Thursday, December 17, 2020

Pandemic Reading

One thing I have done during this pandemic is read.

Here are some of the books that I have enjoyed:

Black Notice by Patricia Cornwell

Zero Day by David Baldacci

Not a Creature Was Stirring by Jane Haddam

The Judas Gate by Jack Higgins

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

The Drop by Michael Connolly

The Heckler by Ed McBain

Buried in the Stacks by Allison Brooks 

Reread North From Rome by Helen MacInnes

Reread Thunder on the Right by Mary Stewart 

Robert B. Parker's The Devil Wins by Reed Farrel Coleman

Monday, May 20, 2019

Strawberry Tail

"Patty, Mike, let's go for a walk."

This was the summer when I was four years old and my little brother Mike was not quite three.We were playing upstairs in our Oklahoma farmhouse.

"I guess we better go downstairs," I said.

I liked playing upstairs with Mike but sometimes it got very hot there. So I was glad when Mother called and suggested that we take a walk.

"Where are we going, Mommy?" I asked, running down the stairs.

"It's such a lovely day I thought a walk along the road a ways or maybe walk in the fields if the bull isn't around."

I didn't like the bull and was afraid of him. "Will we see Strawberry Tail?"

My mother smiled. "We might see him."

I loved Strawberry Tail. Yes, I knew that the bull was Strawberry Tail's daddy but that didn't make me like him. I liked Strawberry Tail's mother, though. Once in a while I got to sit on an upside down bucket in our ugly old barn and try to milk her with my father nearby telling me what to do.

Mother took our hands and led us outside onto the porch that wrapped around the western and southern sides of our farmhouse. It was nice to come out and sit on the porch after the sun had gone down.

But it was early afternoon and just a little bit warm. Mother said it was a good time to go for a walk. Soon, she said, we would have to go early in the morning before the day got too hot.

Sometimes we went for a walk in the woods, picking blackberries but today we walked down the path to the road and walked westward toward the farm of our aunt and uncle. We didn't always walk as far as their farm but sometimes in that direction.

Weeds grew along the side of the dusty road with little white wildflowers peeping through. The air smelled fresh and sweet except when the odor of fresh cow patties drifted by. Cows were grazing in the fields on both sides of the road and I soon spied Strawberry Tail.

"Oh, Mommy, can I go pet him?" I asked.

"No, honey, can't you see his daddy over there?"

I looked to where Mommy was pointing and saw that mean old bull looking at us. I knew I didn't want to crawl under the barbed wire fence if he was anywhere near us.

We walked on a while and finally turned back. Little Mike couldn't keep up as well as Mommy and I could. That was why we seldom walked on to Auntie and Uncle's house.

That evening after our father came home from work, I saw our parents whispering in the living room. I crept behind the stairs and tried to listen.

"But you know how fond she is of that calf with the brown and white stripes on its tail, the one she calls Strawberry Tail," my mother whispered.

My father whispered something back but I couldn't understand what he said. The only thing I was sure of was that they were talking about Strawberry Tail and I wondered why they would talk about him.

Suddenly they stopped whispering and Mother called out, "Patty, come here."

I left my hiding place and walked into the living room.

"Yes, Mommy?"

"Honey, we have something to tell you.."

"What is it?"

"Daddy is going away for a few days. He's going to take most of the cattle to market."

"What is a market?" I asked.

My parents exchanged glances and then Mother said, "The cows are going to a new home. They're going to ride on the train."

"Are all the cows going?" I asked. "Is that mean old bull going?"

"No, honey, the bull stays and so will the milk cows."

"Oh," I said, rather relieved. "Then Strawberry Tail's mother will stay."

"Uh yes, honey, but Strawberry Tail will have to go." My parents looked at each other again with that serious look.

"No, no," I cried. "Strawberry Tail is my calf. He can't go. He can't leave his mommy."

"That's the way it is, honey, in the cow world," said my mother. "Sometimes when calves get to a certain age, they go to market."

"Yes," said my father sternly. "Calves grow up faster than little girls."

"And," said my mother, "they go to market where people buy them and take them to their homes."

"But that's silly," I said. "Why can't they stay here at their real home?"

"I'll see that they get a bigger home," said my father.

For the next several days, I pleaded and pleaded for Strawberry Tail to stay here with his mother. But on round-up day, I knew my father was going to take him.

Again I heard my parents whispering. But this time I could hear my father clearly.

"By the time I get back, she will have forgotten all about that calf," he said.

"I hope so," said my mother.

I wondered why they wanted me to forget Strawberry Tail.

