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 it’s making you upset,


Remember that I love you. See? There’s no more need to fret.

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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

SUMMER READING GUIDE

It's time for summer reading! Not that I actually know what that is. But, apparently, a lot of people only read in the summer. In fact, some schools stupidly force kids to read during the summer, which seems like a mistake to me. Take something fun and turn it into homework at a time when you're not supposed to have any homework and it's no wonder so many kids are turned off to reading.

But, I digress.

It IS time for summer reading, and Galleons Lap is here to help! Our collection contains titles for everyone, and this handy-dandy guide will help you determine which book(s) to buy for your kid(s):

1001 Arabian Nights
WHAT IS IT? A new version of the classic Arabian Nights tales (Aladdin, Ali Baba, etc) specifically written for contemporary readers.
WHAT HAPPENS? To save herself and her kingdom from a cursed king, a clever woman called Scheherazade tells the king story after story, all intertwined and connected, so that it takes a thousand and one nights to finish. Stories include the adventures of Sindbad, the unlucky sailor, a prince who is turned into a monkey, a hunchback who gets the last laugh on all his friends, a peasant whose life is changed by a magic lamp and many more unforgettable adventures.
WHO WILL LIKE IT? Kids who like exciting adventure stories with magic and mystery will probably enjoy this one. It's not very long and there are pictures, so it shouldn't be too overwhelming.
THE FIRST PARAGRAPH: In ancient times there lived a sultan, a king, who ruled over his people with a kind and understanding hand. The rest of him was pretty nice, too. Why was the king so nice? Why was he so favorable and happy? Because he had the love of a beautiful woman. He made her his sultana (like a queen) and they lived together in wedded bliss for many years, and the people of the kingdom were very happy which, I know sounds more like the end of a fairy tale than the beginning, but just wait.
Also available as an ebook

Shelly Hobbes: Master Detective
WHAT IS IT? An adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories for young readers.
WHAT HAPPENS? An orphan named Shelly idolizes the great detective, Sherlock Holmes, and wants to be just like him. With the help of her best friend, Warren (her own personal "Dr. Watson"), she solves many baffling mysteries. Who stole the answers to the big test? Why did the Redheads' Club disband? And what is the secret of the monstrous dog who haunts Grimpin Park?
WHO WILL LIKE IT? Fans of stories about cool girls like Nancy Drew or Harriet the Spy will probably like Shelly's adventures. If they know Sherlock, they'll enjoy this new take on the stories. If not, it could be a good way to introduce them to the adventures of that great detective. Sorry to say, boys probably won't want to read it because it's about a girl, but try anyway.
SAMPLE: Shelly Hobbes and the Bro-He-Men Scandal
ALSO AVAILABLE: Shelly Hobbes Returns and The Shelly Hobbes Casebook
Also available as an ebook

Once Upon a Time and Long Ago
WHAT IS IT? 30 silly fairy tales for kids of all ages.
WHAT HAPPENS? You won't find stories like Snow White and Cinderella in this book. Everyone knows those stories, and I'll never be able to do them as well as Walt Disney did anyway, so why bother? No, I've collected thirty lesser known stories from all over the world, and even thrown in one or two originals. These stories are light-hearted, entertaining, funny and uplifting (you might even learn something from them,  but don't let that turn you off entirely).
WHO WILL LIKE IT? Fairy tale fans will enjoy learning about characters besides Goldilocks and Red Riding Hood. We also recommend this title for people who like funny stories, like the works of A. A. Milne and Edward Lear. Also, and this is neither here nor there, but that previous sentence is the first time I ever spelled the word "recommend" correctly on the first try! Yay for me!
SAMPLE STORY: "The Sword Tree"
ALSO AVAILABLE: Long Ago and Far Away and And They All Lived Happily Ever After
Also available as an ebook

