Will’s Cooking Skills

Will set the bubbling pot of stew on the table beside the biscuits he’d just taken out of the oven. Then he tossed another chunk of wood into the stove. With the storm crashing outside like it was — the wind whistling in through whatever cracks it could find — he wanted the fire to stay good and hot.

He sat down at the table and bowed his head for a short grace — a prayer that the food would be edible as much as blessed. “Well, now let’s see what you’ve come up with, Will, my boy. Maybe this time…”

He ladled soup into his bowl, then stretched his long legs out under the table and reached for a biscuit. Still nice and warm. Can’t be that bad. The thing crunched when he took a bite, something like the cracking of a stick of kindling, but his teeth didn’t make much of an impression.

He dropped the biscuit onto his plate. It landed with an hopeless thunk. “I just gotta learn to bake!” He blew his frustration out in a long stream of air. “While I still have some teeth to eat with, that is.”

His thoughts jumped across the fields to the next section, where his brother Jim would be sitting down to a delicious supper, surrounded by his family. Will gazed out the window, imagining them gathered around the table. He could almost smell the meal. Grace was an excellent cook; Jim and the children would be well fed.

Thou shalt not covet thy brother’s wife, nor thy brother’s wife’s cooking. But I’d sure like to have one of my own. She doesn’t have to be pretty or so talented, Lord, just an old-fashioned girl that can cook like Ma and Grace.

He jumped when another crack of lightening lit up the yard, followed immediately by a heaven-splitting boom and a fresh wave of rain. The whole cabin seemed to shudder. Oh, dear Lord, please let this storm be over soon!

Loneliness squeezed Will’s chest, making him struggle for his next breath. Even if she isn’t the best cook… If she’d just be here with me tonight when the wind’s howling so wild. We’d wrap ourselves up in a blanket by the fire…

In a flash he saw again Rosanne’s cheery smile — a smile that would have warmed up his cabin perfectly on a night like this. Was she happy now with that school teacher who swept her off her feet and took her away to the city? Why did I dawdle around about it? Why was I so bashful? Why didn’t I ask her first? Will blinked and tried to swallow the lump in his throat.

Will jerked the reins on his runaway thoughts. Smarten up, old boy. No point crying over spilled milk, as Mom always says. Things are what they are. He picked up the biscuit again, broke it into his stew, and poked it around with his spoon. That’ll soften it up some.

He took a spoonful of stew, frowning at the flatness of it. Maybe Grace could show him what to put in stew to give it some flavor. Then he shook his head and scolded himself. Hey, it’s food and you’re hungry. Just eat the crummy stuff and stop thinking about what it lacks.

He was about to take another bite when someone pounded on the door. Will jumped to his feet and hurried to the door, wondering what fool would be out on a night like this.

He flung open the door and saw a young man standing there. His Nash Rambler stood nearby. Though it was dark, Will thought he saw a face in the passenger window.

“Sorry to trouble you, but I hope you don’t mind me stopping awhile in your drive. The storm was getting so bad I couldn’t see a thing. And my sister’s terrified driving in all this lightening.”

“Don’t worry. You’re welcome to park there. Why don’t you both come in and wait out the storm inside where it’s warm.”

“Thanks so much!” The young man hurried back to the car to get his passenger.

Will cast a guilty glance toward his table. If only he had some decent food to offer. “I was just about to have a bite to eat. What about you folks,” he asked as the two young people stepped inside and shed their coats.

“Brought our own,” the young man said, holding up a sack. “Hope that’s okay. We’d expected to stop somewhere en route, but then this storm came up and I drove like mad to get where we’re going. Our older sister’s just had a baby and Vickie here is going to help her for a few weeks. We’re James and Victoria Franks, by the way. From Empress, on our way to Hatfield.”

“I’m Will McKinley.” He shook hands with his visitors. “You’re not that far from where you wanna be. Once the rain lets up it should only take you another twenty minutes or so.”

Vickie gave Will a great big smile. “Thanks so much for letting us stop over like this. It’s so fortunate James saw your lights.”

