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Last year I decided to let this pretty – but aromatic <ahem> “weed” go. The flowers are pretty & it makes a nice ground cover.

Later in the summer, I keyed it out and discovered that what I have is “Herb Robert”, commonly known as “Stinky Bob”, and it is a pernicious escapee from potted flower arrangements. It’s a noxious weed that pushes out native wild flowers in Oregon and Washington. Can you hear my heavy sigh?

I hate – HATE – invasive species. European starlings, English House Sparrows, tansy ragwort, Scotch broom, Himalayan blackberries, bullfrogs, pike, bass in native trout waters, nutria… the list is quite long. Some invasives you just have to learn to live with, like Eastern gray squirrels and Eastern Fox squirrels that have pushed our native chickarees deeper into the woods. The eastern squirrels don’t like the deep woods where there are no people, so the chickaree still reigns king there.

I have also had my share of gardening “oops”: planting fireweed, for instance. Lovely native plant. Takes over rapidly – so not a great idea. Fortunately, it’s easy to get rid of, as is the Stinky Bob weed. Both just happen to be a bit labor intensive: you have to get on your hands and knees and pull them up.

I got about 3/4’s of the flower bed cleared tonight before the sky turned dark and I truly had to come into the house. Tomorrow is supposed to be nice, again, and I hope to finish the flower bed. Pulling up the Stinky Bob revealed some plants I had planted earlier that had waned, in part due to the invasive non-native Oregon grape variety I planted some 10 years ago, and killed (for the most part) last fall.

That Oregon grape grew 10-12′ tall and spread. I wanted native Oregon grape, that grows a foot tall and maybe spreads 2′ out – not something that shaded my flower beds and threatened to take over the fence between neighbors. I took a chain saw to it last year and cut it all down. There are sprouts trying to come up this year, but I strip the leaves as I see them. The stumps are covered in black plastic to kill them.

I corralled the Comfrey that I replanted from the wild, thinking it was a native plant. It’s a nasty conqueror, impervious to most herbicides, and highly loved by bumble bees and hummingbirds. I discovered what kills it: vinegar and salt. I still have two plants, but if a runner starts, I cut it and apply vinegar and salt. It might take 2-3 applications, but the runners die and the Comfrey is contained.

I have a cape fuschia that I need to kill. It’s so pretty, but it just takes over. The hummingbirds like it, but… It’s just too large for any place in my yard, sends out runners, and is becoming a pestilence. I hope my hummers forgive me: I will find something of equal value that is less invasive.

Speaking of invasive: my milkweed plants are popping up again – and more of them this year! I don’t much care how invasive this plant gets, as long as it eventually calls to the butterflies I want to attract to my yard. It’s fragrant and lovely. It seems to propagate more by runners than by seed, although mine were originally planted seeds. It doesn’t seem to compete with the peonies and Dragon lilies, or the aster in that flower bed.

I need to find a victim person interested in taking on some divided Dragon Lily bulbs. Mine have outgrown their space by four times. They aren’t invasive, hardy to zone 8 (maybe zone 9), striking purple-black flowers, attract beetles and flies… and smell like rotting hamburger.

But first, I finish pulling up Stinky Bob…

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My husband and I sat around our little outdoor firepit tonight, discussing gardening, weeding, and animals I counted at least 22 ducklings in the community pond this morning, and at least five mama ducks. One hen had one duckling. The hen I have been following still had nine (hers are the oldest, hatched Thursday of last week). Three pairs of Rufous-sided Towhees flitted around us, emboldened by the absence of dogs, perhaps. Never have we observed the elusive towhee behaving as boldly as tonight, the three pair!

The sun set, the sky darkened, and the first bat of the season flitted – briefly – overhead. A large bat, at least 8″ wingspan. We both have fond summer memories of bats diving in while we played out our last evening games, and horror stories of bats entangling in hair (my parents discouraged such hysteria). We both tossed rocks to bats in those dusky summer evenings to see if they would catch them: they always did.

Last night, as I took my husband on a tour of the front yard and the weeding/edging I had done on this first absolutely gorgeous Spring day in the Pacific Northwest, we nearly stepped on a small gray animal. It was deep in the moss and grass of the lawn, just a slight movement, followed by a naked pink half-tail. It was oblivious of us standing above it, watching. I forbade my husband from pulling it out by the tail just to see what it looked like: we both know what moles look like. It just wanted earthworms or crane fly grubs.

Burr hurr aye. (A la Brian Jacques and the Redwall series of books. Read them. They are magical.)

I have been in a funk since Christmas. I haven’t created anything new artistically. I haven’t written. I feel dead inside, creatively. My day job is just another place to go to, and make money, but not a place of passion or exciting change. I’ve felt “dead”.

I don’t know what I am going to do with this blog: keep it, practice writing, or… Family history, gardening, grandchildren? I feel as dull as the grey clouds that hover over the earth, promising only rain, and cold rain at that.

It is good to feel Spring is finally here, and that life might be awakening. I spent yesterday working with my hands in the loam, hoping to rekindle a little life in my heart.

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The giant rhododendron on the north… And the broken rain barrel. 😦

 

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The stark differnece between last year’s black-cap raspberry vines and this year’s canes. I need to cut out last year’s canes – nest year’s will go there in less that six months from now, and this year’s canes will be pruned out next spring.

I was going to move this ceramic “bird” house, but there’s a paper-wasp nest inside. I bought the bird house at a farmer’s market… love that the paper-wasps have taken over it. (Mud-daubers, paper wasps).

