Category Archives: Stories

Heather’s Ghost Nanny

Heather was a very precocious little five-year-old girl. She knew how to smile and giggle and always get exactly what she wanted. She and her family, mom, dad and brother, recently moved into a nice house with a swimming pool in a new town. She heard how her parents were very excited about the good price they got for the house, much lower than they expected. Heather’s bedroom and her brother’s bedroom were across the house from the master bedroom, so she thought she was going to be able to get away with a lot of naughty things after her family had gone to sleep.
That was before the first night she slipped out of bed after midnight to turn on the television to watch the shows her mom and dad didn’t want her to see. After she punched the on button and turned to sit on her bean bag chair, the television promptly turned itself off. Hmph, she thought to herself. That never happened before. So she stood and went back to punch the on button again but it went off even faster than it did before.
Frowning, Heather decided that wasn’t any fun so she went back to bed. A few days later a nice lady from next door came to welcome the new family to the neighborhood.
“Of course, you know about the Andersons,” she said.
“The couple who lived here before us,” Heather’s mom said.
“Yes,” the neighbor lady said.
“All we know is that their children seemed eager to sell the house,” Heather’s dad said. “They lowered the price very fast.”
“That’s because they both died in the house.”
Heather wasn’t really paying attention. She really wanted to go out to play but she knew she had to make a good impression on the neighbor. She might be giving out freshly baked cookies one day and Heather wanted to get one.
“Oh,” her parents said in unison.
“He died in his sleep in the master bedroom,” the neighbor said. “His wife died a year earlier.” She paused. “In the swimming pool.”
“What?”
“Mrs. Anderson was a sweet lady but she had a drinking problem. Went to AA meetings but it didn’t seem to do much good. When she went on a bender her husband could not stand to be around her. One night she was particularly out of control, so Mr. Anderson left the house and just sat in the car, waiting for her to pass out on the floor so he could go to bed. An hour later he heard no more banging about inside so he figured it was safe to come back in. It was then he saw her floating face down in the swimming pool. Evidently she had staggered out to the patio and fallen into the pool and was too drunk to get out. I don’t think he ever forgave himself. For the next year he just sat in a lawn chair, staring at the pool and smoking a cigar, until he finally died.”
“So that’s why we got the house cheap,” Heather’s dad said.
Heather was only vaguely aware of what all that really meant to her. After all, she was only a five year old girl. That night she got up after midnight to turn on the television again, and again it promptly turned itself off.
“Mrs. Anderson, is that you?” she whispered.
She could swear she felt a dripping wet hand firmly but gently pushed her toward her bedroom. Heather never tried to watch television again after midnight. As she grew up, however, Heather seemed to forget about Mrs. Anderson from time to time, until the dripping wet ghost decided to become her nanny.
When her girl friends came for a sleep over, Heather was never able to get the refrigerator door open so they could sneak ice cream. No matter how hard the girls tried, the door was stuck, until morning, that is, when her mom easily opened it to get out milk for the girls.
By the time Heather turned thirteen, all the boys in the neighborhood knew the way to her house. She had parties all the time but when she and one of the boys wanted private time in her room, the door would never shut. Each time they tried to close it, the door would swing open and stay open.
By the time she was eighteen, Heather had started going steady with one boy after another. She was always the one to call it off and always had another boy willing to be her plaything for awhile. One night, on the front porch when Heather was saying good night to her latest boyfriend, he decided to get a little closer than she wanted.
Suddenly he felt a hard slap, right between his shoulder blades.
“How did you do that?” he asked, wincing in pain.
“Do what?” Heather asked.
“Slap me on the back,” he said.
Heather told him to turn around and, sure enough, there was a wet hand print on his shirt.
“Oh that’s my ghost, Mrs. Anderson. She thinks she’s my nanny.”
Needless to say, she never saw him again. A couple of years passed and finally Heather met a nice young man. One night he shyly started talking about marriage. He jumped and Heather asked what happened.
“I could swear I felt someone kiss me.” He felt his cheek. It was wet.
“My nanny ghost, Mrs. Anderson, must like you very much.”
By the next spring, Heather married her nice young man and had the wedding reception by the swimming pool. When the pictures were developed, there stood the beautiful bride and her groom, and standing behind them, very clear in the photograph, was an elderly woman, drenching wet and chugging on a bottle of gin.

