A Poodle and a Pinscher

We have no pets now since we lost our sweet Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Prissy a few years back. Prissy was a gift from our son and his wife after they married. They said she would fill the void and give us someone to care for. She sure did that!

Well, both hubby and I fell in love with her. She slept beside the bed at hubby’s side, on the floor. She was a big bundle of joy, kept us entertained and gave as much love as she received. When she became ill and passed away, our hearts were broken. We didn’t want to replace her, but we probably should have. As time went by we grew accustomed to just the two of us in the house.

But before Prissy went to ‘Doggy Heaven’ our granddaughter Emaleigh came along. What a thrill to welcome her into the world. She was our diamond, our jewel, our wonder, our angel. Emaleigh filled our lives with the sweetest joy imaginable.

Prissy was so gentle and protective when she was around Emaleigh. Prissy became Emaleigh’s delight when she visited. I think the feeling was mutual.

I believe it was 2003, Emaleigh’s Uncle Brad and Aunt Christy gifted her with an adorable bundle of fluff. A Toy Poodle.

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Emaleigh named her Cloe. Yes, the spelling is correct, because being seven,  that’s the way Emaleigh spelled her name and Mom and Dad didn’t want to correct her. Excited over Cloe, doesn’t even describe the way Emaleigh felt. Cloe was her baby and Cloe was treated accordingly, in every way.

I remember once calling Cloe a dog. Wow! Emaleigh became indignant and informed me, “Nana, Cloe isn’t a dog, she’s a Poodle.” Needless to say, I never called Cloe a dog again. Lol.

Fast forward several years. Our fabulous grandson, Owen wanted another dog, but Mom and Dad weren’t quite ready to make the leap to add to their family. Owen was saddened by the news, but accepted their decision.

Mom and Dad had a change of heart. Mom took Owen to check out a litter of Miniature Pinschers. Since neither Mom nor Owen could resist, the household had another member. Owen received his wish and Cloe had a little brother to play with.

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Owen named him, Comet. Comet sure lived up to his name. He and Cloe were definitely not playmates. Comet had, I believe, two bouts at behavior school to learn to keep out of mischief. He wanted to rule the roost and poor Cloe had no idea what was going on. It took a while, but now he and Cloe are almost best buds, though they still have their moments.

So…we are grandparents of two doggies. Oh, excuse me. One Toy Poodle and one Miniature Pinscher.

I wish you love, butterflies and music.

Please check out these links to my books, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords. http://caroldevaney.weebly.com/my-books.html

 

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Monkeys, and Ducks, and Dogs. Oh, My!

We’re talking pets this month on Main Street, and boy howdy! I’ve had some memorable ones.

For example, growing up in what, at the time, was a rural area of Long Island, my parents raised chickens and ducks.When I was a soon-to-be toddler, our family also had a St. Bernard who was instrumental in teaching me how to walk. I would pull myself to a standing position on his haunches and hold his tail to take my first steps.Unfortunately, on one of these walking adventures in my backyard, I tripped over a white duck named Donna. From that moment on, Donna Duck tormented me whenever I stepped out the back door. She’d chase me and flap her large wings at me and nip me. And let me tell you, those nips hurt! It reached the point where I refused to go outside, I was so terrified of her. Finally, my parents took Donna to a poultry farm, much to my relief. My husband swears my love for duck as an entree is rooted in those terror-filled days. He claims it’s my way of gaining revenge on my tormentor. I can’t deny the possibility.

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When I was six, my older brother came home with a squirrel monkey. Yes, you read that right. My family had a pet monkey. Sugar was not your typical adorable monkey. She was nasty to everyone but my father (including the brother who brought her home). She bit, she clawed, she screeched all hours of the day and night. My mother had to make her oatmeal every day (she hated bananas) and we had to pin up plastic sheeting because a lot of her food wound up thrown against the wall. Oddly, though, when I wrote my first book, THE BONDS OF MATRI-MONEY, I included a character who had a pet squirrel monkey (though I made “Honey” a lot sweeter in nature than Sugar.) My editor balked, claiming in this day and age, it was probably illegal to keep one as a pet. Honestly, it was probably illegal back in the 70s when we had one too, but, at the time, no one cared. To appease my publishing house, Honey the squirrel monkey became Buttons the cockatiel. But if you read between the lines, the bird still has a lot of monkey-style characteristics. Like this scene:

“You want to get the door while I clear the table?”

He shrugged. “No problem.”

Yeah, sure. No problem. With halting steps, he walked to the door, opened it, and saw no one. Then a screech pierced his ears, and his gaze traveled downward. He blinked twice, looked up at the ceiling, then down again, but the view didn’t change. Beneath a scrap of white gauze lay a pair of feathered cheeks with what looked like circles of heavy orange rouge.