Finally, tonight we watched towhees – at least three pair – buzz about the yard, gathering sticks and nesting material. Rufous-sided towhees are elusive and secretive birds, more often heard than seen. To have three pair flitting about around us, unafraid, was amazing.

I do not know what I am going to do with my blog. Perhaps it had worn out its welcome and is a thing of the past, and I need to move on. But what if I do not record these seemingly mundane experiences? What if you never learn if the towhees nested and raised young, or the paper-wasps hatched, or the ducklings survived… Or the mole lived happily ever after because we are the gardeners who do not set mole traps or spray pesticides/herbicides?

I don’t know.

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You do not want to know how my evening has gone. What started out as a simple post on Easter decorations (because I haven’t the energy to work on writing or any other sort of serious post at the moment) has turned into an hours-long ordeal with tech support, downloads, and overall frustrations. This is probably par for the course as I also have a sinus infection, I haven’t slept well in days, and my doctor hasn’t renewed my meds. Read that last bit carefully: I am off my meds.

That last is a long story. I’ll spare you the details. I just want to put up my mindless post about Easter decorations, in short because my husband really doesn’t want me to purchase any more new bunnies.

I love Easter. I’d put out outdoor lights and decorate the whole house like we do at Christmas, if decorating like that was a thing. I am going to buy a small fake evergreen next Christmas to use as my permanent Easter egg tree, however. I decided that after my yearly fail at creating one from my garden that is large enough and strong enough for all the hanging eggs I have collected all the years.

Those branches planted in the terrarium just aren’t cutting it anymore, and that hokey little egg-stacker only does one-size eggs. I have decided a fake “Christmas” tree is going to become my new replacement. I even wrote a sticky note and attached it to the Christmas boxes so I won’t forget.

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My Easter “illage” takes up the same space as the Christmas village: some thrift store finds, K-Mart buys, yard sale cast-offs, and items placed lovingly into baskets back in the day when my husband played along with me. We don’t do baskets anymore <sigh>.

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I love that sheep.

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I like this one, too.

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This woven wire basket – oh, my!

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Thrift store find – a funky “stained glass” made out of plastic and wire.

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This was my first large rabbit. It was really ugly. I repainted it.

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This hare is just too funny. I thought about repainting it, but the original has so much charm. Those eyes!

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I found these patchwork ceramic bunnies in different thrift stores, years apart. Again – no repainting necessary

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My mother’s Easter bunny. Love. love, love.

I have some styrofoam eggs I will add, if I get my act together in the next two weeks and actually decorate them. I’m debating.

But I have decided on adding this:

Chrystal’s bird house. She was 11 or 12 when she painted it We even entered it in the County Fair and she got a ribbon for it. She didn’t take it when she moved out, o I assume it is mine now. I’ll have to buy some little birds to go with it.

 

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Note: Dreams are weird. This is an excerpt from a dream I had a number of years ago. A vivid dream. I embellished it just a little.

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What on Earth!? The Princess stormed down the hallway, her slippers half-slipping on the smooth surface when she came to a stop. Mary, her fluffy Lady-in-waiting, had been hammering on the Panic Button for some long time now. It was quite unlike Mary to get so exasperated, and even more unlike her to persistently irritate the Princess.

That was a lie: it was exactly like Mary to be so annoying.

The Princess slid to a stop at the end of the hallway. The door out was boarded shut! Now what!? There was supposed to be a stair well here and a very useable one at that. She pulled on one of the boards. Nailed, but not firmly. It would take her forever to get through and the crisis could have altered everything in that amount of time.

Damn it!

Lady Mary was agitated. If Her Highness did not hurry up, the stupid thing might blow up and then where would they be? They were stuck in the Continuum at approximately the same point the Dragon had last been located, and Lady Mary had no idea if the slithery thing was still breathing, or not. Sir Brave had chased off after it, swearing to dispose of the sorry thing before it could cause the considerable damage it was wont to. Lady Mary was, of course, concerned about her own flesh here. She was well-rounded and meaty enough to appear as quite a little feast for the sinuous devil and she did not want to confront it in some bend in the hallway!

She lifted the panel on the big box again and sighed. The gauge still registered HOTTER THAN IT SHOULD BE!  And the other arrow was pointing to the bright yellow section marked IT WILL BLOW UP AS SOON AS IT TURNS RED!

What was taking Her Highness so long??

Lady Mary lifted her heavy skirts and pressed her weight against the heavy outer door. She paused in the stair well and listened. Faintly, ever so faintly, she thought she could discern a dull pounding somewhere up above. The light was very dim, and Mary was reluctant to climb the four flights, not because of her weight (for she was considerably more athletic that the fluffiness of her build suggested) but exactly because she was plump, and that darn dragon might be making all the pounding.

Still, because she was the faithful Lady-in-waiting, she felt obliged to go search for Her Highness. She went slowly, peering upward into the grey light. If there was a dragon in wait up there, she hoped she would see it before it pounced.

The stairs were clear of reptilian life, but she had a terrible fright on the first landing. Two boys pushed the door inward, nearly striking Lady Mary in the face. Boys! Teen-aged ones, or almost teen-aged. They all seemed so young nowadays that it was hard to guess how old a child was anymore. These boys were fixated upward. Both carried little torches in their left hands. Their backs were to Lady Mary and she supposed they didn’t know they had nearly broken her nose with that infernal door when they pushed it in.

“You think it’s that guy, again?” the short boy whispered. The skinny one shrugged. They stood still, blocking the way as the pounding above became more desperate. Or furious. Lady Mary could now make out the exasperation in the Princess’ voice, shouting from behind one of the upper doors.