“For sure,” Will agreed heartily. He stared into her soft grey eyes and wondered if she could hear his heart pounding double time, louder than the rain outside. Oh, dear Lord, please let this storm last all night!

Oh, well. Hatfield wasn’t far away, if he should want to go visiting there some evening.

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One day, over at The Write Practice, our assignment was to write a fiction story about someone, giving special attention to developing the main character. I’ve shared with you the scene in Will’s farm home — then added the travellers arrival so as to give the poor guy a glimmer of hope. 🙂 So what do you think of Will’s character? Is he likeable or not, and why?

Tales Out of School

Mr. Hyde, the Principal, was sitting at his desk one day when his secretary knocked on the door.

“Charlie Johnson’s mother is here asking to see you, sir. Something about a comment the teacher made on her son’s report card.”

“All right, send her in.” He frowned, wondering what sort of complaint he’d have to listen to now. He stood as a thirty-something woman entered his office. “Mrs. Johnson, glad to see you.” He shook her hand politely. “How can I help you?”

She held out a report card. “Mr. Hyde, we need a little clarification on this remark Charlie’s teacher made. We just can’t make it out.”

“In fact,” she continued, “”none of our friends can decipher it, either. We had a bunch in for a party last evening and for fun we passed Charlie’s report card around — even offered a prize if anyone could tell us what it said — but none of them could. So I thought I’d better get the answer from you.”

Hyde opened the report card and looked long and hard at the comment. “I’m really sorry, Mrs. Johnson, but I simply can’t read it. I believe it’s Mr. Thwaite’s writing, though. Let’s get him in here to tell us what it says.”

Mr. Hyde reached for the intercom button by his desk and paged Mr. Thwaite, who came hurrying to the office.

Thwaite glanced at Mrs. Johnson and nodded, then asked, “What can I help you with, Mr. Hyde?”

“I can’t make out what this remark says and Mrs. Johnson here would like to know. Could you kindly interpret it for us.”

Thwaite flushed slightly and took the offered report card. He looked at the indecipherable scribble for a few minutes, looked blankly at the wall, then back at the report card. His face lit up as the light dawned. “Yes, I remember now. It says, ‘Charlie needs to take more care with his handwriting’.”

(A sad but true tale related by Principle Hyde – perhaps at his retirement party? 🙂 )

(Story redone from an old Friendship Book. Originally posted in Christine Composes March 2013)

“Can You Trust Me?”

It’s time for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by the kind and longsuffering Rochelle-Wisoff Fields. And today J Hardy Carroll has offered the photo prompt. If you’d like to participate in the Fictioneers prompt, check with Rochelle at Addicted to Purple.

When I first saw this picture, my mind went back to when we lived in Montreal and saw the result of what locals called “un reglement de comptes.” Someone wouldn’t pay their dues — or pay due respect — and there’s be this untraceable explosion.

Photo © J Hardy Carroll

“Can You Trust Me?”

“So whatta ya think?” The realtor tried for upbeat. “Can you see this for your meetings? Needs a little work, of course.”

Pastor Ivan surveyed the disaster. “Rumor has it this was a result of not paying the mob’s “protection” fees.

The realtor’s smile disappeared. “Maybe. I’m sure they won’t bother you guys, being’s you’re a church and all.”

Ivan sighed. Lord, this IS affordable. But it looks hopeless.

“Son of man, can these bones live?”

The Bible quote startled Ivan. “What?”

The realtor turned to him, puzzled. “Eh?”

Ivan grinned. “You know, maybe this will work — with God’s help.”

Back story:

I could fit this tale into 100 words because Pastor Ivan knew his Bible and exactly what this question implied. The story is found in Ezekiel 37:1-14. Here the Lord takes Ezekiel to a valley of dry bones, representing the scattered, defeated House of Israel, “And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.”

As Ezekiel watches, the bones come together, muscles and sinews start to connect them, then flesh appears. The spirit of God breathes life into them. “…and they lived, and stood up on their feet, an exceeding great army.”

“And (I) shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.” (Verse 14)

So the quote Ivan heard in his mind implied, “Can you trust me to bring something vibrant out of this hopeless mess? And can you trust me to defend it?”

