Category Archives: General Fiction

Dating the It Guy by Krysten Lindsay Hager

Welcome to Kristen who has released a new book; Dating the It Guy.

 

Blurb: Emme is a sophomore in high school who starts dating, Brendon Agretti, the popular senior who happens to be a senator’s son and well-known for his good looks. Emme feels out of her comfort zone in Brendon’s world and it doesn’t help that his picture perfect ex, Lauren seems determined to get back into his life along with every other girl who wants to be the future Mrs. Agretti. Emme is already conflicted due to the fact her last boyfriend cheated on her and her whole world is off kilter with her family issues. Life suddenly seems easier keeping Brendon away and relying on her crystals and horoscopes to guide her. Emme soon starts to realize she needs to focus less on the stars and more on her senses. Can Emme get over her insecurities and make her relationship work? Life sure is complicated when you’re dating the it guy.

Interview with author Krysten Lindsay Hager

Congratulations on your book, tell us a little more about the book. What inspired you to write it?

I was watching a biography on TV about John F. Kennedy Jr. and started wondering what it’d be like to date someone like him back in high school with all the pressures and scrutiny around him. I created Emme, a normal high school girl who begins dating Brendon Agretti, the son of a well-known senator (and the grandson of another senator), who is popular and seems like he leads a charmed life. Brendon begins opening up to her about the pressures that surround him. Meanwhile, Emme begins to feel out of place in his world.

Tell us more about yourself. What else have you published?

I write for teens and preteens and have a large adult following as well. I write the Landry’s True Colors Series, which is a funny series about an eighth grader named Landry who deals with modeling, self-esteem issues, and  middle school. I also write the Star Series which is set in a beautiful beach town where the main character, Hadley Daniels, lives next door to a former teen TV star who seems to bring drama wherever she goes. Dating the It Guy is my first book with Emme Trybus and I’m working on a sequel.

 What are your favorite kinds of stories to read and write?

I like to read funny books that are uplifting where the characters go on a journey and wind up learning about themselves. Those are the same stories I enjoy writing. I like seeing Emme, Landry, and Hadley deal with their feelings of insecurity and learning to accept themselves as they are instead of trying to be something or someone they’re not.

  What is your writing space like?

I just moved a few months ago and I finally have my own office! I just bought bookcases and there’s something about being able to take your books out of storage and display them. I have a lot of cute little toys and stuffed animals that have been given to me that make me smile. I also keep inspirational quotes on my desk.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m working on another young adult project as well as the sequel to Dating the It Guy. I’m also working on some women’s fiction.

What question would you ask yourself? Answer that question.

I would ask myself which character I see myself in most.

I guess I would say Landry is somewhat like me back when I was in grade school. Hadley was never based on me, but rather inspired by a girl I only knew from a distance. I do see myself a bit in the character Pilar Ito from the Star Series though. I would say Emme Trybus has my sense of humor.

Bio: Besides mining her teen years and humiliating moments for her novels, Krysten is also a book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, frenemies, crushes, fame, first loves, and values. She is the author of True Colors, Best Friends…Forever?, Next Door to a Star,  Landry in Like, Competing with the Star (The Star Series: Book 2), and Dating the It Guy. Her debut novel, True Colors, won the Readers Favorite award for best preteen book. Krysten’s work has been featured in USA Today, The Flint Journal, the Grand Haven Tribune, the Beavercreek Current, the Bellbrook Times and on Living Dayton.

Follow Krysten on her website: http://www.krystenlindsay.com/

Amazon author page: http://amzn.to/2fiuY2L

Coming up in 2017 and a Christmas story.

I have lots of things planned for 2017. A young adult dystopian novel coming out late winter, a fantasy novel to be released late spring and a thriller set in the northern winter, ironically being released during the summer. Somewhere in there I’m releasing a small book of poems and mushroom pictures.

While you wait for all these goodies, here’s a Christmas story for you:

Unbelief

The carollers were off key again. Hank took a swig from the bottle in an effort to drown the exuberant caterwauling coming from next door. He glanced at the label Laphroig it said, twelve years aged in oak casks. It didn’t matter Hank had stopped tasting anything after the first bottle. It was his father’s booze anyway, or at least it had been before tonight. Now it was Hank’s.

Marge would be furious. She would say that he should have kept his father’s scotch collection as a souvenir and sipped careful drams on special occasions. Marge wasn’t here either. The love that had burned so hot twenty years ago had slowly dissipated until all that was left was a cool regard and a reluctance to spend money on divorce lawyers. Marge had gone to her sister’s right after the funeral. Candace did have cancer. She needed her older sister’s help to manage her house and four kids. Candace’s husband had no qualms about paying divorce lawyers.