The Turtledove

Everything was looking up on our farm just outside Cumby, Texas, during the Great Depression. Pa, Ma, me and my brother Bill worked hard to keep the homestead going. Finally, that fall a big crop of cotton was about to pop open. On top of that, Ma had just had a baby, a little girl just like she always wanted.
For the first time in a couple of years Pa had to hire a family to help bring in the cotton bolls before they rotten in the fields. The Jones family had worked for us before. The father was a big strapping man, somebody you wouldn’t want to sass. The mother was short, kinda rolly polly with a big bosom and a big heart. And, boy, did she love to talk. She could practically talk the cotton bolls off the stalks. Which was good because it made the day go by faster under the hot Texas sun and it made you forget how much your back ached from dragging that long cotton bag all day.
The Joneses had two boys that we used to play with but they were almost grown up now and didn’t look like they’d care to bother with a couple of li’l ol’ boys like Bill and me.
Anyway, one day, halfway through the cotton fields Miz Jones finished one long story about the sickness her boys had been through but they were just fine now ‘cause they was big strong healthy boys and she worked hard to keep them that way. Fed them good food, made sure they got plenty of milk, meat and greens.
“And, of course,” she added in a low, secret-like voice, “you got to keep them away from the magic.”
“The magic?” I asked.
“Oh, there’s all kinds of magic in the world,” Miz Jones said. “And all of it is bad. Some folks says there’s good magic out there to protect the babies but I says all magic is bad. If it ain’t come from the Lord it’s bad.”
“Is that so?” Bill said. I could tell he was busting a gut trying not to laugh out loud. “Like witches and such? Potions and voodoo?”
“Well, there’s bad folks out there. I don’t say that. They can do some mighty hurt with them poultice bags, but the worst magic comes from old Mother Nature herself. She’s done got tricks up her sleeve, ooh. You gotta be on your guard day and night.”
“Like what?” Bill hung his head low so she wouldn’t see his smile.
“There’s a lotta bad magic out there but I say just about the worst has to be from the turtledove.”
“The turtledove?” I asked.
“Now I tell you, if you ever have a turtledove get in the house, nestling in the rafters going, ‘Coo…coo,’ you done had it. There’s going to be a death in the family for sure. No doubt about it. Once you hear a turtledove cooing in the house, boy, it’s all over. Somebody’s gonna die.”
Bill and me, we thought we done real good in not guffawing at Miz Jones. Ma had always said it wasn’t nice to laugh at somebody to their face. Besides, those Jones boys looked like they could beat the tar out of us if we made fun of their ma.
The next day Pa pulled us aside. “You boys been working so hard in the fields that you deserved a day off to go hunting.”
So Ma packed us a lunch, we oiled and polished our .22 rifles, and off we went through the woods. We got us some squirrels and rabbits. Mostly we just lollygagged about, joking and laughing about anything and everything. The day was just about over when we heard it:
Coo…coo…
Bill and me looked at each other and smiled. The best joke of all. We stalked lightly through the brush until we spotted the nest. Mama turtledove had just flowed off, looking for food. There they were, three babies cooing their heads off. We gently stuck out our hands into the nest and scooped up one of the chicks. We hurried back home before the others came out of the cotton fields. We snuck into the field hands’ cabin and placed the baby turtledove up in the rafters.
We grinned during supper.
“Well, you boys must have had a good time hunting,” Ma said as she ladled out the squirrel and rabbit stew made from our catch.
“Yes, Ma,” we mumbled.
“That’s good.” She cuddled our baby sister on her lap as she settled in to eat. “Good times. We’re having good times right now.”
Just then there was a loud rapping at the door.
“Mr. Cowling! Mr. Cowling!” It was Mr. Jones. “Come quick! Miz Jones is terrible upset!”
“What on earth…” Pa muttered as he pushed away from the kitchen table.
“Can we come too, Pa?” Bill asked.
“I guess.” He looked at Ma. “Is that okay with you?”
“Sure. They done finished their supper.” She stood holding the baby close to her. “I’m putting the baby down to bed.”
So Bill and me scampered behind Pa to the Jones’ cabin. When we walked in Miz Jones was waving her arms, her eyes wide with fright.
“Oh, Mr. Cowling! Somebody’s going to die!”
We tried not to smile because those Jones boys was watching us mighty hard. Mr. Jones was trying to put his arms around his wife but she wouldn’t have none of it.
“There’s a turtledove in the rafters just cooing away. I swear somebody’s going to die, Mr. Cowling, I just know it.”
Pa stood tall and held up his hand. Miz Jones got quiet right away.
“If someone who is not a member of the family takes the turtledove out of the house, the curse is broken.” Pa then climbed up in the rafters and retrieved the little turtledove.
“Oh, praise the Lord!” Miz Jones said, her hands going to her cheeks. “Thank you, Mr. Cowling, thank you, sir. You done saved our lives.”
With much pomp and ceremony Pa held the turtledove, which was still cooing, in his hands high above his head.
“Hallelujah, Mr. Cowling. Thank you, Mr. Cowling,” we heard Miz Jones say we closed the door behind us.
When we got back to the house Pa placed the cooing baby turtledove in the kitchen sink. The bird began cooing again. He turned to stare hard at Bill and me.
“Are you boys behind all this?” he asked. His jaw was tied up in a knot.
“It was just a joke,” Bill mumbled.
“These are good, hard-working people,” Pa lectured us. “We’re lucky to have them working for us. They can’t help it if they’re superstitious. If you pull anything like this again I’ll—“
Ma came running into the kitchen from their bedroom. “Pa! Come quick! The baby’s not breathing!”
He ran into the room and leaned over the crib. As he put his mouth over the baby’s mouth trying to breathe life into her, Ma fell to her knees sobbing.
Then Bill and me, we heard something behind us.
Coo…coo…
We looked at each other.
Pa glared at us and shouted, “Get that turtledove out of this house right now!”
Bill and me grabbed the turtledove and just as we crossed the threshold of the front door, our baby sister sucked in a lot of air and started crying loud. Ma and Pa cried too, picking her up, kissing all over her little face. Bill and me didn’t say nothing, just stared at each other.
Coo…coo…
Maybe Miz Jones knew more than we did about the magic of Mother Nature.
The cooing of the turtledove.

