Sunday, March 18, 2018

Errant Thoughts Story, Part 20

Danny coughed nervously, straightening his shirt and glancing over his shoulder; momentarily considering making a run for it. Mentally telling himself to get a grip, he squared his shoulders and pressed the doorbell to the Fray house. When the door was opened by Melody, he smiled with relief that proved to be short-lived as she leaned forward and whispered, "I'm so sorry."

Suddenly she was swept aside by a woman in a cloud of perfume who gripped his arm and pulled him inside. Quickly, he found himself seated on a sofa, feeling like he should have worn something much nicer for the occasion. Although Melody herself was wearing her usual style, her parents looked ready to go out to a fancy party. Within minutes of conversing, Danny was uncertain if they were trying to impress him or put him down. Retreating in confusion, he kept his head down and wished the evening over.

Partway through the meal, he glanced over at Melody and saw her misery. He became furious at her parents for putting her in that position; then, in a moment of clarity, realized it was his fault also. These people had invited him into their home and offered him the best meal he had eaten in a long time; he was their guest but was behaving like a lout. Setting his fork down, he caught his hostess's eye and said, "These potatoes are delicious. Could I get the recipe for my mom?"

The flash of relief on her face reinforced the guilt he was feeling for making things worse, but Danny set that aside and concentrated on behaving the way he was taught. Now that there were active participants, conversation soon shifted to the economy. "Now Ted, you know it's not a depression; officially it's just a dip in the markets, a mild recession at worst."

"Calling it that doesn't change reality! We had to take pay cuts to keep our jobs and remember what happened when the mayor suggested he should get a raise. There was almost a riot! In fact, pretending there isn't a serious problem is just making things worse. We'd be better off if the government admitted the facts and got busy finding a solution. Or else the whole country could end up like the Turners." Melody's father was an average looking man, but at the moment was red-faced with outrage.

"What happened to the Turners?" Melody asked; turning to explain to Danny, "They live across the street."

Her mother replied, "Apparently, he lost his job but couldn't bear to tell his family. He kept leaving like he was going to work every morning and she kept spending money like normal. Then, all on one day, their cars were repossessed and the bank came and changed the locks on the house and they were left with nothing."

"It makes you wonder, doesn't it?" Danny mused. Noticing the others were waiting for him to expand on his thought, he continued, "How many other people are busy trying to keep up appearances while things are spiraling out of control in private? It's something my mom has talked about before; how we don't see the private troubles from the outside, things like alcoholism or abuse."

Melody chimed in, "So, does the economy make those troubles worse or do they become less important? I mean, would an addict go in deeper or pull herself out to save her family?"

"I'm afraid it would usually get worse. Solving those problems takes a lot of hard work and determination. Finding the strength while under even more stress?" Mrs. Fray shook her head sadly. "So, Danny, Melody says you're going to join the Navy?"

Recognizing this as a hot topic, Danny replied with a steady gaze, "Yes, ma'am. I'm fortunate that I can still pursue my dream career. My mom is disappointed I won't be able to go to college, but she knows that option will still be available if I chose later."

"Why not take out student loans?"

"We talked about it, but after calculating the costs, interest rates and years it would take to pay them off and weighing that against the unknown job situation, it was too much risk. Especially since the Navy is what I really wanted."

Mrs. Fray's expression had soured, as if she wanted to argue the point further, but her husband changed the subject and the moment passed.

At the end of the evening Melody walked Danny to the door and, as he turned to go, kissed him lightly on the cheek. "Thank you."

Blushing, he said, "I'm sorry it took me so long."

She just smiled and watched as he pedaled away into the dark.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Another Project

This one I had a bit of fun with.

It's a scarf for a Green Bay Packers fan. Lots of mistakes because even an 'easy' project can be difficult for me, but I think she will get a kick out of it.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Calling my muse

This is what I do when I'm letting a story process in the back of my mind.

It keeps my hands and eyes busy while leaving my thoughts free to work out dialogue or plot.

This one was a 2000 piece puzzle so it gave me many hours. The next one is a 5000(!!!!) piece that my sister gave me for my birthday. It will be tricky because it's so large and won't fit on the table completely. I'll have to sort it out in sections. Already looking forward to it. :)

Errant Thoughts Story, Part 19

Dave finished hoeing a row of beets and looked over the garden with a smile. He wondered why everyone didn't have a garden when it worked this well. Wiping the sweat from his face he paused to check on the chicken pen; six busy chicks were scratching the grass and chasing gnats. Crouching down to admire them he could see their wings and tails were fully feathered and they were growing nicely.

