Little Cup (Short Story) by L.V. Gaudet

The day was as any other, that day on which a very ordinary little cup was made along with a bunch of other very ordinary little cups.  And today, again, was a day the same as any other day.  The cups sat in a line on the shelf, rows behind rows of identical plain little tin cups.  They were not made to be pretty like the fancy little painted tea cups sitting on a similar shelf with their fatin cupncy little saucers.  The little tin cups were made to be simple, plain, and durable.  They will dent, but not shatter or crack like the fancy little fragile china cups.

The bell above the door tinkled when the door opened.  It might have been a merry sound, but these days there were very few with reason to feel merry.

The shopkeeper watched the mother enter the store with a boy trailing at her heel like a trained puppy.  She leaned her bulk on the counter, trying to ease the ache in her sore feet as she watched them.  The shopkeeper was a little overweight, but her clothes and face sagged with fatigue and the weight she had recently lost.  The weight loss was not the result of prudent diet and exercise.  Everyone was losing weight these days, including those who hadn’t the weight to lose.

The mother looked tired and worn out beyond her years; her eyes avoided making contact as she entered the store with a slight unsure pause as she did so, head lowered in deference to the world around her.  Her jacket did not look warm enough for the weather.  It was as worn and threadbare as the woman herself.  Her cheekbones seemed a little sunken and her eyes held the furtive haunted look of a rabbit trapped within a circle of hungry wolves.  She wobbled a little as she wandered along the shelves of the store, examining the goods, pausing and coming back again to the mostly empty shelves holding meager rations of food.

The boy looked too small, his age impossible to define.  His jacket was much too big, making the boy seem even smaller within its confines.  He looked too thin, scrawny sticks for legs sticking out beneath the jacket and ending in worn shoes that looked too small for his feet; the toes sticking out through holes worn through the tips of the shoes giving testament to that.  The boy never looked up, just followed his mother silently, a miniature shadow, seeming almost as intangible as a shadow.

In another time, an eternity ago although really little time had passed, this woman would have entered with her head held high, looking the clerk in the eye with a smile and nod.  The boy would have eagerly rushed forward, seeking out the candy shelves, begging his mother to buy some.  Today the candy lay sullenly overlooked as kids instead eyed loaves of bread, dented cans they normally would insolently turn their noses at, and bruised partially rotted fruit with insatiable hunger.

The clerk caught the mother’s gaze, and turned her eyes away in shame, as though she’d just witnessed something very private.  Her cheeks colored with what might have been embarrassment.  What she saw in those eyes frightened her.

Those eyes held the dark bruised look of the desperate, a mother starving herself so that her children can eat what little scraps of food she can get.

The mother leaned down and whispered into the boy’s ear.  What she said would soon become obvious.

The boy shuffled over towards the candy shelf, eyeing the brightly colored wares with a dull disinterested look.  The woman behind the counter watched the boy.  Gingerly, as though handling delicate crystal, the boy picked up two candy bars and showed them to the clerk.  Digging into his jacket pocket, he retrieved a small handful of coins and showed them to the lady.  She shook her head, indicating the sparse coins were not enough for the candy.  They went through this little dance of charades, the boy showing her his pittance of money and different candies while she solemnly mimed “no”.

At last the mother approached the counter.  She set on the counter a single dented can and motioned the boy to put the candy back.  He gently laid the candy in its place and pocketed his change.

The mother at last looked the clerk in the eyes, a shadow of the pride she once had still lingered in those haunted hollow eyes.  Carefully digging money from her worn little purse as though those coins were valuable and ancient relics requiring great care, she laid out the money to pay for the can of food.

As the mother turned to leave with her single can of food, the clerk leaned across the counter and deftly grabbed the boy’s jacket behind his mothers back.  She slipped the coins into his hand and pointed at a candy bar with a wink, the bar filled with nuts, indicating that he should take it.  She couldn’t sell the candy anyway.  She had seen the mother furtively sneak a few apples into a pocket, while hungrily eyeing a loaf of bread that was too big to hide.  She wiped away an unshed tear as the bell over the door tinkled behind the closing door.  They would repeat this little dance in exactly one week, and again exactly one week later, as they had in the weeks before.

#

Back in their little shelter where two smaller children, a girl and a boy, huddled against the chill and waited, the mother carefully opened the dented little can.  They would eat it as is, cold, shared between them.  The mother would pretend to eat too, instead saving her small ration for her children.

Nervously, the boy that accompanied her to the store approached his mother.  He looked embarrassed, shy.  Not sure if he would be in trouble or if his mother would be proud.  She looked up at him expectantly.  He scuffed his toe, shrugged, and finally dug deep in his pocket.  The boy pulled out the candy bar, presenting it solemnly.

The mother frowned at the candy bar.  Candy was useless.  It would not feed their starving bodies.  But the nuts blanketed in that rich velvety chocolate were precious life giving little jewels.  Protein.  She smiled at the boy, hugged him tight.  They would save this treat for later, when the children cried in the night from the hunger pains gnawing greedily at their stomachs.

The boy shuffled again, looking down at his toes.

The mother looked at him, a question in her eyes.

At last he dug again in his pocket.

Mother’s head tilted, curious, and a little worried.

The boy pulled out his prize and held it out before Mother’s eyes, his eyes tearing.  It was a very ordinary little tin cup.  Plain and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.

“H-happy birthday Mother,” the boy’s voice cracked out.

Tears welled at Mother’s eyes and she hugged him tight.  Words were not necessary; they would have only diminished the moment.

