Atonement Character Interviews: Chip the Delivery Boy

PizzaThis weekend I will give you another episode of the Three Ingredients serial.  However, as a mid-week post, I’m giving you another character interview from my novel, Atonement, Tennessee. It should give you some insight into everyday life in that fictional town.  So here goes!

Chip from Italian 2 Go

A young man walks into my office with his hair sticking out every which way.  He can’t be older than 16.  I recognize him — Chip, a veil_of_sky_open_1 copyresident of Atonement, Tennessee.  He has a bit part in the story, but as the local pizza delivery boy, he knows the town inside and out.  I get up to shake his hand.  He looks just a little bit shaken.

Teagan:  Hi Chip. Thanks for coming by.  How are you?  Oh… Was traffic bad?

Chip:  You’re welcome Miss Teagan.  I guess it was sort of more traffic than I expected.  It’s about as bad as Atlanta — I’ve been there a time or two, you know “Hot-lanta.”  (I chuckle with him. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard that term.)  I can tell you, it’s a lot worse than Nashville traffic.  And Atonement, Tennessee doesn’t have any!

Teagan:  Wow, really?  No traffic?  That sounds great to me.

Chip:  Well, I guess so, ma’am.  It’s kind of boring that way though.  But I do get to get out and drive.  I just got my license. I’m not sure how much fun that would be around here.

That’s the best part of my job at I-talian 2 Go.  I get to drive as much as I want.  That and free Co-colas.Italian2Go store

(He used a rural pronunciation for Italian and Coke-a-Cola that is seldom heard today.  I admit I was as charmed by it as Ralda was.)

Teagan:  That’s right; you work at Italian 2 Go, the local pizzeria.  You probably know the area better than anyone.

Chip:  Well, maybe.  I guess that’s something else I like about my job — getting out and seeing a lot of people. You know, seeing what’s going on.  There aren’t many jobs to choose from in Atonement.  So I’m okay with working at Italian 2 Go for now.

Teagan:  What did you think when you got a call to deliver to the old Sunhold estate? I got the impression that not all your coworkers were willing to go.

Chip:  They didn’t think I’d do it, but I showed ‘em.  Like they said in that old movie, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost!”

Teagan:  Oh?  Is Sunhold haunted?Gate Ajar Night

Chip:  Ha-ha.  No ma’am, of course not.  But there’s some as believes it is.  I know the place is sort of rundown and spooky lookin’…  There are a lot of people who might have refused to go there.  But the only thing that bothers me about the place is that long driveway.  You gotta admit it’s “too far and snaky,” as my grandma would say.

Teagan:  Are there other places in Atonement that have that kind of reputation?  Haunted?  Or maybe just weird and strange?Black winged

Chip:  Other than Sunhold and its cemetery, I haven’t heard the other kids talk about any.  But my grandma used to tell a bunch of scary stories about the old house and the whole town for that matter.  She swore on the Bible they were true too, even though most of them happened before her grandma’s time.

Teagan: What kind of scary stories? (He shrugs.)  Just generic weird and spooky stuff?  (Chip nods.)  Did your grandma, or anyone, ever say what was behind all the weird stuff?

Chip:  Grandma said something about it being part of the land.  Ha… (Chip grins conspiratorially) Grandma doesn’t know it, but she’s kinda new agey.  Once the science teacher had a special speaker come to class — a geologist.  He was talking about ley lines, and it reminded me of how Grandma said all the weird stuff from olden days was part of the land.TN_Ley-Lines

Teagan:  Humm… that’s really interesting. So Atonement, Tennessee has a long mysterious history then…  I expect the place is more interesting than most of the residents realize.

Chip:  Maybe so, ma’am.  The other day I met this Professor Heart, from Nashville.  He was way into birds, if you can believe that.  He sure seemed to think Atonement was interesting. But I don’t know why. I think big cities are more interesting.Bristol TN

(He glances at the clock.)  If you’ll excuse me, I’m in town with an American Government class trip from my school.  The teacher said I’d better get back on time.

Teagan:  Oh, of course Chip.  Don’t let me make you late.  Be sure to check out the memorials and museums.  Say hello to everyone in Atonement for me when you get home.

(Chip waves politely to the readers, takes a quick look at a text message on his phone, chuckles at it, and leaves.)

Directions to Atonement, Tennessee:

Take Imagination Route Amazon or Route Nook.  Enjoy the ride.

TN Welcome Sign

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Three Ingredients – 10: Liver, Za’atar, Sunflower Seeds

Episode 10 Rabbit signSince I started this culinary mystery serial, The Three Ingredients, I’ve been reading a lot of cooking blogs.  One of my favorites is Kooky Cookyng, written by Ishita.  She was kind enough to provide the three ingredients for today’s episode.

Don’t be shy!  Leave a comment with three food-related “ingredients” to help keep this story going.

I hope you’ll enjoy Episode-10.  Bon appétit!

Liver, Za’atar, Sunflower Seeds

I stopped on the broad veranda to remove my gardening shoes.  Cinnamon Bun, the Flemish Giant rabbit, thumped up the stairs behind me.  I bent to scratch his long russet ears, and noticed that he had a small carrot in his mouth.  The huge bunny usually ate everything he dug up, but I had noticed that sometimes he sneaked a tidbit inside and gave it to Cracker the parrot.  I couldn’t help smiling at that.

“You’d better not let Granny catch you digging carrots without her 1920s Pate adpermission,” I told him playfully.

 

We both went in by the kitchen door.  Right away I smelled the plate of thinly sliced onions.  The task had been left unfinished, with the next onion waiting to be cut.

Granny had mentioned making liver and onions.  I loved the aroma of the dish… so why was it that I couldn’t abide eating it?  Ugh!  All morning I had been trying to think of an excuse to be away from the cottage come meal time.

The muffled sounds of voices drifted my way from the parlor.  Someone must have interrupted Granny, so I washed up to take over where she had stopped.