Given the problems with the infernal machine behind her (and its imminent threat to explode), and that she was the Lady-in-waiting for Her Highness, Mary had no choice but to make the decision she did, and to make it on the fly. She was going to have to expose her presence to the gawking youths. She reached out and pushed the pair aside, so she could pass, and then she began up the stairs as quickly as she could run.

The boys let out surprised yelps but recovered much too quickly: she could hear their feet on the steps behind her.

Lady Mary could make out the Princess’ words as they rounded the second floor landing. They were still quite muffled, coming as they were from the other side of the third-floor door, but their meaning was clear.

“MARY! DARN YOU! THIS DOOR IS NAILED SHUT AND I CANNOT PRY THE BOARDS OFF AND IF THIS IS NOT A REAL EMERGENCY OR YOU ARE NOT OUT THERE TO RESCUE ME I SHALL HAVE THE DRAGON BURN YOU TO A BLACK LITTLE CRISP. CAN YOU NOT HEAR ME? MARY! MARY! GET THIS FWEEPING DOOR OPEN, MARY!”

There was more, of course, but Mary had the sense not to listen to the ranting of frustrated royalty. She assessed the situation quickly: The door had been shuttered on the inside with large pieces of wood. Her Highness was on the opposite side of the door, possibly trapped in a dark hallway with that dragon slinking down on her, taking advantage of the situation with a diabolical plan to capture the Princess and hold her for ransom. The door was boarded up with pieces of plywood on the inside, not on the stairwell side. That meant she could not pry the boards back, but she would have to open the door and leverage the plywood outward toward the Princess.

She turned around just as the two scrawny teenagers skidded to a stop beside her. Not big, but masculine. Perhaps clever.

“I have a plan, Your Highness!” she shouted.

“You two. She’s stuck on the other side and you must help me push the wood away. Now.” Her voice carried the authority of one used to ordering lesser around, and the boys skidded to a halt.

 

Charley and John found themselves putting shoulder to plywood and shoving with all their might. They paused and pushed again, when the funny woman in long skirts suddenly lent her heft and the wood squeaked out from the nails by an inch.

“THAT BETTER BE YOU, MARY!” An hysterical female voice screeched from the other side.

Mary (they presumed it was she) rolled her eyes and signaled the boys to push again with her. “That dragon is on the loose!” she shouted.

“Well, I do not see him. Just get the blasted door open!” Her Highness dropped her screams by a notch.

 

The plywood gave way suddenly and clattered to the floor. One of the boys fell in a heap on top of it. The other one barely caught himself from falling by grabbing the door sill. Lady Mary stumbled, but righted herself in time to make a cursory curtsey.

The Princess barely glanced at any of them, but stepped over the fallen wood and splinters. A little black box on her belt began buzzing.

 

John shook his head. Charley was still trying to get up from the floor. The girl who had been locked behind the plywood marched past as if they didn’t exist.

The old woman from another century was dressed in a long, flowing gown that was held at the waist with a wide leather belt. John had seen the flash of pantaloons (he knew what they were because he had taken Drama class in the 8th Grade) when she stormed up the stairs ahead of them. She had plain leather shoes and white socks that had flashed in the gloom of the stair well when she pushed past the boys below. To top it off, she wore one of those pointy hats with long ribbons coming out of the point, like the fairy tale princesses in John’s little sister’s story books.

The girl, on the other hand, was dressed in a pair of tight faded jeans, topped with a dark blue Navy Pea Jacket. She had naturally wavy hair that flowed just below her shoulders, brushed away from her face. John made out a pale blue blouse, tucked in, as she passed She did not hesitate but took the stairs down two at a time, shouting back questions at the personage of Mary. Mary left the boys and hurried after the younger woman, answering the questions almost as soon as they were uttered, their voice overlapping each other. The older woman in the pointy hat, being somewhat heavier, preferred her steps one at a time.

John pulled Charley up and they followed the two women down.

“I just do not understand. It was working fine an hour ago. Whatever could be the problem?”

“I know it was working fine an hour ago, but this is a Continuum and you know darn well an hour ago could be two years ago or three hundred light years in the future.”

“What did you feed it?”

“The stupid Dragon was here, and I thought Sir Brave was after him, but you know how they can mess up things.”

“What is it doing?”

“It is building up pressure and clanging something awful.”

“When was that dragon here? And do not capitalize its name, it’s such a bother… If Sir Brave were here, why didn’t you call on him to fix this?”

“He is a doddering old fool when it comes to mechanics.”

“If it is building up pressure, it must be hungry, and we can just feed it something…”

She stopped suddenly on the first landing. Lady Mary barely slid to a stop, before the princess was out the door into the main hall and turning toward the exit. Lady Mary, Charley, and John were on her heels. It didn’t even register on either boy’s mind that the entrance was suddenly not boarded up, and the doors opened outward easily. They followed the fast-moving girl out into the parking lot.

She paused at the foot of the outside stairs. “Metal. Anything metal and anything big. There should be enough litter out here to work.” She pointed at a discarded shelving unit that leaned against the building. “Let’s take that.”

Her eyes met John’s. “Be a sport and pick up the other end, will you? We need to feed it scrap metal.”

“And quickly!” Mary huffed.

The boys hoisted their rusty treasure and followed the princess back into the south wing of the old warehouse. She took them around to the stair well, again, and led the way down.

