The Almost Daily Thread

musings from the blue chair

Tales from New Hampshire Drive

I am offering a story sample of the Tales from Smack in the Middle of New Hampshire Drive and Beyond. The book I just recently published. A book I’ve been thinking about writing for a long, long time.

My Dad and Ivan were a unique and entertaining pair. When they were around a story was created to be retold. Ah, their lightheartedness, their lust for life.

Here is of my favorite family stories. Thinking how lighthearted it is to reflect on the fun, good times — the goofy times.

Enjoy.

One Fast Chicken

Our property sat above the fence line of a hillside urban farm where my mom used to drop off Porky, the chicken, hoping the chicken would like the farm and the farmer would be grateful for an additional hen added to his livestock count. Porky had outgrown all the pink dye s/he arrived with so maybe none of the other chickens would make fun of her, you know, for being a suburban chick or a clucker from atop-the-hill.
Mary Jo and her best friend, Becky Jo, spot the chickens in a display just outside Foodland a couple of weeks before Easter. Purple and blue and pink chicks waddling, cheeping, falling all over each other. Chickens in a giant flat metal bin littered with chicken drippings – not the kind you save to make gravy with. So cute? Colorful pastels, because we all know that sweet, soft buttery yellow isn’t cute enough for a baby chicken.
The girls beg to become chicken owners for so many days-it works! Mary Jo’s chick arrives in a little cage just outside the basement door on Easter morning as part of the whole Easter basket tradition, the whole giant, big fat Easter bunny tale parents perpetuate. Mary Jo loves Porky at first sight. She holds it. She feeds it. She makes sure it has water. She learned that animals need food and water regularly when Gerry, the gerbil, succumbed during the previous summer’s 7 day vacation with none of either.
Of course my mother’s insistent, “Don’t bring that chicken into this house,” instruction doesn’t last long. Porky gets into the basement daily and struts his/her way around, upstairs and downstairs, looking for Mary Jo. Porky likes to sit on Mary Jo’s shoulder when she does her homework. Mary Jo swears she did homework on occasion. Was the fact that Porky pooped down her back the final straw in his/her banishment or was it because s/he never caught onto the multiplication tables? Was it the extra laundry or lack of tutoring?
Or was it because Porky started crowing?
In order to safely and kindly dispose of the barnyard animal, Mom, gently, repeatedly escorts said chicken down the hill to the adjoining farm, only to return to find Porky sitting patiently on the back porch waiting for her! One homesick chicken with a sense of direction. I can assure you Porky didn’t learn that from my sister who will tell you to turn right when, really, it’s left nearly every time.
To the farm and back. To the farm and back. And the daily frustration of feathers and other trails of the chicken’s whereabouts in the house forces a more straight forward action. A frustrated Mom has Joe, my boyfriend and future husband, and I take Porky with us one day when we are going to Greenbo Lake State Park to swim. “Just drop him off where you see a farm house,” Peggy instructs. “This is one educated chicken. Porky will survive and he can teach the other chickens their numbers.” We stuff the flapping, confused, unruly animal in a box with plenty of air holes and a couple of cucumber slices.
The farm looks friendly. There are other chickens. It is close to the road so we don’t have to drive cautiously down a very long unfamiliar driveway and approach the home of a total stranger. The deed is accomplished, although my mother looks for Porky to wander in for weeks after.
Even now, 35 years later, when chicken is served at a family function, decades later, the “trauma” of Porky’s banishment is abruptly brought to the attention of those gathered around a table sharing food and creating new family memories, Mary Jo will exclaim with theatrical melancholy, “You kidnapped Porky. You took Porky to a stranger’s farm. How can you eat that chicken knowing what you did to Porky. He was a shy chicken. He was my favorite chicken.”
“He was your only chicken,” some will remind her.
“He didn’t even know anyone at that strange farm.”
She is never comforted when I reply, “No one knows he started out pink.”
My sister can be a tad dramatic, like when she is asked to start the biscuits, she will pick up the plate, set it down in front of her and pull an “air” cord making a lawnmower noise as she jerks her arm. And she’s been known to show up with an empty bowl or plate when invited to a pot luck and is asked to “bring a dish.” She loves to wash dishes but sometimes has to go the bathroom – for, like, a long time! But, really, truly, she is the best carrot peeler and silver polisher.
So, why did they color dip those innocent newborn chicks? What color sold best? And how does one train to be a chicken dipper? Do all the purple ones go into one area until they dry so as not to flap purple spots onto a nice pink batch? “This won’t hurt for long little chick. Hold your breath and no flapping. It’s just like getting your hair colored.” Dunk.
Oh and FYI, Becky Jo’s chick died young. Note to self, “Don’t fall for the blue chick.” Guess the blue dye was a harsher chemical.
I am sure there was a neighborhood funeral; that the blue chick was buried in a shoe box and we read Bible verses; and that we set out to present a service with appropriate songs but the singers all broke into shyness or laughter before the first verse of Amazing Grace was complete.