The onion had warmed to room temperature, and it was already stinging my eyes.  Granny always chilled onions before cutting them.  Somehow that helped keep them from irritating the eyes.  I blinked my watering eyes and sniffed.  With the knife in hand, I stopped mid-slice.  Granny’s voice rose enough that I heard her distinctly.

“Moses, I just don’t think I’m up to this,” my grandmother said.1920s Style Book

The first thing in my mind was concern.  That didn’t sound like Granny Fanny’s reaction to anything.  She was the most capable woman I had ever known.  The next thing I thought was “Why is that revenuer here with Granny — again?”

I knew it wasn’t right to eavesdrop, but I couldn’t help myself.  I tiptoed closer to the sound of their voices.  Cinnamon thumped softly behind me, the carrot still in his mouth.

“Fanny, you know I’d never ask you to do this if I thought it would put you at risk,” Marshal Moses Myrick said.  “I’ll have men there, some pretending to be guests, Detective Daniels disguised and acting as your waiter, and a dozen others outside, waiting for my signal to rush in.”

“Oh I’m not worried about that!” Granny said sounding more like herself.  “I’m not afraid of any bootlegger, no matter how much money he’s got.  No, it’s the fancy food they want me to make.  I had never even thought of making crème brulee until I tested the recipe for it the day you were last here.  It turned out fine, but I’m just not used to making… foreign things like that.  And now, they say some ambassador is going to be there.  They insisted that I make something with an exotic sounding condiment.  I’ve never even heard of it, but it’s the big shot’s favorite thing,” she complained.

Vogue-Apr 1919I eased a little closer to the parlor door.  I could see into the room, but still couldn’t see the speakers.  However, I could see stacks and stacks of books, mostly cookbooks and travel books.  Granny must have checked out every book in the library on those subjects.  She’d probably borrowed any her friends had as well.

Marshal Myrick spoke soothing words that I couldn’t make out.  Granny continued, “Have you ever heard of za’atar?”  The marshal must have said no, because my grandmother continued her lament.  “I have to admit, za’atar does sound delicious, but I hope they don’t ask me to make anything else unusual.  Why can’t they want turnip greens?  I hulled sunflower seeds all morning, and I had a devil of a time keeping that parrot out of them.  I ended up giving half the seeds to her to keep her quiet,” Granny said.  Then to my surprise she chuckled.  “I think I’ve found something I can use to bribe the little imp.  She liked the sunflower seeds.”

Wonder of wonders — was Granny warming up to Cracker?  The kindhearted defense Moses spoke for the parrot was in such contrast to his gruff manner and unflappable attitude that I still couldn’t get my head around it.

The G-man had learned the art of pitching his voice in a way that it didn’t carry.  As I sidled closer a floorboard creaked.  I just knew I was caught.  Then I heard Cracker rattling her cage door.  She could have it open in a matter of seconds, anytime she chose.  Cinnamon Bun hopped past me and into the parlor.

Granny adored that oversized bunny.  “I thought I heard you out there, Cinnamon Bun!  How’d you get in?” she asked.Lucille Ball teenaged 1

I pretended that I was just walking up the hall and feigned surprise when I saw the marshal sitting on the settee next to my grandmother.  However, I didn’t fool him one iota.  “So Pip,” he began.  “Now that you know something about this sting, are you onboard?”

Sting?  As in bootleggers, and mobsters, and guns?  Really?  I gulped.

“Now Moses,” Granny Fanny began, shaking her head and giving the marshal a stern look from the corner of her eye.  “I don’t know that I approve of Paisley having anything to do with this business.”

“Fanny, you had intended to have the girl help you with events.  You can’t handle a big party like this alone.  Detective Daniels can only do so much as a waiter, because I have to have him as an investigator,” Myrick said.  Then he added as if to himself, “That young man’s got potential.  As for the rest of my men, they wouldn’t make believable caterers.  They’d stand out like a sore thumb.  So you need the girl.  She just needs to be an ordinary waitress and stay out of the way.”

1920s wrathOh…! Now that was the last straw.  It was bad enough that they were talking about me like I wasn’t even there, but stay out of the way?  I was flabbergasted!  I cleared my throat loudly.  Granny’s eyes widened when she saw the expression on my face.  There must have been steam coming from my ears.

“Marshal, I’ll have you know that I’m standing right here, since that fact seems to have escaped you,” I began.

“Paisley Idelle Peabody!” Granny said in a warning voice.

“I am perfectly capable of taking care of myself, and I most certainly do not need to ‘stay out of the way.’  Why of all the —”

I was fit to be tied because Moses Myrick sat there chuckling.  Then he gave in to all out laughter!  I was so put out that I was speechless.

“That apple didn’t fall far from the tree!” he said as he wiped his eyes.  That’s how hard he was laughing; it had brought tears to his eyes.  “Fanny, not that I ever doubted, but this is truly your granddaughter.  Young lady I apologize.  I just couldn’t help myself.”1920s Peoples home journal girl parrot

I was not much mollified by the apology, but I didn’t know what to do besides accept it.  I cleared my throat awkwardly.  Then I heard the rattle of metal that meant Cracker had decided to let herself out of her cage and see what all the fuss was about.  The parrot flapped into the room.  She briefly perched on the back of the settee next to the marshal.

She bobbed her head and whistled at the marshal.  “Fourandtwenty,” she said to him.  However, she prudently fluttered out of Granny’s reach and alighted on the back of the chair beside me.

Cracker looked studiously at each of us in turn.  She ruffled her feathers and shook her head.  She turned to me and flapped her wings once.  Then she turned a circle to make sure everyone was looking at her, and with another whistle she repeated, “Fourandtwenty!  Fourandtwenty!

