Category Archives: Short stories

The Season of Lists

Old St. Nick has one, and so do I. His list deals with who is “Naughty” or “Nice”.  Mine is my own form of self-torture that I’ve honed over the years.  All of the “should-do’s” and “have-to-definitely-do’s” are on it.  Christmas decorating, baking, gift buying, and the dreaded Christmas card conundrum.

I love the whole experience of decorating for Christmas, and I’ve cut back on how much I’ve decorated over the years.  At one time, I had ten Christmas trees with different themes in various sizes throughout the interior and exterior of our home.  Now I am down to one medium-sized artificial tree and four miniature trees.  I used to have a minimum of one tree in each of the main rooms of the house, each bedroom and in the upstairs hall.  Now the trees are in the living room and on the front porch.

My SantaIMG_5491 collecting days are over, and I’m content to limit its total number to thirty Santas.  It’s not the largest Santa collection — I knew a woman who had over 1,000 Santas, but it is enough for my home.  I’m not one for a lot of outdoor lighting either (in the whole Clark Griswold of Christmas Vacation movie fame kind of illumination), but prefer a single candle in each window.

When my sons were little, we’d bake cut-out sugar cookies and gingerbread people decorating them with lots of colorful icing and sprinkles.  The mess in the kitchen was worth the fun.  Afterwards, I’d play some Christmas CD’s, we’d drink hot chocolate with plenty of mini marshmallows floating on top and decorate the largest tree together.

This year I’m almost finished with my Christmas gift list, having a few stocking stuffer items to purchase and a couple hard-to-buy-for people yet on my list.

So, what’s on the agenda now?  The dreaded Christmas card list.  Should I write a chatty newsletter to the people I know, make my own cards with my scrapbooking expertise or send off to a company for a photo greeting card?  Frankly, I did the fail-safe option and bought a couple boxes of old-fashioned Christmas cards.  Despite my card choice, the newsletter dilemma is still looming over me.

It is so easy to get caught up in all of the tasks and lists insteadimg_5352 of enjoying the finer moments this time of year offers to us–Christmas caroling, holiday parties, Secret Santas, watching the little ones as they sit on Santa’s lap or unwrap their gifts.  The wonderful Christmas stories and movies I enjoy year after year.  Eggnog! (It gets its own sentence, LOL!)  Midnight masses crowded with parishioners, the choir’s voices reverberating through the church, and participating in the sacred traditions with millions of people around the world.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Holiday season.  Just try to remember the simple pleasures and try not to worry about the lists.

 

 

Small Town Holidays

I love living in the tiny village along the Mississippi that I’ve called home for over twenty years!

I don’t miss the traffic, the noise and the lines found in larger cities.  I can walk through our streets without feeling threatened anytime day or night.  I get to soak up the beauty of my surroundings without driving anywhere.  In fact, I can walk from one end of the village to the other a couple times without tiring.

Thanksgiving weekend is a popular one here.  The population increases dramatically as all of the children and grandchildren return for the holidays.  Not only is it the start of deer hunting in the area, but there is an alumni basketball tournament at the school over the weekend.

My oldest son has played in it since he graduated, and it has been a tradition for over a decade.  The players reunite with their high school teammates to play against both younger and older teams.  Generations of family members come to cheer on the teams.  At halftime break of each game, the court overflows with children dribbling basketballs and shooting hoops until the teams return for the second half.

I sit in the stands greeting the mothers and fathers of my son’s team.  It’s a bit of deja vu from days past when our high schoolers ran up and down the court.  Our hair has more silver and our faces a few more lines now, but the enthusiasm and goodwill are still abundant.

In the evening, a Christmas parade with lighted floats, fire trucks, horses, music and Santa is followed by fireworks over the Mississippi River.  It is a fitting end to our weekend.

I saw a post the other day where someone wrote that they didn’t understand why Americans had a “day” of Thanksgiving.  The tradition is one of being thankful for the harvest, especially in the rural communities so dependent on a good harvest before the long winter.  It is also an acknowledgment of our country’s early beginnings, and how the generosity of the local Native American tribespeople helped the early settlers survive their first winter.