Every day that my father was gone, I worried and worried about Strawberry Tail.  Mike and I would go upstairs and talk about the little calf. Mike didn't really understand but he knew I was sad. 

Finally, one afternoon my father arrived home from the market. I couldn't wait to ask him about Strawberry Tail. After Mother greeted him at the door, she whispered something to him and then he called out to me.

I ran into his arms and asked about Strawberry Tail.

"I took him to live with another little girl," he said.

"Is she like me?"

"Yes, she's just like you."

My father hugged me and then called for Mike. For a few days, I continued to ask about the little girl who now owned Strawberry Tail. Finally convinced that he was happy in his new home, I began to think about him less and less.

Many years later, I remembered the calf with the brown and white striped tail that I had named Strawberry Tail and realized with great sadness what going to market really meant.

However, I told my granddaughters the story but did not tell them the meaning of going to market.

One evening my son, his family and I went out to eat. We placed our orders and my son ordered veal. While he was eating, he suddenly asked, "Just what kind of meat is veal?"

Sadly, I said, "Do you remember the story of Strawberry Tail?"

He put his fork down and said, "I can't eat any more."

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Best Books of 2018

Although I only read 36 books last year, more than half were truly outstanding. Also, I reread some old favorites that were just as good now as in the past.

The top three best books of 2018 were:
1. The Winner by David Baldacci
2. Sleeping with the Enemy by Evelyn Anthony
3. A Wanted Man by Lee Child

Followed by, in no particular order:
4. A Chesapeake Shores Christmas by Sherryl Woods
5. Jack and Jill by James Patterson
6. Honeymoon by James Patterson
7.A Case of Need by Michael Crichton writing as Jeffery Hudson
8. White Death by Clive Cussler & Paul Kemprecos
9. Now and Forever by Jean Joachim
10. McNally's Caper by Lawrence Sanders
11. Divided in Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts)
12 The Sunbird by Wilbur Smith
13. Make Me by Lee Child
14.To Have and To Kill by Mary Jane Clark
15. Avenger by Frederick Forsyth
16. Police at the Funeral by Margery Allingham
17.Manhunt by Janet Evanovich
18. The Third Option by Vince Flynn
19. Endless Game by Bryan Forbes
20. Secrets in Storyville by Patricia Gligor

Books from my past that I reread with great pleasure and were even better today:
1, Nine Coaches Waiting by Mary Stewart
2. Madam, Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart
3.My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart
4. Decision at Delphi by Helen MacInnes
5. The Venetian Affair by Helen MacInnes

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Best Books of 2017

  • Because of illness and my laptop crashing, I am late posting the books I enjoyed the most last year. I read more Agatha Christie novels than any other author. One reason is that my Kindle crashed and I read paperbacks from our apartment library and there were actually some of her books I had never read before.
  • The following books are in the order I read them, not in the order of whether I liked them best:
  • 1. Mr. Parker Pyne, Detective by Agatha Christie
  • 2. The Last Coyote by Michael Connelly
  • 3. The Cat Who Saw Stars by Lilian Jackson Braun
  • 4.The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie
  • 5. The Mark of the Assassin by Daniel Silva--the first of his books that I've read and loved it!
  • 6. Marnie Malone by Patricia Gligor--wonderful climactic scenes
  • 7. Seldom Traveled by Marilyn Meredith--entertaining, intriguing and a great climax
  • 8. Reread Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  • 9. The Beach House by James Patterson and Peter de Jonge

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Tributes 2017

I always end each year with a list of authors who died. In 2017 three whom I admired very much left us: Colin Dexter, Robert James Waller, Sue Grafton.

I always looked forward to Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse and have read all the books except the last one in which the character died. Somehow I keep putting it off. 

Robert James Waller, the Author of The Bridges of Madison County, also died this year. I always admire an author who can capture the attention of a huge audience with a first novel. Perhaps that's every novelist's dream.

And last, just a few days ago, Sue Grafton died. Of the three, she inspired me the most. When she published her first novel in 1982, I was writing the draft of my first novel although it was not the first one I published. Grafton published an alphabet series that sadly ends with Y. One can only wonder how she was going to end the series. But her alter ego Kinsey Millhone will hopefully live on forever for readers who love a good mystery. I have not yet read W, X and Y. At least I can look forward to reading them.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Life Span of a Cricket