***

Roasted Carrots with Za’atar

Recipe credit: Food Network.com 

Roasted carrots Za'atar

Photograph by Roland Bello

Total Cook Time:  20 minutes

Ingredients

4 pounds carrots

¼ cup olive oil

¾ teaspoon each salt and pepper

4 teaspoons za’atar spice blend

3 tablespoons parsley

1 lemon

Directions

Preheat 2 baking sheets in a 450 degree oven. Quarter 4 pounds carrots lengthwise and toss with 1/4 cup olive oil and 3/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Spread on the hot baking sheets and roast until browned, 18 to 20 minutes. Toss with 4 teaspoons za’atar (a spice blend available at Middle Eastern markets), 3 tablespoons chopped parsley and the juice of 1 lemon.

***

The Three Ingredients Serial: Copyright © 2013

by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

No part of this writing, blog, or book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Global Belly Laugh Day

Carol Burnette TVGuide

I understand that today is Global Belly Laugh Day.  Now I haven’t had time to investigate whether or how this might be any official sort of “Day,” so I guess the mail will be delivered and the banks will be open.  And you’d best go to work if you’re scheduled to do so today – your employer probably doesn’t support a day of laughter.

Whether official, or merely a delightful concept in the minds of a handful of giggling souls, today I’m spreading the chuckles, chortles, and cackles.  I’m sharing vintage comedy.  When I was a child there wasn’t quite as much mean-spirited “comedy.”  Personally, I don’t understand what’s funny about yelling, or doing spiteful things to another, or watching someone get hurt.  But that’s just me.

There were several people who made me laugh.  Lucille Ball, Bob Hope, Tim Conway… and in my older-youth Robin Williams’ early stuff left me in helpless fits of giggles.  For me the most inspirational was Carol Burnett.  I remember evenings sitting on the foot of the bed looking up at the TV as she strode Bob Mackie w-Stetchconfidently onto the stage.  She looked so tiny.  Yet she dazzled in an incredible Bob Mackie gown.

(Even as a small child I loved beautiful things.  The fact that I didn’t have any in no way diminished my appreciation of them.  And I loved to look at beautiful clothes, so comedy plus Bob Mackie equaled one transfixed, fascinated little girl.)

The thing that delighted me most about the Carol Burnett shows was how they made one another laugh.  So I’m sharing this video and hoping to give you a giggle and a guffaw.  Happy Belly Laugh Day!

And now…

As the Stomach Turns

Atonement, TN: Beginning

veil_of_sky_open_1 copy

The Story Begins

I’m posting this especially for those who have requested something longer to read.  I’m listening to your comments, and I aim to please!  So here is a rather long excerpt from the beginning of “Atonement, Tennessee,” my debut novel, published on Christmas Eve 2013.

With our “interactive” serials, The Three Things, and The Three Ingredients, I’m considerate of the fact that you might not have time to settle in with the story.  So I try to keep the episodes brief. Here, I’m giving you a large chunk from the beginning of Atonement, Tennessee.  It’s doesn’t take itself too seriously. The urban fantasy is set in our world, in the current time, but with supernatural elements, and a side order of mystery.

Naturally I hope this leaves you with a taste to read the rest of my novel.  It’s for sale at Barnes & Noble [online only of course], and at Amazon/Kindle. In case you’re curious, here’s my Amazon author page.  I hope you’ll check it out:   http://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM

Prologue

Dawn’s light cast shadows that shifted amid branches of magnolia and mountain laurel, and danced upon statuary and grave ??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????stones.  A mouse scurried out from the darkness of the mausoleum, narrowly avoiding Lilith’s expert pounce.  The big calico cat gave chase to the mouse, romping between headstones and tumbling the fallen leaves for some little while before losing interest.

Lilith held her head up expectantly, as if suddenly aware of something unseen.  In a series of graceful but quick motions she jumped to a tall grave marker that had toppled against the mausoleum, and then onto the tomb’s roof.

From her high perch the calico could see a house that was on the opposite side of the street, down a short distance from her new home.  Lights were on inside, silhouetting a large shape that moved from room to room.  It looked like a man.  He approached the tall, broad window on the second story front of the house.  There he stopped, seeming to look outside as if aware of being observed.

The cat continued to stare.  The silhouette seemed to shift and bulge, extending to fill the big window.  Huge appendages moved rhythmically.  Lilith watched, fascinated.  After a moment the shape diminished and the house went dark.black_eagle_with_open_wings_design-t1

Now that certainly wasn’t anything native to this place, she thought.  Lilith wondered just how badly he had erred to be in this unique place.  He surely wasn’t there of his own choice.

The calico sat meditatively swishing her tail as a pink sunrise gently lit the sky.  Her ears pricked as she turned toward the distant sound of a rooster crowing.  As morning light touched the tip of a spire on the mausoleum’s peaked roof, the calico abandoned her perch and trotted back toward her new home.

Sunlight glittered the morning dew on the grass, so she walked along the stone path.  The cat stopped in a sunny spot to watch a spider.  It disappeared beneath a stone, so she started washing her face, but listened for anything that might prove interesting.

Early sounds of the day were pushed aside when a shaggy dog with a ribbon bow on its head made his escape.  The owner began Puddles in grasschanting the dog’s name, “Puddles, Puddles!” in a loud, displeased monotone.  The dog, having thus far outwitted the master, scampered between hedges and under a fence, where the hateful bow was happily lost.  Skidding round a corner the dog came upon the fat calico cat.  Lilith stopped washing her face, paw in midair, and looked disdainfully at the dog.  An expression of comprehension sprang to the dog’s eyes.  He turned with a shrill yip and ran back to his still chanting master.

The shadow of a hawk passed overhead as the cat sauntered to the back door of her home, entering when it opened, and meowing her opinion of the dog.

***

I        A Home

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, ready to savor the moment.  Then I opened my eyes, and for the first time, looked out the kitchen window at the morning.  No.  It wasn’t the kitchen window, it was my kitchen window.  It seemed like forever since I’d had my own home.

Fogy DCI had felt terribly displaced.  Renting.  In the big city.  I wasn’t exactly thrilled with my life there in other ways either.  Many people thought I should just “catch a man” to solve all my problems.  Yes, in this century, if you can believe that.  But I’ve already made that mistake… more than once.  I won’t make it again.  Man, woman, or miscellaneous other.

