’ll call it…The Mantisword!”

“Nice!”

“Hey, I don’t have any coins left to get back across the lakes. Could you give me a lift?”

“Sure, hop on my back!”

So the Manticore flew Tristan over the lake/island/lake and set him down right next to Irene, who was just waking up from her nap. Then he held up the sword and said, “Now, I am a true hero!!!!”

And he was!



So Tristan became a hero and, with the help of his trusty horse, Irene, and his vorpal blade, the Mantisword, became famous throughout the land for his deeds of heroism and bravery. Then one day he met a really cool princess and they got married and lived happily ever after and stuff! Yay!

Sorry, I got a little too excited there.

THE END

This story appears in the books Once Upon a Time and Long Ago and And They All Lived Happily Ever After, by Templeton Moss. Both are available through Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, and other fine online retailers.