#

Mother carefully sliced a small bruised apple, putting pieces in the little tin cup, on a large piece of what used to be a larger ceramic dinner plate, and on the table beside where she cut.  She ate two small slices, giving the rest to the children.  When she was done, she carefully licked the juice from the knife and the surface of the table.  They could not afford to waste even those few precious drops of juice from the apple.

She stepped outside to see the oldest boy carefully pulling a thin slice of apple from the little tin cup and sharing it with a starving scruffy looking little dog.  It was food they desperately could not afford to lose, but she wasn’t angry.  The little dog would provide them with meat, either by catching the quick little rodents that scurried about in the dark, or by eating the dog itself.  Her children had to eat.

#

Mother lay on the cold ground in an icy puddle of dirty water, her coat stained dark like blood by the dirty water.  Her eyes were closed as if in sleep, her hair tousled and spread out across the dirty road.  A patch of blood lay streaked and already drying across her face.  The muddy tracks of the wagon’s wheels lay across Mother’s coat like the sash of a pageant winner.

The children wailed and sobbed.

The little dog yelped and cried as the man ran away with the squirming little creature.  The little dog would feed his starving family today.

The wagon that ran over Mother when the man pushed her to the ground in front of it as she fought to keep him from stealing the little dog just kept rolling on, unconcerned.

The very ordinary little tin cup lay forgotten in the mud, spattered and dirty, but not shattered or cracked.

A man passing by, unconcerned by the children’s plight, noticed the little cup.  He stopped and looked at it, stooped and picked it up.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  With a shrug he shoved the little tin cup in his pocket and walked on.

#

The wagon wheels growled ceaselessly against the rocks and dirt of the road.  It was not a smooth road by any means and the wagon creaked and groaned tiredly as it was pulled along by a pair of tired horses.

The driver rocked in his seat with the swaying of the wagon.  On the seat beside him a rather plain looking little tin cup sat.  It was empty now, but its contents had warmed the man as he sipped it while waiting for the load on the wagon to be strapped down securely.  He had picked up the discarded cup from the muck of the street, wiped it off, and kept it.  A durable little cup like that came in handy.

The thundering of hooves began to descend on the wagon, echoing off the distance like the rumble of weak thunder.

The horses ticked their heads up and pricked their ears nervously, picking up on the driver’s nervousness through the long reigns.  The driver looked side to side and behind, trying to spot the advancing riders and how far they were.  He snapped the reins, calling the horses to greater speed.  The wagon wheels wobbled dangerously on the uneven road as the wagon picked up speed.

A distant shout.

He urged the beasts faster.  The wheels wobbled harder.

With whoops and yells, the thudding hooves growing closer, the riders chased down the wagon, catching up to it on their faster stolen horses.  The ruts and pits of the road slowed down the wagon too much to outrun horses bearing riders only.  They surrounded the wagon.

One rider leaned over, trying to catch the long rein and pull back on it to slow one of the horses pulling the wagon.  If you slow one, you slow them both.  He reached and missed, reached again, caught it, and pulled.

A sudden lurch of the wagon as its wheel caught a rut pulled him off balance, making him fall from his galloping horse.  He tumbled, rolled, and the wagon wheels rolled right over him.  The horse continued to pace the horses pulling the wagon in an urgent race.

The other men continued to chase the wagon, the driver urging his beasts to greater speed, the wagon wheels wobbling dangerously, and the wagon jostling on the rough road, leaving the injured man laying groaning in the mud of the road behind.  They could not lose the wagon.  If they did not rob it their families would not eat.

The little tin cup wobbled and rolled about the seat, finally rolling off and bouncing against the edge of the wagon side.  It fell to the ground, bouncing and rolling, at last coming to rest in the dirt.  It lay there in the mud, spattered and dirty, sporting a little dent but not shattered or cracked.

#

Dusk was beginning to close in, drawing a pall of dimness across the world.  An old man hobbled down the road, using a cane for support.  His stomach had stopped hurting some time ago and now just had the empty hollowness of the starving.

Something in the road caught his eye.  He stopped and looked at it, stooped with difficulty and picked it up.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  With a shrug he shoved the little tin cup in his pocket and walked on.

The door to the little shack creaked open.  The old woman warming herself by a tiny starving fire looked up hopeful, yet a little afraid.

The old man shuffled in, closed the door behind him, and slowly peeled his coat off with arthritis stricken fingers.  He walked over to the old woman, who looked up at him warmly from her chair.

“Happy birthday, Mother,” his voice cracked as he leaned over to give his wife a kiss on the forehead.  Carefully, he pulled out the little tin cup and presented it to her as though it were something very valuable and fine.

The old woman stared at the little tin cup.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and sporting a little dent and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  She smiled warmly up at the old man, hugging his arm tight.  He helped her struggle out of the chair.  She shuffled over to the sink, picked up a worn little tea towel, wetted it, and cleaned the little cup with careful love.  When she was done, she gently set the cup upon the shelf beside some pretty little fancy painted cracked and chipped teacups.

#

“Hurry,” the boy urged his older brother as he kept watch.  The old couple would return soon.  He had seen them searching the edge of the woods not far to anything edible they could find.

“I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying,” the other brother spat back as he urgently ransacked the little shack, desperate to find something to eat.  Searching the shelf of mismatched cups in case something lay hidden there, he accidentally knocked a pretty little fancy painted teacup off the shelf.  It tumbled as if in slow motion as the two boys eyes watched the delicate little cup’s fall in horror.  It shattered when it hit the floor.  They stared at it mesmerized.

