Monday, July 28, 2014

Summer Short with Liz Lindsay

Dog Daze Night

Summer - sultry, stifling, sweaty. That’s what my parents complained about that August. But I was fourteen and off to babysit and earn, maybe, five or six dollars. Money I could use to add to my 45 music collection or check out school supplies at Stedman’s. Have I dated myself enough?

The money not yet in my pocket, I’d it spent ten times over in my head during the drive to my babysitting destination. Somewhere new, a last minute request from friends of my parents- the Hutchins. But really out in the boonies. Not that I paid much attention to the scenery.

Mr. Hutchins drove his car up a long driveway. Gravel crunched underneath and crickets chirped frantically. The house loomed large, and isolated. I couldn’t see any neighbours and it backed right up to the dense woods behind.

“Sorry to tell you our air conditioning’s on the fritz, but we have lots of fans going. There’s always the chance of a good cross breeze through the windows.”

And now I noticed how the heavy, humid air cloaked me. I didn’t feel any breeze, just mosquitoes looking for a snack on my neck and arms. Well I’d only be watching TV, so how bad could it be.

Two children were in my care for the evening, a boy and girl, aged four and two. Both were already in bed and their fashion plate mother assured me they’d sleep through just about anything.

“There’s lemonade in the fridge and chips on the counter. Help yourself. We should be home no later than midnight. Oh and we’ve locked the dog in the basement. He sleeps there because it’s cooler for him.”

Then they were gone. I checked in on the little ones. Sheets had been kicked off, and their sweat soaked hair clung to their foreheads, but they didn’t stir.

I couldn’t ever remember feeling this hot at home and grew more uncomfortable with each step. The sweat rolled down my back and I wished I’d worn cooler clothes.

The TV beckoned and I grabbed a glass of ice cold lemonade and the bag of chips. I sure wasn’t crazy about the idea of the over large living room windows having no curtains. It wouldn’t be just the heat that kept the lights off while I babysat there.

TV channels were limited and I actually had to get up from the sofa to change the channels – imagine!

Daylight faded and soon the only illumination came from the TV’s glow. For some reason I didn’t feel like watching Outer Limits that night. My only other choice? The Lawrence Welk Show…and a one and a two….

The heat and gentle breeze from a fan across the room made me sleepy and I must have dozed off. Until I was startled awake by a dog’s bark.

Right, the dog. Supposed to be in the basement. Good , I wasn’t fond of dogs, and if it had been a large one I’d have been nervous. He barked a couple more times. I hoped the barking wouldn’t be ongoing for the rest of the evening.

It looked like I’d better hope again. The barking grew louder, and urgent.

I certainly wasn’t sleepy anymore. The barking put me on edge, but that was nothing compared to the thumping and banging that began to accompany it. All coming from the basement.

It freaked me out enough that I decided to call the police in case someone lurked on the property or tried to get in the house. That’s why dogs barked right?

I crept to the kitchen and lifted the receiver from the wall phone. Ready to dial the police when it hit me…I had no idea what address to provide. How could they ever find me? My parents were out for the evening – I was on my own. My unease grew into low level panic with each bark and bang from the basement. Then came the sudden high pitched yelp. And silence, no more barking and no more pounding.

The sweat down my back had turned to icicles If a threat had come to this house I had to be responsible for the tykes sleeping down the hall.

A fireplace poker seemed a good bet and I grasped it between slick palms as I inched my way down darkened steps to the unfinished basement. No dog- like noises at all, but the banging had resumed. Confirmation that someone had broken in and they’d obviously killed the dog.

I raised the poker over my head and found the light switch. As light flooded the basement I screamed at the apparition before me. The intruder also had a poker raised ready to strike. My knees were jelly and I almost laughed out loud when my brain finally realized it was my reflection I’d seen in the darkened window.

Relief was short lived, the banging started again off to my right. In an unlit corner I saw a huge sheet of plywood angled across the wall and held in place by a four-drawer metal filing cabinet. I watched in disbelief as the board slammed into the cabinet and bounced back. And again, and again.

The poker, now weighing a ton, stayed close to my side as I crept closer. I had no rational explanation for what was happening. The board was up to my chin in height and I had to strain to see over.