“Um, Renata,” he called over his shoulder. “I know we didn’t have wine with dinner, and you’re probably not going to believe this, but there’s a bird in a bridal veil out here.”

Her laughter sent butterflies flitting across the base of his back. “That’s Buttons. Lillian’s probably on her way.”

“The woman has a pet parrot?”

Lillian’s responsive cackle sounded like the scratch of an old phonograph needle. “She’s a cockatiel, Connell. A gift from an admirer many years ago. And speaking of gifts…” She appeared in the hallway holding a large box wrapped in white paper with a giant silver bow.

“Here,” he offered. “Let me take that from you.”

“Thank you.” As she passed the parcel, she poked a bony elbow into his ribs. “Actually,” she continued in a raspy whisper indicative of someone who had smoked heavily at one time, “the original Buttons died in 1968. This is Buttons III.”

With her signature whistle, Buttons hopped inside and sat on the back of the sofa.

“You must really love cockatiels,” he said, staring in fascination at the creature peeking at him through the gauzy white veil.

Lillian shook her head. “I loved Oscar.”

“Oscar?”

“Oscar Hammerstein. We worked together in the original Broadway production of South Pacific. I was a chorus girl then. He gave me my first Buttons as a token of his affection. When I brought her home, the owner of this building was less than enthused about having a cockatiel roaming around.” She winked. “I used my powers of persuasion to gain his permission to keep her. But he insisted once she died, no more birds. Thus, every time a Buttons dies, I replace her before the landlord finds out.”

“So he and the owner think you have the world’s oldest living cockatiel.”

“It’s the only way to keep the memory of my dear Oscar alive.”  

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The Kindle version of BONDS is currently on sale at Amazon for 99 cents. Pick up a copy and see how many monkey characteristics Button got away with!

We also had the usual cats and dogs, including Kismet, my bionic Labrador retriever. When Kismet was about three or four, she tore her ACL while playing ball with my husband and required surgical repair that included a titanium part. She was known as the six-million-dollar pup from then on – with good reason. Don’t ask about the cost. Let’s just say my boss was thrilled because it meant I wouldn’t be leaving my job anytime soon. Kismet passed away last year, just a few months’ shy of her sweet sixteen birthday. ‘Til the end, she was a companion, a playmate, and a guardian for both my kids.In fact, my daughter loved her so much, she had her favorite photo of her beloved Kismet made into a tattoo.

Kismet

 

 

 

 

 

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These days, we live with Zoe the Wonder Pup. She’s a shelter dog, of cocker spaniel descent, and just too darn cute for words. So cute, in fact, she was featured in advertisements at the NY Daily News for the 2015 Puppy Bowl. You can see the video and photos here. At the time, she was the cocker known as Lily Rose, the younger of the two featured (the one in the ref’s lap). She’s grown since then, of course, and now looks like this:

Zoe w football

As you can see, she’s still a big football fan. You know what this means, though, right? No matter what I do in life, I’ll never be as famous as my dog.

<sigh!>

 

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Celtic Canines and My Nordic Beasts

Vince &amp; Hounds-3There are three Scottish Deerhounds, one Westie, and two cats in our household. Life is rarely dull and always filled with affection in our home.

aug3-5We got our first Deerhound, Somerled, from a breeder in Tennessee. I still remember the 14 hour drive with my young family – my son was two when we got Somer. My daughter was in fifth grade.

Originally, my husband and I were looking at Irish Wolfhounds. After months of research and speaking with breeders across the country, we settled on Deerhounds instead.

The choice was made on health and longevity alone. I have a tendency to love deeply, as does my husband, so longer life expectancy matters.

Smiling HoundsWe got to the breeder, who owned several fenced in acres, and saw through the six-foot high fence that the yard was empty. After helping my children out of the car, the yard was no longer empty. Lined up across the front were eight completely silent grey coated giants; regal and quietly assured that they were, as Sir Walter Scot put it, “the most perfect creatures under heaven.”

I looked at my husband and said, “What were we thinking?” completely oblivious to the fact that I’d subconsciously pulled my children close.

Well, we went in, greeted our pup, and I fell instantly in love. So did my entire family.

IMG_5070We adopted Somerled’s half-brother, Fingal, about two years later from the same breeder. We adopted Puck, Somerled and Fingal’s great-niece, about three years after that from a breeder in Ontario.

Somerled, my big boy, was over seven feet tall when he put his front paws on my shoulders. He could easily clear off the top of the refrigerator – he didn’t, he was too polite for that. Yes, cookies did go missing once or twice, but that was probably the fairies.

