Characters

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A Chicken in Every Plot

Published September 10, 2012 by Ms. Nine

By mazaletel (Flickr: the ladies) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

During Labor Day weekend, my husband decided to build a chicken tractor.  What is a chicken tractor and why did he want to build one? Simple answer – someone at work talked him into it.

“It’s a mobile home for chickens,” he explained, “a coop and a run on wheels.  The chickens will perform magic by changing a patch of ground into fertile garden space within a few weeks.  We’ll move it so the chickens will make lots of garden plots.  By spring, the plots will be ready for planting,” he told me. “What do you think?”

“Go chickens!” I said. “Let’s do it.”

“Great.  I’ll take some time off work.  We can build it this week.”

The fact that we didn’t know a cluck about raising chickens didn’t deter our enthusiasm.  How hard could it be to build for chickens?  After all, we’ve been building from scratch for years.

We researched building plans, inventoried our own stock of scrap materials, and foraged in hardware stores for materials we needed.  Within a few days, we were ready to start building.

When my husband and I build together, my job is “the holder and go-fer”.  This means I hold off the distractions (kids, phone calls, and visitors) and get necessities (food, beverages, and music to maintain the work rhythm).  Occasionally, I’d hold a board in place for my husband to nail, but usually someone else does the heavy lifting (a daughter’s unwitting boyfriend trying to make a favorable impression).

Sadly, after years of observing my husband, none of his skills has transferred to me.  I can’t even swing a hammer.  Unfortunately,  all other conscripts have flown away leaving me holding the screws and everything else.  My poor husband has no idea how limited I am regarding basic carpentry skills.

“Hand me the square. It’s on my workbench.”

His workbench is not my domain. It is littered with tools, boxes of screws, deely-bop-its, and buckets of nails –  a Home Depot garage sale on clearance.  I needed a hint. “What color is it?”

“Yellow.”

Ah, that’s better. It’s easy to spot yellow in a grey area.

He placed the square on a piece of wood to mark a line.  His pencil broke.  He cussed.  “Get me a pencil. No. Get me a pen.”

What were my chances of finding a pen on his workbench?   I scrambled into the house to retrieve a box of pens on my desk.

The pens didn’t write on the damp wood.  He cussed again.  “I can’t figure out the angle for these rafters. Get me the angle guide.”

I handed him a metal object shaped like a triangle. “No, not that,” he said.  Eggs-asperated by my lack of  nomenclature knowledge, he huffed, “I should have said the ‘adjustable’ angle guide.”

By now my husband thinks I’m a wing nut.  His instructions become more explicit.

“Go get me a half-inch socket. Tool case. Third drawer. Round objects – calipers on the side.”

During the next few days, I handed him screws, nails, boards, held up things, plugged in power tools, and picked up things he dropped.  I cheered when pieces fit together and cussed when they didn’t.  I cracked chicken jokes and made him laugh.

More than a few days later, we managed to build the basic frame.  Our next step is making it mobile.  I have a feeling we’ll nail this thing hens down.

Okay, no more fowl jokes.

For now, we’re thinking of names. Yes, we’re going to name our coop.  Any suggestions?

By VanTucky (Own work) [CC-BY-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for stopping by!

FaceBook, Smart Phones, and Fishing

Published August 31, 2012 by Ms. Nine

I’m not an expert with social networking, but I have a Facebook account to connect with people I’m closest to, and I have a blog to connect with folks on the web.  To my husband, a social network means a company picnic and his face on a billboard… I never expected there’d come a day when he’d be schooled.

When he returned from fishing, horns tooting and “Whoopie!” shouting, Marie and my husband flaunted their prizes and took pictures with their phones.

“Baby Beth, hold this up so I can take your picture,” Marie told her daughter.

“I don’t wanna.  It’s icky,” Baby Beth said.

“Oh, common.  I’ll help you,” said my husband.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

After taking several “good ones” with their smart phones, my husband and daughter compared their catches.