Finally the older boy snapped out of it.

“There’s no food here,” he whispered loudly to the younger boy.  The younger boy looked stricken, his hand reflexively reaching for his empty belly.

“Let’s get out of here,” the older boy said, looking nervously at the door.

The younger boy paused, eyes glued to the little tin cup.  His hand snaked out, snatched the little cup off the shelf, and shoved it into his pocket.

The boys ran from the house, the old couple yelling at their retreating backs in the distance, having seen the robbers flee from their little shack.

The boys ran faster, not knowing that the kind old couple had found food and wanted to share it with the two boys they knew regularly burglarized their home in a desperate search for something to eat.

#

Two boys sat cowering against the cold stone wall, huddled in their ragged clothes for warmth they wouldn’t find.  Their limbs seemed strangely long, so stick-like were their thin arms and legs.  Between them sat a rather plain looking little tin cup sporting a little dent and kind of ugly.  They picked this spot because this was where the people with money came to eat and drink.  Their eyes locked on every passerby, following them, pleading, hollow and sunken with hunger and desperation.  Later, they would move to the back of the building to fight with other children over the meager scraps from the garbage.  The workers in the restaurant mostly picked out anything reasonably edible to bring home to their families before the trash made it to the back ally.

A mean spirited woman passed by, not deigning to give them so much as a glance from the corner of her eye, and making it obviously so.  Next came a swaggering man, waddling from his obesity and pomposity.

After this shuffled a wraith of a woman, scrawny and dirty; eyes withdrawn and empty.  She paused before them, not looking at them, and just stood there.  At last she turned to stare down at the boys with those empty lifeless eyes.  Her eyes scared them.  They shrunk into themselves, wishing she would just go away.

The scary woman reached into her dirty coat.  She knelt down and gently laid a single coin in the little tin cup.  With a satisfied nod, she got up with a slight wobble, weak from hunger.  The boys would eat today instead of her.  She shuffled off down the street and vanished around a corner.

The boys stared after her, eyes wide in wonder at the starving homeless woman who gave when even the wealthiest just ignored them.

Later, at the garbage behind the building, the younger boy cowered against the wall, the precious coin hidden within his rags of clothes.  The older boy rolled and scuffled on the ground with another boy, kicking, punching, and biting.  Other children stood around, jeering and cheering.  The little tin cup rolled out of the older boy’s pocket, bouncing on the ground with a dull little clang.

With a rude smirk one of the spectators, an older boy with a dirty freckled face, kicked the little cup hard, sending it skittering and bouncing and rolling out into the street.  It bounced off the wheel of a slow moving car.  Cars were relatively new still and very few of even the rich had one.  The cup was kicked by a plodding horse’s hoof as the animal pulled a wagon past.  It skittered and bounced and rolled, finally coming to rest someplace out of sight.

Satisfied, the older boy joined the fight, beating up the boy who lost the little tin cup.

#

A little girl picked up something from the mud.  It was so dirty and caked with mud that she had to wipe some of the thick mud off to see what it was.  It was a little tin cup.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and dented and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  She smiled and wiped more mud off.

The little girl used the little tin cup to give water to a very thirsty little cat.  The little cat purred and rubbed against her legs appreciatively before scampering off.  The little girl frowned, sad, and stared at the little cup in her hands.

The grateful little cat returned with a prize, dropping a freshly caught fat rat at the little girl’s feet.  She set the cup down on a window ledge beside her and stared at the ugly hairy creature lying at her feet.  The little cat stared up at her expectantly.  The girl’s eyes lit up and she smiled at the little cat.  Scooping up the dead rat she ran for home, the little cat following at her heels.  Her family would eat meat today.  The little tin cup sat alone and forgotten on the ledge.

#

A man walked along, carrying a worn black doctor’s bag.  He had urgent business.  As he walked he pondered, hoping the family he was visiting still had some meager belongings, still had a shelter and warmth, and still had some kind of little cup or bowl to mix the medicine in a broth to feed the ill father.

As he walked, something caught his eye.  He paused and looked at a little tin cup sitting forgotten on a window ledge as the world shuffled on by.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and dented and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  He smiled, picked up the cup, and shoved it in his pocket.  He continued on his way, whistling a sad little song.

#

“The doctor is here, the doctor is here,” a little boy came rushing in eagerly.  He was little and skinny, his eyes bruised and hollow with hunger.

The mother rushed to the door, closing it behind her, confronting the doctor before he could enter.  She blocked the door, holding the handle so curious little hands could not open it to see what is going on.  She looked frail and frightened, her eyes holding that furtive haunted look of a rabbit trapped within a circle of hungry wolves.  Her eyes stared into the eyes of the doctor.  What he saw in those eyes frightened him.

“We can’t pay you,” she said in a quiet matter of fact voice.

He nodded and stepped forward, saying not a word.  Words were not needed and would only have diminished the moment.

She stepped away from the door, allowing the doctor to enter.

#

An icy rain pelted down, cutting sharply against exposed flesh.  It was very dark.  Some things simply did not wait for daylight these days.

A frail looking mother stood silently in the rain, a little boy standing beside her, his tears lost in the streaming pellets of rain.  They watched the men dig, opening a dark hole in the ground, a paupers grave.  Silently, the mother wished she could step forward, close her eyes, and fall into that black void with the body of her husband.  She looked down at the boy by her side, her hands fidgeting in her pockets, trying to warm them.  Her hand closed around an object she’d forgotten shoving into her pocket.  She pulled it out and stared at it as though she’d never seen it before.  It was a little tin cup, plain and dented and kind of ugly.  Her eyes burned with anger and unshed tears.  She hated that little cup.  The mother turned, wound up her arm like a baseball pitcher, and threw the little cup as hard and as far as she could.  She watched it sail through the air, tumbling, and vanishing in the darkness.

