Monday, June 30, 2008

Missing Wings 3

(Continued from 1 and 2)

Grabbing his hand, she pulled him down the cluttered aisle and shoved him into a dark closet. Cobwebs dangled from the ceiling, barely visible in the dim light. He hardly dared to breathe. There was more dust in here than under his best friend's bed. One breath could make him start sneezing--which could be the end.

They waited as the footsteps drew near and slowed. Bryant saw a pair of black shoes creep by and a faded flashlight shining on the ground. After a few moments, they heard a grunt. The man stormed up the stairs. The room fell into silence.

Exhaling deeply, the girl led him out of the closet and out of the strange building. The ally was illuminated with the bright orange rays of the sunset. Bryant jumped when something furry wrapped around his ankles and shrieked.

"K.C.!" The girl smirked and picked up the scraggly cat. "Good kitty!" She looked up at Bryan. "Are you hungry? I know a place with great burgers."

All the fear and worry that had swirled in his belly over the past few hours burst through his mouth in a violent burst.

"No!" he cried, stomping his feet and jumping up and down. "No, no, no, no!"

"Chinese then?" The cat peered up at him with the same expression as the girl.

"I'm not eating a thing until you tell me what's going on," Bryant snapped. "I want to know who you are and how you know my name."

"Did I not introduce myself?" the girl blinked. "I suppose things were a bit crazy. I'm Callidora. Call me Calli. I detest my real name."

"It's kinda weird," Bryant said without thinking.

"And I suppose Galen is better?" she challenged.

"My name is Bryant," he snarled. "That man was crazy."

"He's not crazy," the girl said, shaking her head. "He's dangerous. There's a difference. But he's correct in a way."

"What?" Bryant hissed, running his fingers through his thick dark curls. "What are you talking about?"

The girl sighed and stroked K.C.'s back. "Look, I'll tell you everything if you come to the diner with me," she said, kissing the cat's nose. "What I know, at least. But we can't stay here. It's dangerous."

"Is anything not dangerous?" Bryant's voice was sour. He was hungry, tired and confused. He didn't want to have a burger in a diner. He wanted to find his wings and go home.

"Not really," the girl said. "Come on. Quit sulking."

His face contorted in a scowl. Frowning, he followed her to the diner a few blocks away. She gently placed K.C. on the ground and instructed him to keep watch. Pushing through the red door, she threaded her way to a table without waiting for him.

"Hey Calli," an older woman called as they slid into a booth. "Your usual?"

"Sure," Calli called. "Thanks."

"What about your friend?" The woman turned to him and cocked her grey, frizzled head.

"A hamburger, fries and coke please." Bryant tried to smile and look pleasant. He leaned back against the torn plastic and folded his fingers.

"So," Calli said, twirling her red hair. "You're looking for your wings." Bryant noted it was a statement, not a question. He nodded, refusing to speak until he got an answer. She smiled and twisted her hair. "I don't know his name, I just know what he's called. I know he wants your wings, and he'll do anything to get them. Why, I don't know. And no," she shook her head at Bryant's eager expression. "I don't know what your wings look like. Nor do I know why you have them at all or why the marks on your back itch."

"What's the man's name?" Bryant asked. He smiled as the waitress placed his food on the table. Her hands had barely left the plate before he had torn a huge bite out of it.

"Roach," the girl said, taking a bite of her own burger.

"Roach?" Bryant nearly spit his food on the plate.

"Like I said, I don't know why he's called that, I just know that's what he's called." The girl took another delicate bite. Bryant narrowed his eyes and shoved the biggest amount of burger that he could in his mouth. "Some people say his name is Darius, but I don't know for sure."

"Why is everyone calling me Galen?" he asked around a glob of meat and bread.

"That's your birth name," Callie answered. "Same as mine is Astra. Dreadful name. I might as well be called Star or Wildflower like some hippie."

"What do you mean, my birth name?" Bryant said, tearing off another chunk. "My birth name is the name my mother gave me." Callie sat her hamburger on her plate and wiped her fingers on a napkin.

"Don't you wonder why you have the marks on your back?" she asked, looking at him intently with icy blue eyes. "Don't you wonder why it feels like someone is inside your skin clawing it with talons of fire? Don't you wonder why you have the urge to fly, the need to be among the clouds? Haven't you ever wondered why you know you have wings, if you've never seen them? Why wouldn't it just be a skin condition? Why are they wings?"

"How do you know all this?" His voice was hoarse. He shrank away from her, holding his burger to his lips. Callie smiled, a bitter twisted grin. She pulled the straps of her shirt down and turned her back. Bryant gasped.

There were two pink patches on her shoulder blades, no bigger than a palm. Bryant felt his chest freeze and could only gape at her. She turned, the grin fading on her face. She looked terrified.

"Callie!" a man's voice yelled. Bryant twisted around and felt his face grow pale.

