To my 3 to 5 readers…

I have decided to shutter the blog. There is simply no interest in my blog writing (and that’s okay) and I will move on to other things. It’s been fun but when I have 3 to 5 readers a day, it’s just not worth the time and effort that I put into it.

Have a great one all and I’ll see you around the Internet.

100 Days of Halloween #60 – Old Man Cooper (reprint)

The land was wild and untamed, but Thomas Cooper was a man on a mission. He had to clear the land quickly, so Ann could have the home he promised the day she accepted his proposal, and Jane deserved somewhere to run and play. Somewhere safe. He filed his homestead claim with the Critter’s Notch land office six months earlier and had worked day and night ever since to cut back some of the woods and build Ann her cabin.

“There,” he said, setting the last thatch on the cabin’s roof. Up North, he would have needed sod, but not down here. Thatch would work well enough.

“Now you can come home, Ann,” he told the night sky, wishing her and Jane were already there.

In the morning, he went into town and asked the postmistress to write Ann a letter. Mail was slow, and it would be another two months before Ann and Jane could join him but come they did. They came home just before July 4, 1843.

It wasn’t a big cabin, but it felt like the mansions they had seen back East. Ann spent the days dreaming of a garden where she could grow strawberries and watermelon. She spent her nights holding hands with Thomas as they watched Jane chase fireflies in the setting sun. Jane spent her days running barefoot through the earth that Thomas tilled for Ann’s garden. She ran barefoot through the small pasture he cut for their winter cow. By the end of summer, her little feet were so tough she even ran through the brambles without a care. Life was good on the homestead. Thomas had dreamed of having a loving family who cared for him as much as he cared for them. He couldn’t offer Ann much, but she loved him for his strength, tenacity, tenderness, and spirit. Together they poured so much love into Jane that she glowed from morning to night. Yes, the little homestead just outside of Critter’s Notch was paradise for the Cooper family.

Autumn came and brought with it talk of the Christmas dance and party at the town mercantile.

“Isn’t it exciting?” Mrs. Howard asked Ann. “Critter’s Notch first real party.”

“Oh, yes, it is quite exciting, Mrs. Howard,” Ann agreed, looking at bolts of muslin and cotton. “May I have a yard of each of these, please?”

“Of course, dear.” Mrs. Howard happily cut the fabric and gave a candy stick to Jane for being so quiet and well behaved in the Merc.

“My, my, won’t you be a pretty thing in that when you get it done,” Mr. Marsters said, taking the fabric from Ann and holding it up to her.

“Good day, Mr. Marsters,” Ann said, avoiding eye contact, taking the fabric from him. “Jane, sweetie, it’s time to go.”

 “Go?” Mr. Marsters stepped in front of Ann blocking her path. “Why you leaving so quick? You wouldn’t be scared of little ole me, now would you?”

“Henry!” Mrs. Howard yelled up the stairs. “HENRY!”

“Yes, dear.” Henry said, walking down the steps, sighing. “Oh.”

“Something I can do for you Robert?” he asked, giving Ann and Jane enough time to escape. “Have a nice day Mrs. Cooper, Jane,” Henry said, nodding as the ladies passed.

“Leave them alone, Robert.” Henry warned again, sighing. “She’s not interested.”

“She will be.” Robert Marsters stormed out of the Merc, knocking over a display of canned food.

“That boy means trouble,” Mrs. Howard said, beginning to pick up the cans.

“Yep.” Henry retreated back upstairs to finish his nap.

Weeks passed, and little was seen of Robert, but there was talk floating around town that he was trying to round up a few more boys, but nothing seemed to come from it. The night of the Christmas dance arrived, and Critter’s Notch was alive with all the townsfolk coming from miles away. Preacher Olsen delivered a wonderful service about giving to others before oneself. Jane looked radiant in her new muslin dress. Mr. Howard read a poem for the children called “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Thomas enjoyed listening to the poem, holding Ann’s hand. It was a perfect evening. He could not ask for anything more than the loving wife and daughter he had by his side. When the festivities were over, everyone said their goodbyes and returned to their homes.

 “That was a lovely evening,” Ann said, wrapping herself around Thomas’ arm while Jane played in the wagon behind them. “Oh, Thomas look at those stars.”