The little boy’s eyes followed the rolling flight of the little tin cup solemnly, as though this simply were part of the rite of burial.

The little tin cup called back its goodbye’s, a tinny echo as it clanged and rolled somewhere in the dark until it came to rest.

#

A figure lurked in the darkness, quiet, treading carefully so as to be utterly silent.

A woman waited anxiously, unaware of the man creeping up on her in the darkness.

The man’s eyes fixed on the woman, watching her in anticipation as she slowly drew nearer with every cautious step he took.

She did not see him, did not hear him, and did not feel his presence in that uncanny way some women have of sensing someone staring at them.

The man reached out his arms, eyes glinting, teeth glinting against the distant light as he bared them in a nasty grimace.  The knife in his hand gleamed sharply off that distant light.  Just one more step…

The tinny little clang of the little tin cup echoed like a deafening thunderclap to the man’s ears.  He froze, eyes scared.

Startled the woman looked up, turned around, and screamed.  It was a frightened scream.

The man’s feet slapped against the ground as he fled into the dark of night.

Trembling, the woman looked down and her eyes caught sight of the little tin cup.  She stooped down and picked it up, turning it in her hand to look at it.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and dented and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.  With a shrug, she put the cup in her coat pocket.  It would come in useful.  She continued to wait, a little more wary now.

#

A worn little wooden crate sat in a corner.  It didn’t hold much.  A few scraps of worn clothing, some fruit well on the way to rotten, a loaf of hard and molding bread, and one little tin cup.  It was a rather plain looking little tin cup, dirty and dented and kind of ugly, but it would not shatter or crack like the pretty little fancy painted teacups.

Stuck to the crate was a simple little note.

“Orphanage,” the note read in an uneven scrawl.

Tonight, the children would eat.

L. V. Gaudet is the author of Where the Bodies Are and the soon to come second book in the series The McAllister Farm.

Follow L.V. Gaudet:

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

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Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00015]

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Pia Pucknucker: The Mystery Of The Indian Treasure

Cameron calling for his cat Braveheart

Cameron calling for his cat Braveheart

While awaiting for ” Pia Pucknucker :  The Mystery Of The Indian Treasure”  to be corrected and printed, I have decided to make Pia a series of mysteries and adventures.

In Pia’s next book, I’ll be introducing three new characters:  Cameron, Hank and Braveheart.  Cameron is Pia’s neighbor who lives across the street and has a cat named Braveheart.  Thumbelina wants to be Braveheart’s friend, but Braveheart runs away every time Thumbelina comes near him.  Braveheart is in reality quite a scardy cat!  Cameron enlists Pia for her help in finding Braveheart who took off into the woods behind his house.  Cameron knows Pia is a good PI (private investigator like her grandpa).  Soon, the whole neighborhood is  in on the hunt to find Braveheart.  Hank, is Lilly’s little brother.  He  is only three years old and follows Lilly everywhere and wants in on the search for Braveheart.  Hank also has a secret that he wants to share with everyone, but no one will take him seriously and listen to him.  In the meantime, the clock is ticking and Cameron is worried he will never see his Braveheart  again.  As Pia is desperate for answers, she realizes  she may have overlooked some very important clues along the way.

I’m looking forward to developing this story line as I sketch out my characters and scenes.  This book with have some twists and turns along the way that will excite Pia’s fans! I also plan to share more of my sketches in the blogs ahead.

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Gun Control

It’s not just what you say or even how you say it.  It’s when and where.  No matter how prophetic your thought nor how reasonably it is presented, it can come off poorly when spoken at the wrong time.  This occurred to me as I was stating how dull and pointless golf was and how young people should find more productive things to do with their time just as Rory McElroy walked by.

I never seem to be at the right place and time to express myself.  I sorely wish I had been in the studio as Alex Jones went phycho on Piers Morgan over the very suggestion of gun control.  I wish I had been as it would have been a perfect opportunity to say absolutely nothing.  As a believer in the need for gun control in America, I could not possibly have made a better argument for restriction than did Jones.  Who in their right mind would have put a loaded gun in the hands of that ranting, screaming, frothing lunatic at that moment?  I guarantee you the whole studio would have been diving for cover.

I firmly believe in the U.S. Constitution and support its need in America.  Far more than Jones, in fact, as he screamed that Piers Morgan should be deported for speaking his mind about a political issue.  This in itself directly contradicts the very Constitution over which he was so busy making an ass of himself.  But despite his short-sided temper tantrum, at no point in history did the constitution grant Americans the right to keep and bear automatic weapons.  I can’t imagine them writing these laws back in 1791 and thinking “What about machine guns?”

“There’s no such thing,” another might have said.  “It takes half an hour to load a gun.”

“But they might invent them.”

“True.  But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.  Now what about plasma disbursing ray guns?”

The second amendment to the Constitution grants Americans the right to keep and bear arms but not any arms.  When the son of a prominent celebrity was arrested for having an anti-aircraft cannon in his living room, he did not try to claim his constitutional right to have it.  Why?  Because he had no such right.  This proves there is a line but where is that line drawn?  What is an allowable firearm and what is a phallic crutch for an insecure, paranoid lunatic (like Jones)?