We lost Somerled and Fingal after long lives – far longer than their littermates. They continue to add joy to my life every morning when I smile at their photos on my wall and know how much I and the rest of my family were loved.

IMG_4940Puck, my sweet girl, is still with us, two years after the best emergency vet clinic in the state told us to say goodbye. What a gift, that.

I wanted a big boy again so we started our search for another Deerhound. The first took us four years. This time took eighteen months. After a series of quasi-comical events, we ended up going to Ontario for an eleven-week-old girl, Awen. We came home with Awen (I named her for the Druid word for “Inspiration”) along with one of her brothers, the runt of the litter, as well.28904837-mjs_highland-_nws-_sears-_1

Somerled was the runt of his litter. He grew far taller and more regal than any Deerhound from his breeder – far taller than the tallest Wolfhound I’ve ever seen. I chair the Celtic Canine tent at our local Highland Games, so I’ve seen plenty.

IMG_3764Awen’s brother, Merlin, is now gigantic. The two are now eleven-months-old and Merlin is as tall as Somerled was, and he’s still growing. Talk about a “What were we thinking” moment. Honestly speaking, there was no “we” in the two puppy deal – that was all me. After much chewing of family items, I am often reminded of this fact.

Deerhounds are exceptional creatures. Even with the chewing, we are blessed.

Gandalf is our West Highland White Terrier, more commonly called a “Westie”. He is my “Little General.” My daughter, son, and I drove to Ohio when we learned he was the last available pup – again the runt with astronomically big ears that no one wanted.

2016-06-25 13.50.59Somerled had passed and Fingal wasn’t feeling as spry as he once was, so within two hours of becoming aware that there was a Westie puppy available, we left for Ohio.

What a wonderful decision that was.

2015-04-30 17.25.46Gandalf is my first “small” dog. He’s grown into his ears and is now a big boy, topping out at the highest end of the breed standard. He still hasn’t grown into his personality.

He’s a clown and so loving that he makes everyone smile. He’s stubborn though – like most Scots.

Our cats are talkative. One sleeps near my feet and the other constantly head-butts me when I’m working at the computer. She’s also the one who holds my face and pets me with her front paws. Loki and Freya are the most loving cats I have ever known.

I’ve got an odd bunch of animals – some no one thought would amount to much more than misfits of their own breed. Awen and Puck are the exceptions, as both girls are gorgeous and would have shown beautifully had I any interest in showing.

I don’t.

Our interest is in having loving members of our own rag-tag family. In that, Puck, Loki, Freya, Gandalf, Awen and Merlin excel.

Here’s to animal lovers everywhere!

May our hearts be open and our lives enhanced through our mutual and elemental love of our pets.

Leigh

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Remembering Cleo

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About 1987

This month we’re blogging about pets. I don’t have any pets now because I’m allergic to cats and dogs (and lack the time, energy and money for pet ownership). But there was one special cat in my life for many years—a Siamese named Cleo.

My mother brought her home when I was fifteen. Our old cat had recently died, and Mom decided to get a new companion for our six-year-old Siamese, Tia. I remember the excitement of coming home from school to meet the new kitten, who was sitting on a dining room chair when I arrived. When I pulled out the chair, this adorable, delicate little thing looked up at me with bright blue eyes that were slightly crossed—giving her a look somewhere between dimwitted and deranged—and bellowed at me. It was more of a “waah!” than a meow. Her loud human-baby-like voice was part of her charm.

Because of my allergies, Mom banished the kitten from my bedroom. But I smuggled her in that first night and let her sleep in my bed, tucked under the covers next to me with her paws over my arm. Her purr was just about as loud as her voice and rumbled on for ages. She slept in my bed every night until I moved out of the house years later.

People have the impression Siamese cats are nasty, but Cleo was sweet and loving. Like any cat, she had her destructive tendencies. In the wee hours, she would jump onto the shelves in my room and knock things over. She chewed up my headphones and shredded the picture sleeves on my precious 45s (if you are of a certain age, you know what I’m talking about). She was persnickety, and yowled and muttered in complaint if things were not to her liking.

Tia didn’t appreciate the interloper and never accepted her. Often Cleo ran to me for protection from Tia’s wrath. And in return, Cleo saved me from many teenage bouts of despair, comforting me with cuddles and purrs. She sat in my lap when I watched TV, and enjoyed being carried around with her chin resting on my shoulder. When I felt like I didn’t have a friend in the world, she reassured me otherwise.

After I moved away to go to college, for a while Cleo sat on my bed in the evenings and yowled. I missed her, too, alone in my little bed in residence. Eventually we got used to being apart. Not being around her as much, I developed an allergic reaction to her. I got busy with marriage and having a baby, and she became sickly.