Tales from Smack in the Middle of new Hampshire Drive can be purchased from Amazon:

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Prompt #8 – I do not choose to

The suggested prompt is: All good things must come to an end. That one way too close to a death and finality for me today so I say, “I do not choose to write about that,” which brings me to a story I can tell you about I do not choose to.

August 25, 1996 The Clinton family stopped in Riverfront Park Ashland on a whistle stop tour on their way to Chicago to accept the party’s renomination for Bill.

“The president is here in Ashland, Kentucky, first stop of his campaign train trip to Chicago, where he’ll accept his party’s renomination of the Democratic convention. His mission, to explain to Democrats and to Americans all over the country why he should be reelected and why Bob Dole should not enter the White House.” from an interview with CNN.

http://www.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/1996/news/9608/25/clinton.interview/interview.shtml

Ashland is a river front town where the railroad tracks parallel the river.  A flood wall built a block or so away from the river protects with gates that can be open and shut at the streets that cross it.

The town rose to the call of the event.  Clean up.  Paint.  Build a speakers platform and podium.  Chairs.  Bunting and banners.  Celebration.  For several weeks, secret service men, yes, in trench coats, wandered the streets obviously not “from here,”  but setting up observation posts.   Our town was honored, decorated and safe.

After much anticipation, the train pulled from West Virginia where Hillary had spoken that morning and stopped just past one of the street openings of the flood wall.  Maybe 14th Street??

My step-ex-mother-in-law (that is a whole other story!), a long time Democrat, got tickets in the VIP seats via our friend, head of the Democratic Party at the time.  Juanita was beyond excited to attend the event, however, her physical health was such that she couldn’t walk great distances.  I picked her up early so we could get a parking place close to the speakers platform and her seat.  We that happened!  We found our seats, talked and visited all morning with all those gathering.  We watched from the center the frenzy of a Presidential visit to our small town.

The only other time a President graced us was when Nixon came through Russell to receive an illegal campaign contribution from Ashland Oil.  We, then, lined the streets for a glimpse.  Nixon didn’t stop to speak, just breezed through with his hand out.

I digress.

https://mobile.nytimes.com/1974/12/31/archives/170000-in-illegal-gifts-admitted-by-ashland-oil-special-to-the-new.html

So, the chugging train arrives as the anticipation grows.  And the President of the United States of America on stage with our local heroes and politicians speaks.  A fabulous speaker, Bill Clinton.  He smiles.  He offers promise and hope.  He entertains in an eloquent political speech.

When the podium empties and the applause stops the crowd is directed to leave through a street a block down from where our car was parked.  The train would stay parked while while Clinton does an interview with Wolf Blitzer.  CNN was so brand new then.

Juanita and I stand, speak to people leaving, wait until the crowd thins a bit.  When we leave we are directed to walk past the open flood gate where our car sits just on the other side to down to the next street.  Like from 14th Street to 15th.

“But my car is parked right over there,” she points to just a half a block away.

“Ma’am, this gate is closed now,” replies the secret service man very kindly.  And he turns to walk away but stops when he hears her speak.

“Sir, we came early to  park close so I wouldn’t have to walk far to get to and from my car.”

The man comes closer to us.  “I understand that, Ma’am.  But this street is closed for as long as the President’s train is parked.  I am going to ask you to walk this way,” and he points towards the crowd that is flowing out of the next street.

“And I am telling you I don’t choose to.”

“Ma’am, this street is closed.”

“Well, look, at all the other people using this street.”  She points behind him.

“I see them and each of them are an authorized part of the team here to protect the President.  Now, would you just walk on to the next block and exit.”

“I don’t choose to,” she firmly states.   “My car is parked right over there and I am going to walk straight to there from here.”

I look behind her to see several local officials now aware of and watching this conversation.  The Ashland Chief-of-Police is standing with his arms crossed and I suspect he and the mayor and council men have just placed a bet on who wins this one.

“Perhaps then you need assistance, Ma’am.  I can get you a wheelchair or I can call for an ambulance?”

And I knew at that moment, no matter what kind of weapon was under that coat,  the secret service man had lost his cause.