To define this we must look at why the law was drafted in the first place.  Like most laws back then, this law was drafted primarily because it was something the British didn’t want us to have.  People under British rule in “acquired” countries were rarely permitted to carry weapons.  This is why such activities as the highland games and hurling were conceived.  It gave people an excuse to carry potentially dangerous things.  (Hurling is actually about 3,000 years old but they knew the Brits were coming) The Brits knew too well that if they put a loaded weapon in the hands of an Scot, an Irishman, a North African, an Indian, an American… the first thing they’d have done was point it at the closest Brit.  So they did in America as they had in so many other places and impose law forbidding weapons.

British law was fairly oppressive way back then.  People were taxed to backbreaking degrees though the taxed masses had no say in how their taxes were spent.  The government was rich and corrupt.  Courts were biased.  People were forced to pay for a licence just to own a television… (Wait. Nevermind that one).  Even the right to choose a religion was at the discretion of the crown.  So when the yanks began making their own laws, they drew them up less to give us what we wanted than to give us what England didn’t want us to have.  We deliberately contradicted every right denied us by the British.  They taxed us as they chose so we adopted the “Taxation without Representation” law.  We can have any religion we want or none if we choose and they don’t even get to ask us what we chose.  I spent five years as a Frisbitarian.  Worshiping the Frisbee, we believed when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can’t get it down.  We can believe that if we want.

America was committed to going anti-British where ever possible.  This is why it’s so hard to get back bacon or a decent cup of tea in America (and don’t even get me started on page three in the papers).  If it was British, we didn’t want it.  If they didn’t want us to have it, we took it by the boatload.

We didn’t need a law surrounding guns as we mostly carried them anyway.  Without grocery stores, people generally had to shoot what they ate and for that they needed guns.  Law enforcement was sporadic and localised so people with anything worth taking had to defend it themselves.  Again, the trusty firearm was called for.  These were the only legitimate reasons a private citizen needed a firearm and this remains true today.  You don’t hunt deer or duck with an assault rifle.  Should an intruder enter your home and you haven’t stopped him by the sixth shot from your pistol, a seventh is little more than noise polution.  There simply is no justification for allowing automatic weapons to be owned or sported by other than the military and only simple-minded, insecure halfwits like Alex Jones could find a true argument to the contrary.  But he also thinks Bush ordered the attack on 9/11 and Russia is a giant space ship that came here from the planet Glignon27 to enslave us.  Let him speak at every gun and anti-gun rally.  He’s the best possible spokesman for gun control I can imagine.  In fact, I’m inviting him to the next conference on planned parenthood.

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Sherrie and the Great World (by Sherrie Hansen)

It’s been a whirlwind ever since we returned from Romania about 10 days ago, so this will be short, and I’ll let my photos do most of the talking.

Romania - Bran Castle

In addition to trying to catch up with everything we missed out on while we were gone, and getting back on track at work, my mind is humming with the task of trying to process everything we saw and experienced on our journey.

Romania - Castle

There’s so much to write about that my fingers can’t move fast enough. I started working on Sweet William, the next of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, again when we were in Cornwall and Devon, surrounded by British accents and quirky UKisms. My love affair with the British Isles came rushing back the second the roads narrowed to bicycle path width and the hedgerows got so tall that I felt like a rat in a maze.

England - narrow road England - menu England - heather

I will say of our “vacation” that it wasn’t very restful. And that’s just fine with me. We admittedly kept up a bit of a frantic pace, trying to take everything in, but in retrospect, we wouldn’t have traded a second of it in the name of relaxation. Nothing new there! When I was growing up, we had friends that went to the cabin at the lake every summer… the same cabin at the same lake, surrounded by the same people. Not my family. We liked to camp, and would often stay in a different state park every night, setting up camp, tearing down camp, building a new fire to cook over every night. And we traveled all over the state and the United States, and saw so much, and met so many people, and experienced a whole variety of places and things. I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. Or maybe I did trade it for the world.

Romania - Sibiu

So for those of you who have never caught the travel bug, here’s what I like about jaunting about the Great World…

Romania - village England - Thatch Romania - Timi

  1. New experiences stretch me, help me to grow, and push me to my limits. I never would have chosen to go to Romania if my stepson, Erik, hadn’t moved there 1 ½ years ago, and met his lovely bride, Cristiana.  Romania E&C I never would have believed that I could climb 1000 rickety stairs to the top of Dracula’s castle at Bran, Romania, or the watch tower overlooking the medieval city of Sighisoara, Romania or climb down a steep, 70 degree cobblestone-paved descent to the sea at Clovelly, Devon, or see the fabled ruins of King Arthur’s birthplace at Tintagel, Cornwall. Romania - stairs  Romania - stair curve Romania - stairway But I did it, and I’m so happy that I was thrust into a set of circumstances that allowed me to experience so many memorable things.

Romania - Haywagon Romania - wagons Romania - Buzias spring

  1. Seeing how the rest of the world lives and experiencing their joys and frustrations helps me to reopen my eyes to the beauty in my own back yard, and make me thankful for what I have. Part of it is looking at life through the lens of my camera. Once you start looking for beauty, you see it everywhere, even at home. Once you realize that much of the world doesn’t have and can’t afford air conditioning and a million other luxuries we take for granted, you realize how blessed we really are.