Cleo died at the ripe old age of eighteen, after a good life in a loving home. When I think about her, I still miss her, and wish very much that I could find another cat just like her. But I doubt that’s possible.

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Living with cats

black cat named Athena

“I’m not fat, I’m fluffy.”

is nothing like living with dogs. (Dogs greet you at the door to love you, not demand the food bowl be filled. Because, OMG, I can see the silver at the bottom of the bowl.)

is demands of rub my tummy, rub my tummy, oh, I’m okay now, leave me alone. (At least twenty times a day and stops way before the human wants it to.)

is tiptoeing around the animal who thinks she is the goddess of the house and sleeps all day to prove it. (What she is sleeping to recover from, I have no idea.)

is to find constant hairs glued to your stove, countertops, and any other surface you would like to not have hair glued to. (This one I could live without.)

is to have a companion at your side when you are crying over the sappy happily ever after in the current book you are reading or writing. (Bestest part of living with cats.)

is to have your forehead connected with theirs to let you know you are part of the pack. To be groomed with a sandpapery tongue because you are a member of her family. (Good to know, otherwise I would wonder if I was the next meal.)

is priceless. (No words needed.)


Jill James, romance writer and lover of cats.
Time of Zombies series soon in audiobook!

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Menagerie

E came up with the brilliant idea of focusing our posts around our pets for the month of August. I love this not only because I love pets, but also I’ve been immersed in animism. Don’t know what that is? Animism (from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”) is the worldview that non-human entities—such as animals, plants, and inanimate objects—possess a spiritual essence.

And the reason I’m neck deep into it is I’m a hair-breath away from finishing my latest book, Menagerie. It’s the story of seventeen-year old Lizbet Woods who has spent her life cloistered on an island in the Puget Sound with her mom and a menagerie of animals–some domesticated and some not. She talks to them, and they talk back. Sometimes this helps, but sometimes it hurts, too.

I hope to have it published sometime in September.

menagerie

CHAPTER ONE

Animism (from Latin anima, “breath, spirit, life”) is the worldview that non-human entities—such as animals, plants, and inanimate objects—possess a spiritual essence.

From Declan’s Research

The birds heralded the storm, as they always did. They liked to be the bearers of scuttlebutt although, as Lizbet had learned long ago, not all birds were created equal, and some species were much more reliable than others. Not that they lied, very few creatures had the ability or cunning, but rather in their haste to be the first in the know, some blurted out misconceptions and half-truths.

Not that Lizbet had much familiarity with liars—or people, in general—but she’d read of several, as Rose, her mother, had accumulated an impressive library over the years. Not that Lizbet was in any position to know what was and was not impressive library-wise, or any otherwise, since Lizbet herself had never been off the island she and Rose called home.

The howling wind drowned out the calls of birds, and the chatter of squirrels and chipmunks. Opossum, skunks, and fox sought shelter in the forest’s thickets. Rats and mice scurried to find hidey-holes. Lizbet fetched an armful of wood from the shed to stoke the fire while her mother gathered candles.

Wind rustled the tarp protecting the woodpile. The pine trees, used to standing straight and tall, moaned as the wind whipped through their canopy, and bent them in directions they didn’t wish to go.

“A man approaches,” Wordsworth whined, terror tainting his words.

Lizbet looked over the German Shepherd’s furry head to the storm-tossed sea. The Sound, normally a tranquil gray-blue slate, roiled as if shaken by an invisible hand. Lizbet couldn’t see anyone, but her heart quickened. “Are you sure?” She saw nothing but a curtain of rain, an angry sky, and churning tide. The gulls, who generally swooped above the bay, had wisely found shelter. The otters, too, had disappeared, and for once the noisy, boisterous sea lions, were silent.

The dog nodded. “He’s lost, but hopeful.”

“Hopeful? Of what?”

Wordsworth shook his head. His ears flattened and his tail drooped when another flash of lightening lit the sky. He cowered as the thunder boomed.

“Come,” Lizbet said, “let’s go inside. Only an idiot would be out on the water today.”

“He’s no longer on the water,” Wordsworth whined. “His boat has landed.”

Lizbet peered into the storm, saw nothing more than before, added another log to her collection. Their cottage was made of stone, but the adjacent shed which housed the woodpile, gardening tools, and bird seed, was constructed of recycled wood. Wind blew through the slats and rattled the shake roof. The cottage would be warm and dry in a way that the shed never could.

Wordsworth whimpered again. Lizbet knew he longed for the comforts of the house as much as she did, but she also understood Wordsworth had an important job to do, and he would never back away from protecting her from strangers.