Owen Harris: Paranormal Investigator #1, The Ghost Dog of Santa Mina
WHAT IS IT? A ghost story about the world's foremost ten-year-old paranormal investigator, Owen Harris!
WHAT HAPPENS? When Owen Harris moves into a new house, he finds a ghost in his sister's closet. Taking everything he's learned from his favorite movie hero, Ace Hunter, Owen investigates the ghost to discover what it's "unfinished business" might be.
WHO WILL LIKE IT? The Owen Harris books are intended for kids who are just starting to read chapter books on their own. Fans of books like Encyclopedia Brown or Goosebumps will enjoy the silly, supernatural stories and they are very easy reads so they're not too daunting.
SAMPLE: Meet Owen Harris HERE
ALSO AVAILABLE: The Witch Across the Street and You're Dating a Werewolf!

Flunkerer's Fables
WHAT IS IT? 20 fairy tales from the long-forgotten writer, Freddy Flunkerer.
WHAT HAPPENS? In addition to twenty wonderfully unusual fairy tales, you will also find the story of Freddy Flunkerer, who lived hundreds of years ago in a country that no longer exists and who nobody ever even heard of until I discovered an old copy of one of his books and translated it. Freddy saw things differently and his fairy tales were different, too. Sometimes, the beautiful princess was the bad guy and sometimes the fire-breathing dragon was the hero.
WHO WILL LIKE IT? Readers of books like The Princess Bride, Wicked or J. K. Rowling's Tales of Beedle the Bard will enjoy these fractured fairy tales. We also recommend it for kids who are starting to feel that they're getting "too old" for fairy tales. It might rekindle their love of fantasy. At least I hope it will.
SAMPLE STORY: "The Woodcutter and His Son"
Also available as an ebook

The Epic of Gabria
WHAT IS IT? A young adult novel full of adventure, magic, excitement and even romance.
WHAT HAPPENS? Gabria is the unwanted daughter of a powerful chieftain. But when a bigger, more terrible man comes to take over their village, Gabria must save her people from his tyrannical rule. She is aided by her new friend Asa, who is the worst hunter who ever lived, her ever faithful pet porcupine, Autsch, a couple of silly old people and even a dragon!
WHO WILL LIKE IT? Gabria is a lovable, relatable heroine that girls will like immediately. If you like books like Island of the Blue Dolphins you're sure to enjoy this story.
FIRST PARAGRAPH: Way up North, in the Northiest Northernmost Northland (well, maybe not quite that North, but still pretty North as Northness goes) there lived a terrible Warrior King who traveled the land conquering every village and township he came across. He would just show up one day, announce he was in command, use up all the town’s resources, then move on, taking only the biggest and strongest with him to his next conquest. He was called Krieger Konig and this is the story of how he was defeated and how the world was changed not by force, violence or cruelty, but by love and courage and by the true strength of a clever girl called Gabria.
Also available as an ebook


Incidentally, all of these titles are also available at Amazon and other online retailers. 

So check out the Galleons Lap collection today and have a great summer!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

MELODY AND HARMONY


Let’s face it, kids n’ people: Times have changed. We have cars instead of horses, horses instead of bicycles, bicycles instead of unicycles, polar bears instead of—

(NOTE: This introduction has been abandoned as it was clearly nonsense)

Times have changed. Especially for you lady-types who may or probably not be reading this. Today, you can do whatever you want. Do any job, use any last name, live anywhere, marry whoever you want, marry no one, have babies, don’t have babies. The world is your oyster…unless you don’t like oysters, in which case the world can be, like, your linguini or something. Maybe with some shrimp in there. Or is it shellfish you don’t like?

(This is your last warning!)

Okay, sorry.

What I’m trying to say is that being a woman has changed a lot since this story took place. Back then, a young girl had only one job in life: Marry well and bear many sons. This was true of all girls, be they poor or really quite wealthy. Common or ever-so-royal. So whether you were just the daughter of the village smithy, or Princess Melody, when you reached that certain age (18, in this case) it was time to get engaged.

