Thursday, November 17, 2011

Haunted House

She tries to be a gracious host
to an audience of ghosts,
gliding through the mist
to see the chairs are set just so.

It's hard to plan, not knowing
who is coming, when they're going.
Still she tries to organize
a captivating show.

Striving to improve her best
with each song or dance or jest,
no matter what the size, she tries
to render well her part.

The few bouquets she gathers,
strewn like iridescent feathers,
fall mutely through the fog,
but she holds them to her heart.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grave Goods

A stingy old codger of yore
asked to be buried with all his ore.
His descendants agreed
there was really no need,
and inscribed his stone:


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Morning Cup

Michael Sowa, from The Little King

"Oh, no.  Not again."

The feeling of warm contentment in the royal belly churned into an angry growl as the new monarch found himself looking up at the table.  Regime change can be stressful, but this was ridiculous.

"Can't I drink a nice cup of cocoa around here without being belittled?"

Puffing, he struggled to the top of the table.  He had to admit that the exercise might be good for reducing the royal belly.  Still, he wanted to choose his own course, not let his physical fitness depend on the whim of an impudent pageboy.

He had found that stomping to the scullery and demanding the antidote did not make the desired impression when he was shorter than his own teaspoon.  No, this time he would sneak in and find it himself.  Then he would search the library for a spell that would decaffeinate the staff's coffee supply.

He would show them all who was king.

And then he would have another cup of cocoa, with extra marshmallows.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Winged Things

The ostrich has fine wings, the chicken, too,
the sleek penguin, the eminent emu.
If true birds cannot soar, then why should I,
too ponderous to hop, attempt to fly?
Yet since these plumes, unasked, began to grow,
I've wondered if my possibilities
extend beyond just standing on my toes.
Can I thrive beyond the land I know?
And so I cast my trunk into the skies,
and buoyed up by new dreams, begin to rise.

Graceful Winged Elephants by Jean de Brunhoff

Among the more fictitious of my compositions are those I imagine when submitting a piece to a contest or publisher.  In my nervous hope, I try to decide how I would announce to the world that my work has actually been accepted, chosen. 

Now that it has, I'm not sure what to say.  The news feels like a winged elephant--astonishing, but solid.  And quite graceful.  So I'll trumpet it in your ear:

My story, "Foreign Exchange," has won the Publisher's Choice award in LDS Publisher's 2011 Christmas Story Contest

Thank you to Tess and the flock of Magpies that have inspired and encouraged my writing.  May the graceful winged elephants lend you their courage, perserverance, and patience as well.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Drivers' Ed

Laura, Allan and I waited outside the Industrial Arts building after school.  It was a lovely spring day, and we could have been doing so many other things, like homework, or running in circles with the track team.  But on this fateful day, we had our first practical session of Drivers' Ed. 

Fortunately, we were not waiting for our ill-tempered, rat-faced classroom instructor.  He was suspicious of bright kids like us, who finished our homework before our classmates finished their simulator drills, and turned to more recreational activities.  He would never have put up with our plans.

For we were prepared to combat the stress and tedium that were obviously inherent in three hours of student driving.  We had pen and paper ready for composing poetry.  I think we'd brought some snacks, too, and Laura always had a deck of cards ready for a round of Speed.

It turned out that Mr. P., an elementary school teacher who ran driving practice on the side (you could NOT pay me enough to do that), wasn't too keen on our diversions, either.  He thought we should be learning from each other's mistakes, not politely overlooking them, or rhapsodizing on the theme.  But you can't keep a good nerd from taking notes in poetic form.  Here are a few of our Highway Haiku:

Finally we drive
Car has a big yellow sign
Hope we do not crash

Allan is nervous
This is his first time to drive
"No more gas, Allan!"

Mr. P. is nervous
Safety belts are on, of course
Oh no!  Watch out, please!!!

Zoom around the curve
We stay in the parking lot
No one to hit here

I am sure he'd find
something or someone to hit

Those in the street
gaze with wonder at the car
jerking 'round the lot

Buddy Holly sings
on the "oldies" radio
Groovy music, yeah!

Mr. P. looks
groovy with those glasses on
as the singer twangs

He'll earn his money
Others drive illegally
before it's their turn

Without the promise
about a fatter paycheck
he would have stayed home

He will never know
just what all these "hi-Qs" say
Prob'ly just as well

I am so thirsty
and my bangs are in my eyes
It's too hot in here

A tree hits Allan
This is so embarrassing
Trees should never drive

Note:  No actual trees were harmed in the writing of these poems.  Well, besides the one that gave its life to become college-ruled notebook paper in those pre-recycling days.  Never mind.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Nature's Paintbrush

Indian Paintbrush, Johnston Ridge, 2011

Nature's paintbrush
works in simple strokes--
seeds sown pointillistically
blossom into meadows;
single snowflakes coalesce,
growing glistening glaciers--
minutely redecorating
the canvas she blanked
in yesterday's grand gesture.