Besides, I tend to freak out people when they’re that close to me.  I have very strong intuition, that’s all; nothing special.  I don’t see the future or anything, but apparently I “get” enough on my inner network to make some people very uncomfortable.  I hide it as much as I can, but in close relationships, people usually figure out my freakish intuition.  Then they’re weirded-out.  So I was on a sabbatical from relationships.

All I really wanted was a home, and now I finally had one.  Though how I came to have my home could be a story in itself.  One day at work, I was doing some fact checking.  Something just didn’t feel right about the piece I was editing.  That’s my job – ??????????????????????????????????????editing.  While searching the Internet, I stumbled on a website where houses were being auctioned.  I’d like to think it was my extraordinary intuition that took me to the website.  However it wasn’t my intuition that led me to the site.  I didn’t know it at the time, but something else was responsible for that.

Anyway, one particular house caught my eye.  It was called Sunhold, though it looked more gloomy than sunny in the photos.  Despite the melancholy pictures, it felt… comfortable, maybe even familiar; I couldn’t say why.  It gave me goose bumps when I looked at the pictures.Old House_dreamstime_xs_22975594

Then through a stroke of luck that continued to amaze me, I won the auction for the house – and at an unbelievably low price.  Granted, I was way overdue for some good luck, but things like that just don’t happen to me.  It was too good to be true.  Even so, only the night before, I arrived at the huge and empty old house in the quaint little town of Atonement, Tennessee.

Looking around the kitchen I felt a sense of satisfaction.  It was spacious, but only a corner Raldas Kitchenof it was set up for modern use.  The listing had referred to it as a caretaker’s kitchen.  It was furnished with an old but well-kept dinette set — 1950’s chrome-plated tubular steel frame chairs with green vinyl covered seat and back cushions, and a green and yellow dappled Formica table.  There were also retro metal cabinets in a slightly lighter green than the chairs.  The gas stove was low tech but relatively new, and there was a refrigerator.

The porcelain sink had a couple of chips in it, but it was in pretty good shape.  I leaned against the sink as I watched a hawk settle upon the highest branch of an ancient oak, and remembered that they were supposed to be messengers.  I should have wondered what the hawk’s message might be, but I marveled at its grace instead.  Maybe its message was that I had just gotten my pajamas wet while leaning against the sink…  I looked down at the big wet spot at my stomach and sighed.

Then I heard an unexpected feline noise at the kitchen door.  It couldn’t be my cat.  Or could it?  The first thing I did when I got there was check the house to make sure it was “cat proof,” so she couldn’t get outside.  The meow came again.  That was definitely my cat.  I hurried to the door.cat raspberry

“You know it upsets me when you get out, Lilith.  What would I do if anything happened to you?” I complained, but was ignored.  “Did Puddles get loose again?” I asked, noticing her catitude.

I’d heard the neighbor calling the dog the previous night, and again that morning.  I gathered that was a frequent occurrence, based on the annoyed and bored tone of his voice.  My answer was a long and very catty sounding meow as the calico walked past me to her food dish, fluffy tail held high and swaying.  She inspected the contents for any change that may have occurred while she was outside, nibbled one kibble, and then strolled away to resume her investigation of her new living-room.

There was no microwave, I suddenly realized as I took the jar of instant coffee out of my bag of kitchen stuff.  Fortunately I had included a pan among the odds and ends I thought I might need before the movers arrived.  Before too long I had a steaming cup of coffee in my hand, but knowing Lilith had gotten out had been enough to wake me up, and no caffeine necessary.

There was a lot of work ahead of me.  Decades of dust needed to be cleaned, and I held small hope of making progress before the moving truck containing my meager belongings arrived.  Now a new task went to the top of my to-do list.  If the cat had found a way out of the house, I had to find it and close off her exit.  She had probably already met more neighbors than had I, and she wasn’t even supposed to get outside.

TN Autumn RoadThe neighborhood was rather charming, in its own way.  Sunhold sat atop the hill, with a very long driveway to the road.  The driveway was practically a street, the house being so far off the road.  The drive was lined with tall shrubbery that had gone wild.  I hoped that it bloomed at some point during the year, but I had no idea what the plants were, not yet.

Though the property was quite large, it was fenced all the way around.  There was a comfortable degree of “closeness” to the houses on the opposite side of the street, though there weren’t any immediately next door.  I moved dusty lace curtains to one side to look down the street.  The neighborhood didn’t seem to be up and about yet.

I was wrong.  There was a knock at the door and I nearly jumped out of my skin.  Then I looked down at my ratty pajamas and the big wet spot at my stomach…Feeling-Frumpy-ad

Did I say my intuition was freakish?  Well, it’s also extremely unreliable.  I was not expecting a knock at the door.  I looked around in an undressed panic.  The sweat jacket I’d worn the night before was hanging on the stair rail, thank goodness.  I put it on to camouflage the fact that I was braless, but nothing could hide my lack of makeup, or the dark circles under my eyes.

The knock came again.  How could anybody be that insistent so early?  I reluctantly answered the door, opening it just a crack.  All I could see was a bunch of flowers, in bright fall colors.  Maybe the caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet and I was dreaming…  Then I heard a lilting voice come from behind the flora with a cheery, “Welcome Wagon!”

I didn’t think the Welcome Wagon still existed.  Plus, how many people could sound that bubbly at that time of the morning?  Usually I’m the one who’s a morning person.  However, it had been a long drive from Gwydion white flowersDC to Atonement, Tennessee.  It was evening when I got into town, and it was very late by the time I settled down to go to sleep.  I had a good case of moving exhaustion.  I stood in puzzled, sleepy silence.

Then a handsome face with an engaging grin peeked around from the flowers.  I was even more bewildered — and horrified at having a nice looking man, on my front porch, while I stood braless and frumpy in my pajamas!

