Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 9, Featuring D.L. Finn

Saturday, April 29, 2023

CGI by Teagan
CGI by Teagan

Welcome back, everyone.  After doing various types of refresher posts during the past couple of weeks (here and at my midweek posts), I’m going to move straight into the new episode.

Today the random reader things, which drive this episode are from fellow blogger and author, D.L. (Denise) Finn.  She already has quite a collection on her author bookshelf, but she also has a new one, “In the Tree’s Shadow: A collection of stories that exist in your dreams… and nightmares.”

  Her random things for today are:  Nightmare, Headlamp, and Baseball dugout.

The layers of mystery in this serial continue to increase.  If you want to refresh your memory, check last weekend’s post. Click here.

Atonement in Zugzwang

Episode 9

Image collage by Teagan
Image collage by Teagan

A glance around the remodeled gas station easily showed that it was no longer as cold and impersonal as it had been when my uncle, Wirt “Salty” Riley lived there.

Inwardly I cringed.  The place was beginning to look like I was “settling in,” but I insisted to myself that was not the case.  I had no intention of relocating.

“I’m just trying to be comfortable for while I’m here,” I muttered, reminding myself that I would leave as soon as my late uncle could be laid to rest.

Every day, the local newspaper mentioned another “Salty Sighting.”  There were whispers of “undead” and zombies.  Enough people had figured out who I was (it’s a small town after all) that I got strange looks whenever I went anywhere.  It was a nightmare.

“Careful.  The town grows on people,” remarked Dale Metatron with a sardonic half-smile.  “It’s really not that bad.”

I blushed, not realizing I had spoken aloud.

Maudie had suggested a room-sized rug she saw at the thrift store and the brothers had just delivered it. Granted, there were few places to shop in Atonement, but the Metatron family’s thrift store and Annie’s Antiques and Consignment Shop had good merchandise.

Muscles flexed in a silent symphony of movement as Dale and his younger brother Donny unrolled and placed the large rug.  A thought about being twenty or even ten years younger flitted across my mind.  They were a pair of Adonises.

No, I decided.  I’m glad to be too old for them.  What a pair of heartbreakers they must be, even if they never did anything wrong.

Maudie hasn’t gotten here yet, thank God.  She wouldn’t be able to resist flirting with them, and that would be embarrassing.  The oldest one might be “legal”… if barely.  But Donny is probably only about sixteen, despite his physique.

An exclamation from Donny accompanied by a guffaw from Dale brought me back to the moment.

The tiny gray kitten their aunt Adelle had brought to me scampered wildly around on the rug.  However, her intention was primarily focused on Donny.  Claws latching onto his pant leg, she quickly ran up to his shoulder, purring loudly all the while.

Donny’s expression was hard to describe.  He blushed scarlet, but it was more than that.  Abruptly, I remembered his odd reaction to the jacket I bought there. I tilted my head as curiosity filled my thoughts.  That jacket had gold buttons embossed with a unicorn.  Donny had the same expression when he saw the buttons.

CGI image by Teagan
CGI image by Teagan

The younger brother tried to get free of the determined kitten.  As he contorted himself trying to reach her, the kitten looked directly at me for a moment.  I stopped breathing.

I saw that little golden horn again.

Dale’s eyes followed the kitten’s gaze to me.  He gave me a startled but evaluative look that reminded me of Bheema’s surprised expression when he and Adelle were talking about the kitten — the moment when I first saw that gold horn.

Am I really seeing that horn?  It has to be my imagination.  Especially since I only see it some of the time… Although I’m beginning to think that I’m not the only one who can see it.  But why wouldn’t they say something about it, if they can see the horn?

Gently, Dale detached the kitten from his younger brother and brought her over to me.

I took the kitten to the kitchen and gave her a dish of tuna as a snack, hoping that would keep her from aggravating the boys.  As I headed back toward the living area, I heard Donny muttering something that I took to be about the kitten.

“Too bad Ms. Rocket wasn’t here.  She might be willing to help you with that problem,” Dale told his brother in a teasing voice.

If I thought Donny had been blushing earlier, he was neon red at Dale’s remark.  I pretended that I didn’t hear them.

Did they mean what it sounded like? Dale didn’t use the word “virgin” or even “deflowering”…  No that was just too unlikely.  But was Dale teasing his brother about needing a girlfriend?  As handsome as they both are, that doesn’t seem likely, but you never know.  Or maybe Donny has a little crush on Maudie.  That’s easily possible.

“Quit messing around, Dale.  You’ll make me late for baseball practice,” Donny grumbled.

They asked if the furniture was in the places where I wanted everything.  I said that it was and thanked them. 

“Donny, don’t forget your gym bag.  Your baseball glove’s in it with your tools,” Dale remarked as he picked up a canvas bag and handed it to his brother.

