Auntie Ding-Dong

There once was a woman named Mrs. Dingle. The children who lived on her block liked to call her “Auntie Ding-Dong” because she often rang their doorbells. Mrs. Dingle, you could say, had “an enlarged heart.” That is, a heart full of sympathy for busy mothers and families under stress.

She would bake loaves of delicious bread, put them in baskets and take them around to neighbours who were going through a tough time. If she heard a mother was sick or just had a baby, Auntie Ding-Dong helped the family in her little way, carrying in a casserole or pot of soup, feeding the children, doing the washing up.

One neighbour boy tells how he loved to meet Mrs. Dingle as she walked down the streets carrying her basket of bread. She always had a smile and a cheerful hello for everyone. One day when his own mother was in bed with the ‘flu Auntie Ding-Dong rang their doorbell, handing them a large, still-warm loaf. The aroma made his mouth water.

Auntie Ding-Dong had been widowed when she was still quite young, so never had children of her own. But rather than spend her days hoping for the sympathy of others, she found fulfillment in helping other mothers when they were overwhelmed by the needs of their families. Someone once asked her whether she ever felt sorry for herself, to which she replied, “Why, I haven’t got the time!”

Note:
I once read this story in The Friendship Book of Francis Gay and thought it was worth retelling.

Lemon Pie


The world is full of gladness;
there are joys of many kinds;
there’s a cure for every sadness
that each troubled mortal finds.
And my little cares grow lighter
and I cease to fret and sigh,
and my eyes with joy grow brighter
when she makes a lemon pie.

When the bronze is on the filling
that’s one mass of shining gold,
and its molten joy is spilling
on the plate, my heart grows bold.
And the kids and I in chorus
raise one glad exultant cry
and we cheer the treat before us
which is mother’s lemon pie.

Then the little troubles vanish
and the sorrows disappear;
then we find the grit to banish
all the cares that hovered near.
And we smack our lips in pleasure
oe’r a joy no coin can buy
and we down the golden treasure
which is known as lemon pie.
From his book, Collected Verse of Edgar A Guest
© 1934 by The Reilly & Lee Company

Books: Pennies From Burger Heaven

Written by Marcy McKay
SkipJack Publishing, Dec 2015

2016 USA Best Book Awards Finalist, General Fiction

This poignant story of one street kid’s search for her mother has lots of danger and suspense, twists & turns.

Life on the streets of Remington, Texas, is rough and raw at best. It becomes sinister after Copper’s Mama, a homeless prostitute, disappears one morning. Her daughter, Copper (Penny), blessed with abundant nerve — and a good deal of scared — sets out from their cemetery “home” determined to find her. She heads into the inner city they know so well, slowly untangling the web of her mother’s past involvements, hoping one of the threads will lead to Mama.

If the reader doesn’t want to be dragged through the mire of a ghetto — the crime, drugs, gang wars, predators and hookers — then don’t read this. Language isn’t a stream of profanity, but there’s enough realistic dialogue. God, Jesus and religion get a lot of bad press. There’s your stereotype phony televangelist visiting ladies-of-the-night when he’s not singing “Amazing Grace.”

That said, McKay has been accurate in her portrayal of the living conditions among the homeless and the people who prey on them, as well as the confusion about religion that exists among those who never attend a church or open a Bible. Coming from a non-religious background as I do, I see the thinking of my own people in this story.

For me the real hero isn’t so much the I-can-do-it-myself, spit-in-your-eye Copper, but rather the Detective who tries so hard to grab this scrawny little alley cat who’s clawing, kicking, and lashing out at him and everyone else. He tries to grab her from the streets before her life is destroyed as her mother’s was. Copper suspects his motive for his interest in her: what connection could this cop have to her mother?

Thanks to some supernatural — you might say divine — intervention, this kitten is granted another of her nine lives. On one hand, you somewhat anticipate the ending, yet all the slimy twists and turns — and final revelations — are totally unexpected.

Marcy McKay has penned a sequel to this book; this hasn’t been released yet, as far as I can tell. Marcy McKay is a frequent guest contributor to The Write Practice site, where she gives tips and exercises for improving your writing skills.

Bad Luck — A Legend

Once upon a time in far off China, there lived a farmer who had only one son — one precious heir to whom he would leave his small property. The farmer also had one horse. One day this horse managed to get out of his corral and ran off.

“Such bad luck!” the neighbors said to the man.

“Don’t speak too soon,” said the farmer. “How can you know if this is really bad luck?”

The neighbors were really surprised the next evening when the horse showed up with a dozen other wild horses following him. He led them into the corral and the farmer’s son quickly ran and shut the gate.

