Friday, November 27, 2015

Friday Flash: Dahlia's Doorstep

A month or so ago, the Wendig Challenge presented us with a whole lot of titles dreamed up by his followers. I wrote down a half a dozen I liked, just for times like this when I need a prompt. So, courtesy of s.c.kross (if I've read my own notes correctly), I present, in 792 words, my Thanksgiving tale, "Dahlia's Doorstep." Since I've used that name before, I tied this back to another story, from September of 2014, simply titled "Dahlia"

Dahlia’s Doorstep

The cat known to some as Dahlia sat on the doorstep and surveyed his world. Colorful leaves blew by, and a chill touched the air. It was fall. A general feeling of change ruffled his fur, as the scent of roasting fowls disturbed his magnificent complacency.

He did not, in fact, mind if the turkey was roasted or raw, nor did his friends.  But if The Woman wanted it roasted, that was fine with him. Even a cat known to his friends as James Dean could compromise for the sake of a big hunk of turkey.

Killer Instinct arrived first. The dog was looking a bit thin and seedy, and slunk out of the bushes with a wary look about him.

“Hey, Fluffy!” Dahlia/James Dean liked to tease his friend about the name his people had given him.

“Not flippin’ Fluffy any more, Dahlia,” KI growled. The cat ignored the jab at his own name, surveying his friend with a superior air.

“No, you aren’t looking so fluffy these days. What’s happened to you? Aren’t your people feeding you right?”

“They left.”

“Left? And what, you wouldn’t go? Had enough of being Fluffy?”

“They didn’t give me the chance to go, did they? Up and left me sitting on the doorstep watching. Didn’t even wave goodbye.”

James Dean’s world reeled. The way he saw it, an animal could leave his people any time. He’d done it, for a while, when he’d tired of being called by that silly flower name. He’d come back, and The Woman even tried to remember not to call him that. She didn’t call him James Dean, because she didn’t know. She called him John Travolta because he liked to hang out at a dance club downtown. Anyway, he’d come back, and she fed him, because people didn’t leave their animals. People were there to serve the  animals, right?

“Need a meal, then?” he asked, when he recovered from the shock.

“Yup. It’s killing me, JD. Everyone’s cooking meat today for some reason, and I got nothin’ but half a burger from the bin behind the Dairy Prince.”

“Stick around. It’s Turkey Day, you know. Some human ceremony that requires they roast a turkey. Burnt offering to the gods or some such.” JD spoke indifferently. He didn’t care what the offerings were for as long as he got his cut. The Woman was good that way.

The little dog, white fur matted instead of fluffed, flopped down on the doorstep next to the big marmalade cat. “I kind of liked being fluffy,” he admitted. “Not the name, but the rest. Warm, fed, and clean. I mean, it’s great being Killer Instinct all the time,” he hastened to add. “A dog should be fierce and all that. But really, you know, I’m kind of small for it.”

JD nodded. He massed more than the little dog. They sat together on the porch and watched the leaves blow by.

A scrawny black cat slunk out of the shrubbery and eased himself onto the porch.

“Heya Tom,” JD greeted him.

“Hey yerself,” growled the feral cat. “What’s with the good smells?”

“Turkey Day. Stick around; I’ll share.”

Tom settled himself with the skill of long practice, nabbing the sunniest spot on the doorstep. They all settled down to nap while the scents grew more alluring. Over the course of the afternoon the group on the doorstep grew. Two neighborhood dogs—Snuffy, who preferred to be called Growler, and Wobbles, who couldn’t shake the name his people gave him because it fit him to perfection, stretched out next to KI. Another feral cat introduced herself as Cat and settled in next to Tom.

The afternoon was growing old when the door opened.

“Dahlia, here’s your—oh!” The Woman stopped abruptly, looking from the small dish of sliced meat in her hand to the crowd on the doorstep. “Just a moment, John Travolta,” she said, correcting herself. She sighed and went back into the house.

James Dean followed, and supervised while she cut a few more slices from the large roasted fowl on the counter, laying them on a plate with vegetables. Then she took up the rest of the bird, set it on a tray, and carried it out to the front stoop, JD following her every move.

“Here you are. Happy Thanksgiving, all of you,” said the Woman, laying the turkey down on the doorstep.

Dahlia’s doorstep, Dahlia’s feast…The Woman watched the animals gather around and begin eating, then went back into the empty house, to emerge a moment later, plate in hand. Stepping carefully over the feasting dogs and cats, The Woman seated herself on the steps.

“No one should eat Thanksgiving dinner alone,” she said, and smiled.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

Here in the US, it's Thanksgiving. So instead of a book review today, I'm posting a few things I'm thankful for.

My family. A great bunch of guys (well, mostly guys. We women are in a woeful minority), from my husband and sons to my brothers and brothers-in-law and nephews and a few parents and sisters-in-law. I'm particularly grateful for a pair of boys who have never gotten into trouble, consistently get top grades, and are actually kind of sweet.

My husband, who is part of the family mentioned above, but gets a special listing for making my writing habit a possibility, among other things ;)

The personal computer. I am old enough to remember writing before the word processor. Believe me, it's much better now. I still carry a notebook everywhere, but I love my computer.

Good food, and the ability to eat it. There are too many people with too many allergies, for whatever reasons. I am grateful that I can eat anything (except parsnips. They aren't as awful as they were when I was a kid, but I still don't like them).

A bicycle and a beautiful place to ride it. As long as I'm not too scared of traffic. So I'm also grateful for a couple of lean years in Seattle when I worked as a messenger. After that, it's hard to get too scared of normal traffic.

Friends and fellow writers (like the BookElves!). What a joy to be able to do what I love, and share that with others who love it too!  The same goes for all my backpacking friends, whom I got to know through something else I'm grateful for:

The Internet. Yes, that thing we all bemoan for the way it shortens our attention spans and distracts us from our real work. It's also given me some friends, and I don't mean "friends." I mean people who would cross the country to help me out, and vice-versa. Not everything on the Internet is bad.

Okay, and pumpkin pie. I really really like pumpkin pie. And turkey. And my mother-in-law's stuffing. I really really like that, too. Bathroom scales, not so much.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Book Review: Come Rain or Come Shine


Title: Come Rain or Come Shine (A Mitford Novel)
Author: Jan Karon
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Son, 2015. 287 pages.
Source: Library

This is the 11th of Jan Karon's Mitford books, 13th if you count the two she wrote as books strictly about Father Tim Kavanagh. In this book, which I'm guessing may be the last, we jump ahead a few years and enjoy the wedding of Dooley Kavanagh and Lace Harper, foreshadowed through the entire series. That's really the whole story, told in Ms. Karon's usual Mitford style of wandering in and out of the heads of different characters.

No pussy-footing around here. I loved this, and read straight through. But it's a sentimental treat, and not a great deal more. Of course, you could probably argue that about the entire series, so I won't quibble. It's still an engaging story, with a few mild twists and surprises. And Karon resists the urge to make everything right and tie up all the loose ends with a bow, so there is a sense of reality retained.

This is no place to start the series. If you've never been to Mitford, go back and start at the beginning, or you'll be lost in all the characters (I was a bit lost at times anyway, since it's been a while). If you know and love the series, this will be a treat. If you are put off by religion you may want to give the series a pass, but I find that most atheists are able to let that just be part of the story and enjoy the people. Jan Karon's books are all about the characters.

Full Disclosure: I checked Come Rain or Come Shine out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher in exchange for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."