Man in the Red Underwear Chapter Twelve

Previously: Man in the Red Underwear is a pastiche of prose and poetry with hints of parody and a dash of social satire on gender roles and class mores. Cecelia throws her annual society ball, where former lovers Andy and Bedelia meet. Andy and friends try to stop villain Malcolm Tent. Bedelia vows to capture the Man in the Red Underwear.
“Oh good. The orchestra has arrived,” Cecelia announced to her guests in the ballroom.
“Do you have anything decent to eat around here?” a lone voice echoed through the crowd. I’m starving.”
Cecelia decided to ignore it. “It’s a wonderful new group. It can play any music in the world.” She entered the library beaming. “Come, everyone, the orchestra has arrived. To the ballroom.”
She circled the room herding Andy, Millicent and Eddie out to the ballroom. Tent, however, closed the door and turned to focus on Cecelia.
“Lady Snob-Johnson,” he announced menacingly.
“Yes?”
“I wish to talk to your daughter.”
“What about?” She arched her brows which, by the way, sported perfectly applied eye liner.
“You ask too many questions,” he growled.
“And you will ask my daughter none at all,” she snapped back.
“You seem to forget I have ways to bend you to my will.” Tent took a couple of steps toward her.
Cecelia turned away, going nowhere in particular. “You can’t intimidate me with my canapés. My guests have already refused to eat them.”
“I have other, even more powerful, ways to persuade you.”
This threat intrigued her. She looked over her shoulder. “You do?”
“You seem to have taken a special indecorous interest in Mr. Billy Doggerel.”
“I don’t care if you tell the world I think I love that sexual animal. I don’t care.”
“Ah, you miss my meaning.” He walked near enough to whisper in her ear. “I don’t intend to blackmail you. I intend to bribe you.”
“I’m listening.”
“Simply this. If you send your daughter in here, alone, to be interrogated about her knowledge of the Man in the Red Underwear, I will order Billy Doggerel to spend the evening with you, to do anything you wish.”
Cecelia stepped away again. “Do you think I’d sacrifice the safety of my daughter for the chance of only one night of animal passion with that glorious male creature? Never!”
“Very well. The whole weekend.” Tent displayed a snide, crooked smile.
“Beginning Friday night at dusk?”
“If that is your wish.” He nodded in agreement.
Cecelia tried to hold her labored breathing in check. “And he won’t bathe until I have a chance to cleanse him?”
“It goes without saying,” he replied smugly.
Cecelia went to the door, opened it and whistled. “Millicent! Get in here!” She smiled and curtsied. “Chief inspector.”
Millicent passed her mother, giving her a quizzical look. When no explanation was forthcoming she entered the library, very miffed because the orchestra was playing a new music from America which involved a crystal globe twirling above the dancers.
“Did you want to see me, chief inspector?”
“Yes, I did. Close the door.”
She did not think much of the inspector’s request because the music was rather loud, and she imagined the twinkling from the mirrored ball was probably giving the old geezer a headache. “What about?”
“The Man in the Red Underwear.”
“The Man in the Red Underwear!” Her hand went impulsively to her lips. Slowly she let it drop as she stared straight ahead. “I never even heard the name before.”
“I think otherwise. And I will make you tell me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I have the means.” Tent pulled a letter from his pocket.
“How could you be so mean?”
“It’s quite easy, actually.” He smiled and shrugged.