“There’s no one there,” Lizbet said, stomping toward the cottage. She climbed the steps and pulled open the Dutch door. The warm comforting scent of the crackling fire mingled with the aroma of ginger cookies.

Rose stood at a large pine table, stacking the cookies onto a plate. Lizbet stared at the amount, knowing that she and her mother would never be able to eat so many. Her mother was waif-thin with flyaway blond hair as insubstantial as her slender frame.

“There’s a man in the cove,” Lizbet said, wondering if her mother already knew, and if so, why she hadn’t warned her.

Rose kept her gaze focused on the cookies and blushed the color of her namesake. Rose was as fair as Lizbet was dark. We are as night and day, her mother would say, together, we are all we need.

“Are you expecting someone?” Lizbet demanded.

“No, not really, but I…” Rose’s voice trailed away.

Lizbet clomped through the kitchen to the living room, weaving through the stacks of books to the fireplace. She dropped her logs onto the hearth, placed her hands on her hips, and marched back into the kitchen. She hated surprises, but she was also curious.

“Who is this man?” Not Leonard, the postman—her mother would never blush for the potato-shaped letter carrier. Besides, Leonard would never venture to the island in a storm. He only came every other Tuesday. Today was Saturday.

“You don’t need to worry about him,” Rose said without meeting Lizbet’s eye.

“Why is he coming? Will he bring books?”

Rose laughed, but it sounded strange—strained and nervous. Lizbet decided that she already disliked this man. She plucked a cookie off the plate.

Rose looked up sharply, an expectant look on her face.

Lizbet studied her cookie, suddenly suspicious. Her mother studied and experimented with herbs and she’d taught Lizbet a variety of recipes. Lilies to lighten the mood, lavender to soothe worries, chamomile to bring sleep, basil to stimulate energy, and gingerroot to make one forget. Lizbet sniffed the cookie and touched it with her tongue.

Her mother watched.

Lizbet smiled, took a big bite and left the kitchen. In the privacy of her own room, she went to the window and pulled it open. A cold breeze flew in, ruffling the drapes, and blowing about the papers on her desk. Ignoring the wind, Lizbet stuck her head outside and spat the cookie out into the storm. She slammed the window closed.

“What are you doing?” Rose asked.

Lizbet started. She hadn’t heard her mother come in. Wrapping her arms around herself, Lizbet said, “I was looking for the man.”

Rose’s lips lifted into a smile. “Please, don’t worry about him. Here, I’ve brought you some tea.” She set down a steaming mug on Lizbet’s bedside table. “Gingerroot, your favorite.”

“Thanks.”

“Want to come and read by the fire?” Rose asked.

Lizbet glanced back at the storm on the other side of the window. An idea tickled in the back of her mind. “In a second,” she said. After plopping down on her bed, Lizbet sipped from the teacup, but she didn’t swallow. Instead, she let the tea warm her tongue.

Rose lifted her own mug to her lips and watched Lizbet.

Lizbet set the mug back down and met her mother’s gaze. After an awkward moment, Rose lifted her shoulder in a half-hearted shrug and headed down the hall.

Lizbet bounced from the bed, closed the door, and spat the tea back into the mug. She poured the entire cup down the toilet in the adjacent restroom, flushed, and climbed back onto her bed. She lay perfectly still, waiting for her mom to re-enter the room. She didn’t have to wait long.

A few moments later, her bedroom door creaked open. With her eyes firmly closed, Lizbet practiced her corpse pose and didn’t even flinch as she heard her mother steal into the room. Rose tucked a quilt around Lizbet’s shoulders before creeping back out and closing the door with a whisper click.

Lizbet peeked open an eye and met Wordsworth’s steady, brown-eyed gaze. “Who is he?”

“I don’t know,” the dog whimpered, “but he isn’t scared.”

“How can you tell?” Lizbet asked.

“The smell. All emotions have a smell.”

“My mom—what’s her smell?”

Wordsworth jumped up on the bed beside Lizbet and nestled against her. “She loves you.”

“I know. But I don’t know what that has to do with anything.”

Wordsworth whimpered again and snuggled closer. “You have to let me out so I can meet this man.”

“I can’t. If I do, she’ll know I’m awake. You’re on your own.”

Wordsworth blew out a breath, stood, shook himself, and jumped down. He went to the door to bark and whine. It didn’t do any good. Her mother ignored him, which told Lizbet two things. One: the potion Rose had given Lizbet must have been so strong that Rose didn’t worry about Wordsworth waking her. Two: Rose didn’t want to be interrupted.

Lizbet sat up as a thought assaulted her.

Wordsworth, as if reading her mind, jumped back up beside her and gazed into her eyes.

“This man is my father!” Lizbet blurted out.

