An Impromptu Tea Party

Looking for inspiration, I rambled through my STORY files this afternoon and found this mini-fiction scene written ten years ago, in March of 2011. It was my response to my writing group’s challenge of that month: to use the words BROOM, FRIDGE, ALMOND and DOUGHNUT.

And I see Fandango’s One-Word Challenge today is IMPROMPTU, so here goes…

THE TEA PARTY

Spring fever attacked me full force that morning when my little girl begged me to come out and play. She said she’d baked a cake and we could have tea. Who could resist? I threw my “TO DO” list on the counter for “LATER” and gave myself to the sunshine, the little girl inside, and the little girl outside.

When I arrived at the playhouse she was sculpting her “Tea cake” that looked like a huge mud doughnut. Using her sweater sleeve as a broom, my gracious hostess swept off one of the chairs so I could sit down. I donated two elderly chipped mugs and a plate of real cookies to the celebration.

“I wish I had some nice sprinkles for the icing,” she sighed as she shredded some grass blades and tossed them on the cake. I had to agree: the green shreds weren’t very aesthetic.

“I have an idea,” I said, taking her hand and leading her to our flowering almond shrub. “Just a few,” I said, “for this really special cake.” How many times had I told her she mustn’t pick these blossoms because we wanted to see them blooming on the tree? They made lovely sprinkles.

She poured imaginary tea into the cups, then took a pitcher of “cream” from the cardboard box fridge and added some to the tea. “Would you like sugar, too?” she asked, handing me a bowl of ice melt granules.

“Yes, I’d love some.”

She gave me her biggest smile. “Mom, you should come for tea every day.”

I think of what older ladies have often told me: “Children grow up so fast; enjoy them while you can.”

“Well, maybe I should look over my To-Do list and see if I can fit a tea party in once a week,” I agreed. “If you’ll help me pick up the toys after supper every day.”

Her eyes sparkled as she accepted the challenge. We had a lovely tea party — one I’ll remember a lot longer than the folded laundry, the cleaned cutlery drawer and the emptied dishwasher that I did manage to do in spite of taking time out to play.

Why Mom?

Reading Dale’s response to Crimson’s Creative Challenge has inspired me to have a go at it as well. Like Dale wrote, it’s been awhile since I’ve done one of these. You can read all about the CHALLENGE here, and this is the photo meant to inspire us:

https://crimsonprose.files.wordpress.com/2021/03/ccc122.jpg

And here’s my 150-word true-to-life tale:

“Mom, why’s that duck’s head and front blue? Did somebody dye it?”
“Why doesn’t the other have a blue head, too? Are they different kinds?”
“How come the one’s beak is yellow?”
“Why’s the brown duck’s feathers sticking up like that? Is it mad?”
“If they aren’t mad at each other, why aren’t they swimming together?”
“Why are the ducks only here in summer?”
“What do ducks eat when there’s no popcorn?”
“Where do ducks sleep at night?”
“If they fall asleep in the water, will they drown?”
“Why aren’t there any baby ducks? And why…”

Randi was trying her best to answer Frankie’s many questions as they strolled along the creek, but was feeling rather brain-strained when an older woman approached them on the walk.

The elderly lady gave Frankie a big smile and told Randi, “Someday you’ll think of this as the best time of your life.”

Book: A Study in Stone

I just finished an interesting book, the first of a series. It’s free on Amazon, so I gave it a try and wasn’t disappointed.

A Study in Stone

“You have all the tact of a gently lobbed hand grenade,” Alan Hargreaves tells his new neighbour, as they go about asking questions re: some strange writing on a stone and what it means. Alan, a writer of adventure stories for children, delivers these unique turns of phrase; all the deadpan humor, neatly woven into the text, gave me many chuckles.

Fresh from the dog-eat-dog world of corporate London, hard-nosed and wary, Dan Corrigan definitely lacks people skills. But the corporate world has chewed him up and spit him out; now he’s going to lick his wounds in a peaceful country setting, his sister’s rental cottage in a remote Devon village. When he arrives a passing neighbour stops to chat. The silence hits him. Settling in, he finds he can only get four channels on the telly – and no internet service! “Peaceful” soon becomes bored stiff so he joins his neighbour Alan at the local pub. All through the book the author has an amusing way of dealing with Dan’s “This isn’t London” frustrations.

In a coffee shop the next day a curious code on a stone attracts their attention and Dan’s tenacious attempts to learn the story behind it take them on this long adventure. I really liked Alan’s character; his level-headed and congenial nature makes a great foil for Dan’s skeptical, abrasive one. The two men form a unique give-and-take friendship and Alan helps Dan make the adjustment to another world, calling him on his “you out here in the sticks” attitudes.

The mystery in this story isn’t a menacing one and easy enough to guess if you’ve read some WWI history. But the story’s compelling and the dialogue enjoyable; once I started I didn’t quit reading until I was done. I enjoyed the excerpt for the next novel the author has included at the end and definitely want to read that one, too.

I debated between four and five stars, but I always hesitate to say I absolutely LOVED it. I really did enjoy it, though. 🙂 Checking the Goodreads reviews, I see that some others didn’t. A few people thought the mystery was too easy, which is true. Some enjoyed the historical details while for others there wasn’t enough suspense. Some readers couldn’t handle Dan’s behaviour, some liked the developing friendship between the two men.
Reviews:
5 stars: 42
4 stars: 32
3 stars: 15
2 stars: 6
1 star: 5

Pondering these various reviews has given me fuel for my next post: The Inky Slope of Book Reviews.