Pointing at the letter, Millicent asked, “How did you get a hold of that?”
“When you hand Prince Edward a love letter on the streets of Soho and tell him to put it in his shirt pocket so he can read it later, you must remember he forgets to wear a shirt. The letter then drops to the street where it can be picked up by anyone.”
“Billy Doggerel!”
“Yes, Billy Doggerel.” Tent slapped his trousers with the letter. “My associate has many duties, one of them is to watch the streets of Soho for any unusual occurrences.”
“There’s nothing wrong with the contents of that letter.” She tried valiantly to dismiss the significance of her correspondence with Prince Eddie.
“Oh, you think not? Let me read a bit of it to you.” He opened the letter with a flourish, cleared his voice and began to quote. “See Millicent. See, see, see. See Millicent take her clothes off. Strip. Strip. Strip. See Millicent—“
“All right. All right. It isn’t Shakespeare, but I had to make it simple enough for Eddie to get the idea!” She paused to compose herself. “What do you plan to do with it?”
Tent took three steps forward. “Why, nothing at all—if you tell me who the Man in the Red Underwear is!”
Millicent took three steps backwards. “I know nothing!”
“We’ll discover how much you know when Queen Victoria reads this letter.” There. He placed all the details of his blackmail scheme on the table. Figuratively, of course, because there was no table in the library.
“The Queen won’t mind. She approves of me.” Again she tried to bluff her way out of a sticky wicket.
Tent laughed in derision. “I disagree. They don’t call this the Victorian Age for nothing!”

The Halloween Tree

“Back in the old days,” my father used to say to me, “we didn’t git no candy on Halloween. Warn’t no such thing as tricker-treatin’ or whatever you darned kids call it. Puttin’ on some fool costume and prancin’ around the streets, why that’s just plain sissy.”
I got that lecture every year when the air turned crisp and the kids at school chirped about what they were going to wear for Halloween and what candy they wanted in their trick or treat bags. I suspected my father held his high falutin’ principles against childish behavior on October 31st because he didn’t want to spend money on a costume or candy.
“So there wasn’t Halloween at all?” I asked.
“Sure there was Halloween, but we didn’t go hog wild over it like they do today. Folks would have barn parties, and all the neighbor kids would come over. We’d play games right up to midnight.”
“What kind of games?”
“Oh, bobbin’ for apples. Nothin’ fancy.”
My face perked up. “Bobbing for apples? That sounds like fun.”
I saw my father’s eyes widened as he thought about the price of apples.
“Oh, you wouldn’t like it. It warn’t no fun at all. You got your face wet and choked on the water. No fun at all.”
“Then what did you do for fun?”
“Well, some boys used to knock over outhouses Halloween night.”
“That doesn’t sound like fun to me.” I imagined the stench of human excrement spewing from the overturned outhouse, and I gagged. “Did you do that?”
“Only once.”
“What happened?”
“I got caught.”
“How?”
“Well, pa came up to me the next day and started talkin’ about how George Washington told his pappy the truth about choppin’ down the cherry tree. Then I asked me if I had knocked over the outhouse. I owned up to it, and he turned me over his knee and started wallopin’ my behind. I says, ‘Pa, George Washington’s pappy didn’t spank him when he told the truth about choppin’ down the cherry tree.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but George Washington’s pappy warn’t up in that cherry tree when he chopped it down.’”

