Friday, December 26, 2014

An Afternoon Surprise


I had submitted this story to the Jacksonville Times Union for their holiday stories competition, hoping it might win a spot in the top three. It didn't. Let's face it, you can't always be a winner and I'm happy to accept that. I still thought it was a fun story and hope you'll enjoy reading it.
Wishing you a Happy New Year. It is almost here!
An Afternoon Surprise
     Amy Morgan dragged herself from the car to her front door. It had been a wicked day at work. The last minute Christmas rush was always the time a sales clerk dreaded. She was looking forward to a cup of tea and propping her feet on the ottoman. What was that mysterious package on the front step? She wasn't expecting anything. As she grew closer, she could swear the box moved.
     There was a scratching sound coming from the inside. Maybe an abandoned kitten? The girls would like that. She opened the front door and lifted the wobbly box inside, placing it on the sofa.
     “Anybody home?” she called. No answer. Her guess? Libby and Carla had met friends after school.
     A flush spread over her cheeks. She should wait until the girls were home. Curiosity was getting stronger. Maybe one little peek wouldn't hurt. She lifted the cover a notch. Something black and fuzzy flew past her and landed on an end table lamp.
     A tiny spider monkey glared angrily at her. Well she couldn't leave him there. “Come on, you little monster.” She held out her right arm, enticing him to jump on. He jumped, but not to her arm. He was sitting jauntily on top of the drapes. Okay, she'd think of something to bring him down.
     She found a banana on the kitchen sink. That ought to do it. She hurried back to the living room.
Where had he gone? A screech from the top of the stairs startled her. “Okay, Monster, this nonsense has to stop.”  She held out the banana as she raced up the steps, her breathing growing heavier.
     Tiny black eyes looked dangerously menacing as he screeched again and slid down the bannister like butter off a hot knife.
     Amy plopped down on the top step. The monkey cocked his head from the bottom one. His screech became a chatter as his lips widened, showing tiny white teeth. Was he laughing at her? She stuck her tongue out in return and wagged the banana in front of him. Slowly, Monster started climbing each step, his nose sniffing the air.  He was almost within her grasp, when the front door slammed open.
     “Hey, Mom, we're home!”
     Monster took off like a stone hurled from a sling shot. He sped past Amy and disappeared into a bedroom. He sounded like a banshee screaming his lungs out.
     “What's that noise, Mom?”
     “Someone who hates me sent me a gift.” She pushed a stray lock of  sable hair off her forehead. She could feel the sweat running down the back of her neck. I'm too old to chase a monkey.
     Libby and Carla  sat down beside their mother. Their eyes were questioning. “Are you all right? You look beat.”
     Amy snorted. “You'd be too, if you had been chasing Monster around for the past half hour.”
     Carla's green eyes widened. “Who's Monster?”
     “Check out the front left bedroom. Libby, stay here with me in case I'm having some weird nightmare.”
      Her younger daughter quirked an eyebrow. “What's that supposed to mean?”
     Carla came running back. “Take this monkey out of my hair,” she cried.
     Amy pushed herself to her feet. “Is he hurting you?”
     “No, but it feels yucky.”
     Amy's lips curled into a smile. “I think he feels secure hidden  in your black hair. Can you manage a few more minutes?”
     Carla shrugged. “I- I guess. Why?”
     “You'll see. I'll be right back.”
     Libby eyed her sister. “He's kinda cute when you look closer at him.”
     “Not to me.” Carla grimaced. “What's taking Mom so long? I hope he doesn't mess on me. I just washed my hair this morning.”
     Monster peeked out from under Carla's hair. His tiny teeth glistened from the glow of the hallway light.
     Libby giggled. “I think he's smiling at me.”
     “Then you let him hide in your hair.”
     “He wouldn't be hiding in mine. It's too light.”
     Their mother walked slowly toward them, a dark brown bath towel gripped tightly in her hand. “Carla, no matter what happens, don't move.”  In one swift motion she caught Monster and pulled him into the towel. “Libby, grab the box and bring it up here.”
     The monkey almost broke away as she dumped him into the box and slammed the lid down. His  irritation at being boxed up again could be heard loud and clear.
     Carla  raced into the bathroom and started brushing her hair.
     Libby eyed her mother. “Now what?”
     “We take him to a pet shop and let them figure out how to handle a wild monkey.”
     Finally back home, Amy checked her watch. “Your father will be home any minute now. This afternoon never happened. You got that?”
     “Why? It was actually an adventure looking back on it.” Carla couldn't wait to tell the kids at school.
     “Dad would be upset. You know how he worries about us.” For once, her younger daughter hit the ball over the fence.
     “But nothing happened to make him worry;” Carla insisted.
     “I wouldn't exactly say that. One of us could have been bitten.” Amy hugged her two girls. “You can tell all your friends at school. Let's just keep what happened here our little secret.”
     Richard Morgan hugged his three women when he got home. “What kind of mischief did you girls get into today?”
     Libby's eyes widened. “Us? We just had a quiet time watching television.” Her father never noticed the crossed fingers behind her back.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