 

Amateur Poet

by Robert W Service

You see that sheaf of slender books
Upon the topmost shelf,
At which no browser ever looks,
Because they’re by . . . myself;
They’re neatly bound in navy blue,
But no one ever heeds;
Their print is clear and candid too,
Yet no one ever reads.

Poor wistful books! How much they cost
To me in time and gold!
I count them now as labour lost,
For none I ever sold;
No copy could I give away,
For all my friends would shrink,
And look at me as if to say:
“What waste of printer’s ink!”

And as I gaze at them on high,
Although my eyes are sad,
I cannot help but breathe a sigh
To think what joy I had –
What ecstasy as I would seek
To make my rhyme come right,
And find at last the phrase unique
Flash fulgent in my sight.

Maybe that rapture was my gain
Far more than cheap success;
So I’ll forget my striving vain,
And blot out bitterness.
Oh records of my radiant youth,
No broken heart I’ll rue,
For all my best of love and truth
Is there, alive in you

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oh, how wonderful that we now have the internet
where we can share our poems with the world
and it doesn’t cost us a mint!

“Strawberry Cream Cupcake” Missing Ingredients

Book Review:
Strawberry Cream Cupcake & Murder
(A Dana Sweet Cozy Mystery)

By Ann S. Marie
National Bestselling Author
Indie Published

Recently dumped by her finace, Dana has inherited a cupcake cafe from her deceased Grandmother. She’s moving back to Berry Cove, Ontario, intending to turn this cafe into a profitable business again. We read very often in the first couple of chapters how the business was going under and Dana has to make a profit or lose her life savings. Readers are also told quite often how much she misses her grandmother. Most of this could be deleted or switched to the “show, don’t tell” technique.

This first book was a freebie, so I’m really looking a gift horse in the mouth. However, I’m not sure who appointed Ms Marie a national best-selling author. The structure of some sentences and wording of some phrases makes me suspect English isn’t her first language. For example:

— Dana couldn’t read any further. Heat rushed to her chest.

— “It’s not true,” Inga added with her thick Russian accent rolling her R, yet again.

— She noticed the detective glancing at her neck when she swallowed. He probably thought she was guilty of sin. Which, of course, she wasn’t. No where even close.

A few overly long sentences actually came off quite amusing:

— Her eyes were wide and her jaw fell open as she looked at Brad slumped over on his desk, a cup of coffee turned over, spilling on the side of the desk, and a half-eaten strawberry cream cupcake topped with a high frosting with a spoon dug into it from the Cozy Cupcakes Café right there by his left hand.

— But Katie had been such a darling sweetheart seeing how Dana had been pulling all-nighters just as she’d done back in college, getting the disastrous bookkeeping records straight that had been neglected since Nans passed away by her elderly accountant who had started to have trouble with his memory, locating receipts and his failing eyesight. Poor thing.

I did finish the story, but this isn’t what I’d call a reader-friendly mystery. Instead of clues being introduced so readers can try their hand at divining whodunit, in the last chapter Dana informs the suspect that she’s gone online and learned points of his/her personal history. She then rattles off a bunch of incriminating info and makes the accusation. Rather a letdown for the reader.

The potential is there for a good story, but there are too many flaws in the telling of it, IMO. Dana could be a more sensible, likeable character. She doesn’t come off as the type to manage a business, IMO. A seasoned editor could have improved this book A LOT. However, the writer has some real fans judging by the Amazon reviews — AND she’s achieved her dream of getting a cozy mystery series written. As long as you don’t keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, practice should make perfect.

If you decide to give this writer a try, she has written seven books in the series. This first one is free on Amazon. (Note: Front cover designs and titles are similar to Joanne Fluke’s well known Hannah Swensen Mystery series, so don’t be confused.)

The Poet in the Park

I posted this story when the Daily Post writing challenge was to write about any topic, but your post must include a cat, a bowl of soup, and a beach towel. And today’s prompt word is pursue, so here’s the tale of a poet pursuing the perfect verse.