"Run," she whispered.

To be continued.....

The votes are tied! Please keep voting so I can decide to keep posting as short stories or as a whole book!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Babies prepare to go to Grandma K's House

For five months, the babies have had a pretty steady routine. They've left home only once, when they got neutered for a day. Otherwise, they've got the run of the house down.

Bear and his dolphin hang out.

Bitty torments Bear's dolphin. Bear wuffles and runs to me for help with the dolphin dangling in his teeth. Bored, Bitty then turns to stealing Bear's barbecue treats. The cycle repeats.

Bitty also spends much of her day wanting to be carried around like the queen she is. She's now developed the habit of placing her paw in the middle of my foot, putting all her weight on it and peering up at me with the most pitiful and demanding eyes imaginable.

When she's not prancing all over my couch.

After chewing on chew sticks, pretending they didn't piddle on my carpet and strategically placing their toys all over the house, the babies sunbathe for a few hours.

However, the Babies are excited about one thing.

They get to go to Grandma K's house! While we're in Alaska, Ben's parents have generously volunteered to look after the dogs. The Babies have already began a list of demands. They would like doggie sized peanut butter pies (no chocolate topping please--beef will do), mini macaroni and cheeses, a new large bed so they don't have to wake up anyone with their tiffs (aka screaming matches at 2 a.m.) and fillet Mignon every night. They require Ace to greet them with bells on and bow down to their role as rulers of the Koerner household.

No, they're not spoiled at all. Not a bit. And Bitty isn't demanding. She's simply....particular.

After spending five months scrubbing the carpet, buying a steam cleaner for the carpet, picking up dog poop, chasing dogs in the front yard, traipsing to the vet for shots every few weeks and Petco every other week for dog food, you think I would be glad to have a break.

But in reality, I'm going to miss the little critters. After all, I'm used to seeing little white bellies at the gate every morning. I'm used to Bear scooting across the carpet and wagging his tail for a half hour after he wakes up. I'm used to Bitty plopping on my stomach while I do sit ups and demanding I pick her up every few seconds. I'm used to having them curl up on my tummy for thirty minutes before bed.

I don't think Ben's parents know what they got themselves into.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Three Things

Dear Invisible Friends,

We'll take a break from our Missing Wings series for today, because I have some serious questions to ask you. Scared yet? You should be. However, don't be alarmed! Depending on your comments, a new edition of Missing Wings will appear Sunday. In addition, you can watch for a new post about the Babies tomorrow with plenty of cute pictures! And without further ado....

1) There are three ways I could continue Missing Wings:
  1. I could continue to serialize it in chunks as I'm doing so now on my blog and later create it into one easy to read story (I'm volunteering Marie for illustrations!) after it's completion;
  2. I could turn it into a short story and be done with it in two or three more entries (not my favorite);
  3. Or, I could stop posting and turn it into a book.

It's up to you to vote Invisible Friends! You must let me know what you think! Don't let Marie make all your decisions for you!

Now, for my second question:

2) I'd hate for all three of you Invisible Friends to be bored out of your mind when I go to Alaska. So I'm having a call for questions! Anything you want to ask me, go write ahead! I'll set them to post while I'm in Alaska and you can giggle amongst yourselves. Come on, I know you're curious about me.

3) Does anyone want to bake me a pie?

I am eagerly anticipating your responses. Please leave all answers in the comments. And please leave a comment! I perish without them. It makes me anemic and weak and I get a case of the vapors without the knowledge someone out there besides my mother and Marie likes me!

(And if we've never met and you'd like to comment, please do.)

Giddily waiting,

The Blonde Duck

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Missing Wings 2

"Who are you?" Bryant repeated, stepping closer to the man.

"I am the answer to your questions," the man said, grinning widely. Bryant noticed his teeth were crooked and yellow. The man's cheeks were strained tightly as he leered down.

"Then tell me who you are," Bryant said. His voice was calm and cool, though he could feel the frustration bubbling inside of him. But he had come too far to blow up over a silly man playing childish games.

"You must come with me first, Galen," the man said.

"Where?" Bryant said. He didn't bother to correct the man that his name wasn't Galen.

"To a safe place." The man's smile dropped as his eyes roamed over the streets. "It is not safe here."

"I'm not going anywhere until I get some answers," Bryant stated, crossing his arms. He longed to reach up and itch his shoulder, but didn't dare in front of the strange man. "Who are you? How do you know who I am?"

"It's not safe here," the man hissed, inching toward him. "We must return..." He trailed off, flinching inwardly. Bryant raised his eyebrows. "Where?" he asked, stepping closer to the man. "Return where?"

"It's not important," the man said. His long skinny hands clutched at his forearm, his fingers wrapping around his skin. "We must go, Galen."

"Let go of me," Bryant cried, struggling. "I'm not going anywhere with you!"