Charley hesitated. There was no basement to this building. He’d been in the stair well before. There were no stairs going down. Yet… there they were. He stole a glance at his best friend, who looked back and shrugged. The girl with the curly hair was nearly to the bottom of the flight now, with the big woman on her heels. The boys followed.

Another door opened at the bottom of the flight, this time to the south which put the rooms it opened into under the parking lot.           There was no time to think about it. The boys followed the fat woman through the double doors. She was wielding a fender she’d found on the ground outside. A blue fender, like something off a pick-up truck.

John looked over at Charley, “Basement?”

Charley shook his head. “Fender?”

They were now aware of strange clanking and grinding noises. Low lights hung in the ceiling. The princess (or whoever she was) stood positioned along the wall, holding open the metal front to what looked like an old laundry chute. A red glow emanated from inside it.

“We have offerings,” she spoke into the abyss. “But your chute is too small. You are going to have to make accommodations.”

There was a grinding and squealing. The room shuddered. Charley reached out as if to grab the wall for support. John shouted, “EARTHQUAKE! We have to get out of here!”

Just as suddenly, the shaking was over. The princess was staring at him, as was the lady in the funny hat. “What earthquake?”

“That one, the one that…” his voice trailed off as he looked from woman to girl and over at Charley, who was, in turn, gaping at the wall. John’s eyes followed Charley’s open-mouthed gaze. The chute now appeared large enough to accommodate the entire old shelving unit. Warm, red light glowed from below.

“Um, no, he was just, you know, startled by the shaking.” Charley seemed to gather his wits quickly. “Not used to rooms shaking like that. Are we supposed to put this in there?”

“Well, of course you are.” Mary scowled at them. “And hurry. It is not a patient machine.”

The boys obeyed. Neither one of them said what was really on his mind: they were too confused by the events to formulate any coherent questions. The shelving unit was hoisted into the air, turned and pushed down into the red glow. It dropped noisily.

The fat lady tossed in the fender, “And dessert!” she said.

The princess let go of the handle as soon as the items had been tossed in, and ran across the room where a panel had suddenly come to light with green and blue lights. The strange grinding and clunking changed to a low, humming, vibration.

“There! That should hold it for a while!” She whirled around with a satisfied smile on her face. A smile which disappeared as she saw the boys for, apparently, the first time. She had to look up at John and down at Charley.

“Why?? Who are..?? Oh dear, the thing truly is messed up! MARY!”

“Here I am, m’lady.” Mary sidled around the boys, trying to look surprised and humble, but succeeding in looking rather smug instead. Her face read, I told you so!

The princess sighed. “I suppose I have to go ask for help?”

“Well, they are here. I do not think the machine will drop them off now.” Mary shrugged her shoulders.

“No, no. I suppose not. This is just a terrible inconvenience. It isn’t telling us where we are going – or when.”

“Um, could I say something?” John attempted to get a word in edge-wise.

“NO!” Both females snapped at the same time. The old woman’s eyes practically bulged.

She bellowed, “You may not, you simply cannot, address the Imperial Royal Highness Princess Boo without first being admitted into her court. You must be properly interviewed first.”

John felt like a gnat was buzzing around his ears. These people did not make sense! “Can I talk to you, then?”

The round face recoiled in horror.

The princess, however, seemed to like this idea. “Yes. You speak to him, Mary. I think I will go up and see if the café is open. I am famished.” She made a little bow and exited, stage rightt.

John looked at Charley who looked at John. “Did we just get played?”

“No way am I staying here to talk to her. I’m following her.” Charley made an uncharacteristic first move. John followed him.

The Lady-in-waiting threw up her hands and huffed along behind them, muttering loudly. “No manners. Not that I have answers. No manners. Heathens. Oh, where are we going now?”

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There was a fireball in the sky on a cold night the year before the uprisings. If you didn’t see the fireball, most folks heard it: a boom that rattled the dishes in the cupboard and spooked the cattle. Most folks later said was a harbinger of the way things were going to go, an omen of the wars that would spill blood down the rivers and wash up on the shores of the cities. But none of us knew that then. All we knew was it was a fireball what lit up the sky, coming from the northwest, and skimming the tops of the mountains and trees, until it hit the world somewhere up in the wilderness.

Old Jasper, she said she was a sittin’ on her porch and it streamed from the north, landing somewhere in the mountains. She swore it wasn’t no fireball, but a giant bird that had fire coming out its arse. She smoked her pipe and told the story, pointing with the stem the general arc of the thing. Nobody give old Jasper much thought.

Some men rode out to see if they could find the thing, but they all rode back empty-handed, ‘cept for Blaine. Blaine brought him in, riding on the back of his pony. He was bloodied up some, half conscious, and dressed in light clothes and a leather jacket. He didn’t have no shoes and his clothes were pretty torn up, even the leather jacket. Blaine said he’d tangled with a brown bear and won.

Ma cleaned off the table and they laid him out on it, face down. Most his wounds were on his back and scalp, where the bear caught him. Ma washed and sewed him up. We had to roll him over and stitch up the left side of his face. He was mostly unconscious, which Ma said was a blessing because he wasn’t feeling her tug and pull on the pieces of his skin. He made noises some but didn’t struggle or fight.

Blaine said he come on the fight by accident – heard the bear and some man screaming. He rode over a little draw and saw the whole thing, right up to the moment the stranger managed to let go a couple of rounds from his little handgun. Both shots went in the mouth and through the brain of the bear, dropped him right on top of the stranger. Blaine had to use his horse to pull the bear off, it was that big.