Romania - Hundedora Romania - ax

  1. Fresh inspiration and a renewed perspective gives me a boost of positive energy. It’s not that my life in northern Iowa is boring – far from it, but we don’t have the seashore and castles and roundabouts and surfing and medieval cities, and face it – never will. I’m glad I live exactly where I do, but I love the burst of creativity and inspiration that I get when I travel to the far ends of the earth.

Romania - swords Romania - storks

  1. Colorful new characters, each with their own story, make me want to write a million tales. Here’s where I will let my pictures – or rather the people in them – do the talking.

Romania - woman in window Romania - Skeleton Romania - Ukranian woman England - fisherman

Thanks for listening and looking into their eyes. Here’s hoping you have a chance to see the world from a new perspective one day soon, whether it’s a different corner of your own little world, or a vast new expanse on the other side of the globe.

England - sunset

Sherrie Hansen’s Bio:
Twenty-three years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  Sherrie has also lived in Colorado Springs, CO, Augsburg, Germany, Wheaton, IL, and Bar Harbor, Maine. She grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota. After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Shy Violet” is Sherrie’s eighth book to be published by Second Wind Publishing.

Links:

http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor
https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/
http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or http://www.BlueBelleBooks.com
https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen
http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Books Titles: Wildflowers of Scotland novels – Thistle Down (a prequel novella), Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet. Night and Day, Love Notes, and the Maple Valley Trilogy – Stormy Weather, Water Lily, and Merry Go Round.  

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Are We Paying Attention by Calvin Davis

“The child is father of the man.” Wordsworth, an English poet, wrote that line, meaning what a child experiences and feels, in his early years, will determine what kind of man he will be in later life. In my case, I’ll have to modify the poet’s statement. Granted, the child is father of the man, but in later life the grown child often becomes the father of his dad, who has by now become a child.

Confusing, isn’t it?

father and sonIt won’t be when I further explain. The other evening my wife and I were watching a show on TV where a father held his little son in his arms. The angelic look on the child’s face was disarming, as was the apparent love of the father for his son. The little boy’s face glowed with innocence and a total lack of knowledge of the ways of the world–bullying, politics, science and logic. What could he know of these things? Nothing.

Seeing the father lovingly gaze at his son reminded me of times long past when I held my own baby boy, especially that memorable first time. For he lacked knowledge.

Now, fast forward  thirty years, or more. The child has grown and earned a double major at MIT of math and physics and, with additional advanced courses, holds a PhD. in theoretical physics. As his father, I was a mere high school English teacher.

He wrote a paper for a science journal and e-mailed it to me to proofread for grammar and spelling. When I sent it back to him in Berlin, Germany, it was perfect. What was the paper about? What did it say? To be honest, I hadn’t a clue–something about the theory of matter in relation to Einstein’s theory that totally flew over my head.

man and fatherNow do you understand what it means when I say Wordsworth was only half right when he said, “The child is father of the man?” The truth is, as in my case, this grown-up child is father of his father, who, to him, is childlike in his field of expertise. For the grown child has knowledge the father never possessed, because this world had progressed at such a rapid rate, In terms of know-how, the child is now the smarter one.

But that is the way it’s always been, and no doubt will always be. We can learn a lot from our children, if we only pay attention.

–Calvin Davis is also the author of The Phantom Lady of Paris.W

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What’s In a Word 2 – by Paul J. Stam

More madness with the English language

Foreign Legion soldier at Keelung, January 1885

A bass drum

So there I was with all this Polish furniture to polish. I didn’t know how I would get it all done so I got a soldier to desert his dessert in the desert to help me. After all his help I felt there was no time like the present to present him with the present I had for him. He did not object to the object I gave him, which was a bass drum with a bass painted on it.

English: Short leg cast

Later I went to visit an invalid friend with invalid insurance. He had a leg injury. When I go there his room was so full I was too close to the door to close it. Before I got there the doctors had to subject the subject to a series of tests. He was in great pain but after a number of injections the leg was number. They didn’t think they could save the leg, but how could I intimate this to my intimate friend?

Now unless you are bilingual, multilingual or super lingual, you’re kind of like me in that the English language is what we have to work with. I do the best I can, and I don’t know about you, but I have never been able to find an egg in an eggplant or an apple nor a pine in a pineapple. And why is it sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet at all, are meat? Why is it boxing rings are square and why is it quicksand sucks you down slowly?

And so I leave you with this, not every word is what it seems to be, or is necessarily so, which brings me to my autobiography which I am writing entitled, “It Ain’t Necessarily So,” and which will probably never be published, but at the beginning of it I give the reader fair warning with this.

An Introduction
To Be Read

It has been said that, “History is written by the winners.” Hell, I said that in one of my books soon to be released by Second Wind Publishing, so it had to have been said before me. I am one such winner in that I have outlived any who might be able to refute the things I say in my autobiography.

However, I will, to the best of my ability, be honest except when it suits me to be otherwise. After all, I am a storyteller, and the important thing to a storyteller is to keep the reader interested, not be honest.

I will also warn you that the things I tell you about me, my family, my life, my loves, my hates, my accomplishments (there’s very damned few accomplishments so I’ll have to make some up) and my failures (do you really think I would tell you about those) are things that interest me, or at last did at the time.

Now, having been warned, let us begin. Please feel free to make suggestions. They will be welcomed and ignored, as is the case with any suggestions from close friends.

There, you’ve been warned, exactly what you have been warned about I’m not sure.

Thank you, and May Only Good Come Your Way.