“Sir,” she took a step forward, “I can assure you I do not need assistance.”  And she took my arm.  “Let me remind you, sir, you are in my town only for a brief passing and I am going to use the streets in my town to my benefit.  I am going to walk across here and go to my car and you may arrest me or assist me.  Now, come on Susan.”

I see the local authorities smiling and I put my hand on her hers and we start to walk.

The man in the trench coat shrugs his shoulders, turns and says to the locals, “This is one tough crowd.”  And he follows us across the railroad tracks to our vehicle.

The text of Bill Clinton’s speech is:

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=53232

 

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Bonus!

 

Celtic Knot - fabric collage wall hanging with vintage fabric and embellishments

Celtic Knot – fabric collage wall hanging with vintage fabric and embellishments

 

 

Sifting through a pile of papers I had every intention of sorting through and find a place for (the trash?) I uncovered this short story rewritten and ready to publish. Obviously Thanksgiving and Christmas got in the way of this process!
This makes 11 short stories and makes me happy. A nice, comfortable sense of accomplishment, I feel.
I could write about buried treasures and support coming in surprise packages. I could write about preparatory work not going without reward. I could write about unfinished projects and/or procrastination. But, I think I will just say. YES! in sincere gratitude. A surprise, bonus check mark.
I love checking things off my list. Sometimes I write on the list – write list – and then I have an automatic check mark. Maybe I didn’t get enough check marks in school. So, now, I give them to myself. Oh, and the pile is still a pile stuck in a very unobtrusive spot!I don’t even want to go through it so I am not even going to put – go through pile of papers – on my list.  So there ya have it!

The Celtic Knot Piece is the result of two very generous gifts of fabric to me from very different sources.  The fabric is vintage wool that is soft and beautiful.  The other pieces are a rich cotton.  Buttons and beads and yarn embellish.

I’ve been so productive!

http://www.amazon.com/Safety-Susan-Rea-Caldwell-ebook/dp/B00S1M4LD6/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1421071941&sr=1-1&keywords=safety+susan+rea+caldwell

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Goal #1 – check!!!

This story is a fictionalization of an actual event in my life. Were were stranded in a snow blizzard one post Christmas visit to Marion, Indiana to visit Hazel. We did spend the night at a stranger’s house where we were warm and safe and dry! We got a Christmas card from that family for years.
While I am unsure about many of the details I do know it was the first time I knew my parents to be afraid and not in compete control.
It was a scary event. It was a blessed event.

And it is published.  Forward I go!

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Revision, Review and Projections

Celebrate

Celebrate

Reviewing and Planning
In one of the chapters of my life my friend, Joanie, and I spent a long lunch together soon after New Years and reviewed the past year so that our changes didn’t go unnoticed. The reviews were enlightening. I continue to do so although as a solo endeavor. 2014 was a busy year for me. A year of growth and taking risks that have proven beneficial.
Most recently I am grateful for:
My daughter’s clear margins
A delightful Christmas and Solstice celebration with lots of time with my families
Thanksgiving and a 30 pound well-cooked turkey
I am also grateful:
to all those who have assisted me, supported me, kicked my butt, loved and cried with me, laughed and played with me.
to any I have assisted in allowing me to befriend, mentor, support and love them.
to myself for the ever expanding self-awareness I grow into by looking at my dark and light sides by striving, more consciously, to be the best I can be in each moment. It’s not always an easy task but eventually is rewarding.
I am grateful for the gardens of spring and summer which provided beautiful, healthy food then and now. I love growing, processing and preserving food. Tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, peaches, zucchini, pumpkin, yellow squash, garlic, onions, cucumbers, broccoli, lettuce, kale, spinach, snap peas, peppers and parsley. And even a few raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. And two or three stalks of asparagus. Makes me want to get my hands in the dirt even now!
I am grateful for pulling out my short stories from ten or so years ago, reworking and editing them and stepping out to publish them on Amazon/Kindle. I am grateful to overcome any hurdles with getting my work “out there” which certainly gave me courage and momentum to start this blog. I am thrilled with the response and reactions. I am amazed at the new ideas and fabulous people and their creativity. I love the expanded communication possibilities.
I am grateful for a completed family memorabilia project I have mentioned in several blogs! It was a doozie of a project.
These projects in conjunction with the three Artist Way classes I hosted this year, my underlying goal came sneaking up on me. While finishing these and several other unfinished projects — the elephant in the room emerged. The elephant is an in-process novel called Friends that I started many years ago that keeps tapping me on the shoulder every so often. And since the unfinished projects are now finished many belabored excuses are no longer valid! DRAT! Funny how many elephants I saw while Christmas shopping.
So, I feel the hibernation time drawing close – the down time necessary for me to write the newest first draft of a new novel.
Friends was born from the desire to explore the relationships between mother and daughter, the emotional aspects of ovarian cancer, women’s connections through friendship, children and career. I wrote most of it after a dear friend of mine passed with ovarian cancer. However, story got too close, life took my attention away and I didn’t finish. Mostly, it became too personal. Now I have some distance although 2 years ago when I got this novel out another dear friend and then another were diagnosed.
I did use one of the chapters as one of the first short stories I published. Saving Roxee. Great story!
AND – the self-sabotage part (Chapter 5, the Artist’s Way)is that I had all of the text stored on 3 ¼ disks. Remember those? I remember the day and the actual decision to toss the box of beige plastic with clear lid because it had been so long since I used any of them why was I keeping them around and. . .yep, I tossed all the soft copy. I do have some of the original words in hard copy so I won’t be starting from scratch but close. It took me months to face up to what I had done. Now that I am fessing up, I will consider retyping as a first draft. This could be a long process!
Oh, hummm. I do have another shorter novel I want to finish too. It’s about a woman learning Reiki. Wonder if I should work on that first? Her name is Ruby Mayfield. And I don’t have an ending for the last short story I want to publish. Is this procrastination again? Or what?
Either way, I am on it.
I can readily locate the short story with no end, Ruby. But Friends is not where I thought. Oh my.
So before I start tearing through things here let me wish you all A blessed 2015. I wish you all a healthy, joyous and prosperous 2015 full of laughter and loving kindness. And organization!
Good grief. So, I guess I know which to work on! Do I have to reread Chapter 5?
Hummm.