Blaine’s always been one to make up a story, so half his story you couldn’t believe. He didn’t know where the pistol was, said he never saw it, and I guess that was true because much later, the stranger told Pa that he went back up and found it lodged under a rock where it fell. The other part that wasn’t true was Blaine riding up and seeing it all happen, then having to pull the bear off with a horse. The stranger’s side had him crawled away and fainted under a juniper tree, and that’s where Blaine found him, and where the pistol was hidden in the rocks.

We had to trash his clothes and Ma sent me over to Old Jasper’s to see if the old granny could find something as would fit him from her husband’s thing that’d be suitable, and he could pay her back for later. Old Jasper come up with boots, heavy pants, a belt, and a couple wool shirts. She also brought some laudanum and some bear grease salve to keep the scars from healing up red and ugly. It smelled something awful. She looked at his hands and said they were baby smooth, not a working man’s hands. City man. Old Jasper said she thought maybe he was a flying man, and we all laughed at her joke.

He even grinned some, but he was doped up on the laudanum by then, and not feeling no pain..

We left him to sleep it off on the kitchen table, thinking the laudanum would knock him out for the rest of the night. Sometime – I mostly don’t remember how early it was – he woke up on the table and he got frightened. He rolled off the table and screamed. Then he grabbed Pa’s long-barreled rifle off the mantle. Pa and Blaine found him in the corner of the pantry, talking crazy, and pointing the barrel of that rifle at the door.

“I ain’t goin’ in,” Blaine said. “I didn’t steal his gun nor anything’ from him, whatever his beef is.”

Pa just shook his head at Blaine and said, “It ain’t about stealin’, you half-cocked coward. He’s a soldier boy, reliving some battle he was in. I’ll talk him down, you’ll see.”

Pa called out and said, “I’m going to roll a bottle of laudanum in there. It’ll take the pain off.”

“I ain’t in no fucking pain! Who are you? Where am I?”

“Well, I be Hyrm Pastel, and you’re in my wife’s pantry. There’s some fine preserves in there that I sure wouldn’t want broke, plus our supply of flour and sugar and coffee. Lard, too, if I recollect right. Have you a name?”

“No, Sir. What town am I in? Country? I lost my compass. Where’s my clothes?” He was still muttering in between with some crazy stuff.

“I have a compass, if that’s all you need. Your clothes are in the rag pile, but I can send my girl out to bring them in. She’s ‘bout twelve. You remember the bear?”

“Jeezus. Bear. Fucking grizzly. Got him with my blade but had to shoot him in the mouth.”

“Yes, the brown bear. Blaine here found you and pulled the bear off you with his horse.”

“Ha!” He’d been sounding calm, but now he sounded angry again. I stood close by with his ragged old clothes that smelled like some kind of – well, I don’t know, but it was almost greasy and ugly. “I remember sitting under the tree, goddamn prickly fucking juniper. Am I in Nevada?”

“Don’t know where that is, Son. Paradise is over the hill, but it ain’t more’n a bar, a whore house, and some houses. Twin Rivers is a couple day’s ride south.”

There was silence. “My clothes. I won’t hurt the girl. I want my clothes.”

Pa waved at me to go in. I wasn’t keen on it and my knees was wobbly.

“Come on girl. I won’t hurt you. See, the rifle is pointed up. Now, don’t none of you get an idea of rushing me…”

“No, sir, son. Jori -”

I swallowed and stepped into the pantry. What I seen was a frightened boy, not a big man with a big gun. His face was bleeding where he’d torn a stitch out. I walked real slow toward him, holding his clothes out. “You be bleeding where Ma stitched you,” I said. My voice hitched some and I knew it was because I was near as scared as he was.

He reached up and felt his cut. “Stitched? Shit. I have stitches.” The eyes changed sudden, like the fear wasn’t never there. “Your mama stitched me up?”

“They got you drunk after so you wouldn’t feel no pain. Left you on the kitchen table. I’m sorry ‘bout your clothes.” I was almost to him and it was dim in there, but I could still see the light in his eyes.

He lowered the rifle and lay it down. “Fuck. I’m sorry. I didn’t know I had stitches. I don’t know where I am. What was in that booze?”

“Maybe some laudanum?” I wasn’t up to him yet. I kind of froze in my socks. “That bear clawed you some.” I held out the clothes. He leaned forward on his knees and took them from me, real gentle.

“I think I broke some of the preserves.”

“Don’t matter, I gotta pick more berries anyhow.”

He laughed. Actual, honest-to-god, laughed. “I’m a sorry loser. Simon’s my name. What’s yours?”

“Jori.” I tried to smile, but he was so bloody. “You really need Ma to restitch that.”

“Head wound. They bleed real bad. They’re usually bloodier than they are bad.”

“It’s bad.”

“You comin’ out, son?” Pa called over my shoulder.

“You won’t shoot me?” Simon looked over me, back where he could see Pa with his hands in the air.

“Naw, I’ll forgive you the preserves, but my wife might shoot you.”

Simon stood up, then, and he was once again a tall man. The scared boy all disappeared, “OK if Jori here carries the rifle out?”

“You can carry it. I trust her judgment.” Pa stepped in front of the door to show he was unarmed. “War’s hell on most men and wakin’ up in a strange place with a hangover ain’t no soldier’s picnic.”

 

That was how we met Simon.

 

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I put myself out there tonight (and over the weekend). I went to two events (the latest was tonight) where I knew NOONE. The first was fairly intimate (four people) and I at least had a name in common with one person. Tonight was really out there, for me.

When I was younger, I could do this.

Or maybe, I just didn’t realize the cost.