Copyright © 2015 by Paul J. Stam
All rights reserved

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Final MSS Cover frontMurder Sets Sail is available from Second Wind Publishing and on Amazon. Kindle editions is only $4.99.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000035_00023]Another of Paul’s books, The Telephone Killer published by 2nd Wind Publishing is available on Amazon and from the publisher. Kindle and Nook versions just $4.99.

To watch The Telephone Killer video click here.

The Telephone Killer is now also available as an audiobook.

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Since everything is copyrighted please feel free to re blog any of my posts but please repost in its entirety and giving appropriate credit.

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Have it, Give it, Still Got it, by Carole Howard

Once upon a time, boys and girls, there was a magical place. Anyone who had enough of a thing could give some of it away to someone who didn’t have enough. The magic: as soon as the person gave it away, her supply would be replenished.

wand-clipart-canstock7512335Let’s say you had enough food to eat. More than enough, even. You could give some of it away to a family down the street that had fallen on hard times. As soon as you gave away a turkey, a bag of potatoes, milk, breakfast cereal, tomatoes and cookies, they were all replaced in your cupboard, exactly as they had been. A turkey for a turkey, a bag of potatoes…… well, you get the idea.

In this magical place, it also worked for clothing. (A tee shirt for a teeshirt, woolen socks for woolen socks.) Housing. (Have two houses? Give one away and it comes right back!) Books. Money. Anything you can think of. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful place to live?

Too bad things don’t really work that way.  Except…wait!  There is something that does.  Blood. You have enough blood. Some people don’t. Give away some of yours and your body replaces it. Simple. Magic? Not exactly.

My husband and I started donating blood about a year ago, and we now do it every 56 days, the maximum frequency allowed. It helps that we live ½ mile from the blood-donation trailer of our local hospital, yes, but I’d like to think we’d do it anyway. It’s so easy. It’s so valuable. We have plenty. Others need it. No-brainer, right?

It all started when my husband decided – don’t ask why, it’s a long story – he wanted to donate one of his kidneys to anyone who needed it, not necessarily a friend or relative. It’s called an “undirected donation.” We went through the process of having him tested, physically and emotionally. He and his kidney passed with flying colors.

In the end, though, I exercised my marital veto power. My reasoning was that, even though the statistics for the recuperation of donors were excellent, the statistical sample contained very few people his age. So we decided to help people in a different way: we donate blood and get our friends to do it, too.

Some problems are hard to solve, others easy. This one’s not rocket science: if you give some of your blood away, it’s replenished. No magic necessary.

Have you ever donated blood? Would you consider it?

*     *     *

Carole Howard is he author of Deadly Adagio, published by Second Wind Publishing.  She’s happy to give her blood away, and happy to get it (and the cookie!) back again.

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Do You Mondegreen? by Velya Jancz-Urban

mondegreen

Flashback to 1972: I was fourteen-years old and my brother was twelve. Our mother was wandering around the house belting out the lyrics to a very popular song, America’s “Horse with No Name.” My brother and I really weren’t paying too much attention because she was always singing something, thinking she was pretty groovy. When “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” came out, she thought she was incredibly cool as she sang about “the baddest man in the whole damn town.” But back to “Horse with No Name.” For some reason, we actually started listening to her and as she wrapped up the chorus my brother and I looked at each other and exploded with laughter. Instead of singing, “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name,” she crooned, “I went through the desert with Horace No-Name.” We laughed like hyenas with hiccups gasping for air!  The kind of laughing that leaves you feeling satisfied and happy, but with sore stomach muscles the next morning.

Horse With No Name

Do You Mondegreen?
…yup, we all do!
A mondegreen is the mishearing or misrepresentation of a phrase, usually from a song or poem.

The Disney movie Pocahontas came out when our daughter was about three years old, and it seemed the soundtrack was always playing in the car. One of the songs was called “Savages” and the English settlers boomed out the highly inflammatory lyrics, “They’re savages! Savages! Dirty red skin devils!” But, from her car seat, sweet Ehris always growled:

“They’re sandwiches, sandwiches, dirty red skin devils!”
They’re savages, savages, dirty red skin devils! – “Savages” from Pocahontas

Pocahontas

In 2005, Gwen Stafani’s “Hollaback Girl” became the first digital download to sell one million copies. My husband, snapping his fingers to the thumping tune sang:

“Few times I’ve been around that track
So it’s not just gonna happen like that

Cause I ain’t no Harlem black girl!

I ain’t no Harlem black girl!”
(‘Cause I ain’t no hollaback girl, I ain’t no hollaback girl)

Harlem Black Girl

George M. Cohan may have written the song in 1906, but when my brother was little he patriotically marched around the house with his own tribute to the American flag:

“You’re a Grand Old Flag you’re a high flying flag and forever in peace may you wave,
You’re the emblem of, the land I love,
The homer, the femur, the rave. (The home of the free and the brave.)

Ev’ry heart beats true under red light, and blue”  (Ev’ry heart beats true ‘neath the Red, White and Blue)

You're A Grand Old Flag

My brother also insisted that the “ABC Song” went like this: “A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,11,P”

The Alphabet Song

And finally, our son Mic had his own version of Donna Summer’s 1979 hit, “Hot Stuff.”  Unlike her Platinum version, his did not hit the Hot Disco Singles list:

“I want some pasta baby this evening! Gotta have some pasta baby tonight!”
“I want some hot stuff, baby this evenin’, Gotta have some hot stuff, Gotta have some love tonight!”

Hot Stuff

How about you? Do you have any funny mondegreens? Kids are particularly good at mishearing lyrics and repeating them with confidence! Share yours in the comments below.