Thomas looked up and said a silent thank you to his creator that brought Ann to him when he was about ready to give everything up. Thomas had a hard life. Fought for everything he ever had. He had to. It was hard being an orphan on the streets of New York. He left the city when he was 16 and never looked back. Life down South wasn’t any easier, but his whole life changed when Ann’s family moved to Charleston. He was twenty years her senior, and he was sure she would reject him as all the others had, but he was exactly what she wanted. Someone to love her, not show her off. Someone to sit next to and watch the clouds float by. She was sent heaven for him, and he for her. She accepted his proposal nine years earlier and he was looking forward to giving her the stove she wanted for their 10th anniversary. Life in Critter’s Notch was just what both of them wanted…and needed.

Thomas lifted his sleeping little angel out of the wagon when they returned to the cabin. “So much like her momma,” he thought, thanking heaven for giving her to him.

Safely tucked away in her bed, Thomas and Ann sat on the porch holding hands for a spell watching the winter wind blow the tops of the hickory and birch trees surrounding their cabin.

“I love you,” Ann said, kissing Thomas’ hand.

“And I you.” Thomas traced the outline of her jaw with his thumb, giving her a little kiss on the cheek. “Shall we retire?”

Content and happy, she sighed and nodded. They held hands walking in the cabin, closed the door, and slid the wood bolt Thomas had installed after Henry paid him a visit nearly a month earlier. They blew out the candle and retired to their room.

A few hours later Thomas and Ann were jolted awake by three loud bangs on the front door.

“What’s wrong?” Ann asked, still half asleep. “Jane.”

“She’s fine,” Thomas said easing her fear. “Someone’s at the door.”

“Thomas.” Ann protested. She didn’t want him to leave the safety of the bed, but she was also worried for Jane.

Thomas patted her arm and kissed her on the cheek. “It’s okay.”

Heading out the bedroom, Thomas grabbed his gun and loaded it quickly and quietly.

Three more knocks landed on the door, starling Jane who began to cry for her mother.

“Go to your mother,” Thomas instructed, opening Jane’s door.

Sounds of little footsteps behind him made him grin. He was sure that nothing bad would ever happen to him and his family.

He opened the door and a flash of light blinded him. Powder from the rifle stippled his arm as the bullet was swallowed by the darkness of the cabin. Ann’s scream filled the cabin, announcing who Robert’s bullet had struck.

The peaceful homestead instantly turned in chaos as Robert, distraught at missing his target and harming the object of his obsession, tried fleeing from the scene. Thomas fired two rounds into the dark outside the cabin. Loud thuds declared targets down. In the chaos no one saw Jane run from the cabin in fear. Robert stole Cooper’s wagon that was still hitched to the team of horses and tried to drive them away. He made a sharp left turn, the wagon bumped, nearly throwing him out of the seat. Thomas’ aim was true, and the wagon collided with a tree as Robert slumped in the seat.

Thomas returned inside, tears flowing down his cheeks as he lit the candle and cradled his wife. She was already gone, but he couldn’t leave her.

“Jane,” he called. “Jane.”

There was no response. He sat cradling, rocking Ann until dawn broke, while calling for Jane. She never came.

Voices from outside brought Thomas out of his stupor. He stumbled out of the cabin. Mrs. Howard gasped.

“Thomas? You hurt?” Henry asked. “Ann? Jane?”

Thomas heard the sounds, but he was not hearing the words. He looked around the front of his homestead. Little Adam lay dead by his front door, and Junior was face down a few feet away. I killed them, he thought.

“Jane,” he began calling, walking around the front of the homestead. “Jane!”

His wagon was stuck in between two trees and the horse’s body was only being held up by rigging that was stuck on a branch.

“Why?” Thomas asked no one. “Why.”

Turning to go back into the house—back to Ann, he saw Jane’s lifeless body in the garden.

Slowly, he walked over to Jane, rolled her over, and saw the look of terror in the little girl’s face. He picked her up and carried her back into the house.

The only account of what happened next were found in Mrs. Howard’s diary.

Thomas Cooper emerged from the cabin with a look of pure evil on his face. He stood in the middle of the doorway and cursed Robert Marsters, and all his descendants. Knowing that would do little to bring his Ann and Jane back to him, he began cursing God, shaking his fist at the sky.

“Why give them to me, just to rob me of them!” he shouted. “I renounce you!”

Mrs. Howard swears that Thomas’ eyes turned as black as coal after that.

“Get off my land!” he shouted at the Howards. “Make it known throughout the township, that anyone who dares disturb me will pay with their lives!”