Pulling the list of addresses out of his pocket, he noted the next garden was two blocks away. With the hoe slung over his shoulder, he set off, waving to Mrs. Burnett as he went. As usual, she hurried to the door and called him back for a glass of lemonade before he left. Everyone on his list was elderly or disabled, so he knew most of them from the boxed food deliveries. While a very few were genuinely grumpy, the rest looked forward to his arrival and loved to chat. Some came out and talked non-stop while he worked, others waited with cold drinks for him to finish. Today, Mrs. Burnett pushed a handful of radishes across the table and insisted he take them. Gratefully, Dave thanked her; knowing she couldn't afford to tip him money, but would be terribly hurt if he refused and any addition to their food stores would be welcome at home.

His next stop was Mr. Haskell, who would have a lawn chair in the shade so he could direct Dave's work. Approaching the house, Dave stopped in dismay; there were bees flying and crawling all around the sidewalk. He had never seen anything like it and was afraid to go any closer. The door swung open and Mr. Haskell leaned out, "Come on in! Those are just ground bees. Don't mind them."

Dave eased cautiously past the bees, staying on the grass and as far away as he could. "What are ground bees?"

"They live in the ground instead of a hive. Those out there live under my sidewalk. Don't worry, they aren't aggressive." He led the way through the house to the backyard, still talking. "Of course, any bees are good for the garden but the city won't let us keep hives, so I'm happy to have ground bees."

"How does a bee help the garden?"

"Pollinating! Actually, any bug that doesn't damage the plants helps carry the pollen around, but bees are my favorite." With one of his characteristic sudden topic changes, he continued, "You're a bit early, still staying for lunch?"

"Yes, sir. I would like to." For three days each week Dave worked gardens and was settling into a routine of where he would be at certain times. This was the third week that had him at Mr. Haskell's around lunchtime. Naturally, he brought his own lunch but it was nice to eat at a table with ice water and interesting conversation.

Settling down to the work, Dave carefully hoed between tomato and pepper plants. When asked why he only planted those, Mr. Haskell had explained that he liked making his own salsa and this would give him enough ingredients to make an abundance.

"What are you thinking about so deeply over there?"

Dave jumped a little at the sudden question before answering, "I was thinking how each of the gardens is different and wondering what all the rest look like. You know I tilled a lot of plots up but I only get to help out a with a few."

"Huh, I can guarantee that some of them are already lost to the weeds. That always happens when people start gardening for the first time and don't realize it takes work."

"Will they give up?"

"Some will. Some might even put in the hours to save what they planted this year and learn from their mistakes. When you finish here can you bring in half a dozen rhubarb stalks? I'm going to start my lunch."

Later, over the meal, talk turned from gardening to harvest. "Listen, Dave, I could use a hand with the salsa this year and you could learn how to make it. What do you say?"

"Sure, I think it would be fun to see the whole process. It will have to be on a Saturday though." Something about the idea of taking a plant from a seedling all the way to making food out of the produce struck a chord in Dave.

When he got home that evening, digging into his backpack for the radishes, he found six rhubarb stalks neatly washed and packed in a plastic bag.

Part 20

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Errant Thoughts Story, Part 18

Susan sorted through the boxes of knick-knacks that had been dug out of storage; hoping she could make the apartment a little more comfortable. Iris would be arriving in the afternoon and Susan found herself becoming more nervous as the time grew closer. What if she turned out to be casually racist like Susan's great-grandparents had been? Even remembering some of the things they had said made her cringe.

Forcing these negative and fruitless thoughts from her mind, she concentrated on the latest letter from her brother and the good news that his wife was responding well to treatment. She smiled at the not-so-subtle hint he had made by including a stamped envelope with his letter so she would write back with all her news. He was right to prod her to communicate; under stress she retreated more and more into her shell. And, with everything going on in his life, she needed to let him know that she was managing so he wouldn't waste energy worrying about her.

Humming softly to herself, Susan finished placing items on the shelves and stepped back to study the result.  The shelf unit was a find in itself; gold and white, it originally had glass shelves, but those were missing when Danny found it by the trash. They had re-purposed some wire mesh to make new shelves and here it was being useful again.

A thump at the door turned her around as Max, the landlord, carried in a large, oak rocking chair. "Ugh," he grunted as he set it down. "They made things solid in the old days. I've got her clothes and the rest in the truck. Bonnie is taking Iris out to lunch so we have time to put them away."

Susan helped him carry in the few boxes of belongings and began hanging clothes in the closet. "Ahem." She looked up in surprise to find him standing in the bedroom door looking uncomfortable. "I hope you don't find this too much work but Bonnie is worried that Iris might fall and hurt herself. She has a shower chair and I've taken off the bathroom lock so hopefully there won't be any problems. She doesn't get up before 9:00 because, according to her, all the good shows are on at night."