Jan 2 – I found it!

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A Short Short Story – Waste

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross



Through the damp Scottish afternoon, we searched the stone streets for a warm cup of tea. Turning a corner Alice and I happened upon a small luncheonette. Yeasty, sugary smells called to me, the visiting tourist. Greasy, hot smells of fish and chips conquered cousin Alice, who had learned to love the hearty food after being stationed two years on a nearby submarine base. A tiny door bell announced our entrance.
Behind the far counter, a thin red-head moved quicker than her wrinkled face bespoke. She filled orders from the bakery counter while deep-frying fish and chips, all the while passing conversation from one patron to the next.
“Help you, sweetie?”
Three shelves of treats called to me. One morsel more tempting than the next.
“I’ll have a tea scone. No, the Dundee Cake,” I answered with conviction . “Nope, I’m sure I want the strawberry tart.”
A voice from behind me insisted, “Those tarts are too dear for me, lassie.”
Alice shrugged off my bewildered look and motioned for me to sit in a seat at an occupied table. I hesitated but joined a dark-headed, stout woman who continued, “Such a price for a wee strawberry tart.” She went on to speak of wasteful spending then turned in the direction of an immaculate U.S. sailor seated across the aisle. Her verbal trail meandered to tell of her only daughter who, ten years prior, married an American sailor.
“Fancy Yanks come flashin money and dreams and take our daughters away. When I think of how dear it must be to ship my barins from port to port, them never settlin, never gettin to see their Granny?”
The sailor felt the barb, threw his napkin on the plate and pushed his remaining fish and chips away. The bell shook his exit and announced the arrival of a grey, bent woman wrapped in a battered coat and frayed tartan scarf who ordered a meat pie and took the sailor’s seat.
Our tablemate quietly finished every crumb of her cinnamon scone and drained her tea cup while I relished my delicate tart and second cup of tea. She pocketed her extra napkin, twisted her scarf, buttoned her wool coat and called out a singing, “Cheerio.”
The red-head came from behind the counter and began stacking dirty dishes, moving smoothly from table to table, acknowledging everyone. As she topped her stack with the sailors uneaten food a shrill voice called from the front table, “Dearie, could you bring another pot of tea as you come, please?”
“Right away,” the red-head nodded and left the tray of dirty dishes. The grey woman quickly produced a white pressed handkerchief from the pocket of her frayed coat. “Look ‘ere,” she exclaimed scrapping the remains of the sailor’s lunch into her handkerchief, “Someone’s left a perfectly good plate o’ chips.”
She placed the bundle into her handbag and resumed eating her meat pie.


Celtic Cross is one of my favorite fabric pieces. It’s aprox 14×14. Sweet. I love how the colors compliment each other and it looks like sky and flowers! I learned a lot working on this piece – about doing things backwards and upside down and finally right-side-up! Price of this piece is $55.

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