Thomas returned to his cabin, slammed the door, and slid the lock. News of the events spread like wildfire across the township, and most heeded his warning. Those who did not paid with their lives. Years after people were sure he would be dead, foolish young men would tempt fate by knocking three times on Old Man Cooper’s front door. Few lived to tell the tale. They say Old Man Cooper can see into people’s souls and knows who is malicious and who is not. Perhaps if he had that ability when he was alive, Ann and Jane would have lived through that fateful Christmas night in 1843.

100 Days of Halloween #62 – Final Job Interview (reprint)

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Punctuality
Responsibility
Ownership
Moral
Perfection
Trust

“This is the motto we live by here at Helping Everyone Achieve Value Enlightenment Now, and you fine people are the newest members of our family. Yes, family. We like to think of each other as members of our family. When you accept our motto, live our motto, and embody our motto, you strengthen our family.”

A snickering from the back row of new employees disrupted the representative’s speech.

“Is there a problem back there?”

“No,” a young man said, laughing. “It’s just that this is bull crap. Family? It’s a job! Your motto? You can’t have perfection — nobody’s perfect. And why should I trust people I’ve never met?”

“I appreciate your feedback, and perhaps we are not the right place for you –”

The young man stood up, shaking his head. “Yeah, I don’t think it is.”

He promptly left the room and started walking down the long hallway back to the door but was distracted by loud music and laughter emanating from another conference room. He paused at the door and read the sign,

Hard-working Energetic Lounge Lizard — Applications Accepted Inside

He opened the door slightly and peered inside. People were talking, dancing, drinking, and having fun. His kind of people. He stepped inside and was hired immediately. No questions asked. Unlike the other guys that wanted to know everything about him. Yep, this was the company for a small, time thug who liked snatching purses from elderly ladies.

100 Days of Halloween #64 – Down the Cricket Hole (reprint)

Image by Larisa Koshkina from Pixabay

Strange things happen on Friday the 13th, and most of these things are not noticed by anyone other than those involved. This is a true story of what happened on Friday the 13th two summers ago.

Where to begin…oh, I know…on the porch. That’s a good place to start telling this completely amazing, unbelievable, true story. Well, there I was minding my own business, sitting on our front porch reading the new Amazing Stories magazine watching the dragonflies skim over the top of Mom’s shrubs.

“Thought you might like some lemonade, Buck,” Aunt Lucille says to me, walking out of the front door with two glasses.

“Sure,” I said, because you know how much I love Mom’s lemonade and Aunt Lucille is never nice to me, so I thought it best to keep an eye on her.

Just as I was turning, she goes and drops both glasses! Lemonade splatters all over my new magazine. Well, let me tell you, I know she did that on purpose. So, I stood up and started yelling, “What you do that for?” and all she did was stand there with her hand over her mouth gasping.

“What’s matter with you?” The look on her face was like nothing I had ever seen before. Her green eyes were was big as Jim’s new Frisbee. I kid you not. Cross my heart, stick a needle in my eye! They were that big. Well, she doesn’t answer me so I said it again real slow in case she didn’t hear me the first time. “What’s…….matter……..with……..you?”

All she did was put up her arm, pointing behind me. She looked like that deformed scarecrow we have in the back field. Don’t like that thing either. She looked horrible, but funny too. Just standing there pointing. Guess you had to be there to get the read effect.

So, where was I? Oh, yeah, so she’s standing there pointing behind me, so I turn around and Lord have mercy as Gramma says. There, in the yard, by the berry bushes was a giant cricket. Giant doesn’t even describe this thing. It was huge, enormous, grotesque. It was the size of the old chicken coop we had before Dad accidently ran into it with the car one night. It was that big.

I ain’t no scaredy-cat like Aunt Lucille. After all my favorite thing to read are those Amazing Stories, so I got a real big grin on my face, all excited, and I ran after that cricket. He jumped over the front fence, so I did too. I chased that thing all the way out to the back field. Out by that scarecrow I just told you about. Well, I never did like that field. It always gave me the creeps, and now I had reason to really not like it.

It wasn’t just a giant cricket out there. Oh, no sir! Everything was giant out there. May I be struck dead, if I’m lying. An ear of corn was as tall as me and the stalks looked like they could feed that giant from that story about the beanstalk. Yep, that’s what it was like. It was like I left the farm in Indiana, climbed an invisible beanstalk and I was now standing in that giant’s field.

I looked around and saw a giant crow the size of our house. There was a humongous rabbit that made the ground shake every time it thumped. Would’ve fed the whole town for the rest of the summer, if I could have caught it. It was unbelievable what my eyes were seeing.