The Wallpaper

Terry was measuring off the first strip of wallpaper when he heard the doorbell. He dashed down the stairs to answer. Glancing through the diamond porthole in the door he saw his friend Gavin standing on the step.

“Hi Gav. Sorry you had to wait but I was upstairs. Come on in.”

“Thanks. Just thought I’d see what you’re up to this morning.” Gavin glanced around. “Sasha not home?”

“Nah. We’re getting the nursery ready, got the wallpaper yesterday, so she went shopping for some accessories. Don’t know why the baby needs accessories, but you know how women are. I said I’d make a start at hanging the wallpaper. You maybe can help me– I’ve never done this before.”

“Oh, I don’t know… How fussy is she?”

“I think it should be easy enough to hang. All balloons. Come on up.” Terry led the way to the nursery.

Gavin looked at the wallpaper strip partly unrolled on the floor. “No kidding, all balloons! Are you sure you’re going to be happy with that when it’s on the wall? It’d make me dizzy.”

“Sasha thinks it’s perfect, so who am I to argue? My job is just to slap it on.”

Gavin eyed the repeating shapes with a frown. “Might be tricky to get it cut right.”

“No sweat. Just have to match these half-balloons at the edges.”

He knelt on the floor and rolled out a second strip next to the first, lined up the balloon and was ready to cut when Gavin said, “Wait a minute!”

Terry looked up. “Problem?”

“If you put those strips together that way every side balloon will be mismatched. See here, this balloon will be half red and half blue. I think the idea is to match the colors, not just the balloons. Blue with blue; red with red. Like this.” He took the roll from Terry and demonstrated.

Terry eyed the two strips. “What a waste of paper! This kiddie design stuff costs big time – and I’m sure Junior won’t care. But yeah. Sasha might not be too happy if they don’t match. Good thing you came along.”

With Gavin’s help Terry got the papering done quickly, then the two of them stood back to survey the overall effect. Gavin winced at the brightness of all those balloons.

Terry shrugged. “Wouldn’t have been my pick. But this is what she wanted and I won’t be spending much time in here. Come on, let’s grab a coffee.”

As soon as Sasha returned from her shopping trip Terry led her upstairs. “The job’s all done, sweetheart. Hope you like it.”

Gavin trailed after them, curious to see her reaction.

Sasha walked into the nursery and looked around. They observed that her face didn’t light up with joy as she studied the wallpaper.

“Something wrong,” Terry asked.

“I…uh.. I guess… I never thought… I mean, it looked great in the sample book but I didn’t get the picture of how a whole room would look with this on all four walls. It’s really pretty, but…uh…”

“A bit overwhelming,” Gavin suggested.

“Yeah. A bit.” Maybe we could paint two of the walls something plain.”

Terry huffed. “You mean paint over this new, expensive wallpaper?”

“Or take some of it down? Maybe we could reglue it and hang it… Maybe in the office?”

“No way!”

Gavin decided this would be a good time for him to disappear.

🙂

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning that inspired my little tale is REPEATING SHAPES
The image I’ve used is from Pixabay, created by AnnaliseArt

The Brevity of a Dash

The Ragtag Daily Prompt word this morning is BREVITY

And I suppose a person’s thoughts automatically go to “the brevity of life.” At least mine did, so here’s my response:

“Pleasant View” – what an upbeat name for a cemetery! Definitely a “Rest in Peace” note to that. I suspect half the cemeteries in this country are named Pleasant View, Rest Haven, or some slight variation.

I stroll through the cemetery searching familiar names and came across two identical tombstones, side by side. Small flat marble slabs, the first bearing the name:
James A Thorlakson
1933 – 1956

I pondered for a moment how much living is represented by that brief dash:
The baby in his mother’s arms, lovingly welcomed into the family
The small boy growing up in Aunt Sadie’s large family
The rough and tumble of childhood antics with three brothers
Sitting in school day after day, learning the three R’s –or daydreaming?
The teen years with their whirl of picnics, socials, weddings
His marriage to Margaret; the joys of setting up a home
Finding work in the oil fields, moving to southern Saskatchewan
Then the fatal car accident that etched the final date on his tombstone

The dates and the dash do tell me about the brevity of his life. Likewise with the next marble slab:
Walter F Thorlakson
1933 – 1956

I know that this single young man was killed in the same fiery car crash, together with their brother-in-law. Thank God cars have a better electrical system nowadays that they don’t burst into flames after a crash!

The dates don’t tell you how the three young men, all employed in the oil field, jumped in the car one Sunday afternoon – headed to a store? – and died on the highway near Weyburn. A family tragedy.

Their father couldn’t bear his loss. Depressed, he took his life in 1958. Another life abbreviated by this tragedy. His tombstone rests here in Pleasant View Cemetery as well.

Aunt Sadie carried on, bearing her losses and raising her other children as best she could. Sadie lived to be 92; her dash represents many years lived before and after these heartaches and others. For all her suffering, in her older years when I knew her, she was the sweetest, kindest person.