That’s when I saw it. Hopeful brown eyes, over a panting tongue at one end, and a feverishly wagging tale at the other. THIS is where they put the dog? I slumped to the floor and vowed never to babysit in the country again.

Liz Lindsay is one half of yet to be published author Jamie Tremain. Still working 9 – 5, this grandmother of four collaborates online with her writing partner, Pam Blance, and hopes they will be published in the near future.

Jamie Tremain Blog
Twitter @ElizabethLinds5

Friday, July 25, 2014

Summer Short with Kevin Thornton


“Where’s the victim’s wife?” said Inspector Sweeper.

“In the back room Sir,” said the Constable, “the one with all the windows.”

“The conservatory.”

“Aye, that’s what she called it as well. How did you know that Sir?” Then, “It’s back there past the room with all the books. The one with the body.”

Sweeper nearly told the Constable it was a library, then caught himself.

“Thank you Constable. I know where it is.” I should do, he thought. I just about grew up here.

He paused at the Library. The SOC techs were busy, as was the coroner Sam Hawthorne.

“Doctor Hawthorne,” he said. The coroner, kneeling, turned to face him, revealing a grumpy face that changed as he saw his old friend.

“Sweeps,” he said. “So you got this dog’s breakfast. Unlucky.” Sweeper didn’t tell him he’d asked for it, begged in fact.

“Do you have a cause of death Sam?”

“Nothing yet. On the face of it, it happened as she tells it. Her husband was working in here, collapsed and died. He’d been exhibiting flu-like symptoms for a couple of days or so, although it looks like he had a convulsion as he died. I’ll know more when I cut him open.”

“When you do that Sam, look for two things. The first is evidence of a puncture wound, and regardless of whether you find one or not do the fancy tests you have for all the exotic ways to die.”

Hawthorne looked at him quizzically. “So you think he was poisoned?”

Inspector Sweeper nodded. “I’d stake my career on it”.

The walk from the Library to the conservatory covered five yards and twenty years. He stepped through into the light and saw her, wan and almost translucent, like a daguerreotype sprite.

“Hello Greta,” he said.

“Hello Peter”, said Greta. “I wondered if they’d send you.”

He sat in the seat reserved for visitors, ever proper.

“What have you done this time,” he said.

“Done? Whatever could you mean?” she said. “You can’t think it was me?” But she was unconvincing, as if it was all a game she had tired of. Then, “Is this how it ends Peter? The chambermaid’s son has his revenge? We were never meant to be Peter. You know that.”

“I…” He nearly said the forbidden three words. I loved you, he thought. Then I hated you. And now? Now I’m finally going to get you.

He regrouped, marshalled his thoughts. “You never stopped did you? You just took a break for twenty years. How did you control the urges all that time Greta? Drugs, alcohol?” She recoiled slightly and he knew he’d hit the mark.

“There was always something evil in you Greta. Do you remember your kitten? Back when you were nine.”

“Tinkerbell,” said Greta.

“I watched you strangle her. You didn’t see me, I was standing behind the yew tree. You had her in your lap and you squeezed until her eyes popped, then you buried her in the rose garden. It was a silly spot. I moved it before Hinks the gardener dug her up. When I thought I still cared for you.”

She said nothing.

“And the frogs you dissected. Everyone gave you all the leeway in the world because you were so young. But I knew by then Greta, and I still know you. You cut those frogs up to watch them die.”

Still nothing from her. It was as if everything he said went unheard.

“Did you really use that Mercury to drive your Gran mad? I told the Earl but he wouldn’t believe me. And that arsenic you extracted? Was that for your Uncle? It was very convenient how he died, leaving the title to your Father.”

“But why the cyanide. Why did you do that? Why Greta? Why?”

“Because I could,” she said. “Because I could.”

And that was all he managed to get out of her. After all the years of knowing what she had done, those three words were the closest he would ever come to an explanation.

He could never actually prove that she had killed his mother. He’s been fourteen when he’d found her lying on the floor, the smell of almonds on her lips. Later he’d found the distillation and the evidence of the crushed peach pits.