Mt. St. Helens, 2011

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summer Love

Summer Evening, Edward Hopper, 1947

Moth wings caress the light,
blinded by a bright desire.
He still sets her heart on fire,
but it's too hot tonight.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Moonset Over Banff

from my recent journey through British Columbia and Alberta, Canada

weary crescent moon
swiftly sinks into the rock
she's been up all day

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Bathing in Banff

from my recent journey through British Columbia and Alberta, Canada
People of Chilmark, Thomas Hart Benton, 1920

An international cast of tens
dons bathing suits to sit and soak;
twenty minutes suffice most folk
at thirty-nine degrees centigrade.

Some few have brought their youngsters in,
who splash with wild aquatic joy.
Do they amuse, or just annoy
the statues steaming in the shade?

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sunrise Over Kamloops

from my recent journey through British Columbia and Alberta, Canada

Wheat Field with Rising Sun, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889

The sun sneaks up in Seattle,
light filtering through layers
of cloud, needle, and leaf.
Some days only birds can tell
that dawn has come at all.

Along the Thompson River,
smooth hills hardly hinder
the whole sky's growing glow.
Still I resist rising
until the sun turns its spotlight
upon my thin tent door
and morning insists
that it not be ignored.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sea Wish

Another Magpie Tale

     I picked my way along the beach gingerly.  I loved the sound of the waves and the brief glints of sunshine reflecting from the water.  Even the seagulls' raucous calls evoked a feeling of nostalgia.  But the rocky beach hurt my feet.  The smooth sandy shores of my childhood were far away.  Sighing, I tried to make the best of this new coast.  I saw some quite attractive rocks as I tiptoed along.  Driftwood stacked itself in twisted fortresses higher up the beach.  The giant kelp splayed on the shore was, well, interesting. 
     I was walking closer to the water's edge, looking for smoother ground, when a vigorous wave caught me by surprise.  The frigid water swirled around my ankles, then retreated.  I looked down and saw a shell between my feet, half buried in the gritty sand.  It looked like a beauty.  I picked it up, found a dry log to perch on, and tried to rub the sand off the shell for a better look.  Washing it in the surf would have been more efficient, but I was not about to touch that cold water again. 
    The shell was unbroken, with more color in it than any I had seen so far that day.  After I had removed most of the dirt, I started to polish it with the edge of my shirt.  The shell grew warmer and warmer until I had to put it down, sucking on my fingertips.  Maybe the cold water would be useful.  But before I could stand up, a plume of steam burst from the end of the shell.  When the steam blew away, it revealed a small, scaly creature standing pompously on the driftwood.
     "What is your will, oh . . ."  He coughed out a series of bubbles.
     I forgot all about my burned fingers.  "Are you a genie?" I asked.
     "A genie?  Hardly.  I am," he said, making a complicated bow, "a sea sprite."
     "Do you grant wishes?"
     The sprite sighed.  "You get straight to the point, don't you?  Yes, I must grant you one wish before I can return to my shell."  He shivered in the breeze.  "Perhaps you had better hurry and ask."
     "Can you give me anything I want?"
     He preened a bit.  "I generally provide satisfaction."
     "Could you introduce me to my true love?"
     "What's your type? Fins, flippers, or tentacles?"
     "Never mind.  Would world peace be within your power?"
     He looked confused. 
     "Okay, how about lower gasoline prices?"
     He raised a slimy eyebrow.  "Would that involve more offshore drilling?"
     "Sorry.  How about gold?  I've heard there's lots of gold in seawater."
     "In molecular form."
     "I can't spend that.  Maybe a year's supply of salt?"
     "It would be heavy without the water to carry it."
     I thought about it for a minute.  "What sort of wishes do you usually grant?"
     "The wishes of sea creatures, of course."
     "And what do the denizens of the deep desire?"
     "Most have simple wants.  Chain dogfish usually want to go for a walk.  Nurse sharks ask for more patience.  Anglerfish are generally happy to have someone to listen to their stories.  The sea squirts will sing 'If  I only had a brain' all day, but I can always distract them with a good gill cleaning."
     "And the less simple wishes?"
     "Squid just want to be published.  They squirt ink everywhere in their excitement.  What a mess!  And don't get me started on dolphins."
     "So, you prefer simple, sea-related wishes?"
     The sprite nodded vigorously, and shivered again.  "Yes, and I'll grant you yours if you grant me mine."
     "I'm not a sprite!"
     "No, but you have hands.  I wish you would toss my shell back into the water.  It's too dry up here."
     "Oh, I think I can handle that."
     "Then, what is your will, oh friend of the sea?"
     "I'd like a nice salmon dinner.  Um, cooked, please."
     He looked at me quizzically, then shrugged.  "Very well.  You shall receive it after returning me to my home."
     Steam appeared again, sucking him back into the shell.  When I heard a small pop, I knew it was sealed, just like one of my mother's canning jars.  I did my best softball windup, and threw the shell as far as I could.  "Good luck with the dolphins," I called.
     Looking down, I saw another small cloud.  When it cleared, I saw a mother-of-pearl plate, piled with steamed herring and krill, covered in a light sauce of zooplankton.
    "Thanks," I called, and sighed again.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I have no arms to take up
against misfortune's darts.
When waves crash,
and whirlwinds sling sharp shafts,
I etch a grim grin on my tough facade
and retreat, recoil,
shrink deep within my shell
alone with echoes of the troublesome sea,
more strident than the storms outside.
Shaken, aching,
I stir up squalls long past,
spin showers into cyclones,
and drown again,
ensnared in my own shield.