Hank could hear the carollers laughing and talking as they walked past the front door. They wouldn’t stop at this door. Hank’s father hadn’t believed in Christmas. To be truthful, Hank’s father hadn’t believed in much of anything except his own correctness. That he was right in every argument was as much an article of faith with him as transubstantiation was for the Pope. Hank swallowed the last of the Laphroig and carefully dropped the bottle in the blue recycling bin. Hank had brought it from home. His father didn’t believe in recycling either.

Hank staggered out of the kitchen and just managed to catch himself on the doorjamb. He was drunk. Hank hadn’t been drunk since…. well he couldn’t actually remember the last time he got drunk. Seeing all those bottles of scotch, it seemed a reasonable response to the old fart’s death. He manoeuvred himself over to the couch and half sat, half fell onto it.

His father wouldn’t have got drunk on scotch. He was too full of life to waste it getting drunk. He would have walked ramrod straight out to the top of the line Mercedes Benz he drove and started it up. He would have revved the big eight cylinder engine to hear the roar and feel the power in the steering wheel. Then he would have driven away at speeds that made lesser men pale. (He didn’t believe in speed limits.) He would have raced in and out of traffic keeping up a running commentary on the shortcomings of the other drivers, until he hit that tiny patch of black ice. The law of physics didn’t care whether Hank’s father believed in them or not. The bridge abutment cut the car in half. It pretty much cut his father in half too.

Hank lay on the couch and felt tears leaking from his eyes. For all the old man’s faults, Hank would miss him. They had never celebrated Christmas, not all of his wife and family’s pleadings would change his mind, but he wasn’t a miser. At each graduation of Hank’s children the old man had quietly handed his grandchildren a check that would pay their tuition for university. When Hank’s youngest had spent it on carpenter’s tools instead, Hank had expected an explosion. Instead the old man hired his granddaughter to work on the house.

Hank’s tears flowed harder and sobs wracked his body. He was alone in the world. Marge had her life taking care of the kids and her large family. The kids were all independent. They tolerated their mother’s meddling, but Hank didn’t know how to talk to them any more. His father was the last person Hank could pretend needed him. The alcohol that brought out his tears carried him into a merciful sleep.

Hank woke to the sound of singing at the door. He pushed himself to his feet and listened. This wasn’t the raucous carolling from earlier. It was a single, pure voice. Hank could hear each word clearly, but understood none of them. Maybe it was Latin. He looked at the clock on the mantle. Two o’clock in the morning. Who sings Latin at two in the morning? Who sings Latin at all?

Hank through the door open and looked in astonishment at a young child who stood singing with his eyes closed. Hank half expected an angel chorus to leap out, or maybe a camera man. He recognized the tune of one the Christmas carols they sang at Marge’s church. The boy finished the tune and smiled at Hank.

“Merry Christmas,” he said.

“Merry Christmas,” Hank said, “What are you doing here?”

“Singing.”

“It’s two in the morning. Shouldn’t you be in bed?”

“Yup,” the boy said, “but I felt like singing. Mom said this was a sad house. I thought I could cheer it up.”

“Sad,” Hank said, “Yes, it is sad.”

“Why?”

“My father was buried yesterday,” Hank said, “He didn’t believe in Christmas.”

“That is sad,” the boy agreed, though Hank wasn’t sure whether he meant the death or the lack of Christmas. The boy started another song and Hank stood listening as it washed anger he didn’t even know he felt away. The tears started again, but Hank didn’t care. He remembered how his father came to all his school concerts and games. He remembered the great booming laugh. The unbelief only became hard and uncomfortable when Hank’s mother died. She had believed in a great many things, but mostly in her husband. Without her love, his father had become uncompromising. Hank realized his tears were as much for his father’s pain as his own. He thought of his father at the grave side saying ‘Well that’s it then,’ and just walking away.

The boy’s song finished and he beamed at Hank again.

“Thank you,” Hank said.

“Merry Christmas!” the boy shouted than ran away through the snow. Hank looked to be sure he left footprints behind.

“Well that’s it then,” Hank said and closed the door. He walked through the house letting it tell him stories. At first they were of the unbending man that was Hank’s father, but gradually they took him further back to when his mother and father would read to each other from books with long and boring titles. Hank didn’t remember what they said, but he remembered the passion his parents’ voices held. He remembered arguments too. His mother and father often shouted at each other trying to make the other see. The only time Hank remembered seeing his father cry was after one argument when his mother had walked out in mid-sentence. When she returned later, his father had held her tightly and cried unashamedly.

His father did believe in something. He dialled his sister in law’s number that Marge had given him before she left.

“Hello?” Marge sounded barely awake.

“Hello,” Hank said.

“What time is it?”

“About four.”

“What do you want?”

“I just needed to talk to you,” Hank said.