The man's dirty fingernails pierced his forearm, leaving white crescent imprints on his olive skin. "Now, now," the man growled. "You'll never get anywhere that way, will you?" He yanked Bryant's arm, dragging him down the sidewalk. Bryant dug his heels into the ground. His other hand desperately flailed for something to grab.

"Help!" he screeched. "Help me! This man's trying to kidnap me!" The man roared and reached up to strike him. "Quiet, brat!" His hand swung around and Bryant closed his eyes.

And felt nothing. He heard a scuffling and the man scream, dropping his forearm. He opened his eyes and gasped. A cat was snarling and wrapped around the strange man's face.

"Don't just stand there!" A girl with blond pigtails grabbed his other arm. Her cheeks were streaked with dirt and her bright blue eyes were frantic. "We've got to hurry! Come on, KC! Follow us!" She rushed down the street. Bryant hesitated, but followed her. It would be easier to escape an 8-year-old girl than a dirty old man.

"Who's KC?" he yelled as they ducked into an ally. They emerged on a different street, dodging cars as they ran across the intersection.

"The cat," the girl yelled. "Kitty Cat. Get it?"

"Very original," Bryant muttered.

"If you're so smart, think of something yourself, Bryant," the girl snapped back. Her pigtails streamed behind her as she hopped around fallen trash cans and old boxes.

"How do you know my name?" he shouted, his forehead creasing with worry. Why did all these people know his name? He just wanted his wings. What was going on?

"I'll tell you later," the girl yelled behind her. "We've got to get somewhere safe first."

Bryant skidded to a stop. "Oh no," he snapped, shaking his head. "No more later. No more safe places. I want my questions answered. Now."

The girl stopped in her tracks and whipped around. Her eyes flared with temper. "Fine," she snapped. "Just get out of the road first." She pointed a red door on the side of the building. With all the dignity he could muster, Bryant marched into it. The room was dark and musty. Boxes of books were stacked from floor to ceiling. A flickering electrical sign over the door read, "Research room."

"Where is this?" Bryant whispered. The girl started to answer, but cocked her head to the stairs. She put a finger to her lips and grabbed his arm, jerking him behind a tall stack of boxes. His back brushed against the wall and his skin screamed in agony. His fingers twitched and his shoulder ached with itchiness. Footsteps descended down the stairway. The girl stood as still as a statue, her eyes glaring into his. Fire was eating at his back, tearing at his skin. It felt like a million ant bites and thousands of bee stings rolled into one.

Biting his cheeks, he brushed his back on the wall. The motion just fueled the burning. The girl's eyes widened and she shook her head. The itchy sensation spread to his arms and down his legs. His entire body felt like it was crawling on hot pins. A ruler was sticking out of one of the boxes. The girl's eyes grew bigger and she shook her head. The footsteps grew louder. Bryant reached toward the box and gently took the ruler in his hand. He slid it out slowly, sighing in relief when he slid it under his shirt.

Suddenly, the box wobbled and crashed to the floor. The footsteps began to run in their direction.

"Hide!" the girl hissed.

To be continued.....

Monday, June 23, 2008

Missing Wings

The little boy didn't look different than other little boys, with his dark hair and hazel eyes. He didn't act different than other boys, with his love for trucks and all things that went "vrooommm." If someone had lined up all the little boys in the city next to each other and asked you to pick out the one who was different, no one would pick him.

But he was different. Very different. For the little boy had two marks on the backs of his shoulder blades. Two big pink smudges that were about the size of his mother's palm. It wasn't a sunburn and it wasn't a birthmark.

When people asked the little boy where the marks came from, he would simply look up at them and smile. "They're from my wings," he would say, blinking at them as though everyone had big pink marks on their back.

"Your wings?" Normally, people couldn't shut their mouths at this point. They would gape at him like an idiot, stuttering and sputtering.

"Yes." The little boy smiled the same smile each time. "I seem to have lost them. Do you know where they are?"

But no one knew where they were. No one even knew what kind of wings he had. Were they feathered or were they a thin gossamer, like dragonfly wings? Were they fuzzy or were they smooth? Did they swoop like a bird's wings or hum like a bee's? Maybe they weren't even real wings. Maybe they were fairy wings or dragon wings or wings belonging to some other mystical creature.

The little boy didn't know what his wings looked like either. And that was the problem. How could you find something if you didn't know what you were looking for?

At first, it was easy for the little boy to ignore the pink spots on his back. But one day after he turned 10 years old, they began to itch. No matter how hard he scratched, they itched and burned. His skin felt like caterpillars with feet of fire were crawling across his back. He'd rub against trees and scrape rulers across his skin. His mother would rub thick salves, lotions and creams into his skin several times a day. Nothing helped. His skin burned and itched so badly he thought it would fall off his back.

One night, as he scratched and itched and wiggled, it came to him. He had to find his wings. He had no idea where they were and no idea what they looked like. But he knew that if he did not find them, his torment would not end.