The barnacle that's anchored
on the boulder's solid side
learns to weather scathing storms,
awaits the soothing tide.

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.  Helaman 5:12

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Keep Your Eye on the Ball


Or, Strange Things People Say at
Kids' Baseball Games

My boys have been playing baseball, America's pastime, for a few years now, and it is an educational experience.  I learn another rule or two each spring.  I've also learned some lingo, standard phrases for encouraging young players.  Like most jargon, if you take it out of context, it sounds pretty weird.  Some phrases add a rather violent undertone to a basically civilized contest.  For example:

Good eye!  (When a batter does not swing at an unsuitable pitch)  This refers, I suppose, to the one that's kept on the ball.

Good cut!  (Used to encourage the batter when he has swung and missed)  Is he chopping wood?  Like the term "strike," I think this is an odd way to refer to a lack of contact.

Way to get a piece of it!  (For a foul ball)  How many pieces does it take to accumulate a whole ball?  Or is that a piece of the windshield that just shattered?

Eat it.  (Used by fielding players when a runner's advancement is not worth stopping)  It is a bitter pill, when my son is the catcher and has a true desire to put everyone out.  But when the fielders aren't prepared, he just has to "eat it."  I hope it doesn't hurt his teeth.

Watch the ball hit the bat!  Of its own accord?  People really say this.  But it doesn't work that way.

Protect the plate.  This phrase must come from baseball's cousin, cricket.  The cricket batter's mission is to prevent the ball from knocking down the wicket, so an attitude of protection is appropriate.  Does home plate need the same sort of care?  It does not get it.  Many young batters begin their turn by beating the plate with their bats.  A poorly pitched ball might hit the plate, too, but a batter with a "good eye" will not stoop to stop it.  If given a good pitch, the batter should keep the ball from passing over the plate by knocking it away.  If he does, his next objective is to run around the bases, return to home plate and step on it.  I hope I never need that sort of protection. 

Being too literal-minded, I cannot bring myself to say most of these things.  But I heard a new one this year that might work.  Toward the end of the season, one of our coaches was able to distill his advice into one succint instruction: 

Be smart.  What can we say more?

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Best Books

books beckon
titles tantalize
volumes of unknown capacity
to teach truth
set spines shivering
offer refuge
or simply delight

compact companions carry
worlds within words
brimming with inky life

passive potential waits
just open the cover
complete the circuit
unleash the current
and add a lasting light
to your soul

Yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom;
seek learning, even by study and also by faith. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Guest Poet: Rollo

My son read this at his class's Mother's Day Tea

My Mom

Planting fruit and vegetables, the way she raises my brothers and I,
Because that is who she is.
Happy when I was baptized.
Because that is who she is.
I see her making yummy dinner,
I hear her playing the piano, as lovely as a bird.
That is my mom and I love her.

by Rollo, age 8

Thanks, Rollo!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Amigurumi for Africa: The Results