There were about ten women who showed up, all strangers to me, and some already connected to each other. I stayed for two hours, and they were still going strong. I learned a lot about selling my art.

But I just spent 3 hours playing stupid games, just to relax. The Introvert in me, and the HSP, is all aroused and on edge. Too many new people, too much small talk. I am exhausted.

I learned so much, I took so many notes (but why am I the only artist in the room doodling in my notebook? Seriously – I stole looks at everyone else’s notes and NOONE was doodling. Except me).

I decided, during the first half, that I would never go back. By the end of the second half, I regretted not bringing my own art samples along and telling my husband that I would be REALLY late. I will go back. With samples. And with the understanding that I will be really late getting home.

Backing up – I went to a meeting on Saturday that was very intimate and designed more toward visioning. I felt connected immediately. The speaker admitted to being aintrovert right off the bat. I will definitely be back to that group.

This is hard: putting myself out there as an artist.

Thank you for being faithful followers of me as a writer (even if you consistently refuse to comment). I appreciate that you follow this introvert person.

And, seriously. Comment. Let’s become internet friends. I can deal with friends who are “imaginary”.

Thanks

 

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A couple of things to note before I post this here: this was one of my first completed NaNoWriMo novels (2012). It came to be out of a dream I had. It is one of my favorites. It is Young Adult. It is copyrighted by moi.

Oh, and when I copy/paste, WP does not recognize paragraph indents. Sorry.

Last, please don’t just “like” and move on. If you like it: why? Please comment. Give feedback. Postive, negative, neutral – I don’t care. Just have the courtesy to comment. A comment gives me incentive to go like YOUR blog and follow YOU.