As he moved the flowers to the side I saw one of those magnetic nametags on his jacket.  It read “Guy, Fae’s Flowers,” but my foggy brain didn’t readily absorb the information.  Then I saw the florist truck in my drive way.  My driveway, part of my brain cheered.  I remembered seeing the florist shop next to the antiques store on my way through town the evening before.Faes Flowers

“I was so delighted to know we finally have a new lord of the manor — or I should say lady of the manor, living in the old Sunhold estate, that I simply had to do something to welcome you to the neighborhood,” he said in the most charming accent.

Was it Irish?  No, not really.  Scottish maybe?  Not quite.  Something else?  I’m not good at figuring out accents.  I couldn’t place it, but he was surely from somewhere around that part of the world.  Then I noticed the mischievous twinkle in his green eyes.  Mesmerized, I had to shake my head before I could look away.

Had I even spoken to him?  I honestly couldn’t remember whether or not I had so much as opened my mouth.  Or rather, whether I had uttered a word, because I think my mouth actually was hanging open.  I felt my cheeks blush, and stammered a thank you.

“Oh, here.  Let me get you a tip,” I started to excuse myself, and then realized that he was already standing inside.  When had he gotten inside?  I must have been really flustered to have let him get past the front door.  Yet I honestly couldn’t remember him stepping over the threshold.  It was very bewildering.

“No, no,” he said in a happy tone, waiving his hand.  “I’m the shop owner.  It wouldn’t be proper for you to tip me.  Allow me the honor,” he said with a playful expression and a half bow.  “Where can I set these?”

Victorian parlorMy face reddened further at my inadequate furnishings, but I spotted a dusty table across the room.  The dust of course, was embarrassing as well.  However, he placed the flowers there and pretended not to notice.

“I’m sorry,” I began, “the movers won’t be here for a while.  I only got in last evening, so I haven’t had time…” I couldn’t manage to finish the sentence.

He pulled a cloth from his pocket, and I winced thinking he felt the need to clean the horribly dusty table before putting those lovely flowers on it.  However, he only gave the cloth a snap over the table, and then used it to wipe the moisture from the vase.  When he set the flowers down, that tiny area in front of the bay window looked like the only livable place in the house.  It practically shimmered in the early morning sunlight.

“You know,” he spoke conversationally as he adjusted the arrangement, “flowers have a language all their own.  Each one has a meaning.  For instance in days gone by, someone might give you white heather, like this one,” he said, pointing to a blossom, “to say they hoped all your wishes would come true.  It’s also for protection.”

Looking at this man, Guy, from a different perspective, he did strike me as the type of person who had a great deal of knowledge in general, not just about flowers.  He had that kind of modest self-confidence.  However it was combined with the contrast of cocky playfulness.  So why did I feel so uncertain about him?  A first impression was the area where my intuition never led me astray.  But now it wasn’t leading me anywhere at all.

I commented that I had heard that flowers had meanings, but I wasn’t familiar with the Victorian wild flowersparticulars.  I don’t have expert knowledge about flowers, but I recognized brightly colored oleander, orange roses, and the white heather among others that I didn’t know.  It was an attractive, if unusual arrangement.

Reaching into his jacket pocket he withdrew a tiny green dropper bottle.  The morning light was behind him as he held up the bottle, and it made the green glass shine like an emerald.  “Put a few drops of this in the water, every other day or so, and the flowers will stay fresh,” he said and walked over to the spot, to which I seemed to be rooted, to hand me the little bottle.

Just then Lilith sauntered in, twined around my legs, meowed prettily, and then moved to rub her head against the man’s shin.

“Well, hello there beautiful,” he playfully said to my cat.  “I hear calicos are supposed to bring good luck.”

At that Lilith jumped up into his arms.  I’d always known she liked handsome men, but she’d never been quite that bold before.  Startled, I started apologizing again.  However, he held the cat as if he’d always known her, and scratched her chin, which she clearly enjoyed.

“I’m sorry, that’s Lilith.  I can’t believe she jumped on you like that,” I said, blushing even more.  My face must be scorched by now, I thought to myself.

Calico getting scrached“Oh not to worry, I like cats.  Pardon my lacking manners.  I haven’t introduced myself.  Guy Fabdon, at your service.  Owner, florist, and sometime delivery man of Fae’s Flowers,” he introduced himself.

The city must have dulled my manners, I thought, when I realized that his name was on his jacket, while I hadn’t thought to introduce myself.  I held out my hand and said, “Ralda Lawton.  Pleasure to meet you.”

Suddenly curious I asked, “Who is ‘Fae,’ your wife?”  Then I felt humiliated that I had asked.  It sounded like I was fishing for his status, and I really wasn’t.  “I shouldn’t be so curious,” I added awkwardly.

Thankfully he didn’t seem to take it that way.  “That’s alright, Esmeralda,” he said.

I blinked in surprise.  Most people didn’t deduce Esemralda from Ralda.

“Fae was my gran.  She taught me about flowers and I named the shop after her.  Well, as I said, welcome to Atonement, and pardon the early morning intrusion,” he said.

He let the cat jump down as he moved toward the door.  “Oh,” I blustered, “would you care for some coffee?  It’s instant… sorry.”

Guy laughed.  “Do you realize how many times you’ve said you’re sorry in the past five minutes?” he asked with a grin.  “I should apologize for catching you off guard.  I know you must have a ton of things to do…  The house and the grounds — it’s a huge place for one person to take care of.  I hope you’ll call on me if you need a hand with any of the ‘heavy lifting,’ I think they call it here,” he said.

There was that twinkle in his green eyes again.  I could see a faint image of my frumpy reflection in the window behind him.  I Victorian Guy flowerswondered what kind of… of trickster this man could be.  That was what he seemed, a twinkle-eyed, mischievous, trickster.  There was no way he was flirting!  …Was he?

I opened my mouth but nothing came out.  I cleared my throat, and graciously told him I’d keep that in mind.  It was graciously said.  Really it was.  Unfortunately it came out as more of a croak from my suddenly dry throat.