Then he did a quick scan of the area to make sure they didn’t leave anything behind. Then they were gone, Donny practically dragging his brother in his hurry to…

To what?  To get to baseball practice, or just to leave period?

I went upstairs to get started on the task I had set for myself.  I wasn’t sure what to do with Uncle Salty’s antiques, particularly if they were as valuable as the lawyer and the banker suggested.  So, I decided that I would start by cataloging them myself, with my own notes, and then research each one.

Remembering a listing for a headlamp on a manifest, I decided to make that the first item.  A bright hands-free light might help me examine some of the other antiques.

Locating the crate, I was fortunate to find the old headlamp at the top of the box.  Or at least I assumed it was what someone meant by headlamp.  There was a small light, but it looked more like a pair of souped-up goggles.

Maybe there’s an actual headlamp farther down in the crate, I thought, but something in my peripheral vision was nagging at me.  I turned toward the chess table.

While I had looked inside some of the crates, the only thing I had unpacked was the chess table.  A cryptic note that was in the blue glass bottle, which had been left when Salty’s body was taken, was a demand that the chessboard be set up.

I’m not sure whether I was that freaked out, or that curious, but I had set it up right away.  However, there had not been any chess pieces packed with the table, or anywhere else that I could find.

Later, on the evening when Maudie and I had found the note, I found a solid gold unicorn piece beneath a floorboard.  I had placed it on the board as the queen’s knight.

CGI image by Teagan
CGI image by Teagan

Not long after that, an intricately enameled piece, in the form of a psychedelic elephant wearing pants, had mysteriously appeared on the board.  I had no idea how it got there, but it had been placed in the square for the queen’s bishop.

Then on the morning I learned Salty’s body had been photographed beside a statue of a dancing woman, an entire rank of blue dancing ladies appeared on the chessboard, as pawns for the opposing side.

Pausing uneasily, with the goggles in my hand, I cast an uneasy look across the long room at the chess table.  Something was different.

Gulping back fear, I eased toward the chessboard.  All of the inexplicably appearing pieces were still there.  The unicorn knight was beside the smiling elephant.  The squares for the king and queen, like most of the squares, were vacant.

However, the place for the king’s bishop was filled.  The piece was carved from alabaster.  The tip had the classic slashed bishop’s hat, but it was atop a cylinder inlayed with red agate and blue lapis.

“It looks like… a barber pole,” I murmured.

Just then, I heard Maudie downstairs at the front door.  Forgetting that the goggles were still in my hands went to the door.

“Are you going spelunking?” Maudie asked as she came inside.

“Huh?  Oh,” I said, disturbed that someone surely must have been in my house again.  “It’s some kind of weird headlamp.  How much do I owe you for the kitten food?”

Maudie had phoned me from the Hogley Wogley grocery store, offering to pick up kitten food.  It wasn’t until I went to get my wallet that I realized I had not seen the kitten in a while.  Maudie asked where she was the last time I saw her.

“I took her to the kitchen and gave her a saucer of tuna.  She was making a pest of herself to Donny and Dale when they placed the rug,” I said as much to myself as to Maudie.

“Hey, the rug looks great.  I can’t say I blame her,” my friend chuckled.  “Then you went upstairs?  Did she follow you?”

“No… I left her in the kitchen.  Then saw the boys out.  Then I went upstairs.  And there’s another damn chess piece!” I all but wailed in a tangle of confusion, frustration, and worry.  “I don’t think I’ve seen her since I took her to the kitchen.”

“It’s okay.  We’ll find her,” Maudie assured me in a voice that was at once confident and soothing.

A search of the house ensued.  Fortunately, the remodeled gas station retained an open layout.  That made searching easier.

Complaining about a dark cabinet, Maudie put on the odd headlamp.

“Wow, this thing’s weird.  It made me dizzy for a minute.  I probably just got up too fast,” she muttered.

“We’ve looked everywhere,” I groaned.  “She’s not here.  It’s nearly dark.  I’m going outside to look.”

“Thank God this end of the street isn’t busy,” Maudie remarked, and cringed when she saw the horrified expression on my face.  “She wouldn’t get in the street.  She would be afraid.”

It was too late for my friend to take those words back.  The idea was firmly in my head, and I thought I might vomit.

photo Dan Antion
Photo by Dan Antion

My phone rang.  I dropped it, fumbling to answer the thing.  When I finally answered, a distraught Donny Metatron was on the line.

“Ms. Riley, I’m sorry.  I just found your kitten in my gym bag.  I don’t know how she managed to get there,” came the young voice.  “Can I bring her to you after practice?  I don’t have a car, but I can get a ride then.”

Not wanting to risk the kitten getting lost at the ballpark I told him I would come and get her.  Donny gave me directions, and soon Maudie and I met him at the dugout.

“What are you doing?” I asked Maudie in surprise when Maudie put on the weird headlamp.  “You brought that thing?”