"That's alright then; I'll cook her breakfast while she showers and make sure she gets her medication for the day. Anything else?"

"Remember that Sundays are for family, so we'll take her to our place for the day and you can relax."

"Okay, but if there is a change in schedule, just let me know and I'll be here." Susan smiled ruefully as she thought about how much of her time would be spent cooking in the future, but it was honest, needed work and she was grateful.

Not long thereafter, Bonnie and Iris arrived. Susan hung back, feeling a little shy while the newest tenant was settled on the rocking chair. She was interested to observe a tall, well-padded woman with wispy, white hair. There was something a bit vague about the way she looked around the room, but she seemed content to roll with the changes in her life and, when introduced, smiled pleasantly.

After arranging to return at five to cook supper, Susan escaped back to her own apartment. In the bathroom, she stared at herself in the mirror and delivered a pep-talk, "This ought to shake you out of your rut and feeling sorry for yourself. It's an adventure and change is growth. Now give her a chance to become a friend." With a firm nod she decided to go for a run to keep her mood up.

Part 19

Monday, March 5, 2018

Whacky Weather

Last night was thunderstorms with rain; today, snow, snow and more snow. Difficult to measure as it blew on the way down.

I received a request from a family friend today and loaded up the incubator with 42 eggs. In three weeks I'll see how well the roosters are doing their jobs. ;) Normally I would pick out clean eggs, but the warm spell meant all the eggs were muddy. I can only hope being wiped off won't hinder the development and hatching.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Errant Thoughts Story, Part 17

Dave pushed the lawn mower to the far end of the church lot. He normally didn't work on Saturdays, but they had been so busy that Hank had asked him to come in and catch up on some of the regular chores. Dave didn't mind mowing, with the noise protectors in his ears he could zone out and let his thoughts drift. At the end of the property, he turned and lined up the mower to make a neat straight line back. Then, looking up, he spotted a woman marching towards him, waving a purse with a furious expression on her face. Reluctantly, he throttled down the mower and let his ear guards dangle around his neck.

"How dare you ignore me like that! I have better things to do than chase you all over. I'm an important person in the congregation; you had better show me proper respect or I'll see you never work here again." Folding her arms, she glared at him.

Keeping his expression neutral was a battle, but the only sign of Dave's rising temper was the flaring of his nostrils. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Pruett. I didn't hear you. How can I help?" He asked the last question quickly, hoping to defuse the tirade she was drawing breath for.

"Humph! I want to pick out my chicks now. Give me the key."

"I'm not allowed to hand out chicks. Hank said only he is to do that."

"Quite right, but I'm not asking for your help. Just give me the key and I'll do it myself."

Silently, he groaned, knowing this was about to go very badly. "I can't give you the key, ma'am. I'm sorry. Let me go get Hank for you."

Seeing her face flush dark red and her eyes narrow dangerously, Dave to took his heels and ran for meeting area attached to the church. Inside, he found Hank deep in a pile of paperwork with a couple of the committee members. "Please, Hank? I need help."

Frowning at the interruption, Hank peered at him over his glasses. "Well, what is it? The lawn mower?"

Glancing nervously at the others, Dave wished he could talk privately and said, "Um, no. Could you come outside?"

After hearing the youth's explanation, Hank sighed. "Why don't you go work in the garden while I deal with this. Better if the sound of the mower doesn't upset the chicks." What he didn't say was it was better not to remind Mrs. Pruett of Dave's presence at the moment.

It was a good hour before Hank returned to the garden where Dave was hoeing diligently. Shaking his head, he considered how much to tell his young helper. That woman was a thorn in his side; stirring up trouble and gossip. She had a faction of the the congregation riled up about employing someone who didn't attend church. Hank knew, though, that what really made her angry was her husband being unemployed. He snorted, as if Mr. Pruett would be willing to work in the dirt for minimum wage. Actually, he might do it just to get away from his wife, but then she would start pushing for him to be paid what he was 'worth' and things would get even worse.

Calling Dave over, Hank smiled at him and said, "Now, don't you worry about anything. I'm happy with your work. Understand?" Nodding to acknowledge the look of relief that crossed the young man's face, he continued, "Go ahead and finish mowing, then you can clock out."

"Are you sure? Shouldn't I do the trimming around the gravestones too?"

"Hmm, you're right. It doesn't look tidy unless it's all done evenly."

"I'll take care of it, Hank. Thanks." With a wide smile, Dave strode back to finish mowing; confident once more.

Part 18