“I’m posting my shots on Facebook,” Marie declared, deftly tapping her phone.  Within seconds, the picture of Baby Beth’s grimace holding an icky fish was shared with the world.

Marie hopped to the computer and logged in. “Mom, come look.”

“Oh, Lordy!” On the nineteen inch monitor flashed a picture of my granddaughter struggling with a  dead 4lb. bass.  At this very moment, our entire family could see them on Facebook.  Ah…the wonders of the modern world.

“These are great. How can I print these out?” my husband asked, looking over my shoulder.  My dear husband, bless his heart, does not know how to use the features on his smart phone.  Marie, bless her heart, did not want to teach him how people pass around pictures nowadays.

“You need a Facebook account, Dad.  I’ll set one up, if you want…”

He sighed, shook his head, and left.  It was not his thing.

Marie and I seized the moment to introduce him to social media and all its glorious splendor. While he was outside cleaning the fish, Marie and I zip-lined him to the twenty-first century.  We opened a Facebook account for him, uploaded his pictures (a profile, too!), and sent “friend” requests.

After dinner, Marie braved a Facebook demonstration on his smart phone.  She had synced his accounts and showed him how to upload pictures and access his email.

During her lesson, he held his breath and concentrated.  Yes! He’s taking it in, I thought. Within minutes, his eyes glazed.  He blinked repeatedly.  Oh, no.  Marie had overloaded his microchips. The program is not responding.  Do we wait or end program now?  We waited.

It worked!  We squealed as he accessed Facebook and patted him on the back as he opened his picture files.  I can’t say he was delighted, but he grinned at our enthusiasm.

The next day, he slammed his phone on the table. “I hate Facebook.”

“Why?”

“My phone’s been vibrating all day. People keep leaving messages wanting to be “friends” on Facebook.  I’m too busy for that crap.”

I took his phone and tapped off  the notifications. Poor guy.  He’ll still catch fish, but he won’t be using the networks of the twenty-first century.

 

Have a great weekend. And thanks for stopping by!

The Wizard and Blueberries for 3WW

Published August 8, 2012 by Ms. Nine

CC Wikimedia

3WW  prompt: crumble, uneasy, drawn

“Hey, do you know where the Wizard’s Cauldron is?” Faith asked the driver across from us.

We had an address but couldn’t get a handle on the pick-your-own blueberry farm. I rode shot-gun and navigated.

“It’s that-a-way,” the driver shouted, pointing toward Route 158.

The light changed and Faith U-turned. “Didn’t we already drive this way?” she asked. The familiar landmarks, a liquor store, an empty shack, and a set of run-down mobile homes, made me feel uneasy.  Then again, we had driven by so many streets; any one of them could have evoked a déjà vu.

“Okay, now watch for a sign,” she said.

“I’ve seen it.”

“What? Where?”

I looked at her. “In the haunted forest right before the witch’s castle.  It said I’d turn back if I were you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly. We’re not going back empty-handed. Carol told me to look for a small sign next to a warehouse.  Is that a warehouse?” She pointed to a row of garages clumped together like bad teeth.

“Yeah, could be,” I said.

She lifted her foot off the gas without ramming the brake pedal, an improvement in her driving I could only attribute to magic.  To me, this was proof of our proximity to the Wizard’s Whatever.

“Look! There it is!” she squealed, wrenching a hard right.  I never noticed the sign as my head hit the roof when she ignored the curb. She stopped her new Ford Focus behind the ramshackle warehouse.  Another sign propped against the wall was harder to miss.   I read the primary-grade print in purple letters.

Pick your own. $1.00 a pint. Leave money in jar. Use honor system.

I twitched.  A pint? How many blueberries are in a pint? Can you pick a half-pint? What if we didn’t have the exact amount of money? Who makes change? I’d never experienced self-service like this. It felt strange, but I followed Faith down a path between the wind break.

Hidden from the road, acres of blueberry shrubs dotted an open field. I could spot the blueberries from yards away. They hung like mini-ornaments in splendid clusters.  They glistened with the promise of blueberry crumble and all else that is holy.