“Alright then,” He heard Marge settle herself more comfortably.

“How’s Candace?”

“She had a rough day,” Marge said, “I made her unplug the phone in her room. She needs her sleep.”

“How are you?”

“I don’t know,” Marge sighed, “I’m scared to death that I’ll lose my sister, but I can’t let her see.”

“Dad was scared of losing Mom, but he showed it.”

“I always thought he never recovered after her death.”

“No, he didn’t,” Hank sighed, “Maybe you should let Candace know you don’t want to lose her. It is easy to let people drift away because we assume they know.”

There was such a long silence that Hank wondered if Marge had fallen asleep.

“Are you coming home today?” she said finally.

“I thought I would come by Candace’s and give you a break.”

“That would be nice.”

“See you later.”

“Later then.” Hank heard the click of the phone hanging up. He hung up the phone then went to find his bed. He decided that he believed in Marge. He lay in bed trying to find the words he would use to explain. Just as he was falling to sleep he whispered.

“Thanks, Dad.”

After the Fever

fever-cover

This story came out of a challenge to write about the upside of a really bad thing.


John ‘Wolfie” Mulholland scrambled away from the latest wave of zombies. They grabbed and pulled at him with their splintered fingers. Mrs. Dougherty was in the front row. She used to give him milk and cookies and listen while he ranted about the latest atrocity from school. Now she was trying to tear him apart. He kicked her knee and she fell to the ground. He felt sorry for her, but not sorry enough to die at her hands.

It just wasn’t fair! John’s rage brought him to his feet and he pushed the shambling neighbours away and made a break for freedom. His flight brought him to the edge of an escarpment where the fence had been crushed by a fallen tree. John ran up the trunk and leapt out into space. The escarpment was a two hundred foot bank of dirt and rock looming over the Humber River. It was possible to ride the loose dirt safely to the bottom. John had done it last year on a dare. His feet struck dirt and started a small landslide. He skipped and jumped to avoid the outcroppings of solid rock and splashed alive into the river. Then the first zombie landed beside him, head first, then it rained zombies. John dove under the water and swam out into the current and let it carry him away.

Still warm enough that John felt no immediate need to get out of the water; he let the river carry him away from the horrible life he already missed. Swine flu induced encephalitis was what the authorities called it – zombie flu. It disinhibited the infected by destroying their upper brain function. There were no survivors, except John who, apparently, was immune.

He finally climbed out of the water and stripped off his wet clothes. His foster parents would have beat him for it. He didn’t care anymore. John used his hands to strip the water out of the fur that covered his body, relieved to be rid of clothes that didn’t fit quite right.

The streetlights were coming on in patches so he started looking for safe shelter for the night. That’s when he heard the screams.

His feet reacted before his brain could carrying him around a corner to where a mob of zombies had cornered a young boy. John yelled in rage and slammed into the group pushing them off the youngster. Zombies growled and mumbled, but they didn’t scream. The kid was also immune.

Some of the crowd turned on John and he found himself fighting for his life. John kicked knees, punched throats and whatever else he could manage. But it wasn’t going to be enough, there were too many of them.

Then a shotgun roared and the mob twitched as pellets tore through it. Again and again the gun blasted until the zombies ran off leaving John gasping on the pavement. The kid put the gun down and came over to him.

“I didn’t think there was anyone else alive,” John thought his voice sounded odd through the ringing in his ears. “Thanks for the help,” he said, “I thought I was a goner.”

“I left the gun in my bag. They caught me by surprise and I didn’t have time to get it.” The gun was slung over the kid’s shoulder. “I won’t make that mistake again, but we need to get somewhere safe.

John faded in and out until the kid dragged him into a house.

John heard a shower running. “Good, there’s still hot water, but it won’t last long. We’d better share.” John stood under the hot water. He closed his eyes as it washed away both gore and despair.

Gentle hands scrubbed his back with soap. John sighed and leaned against the wall.

“Let’s switch.”

John squeezed to the side and opened his eyes to see his companion. The first thing he saw was that his rescuer was no boy. She was at least his age. The second thing was the soft red fur that covered her whole body. She put soap in his hand.

“Scrub.”

John carefully washed all the blood out of that miraculous fur.

“My name’s Peke,” she said, “Short for pekinese.”

“Wolfie,” he said.

“Hmmm,” she said running her finger through his wet brown fur. “Suits you.”

She stepped out of the shower and dried off. Wolfie followed her. She walked past the clothes in the hall and curled up on the sofa. John lounged in a chair across from her.

“It’s called Robson’s Syndrome. It’s rare, only a handful of cases in North America.” She stroked her side. “It causes the fur, and for some reason immunity to the zombie flu.

“Now what?” he asked.