No one would listen to the downstairs son of a servant accusing his friend, still a child herself, of murder. It had all been kept quiet and the new Earl, Greta’s father, had arranged for him to go away to boarding school in Ireland. He’d never returned to the Manor House. Until now.

As they waited Greta recovered what little of the composure she had lost. Sweeper did not.

“You think you’ve got away with it again,” he shouted at her, and her condescension hung like a veil of class in the confessional between them.

There was a discreet cough behind him. Hawthorne.

“Peter, you need to see this.”

He had a bag in his hand, clear plastic, filled with beans.

“There’s a laboratory downstairs, quite sophisticated.”

“It’s hers,” said Sweeper. “Her family have been scientists since Newton’s time.”

“Now I don’t yet know what these are,” said Hawthorne, “but there was evidence that they had been reduced to a powder and then a solution. I’ll check them at the lab.”

“There’s no need,” said Sweeper. “I recognize them. They’re the seeds of a Castor plant and when they’re properly prepared they make Ricin. That’s the poison the KGB used to kill people in the 60s.”

He turned to look at her and saw the realization on her face. “I’ve spent twenty years studying, Greta. I knew I could never get you for killing my Mother, but I was going to be ready for the next time your psychosis appeared.”

“You win Peter,” she said. He heard the crunch of the capsule between her teeth, and as she fell to the floor he once again smelled almonds.

A four time Arthur Ellis (Unhanged) Award Nominee, Kevin Thornton is a writer for the local Municipality, a columnist for the Fort McMurray Today and Your McMurray Magazine, a Director of the Crime Writers of Canada and a board Member of both the Northern Canada Collective Society for Writers and the Fort McMurray Public Library. He has never been known, willingly, to split an infinitve.

Further thoughts may be found at

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer Short from Kat Flannery

Oh Brothers’

“Boys,” Mom said, “No big toys, one each.” Eyes narrowed, she pointed her long finger, “I’ll be checking.”

We knew Mom meant business. With a family of six, space was limited. The green station wagon with its wood paneling was stuffed with boxes of food, suitcases, and red plaid sleeping bags. The family was going to the lake.

The ride to the lake was no more than an hour or two, but to me it felt like forever. I’d sit in between my brothers. While my younger sister, Lori-Ann got to sit up front, the lucky one. For most of the trip, I’d ward off snakebites, Charlie horses, the repeat game, and of course, the disgusting spit bubble. My brothers, John and Joe had mastered this feat to perfection. I’d sit frozen as John held the bubble just inside his lips and teased me by inching closer and closer.

“AAAHHH,” I screamed, John’s drool almost touching my cheek.

“Do you want your Dad to stop this car?” Mom turned around and yelled.

The three of us shook our heads. A stopped car meant sore bums. We sat stiff while Mom’s evil eyes scanned our faces, looking for any hint of a smirk that showed our disrespect. Satisfied, with the straight faces, I watched relieved as Mom turned around and smiled sweetly at Dad. It was those times I really wondered if Mom was related to Mr. Hyde, she had a keen ability to change from sweet to psycho in a matter of seconds. A rare disease I thought, and worried that I might inherit it.

Forced to listen to Mom belt out all the songs on her Patsy Cline tape, I watched amused as John and Joe pretended to hang themselves with make-believe ropes, while they lip-synched to the songs. My gut ached from laughing, as they tried to mouth the words, often resorting to “Watermelon, watermelon” when they didn’t know them. By the time we reached the lake, we all knew, whether they wanted to or not, the lyrics to the entire cassette.

“Bring in your sleeping bags,” Mom said. A suitcase in each hand, she headed into the cabin.

After we’d thrown our sleeping bags onto our beds, we all filed into the kitchen and stood in a line at attention. In no way were they the Von Trapp family, much to Mom’s disappointment. But when Mom spoke, we listened.

“Boys, help put the groceries away,” Mom ordered, arms buried deep inside the green cooler. “Girls, unpack.” A block of cheese in one hand, she pointed at us with the other. “All of it gets done before you go outside to play!”