Oh, well, it was worth a try.  Thank you for all the good wishes and prayers on behalf of the children of the Eternal Hope Orphanage.  A special thank you to any of you who may have bypassed the bidding and donated directly.  I'll never know, but He who cares for the fatherless will bless you for your generosity. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

African Violets

Tender scions,
severed from diseased roots,
struggling to survive
in barren soil
bright eyes staring
from soft, dark faces
receiving gratefully
what heaven sends their way
clustering together
in minimal defence against the storms
imagining the sun's warmth
until it shines again

     My friend, Lisa, is on the board of directors of the Eternal Hope Children's Home in Nairobi, Kenya.  Her love for these children is awe-inspiring.  Recently she requested donations of small stuffed animals.  It seemed like a great opportunity to use some of the amigurumi patterns I have been collecting, so I sat down and started to crochet.  By the time I had finished a few, Lisa's suitcase was already full of other contributions.  I would still like to use the toys to benefit the orphans, so I will auction them off.  All proceeds will be used for the welfare of the orphans.  Please see my Amigurumi for Africa posts!

Amigurumi for Africa: The Rules

The auction is open from now until midnight (PDT) on April 2, 2011.  To bid on an item, leave a comment below it with the amount you offer in US Dollars.  Anonymous comments are allowed, but please include a name in the text so I can identify you if you win.  I will post a list of winners by April 4, 2011, with instructions for payment.  All proceeds will be used to improve the physical, mental, and spiritual health of the children in the Eternal Hope Orphanage.

Thank you for taking the time to look and bid!

Amigurumi for Africa: Froggie

This Froggie is about 5 inches/13 cm tall.  Crocheted with acrylic yarn and stuffed with poylester fiberfill, it is machine washable and dryable.

The pattern is free!  You can download from Joann's or Coats & Clark.  I used a smaller hook this time, so the Froggie came out kind of short.  I also crocheted the eyes in the interest of child safety.

Amigurumi for Africa: Hen and Chick

The Hen is about 7 inches/17 cm from beak to tail, and the Chick is 5 inches/12.5 cm.  Both were crocheted with acrylic yarn and stuffed with poylester fiberfill.  The plastic safety eyes are securely fastened.  They are machine washable and dryable.

The patterns are free! You can download them from Lion Brand. Register, if you haven't yet, and search for patterns #80103AD and #80104AD.

Amigurumi for Africa: Elephant

This Elephant is about 4 inches/10 cm tall, and 8 inches/21 cm from trunk to tail.  It was crocheted with acrylic yarn and stuffed with poylester fiberfill.  The plastic safety eyes are securely attached.  It is machine washable and dryable.

The pattern is free! You can download it from Lion Brand. Register, if you haven't yet, and search for pattern #70582AD.

Amigurumi for Africa: Monkey

I gave this particular Monkey away last year, but I will crochet another like it.  It will be made of acrylic yarn, polyester fiberfill, and plastic safety eyes. 

I used this pattern, and revisions, from the Planet M Files.  I also added a tail.  It's a monkey, after all, not an ape.  To make a tail, join yarn at the bum.  Chain to a length that you like, then sc back along the chains.  Fasten off when you get back to the body.  It's easy, and curls nicely on its own.

Amigurumi for Africa: Turtle

This is a Turtle I crocheted previously, but I will make another like it for you.  It will be about 6.5 inches/16.5 cm from head to tail, and will be made of acrylic yarn and polyester fiberfill.  Unlike the turtle in the picture, the new Turtle will have plastic safety eyes.  It will be machine washable and dryable.

The pattern is free!  You can download it from Lion Brand.  Register, if you haven't yet, and search for pattern #70591AD.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


dull dry bare brown bulbs
snug genetic packages
buried like the dead
burst forth when it's nearly spring
promising an autumn zing

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To the Woman in Blue at the Grocery Store in February

To guard your ears from winter's chill,
a furry hat you've chosen.
Your gloves will warm your fingers as
they pick up food that's frozen.
Your boots should keep your ankles safe
from cold and wet and harm.
But your strapless dress is slipping.
What will keep your shoulders warm?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Growing in the Green House

A Magpie Tale, a little bit late

My sister and the green house, 1983

     I grew up in a green house.  My parents selected the five-bedroom, two-story model from the builders' standard floorplans, and chose the mint-chocolate color scheme from the aluminum siding the builders offered.  They could not have known that no one else would choose the same, nor that the builders would decline to dig the full depth of the basement into the slope.  Thus our green house rose head and shoulders above the beige split levels of the neighborhood.  The only rival for its height was the old willow tree in the yard of the farmhouse behind it.  The old man upon whose tomato fields our home was built apologized when he built a fence around his remaining acres.  "It's not because of you," he promised, offering cucumbers.  His farm provided a peaceful view from my window.  When I gave directions to our home, I always finished with, "It's the green house.  You can't miss it."  Our house, set on a hill, could not be hid.