“Thank you for being kind enough to let me have a look at this fine old place.  I admit I’ve had an itch to see inside.  However, I’m shorthanded today, and had best get back to business.”

When I thanked him for the flowers he said it was his pleasure, and then he was gone.  Lilith jumped onto the windowsill and watched his florist truck turn around and head back down the long driveway.

I went to the window to pet the cat.  That was when I noticed something different about the little area where he placed the flowers.  The woodwork on the windowsill seemed brighter.  Maybe it was a trick of the light.  And the old lace curtains, which seemed so dusty moments before, weren’t showing any dust even though the sun was shining through them.  That was odd, but it was early and I had an awful lot of work to get done that day, so I didn’t allow myself time to think about it.

I turned from Lilith to the flowers.  They almost shimmered in the light, and I had to smile at how beautiful they were.  Then I looked at the table and saw that there was not a single mote of dust on it.  The wood grain shown as if it had just been polished.  I Sunny lace windowblinked.  Shaking my head again, I figured he had quickly wiped the table after all.  I must really need more coffee, I told myself.

He’d called himself Guy.  I didn’t care for the name… but what was his last name?  I looked more closely, to admire the flowers, and saw the business card on the plastic stick.  It read, Fae’s Flowers, Gwydion Fabdon proprietor.  Gwydion?  That was even more unexpected than Guy.  But I liked it better.  I tried it out for sound.  Gwydion.  Lilith meowed and turned a pirouette on the windowsill.  Yes, much better than Guy.

I finished my coffee and went upstairs to get dressed.  The truck from the Annie’s Antiques and Consignment Shop might be early too, I thought, catching another mortifying glimpse of my reflection in the window.

I spotted the consignment store when I drove into town.  The moment I saw the shop, I knew there would be some things in the house that bothered me.  You know — because of the freakish intuition.  So as soon as I got into the house, I checked for any furnishings that I didn’t care to keep and called to arrange for their removal.  Annie promised to send two men first thing the next morning

I told myself that after the selected furnishings were removed, it would be easier to finish dusting and generally make myself at home.  However, the truth was I had Annies antiquesimmediately spotted a few pieces that while they were quite nice, they felt very wrong to me, and I wanted to be rid of them as quickly as possible.  That kind of thing was part of my “intuition.”  Over time I had learned to listen to it.  If something felt wrong to me, there usually turned out to be a good reason for the feeling.

Choosing what to wear was no problem; most of my clothes were on the moving truck.  I pulled a knit top over my head, and put on a pair of jeans that were comfortable for working.  As I tied my red hair into a ponytail, I heard plaintive meowing and the noise of a rattling door.  The ability to jiggle open a door that wasn’t closed properly was one of the first “talents” I had discovered Lilith possessed.

As I walked down the hall Lilith’s meows grew louder.  Turning the corner I saw the calico trying her best to open a bedroom door.  When I admonished her, Lilith stood, placing her front feet against the door, pawed the doorknob, and cried, “Purrr-yeow,” her most affective combination of purr and meow.

“Please don’t tell me you hear a mouse in there,” I said with a sense of the inevitable, as the cat inserted her paw beneath the nearly empty roomdoor and tried to lift it upward, a tried and true feline technique for opening doors.

It occurred to me that I had only glanced at the contents of that room.  I scooped up the calico and opened the door.  Lilith struggled to get free.  The room was almost empty except for the wardrobe and a chair.  I didn’t see anything with which the cat might hurt herself, so I let her down.  She went directly to the armoire and pawed at the latch.  Raising an eyebrow at the cat, I opened the wardrobe, ready to jump if a mouse ran out.

At first I thought the armoire was empty, but then I realized a large mirror stood at the back.  I pulled it out into the light.  The metal frame was elaborately worked, and the mirror was in perfect condition.  It was a fine piece.  Yet when I looked into the mirror I experienced sudden intense wave of nausea.  Lilith hissed.

“Nasty!” I said with a look at the cat who clearly agreed.  “This can be the first thing on the truck.”

Despite the bad feeling the mirror gave me, it was an intriguing piece.  I propped it in the old chair (I hadn’t decided whether to keep the chair) so I could examine it better.

The top part of the frame was worked with the image of a sword that stretched across its width, and served to connect the designs at either corner.  On the right corner was a woman with arms raised.  She was blindfolded.  On the left corner I saw a pair of Mirrorscales.  “Lady Justice and the scales of truth and fairness,” I said and looked at the calico as she swished her tail in displeasure.  “Maybe it’s Victorian to be so moralizing,” I pondered aloud.

The lower center of the frame was engraved.  I polished at it with the edge of my long-sleeved T-shirt.  The writing was so elaborate that it was almost impossible to decipher.  “See in your reflection, truth and justice most poetic,” it read.

The mirror itself had a light haze of dirt that I hadn’t noticed at first.  So when I looked into it, my reflection was cloudy.  The haze made my hair look more brown than red.  For a moment I thought it looked like my hair was up on top of my head.

I rubbed at the mirror with my sleeve and cleared a small round area.  I looked at my reflection again and just saw my red ponytail and makeup-bare face.  Ugh.  I wished I hadn’t seen it.  I looked travel-weary and generally awful.

Suddenly the light caught my silver locket.  The reflection shot out so brightly that I saw spots for a moment.  At least, I consoled myself, the locket was one thing that didn’t need cleaning.

***

Atonement, Tennessee

Copyright © 2012 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission.  Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights.

 http://www.amazon.com/Teagan-Riordain-Geneviene/e/B00HHDXHVM

Three Ingredients Serial – 9: Cream, Vanilla, Sauce Pan

Graham Kerr-1While I waited for everyone to “get back behind the wheel” and send ingredients to drive this story, I wrote this — Episode-9.  But don’t fret.  Because Ishita at “Kooky Cookyng” sent very interesting ingredients for Episode-10! I hope to have it ready this weekend, so please come back again.

Get ready… because today’s episode reveals the identity of the “dead man” found in Episode-1.