So the next day, with his backpack full of clothes instead of books, he kissed his mother goodbye and set off to find his wings. He hadn't gotten halfway down the street when a man with a thick beard and bushy eyebrows stepped into his path.

"Galen?" he asked.

The little boy shook his head. "I'm sorry, my name is Bryant."

"No, it's not." The man smiled and shook his head. "It's Galen."

"I think I know my own name," Bryant said, his voice full of irritation. "Excuse me." He stepped around the man and continued down the sidewalk. The man waited a few moments then called out, "So, Galen, found your wings yet?"

Bryant whirled around, his eyes wide. "Who are you?"

The man just smiled.

To be continued.....

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Final Frontier

In exactly thirteen days, I won't be here.

I won't be sweating in 100 degree weather and getting a weird sandal tan on my feet.

I won't be stuck in a grey cubicle with bad florescent lighting.

Though I would adore it, I won't be visiting dear Marie in England either.

I'll be in Alaska.

Instead of sweating in the sun, I'll be tapdancing on glaciers and searching for moose (though I like to call them mooses, even if it's not correct. It sounds cuter.)

Instead of spending my days pestering Libby via e-mail, I'll be perusing a shop to find a little trinket to amuse her.

And hopefully, I'll find a moose tiny and cute enough to take home. The Babies will think he's just a fuzzier Chihuahua with horns.

My parents were generous enough to invite us along on their summer trip to Alaska. Ben's been dying to see it since he was a child. His dad used to work in Alaska, so he's eager to put images to the stories in his memories. I went when I was six and have been eager to go again. At a time when the world's gone mad and is chopping down every tree to build a new Starbucks within ten feet of a new McDonald's, I'm looking forward to seeing true nature.

Ben's parents were generous and offered to drive down halfway and pick up the Babies, so I won't have to worry about them being locked up in a kennel with a demented and psychotic vet who likes to pick on Chihuahuas. (I have a very vivid imagination.) At least while I'm introducing myself to seals and polar bears, I'll know the Babies are safe and having fun with Ace, Arthur and the Monstrous Creature named Charlie. And hopefully I can find them a cute puffin or salmon chew toy.

I'm not quite sure what our itinerary is, but I can't wait. I'm even excited about riding a plane. Instead of dragging myself to work, we're going on an adventure! We'll eat salmon and ride tiny airplanes and see mysterious fjords.

In just 13 days.

(I'm very excited.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Nothing Exciting

As the Babies frolicked through the grass and munched on bugs, I propped my feet up on the patio table and fanned myself with my hand. The sun was blazing and the temperature was over 100. I glanced at my watch and decided to give the babies a few more minutes.

"Excuse me!" a tiny sparrow landed on the grill.

"Yes?" I said.

"Where are the flamingos?"

"The flamingos?"

"Yes, the flamingos. You know, big pink birds, skinny legs." The bird fluttered his wings and cocked his head at me like I was an idiot.

"Well, I don't know," I said.

"What do you mean, you don't know?" The bird was hopping about the grill in an agitated fashion.

"Why should I know?" I snapped, pulling my sweaty shirt away from my back. "Why would I have flamingos?"

"What about elephants then?" the bird tried again. "Pink ones that blow cotton candy bubbles from their trunks?"

I raised my eyebrow.

"Ducks? Lions? Unicorns? Spiders with blond hair?"

"What are you talking about?" I asked, my head spinning.

The bird blinked at me several times. It was clear he thought I was a complete moron. "This is the Pond!" he shouted. "The famous Pond with all the fantastic and mysterious creatures. Where are the flamingos? Where are the pink elephants? Where is the gigantic bee? Where are the carnivorous puppies?"

"The gigantic bee is Pumble, and he's in the Land of the Flowered Bed," I said. "And those are the carnivorous puppies." I pointed to Bear, who was gnawing on a stick as Bitty used his stomach as a trampoline.

The bird's tiny black eyes filled up with tears and his beak trembled. "It's not real, is it?" he sniffled. "None of it's real. All the stories I heard were simply untrue. You made it all up."

"Oh no," I said, a grin spreading across my face. "It's true. All of it."

"Then where are the creatures?" the bird shouted.

I spread my arms out and smiled. "You're simply not looking hard enough. If you did, you would see they were everywhere."

The bird scowled at me and ruffled his wings. He turned and stared across the yard.

"I believe you're correct," he whispered, gasping in awe. Leaping off the grill, he hurried towards the corner of the yard. "You were right!" he cried. "I see them now! They're so pink"

I just smiled.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Babies' Day

This weekend wasn't Father's Day, at least in two sets of furry little eyes.

It was Babies' Day. It was all about them. As it should be, every day.

First, Tia Libby brought them a fun toy called a Kong. You shove treats up it and they chase it around to get it out. Bitty is smart enough to let Bear do all the work so she can steal the treat.