“It was getting dark and this thing is bizarrely cool,” Maudie answered, touching one of the dials beside the light.

With another apology, Donny handed me the wayward kitten.  Maudie looked down to pet it.  Then she gasped.

“Holy shi—” she cut off when I elbowed her.

Expletives don’t offend me, but there were kids around.

“It’s got a,” she stammered, the beam of her headlamp shining on the kitten.  “There’s a… on its head.  It’s got…” she tried to add, but looked at me with the blasted light, making me see spots.

Seeing the face I made, Maudie took off the headlamp.

“Oh.  How strange,” she went on, looking at the kitten again.  “In that light, I could have sworn the kitten had a horn.  That was silly of me.”

I looked at the purring kitten.  I could see that single small gold horn again.  The first time I saw the horn, it was only for a moment.  However, that time I could still see it.

Apparently, Maudie could only see it with the headlamp.

My eyes turned to meet those of Donny Metatron.  He returned my gaze with an expression of chagrin.  Then he blushed again.

CGI by Teagan
CGI by Teagan

♣ ♣ ♣

I have a feeling that angelic, adorable kitten is pure trouble. Or to use the title of a movie that fascinated my imagination when I watched reruns of it on TV as a child, “Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows.”

That headlamp/goggle device might be trouble too.  I wonder if Maudie will be content with dismissing what she saw through them?

Be sure to follow the links and visit Denise and check out her great books. I love to hear from you, so friendly comments are encouraged.  Hugs!

♣ ♣ ♣

In the Tree’s Shadow

In The Trees Shadow DL Finn

Purchase information at this link: https://dlfinnauthor.com/books/in-the-trees-shadow-a-collection-of-stories-that-exist-in-your-dreams-and-nightmares/

♣ ♣ ♣

The Atonement Series

The Glowing Pigs: Snort Stories, image by Teagan
The Glowing Pigs: Snort Stories, image by Teagan

Atonement, Tennessee

Full series of e-books with one click:  relinks.me/B087JV25JT

Kindle:  rxe.me/HGSVA8A

Paperback: relinks.me/1481826948

Also in Spanish, translated by Olga Núñez Miret! The title for the Spanish-speaking market is Expiación y Magia

Atonement in Bloom

Kindle:  rxe.me/5RRBLH

Paperback:  relinks.me/1726882128

The Glowing Pigs, Snort Stories of Atonement, Tennessee

Kindle   rxe.me/LTBDNH

Paperback   relinks.me/1725891972

♣ ♣ ♣

This is a work of fiction.  Characters, names, 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, locales, or events is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2023 by Teagan Ríordáin Geneviene

All rights reserved. 

No part of this work 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.

All images are either the property of the author or used with permission, or from free sources.

76 thoughts on “Weekend Serial — Atonement in Zugzwang: Episode 9, Featuring D.L. Finn

  1. Years ago my parents gained a cat seemingly out of nowhere. We later found that he liked to climb in people’s cars – he scared the crap out of my cousin when he was driving home one evening, lol. Glad the kitten was found!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha. I can’t imagine being one of the many bloggers who get hundreds of comments on each post.
      LOL, Jacquie Biggar once called me the “queen of extreme” for my imagination, and I got a kick out of it. So… I now christen thee, Sir David. 😉 Have a good rest of the week. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Excellent!
    Things are heating up quite nicely, especially with the barber pole bishop on the board.
    I hope the kitten’s horn isn’t some kind of witches hat.


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Resa. LOL. As Freud might have said if he lived in Atonement, sometimes a horn is just a horn. 😉 Besides, witches are portrayed favorably here. I’m happy you enjoyed this chapter. Hugs winging back to you. ❤


    1. It’s good to see you, Sue. You’re too kind. I can’t take full credit for the 4 CGIs (computer generated images). Even so, despite the computer app making them it takes a ton of trial and error, using different combinations of search terms and “filters” within the app. A lot of the results are truly bizarre (like extra body parts, or items being merged into the body). So making them is not exactly without a human piece. The glowing spot in the first kitten’s forehead was that kind of accident. But I decided it could look like where her horn is when a human can’t see it. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know how much goes into generating and creating an image I had a go once upon a time… I lost patience.. LOL… Much prefer my paint and canvas… and I can paint easily over my mistakes LOL.. 🙂 And was nice catching up too.. ❤ Spring is a busy time for us as you know.. Sending HUGS right back Teagan… ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I was right there with Pepper in wanting to throw up at the thought of the kitten outside in the street. Thank heavens for the gym bag. Makes sense that the kitten would sneak into something warm. Had to laugh at the Hogley Wogley name of the supermarket. Well done episode, Teagan.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, John. Yeah… I started to have the kitten get out and follow Donny, but I couldn’t cope with the thought. So gym bag it was!
      Haha, Hogley Wogley was a holdover from the first book. It’s what my dad called the Piggly Wiggly. When I was a teenager it embarrassed the heck out of me. ^^’ Thanks for reading and commenting. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Noelle. They really do like to hide. They’re also known for (usually) being attracted to opposite sex humans. Although I’ve thrown out some hints about why this particular magic kitten (with a unicorn’s horn) is so attracted to Donny rather than his older brother or Bheema. You’ll see. 😉 😀 I appreciate you spending part of your day here. Hugs.