But, Thanksgiving is about more than remembering to give “Thanks” on one specific day.  For me, it is a time for gathering as a family and a community.  It is a time to realize the shared blessings of being a part of something so much larger than yourself.  It is a time to reinforce the importance of giving of my time, talents and resources to those less fortunate and to those I care about.

Our small town holiday weekend reminds me of what is good in the world and how crucial it is to be an active participant in the world around me.  To recognize and speak out against inequality and injustice while doing my best to be a positive force in the world.

This work doesn’t happen on just one day, but every day.  It all starts with you, your family and your community.  Make efforts to improve each of these areas and the blessings will continue to spread.

The Sound of Silence, NOT!

At eighty-five years of age, Miss Lydia decided to get “one of those new-fangled phones” everyone seemed to be peering at with heads bent.  Several of the ladies in her church group had them, and they talked incessantly about “time facing” and “gaggling it.”  Whatever that meant, it sounded like a bunch of nonsense, but her nephew, Clyde, wanted her to have one for safety reasons.  A bunch of bull-pucky!

The nice young man at the phone store tried to explain the features available on the phone, including why the only user manual was “on the line” and not printed out like normal.  Frustrated, Miss Lydia returned home with her new gadget.  She set it on the table beside her and watched it like someone would keep an eye on a rattler.

Clarice Travers stopped by after getting off work at the library.  She oohed and aahed over what she called a cell phone, offering to help Miss Lydia set up some ring tones.

“It would be nice if a phone rang like a real phone.”  The octogenarian didn’t cotton to changing anything what wasn’t broken.

“I can set that up, and I’ll do a couple of other alerts for texts, emails, and Facebook.  You are on Facebook, aren’t you?”  Clarice glanced up with raised eyebrows, smiling when Miss Lydia made a dismissive wave with her hand.  “I’ll help you set it up another day if you’d like?”

Miss Lydia didn’t respond.  Her head had settled back against her recliner, and her eyes were closed.  She’d fallen asleep.  Clarice finished setting up the alerts and laid the cell phone on the end table by Miss Lydia’s chair before letting herself out the door.

“Be-doh, be-doh, be-doh!”  Miss Lydia sat up abruptly.  What in the world was that?  She listened intently for a repeat of the sound which woke her but didn’t hear it any longer, and she decided it must have been some whippersnapper outside making noise again.  Those teenagers were always driving by with their radios blaring day and night.

Getting up out of her chair took a bit of doing due to her stiff joints and rheumatism, she hobbled into the bathroom.  As she washed her hands, she heard that same “Be-doh” noise.  She stormed out of the bathroom as quickly as a woman in advanced years could manage.  Once more the sound had disappeared.

“Those juvenile delinquents made a loop around the block.  Umph!  Don’t they realize some people take a little rest in the afternoon?”  Miss Lydia knew she needed to…What was it Clyde would say?  Oh, yes.  ‘Cool my jets.’

She approached the recliner looking out the window for the troublemakers.  The sound of a bugle and the rattling of her new phone on the side table had her putting her hand over her heart in shock.  She prodded it with her finger, but it remained silent.

She did remember how to do one thing with her new phone.  Her finger pressed downward on a button at the side of her purchase.  Miss Lydia had an inkling on how to turn it off.


Written for the Weekend Write-In Challenge on May 14, 2017.  

Just Call Me “Ms. Organization”!

At the office, Barbara was known as the Post-It Queen.  The multi-colored, adhesive-backed bits of notepaper cluttered her computer monitor, her phone, and the calendar on her desk.  Her co-workers couldn’t believe she relied on an organizer/appointment book, so riddled with Post-Its and crammed with scraps of paper, coupons, and newspaper clippings, she had to secure it with a large rubber band.

“Why don’t you use the organizational apps on your computer and smartphone?” her friend, Dee, asked her after the rubber band broke and papers floated like confetti on the breeze.