I wander through the park on this beautiful morning, making my way to one of my favorite places in the whole world. Oh, good! My favorite bench is free. I like this one where I’m sheltered by the maples overhead. After all, the sun’s rays aren’t good for a person, so we’re told, and at my age I have to be careful.

I set my sunhat on the bench beside me and rummage through my handbag for my pen and notebook. I’m a poet, so I always carry a notebook. I relax and breathe in the inspiration around me. This agreeable spot, surrounded by the plush lawn, is so conducive to the task at hand. I need to write a poem for my blog — so why not do one about this beautiful day.

At the top of the first blank page I write, Ode to a Summer’s Day.

Scratch that. Sounds too cliché. Maybe I should rather start with something like, “I wandered lonely through the park…” I’m not really lonely, though. In fact I’m quite happy to be alone, pursuing my muse.

I hear a rustle, glance down and see a mouse poke its nose out from under a bush. “Wee tim’rous beastie,” I quote. “Your best-laid plans will go sadly awry if you don’t beat it.” The mouse trembles a bit and retreats back into the shrubbery. I return to pursuing a line of thought suitable for this perfect day.

“What is so rare as a day in July?” Hmm… Rings a bell. Has it already been done — or something like it? Anyway, what rhymes with “July”? (I insist my poems rhyme; I find free verse so undisciplined.) Birds fly; awry; my eye. “A day in July gone awry…a bird just dropped in my eye….”  Nope. Scratch that.

I gaze at the treetops above me. Oh, to be a tree top, caressing the sky, I write, then ponder the phrase. Now that has potential! And I may be able to work July in here after all.

I look down and see a cat nosing around by the bush. See there, mouse. Aren’t you glad I saved your bacon? If I hadn’t scared you, you’d have ventured out and been toast.

“SCAT!” I say to the cat, stamping my foot. It appears well enough fed already and besides, I detest the sights and sounds of slaughter. Unaesthetic—not conducive to producing pleasant poems.

I hear a “throb, throb, throb” coming down the path toward me and look up. Ah, some ‘band in a box’ escorted by two teenage girls. I frown, hoping they are only passing by and will do so promptly.

No such luck! They leave the path and stroll out on the lawn not far from me. One of them shouts at the other, “Here’s a neat spot. Let’s stretch out here.”

Oh, brother! It would be neat if you’d shut off that radio. I feel my bench vibrate from the deep bass throbs and I write in my book, “Thunder rolls across the sky; the earth trembles. The powers that be are shaken.”

They unroll two beach towels and, baring as much as legally can be, they stretch out. Exposing their bodies to the harmful effects of the sun’s rays, not to mention the leers and comments of males passing by. And loving every minute of it.

Well, since I can no longer meditate on the stillness of this beautiful day, perhaps I could go get some lunch while they and their boom-box occupy this spot. There’s a neat little Bistro on LaMontagne Avenue that serves an excellent bowl of Vichyssoise, my favorite soup, together with herbed croutons. Perfect for a hot day, together with thé glacé. Which is iced tea, but I prefer the French ambience.

Perhaps I’ll stop by the Library after to brush up on Emily Dickinson. She might have something inspiring to say about a summer day. Hopefully when I get back the girls will have fried and gone.

As I walk away a picture flashes in my mind. I smile as I think back to the sunny summer days of my teens, when my friends and I spent hours browning ourselves in the warm sun. Neither we nor our mothers had ever heard of dangerous ultraviolet rays back then.

Forget the ode to a summer day. Over lunch I’m going to compose a poem about the joys of youth.

My thoughts go back to those two teenage girls and I wonder what their names are and where they live? Do they have a concerned mother like I had? Has anyone told them about ultraviolet rays and skin cancer? Has someone explained to them that there are sharks in the pool of Life, that you need to protect yourself in more ways than one? Do they know where they’re going in life and how to get there?

Really, I’m sure they didn’t mean to disturb my musings. Will they just think me a nosy old busy-body if I try visiting with them?

I turn around and make my way back to my favorite bench, pausing to nod and say “Hello” to them as I pass. Lunch can wait; the Vichyssoise won’t get any colder

Christine G — Reposted from July 2014

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