River House Christmas Extravaganza December 4

Ready for the adventure!
Unfortunately, the Christmas Extravaganza at River House didn't draw as many people as we had hoped. There I was, pen in hand, with a table full of books I was hoping would sell. They didn't, but the folks who did buy were a joy to meet. Frankly, I had a great time just mingling with the shoppers and vendors.  

Doris Oxford was on hand as usual. You can't hold us old-timers down. We wiggled to some fantastic music and will keep doing these shows as long as we have the stamina. Why? Because just getting to know the vendors and hoping for sales, keeps us alive and happy. 

Jean Willis and I go way back to when we had stores on Aviles Street. Jean had an art gallery, and I pioneered art rubber stamping. Jean's artistry is well known. When she retired, she joined our writer's group and a  friendship was renewed. 

Howard and Peter were there displaying the Council On Aging's anthology of memoirs written by the members of the writer's group. Peter heads up the group and has taught us how to tighten our stories so they are fun to read. Howard worked above and beyond the call of duty in assembling the book.  
Howard (holding book) and Peter

To my amazement, my best friend Claire Bishop showed up to give us her support. Weary from a hard day's work, I couldn't get her to smile, but I loved the fact that she cared enough to come. She owns Claire'sCollectibles, the best rubber stamp store on the east coast. (Link to her shop and see what I'm talking about!)

Two more friends, Tony and Jean, showed up to add their support. What would we do without good friends who love us? 
Jean and Tony

Believe it or not, I got to hug Santa Clause!  
Tried to convince Santa I've been good all year.

I'm embarrassed to admit that the young woman who helped me the most, Teri Lee, I forgot to take  her picture. Without her lugging my books around, handing out business cards and even making some sales, I couldn't have made it through the day. I'm still gimping from a broken foot that hasn't healed completely. But my spirits are high. 

So another River House extravaganza has come and gone. I'm already thinking about the show to come  in July 2015. The eternal optimist, surely that show will be the best yet.

There's a lot of writing in all those books. You see what I've been up to.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

"A Cup of Christmas" Kindle Anthology Launches Today

Available on Kindle
I was excited to be included in this Christmas anthology along with thirty other authors. My story Simon was reconstructed to have a Christmas theme. It is one of my favorite pieces and it was fun to have it included in this book. The premise of the anthology - Why send a card when you can send an e-book? The book launched for free, but then priced at $1.99 with all proceeds going to First Book, a national children's literacy charity. To date, First Book has distributed more than 120 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families throughout the United States and Canada. First Book is transforming the lives of children in need and elevating the quality of education by making new, high-quality books available on an ongoing basis.
Check it out on Kindle. Get a copy for yourself and for a friend.  Thirty-one writers, some award winning authors, traditionally published, self-published, and first time writers sharing stories, memoirs, poems and a few tasty recipes.
Wishing everyone a wonderful Christmas!