Velya Jancz-Urban is a teacher, author, former Brazilian dairy farm owner, expert on New England’s colonial women, inhabitant of a 1770 haunted home, and a Chica Peep. She has a newly-released novel, Acquiescence, and her first book in a children’s hands-on science series is slated to hit the market by end of summer 2015. When she’s not touring with her highly-entertaining and informative presentation The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife or on the road speaking about her new book Acquiescence, she’s traveling from school-to-school teaching her award-winning How Cool is That? (Hands-On Science) programs.

www.acquiescencethebook.com

Amazon link for Acquiescence: http://www.amazon.com/Acquiescence-Velya-Jancz-Urban/dp/1630661023/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426867032&sr=8-1&keywords=acquiescence+velya+jancz-urban

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Hometown Roots: An In-depth Look at Hillsville, VA- Chelsea Bolt

92620024As I am writing this post, this year marks the ninth year that I have lived in the lowcountry of South Carolina. It blows my mind because it feels just like yesterday that I was packing up that U-Haul with my family in Carroll County and headed off to start my middle school career in a mysterious land where no one knew of an infamous member of the Bolt family. Geographically, it wasn’t a grand relocation, but to that eleven year old me, it felt like I had been completely transported to a new galaxy. Bluffton, South Carolina was certainly not comparable to my hometown of Hillsville, Virginia.

For a frame of reference, Bluffton can be best described as, “the town you drive through to get to Hilton Head Island.”  The highway to the Island is jammed tight with tourists on and off season, outlet malls provide for weekend entertainment, marshes and grand live oaks dripping with Spanish moss cover most of the terrain, elite celebrities frequently visit the area in private, and Savannah is less than 30 miles down the road. This picturesque place is a land that I am blessed to live in, every day in the Lowcountry is a gorgeous one. Bluffton is a beautiful town and I am grateful for those who welcomed me with their true Southern hospitality, but that’s not my hometown.

My hometown is Hillsville, Virginia. I struggled for years after I moved to say that to people. When meeting new folks, they usually insist that I tell them where I am from, because of my heavy Appalachian accent. Nobody knows where Hillsville is. Nobody knows where Carroll County is. Some people would laugh at the name, others would smile and I would have to explain its location between Virginia Tech and Mount Airy, North Carolina. Who would know of a town that’s claim to fame is a courthouse shooting that occurred around the same time as the sinking of the Titanic? Maybe the folks that are a part of the reenactment every year, but not many more. Although, a few more people may know Hillsville for its gigantic flea market held every Labor Day weekend. That’s the only time of year you’ll run into traffic in town. Ever.  The fried Oreos are great too, bad for your heart, but delicious.

Recently, I have discovered that it doesn’t matter how many people know where Hillsville is. I know where it is and what it means to me. Hillsville is my home. I have a twang, I have caught lightning bugs in the summertime, I have toured the Carroll County Courthouse on a 5th grade field trip, I have played on a soccer team sponsored by the Hillsville Diner on Main Street, I have been on the front page of the local newspaper, and I love my hometown. It is a part of me and my own history.

Chelsea Bolt is a Second Wind author of the young adult novel Moonshine. For more information check out these sites: 

https://theonlybolt.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Chelsea-Bolt/689158317846614

https://twitter.com/theonlybolt

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Branded: The Cover-Up by Chuck Thurston

Many years ago, I ran across a graphic of an old English grave robber. He was holding a lantern and peering over the top of a tombstone. At the time, I was employed at IBM, and the company was busily working on the stated goal of putting a personal computer on every employee’s desk. PC’s weren’t a big part of the office landscape then, and the company knew that a rollout of that scope would not be without some issues: training, software, maintenance, security, connectivity, reluctance and resistance to use, etc. I saw the grave robber and his menacing grin as symbolic of all of these potential pitfalls and replaced the tombstone in the graphic with a computer of the era, and created a poster that I circulated among my department members.

grave robber

Fast-forward many years. I retired from IBM and busied myself with contract work and consulting in my old field. I started writing a column for a little North Carolina newspaper, The Transylvania Times (no kidding!), in Brevard, NC. Someone once made the mistake of saying something like, “Gee – you should put these stories in a book!” Only a fool ignores an incentive like that. I looked around for cover ideas and ran across my old grave robber graphic. Hmmm. These columns would be revealed –unearthed, as it were – to a much wider audience. I contacted Curt Thurston, my highly skilled professional graphics son, and wondered. Could you…would you? He could and did.

Scribbles Unearthed Cover

 

A star was born, but I had a lot more stories and it occurred to me that I now had a “brand” for a series of books. My fevered mind quickly formed an idea for a second collection and I sketched out an idea and sent it to Curt.

SSSD Cover

He feverishly sent me back his own rough sketch.

SSSD Graverobber with title

I could see immediately that it was superior to mine. I changed the subtitle, because I had cleverly thought of another use for that one in an as yet unwritten third collection. I gave Curt the go-ahead – and he made the final rendering.

SSSD cover front only

Now we are on what’s commonly called “a roll.” Sometime this fall, if I don’t spend too much time on other stuff, I’ll have a third book of stories to the publisher. I am hauling out the old grave robber for yet another go. Here’s my idea:

SSBR cover pencil draft

And Curt’s polished effort.

ssbr front cover

 

Look for it in an outhouse near you. Left, no doubt, by someone who’s call there was made more meaningful by a story or two, and who obligingly left it behind for subsequent visitors. It would be thoughtful of you to do the same.

 

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