     It fit our family, though.  Somehow we tended to be culturally distinct from our neighbors.  We shared eclectic tastes in music and literature, and a nearly undecipherable sense of humor.  We spent our vacations in places of cultural interest, not among the cheap pleasures of the local beach resort.  We ate foreign recipes, with ingredients grown in our garden and canned in our kitchen.  Our faith, and our devotion to it, set us apart as well.  Not that we were trying to be unusual.  We just did what we liked, what we felt was right.

     I never grew to be tall, but I found myself standing out at school.  I wore clothes that my mother sewed, from patterns and fabric of my choice.  My choice had little to do with prevailing fashions.  I was leery of popular music and television, mostly because of their popularity.  I preferred to form my own opinions, based on my own standards.  When my friends drew their midday sustenance from a candy bar and a diet soda, I kept packing my peanut butter.  I was a good student, because I could be, and I participated in many activities, because they interested me.  Thus I became well-known, if not popular.  My friends were those who respected me the way I was.

     Many things change, of course, but character remains.  The farmhouse and willow have been supplanted by tall houses with tiny yards.  The trees along the street have grown enough to crack the sidewalks, and perhaps enough to obscure the green house, from certain angles.  My parents have moved to a less obtrusive home in the shadow of the everlasting hills.  But it is also green, and it has room for all of us and our shared history.  I live along a busy street, far removed from my childhood home.  When I give directions to my home, people say, "Oh, the yellow house?  I always liked that one."  And beneath its peaked ceilings, I teach my sons to stand tall, and reach higher.

In Fact

Out of the seething, roiling vat,
filled to the brim with boiling oil,
comes little that entices me
my healthy appetite to spoil.

I cannot live on fries alone,
nor greasy meat on fragile bun.
High-fructose carbonated drinks
don't quench; I nearly always shun.

And yet, I want no expert voice
to tell me, when I'm in the mood,
that I should quarantine myself
from sweet or savory rich food.

Satisfying whole grain breads
accent a doughnut's fleeting joy.
Fresh and tasty garden veg
perk up with butter, salt, or soy.

Ice cream is a just dessert
for patient toil, and not a fault.
I am the captain of my fat;
I am the master of my salt.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Secret of the Brick Oven