*Image courtesy of Pexels


Princess Boo

Charley Duman came across the littered parking lot, hands deep in his jacket pockets. Charley was wary, walking hurriedly, his eyes scanning the perimeter of the old factory warehouse. He was watching for any sign of life in the five-acre compound, specifically life that threatened him.  Charley and his best friend, John, always came in by a break in the chain link fence along the greenway, crossing the narrowest portion of the parking lot to the west entrance. There were other ways in, but this one was the most isolated and was never monitored. It was, John said, the forgotten way into the old warehouse.
Other people used the old factory as a hang-out and Charley was watching out for himself at the moment. There was no sign of gangs or the occasional vandals today. The homeless man who had been crawling into the stairwell beside the loading dock had been rounded up by the cops a few days past, so Charley didn’t have to worry about the old lecher. Charley didn’t like the stinky old man and he didn’t trust himself to be alone with the guy. What if he was a perv? Or some kind of serial killer?
Charley was not a big boy. He stood just under five feet tall and weighed 98 pounds, exactly. He failed at everything athletic. The jocks at school loved to bully him. Girls didn’t even look at him. His father had been a short man and Charley had no delusions about his future. His family could not afford martial arts classes and he was pretty certain his lack of athletic prowess would have doomed him anyway. He could hide, and he could hide quickly, and that was the talent that kept him from being pummeled by the “in” clique at school. You couldn’t beat up someone you couldn’t find.
John, on the other hand, was tall and wiry. John could run, he could bat, he could even throw a baseball in a straight line. He couldn’t do much else, but the ability to play baseball saved him from a lot of the bullying that Charley had to endure. His status as a ball player and his size helped protect Charley from the worst of the bullying. Charley knew that. He was thankful for that. But he fervently wished he was someone else most of the time.
The old warehouse once belonged to a clothing manufacturer but was  abandoned sometime in the late 1970’s. It sat near the back of a five-acre plot of asphalt and concrete, surrounded by chain link fence and razor wire. Three sides were surrounded by newer industrial buildings and the west side backed up to a narrow greenway that also (conveniently) backed Charley’s and John’s homes and the school they attended. It was an easy escape from school to the old factory. Signs dangled from the chain-link warning of electrical shock and guard dogs.
NO TRESPASSING. VIOLATERS WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT OF THE LAW. GUARD DOGS ON PREMISES. CAUTION: ELECTRIC SHOCK.
There were no dogs and no electric current. The fence itself was a deterrent, but there was the break in it along the west side, conveniently close to a thicket of trees (this was the entrance used by John and Charley). Another break was in the front of the compound, where the main gates could be breached by a talented lock pick. The gates were on wheels: when the gangs came in, they often picked the lock, rolled the gates open and then closed them behind themselves so they would look like they were still locked. The dead give away was always a car parked somewhere in the vast empty parking lot. The gangs could not walk anywhere, they always had to ave a car.
The derelict building had corrugated metal siding and a flat roof, three fire escapes, a loading dock with a stair well next to it, a west-facing entrance, a south-facing entrance and a main entrance close to the center ell – all locked. The windows on the first floor were heavily boarded up, and any entrance near the fire escapes was also boarded up. There was no easy way into the old building. Most of the hoods who trespassed, climbed the fire escapes or hovered under the protection of the awnings over the doors where they could smoke cigarettes or pot in relative shelter.
Charley and John and been no different until John discovered a window on the south end of the west wing that had loose plywood nailed to the inside. The glass on the outside was broken, but the boys could push the plywood inward to clamber over the sill and into the building. Once inside, they pushed the plywood back into place so nothing looked odd from the outside.
The place was not popular. It was considered a haunted building. Once, some of the bravest members of the Varsity football team had decided to test the haunted theory. They crawled under the fence in the same place where John and Charley entered. They prowled the exterior of the building, looking for a way in when IT happened.
IT was a rumor. It happened twenty years earlier, in the 1980’s. Some said Coach Harper was one of the boys. Mr. Dreiger, the druggist, was another one. Phil Gonzalez, a local contractor, was another one. John’s dad was another. John’s dad would not talk about it unless he was extremely drunk.
Charley knew of the event from his mother and through the myriad of rumors surrounding it. He trusted his mother: she was single, worked hard, and didn’t pander to a lot of gossip or tall tales. She believed in IT.
John knew more: his father would get drunk and recount the tale, embellishing it every year.
The story kept most good kids away from the old factory. The cops didn’t try the doors unless there was a car in the parking lot: Sheriff Hockings was another one of the youths who had attempted the break in on October 31, 1982.
Personally, Charley thought they were idiots for trying anything on Hallowe’en. Every one knew Hallowe’en brought out the strangest behavior and accentuated anything eerie and dark. There was a reason slasher movies were always set on the 31st of October.
He was near the dumpster now and no sign of John. He steeled himself. John was about to jump out from behind the dumpster and startle him…
“YEAH!!” John leapt up from a cat-like crouch, grinning as Charley jumped back. “Gotcha!”
“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” Charley grumbled.
“But it’s fun.”
“It’s bullying.”
“You know I am going to do it. Why do you jump every single time?”
“You wouldn’t understand,” Charley grumbled.
John just laughed, as he always did. “Coast is clear, I’ve been here five minutes and no one is around. Let’s get inside.”
They walked to the boarded-up window and pushed the board in, quickly clambering in. The room they entered was a small room with a dust-covered desk and three tan-colored aluminum folding chairs, the sort that were stacked under the elementary school platform in the gymnasium. A white bookcase was pushed up against the wall. The boys kept a a stash of supplies, including a deck of cards, a flashlight, cigarettes, and some snacks hidden inside the big grey metal desk. Light filtered through a second broken but un-boarded window, high on the wall and too small to crawl through (assuming one could sneak a ladder onto the grounds and reach it).
The boys never stayed in the building after dark. They were truants, but they were also good kids, kids who tried to be at home for dinner with the family (Charley’s family consisted of himself and his mother; John had both parents and a little sister), and they did not want to be caught in the open parking lot when the gangs were hanging out. Or the Seniors, because the Seniors inevitably chose after dark to “haze” someone by daring them to break in and spend the night.
Charley, especially, did not wish to meet the older youths in the parking lot when they were high on ego and in hazing mode.
Today, John was the first in the room. He retrieved their stash of items from the bookshelf while Charley reset the board in the window. It always took some time for their eyes to adjust to the dim light and John liked to retrieve everything before the board shut out the extra light. “I brought a second flashlight,” he said, producing a small black LED flashlight. “It’s pretty bright and the batteries last longer.”
A stack of old 12-volt batteries were hidden inside the coat closet, along with the litter from the boys’ snacks. They had no particular reason for hiding the items, but John was a neat freak. They didn’t want to carry the trash back out, so they hid it.
“I’m so tired of Mr. Mack,” Charley grumbled. “You know he told my mom that if I miss any more classes, he’s going to make me repeat the class next term?”
“Yeah, my dad threatened me with that, too.” John lit a cigarette. “We’re not the only kids who skip his class all the time. I think they should fire the old geezer.”