The kitchen erupted into chaos. The boys tossed boxes of Kraft dinner, like they were missiles, and Lori-Ann and I were under attack. A can of beans, flew back and forth between John and Joe, a game of hot potato ensued. I watched horrified when Joe reached for the hotdogs and threw them at John. Then John picked up a bag of marshmallows to throw back at Joe. The game got scarier by the minute as they tossed the three items back and forth. Lori-Ann and I started to inch further and further away form them not wanting any part of their game… when food crashed to the floor.

“That’s it,” Mom yelled. She pointed her finger to the door and in a tone that sounded reminiscent of a growl, lips barely moving, “Out.”

Everybody dropped whatever was in their hands and tiptoed to the door, covering their bums… just in case.

“Mission accomplished,” the boys whispered giving each other the thumbs up.

In our quest to flee, we switched to a game of Cowboys and Indians, running in between trees and shooting make-believe arrows and bullets. The Indians, my brothers, captured me and tied me to a tree.

“Let me go,” I yelled. My small feet kicked, as I tried to make contact with one of their shins.

Laughing, they taunted, “Cowboys don’t cry.”

“Yes they do,” I shouted back as tears streamed down my freckled face.

“John Wayne never cried,” Joe said thoughtfully. His arrow, a stick he found on the ground, rested on his chin.

“I’m not John Wayne,” I argued. I hated when they bullied me.

“Well, if you’re not John Wayne,” John held the arrow, a stick as well, from his bow an inch from my nose and gave me a menacing stare. “Then, who are you?” His black hair glistened in the light, a seagull feather stuck in it.

“Uh… I’m…” I stuttered. “I’m that girl who shoots everybody up.” My wrists sore from the too-tight rope.

“What girl?’ John asked, the arrow now pointed at my heart.

“You know the one in Dad’s favorite western movie… that girl.” I lied.

“There isn’t any girl that shoots everybody up in Dad’s movies.” Joe scoffed.

I wasn’t about to give in, I needed to get free, or I’d be tied to the tree all day. “Yes there is!” I glared at them.

John let off a loud war cry and they both started to dance around me. Their hands bounced in rhythm over their mouths, as they chanted, “Hi ya hi ya…”

“Please let me go,” I pleaded with them, as I tried not to cry. But they ignored me and continued to weave, sway, hop on one leg and lift their arms high above their heads while they danced.

“Maybe we can make it rain?” Joe’s face lit up at the prospect and they shouted louder. Their arms jerked up and down violently.

I shook my head and decided to lie…again, “I have to pee.”

This got their attention, and soon I was set free. But, like a glutton for punishment I retaliated with a kick to Joe’s shins, but before I could run away, Joe yelled, “Snake pit. Look out!” They pushed me to the ground and pinched my arms.

The game was over. I looked like a leopard with bright red spots. “I’m telling,” I cried and they scattered.

The sun had slowly disappeared behind the trees and I had avoided my brothers for most of the day, the red welts still visible on my skinny arms still hurt to touch them. Huddled around the campfire I had just gotten warm, when Joe dumped a whole glass of ice down my back. Cold and frigid, I bolted up like a rocket, and began to jump up and down, my brother’s laughter echoed throughout the campground. Mad and annoyed I had gotten the last of the ice out of my shirt and sat down in my lawn chair only to leap back up again. They had left three pinecones on my seat, to pinch my bottom.

“Grrrrr.” I stomped my foot frustrated.

An hour later I was still nestled around the campfire and watched through blurry eyes, as John and Joe walked over to their lawn chairs, carrying Cokes and big bags of sunflower seeds in their hands. Each took a huge handful of the seeds and popped them into their mouths, sucking the salt from them. John stood up first, his face red, then Joe. They looked at each other and turned to spit the tiny black seeds out all over the ground.

“My mouth,” John screeched, as his fingers raked his tongue.

Joe jumped from foot to foot. “Hot, hot, hot.” He coughed, gagged and spit again. Then both took off towards the cabin for water.

My blue blanket wrapped tightly around me, I snuggled deep inside my lawn chair. “Nothing beats Tabasco sauce,” I snickered.

Author note* These events happened every summer until I was 13, or until my brothers out grew their childish behavior, I’m not sure which happened first.