     "I hate this job," Tyler grumbled as he scrubbed garlic-shallot butter out of the saucepan.  He wrinkled his nose, attacking the scorched bits around the edge. 
     "Whoa, dude."  Nate looked up from the wooden paddle he was dusting off.  "How can you hate Papa Zucca's?  We make the best pizzas in town."
     "For the lowest wages.  For the meanest boss."
     "You gonna quit?"
     "Can't."  Tyler sighed.  "If I quit this job, Haley will dump me."
     "Oh, yeah.  Haley."  Nate hung the peel on the wall.  "Are you going over to her place after work?"
     "Nah.  She'll slam the door in my face if I don't bring her a scampi pizza, and we're all out of shrimp."
     "There's still half a Santa Fe chicken left."
     "She doesn't like guacamole.  You know, sometimes I wonder if she thinks of me as a boyfriend, or just her personal delivery boy."
     Nate touched the tip of his nose with his finger.  "Bingo!"  Seeing Tyler's startled look, he quickly went on.  "Look, dude, since you're at loose ends tonight, why don't you hang with me?"
     "What are you doing?"
     "Mr. Z. told me to lock up tonight."  Nate looked around before whispering, "He's outta here, so I'm going to find the secret."
     "The secret to Papa Zucca's pizza success.  Remember Madge?  She used to work for Papa Z. himself.  Learned all his recipes.  Just before Mr. Z. fired her, she said she was this close to finding the secret."
     "Why did she get fired?"
     "She asked for a raise.  She was worth it, too.  But Mr. Z. would rather pay kids like us, or those Mexican dudes on the lunch shift.  Anyway, she told me that Papa Z. always said, 'The secret is in the oven.'"
     "Sure," said Tyler.  He had read the menu.  "'A brick oven creates a crust with unique flavor and texture.'"
     "No, I think there's something more to it.  Come on."  Nate exchanged his apron for the jacket on the hook.  Tyler followed suit.
     They stepped out into the drizzly night, checking that the doors were securely locked.  Nate looked over his shoulder every few steps, and led Tyler around to the back of the restaurant.  Nate stared intently at the great chimney.
     "Um, what are we looking for?" Tyler asked, looking between the damp bricks and his friend's concentration.
     "I dunno.  Maybe a loose brick with secret recipes stuck behind it?"
     "You're crazy, man."  Tyler squatted down by the wood pile, tucking a few stray pieces back under the tarp.  "Hey, check this out."  One of the bricks had a little pumpkin shape carved into it.  "I thought it was just a hole, but . . ."
     "Definitely a pumpkin, just like on the sign out front.  You got it, dude!  Can you pull it out?"
     Tyler's fingers just slipped off the edges.  Nate could not grab the brick, either.  Frustrated, he stood up, shoved his hands in the pockets of his jacket, and kicked the offending part of the chimney.
     "Dude . . ."  With a quiet grinding sound, the bricks opened to reveal darkness.  "What do we--"
     The squealing of brakes at the side of the building decided their plan.  Nate shoved Tyler inside the gap, and climbed in after him.
     "Dude, can you squeeze in some more?"
     "Ow!  I'm up against the wall.  Hey, wait.  We can go this way."  Tyler felt his way around one corner, then another.
     "No way!  Daylight!"  They emerged into dappled sunlight.  A pleasant breeze swayed the tree branches.  A bird's song brightened the silence, only to be drowned out by a rumbling from behind. 
     "Where did those little twerps go?  This is my oven . . . oof!"
     Tyler and Nate looked at each other, then back at the mouth of the cave they'd left behind.  "Mr. Z.!"  Nate whispered.  They hid behind a boulder just before their boss squeezed his belly out of the narrow opening.  He took a deep breath, then trotted down the trail that ran to the left of the cave.  The boys immediately ran off to the right.
     Soon the forest thinned to reveal an idyllic farmland.  Tyler shook his head.  "Where are we?"
    Nate leaned on his knees, panting.  "I don't think we're in Seattle anymore."  He looked around.  "What are those?"  A fence enclosed a flowery pasture occupied by small brown animals.  "Chickens?"
    Tyler walked closer to the fence.  "I've never seen chickens with horns.  And they're dripping."
    The breeze shifted, bringing a tangy scent over the pasture.  "Buffalo chickens!  This must be where the wings come from.  Awesome!"  One bird regarded Nate with a round eye, squawked, and went back to foraging.
     Nate hurried to catch up with Tyler.  "Hold on, dude.  Check out this flower.  It smells good enough to eat!"
     "That's gross, man."
     Nate nibbled a petal.  "Is not.  The petals taste like mozzarella."  He popped the whole blossom into his mouth.  "And the middle tastes like pepperoni!"  He stopped to gather himself a bouquet.  "Pretty spicy, though," Nate said with his mouth full.  Tyler hopped across a brook, but Nate plunged his face in for a drink.  "Root beer.  Sweet!"
     "You've got to be hallucinating."
     "No way.  This is paradise.  Try it, dude!"
     Tyler sniffed the brook suspiciously, but found his friend was telling the truth.  They followed a path next to the brook.  After passing through a basil-scented grove, they found fine sand.  A white-haired man sat on a beach chair, facing the bright blue lake.  He turned around.
     "And who is this?"  He lifted his sunglasses for a better look.  A smile broke out on his pumpkin-shaped face.
     Nate stopped in his tracks.  "Papa Zucca?  Aren't you, like, dead?"
     "Oh, no, I skip the dying and come straight to paradise."
     Tyler tried to explain.  "But Mr. Zuccone said . . ."
     "Zuccone?"  Papa Zucca scoffed.  "So my ungrateful son changed his name, did he?  I suppose it fits.  I like to make the pizzas, to make people happy.  My bully of a son just wants to make money, so I retire.  Only the true pizza-lover can come to this place.  That money-grubbing ragazzo will never find me here."
     Nate looked nervously over his shoulder.  "Actually, I think he followed us."
    "Then there is no time to lose."  Papa Zucca waved to a girl who was approaching with a tray.  "My niece, Ginevra.  She can bake anything, you know."
     "Whoa, dude.  She's totally hotter than Haley," Nate said in a loud whisper.  The girl blushed.  "And I think she digs you!"
     Ginevra placed her tray on the table, and prepared to slice a steaming pie.  Tyler was speechless, but managed to give her a crooked grin.
     "It looks delicious, my dear, but there is something else we need right now."  Papa Zucca whispered in Ginevra's ear, and she hurried away.  Tyler stared after her.
     "Even in paradise, we have our defenses," the old man said, standing.  Come this way."
     By the time they heard the boss's panting and grumbling approach, the boys were concealed in the woods.  Papa Zucca was seated again, this time facing the trail.  When Mr. Zuccone recognized his father, he shook his fist, too out of breath to shout.
     "So, you come to torment me in paradise, do you?" Papa Zucca called.  At his nod, Nate and Tyler let their cream pies fly.  Blinded, Mr. Zuccone tripped and landed heavily on the sand.
     Papa Zucca slowly walked over to his son.  "He wants only profit, no work.  But we will tame the beast.  I think I start him on cleaning the chicken coop.  Things get a little piquant in there."  He poured some lemonade on Mr. Zuccone's face, rinsing off some of the cream, and handed him a napkin.  "We also tame him with pie.  Everyone, come sit down."
     It was the best pie that either Nate or Tyler had ever tasted.  Even Mr. Zuccone acted more conciliatory after eating a few bites.  He stayed quiet while the boys discussed his management of the restaurant with his father. 
     "You have the true love of pizza, Nate," Papa Zucca decided.  "I give the restaurant to you now.  Hire good people, pay them well, make the best pizzas even better."
     "I totally will!  Like, thanks a million!" 
     "And come to visit, anytime, both of you," the old man said with a smile.  "We'll have the pie ready, won't we?"
     "I'll be back," promised Tyler, "if that's okay?"  Ginevra nodded, beaming.
     Nate brushed some cream off Mr. Zuccone's shoulder.  "Wait.  Which kind of pie will be waiting for us?"