When they saw that he now had thirteen horses the neighbors congratulated the farmer. “This is such good luck for you!”

“Don’t speak too soon,” said the wise farmer. “How do you know this is going to be a good thing for us?”

Some days later the son attempted to ride one of the new horses, but the wild stallion would have none of it. He bucked frantically and the young man fell off, breaking his leg.

Neighbors shook their heads when they saw the injured son. “You were right, old man. This has been very bad luck.”

“Don’t speak too soon,” the old man calmly repeated. “How can you be sure of that?”

A few days later a local warlord came through the village and ordered all the able-bodied young men to come with him to help fight in his war. But when he saw the farmer’s son hobbling along, he shook his head. “This boys is of no use to me.”

So the farmer’s son was left behind because of his broken leg. The other young men who were forced to accompany the warlord in his conflict were never seen again. The farmer and his son rejoiced over the “bad luck” that turned out to be their biggest blessing.

Piglet Rescue Unravels

Tumpy Stays Home

Back in 1900 a young immigrant named William Story, working in Eastern Canada as a carpenter, met Ruth, a music teacher newly come from Scotland. Before long the two were married and headed for the prairies to claim a homestead.

Their oldest child was Tom, next came Ruth, her mother’s namesake, then little William, who for some reason was given the nickname “Tumpy.” This story takes place on a mild February day in 1921 when Agnes was a baby and Tumpy a lively five-year-old who did not want to get dressed up in his good clothes and go to town with his family.

Mom had ordered him to put on clean overalls and his woolen pullover and be ready when Dad brought the sleigh. But he hated that itchy pullover — and having to “behave like a nice boy” all day. Instead of going upstairs to his room he sneaked out the front door and ran to the barn.

He found his dad harnessing the driving horses and pleaded his case. “I don’t want to go along. I want to stay here with Norman.” He’d even fill the firewood box if he could stay home.

Norman, age fifteen, was an orphan his parents had taken in several years previously. He was one of the family now, a hard-working lad and Tumpy’s hero. If Norman was going to stay home and clean out the barn, Tumpy wanted to stay, too. Dad thought about this and gave his consent, along with the warning, “Stay out of Norman’s way when he’s working.”

After his family left Tumpy wandered around the barn checking on the animals. He’d heard his dad tell Norman that old Molly, their sow, was likely going to have her piglets today. “But she won’t need any help. You can leave her alone.” Tumpy went around to the “maternity pen” and watched multi-colored old Molly snuffing around contentedly. He and Molly were good friends. She was such a gentle sow he was able to ride piggy-back on her around the yard last summer and fall.

Next he wandered into the lane and got in the way as the work horses dragged the stone-boat out to the field with a load of manure. Norman told him to look out if he didn’t want to get splattered. “And stay away from old Molly. Remember what your dad said.”

Oh, the power of suggestion! Tumpy headed back to Molly’s pen to check on the sow. Sure enough, one tiny pink piglet had been born!

The Sick Baby Pigs

It didn’t seem to be moving very much. Maybe it was sick? In which case Tumpy knew exactly what to do. He’d watched his dad deal with sick piglets before. The tiny thing needed warming. So over the rails he went, snatched the piglet, stuffed it into his jacket and headed to the house. Molly offered a protesting squeal, then went back to the birthing process.

He ran into the kitchen and opened the oven door on the wood stove. This was piled full of green firewood to dry out for future needs. Tumpy tossed the logs onto the kitchen floor while the piglet squirmed and squealed inside his jacket. Thankfully the oven wasn’t too hot. His dad had told him how you need a gentle, even heat when you’re using the oven for an incubator. Just one log at a time. And you never close the oven door!

Tumpy needed rags, so he yanked open his mother’s towel drawer, grabbed several tea-towels drawer and laid them in the oven. On these he set the tiny pink piglet. Then he rushed back out to the barn to see if any of Molly’s other piglets needed saving. Maybe they all would? By the time he’d returned with #2 he could see the first pink piggy was warm and dry. He sat on the over door and stroked them for a moment before going for another.

On his fourth trip Norman caught sight of him at the pen and yelled, “Tumpy! Whatever are you doing with that? You’re supposed to leave Molly alone, remember.”

Even at his age, Tumpy understood how important Molly’s litter was to the farm income. “It’s sick and I’m taking care of it just like way Dad would do. And anyway, it was you he told to leave Molly alone.”

