Characters

All posts in the Characters category

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!

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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!

Watching Grass Grow

Published August 30, 2012 by Ms. Nine

A rare creature adapted for life in a single cave may be wiped out in a collapse, but something like grass, with a few strategic nuances, will survive almost anywhere.” 

“The grass is getting high.  Have you noticed? I can mow tonight if you want me to,” my husband said.

“No, I should do it. I’ll mow tomorrow.”

Does he think I sit at home and watch grass grow?

The truth is, I have been watching the grass grow.  It grows dreadfully fast and mowing it cuts at least four hours out of my writing time.

So, if you’re visiting today you’ll hear the Deere running.  Feel free to grab a rake.

Thanks for stopping by.

Elementary Lessons

Published August 24, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Sometimes the lessons we learn in school aren’t found in a teacher’s plan book. This lesson was taught to a sixth grade class during the last century, but I will never forget what I learned from it.

“Who drank from my cup?” Mr. Skip hurled his voice at the rows of twelve-year-olds in his charge.  A giant of a man, Mr. Skip disciplined with a rolling voice.  We were bowling pins; he could knock us over just by breathing.

Silence.

“I want to know who drank from my coffee mug.  Until someone comes forward, there will be no recess.”

Groans.  Was this the end of recess as we knew it?  Who among us would snitch or confess?

A hand jerked up, hoisted by a good angel and a pulley.

“I did it.”

Gasps.  Billy?  He’s here today?

When he came to school, which was not often, we usually knew it because his odor was unmistakable – fermented onions, Romano cheese, and cow shit.  The kids teased him constantly.  He fought back with dirty fists and kicks from his cardboard soles.  His shirt tails hung to his knees while his filthy jeans frayed and dragged at the cuffs.

This unlikely game changer, a frail shadow of a boy, was the only obstacle between us and Dr. Death-of-Recess.  Billy, the goat.  He stood up and instantly became a warrior, a soldier, a hero.

“Oh, so you like my cup, Billy? Here, take it. Fill it with water.”

Billy smirked, winked at the class, and took the cup.  He returned from the water fountain and handed the cup back to Mr. Skip.

Mr. Skip refused to take it, a gesture of contempt aimed – no doubt – at Billy’s grimy fingers. “Drink it.”

Billy chugged down the water.

“Go and fill it up again.”

By now, we understood Mr. Skip’s story book.  No one would enjoy a happy ending with this script.  Billy shrugged as if to say Is this all you’ve got? Bring it on.  He drank the water a second time, a third, and a fourth. On the fifth fill Billy pleaded, “Aww… Mr. Skip…please…”

Mr. Skip’s eyebrows raised like a stage curtain and engaged Billy in a stare-down.  One minute.  Five minutes.  Billy kept his eyes trained on Mr. Skip’s and brought the cup to his lips.

He drank, bowed for the curtain call, and promptly vomited.

Show over.

None of us made fun of Billy after that incident.  Later, we saw him on the bus holding Mr. Skip’s cup like a trophy.

By Will Murray, via Wikimedia Commons

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 Art of Losing

Published August 7, 2012 by Ms. Nine

PD-US

“Diana, look. The potato sack race is starting. Get in line, quick!” her mother urged.

Too shy, Diana wilted at the thought of joining in anything, especially competitive activities.

“Go on, you can do it. You could win, you know. You’re tall and long-legged,” she coaxed.

“Mom, do I have to?”

“I want you to try. Yes, you have to.”

Her mother’s trump card played, Diana had no choice but to comply.

The contestants lined up at the starting line, ears pinned for the ready-set-pop of a cap gun-go.

She heard the crowd cheering the contestants on, her mother’s voice louder than the rest, “Come on! Come on! Jump, Diana, keep jumping!”

Hey, Mom’s right! Look at me! I’m ahead! Gripping the potato sack and bouncing to mid field, she glanced back at the others.  I’m far ahead!

Diana, transfixed by the finish line in front of her, tripped and fell, her face inches away from the red tape taut on the field.