Find recipes for the above-mentioned pizzas at Jen's blog.  She can bake anything!

Your Italian lesson for today:
ragazzo = boy
zucca = pumpkin
zuccone = donkey, stubborn person

Friday, January 28, 2011


featuring the further adventures of the Scoutmaster

Sleep is light when out of doors,
for souls who rest upon the ground,
enclosed by flimsy fabric walls
which transmit every slightest sound.
'Twas just the wind?  What did they hear?
The snow bears other evidence.
The prints are fresh, the tracks are clear:
a bear has passed between the tents.
To enhance the Boy Scouts' lives
there's clearly but one way to go:
armed with pluck and pocket knives,
pursue the tracks left in the snow!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Ladies Take the Ice

     Charlotte sat at her mirror, thoughtfully pinning her hair, when her cousin George poked his head into her room.
     "Why so fine?"  He smirked.  "Shouldn't you be in the kitchen, practicing baking and obedience?"
     "The Dorcas Society is meeting today.  I must not miss it," she explained calmly.
     "Yes, go enjoy your do-gooders meeting.  Soon you won't be doing good for anyone but Marcus Rogers."
     Charlotte sighed.  "Why does it have to be Marcus Rogers?"
     "Father couldn't get a better offer for a penniless wench like you."
     "He should have considered that before he squandered my Father's fortune."
     George snorted.  "Now he's just glad to be rid of you."  He shouldered his hockey stick and gave Charlotte a mocking salute.  "I'll give your regards to your betrothed."
     Charlotte added some extra pins to her coiffure, then gathered her things.

     Though she arrived a few minutes late for the meeting, her friends greeted her cheerfully.
     "Do come in, Charlotte," called Henrietta.  "We've already started on the infant gowns."
     "But where is your work basket?" Penny asked.
     Charlotte remained standing.  "I've come to beg your assistance, ladies."
     Genevieve put down her work.  "Whatever is the matter?"
     "Having no further use for my inheritance, Uncle has betrothed me to Marcus Rogers."
     "Why, congratulations!"  Elizabeth beamed, but the others gasped.  "Or, perhaps not?"
     "You must not be acquainted with Marcus Rogers, Elizabeth," Genevieve surmised.
     "He hasn't the manners of a gutter rat," Delia proclaimed.
     "My brother believes he is passing through the Academy on bribes alone," declared Penny.
    "When Uncle called me in at the end of their interview yesterday," Charlotte said, "Marcus did not rise.  He sniffed at me and sent me for more cakes, like a servant."
     "Female servants do not last long in the Rogers household," Genevieve murmured.
     "He has no mother or sisters to teach him gentility," Henrietta offered.  "Did your uncle correct him?"
     "He merely raised his eyebrows, and said that more cakes would be appreciated."
     "Oh, dear.  But whatever can we do?" asked Elizabeth.
     Charlotte pulled out her skates and set her broom on the floor.  "Challenge him."
     The young ladies looked at each other with a mixture of alarm and amusement.  Henrietta cleared her throat.  "We have the poor always with us, but we may not always have Charlotte.  I move that this meeting of the Dorcas Society be adjourned to the lake."
     "Hear, hear," echoed the friends as they packed up their work baskets.