“You cannot know this,” Wordsworth whimpered.

“She loves him enough to drug me just to spend time with him! Of course, he’s my father!”

Wordsworth moaned a disagreement.

Lizbet had a lot of questions—mostly because she was only twelve, but also because she lived a solitary life with her mother on an uninhabited island in the Puget Sound. She had faith that all of her questions would eventually be answered, but the biggest questions in her heart and mind all centered around her father.

Lizbet kicked off the quilt and crawled off the bed.

Wordsworth placed his nose against her thigh, stopping her. “There must be a good reason why your mother doesn’t want you to meet this man.”

“She never said she didn’t want me to meet him.”

Wordsworth snorted. “If she had wanted you to meet him, she wouldn’t have drugged you.”

Suddenly Lizbet hated her mother. “She can’t keep me from my own father.”

Wordsworth parked his butt against the door like a giant hairy roadblock. “You do not know he is your father.”

“Of course, he’s my father. Now move.” She grabbed Wordsworth’s collar to pull him away. His fur bunched up around his collar, but he wouldn’t budge.

Lizbet tried the doorknob, but since Wordsworth outweighed her by nearly fifty pounds the door wouldn’t open. Lizbet flounced to the window.

“Where are you going?” Wordsworth asked, his ears poking toward the ceiling.

“To meet my dad.” Lizbet threw open the window. The wind spat rain in her face and carried a breath of bone-chilling cold into the room.

Wordsworth stood, shook himself, but didn’t move away from the door.

Lizbet had one leg thrown over the sill, and her exposed foot was already soaking from the storm.

“You’ll look like a drowned cat if you go outside,” Wordsworth said.

She sent him a dirty look. He gazed back at her. She clambered out the window. The rain hit her like hundreds shards of ice. The cold stung her face and pierced her clothes. She ran around to the side of the house so she could look in the windows.

Inside, sitting side by side on the sofa amongst the towers of books, snuggled together in front of the fire was her mom and a man. Lizbet knew she’d never seen him before—not that she could remember, at least—but there was something in her that recognized him. She felt as drawn to him as a bird to a worm.

But as she watched him laughing with her mother, Lizbet had another realization. She knew that even if she introduced herself to this man, because of the cookies on the platter, in time, he would never remember her. She’d only be a vague recollection—a face he couldn’t place.

Lizbet never drank gingerroot tea again.

And the man returned, year after year.

 

CHAPTER TWO

“If you have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow men.”

― Francis of Assisi

From Declan’s Research

 

 

FIVE YEARS LATER

In mid-April when the crocus began to lift their heads from the ground and the daffodils unfurled toward the bleak but not yet warm sun, a pod of gray whales splashed past the western side of the island. Lizbet loved this time of year when the plants and animals roused themselves from winter’s frozen grasp. The garden, still crusty with ice, yielded beneath Lizbet’s hoe as she worked the compost into the soil. Lizbet longed to be out in the dingy to hear of the whales’ southern adventures, but Rose kept her in the garden.

Lizbet slid her mother a glance. Beneath the enormous straw hat Rose always wore, a worry line etched between Rose’s eyebrows, and her lips pulled into a thin, straight line. Tension radiated from her, and Lizbet felt powerless against it.

Wordsworth sat at the garden’s edge, his ears pricked, his eyes vigilant, despite the cataracts clouding his vision. Tennyson perched in the branches of the maple tree, flicking his tail and complaining about the birds swooping around him.

“A man comes,” Wordsworth whimpered.

Lizbet braced against her hoe and glanced out at the tranquil bay. Wispy clouds trailed across the robin’s egg blue sky. She couldn’t see an approaching boat. “Is it him?” she asked, referring to her mother’s secret lover, the man she suspected of being her father. He had come many times over the years, always following an offering of her mother’s ginger root tea.

“John? No. Someone else.”

“A postman?”

“No.”

Lizbet resumed hoeing when she caught her mother’s gaze. She’d learned long ago that her mother couldn’t hear or understand the animals the way she did. At first, this bothered her. For years, she had believed her mother to be all knowing and all-powerful, but in time, Lizbet grew to love that she had an ability her mother not only didn’t share but also discounted as a childish whim akin to make-believe friends and monsters beneath the bed.

“The whales dislike him. His boat is loud and he’s disrupting their path.”

Lizbet frowned against the sun.

“Tired already?” Rose asked without looking up from her work.

“No, I thought I heard an engine.”

Rose’s head jerked over her shoulder and her spine stiffened. She cocked her head, listening.

Gulls cried out as they wheeled overhead. “A man, a man, a man.”

“I don’t hear anything,” Rose said slowly, resuming her hoeing.