“We wait a few weeks for the fever to pass, then we go and look for survivors. It will take a while but we’ll rebuild. We might even learn something.”

“And what are we supposed to do while we wait?”

She smiled and stuck her tongue out at him. “I am sure we’ll be able to think of something.”

Well,  once you get past the whole end of the world thing, this was turning out to be a pretty good day.

Aggie and the Robot

Aggie walked to the brow of the hill that overlooked the city. Aggie had never been to the city, but she loved to watch the traffic bustle in and out. Airplanes circled overhead waiting their turn to land, the dull roar of their engines muffled almost to silence by the distance. One day she had watched so long that she had seen the lights come on one by one until it was lit up like a fairy kingdom.

Today she arrived at the hill to find an enormous metal man leaning against the edge of the cliff. He was watching the city.

“Excuse me,” she said politely, “you are blocking my view.”

With a great grinding and clanging noise the metal man turned to face her.

“Who are you?” he demanded in a voice that was so deep that Aggie could feel it in her teeth.

“I’m Aggie,” she said, “I live with my mom and dad over there.” She waved her arm vaguely over her shoulder.

“You should go home,” rumbled the iron man. “This is no place for little girls.”

“This is my place,” Aggie said, “And you are rude.”

“Rude?”

“I told you my name. You are supposed to say ‘Pleased to meet you Aggie my name is…'” she paused, “What is your name?”

“Name?” said the metal man, “I have no name. I am a robot.”

“What is a robot?” asked Aggie.

“A robot is….” the metal giant paused. “I am a robot.”

“Where are you from?”

“From? I am from nowhere. I was built over there from metal and glass.” The giant man pointed into the mountains.

“Why?”

“Why?” rumbled the robot, “To destroy the city.”

“The city?” cried Aggie. “Why would you want to destroy the city? It’s wonderful.”

“My master hates the people in the city. He says they are evil and selfish.”

“But even if they are selfish, they don’t deserve to be destroyed.”

“My master wants them destroyed. So he built me to destroy them.”

“But you can’t destroy the city.”

“It is what I am made to do,” said the robot. “I must do what my master made me for.”

“But it’s wrong.”

“I don’t know wrong. I only know obedience.”

Aggie walked to the edge of the hill and looked out over the city. She felt tears forcing their way out of her eyes. The cars and planes blurred. She thought of all those buildings broken and burning; people hurt and crying.

“No!” she shouted at the robot. “You can’t do it. Your master is wrong.”

The robot bent down further with more clanking. She could smell oil and electricity.

“I am not built to know what is wrong. I am built to obey. I cannot disobey.”

“I disobey my dad sometimes.”

“Your dad didn’t build you well.”

“Dad didn’t build me,” laughed Aggie, “I was born.”

“What is born?”

“I’m not sure. I asked my dad once and he just turned red.”

The robot shook his head.

“Whether born or made, we must do as we are told.” He turned again to look across to the city. The sun glinted on windows and winked from airplanes. A breeze blew the faintest sounds of activity to the hill.

“We start out doing as we are told, because we don’t know anything,” Aggie stepped up to the edge of the cliff. “But the more we learn, the more we need to choose for ourselves.”

Aggie heard the metal grind as the robot nodded his head.

“Come with me,” he said and held out his hand. Fearfully, she stepped onto his hand. He curled his fingers to protect her. “We will go and learn.”

Aggie was sure that his footsteps shook the earth, but she couldn’t feel them away up in the air cradled in the metal fist of the robot.

“I am listening to them,” said the robot after a while. “They are laughing because some geese are crossing the highway and traffic is stopped.” He walked on.

“They have seen us,” he rumbled. “But they won’t attack because they see you. They won’t hurt a little girl even to save themselves.” They arrived at the edge of the city. Police cars and fire trucks were lined up across their path. Planes circled overhead.

“It is time,” the robot said, “I must obey.”

“But you can’t.”

“Then you must stop me.”

The whole city watched what happened next. How a little girl stood in front of the colossus with tear streaked face and pushed on the robot”s foot. Miraculously it tottered, then fell backward with a great crash and lay still.

“He could not choose to disobey,” Aggie told them, “but he could choose to fail.”

Missing: Lessons from Fiori Book 2

Elle Burton:Missing, the second book in the Elle Burton series by Peggy Mound McAloon picks the action from the first book. Elle and Jimmy, the reformed bully need to rescue Elle’s brother, all while keeping the Fiori a secret. With strong characterization and a plot line which is about much more than the rescue, this is a terrific book for children as it deals with common issues of childhood without interfering with a rollercoaster of a plot.  -Alex McGilvery of celticfrogreviews.

Missing Banner

Have you ever had to sacrifice something to bring back something or someone you love? Peggy McAloon is here today to talk about the second book in her Lessons from Fiori series, Missing. Elle’s brother has been kidnapped. Will she be able to save him?