“Yeah.” Charley watched John as he smoked. They had no agenda. Hanging out inside the creaky old building was slightly better than enduring another science lecture or taking part in yet another humiliating Phys Ed class, and a world better than showing up at home early and having to carry out the trash . For the past six months, the boys had been sneaking out to the factory to skip a class here or a class there. They tried to keep from creating a pattern, but inevitably they skipped Mr. Mack’s Freshman Biology course more than any other class.
They settled down to watch a video on Charley’s iPad when they heard shouting outside in the hallway. Quickly, they stashed everything. John pressed his ear up against the door and signaled to Charley to do the same. He frowned as he listened.
Charley faced John, his left ear pressed against the hollow door.
“Die! I said, die! Dammit all!”
There was a thump, and then some more thumps, a clatter, and what sounded like chains rattling. The noise was coming from somewhere near the end of one of the halls.
“Die?” John mouthed the word, his thick eyebrows knit into a uni-brow. His eyes wee wide. “Gang fight?”
“Let’s get out of here.”
A roar not unlike the roar of the male lion at the zoo reverberated from above. The door reverberated, as did the plywood in the window slot, and everything else in the room.
“Let’s check it out.” John said. He cautiously turned the door knob to peer into the hallway.
“Let’s not.” Charley looked nervously behind him. He edged away from the door.
“No one is out here,” John whispered. He stepped into the hallway, leaving Charley alone. Charley hesitated, then grabbed one of the flashlights and followed John out into the hall.
They were standing in the west wing, near where the building made a ninety degree turn. The entrances were all boarded up and the hall was dark and silent. A sound like something heavy being dragged or pushed sounded from the south wing. The boys hurried to the corner and peered around it, John from a standing position, and Charley, crouched and poised to retreat.
The door into the stairwell at the very end of the south wing was open, letting in a sliver of light as something bulky was dragged through the opening. It was just a shadow thing. The door clinked shut, but they could still hear sound of a struggle moving up the stairs. There was no longer any shouting, but something very large and bulky was being dragged upward.
“I bet he’s got a body he needs to dispose of!” John left the shelter of the wall and headed to the opposite side of the hall, where he quickly padded toward the stairwell.
Charley followed in hot pursuit. “John! Use your head! If he’s killed someone, he’s gonna kill us, too.” His whisper sounded too loud.
John ignored him. Rolling his eyes, Charley hurried to keep up, trying to keep his shoes from making flapping noises on the hard hall floor.
They stopped by the stair well door. Charley was breathing hard. John’s heart was playing staccato in his ears. They pushed the stairwell door open together.
It was slightly lighter in the stairwell. They heard a door above click shut.
One hand on the wall and moving slowly, with their backs toward the wall, they climbed to the third floor. A large window opened to the outside here, as did one on the fourth floor. They knew the source of light, at least. The sounds of struggle were beyond the third floor entry.
They crossed the second floor landing which was boarded up with plywood sheets from inside the stairwell. John’s legs felt like rubber as he led the way to the next landing. They could go no further: the stairs up to the fourth floor were barricaded off with a sheet of plywood.
“AHA! Now you die!” A man’s voice, muffled by the door, sounded. A final “whump!” as someone or something fell heavily against the floor (or wall) and the long, drawn-out wheeze of what seemed to be a final breath.
John put his hand on the cold aluminum knob, his heart pounding almost as loudly as the muffled thumps and bumps from beyond.
Then silence. Interminable silence.
Charley, who wore a watch, timed five minutes. He deemed that a reasonable time to allow a villain to escape. It was certainly enough time for a villain to escape before he and John peeked and found the corpse.
Five minutes is a very long time in a dark and silent and small enclosure, but neither boy had his mind there. Both envisioned finding the bloodied corpse and notifying the authorities. Wouldn’t they be the heroes?
They would tell the investigators how they heard the struggle and the final blow, and swear they could recognize the villain’s voice if ever heard again. They would play key roles in the investigation, raised from petty suspects in the crime around the neighborhood  and elevated to heroes. Their photograph would appear in the local newspaper wit the headlines:
LOCAL TRUANTS FIND BODY
The futuristic headline ended their reverie: they were, after all, skipping school. Charley’s mum, especially, would be unimpressed. He could hear her now…
John turned the doorknob lightly. He inched the door away from his body and into the third floor South Wing. The hallway was littered, but perhaps that was a body? He pushed the door open and let himself and Charley through.
Charley was close on his heels. A pile of rags was piled on the hallway floor. When John reached out to touch it, it rattled like newspaper and they both jumped. Charley’s hand flew to his heart.
“Just newspaper,” John whispered, relieved. He approached the nearest door and tried it. Locked.
Charley studied the floor of the hallway: the dust was undisturbed. He thought that if something had been dragged through here, specifically a large body, the dust would be stirred up.
“Gimme that flashlight,” John ordered, wresting the lantern from Charley’s fingers. He aimed the beam down the hall.
Charley knocked the light down. “Gawd! He’ll see it, you idiot! What if he has a gun?”
“Did you hear a gun?” John answered crossly. “There’s two of us. What’s he gonna do?”
“Kill us, too?”
Reluctantly, John snuffed the light. He did not relish walking down the dark hallway. “What do you think we should do?”
“Wait and see if anyone is reported missing,” Charley hissed. “Let’s get out of here.”
They left the darkened hall for the stair well. They were still feeling heavily oppressed and walked back down quietly and slowly, ready to run if the door above opened again. They crossed the second floor landing. John glanced at the door and stopped: it was not boarded up, but a large padlock held the door fast. He pointed at it, but Charley was already halfway down to the first floor.
Feeling prickles across the nape of his neck, John hurried to follow his short best friend back to their room. They gathered their things and left, each one deep in his own thoughts. Not until they were back through the break in the fence and walking towards their homes did either one speak.
“I’m gonna keep an eye on the news,” Charley said.
“I think we should call the cops anonymously.”
“They can trace your call. If the call turns out bogus, you’re in trouble for filing a false police report.” Charley shook his head.
“We could use a pay phone.”
“Yeah, like where is a pay phone?”
“Oh.” John brooded.
“We don’t even know a murder was committed. We never saw anything. We just heard something and that doesn’t prove anything.” Charley was pacing now, leaning into his thoughts as if they were a fifty-mile an hour wind he had to counter. “The dust on the floor wasn’t disturbed. There would have been tracks or marks in the dust.”
“The second floor door went from plywood to a padlock.”
Charley stopped so suddenly that John ran into him. “What?”
“The second floor door. You saw it. It was all boarded up with plywood when we went up the stairs. When we came back down, there wasn’t any plywood, only a big old padlock.”
“I don’t remember what it looked like,” Charley scratched his chin. “I was so freaking terrified we were going to get shot.”
“Well, I remember.”
“That’s not possible, you know.”
“That I remember?”
“No, that it went from boarded up to having a padlock on it, only.”
“It’s also not possible that something as big as we saw being dragged would leave no marks on a dusty floor.”
“None if this is possible. How did anyone get in there in the first place?”
“We get in there.”
Charley shook his head. “They didn’t come in the same way we did and you know that. I am officially freaked out.”
“And I’m not?”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Look, I’m saying that we need to not skip school for a couple of weeks. Let the dust settle. Let someone file a missing person’s report. Then we go back.”
“It will be Hallowe’en in two weeks.”
“Oh, for!! We don’t go back on Hallowe’en. The place will be crawling with pranksters. November first. We’ll go back on the irst. Everyone will be bored with the old place and whatever happened will be long gone. And we’ll throw the truant officer off.”
“Great. We go back on the Day of the Dead…” Charley looked away, down past the trees and at the backs of the homes along the street where they both lived. “Shit. My mom’s car is in the driveway. She’s home early or my watch stopped.”

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