    1. Thanks Diana. Yeah, it took a little storytelling to let the “things” drive this chapter. The headlamp together with the barber pole piece also necessitated a review of the chess pieces (although that isn’t apparent yet — but everything needs to tie together later). Hopefully a naming scene soon. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Another fun episode, Teagan. I love how the words were weaved in. I have a feeling that headlamp is going to be interesting and of course who doesn’t love a unicorn kitten? Bigs hugs for allowing me to participate and for the shoutout for the latest. I had fun. Xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Denise. My pleasure! And thank *you* for the excellent random things. Yes, the headlamp gives me a way to bring Maudie into the story better, as a sidekick for Pepper and hopefully some sleuthing for those two. Wishing you huge success with “In the Tree’s Shadow: A collection of stories that exist in your dreams… and nightmares.”
      Thanks for fielding comments too. ❤ Hugs.


      1. Hey, GP. Here’s a sort of riddle for you. I have 2 ideas for the pawns on the “home team”. (Of course, anything I expect ahead of time is subject to change depending on the influence of reader things…)
        I’m thinking those Atonement pawns might be either centaurs or Valkyries.
        My choice could be influenced by what I finally decide on for the dancing blue ladies, (the pawns on the opposing side of the board). They *might* be harpies — which would compel me to Valkyries for the Atonement side.
        Because the blue figures were “ladies” I feel those pawns need to be female… but I haven’t thought of anything other than harpies. Banshees maybe…? Any ideas?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. First off, I as hoping the knights would be Griffins. The home pawns could be Faeries (Sprites) or perhaps Pixies? I love Peck’s poem about them…
          ‘Tis said their forms are tiny, yet
          All human ills they can subdue,
          Or with a wand or amulet
          Can win a maiden’s heart for you;
          And many a blessing know to stew
          To make to wedlock bright;
          Give honour to the dainty crew,
          The Pixies are abroad tonight.

          Liked by 2 people

          1. Yes, sirens. I thought about that and discarded it because the only body of water nearby is a lake. But you’ve just triggered the idea of a preliminary scene at the lake, and maybe the opposing “knights” are sirens…
            By the way, about 20 minutes after I made that comment, I remembered something … that I had forgotten about, that needs to be the pawns… Sigh… I’ve already got a lot of threads to keep together, and the chessboard isn’t even half full. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL. A kitten with a horn would be a literal pain with headbutting, Liz. To me, all cats are magical, so I’m freaked by the chess pieces coming out of nowhere. At first, I thought Moccus was doing it, but now, I have no idea at all. LOL. Thanks for being part of the serial. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for another fine episode, Teagan. I am totally hooked. I have so many questions. I know, I know, I have to wait, but this kitten is going to be a handful, that’s for sure, then again, our cat tried to pack herself in my suitcase on several occasions. I’m impressed with how well you worked the three things into this episode. It’s as if they were always meant to be there.

    Denise’s new book is sitting comfortably on my Kindle App. Summer reading for sure. I hope she does well with it.

    I hope you have a nice easy weekend.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi, Dan. Thanks for supporting Denise’s latest book. You’ve become a great supporter of indie authors.
      Haha. My cats used to do that with suitcases, back when I could go places. If you really do have questions, you’re welcome to email me. Thinking about the answers might keep me on track.
      Thanks about the *things.* I think the reason why they seem that way is because they drive, or at minimum guide the story rather than being added to it. How ordinary items like the bugle, barber pole, and headlamp become magical artifacts… well, I have no answer for that, other than my twisting brain. LOL. Thanks for a lovely comment. Hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have no doubt the kitten will be trouble, and I am very curious about the goggles and the new chess piece… Well, and everything! Good luck to D.L. Finn with her new and intriguing book and thanks, Teagan. I can’t wait for the next chapter!

    Liked by 3 people

        1. Not long after Velma & Daphne arrived I happened to be reading something about human foods that were (and were not) safe for cats. It mentioned bananas being safe. My first thought was “Who would think about giving a cat a banana in the first place?”
          But Velma is quite a beggar. I was snacking on a banana, and remembering the article I thought “Nah…” I gave her a small bite, expecting her to sniff it and then leave me in peace. But she loved it. (No rum of course.) She’d fit right in with the Naughty Chimps!

          Liked by 1 person

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