About the Book

Kidnapping. Monsters. Magic.

Missing Cover for Kindle 12 1 15Elle’s desperate to find her kidnapped brother. She teams up with the winged warriors from the dimension of Fiori to save him, but JJ isn’t the only one in danger. What will Elle sacrifice to bring her brother home? Can she fulfill the ancient prophecy and restore the magic of the Bronze Pendant?

You will love this Coming of Age, action-packed fantasy for middle-grade readers. Elle Burton’s goal is to rescue her brother. What she discovers is pure evil. The author provides a female role model who strives to overcome her flaws and inspire kids everywhere.

“Missing” blends the magic of a fairytale with the contemporary realities of the world today’s youth inhabit. You will discover a new world order through the journey of a young girl who exhibits both compassion and jaw-dropping courage in her quest to fulfill an ancient prophecy. Find yourself caught in the ultimate struggle between good and evil. “Missing” is the second book in the “Lessons from Fiori” series.

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01E5Z668U Continue reading Missing: Lessons from Fiori Book 2

Gold

Sascha limped into the bar and took a table where she could sit with her back to a wall facing the door. A young girl came and deposited a mug of beer on the table. Sascha used a scrap of sleeve wetted with beer to clean the blood from her face. The girl appeared again and left a cleaner cloth. Shascha smiled thanks and went back to her ablutions. She drank what was left of the beer and settled in for a long wait.

A polished steel shield hung on the wall. From what she could see of the bartender in it he looked more troll than human. Sascha wondered what he thought of her. She knew even with her best efforts, blood caked in her eyebrows and hair, turning fiery-red dark. Fortunately none of the cuts and tears in her clothes were in places which could cause trouble.

Well after moonrise, Jacko slid into the seat across from her. The room had filled up and they were able to talk under the boisterous crowd.

“What happened to you?”

“A couple of bravos thought they needed my purse more than I did.”

Jacko winced, “Did you have to let them bleed all over you?”

“One thought he could hold me while his partner finished me. I had to cut his throat.” She shrugged. “It was messy.

“They must have been desperate.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“After all that you didn’t even check their purses?”

“Whatever else I might be I am not a thief.”

“You could have taken enough for some new clothes.”

Sascha stared at him until Jacko looked down.

“OK, OK, You’ll do anything for gold but steal it. I don’t get you, Sasch.”

“You don’t need to get me.” She leaned forward across the stained wood of the table. “Did you get the information I asked you about?”

“I did, the old man’s holed up in the old monastery outside the south wall.”

“Thanks” She dropped a handful of coins on the table. “Buy yourself a decent meal.”

Her stained and ragged clothing helped Sascha blend into the shadows well enough the guards didn’t notice her climb over the south wall. The moon shone bright enough to reveal handholds, but not so bright as to make her stand out. She reached the bottom and stretched out the cramps in her hands.

The place was more ruin than monastery. Walls and roofs now jumbles of stone. The only building still standing was the crypt for the monks who never left their retreat even in death. She pushed on the door and found it barred from the inside. She smiled, neither corpses or ghosts had any reason to bar the door. With the blade of her thinnest knife she lifted the bar and eased the door open.

The faint gleam of moonlight didn’t show anything but dust and bones. She entered the crypt and followed the faint scent of cheese. An old man waited for her.

“Robson sent you.”

“He wants the stone.”

“Ah,” the old man nodded. “Want some cheese?”

Sascha shrugged and took the chunk of cheese from his hand. She bit into it and almost cried at its sharp flavour against her tongue.

“There is water if you wish to clean up.” He tossed her a bundle of cloth. “My fellows won’t mind if you borrow a robe. The smell of death disturbs me.”

“You’re afraid of dying?” Sascha asked through the splashes of water on her face.

“No.”

“I was hoping you would be. ”

“So I would just give you the stone?”

“I don’t want to kill you.”

“But you will if you have to.”

“I will do what I need for Gold.”

The old man looked at her sadly.

“I don’t see greed in your eyes.”

“Nonetheless.”

He reached into his robe and puled out a tiny bundle wrapped in silk.

“Silk is the only substance that the stone won’t effect. Be careful.” He handed it to her.

Sascha allowed the silk to move from the stone and touched it against a bone that lay on the floor. It turned into pure yellow gold.

“Why?”

“You are at the very edge of darkness. I didn’t want to push you over.”

“Then you understand.”

“Goodbye Sascha, you’re almost free.”

“Without Gold, I will never be free.”

“Remember the silk.” The crypt went dark.

Sascha found herself outside the crypt. She shook her head and patted the small weight of the stone in her pocket.

######

Robson was waiting for her in the room he called his throne room.

“You have it?”