“Get up! Get up! You can win!” her mother screamed.

Diana stared at the tape. If she stuck out her tongue, she could lick it. She imagined it would taste like a strawberry lollipop. Unfortunately, her feet, not her tongue had to cross that line.  She couldn’t move them until the announcer shouted, “And the winner is….”

Not her.

I’m this close to finishing my wip.  Why can’t I reach the finish line?

Thanks for stopping by!

Dudley Do-Right and a Drum Roll

Published August 6, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Awards.  When I taught middle school, they were part of the game.   For kicks, our team decided to award every student with a “candy bar award”.  We brainstormed a list of candy bars and matching attributes.  For example the “Mr. Goodbar Award” went to the most helpful student, the “Peppermint Patti Award” to the most cheerful, the “Snickers Award” to the funniest, etc…You get the idea.

When I received two awards this weekend, I was flabbergasted.  If I was to receive a candy bar award it would be the “Almond Joy Award” for being the happiest blogger in the blogosphere.

I was nominated for the “Beautiful Blogger Award” by Nicole.  She’s an excellent writer venturing into the world of fiction.

Terry nominated me for the “Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award”.  You’ll find her life situation and her writing very inspirational.

The rules for accepting each award are identical:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you with a link.
  2. Copy and paste the award logo to your blog.
  3. Share seven things about yourself
  4. Nominate other bloggers for the award and notify them.

Seven Five Things:

  1. When I was six, I learned how to change diapers (the cloth and pin type).
  2. There’s a 1953 Farmall Super C parked by the barn.  Like my husband, it still works.
  3. Cell phones are annoying gadgets.
  4. I have seven siblings.
  5. Rocky and Bullwinkle are brilliant commentators (Rocky the flying squirrel, not Rocky Balboa).  The new WABAC machine arrives in 2013.  Aren’t you excited?

Now for the nominees (my favorite part)…

Beautiful Bloggers:

  1. Lucas Draeger
  2. Kirk Watson
  3. Karin Wiberg
  4. Marji Laine
  5. The Living Notebook

Sisterhood Bloggers:

1. Cathy

2. Heidi

3. Amy Signs

4. QM

5. Clotildajamcracker

All of these blogs are full of Almond Joys.  Indulge yourself.

Happy writing and 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!

When Mom Calls

Published July 30, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

My mom called me today.  One of my uncles recently celebrated his 90th birthday.  I loved my mom’s version of the party.  After our conversation, I pictured the scene and drew out the memories of my uncles and cousins.  Home.

This post was buried in the archives.  It’s back in case you haven’t read it.

 

Nine Writes

I visited my hometown, a place I haven’t seen in years, to attend a wedding.  A day before the wedding, my feelings of nostalgia led me to the old neighborhood where I grew up.   How differerent it looked from the days of my youth!  It took days to untangle my emotions and wrap them up in words.

Here’s what I told myself:

What did you expect?  When you walked away thirty years ago, did you think you were the only one who would leave?  You thought home would always be there, didn’t you?  Well, things change.

Where you once lived, the new owners have installed wrought iron stairs leading to your old room on the second floor.  At the top of the stairs is a door instead of a window.  Two familites live there now.

As you walk the streets of your childhood memories, you notice the sidewalks where you learned to ride a…

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Published July 27, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

This post about the writing process by writer A. Christine spoke to me. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

 

a. christine writer

First, you get an idea. It is bright and shiny like a quarter in a corner, and you run over and pick it up and gloat quietly in your head that you were the one who found it. You subsequently remember that there are lots of ideas out there that other people have picked up and will pick up, some of which look and sound an awful lot like the one you have in your hand. Damn that Collective Unconscious thingamajig!

Still, you like your idea. It excites you, so you keep it around, like a pygmy puff (Harry Potter reference – think a less reproductive tribble). It sits on your shoulder and occasionally reminds you that it’s there. It’s comfortable, and as the idea grows and develops into something more concrete, you start to get that persistent poke at the back of your brain that you need to put…

View original post 1,386 more words

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