“I like my system,” Barbara defended while scampering on her hands and knees to capture the intricate details of her life before she lost them.  The next day, she missed an important teleconference and realized she needed to change her ways.  A nearby bookstore had a section devoted to organization.  By the number of books on the subject, Barbara ascertained providing instruction to people so they could deal with their messy lives was a lucrative industry.

The more promising book titles were removed from their shelves for a thorough assessment.  A final selection was made, and Barbara walked with determination to the checkout counter.  Her life was never going to be the same after this important purchase.

Barbara cradled her pathway- to-a-new-reality in her arms as she went home.  A weekend spent in contemplation and enlightenment awaited her.  Next week, she planned to put into practice her new organizational skills.  But first, Barbara needed to remove some clutter from her coffee table for her new book.  She stuffed the newspapers and adverts under the table.

Wanting to be in a relaxed mood to enable her full concentration, Barbara took a bubble bath.  But first, she removed the dirty laundry from the bathroom and placed it in a pile in the hall.  Then, she searched for the expensive bath salts she purchased six months ago.  Barbara removed all of the items from under her sink.  She emptied the shelf in the linen closet with shampoos, moisturizers, and mouthwash.

She couldn’t find them.  Well, after this weekend, she wouldn’t worry about misplacing items.  Everything would be in its designated place.  How wonderful it would be!  She could already imagine the looks of envy her friends would give her when they saw her clean apartment.

Since a soothing bath wasn’t in the cards, Barbara decided a cup of tea messas she ingested the wisdom from ‘Organization for the Busy Professional’ would be just as good.  Her mother gave her some tea for Christmas.  Barbara checked every cupboard in the kitchen until she found it in its gift bag sitting on top of her refrigerator behind some other items.  Now, to find a teapot.

After a lengthy search, Barbara lay back on her couch tossing and kicking items off to make room.  Her new book sat under a layer of clutter.  When she awoke the next morning on the couch, she was unable to remember where she put her new book.  It took her most of the weekend to find it.  But she did find it under a blanket, some pillows and a newspaper or two.

Closing the book with a decisive thump, Barbara smiled in triumph.  Now she had the necessary tools to become more organized.  Barbara considered herself a free spirit, and didn’t feel the saying “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” was true.  A new way of life was around the corner.   Barbara was sure everyone would be calling her Ms. Organization before too long.

*Author’s Note:  This short story was written in response to the writing prompt — Organization.

 

24 Stories for Charity

As writers, we can bend the worlds we create in any direction we wish.  But in the harsh reality of the world we live, poverty, homelessness and disease are a part of the day-to-day struggle  of many people’s worlds.

The OMP (One Million Project) is an effort by writers and artists to help those who are caught in those struggles.  Please take a moment to check out  24 Stories for Charity .

Stumped

Wayne took his farmer’s cap off and used his handkerchief to mop the perspiration from his forehead and balding pate.  He stuffed the kerchief into his back pocket and shook his head.

“I don’t know Miss Lydia.  This sure is a puzzle,” he said as he set his cap back in its place.

“There has to be something we can do!  That thing is ruining my plans.”  Miss Lydia lamented.  She was definitely in a sour mood.  In all of her 86 years, she hadn’t let a little problem defeat her.  This one would be overcome as well.  As they stood in Miss Lydia’s yard, a crowd was starting to gather.  In a small town such as Sinippi Cove, anything could serve as an opportunity to congregate.  Each new addition looked the situation over thoroughly before passing judgement.

Harvey, who was a member of Sinippi Cove’s volunteer fire department, offered, “Fire might do the trick.”

“I was thinking we needed some chains,” Tug from the hardware store suggested.  Clyde Parks had seen the group and felt he should be present at any gathering being he was the mayor of Sinippi Cove.

“What is going on here?” Clyde’s booming voice questioned.  Miss Lydia gave him a look that would have turned the average man to stone, but you see, Clyde had survived much worse during the Great War having lost his right leg.  A prosthetic was secured to his stump, and he was proud that he could keep up with all the young whippersnappers who had collected in Miss Lydia’s yard.  Miss Lydia just pointed her finger at the offensive object.