Within thirty minutes, we had drawn a gallon of berries from the Wizard’s Cauldron, stuffed two bills in the jar, and flitted..

During the drive back to town, Faith described the recipes she would use, who she would make them for, when she’d make them, and why.  “I’m going to make Bobby a pie.  I’m old fashioned.  I think if he tastes my cooking, he’ll love me even more.  Isn’t that a ridiculous sentiment?” She turned to me for what, reassurance? Too bad she didn’t see the bakery truck barreling down the wrong side of a country road.

“Faith! Look out!” I grabbed the wheel. She kicked the brake pedal and screamed.

I’m sure a scenic road becomes a kaleidoscope of pretty colors when viewed from the widows of a spinning car.  I can’t say.  My eyelids and cheek bones instinctively formed a seal, protecting me from all visuals, beautiful or otherwise.  My ears, however, were blasted with the audio of Faith’s screams.

Like a windup toy, the car lost its energy and stopped.

“Are you okay?”

I nodded. “Are you?”

“I’m a mess. That truck! Where did it go?” Faith fumed.

“Drove away.”

“We’re lucky no one got hurt. Hell, we’re lucky to be alive!” she turned to look in the back. “Look, the blueberries didn’t spill.”

Faith thought it best if I drove the rest of the way. I looked in the rear view mirror at the peculiar black circles staining the road. I shrugged, shifted to drive, and punched it.

I was sorely in need of to-die-for blueberry crumble.

Don’t you love 3WW…Thanks for stopping by!

The Stein and Ms.Nine

Published August 3, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Note: I’m re-posting this in case you haven’t seen it.

It’s inevitable. Throughout time, writers have used technology to write – movable type, ball point pens, the electric typewriter, and the ultimate writing machine – the word processor.

What if writers of the 20th century like Hemingway, Faulkner, or Fitzgerald used the technology of today?  Would they have accomplished more?  What would 20th century writers do with word processors, the internet, or blogging?  There’s only one way to find out.

I invited Mr. Steinbeck into my imagination for an interview.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation…

Ms. Nine:  Welcome, Mr. Steinbeck.  Thanks for spending e-time on my blog today.

Mr. Steinbeck:  Please, call me ‘the Stein’; it’s my tag.

Ms. Nine: (the Stein??  I could NEVER!)… >cough< …I’ve invited you here so writers could benefit from your perspective on being a writer in the 21st century.

Mr. Steinbeck: Writers are a little below clowns and a little above trained seals.

Ms. Nine: Uh..okay, if you say so… This is my first posthumous interview and I’m a little nervous… So here’s my first question.  How do you feel about using a word processor?

Mr. Steinbeck:  I hate computers.  They know so much more than I do.  Using a computer forces a writer to think harder, faster, stronger.

Ms. Nine:  Would these modern tools have helped you write?

Mr. Steinbeck:  After I won the big P for The Grapes of Wrath, it was tough getting back on track.   I mean, I still had more writing to do.  Maybe if I had a word processor I would have won that Nobel Prize a lot sooner.  Who’s to say?

Ms. Nine:  Would you have finished The Acts of King Author and His Nobel Knights?

Mr. Steinbeck:  You had to mention that thorn in my side.  I’m not making excuses, but in my day writers had to set priorities.    Yeah, maybe a word processor would have helped.  But back then writers believed in the perfectibility of man.  We didn’t write frivolously.  We wrote – wrote – to bring awareness of the economic and social injustice of the time.  I was making a statement!

Ms. Nine:  This brings me to my next topic – J. Edgar Hoover, the League of American Writers, and the Cold War Communist witch hunt. Do you think using social media and the internet would have made a difference?

Mr. Steinbeck:  If I could have tweeted about what happened to Charlie Chaplin and the Smothers brothers, the resulting public outcry might have stopped all that Communist brouhaha.   I am clever with words.  But remember, if I could have accessed social media, so could McCarthy and Hoover.  The ability of social media to shape collective consciousness is astounding.   It flows in all directions.