The summer of 2001 I visited my mother at her home by Lake Texoma and she suggested that I stay there and use her home as a place to come to between my travels. Little did either of us know that I would stay for nine years! I did travel but not as much as I had planned.
Sometime in September of that year we heard a cricket chirping inside the house and although we looked everywhere, including in the basement and upstairs, we could never find it. And little by little, the chirps came less frequently.
One day after we heard one sad little chirp, I said, “I wonder what the life span of a cricket is. This one seems to be hanging on quite a long time for such a small insect.”
It didn’t occur to either of us to look it up in one of Mother’s reference books. The days went by and once in a while we would hear a chirp and wonder where it was.
Gradually we began to forget the cricket and life went on for us. One afternoon I went upstairs and as I started to enter my bedroom, I heard the cricket chirp loud and clear from the ceiling. I looked up and burst out laughing.
Mother yelled from downstairs and wanted to know what was so funny.
I found the cricket,” I said.
Where is it?” she asked.
It’s on the ceiling but it’s not a cricket. However it is dying.”
So, what is it?”
The battery in the smoke alarm.”

(Just for reference, eventually I did google crickets and the life span of an adult cricket is three months.)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Civilization (A Short Story)

The scientists were stunned. The planet was much older than they could ever have imagined. There was much discussion on whether to release the information to the public.

“Command Center will protest vehemently,” said one.

“But we mustn’t let them interfere,” said another. “They have prevented too much from being known.”

“For the time being, until we can figure out just what this discovery means, I think we should keep this to ourselves. When we can definitely pinpoint the origin of these things and what they mean, then we owe it to the people to inform them,” said a third scientist.

The argument progressed for a while but ended with a consensus that the discovery and meaning of the strange black objects should be kept secret among themselves until they figured out what they really meant.

The archaeologist who had discovered the objects in a dig on this remote spot of the planet was called in and informed of the decision. He immediately agreed not only with the decision but also to work with the other scientists to discover just what the significance of the black things were to an ancient civilization. Carbon dating had confirmed that the objects were over 500,000 years old. No one had ever imagined that human beings had lived so long ago, if, that is, human beings had indeed created such objects. Yet, what other kind of being could have done so?

The archaeologist, Pacquer Dymshi, went to his quarters in the scientific compound and studied the pictures he had taken of the objects, which were stored in a locked, climate-controlled, subterranean room. The bigger object had a square window and strange configurations below it. The window was dark and didn’t open onto anything. That an ancient civilization could have built something so sophisticated was mind-boggling. But the carbon tests had proved conclusive—they had tested over and over again. There were lines leading from the big object to the small one and a very strange tail-like appendage hanging loose from the big one. Pacquer thought he knew what the lines and tail meant but that, too, was incomprehensible. If human beings had lived on this planet 500,000 years ago, how had they had the sophistication to develop such an idea? Surely, any human from that period of time would have been more animal than human.

The other scientists soon summoned Pacquer to the subterranean room and a more extensive examination began, under the tightest security. Their secret must not be revealed too soon. There had to be a gradual public instruction regarding the discovery, preferably from the command center chief, who could persuade the less educated populace to believe him and only him, whenever a scientific discovery clashed with their beliefs.

The scientists had to tread very carefully in order to acquire and maintain the funding that they so desperately needed from command center.

Pacquer soon discovered that his theory regarding the tail and the connecting lines was correct and this led to even more astonishment at the breadth and width of the accomplishments of a people who should have been very primitive. Soon he and the other scientists were working the configurations and to their utter amazement the window soon revealed pictures of a civilization beyond belief. In fact there seemed to be a mixture of civilizations with people and even strange looking animals of all ages and both genders dressed in strange varieties of clothing. The hardest thing, and perhaps the most important, was deciphering the language of these ancient peoples. They finally settled on words that were repeated over and over, which seemed to be the main focus of the beings in the black object.

Months went by as the deciphering continued. Pacquer and the others would sometimes leave the compound and stroll around the remote area. It was an area that had been chosen, not only because of the discovery of the black objects there, but also because it was far from the other inhabitants of the planet and command center. Pacquer looked out on the desert mountains and thought of the pictures of the people and creatures in the window of the big black object. These people appeared many times in front of a strange-looking edifice but there were other pictures where they seemed to be inside of it. Pacquer wondered how the black objects came to be buried here in such a remote spot or had the terrain been completely different back then? Could this have been one of those exotic locales that had been destroyed by natural elements such as earthquakes or of the shifting of the planet’s axis or had early man participated in his own demise and that of his surroundings?

He was soon back to work and the deciphering of the words continued. The one phrase that was used over and over seemed to Pacquer and the other scientists as the key to deciphering the language of these strange people. However, it was that often-used phrase that confounded Pacquer the most. Finally, he thought he had it figured out but it appeared meaningless to him. Why had these people and creatures insisted on such insignificant words over and over again:

“Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?”