“Dynamite would take care of it,” Clyde asserted.  As mayor, he felt he could offer solutions that others might not have the authority to suggest.

“What?  Blow my house to kingdom come and back?   Humphf!”  Miss Lydia started to mutter which was definitely not a promising sign.  There followed a display of throat clearing, head scratching and shuffling of feet as they waited for another morsel of wisdom concerning the current predicament.

Clarice Travers carried a tray of moisture covered glasses containing cold lemonade handing them out to the conclave of citizens.  Murmured thanks were given for the kind contribution.  The sun was getting higher in the sky, and the temperature was going to reach the triple digits soon.

Suggestions included horses,  chemicals, and Pinterest.  “What in blue blazes is this Pintfester?  Don’t waste my time,” Miss Lydia threatened.  “Humphf, Pinterranets.  Bull puckey.”

“No, Miss Lydia, it’s P…”  The speaker was elbowed and shushed.  No one wanted to get on the wrong side of the octogenarian.  A group of Red Hat Ladies, heading for a luncheon, stopped.  It looked like a party, and anyone familiar with Red Hat Ladies knows they love parties.  It is the whole reason they exist.  The noise escalated to ear drum rupturing levels as the females bestowed their combined knowledge on the assemblage.

The tree stump would have to wait.  Miss Lydia wanted a nap.

The Hungry Games

I plan on posting some of my short stories and excerpts of my novels for your enjoyment.   Watch for future posts of my original stories.

Natalie jumped up and down in front of her mirror trying to suck in her gut.  She pulled the edges of her pants together in the hopes that a miracle would happen and she would get them close enough to zip up her lucky jeans.

At least they used to be her lucky jeans.

“Nat! Come on, we need to leave,” her roommate, Claudia yelled.

“Just a sec, I’ll be out in a minute!”  Natalie hopped to her bed.  One more thing to try.  She flopped onto her back holding her breath while she prayed for divine intervention.

Almost there.  Finally, they zipped.  She lay there wondering if she could actually get up from the bed.  Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

“Nat!  I’m leaving with or without you.” Claudia sounded pissed off.

Natalie rolled onto her side using her arms to prop herself up into a semi-sitting position.  She heard the front door open.  If she wasn’t meeting up with a guy she had a huge crush on, she wouldn’t even go.  Natalie couldn’t miss a chance to catch his eye.

Natalie shuffled stiff-legged towards her bedroom door.  She walked like a zombie in that TV show.  That would draw attention.

As she moved down the hallway, she heard Claudia gasp, “How’d you even get those on?  You can barely walk.  Can you even sit?”  Claudia walked around her in a circle shaking her head.

“These are my lucky jeans and I really thought I needed to wear them tonight, but I guess I’ve gained a bit of weight,”  Natalie mumbled embarrassed by her lack of discipline.  “I’ll figure it out.  Let’s just go, alright.  I don’t want to be late.”

Natalie lurched out to the car and with some maneuvering she was able to close the car door.  She reclined her seat back as far back as possible.  Natalie was positive the blood supply to her legs was cut off.  Her legs felt numb.

“You aren’t going to be able to sit at a table,” Claudia helpfully informed her.

“I can hang at the bar.  I won’t be eating anyway.  I’m on a diet.  Now.”  Natalie paused when she saw her friend’s cynical look.  “Besides my jeans would burst if I tried to eat.”  Natalie’s stomach growled loudly.  She shot a worried look at Claudia.  Her friend laughed so hard she snorted.  “That’s right, laugh.  Ha ha.  I’m starving.”

The car pulled into the parking lot of the bar & grill.  Claudia took pity on Natalie and offered her hand to help her get out of the car.  Natalie’s breathing was shallow due to her inability to take a deep breath.  She promised herself that she’d never ever eat another slice of pizza or have a piece of cheesecake again.

“Do I look fat, Claudia?”

“Sweetie, you look like your jeans are painted on you.  Don’t look now — here they come,” Claudia whispered.    Natalie’s dream guy approached with a smile just for her.

Her jeans were lucky.