It had been months since John had been to visit, and Lizbet had yet to understand why he came and went as infrequently as a summer storm.

“A large boat, yet manned alone,” Wordsworth said.

Not quite,” Tennyson said, twitching his whiskers as he lounged in a nearby apple tree. The tree’s pinky blossoms offset his orange fur and Lizbet wondered if the cat knew this. He was so vain she thought he might. “He brings a creature.”

Creature was Tennyson’s word for dog.

Wordsworth’s ears pricked up. “I cannot smell him.”

Nor I, but the Albatross spotted him,” Tennyson said. “He’s wolfish.”

Wordsworth began to pace along the garden’s edge.

Rose lifted her face to the sun. Lizbet saw the questions in her mother’s sapphire eyes, but she didn’t know the answers. She wasn’t even sure of the questions.

“There’s something I need to tell you, Pet,” Rose began. “Not just one thing, actually…” She paused and twisted lips. “Things I should have told you a long time ago.”

Lizbet, of course, knew that her mother had secrets. The many books she read told her that very few lived in isolation the way that she and her mother did. There had to be a world beyond the island, a place peopled with more than friendly postmen and the occasional visitor.

An engine roared. A big beautiful boat slid into the cove. Sunlight sparkled off its shiny chrome and glass. This boat was bigger than anything Lizbet had ever seen.

“How?” Rose whispered, dropping her hoe. “He’s found me.”

“Who is it, Mama?” Lizbet asked.

Rose quickly bent and retrieved her hoe, but this time she carried it like a weapon. “No questions, love. I need you to run and hide.”

“Hide? Where? Why?”

Rose shook her hoe at Lizbet. “I said no questions! Go to the woods. There’s the old shack where Daugherty brewed her ale, go there.” Rose sucked in a deep breath. “No one can trespass the woods,” she muttered beneath her breath.

Lizbet’s memories of Daugherty were vague, but she knew the shack. “But what about you?”

Rose gripped her hoe like a weapon. “I’ll join you soon. Now go.”

Lizbet picked up her shovel for no other reason than her mom had a hoe and ran into the woods. Wordsworth loped beside her.

“Who is he?” Lizbet asked the birds flying above her.

“A big man,” a swallow answered.

“A wolf creature,” a robin put in.

“Hide in my tree,” a squirrel called out as Lizbet ran past. “It’s hollow inside. He’ll never find you.”

“Thank you, but no,” Lizbet said, her pace slowing. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hide from this man and his large boat. A wicked part of her wanted him to find her and take her to the cities where people and buildings resided. She had only read of cars, trucks, and helicopters. Occasionally, an airplane would fly overhead, so she knew—sort of—what a plane looked like from a great distance. But all other vehicles were nothing more than figments of her imagination. She had a bicycle, a rusted contraption, but had never seen a motorcycle. There was so very much that she’d never seen, and this man, this stranger, may have seen everything. Maybe he could show her—introduce her to this word beyond the island. Her thoughts ticked over cities she’d like to visit: London, Paris, Rome, New York, and Sherwood Forest.

“This man is not your friend,” Wordsworth warned her.

A friend. Lizbet ached for a friend, but even as she did so, a wave of guilt washed over her because she knew her mother should be enough. Her mother worked hard to keep them safe, to provide food and warmth, to supply the books for Lizbet’s entertainment and education. Lizbet knew her mother had sacrificed her own life—a life with John —to keep Lizbet sheltered from the world and its evil men and cunning women.

But what if I don’t want to be sheltered? The thought was so astounding it halted her. Lizbet froze on the path to Daugherty’s shack.

Wordsworth pressed his nose to the back of her leg, urging her to go on.

“I don’t want to be here anymore,” Liz thought.

“Hurry, hurry, hurry,” a friendly squirrel chattered.

“No!” Lizbet found her voice.

“Go! Go! Go!” The crows swooped around her.

“No! I don’t think so.”

“Not safe! Not safe! Not safe!” The crows contended.

Slowly, Lizbet began picking her way toward the shack because she knew and trusted the crows. They were much more clever than most of the animals and were almost never wrong. Although, unlike Wordsworth, they were self-serving.

“Why don’t you think it’s safe?” Lizbet asked the crows.

“A gun! A gun! A gun!” the birds responded.

“He has a gun?” Lizbet halted. She’d read about guns. They were mostly used and possessed by villains and soldiers, and as far as she knew, there weren’t any wars being waged on the island… which could only mean that this man meant them harm. “I have to warn my mom!”

“Go to Daugherty’s shack as your mom asked,” Wordsworth said. “I will protect your mom.”

Lizbet brushed past him, heading for her mother. Moments later, her knees buckled as a blinding pain slammed onto the top of her head.