Seance in Black

Halloween of 1890 surprised Arthur Conan Doyle with a mixture of happiness and mysticism.
He was the guest of honor at a party hosted by Ward Locke, the publisher of his first Sherlock Holmes book, A Study in Scarlett. Ladies, all of them in black evening gowns highlighted with orange flowers or brooches and necklaces, were particularly attentive, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles on Doyle’s dinner jacket.
“What are you going to do, Mr. Doyle,” Ward Locke’s wife cooed, “when you become the most famous writer in London? You won’t have a moment’s peace.” Her eyes, an uneventful shade of brown, fluttered without producing their intended purpose of luring the single gentlemen with her non-existent wiles.
“I am certain I shall find a suitable safe harbor in the storm of public attention.”
Mrs. Locke practically swooned over the more sensual meanings of Doyles’ metaphor.
“Among my many new-found friends and acquaintances, such as your husband and yourself, indeed all the fine people who are here tonight.”
“Oh. Of course.” She stood erect in the middle of her collapse into the romance of her thoughts. Recovering, she smiled with due temperance. “And I’m sure your friends from the hospital will be a great comfort to you.”
A woman wearing too much rouge made good use of her ample hips to force Mrs. Locke from the inner sphere of Doyle’s immediate company. “You mustn’t ignore your other guests, dear. I shall entertain our wonderful young gentlemen for now. I am Mrs. Wickham, a dear friend of the Lockes. They tell me you are a doctor.” She paused a moment to admire his physical appearance. “My, you must have an impressive bedside manner.”
At that moment Doyle caught the gaze of his publisher and turned the corners of his lips into a smile that expressed mild desperation. Locke smiled in return, lifted his glass and clinked it with a dessert spoon.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to the man of the hour, Arthur Conan Doyle!” Locke announced. After an appropriate pause for all the guests to murmur their approval, he continued, “We wish him continued success so suddenly found at the young age of thirty-one.” Everyone took turns commenting upon his promising career unfolding in front of him, remarkable for a young man of thirty-one years.”
“Oh, yes. I remember being thirty-one,” a voice boomed from the shadows. “Great expectations can wither on the vine as time passes, leaving you with sad dreams of what might have been.”
Holiday chatter died as all heads turned to watch a tall, swarthy man step toward Doyle, who suspected the man to be in his middle forties and under the influence of liquid spirits. A shrill giggle shattered the silence.
“You must forgive my friend, Mr. Doyle,” Mrs. Wickham said with forced cheer as she left his side to join the handsome stranger and grab the man’s arm, pulling him back. “His attempts at humor are an acquired taste. He’s Nathan Ladderly, my neighbor at the Nickleby Arms Hotels. The dear man has no family so I thought I would invite him to our soiree–“
“Mrs. Wickham finds me attractive and creates excuses to be in my company,” Ladderly interjected.
“Oh, Nathan, you’re so wicked,” Mrs. Wickham said with a laugh.
A second giggle erupted, this time from Mrs. Locke. “Ward, darling, what is a Halloween party without parlor games appropriate for this evening of ghouls and goblins?” She pushed her way through the crowd holding a small square table on which sat a mysterious wooden board. “This game has just been invented. They call it a Ouija board. It’s a way to communicate with the dead,” Mrs. Locke chirped. “Mr. Ladderly, Mr. Doyle, Mrs. Wickham, please pull up chairs, and we shall see what spirits we may conjure.”
“This will be droll,” Ladderly muttered as he sat at the table.