Saturday, we went to Austin to celebrate Father's Day with my parents and sister.

Correction: We went to Austin so the Babies could trap my mom and sister in the kitchen and spend endless hours being cuddled and petted.

Not only did they receive delicious jerky treats, but Mom gave them a new bed. It currently resides in my office until they get old enough not to eat the wicker. Right now they're convinced this fabulous object is a snack and bed all rolled into one.

Bitty then decided to spend most of her time trying to escape to go bark at the original Babies. She was not successful.

They spent the next few hours fighting over who got to sleep where.

It was exhausting.

After a exhilarating adventure through the mysterious cardboard box and another round of beef jerky, the Babies decided that everyone had enough cuteness for the day and that it was time to return home. They hadn't piddled on the Blonde Duck's carpet in awhile.

After all, being cuddled and spoiled all day is exhausting. Every day should be Babies' Day.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hot Dog

There is no greater injustice than being trapped in your car in 100 degree heat in deadlock traffic when you just want to get home. As the sun beats down through the windshield, sweat rolls down my calf to my ankle. Not even my poor Jetta's AC can stop my sweat-soaked shirt and damp brow.

Staring at the cars in front of me, I shake my fist at the rubberneckers that have locked down an entire city highway.

"You morons!" I shout. "I'm going to beat you over the head with my pink princess lunch box!"

The cars ignore me. Their drivers chat on cell phones and smoke.

"It's just a wreck!" I bellow. "A stupid wreck! Some asinine moron probably got distracted and flipped his SUV or ran in the back of someone. It happens everyday! It's nothing special."

The car in front of me inches ahead. I sigh and pound my head against the steering wheel.

After moving three feet, I debate getting out of my car and dancing. Looking around at all the strange, bobbing heads around me, I decide not to.

Two feet later, I begin to ponder why exactly Texas does not have solar paneled cars.

Five feet later, I can smell myself. It's not pretty. I smell like I've been running for a mile.

Six inches later, I decide my butt hurts. I've been in the same spot for 20 minutes.

"HELLO!" I bellow to some cows on the side of the road. "I don't have any food, but if I give you the plastic knife and napkin in my car, can I ride you home?"

The cows chew, staring at me blankly. "Where's the GLUG when I need him?" I mutter.

One mile later, I see some police lights. Now both sections of the road have slowed to the pace of a snail's crawl. "Somebody better be dead," I mutter. I glare at the other cars and fume about how I could have been home with Ben and the Babies thirty minutes later if someone hadn't screwed up. It's a great example of how one person's stupidity effects us all. My list of things to do starts running through my head.

Finally, I reach the site of the accident. A truck has hit a Honda. Whoop-de-di-doo. Everyone's in the grass pointing at each other. No one is bleeding. There's barely any visible damage except to the truck, who has no doors.

It is not a scene worth staring at for two minutes. I promise.

Suddenly, everyone begins to fly down the road. After a few more stops and a few turns, I pull into the driveway. Struggling out of the car with my purse, briefcase, lunchbox and plate from lunch, I burst into the house. I sniff the air.

"Darling?" I called.

I heard metal clinking in the kitchen and tiny feet barrelling towards me. I greeted the two balls of fur that were licking my toes and reaching up for kisses as I made my way to the kitchen.

"Darling?" I called again. After prying my toes from Bear's teeth, I stumbled into the kitchen.

And nearly burst into tears of joy.

The table was set with drinks and condiments. Two plates were filled with rice and corn as hot dog buns toasted in the toaster oven.

"I decided to surprise you with dinner," Ben said, beaming. He clicked his tongs at me. "Two hot dogs?"

I nodded and wrapped my arms around his waist as the babies danced around our feet. "Honey," I said, "This is the best dinner anyone has ever made for me. You even have a vegetable!"

"And hot dogs," he grinned. "And peanut butter ice cream for dessert."

I squeezed his belly so tight he grunted. "Darling, you're my hero."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

For all the writers and artists out there....

For those creative types who are bursting at the seams with paintings, drawings, designs or stories only to be rejected or put down, read this:

As Marie says, "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genious will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." (Calvin Coolidge)

Read it. It will brighten your day.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Land of the Flowered Bed Goes on Safari, part 2

The next morning, all the animals waited by the doorway. Their backpacks were stuffed with snacks and all the important necessities: water, sunscreen, toys for the seals, books for Cookies, a map for Hairy and cookies for Pumble. They were ready.

They crept down the hallway and to the kitchen. The Babies were asleep, their tummies rising and falling as they dreamed. The animals climbed on the Flying Pigs' back and floated over the gate. A pig bent for Pumble and he stuck his nose in the air.

"I'm going to fly over the fence myself!" he hissed.

"Ha!" Cookies snorted. He pointed to Pumble's stomach and cackled. "If you get in the air, you'll look like a yellow and black Hindenburg."