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It’s November in August

Yesterday, I got a fan letter about my Calendar Girls series. As trite as it sounds, I love hearing from my readers, and I do answer every fan who writes to me, whether it’s via email, Facebook or Twitter. I’m always thrilled when a reader takes the time to let me know they enjoyed my work. I delight in learning they stayed up ’til two in the morning reading. After all, it’s only fair. I had lots of long nights writing those words.

This particular reader had devoured all four of the stories available in the series in the last month and was anxiously waiting for the next installment. I hesitate to tell her, I’ve only written the first chapter of that book. I mean, the most recent book, HOMECOMING IN NOVEMBER, was only released on July 28.

If you haven’t checked out my Calendar Girls, now might be a good time. Each book features two different women from the same Long Island seaside town, Snug Harbor, at a different crossroads in their lives. In HOMECOMING, you’ll meet Terri O’Mara, a recovering alcoholic, and Dr. Jayne Herrera , the new veterinarian in town who’s struggling to get over her own sordid past.

Continue after the cover to read an excerpt:

HomecominginNovember 500x750

“What I want is for you to relax and spend some time with me.”

“Why?” Yes, my mouth often ran faster than my brain, thanks for asking.

To his credit, Max just laughed. How about that? I made Max Trayham laugh.

“Do you know why I sat next to you at the meeting?”

This time, I sipped my juice before answering. “Now that you mention it, umm, no. Why did you?”

“Because, right now, I need a friend. And out of everyone in that room, you looked like the one person I could trust.”

“I did?”

“Yes. And I sensed you could use a friend, too. You had this air of desperation about you that called to me.”

“Gee. Thanks.”

“I don’t mean that the way it sounded. We’re all freakin’ desperate at those meetings. I saw you race inside, and I felt this need around you, like you were hoping something or someone could fix whatever sent you there. And I realized I was in the exact same situation. Then I thought, ‘what if she and I could fix each other?’ I’m new to the program, new to this town, but I wonder if you and I might become ‘sober buddies.’ Not a sponsor relationship. I’m too much of a rebel when it comes to authority figures. We would be two people, two equals, who help each other stay straight. No judgment, just support, encouragement, and a sympathetic ear. You know what I mean?”

Throughout his speech, I gaped at him, sure this was some colossal joke my friends were playing on me. This wasn’t the real Max Trayham, but a celebrity lookalike. Any minute now, Siobhan and Pan would jump out of the kitchen and shout, “Gotcha!” But no one did. And he really did look like the real Max Trayham, a Max Trayham waiting for my answer.

“I think so. But here’s the thing.” There went my mouth again, leapfrogging over my brain. I drained the last of my juice to buy time for my gray matter to catch up, but when it did, it agreed with my mouth. I owed Max the truth. No matter how crushing the fallout would be. “I’m only forty-nine days sober myself.”

I expected him to realize he’d misjudged me. And when he leaned forward, I prepared for his speech about how he suddenly had an appointment he’d forgotten about. I even had my no-big-deal face ready to slip on. But, instead, he reached for his glass and sat back to sip, completely at ease. “That’s perfect, actually. You and I can find our way together. We’ll keep each other honest and on the straight and narrow. What do you think?”

What did I think? That he was either insane, or I was. My mind couldn’t get past the idea this television star wanted to be “sober buddies” with me: boring, small-town, ne’er-do-well Terri O’Mara.

“Don’t you have close friends or family you’d rather spend time with?” Curse my wicked mouth and empty juice glass.

“Honestly?” He offered me a wry grin, the one his television character wore whenever he was about to outwit a business rival. “That’s part of my problem. All my friends are what dragged me down. I need to find new friends—people outside the spotlight who can help me stay sober. People like you, who are also struggling and understand what I’m going through. People with their priorities in order. People who aren’t caught up in the Hollywood game. People who are down-to-earth, grounded, and fighting some of the same demons I’m facing—without the glitter. People who won’t sell me out to the tabloids for a quick buck. What do you say? You feel like doing me a solid?”

“So…we’d…like…call each other and stuff?”

“Absolutely. Any time. You get that itch in the back of your throat—you know the one I’m talking about—at three in the morning and don’t think you can fight it off, you call me. And I’d be able to call you in the reverse situation.”

“You’re going to call me. And I can call you.” I knew I sounded like an echo chamber or some robot on repeat, but I couldn’t fathom how I’d managed to get a television star to want to be my new buddy. Believe it or not, this kinda stuff didn’t happen to me on a regular basis. Still, there was only one answer I could give him. “Deal!”

HOMECOMING IN NOVEMBER is available now from Amazon.

 

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