“Gold first.”

He snapped his fingers and one of the thugs beside him pulled a little girl from behind Robson; her hair the colour fine gold.

“Mommy!” the girl cried.

“Hi Gold.”

Robson took the little girl’s hand and kept her from running to her mother.

“The stone first.”

“This is the last time,” Sascha said holding up the tiny bundle.

“Sascha, Sascha, you can trust me. Let me see the stone, then we’ll talk.” He let go of Gold and the girl ran to her mother.

Sascha tossed the stone to Robson and swept up Gold in her arms. She used the bit of silk to wipe the tears from her daughter’s eyes.

Cheese and Whisky

Joe leaned his cane against the counter and put the kettle on for tea. He put some biscuits on a plate and sliced some cheese to go with it. After a moment’s thought, he put a jar of jam out as well. Cups and plates completed the setting. The door bell rang; he took a final glance at the little kitchen. It would do.

He picked up the cane on the way to the front door. A young women stood on the other side of the door. Everyone looked young to Joe now, but she couldn’t be thirty yet. Youth glowed in her red hair and blue eyes. She smiled when she saw him. Joe liked that, even better were the faint smile lines around those blue eyes. He revised his estimate of her age upwards a decade.

“Hello, Mr. Baldur,” she said, “My name is Gina, I talked to you on the phone yesterday.”

“I remember,” Joe said and opened the door, “Come on in. I’ve put water on.” He led the way back to the kitchen. She put her purse under her chair and laid a pad and pencil on the table.

“Do you mind if I tape the interview?” Gina asked, “It’s helpful to make sure that I don’t misquote you.”

“Fine by me,” Joe said, “What do you take?”

“Just milk thanks,” Gina said as she fished a tiny recorder out of her purse and placed it at the top of the pad. “Gina Stapopolous, interviewing Joe Baldur, January 28, 2010 at his home. Anything you don’t want recorded just let me know and I will stop the recorder.”

“Thanks for coming by Gina,” Joe said, “It’s nice to have a new audience for my old stories.”

“I should start off with a few questions then. How old are you?”

“According to my birth certificate I am one hundred and fifty one this year.”

“That’s an extraordinary age Mr. Baldur.”

“Please, call me Joe.”

“OK then, Joe,” she said, “Do you have any other way of proving your age? It isn’t that I doubt you, but the oldest person on record is one hundred and seventeen and they live in a nursing home.”

“I’m afraid that anyone that might remember the day of my birth is long gone.” Joe smiled her. “I have no interest in trying to claim any record. I’m not interested in going through the media circus that would entail.”

“Yet you took my call and invited me here…”

“I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to have a pretty young woman give me her undivided attention.”

Gina laughed and marked a point in the air with her finger.

“So tell me what it’s like being your age?”

“Boring.”

“Boring?”

“Not many people are interested in the elderly anymore. Getting other people to take care of your parents or grandparents is big business. Put them in a safe place and get on with the important work of living. No one gives much thought to what it’s like for the old people who’re pushed to the edges. The last decent conversation I had was with the paper boy. He was collecting his money and told me all about the hockey tournament he’d played in on the weekend. That was five years ago. Now the paper is delivered by a girl in a car and I pay online for the paper.”

“Sounds lonely.”

“That too,” Joe admitted. He pushed the plate of biscuits toward his guest. “Help yourself.”

Gina took a biscuit and put a slice of cheese on it.

“So if you are bored and lonely, why live by yourself and not talk about your age.”

“All the fuss about my age would just add annoyed to bored and lonely. I don’t want to be Methuselah.”

“Methuselah?”

“The only thing anyone knows about him is that he lived to 969 years and was Lamech’s dad. That would be me. I would just be ‘the old guy’.”

“So, what do you want to be known for?”

“That’s a good question.” Joe took a long sip of his tea and looked up at the ceiling. Gina picked up the biscuit on her plate and took a bite.

“O my, this is good,” Gina said, “Where did you buy them?”

“I make them myself,” Joe said, “I can teach you how.”

“Really?” Gina gave herself a shake and looked at Joe. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to distract you from your answer. What do you want to be known for?”

“A baker of really good biscuits wouldn’t be a bad start,” Joe said, “Try the jam, it’s from the strawberries I grow out back.”

Gina dutifully spread some of the ruby red jam on her biscuit and bit into it. She closed her eyes and sighed.

“Heaven,” she said, “So what else can you do?”

“I make most of my own food from scratch,” Joe said, “It isn’t like I don’t have time to give what I’m doing my full attention.” He bit into his own biscuit and sighed.

“That sounds like good advice. My dad used to tell me something similar.”

“Sounds like he’s a smart fellow.”

“He is, but he lives on the other side of the country now and I don’t see him much.”

“Don’t have time?”