     George scored a goal as the Dorcas Society approached the frozen lake.  "That's five, then!  You win, fellows," called an unfamiliar young man on the opposing team.  "Shall we play again before this lovely audience?"
     "Actually, gentlemen, we have come to challenge the victors," Henrietta said sweetly.
     "We yield to the ladies," he said with a smile, motioning his companions to follow him off the ice.
     "Charlotte?  What . . .?"  George was at a loss for words.  The other young men looked askance as their sisters and acquaintances set their brooms aside and fixed their skates onto their boots. 
     "Shall we play to five points?" Charlotte suggested.
     Marcus laughed gratingly.  "That shouldn't take long."
     "Oh, let's take it easy on them, shall we?" said Penny's brother, Spencer.
     George went through the motions of facing off with Henrietta, but he allowed her to take the puck.  She swiftly swept it toward Charlotte's broom, and raced forward.  The young men gaped as Charlotte flicked the puck to Delia.  Marcus stood in front of the goal, leaning on his stick and leering, until Delia sent the puck past him into the net. 
     The young men began to pay more attention, and George took the puck at the next face-off.  However, he did not keep control for long.  Though Elizabeth had only recently joined the other girls in their secluded practice sessions, she displayed a remarkable aptitude for defence.  Discomfited, George managed to pass the puck to Spencer, who shot for the goal.  But he could not put it past either his sister's broom or her many-layered skirts.  Genevieve passed the puck forward, and Henrietta soon scored another goal.  The young men on the shore applauded the ladies, much to the consternation of the team on the ice. 
     "It's not fair," Marcus shouted.  "Their brooms hide the puck!"
     "And their skirts obscure the goal," George moaned.
     "I shan't suggest any change in your costumes," said the team captain on the shore, "but you young ladies have proven yourselves quite competent with the besoms of destruction.  Would you like to try playing with proper sticks?"
     The members of the Dorcas Society smiled at each other.  They had played, many times, with hockey sticks borrowed while their brothers were at school.  But the young men did not know that.
     "These sticks do allow for more precision, don't they," Elizabeth observed as Charlotte scored the third point.  The young men rallied, though, and scored two points in rapid succession. 
     The next point was hard fought.  Both teams applied all their skill.  The puck slid swiftly between attackers and defenders, and each goal keeper blocked several shots.  Finally Charlotte secured the puck and took it down the ice ahead of the defenders, who had gone to help attack.  Marcus came out to meet her.  "How dare you, little vixen," he snarled.  Charlotte passed the puck to Henrietta, who scored just as Marcus slammed his stick into Charlotte's ankle.
     Charlotte sprawled on the ice.  Her teammates surrounded her with concern.  George stood behind them, looking confused.  The handsome stranger skated out from the shore.   "Are you injured, Miss?  I am studying medicine; perhaps I could be of service?" 
     Charlotte saw the kindness in his eyes, and considered that it might not be too improper for him to examine her ankle.  As he began to loosen her boot, though, Marcus loomed over him.
     "Unhand her, sir!"
     "Oh, I did not mean to intrude.  You'll be seeing the young lady home, then?"
     "Let her hobble.  I refuse to be humiliated by my future wife!"  Marcus kicked Charlotte's other ankle, and turned away. 
     "Then I release you from your obligation," Charlotte called, weakly, but clearly.
     Marcus spun around, fell heavily, and turned a vivid shade of purple.  Spencer helped him up and escorted him firmly to the shore. 
     The stranger bent over Charlotte's boot once more.  "I am afraid we have not been properly introduced."
     "Oh!" exclaimed Elizabeth.  "I am so sorry.  Ladies, this is Mr. Reynolds.  His father is an associate of my father's."  She went on to introduce her friends. 
     Determining that the ankle was sprained, but not broken, Mr. Reynolds bound it with snow and two bandages that Genevieve had in her reticule.  "I finished them at home after our last meeting," she explained.
     "I'll send for Father's carriage to convey you home, Miss," he offered.  "And may I call on you again?  I should like to know the history of this amazing athletic victory."
     Charlotte smiled.  She felt victorious, indeed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Food of Love

If music be the food of love, play on--
I can't get fat just listening to a song.
But if my heart you truly wish to take,
then sing to me with chocolate and cheesecake!