Kat Flannery’s love of history shows in the novels she writes. She is an avid reader of historical, suspense, paranormal, and romance. When not researching for her next book, Kat can be found running her three sons to hockey and lacrosse. She’s been published in numerous periodicals. This is Kat’s third book and she is hard at work on her next.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Summer Short from Cathy Astolfo

Itsy Bitsy

My buddies arrived unannounced and uninvited just as summer began. In my opinion, they are solely responsible for the event that garnered all that worldwide attention.

School limped through its last day. Desks were in the process of being emptied and scoured of apple corpses and pencil tips, fisted-up tests that never made it home, half-hearted drawings whose only connection with the word was their rendering during “art” class.

That morning I felt particularly fresh and light. My dress was thin cotton that felt cool in the humid classroom. In those days we didn’t count humidity in the measurement of temperature, it was still in Farenheit, and global warming had just begun. I had no inkling that air conditioning existed and certainly no fans cut the layers of heavy air. It was up to us to wear light material and rules were somewhat lax on the last day. Some of the girls even had shorts on. Only later did I realize I had worn a slip to school.

My mother didn’t like my new friends. She said I was far too young for them. In ostrich fashion, she decided to ignore them rather than intervene or mediate. My unabashed pals loved my slip. They remained attentive all day.

Not only that, they somehow managed to transform boys into aliens worthy of a good impression. When Johnny Goldsmith threw his eraser at me, I turned to mush. Instead of getting angry and showing him my fists (see my finger, see my thumb, see my fist, you better run) as I would have a short time ago, I blushed and giggled. Giggled! He’d written on the pink eraser, now stiffened with lack of moisture from the dark recesses of his desk, “I like you.”

He liked me! Johnny Goldsmith, he of the dark eyes and floppy hair, whom all the girls adored. Except me.

Until my friends appeared, I was the “tom boy”, the girl who could climb trees, race and play football just like the male species. I went fishing with my Dad and my boy cousins. I was my father’s only son. My small but very domineering new buddies had forced me into basking in attention from a mere boy.

Shocked, disgruntled, I walked home in silence. My sister skipped and gabbed beside me. Her head a glorious mound of white curls, her blue eyes mesmerizing, she seemed to have no illusions about her gender. For the first time, I was confronted with mine.

My mother’s horrified exclamation when she saw what I was wearing did not help. In fact, I spent the first two weeks of the summer mostly hidden. In the privacy of my bedroom, I compulsively stapled pictures of Marlon Brando to the wall. I watched The Wild One and On the Waterfront often enough to speak the lines before the actors did.

Both my parents gazed at me in puzzled wonder. Normally I could not be enticed inside, even when the streetlights went on. After my refusal to accompany my father on a fishing trip, they knew something was up.

In the early sixties, before we baby-boomers became free lovers later that decade, no one spoke the word puberty. Besides, as my mother declared, I was too young for that, Mother Nature be damned. Silence would surely reverse time, slow the unexpected growth.

As though we weren’t burdened with two more members, my family packed as usual for our annual Wasaga Beach Holiday. Sybil-fashion, I swung from cheerful participation to brokenhearted sobs at having to leave Marlon alone in my room. Finally on the road, I led a mean-spirited rendition of the chorus my sisters and I had written, “I can see the water” (those were the only lyrics) more out of a desire to annoy than to express my former excitement at,—well—seeing the water.

When I did finally stand on the shores of Georgian Bay, however, I was suddenly happy again. The silky soft cool water! Bouncing waves! The innocence of childish fun. I dug into the suitcase for the new (to me) bathing suit my (richer) cousin had donated.

What happened next is not only a part of family folklore. It’s an international incident. All because Brian Hyland decided to record the disaster later that same summer. All because my two friends had appeared and my cousin decided it was time for two-piece, feminine bathing attire. Way before I was ready!

An itsy, bitsy, teenie, weenie, yellow polka-dot bikini
So in the water she wanted to stay
(From the cottage to the blanket)
(From the blanket to the shore)
(From the shore to the water)
Yes, there isn't any more.