The funniest thing about all this was that scarecrow. It looked normal now. Funny how things look different when they’re huge. I’m telling you, that thing was 30 feet tall now. But then I got to thinking, was they the ones that changed, or had I? Were they really taller or did I shrink. My feet looked the same size. My hand too. Can’t see much of our own body without a mirror, so I had to just believe that they were the ones that changed and not me.

None of the critters out there seemed to care I was there. So I wasn’t too scared. Aunt Lucille would have been screaming her lungs out if she had come too. I’m a twelve-year-old boy though, not some silly thirteen-year-old girl that sneaks Mom’s magazines when she’s looking. Pretends I didn’t catch her last time hiding in the hay left reading all about women’s things. Dad says those magazines aren’t for us men. Yep, I’m a man now, so nothing scares me. 

Just as I thought things out there was boring, this giant earthworm digs up from under me. Well, I tell you, I hate those things when they’re small! Only thing they’re good for is bait. Don’t care what Grandpa says about them being good for the dirt. Dirt can have ‘em. One look at that thing sent me running like a jack rabbit back to our porch. Have to tell Grandma about this anyway. She says there’s something magical about this back field, but I never believed her. Guess I do now.

As I’m running back to the porch, I starts hearing a tune playing and I start getting tired. The tune is familiar, but I don’t know from where. Too tired to run anymore I sit on a log and try to catch my breath. I could see the fence and Aunt Lucille still standing there looking all silly, but I’m too tuckered out to get there. So, I lays down on the log and shut my eyes.

“Buck,” Alex gently says, trying to stir his son from his nap on the porch, slipping his magazine from under his crossed arms. “Buck.”

“I thought the music box might wake him,” Lucille says, “but he didn’t even budge.”

Alex chuckled. “Nothing could raise this boy.”

“Dinner!” Grandma calls from inside the house.

Buck’s eyes pop open and he bolt upright. “Someone say dinner?”

Alex and Lucille laugh on the porch and Grandma can be heard laughing all the way from the kitchen. “Thought that would have worked,” she called. Alex and Lucille laughed even harder.

Buck told the family all about his dream over dinner. Lucille was mad about being turned into his Aunt rather than being his sister, but she thought it was funny too. Alex just sat shaking his head.

When dinner was over, Buck helped his grandmother clean up in the kitchen. When they were alone, and it was starting to get dark she stopped drying and just stood there looking at him.

“Everything okay, Grandma?”

“You know, it’s funny your dream took place in the back field,” Grandma began. “We’ve owned this land for neigh on six generations now.”

“Yeah,” Buck said, holding a dry plate, looking confused.

“They say there is magic out there and I believe them. When I was about your age, I saw a giant rabbit and a centipede climbed out of a cricket hole in the back field.”

“But you hate centipedes.” Buck gulped so hard it echoed.

“And you hate earthworms.” Grandma chuckled. “What day is it today?”

“Friday the 13th,” Buck answered, his eyes going as large as saucers. “Oh!”

“Oh, indeed.”

Grandma and Buck squealed and looked out the kitchen window toward the back field. Both swear to this day that they saw a giant rabbit and cricket dancing in the moonlight.

100 Days of Halloween #65 – Don’t Challenge the Muses (reprint)

Image by Ri Butov from Pixabay

The family joke was that Aria learned to sing before she learned to talk. She lived to sing. The soul of the musician flowed through Aria and into the world through her singing. By the time she was ten years old, she had already performed on the greatest stages in the world. Now at 19, she wanted to see how “normal” people lived and went away to study music at the Conservatory.

“Don’t let them change you,” her mother said, hugging her one last time.

“Listen to the music inside you,” her father advised, trying to hide the tears in his eyes.

“I won’t, Mom.” Aria smiled. “I will, Dad.”

Looking in the rear-view mirror as she drove off, she started singing along with Objects in the Rear View Mirror that was playing on the radio, trying to convince herself that this was the right thing to do.

The Conservatory was a small school. Maybe two hundred students top. The vocal program was the smallest with only twenty students that would become her family for the next three years. After settling in, she read the posts on the message board looking for something to do—something to get her mind off her family. All of the messages were about looking for a roommate or coupons for the local pizza and coffee shop—all except one notice. Hiding under a SWM seeks SWF for a roommate post was a small notice handwritten in silver ink on think black card stock.

“Do you have music living inside you?” Aria read the notice aloud to herself. “Join others like you. Every Friday night @ 10pm by the mausoleum.”