“I am open to spiritualism, though I am not completely convinced,” Doyle announced with a tight smile. He sat opposite Ladderly.
Tittering, the two women filled in the gaps and Mrs. Locke placed a wooden disk on three small balls in the middle of the board. On one side was a pointer and in the middle a hole.
“Ward, darling, lower the gas lamps,” she said. “We must have the proper atmosphere. Now, everyone place your fingertips lightly on this little wooden pointer. It’s called a planchette.”
As the lights dimmed, Ladderly leaned his head, almost touching his cheek to the board. “Ouija, Ouija, Ouija, is anyone there?”
All the guests gathered around the table gasped as the planchette moved suddenly to Yes.
Ladderly pulled his hands away. “This is ridiculous. I want nothing to do with this.”
The planchette jerked over to No.
“Please, Nathan, dear,” Mrs. Wickham pleaded. “Open your mind. Participate. For my sake.”
“Why should I do anything for your sake?” Ladderly’s tone boarded on insolence.
Doyle leaned forward. “You seem nervous, Mr. Ladderly. Do you have anything to fear?”
“Of course not,” he replied in a huff. He placed his fingers back on the wooden pointer.
“I’m so flustered,” Mrs. Lock admitted. “I don’t know what to ask.”
“Are you trying to communicate with a specific person?” Doyle asked.
The planchette moved to Yes.
“Is it me?”
Again Yes.
“Why?” Doyle continued.
The wooden disk quickly moved around the board stopping to reveal specific letters in the hole. It spelled murder.
“Oh, Mr. Doyle,” Ladderly sneered. “How obvious. I insult you, and you accuse me of murder.”
“My fingers are barely on this device. Those standing over my shoulder can attest that. And why do you assume the board is speaking specifically about you out of all the people in this room?”
The pointer again moved to Yes.
“Oh, this is impossible!” Ladderly said with a hiss. “I refuse to continue with this charade.”
“No, I think we should continue,” Locke announced as many of his male guests moved to stand around Ladderly’s chair.
Again the planchette floated over the letters. I am Dickens.
Gasps and twitters spread through the room.
Someone murdered Drood.
“How foolish,” Ladderly said. “That was a work of fiction.”
Real.
“Then who did kill Edwin Drood?” Doyle asked.
Neville Landless.
“He was the young man from India who was enthralled with Drood’s fiancé Rosa Bud,” Doyle clarified. “Dickens was writing the novel and publishing each chapter in the newspaper as he finished it. Before he could complete his work, he died. Literary circles still discuss who the murderer might have been.”
“Everyone knows Drood’s uncle did it,” Ladderly added nervously.
The pointer moved to No.
“Is Neville Landless in this room?” Doyle asked, staring at Ladderly.
Yes.
“N.L. Neville Landless. N.L. Nathan Ladderly,” Mrs. Wickham said as though the entire plot had been revealed to her.
“These parlor games have gone too far!” Ladderly tried to stand, but several hands pushed him back down.
“Put your fingers back on the planchette, Mr. Ladderly,” Mrs. Locke said in a flat tone. “Perhaps you can handle your destiny.”
“Is Nathan Ladderly actually Neville Landless?” Doyle asked.
Yes.
“So he killed Edwin Drood?”
Yes. The disk’s hole highlighted other letters. Me too.
“No!” Ladderly screamed.
“Mr. Dickens, did Mr. Ladderly know you were about to incriminate him?” Doyle said.
Yes.
“Nonsense! Why didn’t he go directly to Scotland Yard?” Ladderly demanded. “Why write it as a novel?”
“Obviously he had no evidence that would hold up in court. Once he published his novel, the public outcry would be deafening. Of course, he had to change names,” Doyle explained. “Nathan Ladderly became Neville Landless. Edwin Drood… Anyone remember the disappearance of a man with the initials E.D. around the time of Dickens’ death? No matter. Scotland Yard will know.”
Yes, the Ouija board responded.
“Elementary.”