“He’s pretty busy too,” Gina said, “He’s always off golfing with his buddies.”

Joe just looked at her.

“All my friends are my age. They are just happy not to have their parents telling them how to live their lives anymore.”

“Yes, that is a weakness of the elderly.”

“Not just the old,” Gina said, “You wouldn’t believe how many times my girlfriend tries to tell me what to do with my life.”

“Is her advice good?”

Gina laughed, “Heck no, she’s into relationships like an alcoholic is into beer.”

“Right, so it’s about the effect not the taste.” Joe took another bite of his biscuit. “So you put up with bad advice from your friend, but not good advice from your father?”

“Just because he’s older doesn’t mean the advice is better.”

“True.” Joe got up and opened the fridge, pulled out a tiny block of cheese and brought it back to the table. He carefully cut a slice. “Try this.”

Gina took the tiny sliver of cheese from him and popped into her mouth. Joe watched as something close to ecstasy passed across her face.

“What is that?” Gina whispered.

“That is a ten year old cheddar,” Joe said and passed her another sliver. “Some things, like cheese and whisky improve with age. If you have the patience and the knowledge to enjoy the difference.”

“And you’re saying that people are one of those things.”

“Some people, in the right conditions,” Joe said and cut himself a sliver of cheese. “I guess what I want is to keep improving with age.”

Gina looked at him and smiled.

“I think I could say the same thing.”

“It’s no easier at my age.” Joe cut her another slice of the cheese.

“But you manage.”

“I hope so.”

Gina pushed the stop button on the recorder. She looked at the blank pad that sat in front of her and picked up the pencil.

“You offered to teach me how to make these biscuits, how about you give me the recipe, then you can teach me how to make it work.”

“Only if you promise to make some for your dad and….”

“And?”

“Come back to visit me.” Joe looked at her, his heart thumping with nerves. He didn’t want to be disappointed again.

“I think I can promise you that,” Gina said.

Joe grinned, “I’m feeling a hundred years younger now.” He went to the cupboards and began pulling out bowls and ingredients. “The trick to good biscuits is in how you mix them…”

First Boy

This story was a response to a challenge to write about a first pet. I took a little different slant on the idea and come up with this.


 

The place smelled like a dozen dogs had peed in the corners; about right for a dog pound. Nicer than some places I’ve stayed. When you’re a pit bull you see a lot bad spots. The yard had real grass even. I was alone when they brought in a litter from a puppy mill. Sad cases every one of them. Breaks my heart how people abuse us in the name of having a pet.

One pup broke loose from the squirming mound drinking from their mom, and staggered over to the cage that divided us.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hey,” I said and eyeballed him from where I lay on my mat. The rest of the pups were black, but this one had black blotches on grey fur. Reminded me of this Aussie I once met. The kid had these crazy blue eyes. All pups have blue eyes, but I wondered if his wouldn’t glow a little when the humans turned off the lights.

“What are you doing?” He tried pushing his nose through the mesh, but the humans were onto that and it was too small for even his nose. I crawled over to put my nose against the mesh and we breathed each other in.

“Sleeping, kid.” I said after we’d done sniffing each other.

“Where are we?” He shook himself and peed on the floor.

“This is the pound,” I said, “The beginning for some, end for others. You might want to pee over on the paper there,” I pointed with my nose. “Humans are funny that way.”

“So what about the humans?” he said. “I don’t need ’em”

“Yeah, kid,” I said, “you do. I was only a little older than you when I got my first human. Boy came in and didn’t know a pit bull from a poodle, He wanted me on account of the black patch on my eye. It reminded him of some movie he’d just seen. I was going to be his very first pet.”

“What’s a movie?”

“Beats me, kid. Never seen one. Anyway they put a collar on me and he led me away on a leash. He named me Patch; proudest day of my life. I had no clue. The boy put out some of that paper in a box and a bowl of food and left me there. All night I howled in terror. I had no idea where I was or what was going on, and I missed my mom and my litter mates. The mom came and shushed me, then the dad came and yelled at me. The boy came after them and carried me up to his room. Don’t tell Mom. He whispered to me. I slept on his pillow. He took me outside in the morning to do my business on the grass.”

“I thought you said to do it on the paper?”

“On the paper when you’re inside and a pup, but outside the rest of the time. Nothing makes a human happier than a dog peeing on the grass.”

“Oh.”

I could see the wheels turning in the kid’s head. This pup was a smart one. He stumbled back to the pile and attached himself to his mother. She hardly had the energy to look at me. Poor girl was worn out, but then I was pretty worn out myself.

Woke up next morning to the sound of pee on paper and opened my eye to see the kid whizzing like a pro on the paper. He pranced over to me.

“Tell me more about humans, Patch.”