Catherine Astolfo is the author of The Emily Taylor Mysteries and Sweet Karoline, published by Imajin Books. In 2012, she won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Short Crime Story in Canada. She’s a Past President and Derrick Murdoch Award winner for service to Crime Writers of Canada.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Summer Short from Pamela Blance

The summer of ‘52

We stayed at Leven Lodge that summer. Four children and mum and dad. The children in age from ten, six, five and two. Quite the handful. My sister Caroline- not even a twinkle in mum and dad’s eye yet.

We took the train to Portobello, a popular seaside beach, from a suburb of Edinburgh. I fell in love with train travel that summer even though we only travelled about ten miles. First the bus and then the train station. I loved the noise and the steam coming from the train. The trip only took about 30 minutes but to my young self it took forever.

We loved the beach. Dad would grab a couple of deck chairs with their stripped canvas seats. You had to get there early enough to claim a space with sand. Mum pushed Alister in his pram and the older kids carried towels, buckets and spades, swimming tires and of course a flask of tea for mum and dad. Bottles of lemonade were purchased at the concession on the promenade along with the promise of an ice cream cone later in the day.

Once we’d navigated the baby carriages, stepped over spread-eagled bodies and the odd dog or two mum laid towels on our sand claim. It wasn’t the nicest sand but who cared. The sand had gritty black shale mixed through but the sun beat down and the waves beckoned.

The water at Portobello is the Firth of Forth flowing in from the North Sea. It is frigid - some would say freezing. If you look closely at the picture only the very hardy are swimming. Not a lifeguard in sight. We’re a nation of paddlers, especially in the sea. But Portobello had a large outdoor pool with a high diving board and every half hour an announcement rang out that the artificial WAVES were starting. Great fun.

The children soon changed into bathing suits. As the public toilets were too far away we would change under a towel. We’d surely be lost if we went by ourselves. The men rolled up their trousers to the knee and stuck a knotted hankie on their head to keep the sunburn and freckles at bay. Some would still be sporting a shirt and tie, or at least loosed at the neck. A concession to relaxation. Teenagers slathered on baby oil hoping to tan while lying on the sand about five inches from the nearest sunbather.

Scottish skin is on par with our Nordic neighbors. Blondes, redheads and white skin. We start out in the morning pale and wishy- washy. When it’s time to pack up, the look of a cooked lobster comes to mind. Sunscreen- what’s that?

On quieter days there were donkey rides, sharing of shells found at the water’s edge and of course ice cream before settling down to serious sandcastle building. Mum and dad took turns having a nap. After the fourth trip to the bathroom with one or the other, we packed up and headed for a walk on the promenade.

After jostling with the crowds dad would find a bench where we’d all crowd around mum doling out fish and chips wrapped in newspapers. Oh I can smell the malt vinegar. As there were six of us and a pram we didn’t attempt going into a cafĂ© for a cup of tea. I’m sure mum would have liked one and dad’s preference would be to nip into the pub for a pint. But no… we went back to the Lodge for ‘our tea’. After all mum and dad were paying full room and board. So if we paid for it we had to eat what they prepared. My sister still has the receipt. Fifty pounds for a week’s stay with all meals for six. Ninety one dollars in today’s currency.

In the late afternoon we’d sing our hearts out with the Salvation Army brass band. The ’Band of Hope’ they were called. I still remember the hymns we sang. ‘Way, Way Over Jordan’. I used all the arm movements as we sang my favourite hymn. . Out on the pier the waves crashed in and the smell of the sea water intoxicating.

Memories are subjective. What did we do for the rest of the week? As young as we were the candy floss held a great attraction when we walked along the promenade. Everything smelled different and the colours brighter. Jumping in the shallow water and squealing when we splashed each other. Eating in the lodge dining room and sleeping in a new bed were all first experiences. Simpler times and seemingly quite innocent. No TV. No phones. We may have had a battery radio with us. We were not completely out of touch.

Edinburgh is not known for abundant sunshine and favours rain most of the time, but I seem to remember the sun shone all the time in Portobello that one magical week. I’m sure my older sister’s memory is different from mine and my brothers, being younger still, may not recollect it at all. I’ll always remember the summer of ’52.