The Baby Shower Part Five

We were home from the baby shower only a couple of weeks we received a phone call from my proud and happy son-in-law. It seems all those kicks in the womb meant Liam Anthony wanted to come out—right now. So on Sunday September 16, he came out, all seven pounds thirteen ounces, twenty inches of him, including, 10 fingers and 10 toes.
Both mom and the baby were in good condition, and I could tell dad was ecstatic. They were home within a couple of days, and then the real work began, all those nightly feedings. My wife chose to bottle feed our children so I was able to take my turn. But with breastfeeding, my daughter has to handle it on her own. And he’s a very hungry little boy.
At the two-week checkup he was already over eight pounds and had grown another inch. My daughter, on the other hand, was worn out, just all all mothers. That’s why they get a special day every day. Sometimes I wonder why fathers get a day. The moms do all the work. But I better shut up because I enjoy my Father’s Day presents too much to lose them.
My granddaughter is a very helpful big sister, and I knew she would be. But I’m a biased grandpa so what do you expect?
As for the baby shower delivery day pool, everyone missed it because he decided to arrive early. My daughter checked the chart to see who came closest and it turned out to be a dear friend and coworker. Her friend she’s going to spend the money on Liam’s first Christmas present, so all turned out well.
Speaking of Christmas, my son and I already have our plane tickets to go up to New York in December. Liam will be three months by then and who knows how big he will be. Now all we have to do is pay off the credit card bills before we plan any trips to see the grandchildren in the new year.

The Baby Shower Part Four

The four-hour wait in the Charlotte airport was over, and we boarded, on our way home from the best baby shower ever. What I had forgotten was that there was this tropical depression which had delayed our departure by a day. It was now a hurricane slowly moving toward Louisiana, but the outer bands were still sweeping across central Florida.
“There’s no reason to cancel the flight, but we do want to apologize ahead of time for any possible turbulence you may experience in the next couple of hours. Enjoy your flight.”
All sorts of thoughts flooded my mind. During a half a century of flying I had never encountered any major degree of turbulence so I suppose I couldn’t complain much. Then again, it only takes one bad storm to bring an airplane down. What a way to ruin a perfectly good baby shower weekend. What if I didn’t die in a crash but the constant dipping and shaking made me sick to my stomach? I checked the pocket in front of me and found the air sickness bag. It didn’t look very big. I could fill that thing up with one really good whoop-whoop.
It was then my eye caught the airline magazine—you know the ones with articles about exotic locales you could visit for next to nothing with your frequent flyer miles, except I didn’t travel that frequently. After I read all the articles I saw three Sudoku puzzles. Now if they couldn’t keep my mind off crashing then nothing could.
I made it through the easy puzzle fairly fast. The medium one took a little more time. However, once we crossed the border from Georgia into Florida the plane started to jiggle some. When I started on the third puzzle, the most difficult one, the flight was getting bumpier. I found it hard to write the numbers in the little boxes without my fingers looking like they were drunk and slurring badly.
“We will be entering Tampa International Airport airspace within the next half hour. Reports say the storm is slowly moving west. However, turbulence is expected to increase before we land. Have a nice day.”
Then we experienced our first major drop. We could hear the baggage in the overhead compartment jumping around.
“Whee!” One child clearly did not understand the implications involved here. This was not a roller coast at Busch Gardens. However, perhaps it was better that the child thought it was fun. If they become hysterical and cried, my stomach might started grumbling and I didn’t want that.
In the amount of time it would take to ride a giant wooden roller coast three times, the turbulence settled and we began our descent, and I still had my lunch. And I was going to live for the next flight to my daughter’s house at Christmas.
What more could I ask for?