That’s a weird place to meet, Aria thought to herself, but it would be quiet there. I might have time to find it, she thought, looking at her watch. “Why not,” she said, taking the notice off the board.

She had passed the cemetery on her way into town, so driving there was not the problem. The notice didn’t say what mausoleum, which posed a greater problem as when she arrived, she discovered the entire back lot of the cemetery were rows of mausoleums.

“Go home,” the music inside her sang, but human curiosity silenced that warning song.

After walking through several of the rows, Aria was unable to see the front of the cemetery where her car was parked. In fact, she wasn’t sure which direction her car was in. She started to panic inside. Everything told her she was in trouble. She was about to scream for help when she heard voices coming toward her.

“Well, well, well,” a tall girl wearing a rose headband said, grinning. “What do have here?”

“Looks like we found a new one,” a girl wearing black boots said, laughing.

“Don’t mind them,” a voice said from behind Aria, making her jump.

“We go to the conservatory too,” the girl continued, taking out a tin whistle. “Friends call me Terp, and that one’s Ato,” she said, pointing to the girl with the rose headband.

“And, I’m Mel,” the one in the boots said, smiling. “What’s your name?”

“Aria.”

“Ooo, nice name, Aria,” Ato said, giggling. “What instrument do you play?”

“I don’t play and instrument,” Aria began, becoming quite scared and quite annoyed. “I am a singer.”

“Think you’re pretty good, huh?” Terp asked, smirking.

“I have sung professionally for years,” Aria said, becoming more annoyed by the minute at these juveniles. “I’m better than you.”

“You’ve never heard us,” Mel said, holding her hands toward her partners. “What makes you think you’re better than us?”

“Have you sung professionally?” Aria asked, puffing out her chest.

“No,” all three girls said in unison, shaking their heads.

“We don’t need to.” Mel added.

“Then that just proves, I can sing better than you,” Aria boasted.

“Prove it.”

“Fine. I will.”

Aria sang her award-winning rendition of Love Never Dies, hitting every note with precision and perfection. The three girls stood listening, then began laughing.

“Stop it!” Aria demanded, cutting her performance short.

“Oh, you may be good,” Mel said.

“And you may have had something,” Terp added.

“But you should have never said you were better than the muses,” Ato finished.

Before Aria could take a breath, there was a great pain her chest. Looking down, she was horrified to see her chest ripped open and a beautiful song bird resting on a rib.

“We’ll take that,” Terp said, reaching into Aria’s chest and holding the bird in her fist.

“Silly, girl,” Mel tutted.

“You really could have been something, had you not grown an ego,” Ato said, shaking her head.

Everything around Aria went dark. The last thing she heard were the girls laughing and saying something about challenging the muses.

Aria awoke in her dorm room by the sound of birds outside her window. Man, that was one crazy dream, she thought, stretching and standing by the window looking at the trees swaying gently in the breeze.

“Better warm up,” she told herself like she did every morning.

She took a deep breath, opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She tried again.

“What is happening?” she said aloud, grasping her throat. “I can talk…. why can’t I sing?”

She tried again, but nothing came out.

“It wasn’t a dream,” she half asked, and half told herself, falling to her knees. “What did I do?”

She curled up on the floor and cried. She lost her music. She lost her gift. All because she though she was better than the muses.

100 Days of Halloween #68

With a blink of an eye, his world changed. Her laughter and tears, smile and gentle touch, ripped from his soul. Moving forward without her was impossible. Everywhere he looked, she was there. His heart ached with each sunrise and sunset.

Life moved slow and no one could reach him. He wandered the house, dark and empty. His sunshine had been taken from him. Her scream and terrified tear-stained face plagued him.

Spring blossomed for all except him. His longing played tricks on him. One warm night, her quiet laughter echoed though the hall only to turn to a shriek as he reached for her.

Spring turned to summer, and summer faded into fall but he was still no closer to finding his lost love. In desperation, he lashed out and cursed all that saw.

It worked. Her fear-filled face appeared to him in their bed for a fortnight. Tired and frazzled, she recoiled from his touch.

One night, Father Samuel dropped by to offer guidance and support, but it was not wanted or requested.

Anger rose from the depths of his soul as the kind priest roamed the house offering a prayer.

Father Samuels entered the living room, ignoring his tirade and demands to know what kind of God would separate lovers.

“Oh, Father Samuels, can you please help me,” Emily asked through teary eyes. “I just want to enjoy my new house.”

Father Samuels smiled and patted her hand, nodding. “Sometimes the dead become confused. He will understand. We will make him.”