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Sunday, December 12, 2021

The gift that keeps on giving

cj Sez: It’s true, books make great gifts, and here’s why:

  I think anthologies are an even better option. The anthology HOMETOWN HEROES (one of the charity books from Bienvenue Press) has five, easy-reading, short stories to prove it…here’s an excerpt from my short story, “Hobbes House Noel:”

Schneider’s Tree Service had dumped a face cord of wood on the ground near the pines and was following the power company truck out of the drive when Bradley Warner’s red Dodge Ram 1500 pickup drove in. Merrill waved him in. Timing is everything. The pickup is a surprise though. She was sure he’d be driving a fancy sport utility vehicle or some big butt import sedan.
“Hey there! Welcome to Hobbes House.”
“Any relation to Calvin and?”
“One and the same. My favorite cartoon. Well, that and Charlie Brown.”
Trey dropped down out of the pickup pointing in the direction of the pine trees. “Look. A wolf.”
Merrill saw the bushy tail of a fox disappear into the grove of pines. “It’s a fox, Trey. He’s looking for something to eat. Probably a field mouse in the woodpile.”
Bradley walked up with a suitcase in each hand. “Don’t try to get too close to him, Trey. He’s a wild animal and might bite you.”
“Your father’s right.” She took a longer look at Bradley. Almost black hair. Clear blue eyes. A warm, broad smile that revealed a slightly crooked front tooth. Close to six-feet tall. My gosh. I’m looking at Prince Charming. “Foxes usually run away if you make some loud noises, but you never know for sure. Did you have any trouble finding the place?”
“Not at all. Your good directions and a GPS made it easy. MapQuest showed gravel and dirt roads so I brought the pickup just in case.”
Of course, he’d have more than one car. “Great. Let me show you around.”
“Grab your backpack, Trey.”
The boy was walking toward the pier. “Aw, Dad. I want to see the lake.”
“We will in a minute. Let’s get our stuff in the house first.” He turned to Merrill and spoke quietly. “It’s his first Christmas without his mother. She’s in Atlanta. Said she wanted to spend some alone time with her next victim.” He paused a moment. “Sorry, that was personal pity-party shot,” he said.
Merrill’s lips parted in a little “O,” and she hoped he didn’t notice her surprise. “Sounds like hurt to me.”
“Not for myself. For Trey.”
“A first Christmas without someone you love is hard. Very hard.” I understand more than you know.
Merrill walked her renters through the cabin and saw to it that Bradley knew how to start and bank the fireplace. “If the temperature is forecast to drop into the twenties, leave the cabinet doors under the sinks open. Keeps the pipes from freezing. Any questions?”
“Nope, I think we’re all set.”
“I left my cell phone number on the kitchen table if you need anything.”
“Wait, there is one thing. Is there some place we can get a small Christmas tree and decorations to go with those pretty lights you strung on the porch? Nice touch, by the way.”
Her face warmed at the compliment. “There’s a Grab ’n Go Market about five minutes from here. They carry a bit of everything you need. Go to the blacktop and turn left. You can’t miss it.” She slipped on her green barn coat. “I’ll stack the firewood while you’re gone and then get out of here,” she said as she pulled a pair of tan, deer-hide gloves out of her coat pocket.
“Got a pair of gloves for me?”
After a moment’s hesitation, Merrill smiled. “I think I can find a pair.”
He shrugged on his coat, helped Trey into his, and followed her out. She opened the trunk of the Honda and pulled out a pair of her father’s work gloves. “These should fit.”
Fifteen minutes into the task, Bradley noticed Trey was no longer in sight. “Trey,” he called then blew a shrill whistle through his teeth and frowned at the silence that followed. “He always answers.” He whistled again.
Merrill dropped the log she was carrying and tore off her gloves. “Maybe he’s exploring that little patch of trees, but he couldn’t have gotten far. Do you think he might be hiding from you?” In the back of her mind, though, the thought that the boy might be looking for the fox put her on high alert.
Brad jogged across the drive toward the trees with Merrill right behind him. Merrill kept yelling “Trey? Trey?” and Brad alternated between yelling the boy’s name and whistling.  
After they had searched the small copse without finding Trey, Merrill remembered the boy’s fascination with the lake and dread squeezed her heart with a cold hand. “Let’s check the pier.”
Then they heard the boy scream and started running. When they rounded the corner of the house, she stopped and grabbed Brad’s arm. “Wait!”
Crouching at the end of the pier, teeth bared and growling, the normally shy fox looked ready to attack. Trey was standing between the fox and the animal’s escape route.


   I’m a subscriber to Jane Friedman’s blog, and the following post arrived in my email recently. If you haven’t seen it, you might find it interesting reading.


Promo courtesy of Carrie Dalby Author  


   And when you’ve finished reading an anthology, we all would sure appreciate it if you’d take a few moments to leave a brief review. Please and thank you!


 That’s it for today’s post. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


P.S. TO ORDER a book by any author on-line and support an indie bookstore, contact The Haunted Bookshop here:

  p.p.s. All of my stories are author-graphed and waiting.

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