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The Baby Shower Part Three

The party was over, and we had to leave the next day. So sad. I loved the games my granddaughter made up for us to play, but we had to return the rental car by 8 a.m. and be on the plane by 9:30. Morning would be here soon.
The flight out of White Plains went without a hitch but then were faced with the four-hour layover in Charlotte. We found a nice little eatery with all kinds of Italian fast food—pizza by the slice, calzones, pastas, and Caesar and Greek salads. Why they threw in the Greek salad I don’t know why, but I’m glad they did. It’s my favorite. My son got a slice of all-meat pizza, his favorite. We even snagged a place to sit down. And next to us was a guy who had his Chihuahua in a carryon cage. I was tempted to go over and ask to pet the dog, but this was a busy airport so I restrained myself.
Then came the dreaded four-hour wait. I was too tired to pull my notepad and write a new story and I had traded in my smart phone for a dumb phone to save money so I couldn’t browse the internet. My son had a smart phone and a laptop to play games so I was on my own. So I resorted to an old favorite I shared with my wife years ago—people watching.
There were the great groups of teen-aged athletes bubbling with excitement about the event they were going to or coming back from. Always running behind were the old, overweight coaches trying to keep up.
Another group that was interesting was a group of young men with clerical collars, apparently on the way to or from the seminary. They were happy but not as giddy as the student athletes. But then they weren’t in competition with anyone else. I supposed that made a difference.
My favorite group to observe were the families. Most of the time the children, with their noses in their smart phones, were either far ahead or far behind the beleaguered parents who were left to drag all the luggage. I don’t care if they are on wheels, they still weigh a lot and trouble to pull or push, whichever method you prefer.
The family that made me smile the most had a muttering mother taking an aggressive lead with her husband a couple of feet behind her with the baggage. Lagging behind were two young boys. The littlest one looked up and said in a sad little voice, “I know, Mommy, we’re all bad.”
Actually, after I smiled I realized how sad air travel could be. I bet that that little boy never had to apologize for being bad at home. Everyone was too busy going about things that made them happy rather than dwell on how bad they were.
That made me start noticing how many couples were holding hands. Not many at first, but then I started seeing them. Interestingly, most of them were older couples. There was the well-dressed couple (maybe they were from White Plains) whose ringed fingers were gracefully intertwined. Right behind them were a couple that decided to become hippies in the 60s and, dad-burn-it, they’re still hippies fifty years later. From the do-rags on their heads to the beads around their necks and the old sandals on their bare feet. And theirs was not just any regular hand holding. No sir. They had their arms tightly wrapped around each other waists. Not a hint of daylight between them.
But my favorite was another old couple. She held a cane in one hand and a drink in the other. He held her elbow so when she wanted a drink he could help lift the cup to her lips.
I’m going stop with that one. Nothing can top it.

The Baby Shower Part Two

After the nightmare of a flight I was ready to have fun at the baby shower. It was an easy drive from the White Plains to Wappingers Falls where my daughter and her family live. At least it was easy for me: my son was doing the driving.
When we arrived at the homestead everyone was busy for the crowd the next day. My son-in-law mowing the backyard where they had set up a party tent. More than 40 friends and family were coming and they all couldn’t fit in the house.
Inside, my daughter finished party favors which she had made by hand. She should really be a professional party planner. Remember, she was doing all this while seven and a half months pregnant with her baby boy who made his presence known by kicking every few minutes.
My five-year-old granddaughter was doing her job well, which was being cute and adorable. My son and I showed her the stuffed animals we had picked up on our spring trip to the British Isles—an Irish lamb with a green ribbon around its neck, an English lion, Paddington bear and toy store mascot bear from this six-story emporium which had entire floors dedicated to Star Wars and Harry Potter. She and I played with them the rest of the weekend.
The next morning we put table cloths out under the tent, tied balloons up and did a bunch of other stuff I can’t even remember now. Luckily my son-in-law’s parents showed up early and helped out. They are experts on preparing for their relatives at a party.
It’s kind of nice when the party begins because then I could just sit down and talk to the guests. That’s the easy part. There was a whole table of aunts who liked to exchange stories about which are the best cruise lines to go on and who has the best food. At another table cousins were talking about a recent trip they took to Alaska which they did without the aid of a travel company. The pictures were really breathtaking. I particularly liked the story about the teen-aged son who wanted to take a dip in the Pacific Ocean on the Alaskan beach. After all, it was July. Well, he ran it and immediately ran out; but at least he went in, which is more than I would have been brave enough to do.
My daughter made a calendar marking the due date and the two weeks before and after. For five bucks everyone could guess when the baby would arrive. My son has a mean sense so he chose his niece’s birthday which my daughter didn’t appreciate. I thought, hey, she’d had one busy day but then birthdays would be over for the year. I chose the doctor’s projected due date, which showed my unreasonable faith in the judgement of doctors.
Then there was the food. First were two tables of appetizers from chips to huge shrimp, on which I overindulged. Big mistake. Next out they filled the tables with all kinds of salads and gigantic rings of sandwiches stuffed with everything. When I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, my son-in-law’s mother came by asking how everyone wanted their hamburgers cooked. I politely declined. Of course, there was cake and ice cream. Everyone bravely attempted singing, “Happy baby to you.”
Even though I’m from the South where huge family gatherings flourish, I’m not used to them. I’m one of the few with a relatively small extended family. But this family knows how to party. The next weekend a cousin’s daughter was having her Sweet Sixteen party.
A hundred and twenty-three were expected for that.