So Princess Melody knew that she would have to marry and be beholden to her husband and do what he said and keep his house and raise his children. None of that really appealed to her, which is why she came up with the tasks in the first place. Three impossible tasks that no man could possibly complete. This, she was convinced, would be enough to save her having to marry some jerk.

But Princess Melody was one of these beautiful-type princesses you’re always reading about in books like this one, which means that, despite the impossibility of the tasks, many-a-man still tried to win her hand in marriage, though they all failed after the first task and gave up.

But then there was Prince Melvin. He wanted to marry Princess Melody for many reasons, one of which was that they were both called “Mel.” Mel and Mel. He thought that would be cute. Don’t you think that’s cute? So, Melvin sent his page boy, Harold, to go to Princess Melody’s kingdom and face the tasks on his behalf.

“But if you want to marry her,” asked Harold, “why aren’t you doing the tasks?”

“If I did that, what would be the point of my even having servants? Now go!”

Harold did as she was told. And, no, that wasn’t a typo, I used the correct pronoun there. You see, Harold was, in reality, Harmony, a young girl who, not unlike Princess Melody, disliked the role women played in the vaguely medieval but non-specific time and place when fairy tales happened, so she decided to put on a fake mustache and wear boy clothes in the hopes of making a better life for herself.

It didn’t, really, because male or female she was still poor. And if womenfolk got a raw deal back in the day, it’s nothing to how the poor were treated. Sorry, this is getting needlessly political. But the point is that her name is Harmony and she’s dressed as a boy, but she’s really a girl.

Harmony traveled on her horse for a full day before arriving at Princess Melody’s castle. On the way, she passed a stream and saw a big, fat fish that had jumped too high and landed on the ground. The fish was gasping, unable to get itself back in the water. Taking pity on the little guy, Harmony picked him up and set him back in the river and he swam off.

Later she came upon a baby fox which had been caught in a hunter’s snare. Again, she took pity on the animal and set him free.

Finally, she came to a bee hive. And there were two naughty little boys preparing to light a fire and smoke the bees out. She yelled at them and they ran away. The bees were safe at home once again.

Finally, Harmony arrived at Princess Melody’s castle and announced that she had come on behalf of Prince Melvin to face the challenges. Like all the others, she was brought before Princess Melody and, like all the others, she was momentarily stunned by the princess’s beauty. Her golden hair was like sunshine, her skin was flawless and she was wearing a gown that looked like it had been woven from moonlight.

“Young man,” said Melody, apparently taken in by Harmony’s disguise, “you must pass my three tests, which no one else has ever passed before. The first task is to retrieve my treasured emerald ring from the bottom of the Fallin River.”

“Why is it called the Fallin River?” asked Harmony.

“Because you have to be careful not to fall in.”

And she was right about that. The Fallin River ran much, much faster than most rivers do. If you put so much as a toe in the water you would be swept away by the current. Standing at the banks, Harmony understood why nobody had ever been able to pass the first test. And she wasn’t a very strong swimmer to start with.

Luckily, there was a fish who owed her a favor. Turns out the fish she had saved earlier lived in this river and was quite used to the current. He was more than happy to retrieve the ring for Harmony. She thanked the fish and returned to the castle, proudly holding the ring aloft.

“Well done,” said the princess, genuinely surprised that Harmony had succeeded. “I guess you move on to the second task.”

“What is the second task, highness?”

“I…I can’t remember. No one’s ever gotten this far so…wait I wrote it down somewhere.” A handmaiden handed the princess a small notebook and she flipped through a few pages before she found it. “Okay, got it! You have to find my beloved ruby ring. Which is buried in the forest on the edge of my kingdom.”

“Where? I mean, where in the forest is it buried?”

“Well, if I knew that, it wouldn’t be much of a challenge, would it?”