“Sure, kid.” I got up and stretched, then shook the cobwebs out of my head. Enough exercise for the day. I lay down on my mat. “Well, soon as I learned to pee on the grass, the boy started teaching me tricks.”

“What’s that?”

“That’s when a human tells you to do something silly, then gives you a treat, food usually, but I’d do tricks just to get him to scratch behind my ears. The boy, his name was Sam, taught me to sit, and stay, and rollover, simple stuff really. When I got good at those he started teaching me to shake a paw or play dead. We had this game where he’d put a biscuit on my nose and I’d balance it until he said Go then I’d throw it in the air and catch it. That game was my favourite thing in the world. Most of the time we just ran around and wrestled.”

“Wow,” The kid panted at me, a natural. “So, then what happened?”

“Sam went back to school. That’s some place all humans have to go. It’s like peeing on the grass. Doesn’t make sense, but they do it anyway. I waited by the door for him to come home and we’d go play in the yard or he’d take me for a walk. Every night I slept on his bed.”

Thinking about those days made me want to howl like a puppy. You can’t go back, you just can’t go back. The kid wandered off and piled into his litter mates, and left me with my thoughts. If I could only do that one thing over again. I closed my eye and snoozed a while. To be honest, just watching that much energy made me tired. Hadn’t thought about Sam in ages. Even if humans didn’t grow as fast as us, he’d be a lot older; maybe even finished with that school thing.

The door opened, and some humans came in. A little girl ran over to the cage with the puppies.

Look, aren’t they cute?

The kid pulled himself out of the pile and wobbled over to her.

He’s an unusual colour, looks like a seal.

He’s a catahoula.

Well, wouldn’t you know, the kid’s something more than an odd looking mutt.

Can I pick him up? Please?

The pound human opened the door of the cage and put the pup in the girl’s arms.

“Remember, pee only on the paper!” I said to him. I know what pups are like when their excited. Sure enough he wriggled away from her and went to pee on the paper like a champ. She picked him up again when he came back.

“Lick her face, kid,” I said. “They can’t resist that.”

He did what I said, and the girl laughed. Sam used to laugh like that. I put my head on my paws and watched them.

I want this one, Mom.

Are you sure? We haven’t looked anywhere else.

Please, Mom? I want this one. I’ll call him Patches.

Ok, Sue, if you want.

You’ll have to wait a week for him to be weaned and get his first shots…

The adult humans walked away while the girl cuddled the pup. A little while later they came back. They put a collar on the Patches, then left. The girl walked backwards out the door waving at him.

The pup came running over to me.

“Did you see that?” he said. “This thing feels funny.” He scratched at the collar.

“Wear it with pride, Patches,” I said. “The collar tells the humans that you belong.”

“Wow.”

“Listen, Patches,” I said. “I have to tell you something, so you don’t make the mistake I did.”

He sat down and wagged his tail at me.

“Sam took me for a walk one day. I was grown by then. Humans grow slower than we do, so Sam wasn’t much bigger. We met another kid. He was bigger than Sam. I could tell Sam was afraid of him. The other kid came over with his friends. They yelled at Sam and pushed him around. I growled at the kids. Sam told me to stop. One kid laughed at Sam and punched him in the face. I bit the kid.”

“That’s brave,” Patches said.

“No,” I said, “it was bad. We mustn’t bite a human. We can growl or bark, but we can never, never bite, especially a young human.

“The kids ran away screaming and Sam took me home. Later that night a human came and took me away from Sam. They brought me to a place like this one. I went off with another human. He liked me cause I was a pit bull. He tied me on a chain and left me in his yard. I think I went a little crazy. Another human bought me and put in a worse place. I don’t want to tell you, or I’ll give you nightmares.”

“Is that when you lost your eye?”

“Yeah,” I said, “my eye and more than a little of my soul.”

“So pee on the grass and don’t bite,’ Patches said and panted happily.

“That about sums it up,” I said. “Just make your human happy.”

The week went by in a flash. Patches went off with his girl and the rest of the pups went too. Even the old girl went to a new home. I ate my meals, did my business on the grass though the humans had to help me out there. The place stank of pee, but I didn’t care. There were worse places. I’d been to most of them.

I dreamed Sam put a biscuit on my nose. We stared at each other. All the horrible things melted away. Every part of me waited for that magic word. The one that would make everything right.

Go!


 

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leaperalex2015leaperstale10My newest book is a collection of stories. The title story follows the life of a frog who must do the impossible to protect his pond. We also follow the adventure of a wolf who is forced to play detective to learn the fate of a bull moose. Two other stories round out the book bringing meteors and red balloons into character’s lives with unexpected results. Look for it Novemember 10th on Amazon and other ebook sellers. The hard copy version will be available by the end of November through Lulu.

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