Ms. Nine: One last question – would you have used a website to promote your work?

Mr. Steinbeck:  At this point, I have grown beyond my work, walked up the stairs of my own concepts, and emerged ahead of my accomplishments, all achieved without a website.  Ironically, now that I’m dead, I have at least a dozen.

Well, there you have it – a 20th century perspective on writing in the 21st century.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

Thanks for stopping by!

 Why write?

Published July 26, 2012 by Ms. Nine

I would never post anything my kids shouldn’t read. In fact, my writer’s soul wants them to read my posts. I want to share my words with them like I did every day when they were little.  My daughters live close by and we talk often on the phone. But my blog posts, especially the stories about them, are special memories set to the speed of light. Yeah, kind of mystical and magical…

“Felda, did you read my blog today?”

She chortles. “I didn’t have time today, sorry.”

“Audra, what did you think of my post today?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t read it. Yet. I’ll read it later. I promise.”

“Heidi, did you like my post?”

“What post?”

I shrug off their indifference and stop asking.  It doesn’t matter whether they read it or not, the story is alive on the web.  I’ve not used their real names, but they’ll recognize themselves nonetheless. And they will read those posts eventually….

Today, my phone rings.

“Mom, I called to tell you I laughed when I read your blog story.”

How cool is that! I get to make them laugh and they call me to let me know.

I hope everyone has found a way to keep those family stories alive.

Writing for Revelation

Published July 10, 2012 by Ms. Nine

When my daughter talks to me, which isn’t very often, our conversations are one-sided.  She does most of the talking, which is usually a rant, and I do the listening. She’s toxic, and it’s better when I don’t take the bait.  When she leaves or hangs up the phone,  I fill my journal with what I wanted to tell her.  I thought I’d share with you a recurring theme.

#

      “Why did you adopt me?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time,” I replied.

She scrunched up her face.  The answer, after all, implied that if I had hindsight, my decision would have been different.  Well, what did she want to hear?  Because I loved her?  Because she needed a family?  Because it was the right thing to do?  All this she already knew.  The truth is, even when I try to remember the reason, I really don’t have a better answer.

     Honey, you’re thirty-seven, an adult.  So your life sucked for the first eight years, then you got a new family.  It’s been twenty-nine years and you’ve yet to call me Mom.  Your therapist said you couldn’t say it because the word dredged up feelings of horror, pain, and dread.  Maybe if I had pushed the issue, made you talk the talk, eventually you’d see me as your “real” Mom.  Just so you know, being the “adopted one” never made you any less of a sister or daughter.

      We accepted you for yourself, the crooked sapling that we loved regardless.  Could anything have straightened out that sapling so its trunk wouldn’t grow up gnarly?  Does it matter?     

     Is that why you stuck the needle in your arm?  You blame your heroin addiction on being adopted?  Well, Honey, that’s what addicts do – they blame.  All the therapy in the world won’t change that.  True, you could have been someone else’s daughter.   But you’re mine, and nothing will change that, either. 

     So, why did I adopt you?  I can’t promise you’ll like this answer any better.  It’s a divine poker game and God’s dealing.  When He gives you a chance to love, even if the stakes are high, you don’t fold. 

    And if God ever gives me the chance to tell you this, I will.

 

Writing this has helped.  It’s her birthday and I’ve no way to contact her.

Thanks for stopping by.

The Last of the Summer Shorts

Published July 6, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Writing shorts has been a learning experience.  I recommend it highly.  As a writer, I’ve learned to wipe away words that don’t perform, clean up clutter, and bend the rules.

Here’s to Friday of summer shorts week–

Do You Hear What I Hear? 

Lily, a curtain maker, listened to streamed music and sang along to Brighter than the Sun.

“Melodious voice, Lil,” she heard.  The DJ?

A joke, surely.  “Thanks,” she replied to her humming serger.

“You don’t need to audition for Idol.”  Who was that announcer talking to? Not her.

Weird how the words fit.