The forest was about a hundred miles square and was almost like a maze. So even if Harmony could find the ring, there was a real chance she wouldn’t be able to find her way back to the castle.
Just then, who should come up to her but a family of foxes. The littlest one she recognized as the fox she had saved from the snare. She explained her current pre-dicament to the foxes and asked for their help. They enlisted the help of every badger, vole, weasel, rabbit and assorted burrowing critter in the vicinity and they uncovered the ruby ring in no time. Harmony thanked her little friends and returned the ring to the increasingly stunned (and more than a little annoyed) Princess Melody. After all, these tasks were specifically designed to be unbeatable and here this upstart boy was blowing through them like nothing!

“Fine! So you got the second ring. But you’ll never manage to pass the third task. My beloved diamond ring was stolen by a giant. You have to get it back for me.”

Well, you probably know where this is going, but here it is: The giant lived in a cave in the mountains. Standing at the entrance to the cave, Harmony seriously considered giving up and going home since she really had no idea how to fight a giant. Then something started buzzing around her face. It was a bee. As a matter of fact it was one of the bees from the hive Harmony had saved. A moment later it was joined by the rest of the swarm and they followed Harmony into the cave.

“Giant!” she cried. “I am come for Princess Melody’s diamond ring!”

“You can’t have it!” said the giant. “Go away!”

“This is your last chance to give me the ring.”

“And this is your last chance to go away!”

“Okay, you asked for it.” And the bees swarmed around the giant’s face.

“No! Stop! I’m allergic! Call them off!”

“Only if you give me the ring!”

“Fine!” and he handed Harmony the ring.


Princess Melody was getting ready for bed when one of her handmaidens (the same one who had handed her the book from before as it happens, but that’s not really all that important to the story) told her that Harold had returned with the diamond ring. She was understandably shocked that he had survived the giant. In fact, she was actually kind of angry, and she stormed into the throne room to confront this upstart.

This time, of course, she didn’t have her makeup on and her hair was still wet from her nightly bath and she was just wearing a nightdress and a robe instead of the gorgeous gown from earlier. But she was still the most beautiful woman Harmony had ever seen.

“Are you kidding me?!?” roared the princess in a very un-princess-like way.

“What? I got your ring back like you asked me to.”

“You weren’t supposed to actually do it, you idiot! I don’t want to get married. That’s why I made the tasks impossible to do! I don’t want to be tied down to some man and be treated like his servant or something.”

“Neither do I,” said Harmony. “That’s why I wear this.” And she took off her fake mustache and told Melody the truth about who she really was. It felt good after so many years to be able to just be herself with someone. And Melody was delighted that she didn’t have to put on a big show with Harmony the way she did for all the men who came to seek her hand.

It’s rare, in this world, to find someone around whom you can truly be yourself. And Melody and Harmony stayed up all night, talking.


A few days later, Prince Melvin received a message from Princess Melody’s castle. It was delivered, not by Harold, but by a different messenger. It read as follows:

Dear Prince Melvin,

When I left for Princess Melody’s castle, I swore that I would not return without winning her hand for you. I am happy to say that I am able to keep that promise because I failed to win her hand for you and, therefore, I am not returning.

In fact, since I was the one who actually completed the tasks, Princess Melody is going to marry me. Maybe next time you want to marry someone, you’ll talk to her yourself instead of staffing it out to a servant.

Best wishes,
Soon-to-be Prince “Harold”

Don’t worry about Melvin, he wasn’t too heartbroken. In fact, a few weeks later, he met another princess called Melanie and they got married and they were still “Mel and Mel” (seriously, does no one else think that’s cute?

And, as if this actually needed to be said, Princess Melody and Princess Harmony lived very happily ever after.

THE END


This story was originally published in my book, Long Ago and Far Away, and also appears in my fairy tale omnibus, And They All Lived Happily Ever After. Both books also contain notes on the fairy tales which inspired this story, as well as a brief commentary regarding the story's unconventional ending. 
Long Ago and Far Away
These and other books from the Galleons Lap collection can  be bought from Lulu.com, Amazon, Barnesandnoble.com, BAM.com and any other online book retailers (most are also available in ebook format).
And They All Lived Happily Ever After