Pam Blance is one half of yet to be published author Jamie Tremain . Retired from the corporate world Pam collaborates online with her writing partner, Liz Lindsay and anticipate publication in the near future.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Short from Kenna Mary McKinnon

You Won a Milk Chocolate Gold Cigar

The white house at the bottom of the green hill was more than twenty miles from the British forces at Beaver Hills. There in the white house, a young woman, Laura Secord, and her wounded soldier husband, James, billeted American troops.

It was June 21, 1813, the British forces unaware of a fiendish attack planned by the chocolate eating Americans in Laura Secord's home. James lay helpless with bullet wounds in his leg and shoulder, hardly able to lift a hand to pop a miniature mint into his mouth.

"Good men," Laura said to their slobbering guests, "I must go out and find Bossy Cow to have milk for the liqueur tomorrow. Otherwise no Bossy no Candy."

"You nefarious Loyalist," a captain said, "we won't need your box of miniatures tomorrow, nor a bag of your perfect sized bars…"

"… all made from premium chocolate." She concluded his sentence with pride. "Why not, may I ask, good Captain, do you not require my premium chocolate, or perhaps a box of premium teas?"

"Tea!" the Americans roared. "Remember the Boston Tea Party!"

"Oops," Laura said. "Sorry, fellows."

"This is Canada," James said gently, raising himself onto his good arm and reaching for a French & Frosted Mint hot chocolate.

The American soldiers began to murmur amongst themselves. Laura could hear "surprise attack" and "June 23" and "Beaver Dams". She knew the British commander, Lieutenant James FitzGibbon, would be caught unaware if the Americans attacked his post, as her husband had informed her that their encampment, reached only through a trail of barbed wire, land mines, and cow dung, was not prepared for an invasion. James had recently come back from Queenston Heights himself, where he had been sorely wounded and now could scarcely lift a Milk Chocolate Crispy Chip to his mouth.

So it was that the next morning, brave Laura beat Bossy Cow with a stick ahead of her on the treacherous twenty mile journey alone to Beaver Dams, to warn the British Lieutenant FitzGibbon and his Loyalist troops of their danger.

She was successful. The Americans were beaten back, and upper Canada held. No acknowledgment was given to the slender, brown-eyed woman who so courageously trod the slippery path of loyalty to the Crown and warned the British and their Mohawk allies of an impending invasion. James later succumbed to an acute case of diarrhea, and Laura died impoverished and unrecognized at the age of ninety-three, other than having a number of schools, statues, a granite monument, a circulation stamp, a chocolate factory, a deluge of articles, entries, and plays, and a coin named after her.

Of course, that was after her death. Small help it was to her then, guys.

Kenna McKinnon is the author of SpaceHive, a middle grade sci-fi/fantasy novel traditionally published by Imajin Books; The Insanity Machine, a self-published memoir with co-author Austin Mardon, PhD, CM; and DISCOVERY – A Collection of Poetry, all released in 2012. BIGFOOT BOY: Lost on Earth, was released on October 30, 2013 by Mockingbird Lane Press, a traditional small press.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Short from Rain Trueax

Curly Learns a Lesson

“Amos,” Curly yelled wondering where his boss had got to. Seemed he was more and more disappearing at odd times. When his old friend’s bearded face appeared, he was grinning and in his hand was a phone.

“Dang it all,” Curly said glaring at the phone. “You on the phone to that woman again.”

Amos’s smile broadened. “You know her name.”

“Supposin’ I do.”

“Wal, use it.”

“Ever since you reconnected with that old teacher of yours, you ain’t been no good for nothing!” If he had expected his friend to take offense, he’d been wrong. He was grinning like a fool teen-ager.

“Well, first off, wasn’t talkin’ on the phone. We was texting.”

Curl’s look grew even more distressed. “Only kids text.”

“That and those without enough signal to talk on the blamed phone.” His smile hadn’t disappeared. Clearly he was proud of himself.

“She’s old enough to be yore mother.” He tried a new tack.

“But she ain’t,” Amos said with a chuckle, “and it ain’t like she’s all that old inside. She can still dance me under the table.”

“Ninety-five if she’s a day.”