"Bite me." Pumble flapped his tiny wings as hard as he could. Wheezing and grunting, he barely made it over the baby gate. The second he cleared the top, he panted and fell to the ground, crashing into the Babies' food and water. He looked up in horror. The Babies' eyes flew open.

"Run!" Hairy cried, spurring his Flying Pig onto the screen door. He reached out his hand, ready to flick the switch that opened the door. Pumble rushed across the kitchen floor, sliding all over the slick vinyl tile.

"Drop your backpack!" Hairy shouted, flicking the switch and pulling the door open. The seals and Hairy floated past.

"Are you kidding!" Pumble shouted as he waddled towards the door. "I've got fresh crumpets in here!" His skinny legs pumped across the floor as the Babies sniffed at his heels. Bear reached out and bit onto one of his wings.

"Ouch!" Pumble shrieked, jumping into the air. He shed the backpack and fled through the door. Hairy slammed it shut just as the Babies reached the doorway. They pressed their tiny faces against the window and howled. Pumble plopped down on the patio, panting.

"All those the foul breathing beasts..." he whimpered. The seals slid off the Flying Pigs and patted his head. One seal offered a seaweed muffin from his backpack.

"You don't need them anyway," Cookies pointed out, eyeing Pumble's large stomach.

"And you didn't need fifteen million books," Pumble snarled.

"If we're done resting, perhaps we should continue our safari," Hairy suggested, interrupting before another argument could start. Grumbling, Pumble got to his feet. The animals hopped off the patio and into the grassy plains of the Pond. The Flying Pigs thrust their noses into the grass, sniffing with pleasure.

"If you don't mind, we'll stay here in the shade. That's where the grass is tastiest," the leader of the Flying Pigs said.

"That sounds great," Hairy said, ignoring Pumble's forlorn expression. "We'll meet you back here in a few hours."

"What did you do that for?" Pumble hissed as they wondered away. "I was going to ride them when I got tired!"

"That's not the point of a safari, now is it?" Hairy said. He pointed to the distance. "Let's see what's by that tree."

Clutching their backpacks, they pushed through the brush. Pumble followed along, grumbling about his lost snacks. The sun began to beat down on their shoulders and heads. Hairy could feel sweat running down his fur. The seals panted, their fair skin bright pink. Cookies had to hold onto Hairy's back with one wing and cover his eyes with another.

"I can't see a thing in this bright light," Cookies griped.

"My wings are dripping with sweat," Pumble whined.

The seals whimpered and hid in Hairy's shadow. Their skin had turned bright red and their flippers were pink and peeling.

"As soon as we can make it to the tree, we can rest," Hairy promised. "Then we'll go straight back to the Flying Pigs and we'll go home."

The animals trudged through the grass for what seemed like several more hours. Fleas bounced up from the ground and nibbled on Hairy's arms and back. Cookies became completely blind in the sunlight. The seals' whimpering turned into wails. And Pumble was still upset over his lost crumpets.

"Maybe we're lost," Cookies said, leaning against one of the seals. The seals nodded.

"We're not lost!" Pumble shouted. "We're really lost! We'll probaly die out here on this stupid safari. We'll never find the tree or any water! We're doomed to die here while those creatures eat my crumpets!"

"Get over your crumpets!" Cookies snapped.

"Open your eyes!" Pumble taunted.

Cookies eyes flew open and he beamed. "The tree!" he shouted. "It's right there!"

Crying out with joy, they rushed over to the tree. A thick cluster of green leaves with tiny purple flowers surrounded the tree. Pumble fell to his knees.

"Is there no water?" he cried to the sky. "No cookies? No pie? I'm doomed to die without the tiniest bit of sugar?"

"Did you say pie?"

The animals looked up. A tiny snail was peering at him from the green leaves.

"Pie?" Pumble repeated hopefully.

Hairy rolled his eyes. "Kind creature, we set out on a safari and got a bit lost from home. We would appreciate any food or water you could give us."

"Why didn't you say so?" the snail squeaked. "Come on in!"

A bit befuddled, the animals stumbled into the brush and grasp. Creatures of all shapes and sizes were everywhere! There were tiny elephants and minuscule pink horses romping through the mulch. Bumblebees and ladybugs dined on pollen nectar and dragonflies played a violin quartet. There were birds nestled in the leaves and lions with beards of straw prancing the ground.

"It is a safari!" Hairy cried. "Look at all the exotic creatures!"

"Look at all the FOOD!" Pumble bellowed, rushing to a table with his hands outstretched.

"This is culture," Cookies mumbled to himself. "In fact, it's a hidden society. I shall study it and make millions off my discovery! I'll be the most respected anthropologist there is!"

The seals squealed and took off running to a small pond several toads had created. Tiny deer ran by, waving white tails as they passed.

"So, what do you think?" the snail asked Hairy.