Many times when I was a child I sat in front of the TV and watched “The Galloping Gourmet” — the Graham Kerr  show. I realized that I would not experience any of the dishes he cooked until I was grownup and on my own — if ever.  Even so, I was always fascinated and entertained.  So this episode of our serial is a nod to Graham Kerr.  The three ingredients for this episode come from his culinary creation in the video at the end of the post.

Oh, by the way… for those of you who receive this blog via email, the videos are not active.  You will have to visit the blog, but all you have to do is click the link in the title or click on my name.

9.  Cream, Vanilla Pod, Sauce Pan

“What’s the matter, detective?  You’re not afraid of a little old birdie are you?” Marshal Moses Myrick asked Savannah’s finest, Dabney Daniels.Cat_menu_Episode-9 copy

The older law man’s face looked as sour as his voice was gruff, but I saw a twinkle in his green pea eyes that made me suspect he was joking.  Dabney took another step backward, apparently without realizing.  It seemed like the cat had his tongue… or maybe I should say the parrot had it.  So I supplied on his behalf, “Cracker doesn’t seem to care for Detective Daniels.  Not at all really.”

“Cracker, you say?” the revenuer asked.

“Yes, that nasty bird went around screeching cracker-cracker-cracker for the better part of two days.  That was the only word it would say, until it came out with that vulgar comment it just made.  My granddaughter decided its name must be Cracker,” Granny explained with a frown at the parrot.

“Vulgar comment?” Moses Myrick queried.

“What she just said to you,” I began.  “Who’s your —”

Paisley Idelle Peabody!  I’ll not have you using that kind of language in my house!” Granny flared and the law men chuckled.  However, when Granny Fanny’s glare transferred to them they discretely put serious expressions back on their faces.

1920 Home Journal ParrotCracker prudently remained quiet, playing with a pod of vanilla that glittered in the sunlight as she twisted it.  I remembered Granny saying that you could tell a vanilla pod was good if it glittered.

“Oh Fanny,” the marshal said, and I immediately wondered how the illustrious revenuer came to be on a first name basis with my grandmother.  Not to mention the fact that the sourpuss seemed to be sweet on the bird!  “The parrot didn’t mean any harm.  In fact, she’s been doing her best to identify your dead body,” he added with a sly look at Dabney.

We all looked like a school of fish with our mouths open.  Cracker interrupted the silence by excitedly bobbing her head and squawking, “Who’s your daddy?”

Granny abruptly sat down and looked heavenward.  Then with a look of supreme patience, she turned to Myrick and silently bade him continue.  The marshal even gave Granny a wicked grin, as the parrot dropped the vanilla pod and fluttered back to his shoulder.

“The parrot’s owner — her daddy undoubtedly used to ask her ‘Who’s your daddy?’  To which she was supposed to reply Cracker,” Moses Myrick explained, but we were still puzzled.  As if to demonstrate, he practically cooed to the parrot, “Who’s your daddy, sweetheart?”

The parrot bobbed, wriggled, and turned circles, as if dancing.  I thought Granny’s eyes would pop out of her head.  Then the bird cried, “Cracker!”Speakeasy_Stories-July

Moses looked a tad impatient with our lack of comprehension.  “Her daddy was Cracker Jack Daddy, safecracker and up and coming mobster.  He was also the man who turned up dead at your local theatre.  Detective I’m surprised you haven’t figured that out yet,” he added pointedly.

“Oh!” I cried as my light bulb came on.  I turned to Detective Daniels.  “She’s so upset with you, because her ‘daddy’ didn’t come home, but you were there in stead.  Maybe she thinks you did something to him,” I said.  Then I moved to stroke the bird’s feathers.  “Oh Cracker, sweetie.  Dabney didn’t do anything to your daddy.  And I’m sorry, but he’s not coming back… but you already knew that, didn’t you.  Poor thing.”

The parrot cooed softly, but shot the detective one more suspicious look.  I handed her the vanilla pod she’d been playing with.  That’s when Granny noticed it.  “Where did you get that?” Granny demanded of the bird.

Cracker quickly escaped toward the kitchen.  “Oh no you don’t!” Granny said and ran after the parrot.  I heard a sauce pan crash to the floor.  “Get out of that you nasty bird!  That’s for my crème brulee.  No.  No!  Not the cream!  Get out of there!”

Then I heard the picture overturn and the cream splash.  I winced.  I would not want to be Cracker just then.

***

***

Three Ingredients Serial – 8: Peas, Noodles, Lemon

1920s Flapper Driving

You’re Driving

Dear readers, it is time once again for me to bid you “Come and dine!”  But first, to keep the culinary story going, we need ingredients.  Don’t be shy.  The three food-related things you send drive the story, and the Three Ingredient cupboards are bare — so to speak.  Please leave a comment with three food-related “ingredients” that can become a part of the story.

Also remember that you can do catch-up reading where the story lives, the Three Ingredients Serial homepage.

Our interactive story continues with three ingredients from a reader and friend who knows how to write an entertaining story and prepare an extraordinary meal — the Provincial Lady.  So I give you Episode-8, with three simple but elegant ingredients.Parrot Menu Episode 8 copy

8.  Peas, Noodles, Lemon

Detective Daniels gave me a lift back to Granny Fanny’s cottage.  I had actually watched most of the autopsy Veronica Vale performed on the man who had died mysteriously at the Bijou theatre.  Okay… so I watched it from a distance.  As much of a distance as the large room could possibly allow.  I admit that I had to look away a few times.Motobloc cover

“Pip, I’m rather impressed,” the detective said as he drove.  “I expected to have to carry you out of Veronica’s lab, but you held up better than my men did.”

I blushed at the compliment.  Then I wondered why my cheeks colored.  Sneaking a glance from beneath my eyelashes, I saw his strong profile above the crisp white collar of his shirt.  Frankie’d had a chiseled nose and chin like that, though he was a little rough around the edges, not as dapper as the detective.  Frankie — the fireman who turned out to be something completely different from what I had thought.  Different in a very bad, dishonest way.