“Ninety-four and I’m seventy-six. So what. We ain’t kids, and we know what we want. More than I can say for you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Curly walked over to a bale of hay and plopped down wishing he still smoked. Stupid habit smoking, but it gave a man something to do with his hands and an excuse not to answer without seeming like stonewalling.

“You danged well know what it means.” Amos sat on the feed bin across from him.

Outside a welcome summer rain began. The distant hills were quickly swallowed by mist as the rain grew heavier. The sound on the barn roof was pleasing to Curly’s ears though he’d heard it thousands, maybe millions of time. Never a time where Montana didn’t need more rain especially in summer.

The steady rain also kind of set him and Amos off into a little world of their own. Friends for well over fifty years, nearer now to sixty, this little man was important to Curly, as important as his own existence. He guessed he didn’t want to lose him and suddenly felt he might. Danged women. Nothin’ but trouble, that’s what they were.

“All right,” he gave up when Amos wasn’t willing to let this go. Bad as a dog with an old bone. “Ain’t really goin’ nowhere with Linda.”

“That yore doin’ or hers?”

“Maybe both. She’s busy a lot getting that little deli of hers going. Still got that brat daughter living with her. Ah hell maybe it’s all an excuse.”

“You just scared is all,” Amos suggested.

“Not of nothin’.”

“Sure ya are. You don’t want to get burned.”

“Been married four times. Seems a man oughta learn something, and I see she ain’t wantin’ nothin’ with me... not with no man right now. She’s been burned too.”

Amos nodded. “All right, if not Linda, how about Marion, Belle’s friend?”

“Belle? Now ya call her Belle?” Curly felt his face pickle up as though he’d eaten something sour.

“She likes it better than Annabelle.”

He looked around for another excuse. “Marion’s older than you.”

Amos shook his head. “Don’t look older than you, ya old coot.”

“Likely had that plastic surgery stuff or maybe that Bo something that they inject in their skin.”

“So what if she has?”

“Well it’s all to fool a man.”

Amos chuckled again. “Never know about that ‘til you find out what’s under the peelings.”

“You talkin’ dirty to me, Amos?” Curly tried to find a shocked look.

“I mean personality, ya dumb...” He stopped before finishing the insult. “Trouble with you, Curly, is ya never did get to know women. Married ‘em but never took the time to get to know one. How about the four of us double dating. Too bad Bozeman lost its drive-in. Loved them in summer. Movie, Dinner. How about it?”

“There ain’t no four of us.”

“Could be. Ask Marion.”

Curly stood up with outrage. “This is going too damned far. First you’re texting. Now wanting to double date like kids. Good God, Amos, how far back you takin’ it with that woman?”

“Well with my kids busy with their kids or off on business, I shore got no family reason to hold me here. Phil runs the ranch better’n me. Hay’s in for the season. As for age, Belle’s more likely to bury me, than me her. Man only got so many years to make good. Only got one nursemaid wanting me to back off. And that ain’t happening. I had one good marriage; and if I get lucky enough to get another, why I’ll just damned well do it.”

Curly let that seep in and fully digest. He could lose his friend. “Where would ya live if ya done that? She’s still got that painting, likely wants to be in Bozeman. I cain’t see her coming out here.” He felt fear now greater than before. He’d be alone because Amos was right, the young ones had their own lives. What did he have?

“I been thinkin’ about that and ain’t ready to take it that far yet. Might be Belle don’t want a husband.”

“She’d be a fool not to want you.” Curly still found it hard to believe their old teacher and his best friend had found love at their ages.

Amos grinned. “As for where it takes you... Wal, I’d say—learning to text. Want Marion’s number or would ya rather it be Linda’s?”

“She’s got one? Hell, I ain’t even got a phone.”

Amos’ smile broadened. “Sure ya do. I bought you one a month ago. Ya just been too stubborn to learn to use it. Ain’t like a seventy-year old man can’t learn new tricks.”

Curly slumped back to the hay bale. “Could ya write it all out for me?”

From Rain...

With characters out of From Here to There and A Montana Christmas, this story is a bridge to a novel in the planning stage for a new romance. A native Oregonian, I am married with grown children and grandchildren and live on our sheep and cattle ranch when not exploring the West.