"I think it's a wonderful safari," Hairy said, beaming.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Land of the Flowered Bed goes on Safari

At first, the animals in the Land of the Flowered Bed were excited summer had come. The seals loved dozing in the warm sunbeams streaming through the windows. Pumble was growing a vegetable garden in some old shoes he had found. Cookies spent his days hiding in the closet grumbling about all the excess sunshine, and Hairy had discovered a hidden library and was devouring all the books. All the other creatures swam, played volleyball and held campfire barbecues.

"I'm bored," Pumble sighed. He flung himself down on the ground, his apron covering his eyes.

"While I normally would not agree with such a silly statement, I'm afraid I must agree," Cookies said. The seals nodded, flopping over on their backs. The ducks from the Spa, who were eavesdropping, became so excited they flew out of the bathtub to the doorway of the Spa.

"Let's do something exciting!" cried the first duck from the Spa.

"Something we've never done before!" cried the second duck from the Spa.

"Does anyone have a towel?" the third duck asked, hiding behind a door. He was quite shy.

"What do you want to do?" Hairy asked.

"Find some new tasty grass," said the Flying Pigs.

"Swim somewhere," the ducks said.

The seals nodded their heads at the ducks' suggestion.

"I want to sample some delicious exotic food," Pumble said, licking his lips.

"Somewhere with culture," Cookies said.

"Hmm," Hairy said, tapping his finger to his chin. "The Living Room?"

"Boring." Pumble flopped over to his other side.

"Pedantic," Cookies said, trying out a big word he had heard on a commercial.

The seals shook their heads.

"The Garage?" Hairy suggested.

The ducks squalled from the Spa.



"Perhaps another destination would be appropriate," the third duck suggested.

Hairy took a deep breath and tried again. "The Kitchen?"

Pumble sat up, drool running down his cheek. "Sure!"

Cookies shook his head and rolled his eyes. "We go there all the time. I want to go somewhere we've never been."

Hairy thought for a moment, tapping his foot against the carpet. "I know!" he cried. "We'll go on a safari in the backyard!"

"A safari!" Pumble cried. "That sounds delicious!"

"You know, my rich Uncle Owl went on safari every year," Cookies mused. "He was very cultured."

The seals cocked their heads and barked.

"A safari is a trip where you travel through a lot of grass and see wild animals," Hairy explained. "It's an adventure."

The seals clapped their fins in excitement.

"We like grass," the Flying Pigs said.

"Especially tasty grass," one added.

However, the ducks in the Spa were not amused.

"You can't swim on a safari!" the first duck yelled.

"We could get eaten by a rhino!" the second duck yelled.

"I'm afraid these two are more high maintenance," the third duck apologized.

"So it's settled then," Hairy announced, looking around at the animals. "Tonight, we'll pack. Tomorrow, we'll head out to the backyard and go on a safari."

If only he had seen the pair of eyes watching them through the window....

To be continued.....

Sunday, June 08, 2008

A surprise package, a cheer-up e-mail and sitting in the kitchen

This weekend, while all my actions spoke of joy and frivolity, my weird and obsessive mind was churning and churning. For those Invisible Friends who do not know, I'm really weird. I'm high strung and dwell on things, particularly concepts or actions that can not be changed or I have no control over, for hours.

And I don't talk about it much here because that's whining, and as much as my father may disagree, I don't like whining in public. I think it's tacky. (He's probably fallen over by now.)

As you probably suspect, I'm obsessed with getting published. It dominates my thoughts, directs my actions and was, I feared, beginning to direct my writing. Instead of just flying through a story, my brain began to try to predict what agents or editors I never met would like. It started to dominate which stories I wrote and how I wrote them. Every rejection letter became a personal blow rather than a shrug and, "I'll try the next one!" The blind optimism I had at the beginning of this adventure was turning into bitter, cynical and jaded actions.

I became trapped in a vicious cycle of riding high creativity and optimism, spinning into self-doubt and then falling into a low of believing I was a terrible writer that didn't know plot, couldn't write at all and would never achieve my dreams. Then I'd spend days looking up stories on the Internet and plotting other options to take the publishing world by storms. Repeat. All weekend, my brain churned. Even at my parents' house, where my dear mother and sister gave up their Saturday to sit in a kitchen with my dogs, my brain churned.

Then, I got a package.

It was from my dear friend Marie! She had sent me a lovely e-mail cheering me up and then this fabulous package that contained:

A cookbook for 2 (It's from England and says 4 pounds on the back instead of dollars! How cool is that?),

A print she had done of a little girl and ducks.

And a print of a little girl and the chicken! My favorite! (To see more of her prints, visit her blog in my links. A Year From Oak Cottage. She's got an Etsy store that is full of fabulous prints.)

Then Emma sent me an e-mail that cemented my self-confidence and happiness. Between these two ladies, my blue mood was cured!