Next, Lily sang along with We Found Love as she created the curtain toppers for Mrs. Bobbitt.  (Mrs. Boob-it for reasons unmentionable).

“Your voice has a timber, an unusual quality,” words again, emerging from the satellite radio.   (The speaker must be interviewing Adele…) “a ring, a pleasant sound.” (Streaming music – that’s what I’m paying for.  Skip the commentaries, thank-you-very-much)

“Yeah, right.  Whatever. Play music,” she muttered.

Energetic, yet lyrical.”

“Enough.  The music now!”She asserted.

“It’s streaming in. Listen.”

Too much talk!  She punched the serger’s foot as if she was Danica Sue Patrick racing in the Daytona.  She braked for the intro to A Thousand Years, then sang.

To millions listening, the voice was not Christina Perri’s, but Lily’s.

Thanks for stopping by.

Love Shorts

Published July 5, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

English: Exmoor : Dry Stream & River Barle

English: Exmoor : Dry Stream & River Barle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

Yesterday, the brutality of the summer heat ticked me off and sent me over to the dark side.   But, not today. Today, I’m staying away from the heat.  I’m thinking about the sweet side of summer – convertibles, watermelon, and time off. And who doesn’t love a swimming hole?

The First Time

Behind the Baptist Church in Whynot, Jesse waded in the river of his baptism.  His skin chill bumped from the cool water and tingled at the promise of summer delights – like sweet Lula Mae, home from her first year in college, whose head bobbed ahead of him.

“Come all the way in, Jesse.  The water feels so good,” she coaxed.

He removed his tee shirt and flung it on the shore where it caught on a branch and waved like a white flag.   He plunged in before he could say, “I’m coming.”  His dive splashed her, and she giggled.

When his head resurfaced, her cheeks apple blushed.  He dove again, this time he held her ankles and dragged her, flailing and laughing, to the lee side.  There he would experience a baptism of another sort.

Lula Mae christened him under the birch trees.  With this single act, she enlightened him to the beauty and godliness of his body.   In the grass where he lay, he heard his soul sing

Thanks for stopping by!

 

Fragmented Shorts

Published July 4, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Flash fiction and sentence fragments.

Only for a Minute

Driving home from work.  Picking up kids from day care.  Watching the temperature soar to 106 degrees.  Forty minutes from home.  The intense urge to urinate.  Can’t think.   A gas station ahead.  Stopping.

Only for a minute.  Urgent business.  Locking the doors.  Leaving the kids inside.  Only for a minute.  Molten pavement.  Racing to the bathroom.   Occupied.  Waiting only for a minute.  Hot urine.  Liberation.  Relief.  Washing hands.  Thinking clearly.

Grabbing two popsicles.  Waiting in line.  Only for a minute.  Running back to the car.

Not sleeping.  Not nodding off.  One semi-conscious.  One dead.

Be safe.  Stay cool.  Thanks for stopping by.

Summer Shorts

Published July 2, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Like these summer shorts, less is more.

Here’s the first of my summer shorts.

That Woman

She put her salad fork down.  “I want a dog for my birthday,” she announced to her old man, her husband of thirty years.

“A dog? But you don’t even like dogs,” he grumbled, mouth full, steak juice dripping from his chin.

“Not a big one, a toy, a house dog to keep me company and sit in my lap at night.”

So he bought her a dog, a designer mixed breed, small and cute.  He snapped a photo of her holding the peppered fur ball as he sang the birthday song.

Later when she viewed the photo, a shadow from a clouded memory crossed her brow.   “I’m that woman,” she said, “the one I said I would never be.”  Her tone did not betray the lament that boomeranged back to her from the past.

She was pushing a stroller in the park, her attention fixed on an old lady sitting alone on a bench.  No, not quite alone, she was tethered to a Yorkshire Terrier which was sharing her ice cream cone.  Gross!  When I’m old, I won’t need a dog for that.  I’ll be feeding ice cream to my grandbabies instead.  I’ll never be that woman.

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