I was still kind of heartbroken about that.  I tried not to wonder if he was okay, somewhere on the lam from the law.  Granny told me that it was for the best that I learned the truth of what kind of man he was before I cared any more about him than I already did.  She promised that time would give me perspective.

Without realizing I had done so, I sighed.  Dabney Daniels gave me a concerned look.  “Are you sure you’re alright, Pip?” he asked with what looked like genuine concern.  It gave his eyes a soft JCLeyndecker Arrow Collar adpuppy-dog look that was an endearing contrast to his usual no-nonsense manner.

Applesauce!  I did not want to think of Daniels as more than a copper!  I had suddenly realized that he was a very attractive man and it was more than my poor overworked noodle could handle just then.  I plastered a fake smile on my face before looking up at him.  The grin faltered when I saw his deep blue eyes, and I sat looking at him like a dumbstruck fool.

Lucky for me we reached my grandmother’s home just then.  Another car had pulled up beside the cottage, under the big lilac bush.  The Ford was almost hidden by the bush, but the observant detective noticed it right away.  Dabney recognized the car.

“Hell’s bells, what’s he doing here?” he exclaimed.  “Oh!  I’m sorry, Pip.  Pardon the expression,” he hastily apologized.  “That car belongs to Moses Myrick.  He’s run more covert operations and put more rum runners and mobsters behind bars than any other Fed.  He even got a commendation from President Coolidge.  And he’s got a sour disposition that just won’t quit.  Barrie Craig adventuresThey joke that he eats lemons for breakfast, and I think it might be a fact.  But what’s he doing here?”

As we walked up the brick path to the front door, I noticed the lace curtains in the parlor part just enough for someone to look outside.  At the door I raised my hand to knock, even though I was living there now.  I guess that’s how uncomfortable I felt about a big-shot revenuer being at Granny’s house.

I wondered briefly if Granny Fanny really did have a stash of white lightning somewhere.  But no, I told myself.  The man’s car was practically hidden under the lilac bush.  He wouldn’t do that if he had something against her.  Actually, it seemed like he was being discrete about visiting my grandmother.  But why?

While I stood with one hand raised to knock and the other hand on the doorknob, Granny answered the door and told us to come on inside.  She led us into the parlor and introduced Marshal Moses Myrick.  He was very polite and all, but I couldn’t help thinking what beady little the-chinese-parrot adeyes he had.  Green eyes… like little peas!

To my astonishment, Cracker the parrot fluttered up.  Marshal Myrick held out his elbow, as if he wasn’t even thinking about it, and the bird perched on his arm.  Cracker looked at Detective Dabney Daniels, and he reflexively put a hand to the ear the parrot had taken a bite out of the last time she got a chance.  Cracker made a rude sound that was a lot like a raspberry.

Then the parrot nuzzled her head against the revenuer’s chin while giving Dabney a sidelong look that caused me to imagine she would like to say “So there! Jealous yet?”  Then she bobbed her head at the marshal and said “Who’s your daddy?”

***

Recipe – Pasta with Fresh Herbs, Lemon and Peas

Recipe credit:  The New York Times, Martha Shulman

Pasta With Fresh Herbs, Lemon and Peas

Ingredients

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil, tarragon, mint and chives

Zest of 1 organic lemon, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

3/4 pound pasta, any type

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan or pecorino

Method

1.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, in a large bowl or pasta bowl, combine the herbs, lemon zest, garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.

2.  When the water comes to a boil, salt generously and add the pasta. Follow the cooking instructions on the package, but check the pasta a minute before the indicated time. A few minutes before the pasta is done, add the peas to the water. When the pasta is just about al dente, remove a half cup of the cooking water and add to the bowl with the herbs. Drain the pasta and peas, toss with the herb mixture and the cheese, and serve.

Yield:  Serves four.

Advance Preparation

The herbs can be chopped several hours ahead, but don’t combine the ingredients until you’ve put the water on for the pasta.

Nutritional information per serving: 460 calories; 13 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 4 milligrams cholesterol; 70 grams carbohydrates; 4 grams dietary fiber; 123 milligrams sodium (does not include salt added during preparation); 15 grams protein

 ***

Plain Language – Evocative Language: An Effluvium of Hysteria

Plain Language – Evocative Language

In my “day job” I am quite deliberate about using plain language. I realize its importance in business settings. In some organizations simple communications are even more important than in others.
It doesn’t necessarily reflect the knowledge level of the readers either. Recently I found myself translating for a very high-level person with no degree, and an employee with more than one degree. Simple words were being used, but each person had a widely different definition for those terms.
Then there’s my creative writing and my personal preferences. I’ll go ahead and admit it – sometimes I can be a bit of a “grammarian.” However, that does not apply to using words in new and creative ways – or twisting them into something improper but fun!
What’s my point? Plain language and evocative language are not mutually exclusive ideas. Particularly in fiction [or other non-business settings] what a word makes the reader feel is very important. That’s why I enjoyed Mike Fedison’s post so much – An Effluvium of Hysteria. I very rarely “reblog” a post from another writer, but I thought this one was wonderful.

So… Please allow me to introduce the author of “The Eye Dancers,” Michael S. Fedison.
Enjoy,
teagan

Eye-Dancers

I love words.  I always have.  I caught the bug at a very early age.  I remember when I was eight years old, reading comic books, I would sometimes come across words I’d never heard of.  When I did, I would immediately put the comic down and open the dictionary I had, easily accessible, on a book shelf in my room.

words!

 

One of the first words I recall discovering this way was “sanctimonious.”  It occurred in Fantastic Four # 111, and it was Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) who uttered it.  Back then, reading issue after issue of my favorite comic book, I could always count on old Reed to introduce me to new and exciting words.

ff111

 

reed

 

In school essays, I would occasionally show off, and use some of the intimidating words I’d learned.  When I was nine or ten, teachers would comment favorably.  They were just happy…

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