So Marie, I want to thank you for cheering me up on a day that I needed it most. Your unwavering enthusiasm and support for my writing has really helped me during my endless cycle of self-pity

And Emma, I want to thank you for reading the dozens of pages I send you every week and for always supporting and encouraging me. You don't know how happy I am when I see your e-mails in my in-box!

Of course, I have to thank Ben for putting up with me. It's not easy.

And I have to thank my Mom and sister for taking such good care of the puppies while I dance around the living room and gaze at "Transformers."

If my Dad is still conscious, I have to thank him for letting the dogs in his house. He made my grandmother sit outside in 100 degree heat when she brought it down when he and my mom were first married, so you know what that means....

He can't resist these two little faces.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Nature is cruel

Last night, there was an accident.

An accident of the stuffing kind.

The babies won't admit to anything.

However, the evidence speaks for itself. It is apparent that Bear and the Dolphin had a slight disagreement. The dolphin suffered major facial damage. Bear suffered indigestion with a touch of putrid gas.

But, like all friends, Bear and the dolphin are bound to make up. After all, how could you not forgive this face? He can't help it that he's a rambunctious puppy that enjoys seeing fluff float all over the carpet like snow. In fact, he's never even seen snow. He's a Chihuahua.

The dolphin's surgery is scheduled for Saturday or Sunday, depending on how much drama there is in the Pond ER. Fish and seaweed can be sent to Room 4C. Bear is confident he and his dolphin buddy will be back to normal before long.

And he really is very sorry.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The GLUG goes Swimming

"HELLLO!" A familiar voice bellowed from the vicinity of my toes. I looked down to see the GLUG swimming in the dogs' water dish.

"Hello," I said warily. "What are you doing?"

"Swimming, duh!" he bellowed, giggling. "What does it look like I'm doing?"

"Well, it looks like"--

"It's summer!" the GLUG announced. "Do you know what that means?"

"It's hot?" I suggested.

"I'm hot!" the GLUG bellowed. "The summer is the best time for a GLUG! The sun's a blazing, kids are out of school and everyone is looking for fun. And what could be more fun than a Ginormous Lime Green Unusual Gnat?"

"That's true," I agreed, trying not to smile.

"You know, you really need to work on your hospitality," the GLUG said, shaking his tiny green fist at me. "There are no Noodles or inner tubes in this pool. And where is the cabana? I want a hamburger and a petal margarita. And what's this brown crap at the bottom of the pool?"

"That would be dog kibble crumbs," I said.

"DOG KIBBLE CRUMBS?" the GLUG shouted. "Disgusting! What kind of pool is this?"

"A dog's water dish," I said. The GLUG glanced up to see two black noses sniffing right over his head.

"Excuse me!" he shouted. "Excuse me! This is a no sniffing zone."

Bear stuck his nose into the water and the GLUG yelped, bobbing helplessly. "What is wrong with you, vile creature!" he screeched. "Can you not see I'm swimming here? Go wash your foul nose somewhere else?"

He had barely scrambled onto the edge of the water bowl before Bitty's pink tongue began to lick eagerly.

"Oh no! Excuseee me!" Shaking the water droplets off his wings, he flew up to the counter and put his hands on his hips. I was too busy laughing to pay much attention.

"Next time, floaties and slobber free water," he demanded. "I'm a GLUG. The only GLUG! I don't swim in dog dishes."

"You just did," I reminded him. The babies looked up at the tiny green insect, wagging their tails hopefully. For once, the GLUG couldn't say a word.

But he never did go swimming again.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Pocket Full of Sunshine

Until this morning when I had to return to the dark, dull cubicle full of snarky journalists I work with, everything was perfect.

On Friday, I was home by one and greeted with a fun sussy from Shreveport. (See entry below.) I had the entire house clean by 5 p.m. and was treated to a lovely dinner by my Mom and sister. How can you go wrong with calzones?

Saturday, I scurried to the mall in search of sundresses. Several gift cards later, I returned with four sundresses, three skirts and two shirts.

Now, these weren't just any dresses. These were light, colorful dresses. Dresses you could twirl in. Dresses that look as lovely at a summer barbecue as in a nice restaurant. Dresses that actually inspire me to do my hair and put on a little eyeshadow. Whenever I twirl across the carpet in them, I envision dancing across a beach or eating ice cream on a warm summer night. I picture prancing by ponds and chowing down on bacon cheeseburgers.

Speaking of burgers, Ben made these really awesome hamburgers Sunday night. He made mini-burgers from his meatball recipe and boiled them with sausage in a enormous pot of spaghetti sauce. Add a little mozzarella cheese and a biscuit and you have drooolllllll......

As we snuggled with the puppies on the bed, I realized it had been a perfect weekend. Pretty new dresses and skirts, swimming, a movie and homemade meatball burgers I didn't have to cook.

No wonder my pockets are bursting with sunshine.