Norman didn’t see things that way and stopped his chores long enough to scold Tumpy every time he saw him dashing out of the barn with another squealing piglet inside his jacket. But Tumpy was saving their wee lives. Dad would surely be pleased.

A Speedy Recovery

After he’d stolen the seventh piglet old Molly was squealing angrily at his interference in her affairs, so he knew he’d better quit this rescue operation. And by the time he set #7 in the oven the others had miraculously recovered from whatever ailed them. Lively and hungry, they’d scrambled out of the oven and were exploring the kitchen, hoping to find their mom and protesting the lack of nourishment.

Tumpy decided to offer them some milk, but this didn’t pan out — or rather, it did “pan out.” He’d set a basin of milk on the floor and the babies overturned it, then waded through the puddle, spreading milk drippings all across the kitchen.

Whatever else might have ailed them, these piglets were blessed with healthy lungs. One little pig was wee-wee-wee-ing under the sofa. One was nuzzling a stick of firewood tossed on the floor. One was grunting from behind the wood-box. Another had gotten itself wedged under the treadle of her sewing machine and took this for the chopping block. It was squealing its little lungs out. Another had fallen down the cellar stair and was wailing about that. A couple more added their motherless cries to the racket.

Mother Almost Wept

Right about then the family sleigh pulled up to the door. Mother, carrying the baby, stepped into the kitchen. A wave of heat hit her from Tumpy’s faithful stoking of the wood stove. Then her jaw dropped as she saw the pigs, her once-clean tea towels, the milk — and heard the squealing.

Recovering from the initial shock Mom stepped carefully through the kitchen and set little Agnes down in the parlor. Then she returned to face the mess. By this time the rest of the family had come in and were staring at the scene. Dad took charge, ordering Tom and Ruth to “Go tell Norman to come get the sleigh and unhitch the team.” Then he turned to Tumpy. “How many piglets have you got in here?”

He spied Mom’s basket of ironing sitting on the counter, dumped out the clothes and started catching the squirming piglets. Norman came running in about then, saying, “I told him not to do it.” Dad assured him it was all right and asked him how many more piglets Molly had. “I think two, but I was scared to bother her.”

Soon the piglets were corralled in the basket, Dad tossed the ironing on top of them so they’d stay put, then he carried them out to the barn with Tumpy trailing after him. “You stay out of the way, Tumpy, while I get these pigs back into Molly’s pen. And don’t you go back to the house right now, either,” Dad warned him.

No doubt there was a happy reunion in the maternity pen. Tumpy doesn’t record what was said or done to him later as a reward for his efforts, but it had been such an exciting day that he was one hungry little boy at the supper table. But not for pork.

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Historical note:

I read this account in the memoir of Bill Story, titled TUMPY, Stories of the Homestead Days, published in 1979. I’ve retold it in my own words.

WordPress daily prompt: Unravel

This is an extra-long blog post, I know. I debated whether to do this in one long post or divide it into two parts. What do you think? Would you have preferred half today and half tomorrow or are you happy with the whole account at one shot? Any comments?

I Didn’t Do It!

One day a little girl, just half–past three, snipping paper with a pair of child’s scissors, looked around and…

An hour or so later the girl was together with her mother, who was visiting with a friend, when one of the kittens wandered into the room. The girl’s mother caught sight of it and…

The innocent kitten wove itself around their legs, not realizing how odd it looked with the fur down its back raggedly trimmed, as if by an unskilled hand using rather dull scissors.

“What happened to this kitten! How did its fur get cut like that?” Mom asked, giving her daughter a suspicious glance.

“I don’t know. I didn’t do it.”

“Are you sure? It looks like someone might have snipped off its fur with a pair of small scissors.”

The little girl thought for a moment. “Maybe the mommy cat did it.”

The visitor looked away quickly and grinned. The mother tried to maintain a stern frown.

After the company left, the lecture of the day was, “If you’ve done something wrong, admit it.”

Word Press daily prompt: Denial

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Mr Nobody
by Walter de la Mare

I know a funny little man,
As quiet as a mouse,
Who does the mischief that is done
In everybody’s house.
There’s no one ever sees his face,
And yet we all agree
That every plate we break was cracked
by Mr. Nobody.

‘Tis he who always tears our books,
who leaves our doors ajar;
he pulls the buttons from our shirts,
and scatters pins afar,
that squeaking door will always squeak,
because of this you see:
we leave the oiling to be done
by Mr Nobody.

He puts damp wood upon the fire,
So kettles cannot boil;
His are the feet that bring in mud
And all the carpets soil.
The papers always are mislaid;
who had them last but he?
There’s no one tosses them about
but Mr. Nobody.