Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mildred Herman. The first character in the Old Ladies Murder Club.

Mildred Herman is 77 years old. She's neither tall not short, with large grey eyes and short grey hair. She has kind of a beaky nose, and a wide mouth. She never wears makeup, and the only jewelry she wears are her wedding and engagement rings. She was married for 52 years to Howard Herman. Howard died two years ago at age 86, peacefully, and in his sleep. They had one daughter, Nancy, who lives in Marlboro with her husband (Tom). Nancy has a daughter in college, and two kids in high school (Theresa 20, Christine 17, and Gregory 15).

Mildred is a serious lady. Not humorless, but she's not one to stand nonsense. She's smart, practical and blunt. She got her degree when her daughter started school and worked as an accountant. You do not want to be a neighborhood kid who breaks her window with a baseball, because she'll call your parents, make you clean up the glass, and keep the ball (there are three baseballs displayed on her mantel). You'll do it, too, because you're scared of her. Her father played for the Pawtucket Red Sox from 1925-1930, and her entire family are staunch baseball fans. When the Red Sox won in 2004, her husband claimed it was the only time he every saw her cry, and she SOBBED.

Mildred's best friend is her twin brother, John Abbott. John and his wife, Mary lived next door to Mildred and Howard for 40 years. Five years ago, Mary died of breast cancer. Four years ago, John got a mutt from the shelter named Louis. Louis isn't an unfriendly dog, but he only likes a few people. Namely, John, John's son Donald and Mildred.

Blame my Mother

Agnes is taking a nap on the fourth of July, and she's going to be napping a while. I'm stalled on her story, and it's kind of my mother's fault.

She got me onto my Old Ladies Murder Club.

It's actually a quilter's circle at the Lancaster St. Congregational Church in Worcester (which does not actually exist*). Five old ladies who meet three times a week to quilt, drink tea...and eventually start bumping off jerks. They're based on the old ladies who used to watch me when my Mother was pastor at her first church and I was a baby. As far as I know, they didn't ever kill anyone.

*the church does not exist. Worcester does.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Primal Tongues

I have been invited to read some stuff I wrote.

The first Thursday of every month, Adelle's Coffeehouse in Dover, NH hosts Primal Tongues .

I'll be going on between 7 and 8pm. I will be reading about some sassy little old ladies.

Here's the address:

Adelle's Coffee House
3 Hale St.
Dover, NH 03820
(603) 742-1737

I kind of hope I'm going on at 7, because the other featured reader is the writer of "The Simplest of Acts". Melanie Haney is one of my favorite authors and it would be pretty dang intimidating to follow her.

Here's a link to Melanie Haney's book at amazon:


Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Morning in September.

Breakfast is coffee and an apple on the porch. I slept badly, and I’m grouchy, but Sam was begging to go outside, and it is a beautiful day. Things change when I smell the air.

I love Autumn. Love it love it love it. I would gladly take a month from each of the other seasons to get an extra three months of this. The sky is so blue and the sun is so bright without being hot, and the breeze...ahhhh.

We’re in jeans and light sweaters, socks and sneakers. We can stay out longer, because we’re not sweaty and worn out, and no biting bugs! Sam wants me to blow bubbles, and since the air isn’t heavy and still anymore, the bubbles race each other up the driveway, then turn and burst on the tree. We draw bunnies in rockets and race cars on the driveway. We ramble around the yard with the red wagon, until Sam wants to pull the handle himself, and it whacks him in the face. He’s okay, but cries some big tears and wants to be petted. Then he sniffs a little and asks for Wallce and Gromit...and grapes. I pick up Arwen, who is contentedly trying to eat the lawn, and Sam takes my hand.

I am excited, though we’re going inside, because my favorite time of year is here again, and it has made me forget how I felt when I woke up.

Monday, September 14, 2009

“So, how is Eddie?” Amanda asks her brother “How long until he’s back?”

“Ugh. Eight more weeks. You’d think after a year it wouldn’t be so hard, but I swear the days get so much longer the closer it gets. And he’s fine. Misses me more than he can say.”

Literally. Eddie is Mike’s boyfriend of the last four years, the latest of them spent in Afghanistan with the Marines. Some people do not care how many lives you have saved. If the love you left back home is a dude, you could get into trouble. Mike tries not to be bitter about this, but months ago he was denied entry to a support group “for military wives”. He has found support on the internet, and what little his sister can offer him, she does. He does appreciates it.

Daniel and his ex-wife Debbie have tremendous pride in their gorgeous daughter, with her perfect marriage, blossoming career and healthy, bright children. Mike is regarded as the one they loves “despite his being gay”. It is not Amanda’s fault that they do this, but it itches Mike.

His two favorite relations are his Granna Agnes, and his cousin Caroline.

Agnes slowly beings to rise from her chair. Her grandchildren begin to ask her if she needs help with anything.

“I’m fine, dears. I think I’ll just go lie down in my room for a while. Michael can help me in.”

She smells like sunshine and tea leaves. Michael has her on his arm, and he walks her into her house and down the hall to her first floor bedroom. She has a large bed with a plethora of crisp white pillows, ARL embroidered on them. An entire wall is covered with photos, all in black wood frames, spanning over seventy years. They are not in any order, but Agnes can tell you who they all are, and when they all are.

Michael helps her slip off her shoes. She removes her hat, and Michael takes it and places it into the pink hat box that is open on her dresser. Since the age of fourteen, Agnes has never left her house without a hat. She currently has twenty one.

She lies back and sighs. She closes her eyes, and Michael stands.

"Want me to leave you alone, Gran?"

"I think so, Michael. I'll just take a short nap. If I'm not up in half an hour, will you get me?"

"Sure thing, lady."

She is sleeping, with a smile, before he is even down the hallway.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The massive lunch is over.

Either the veggie burgers were discovered, or Karen didn’t know she wasn’t eating one.

Agnes’s son is sleeping in a lounge chair, his old fishing hat over his face. The baby boomers are in chairs around her, talking about work, politics, their kids. Amanda’s husband has carried their unconscious three year old upstairs to nap in one of the guest rooms. Amanda and Mike, sit a few yards away from the “old” folks, their heads together, their voices low. Sophie is halfway up the tree with a book. Maddison is sleepier than she wants to admit, and has retreated indoors to play with some dolls. When her father comes down the stairs in less than ten minutes, he will find his daughter face down in a small pile of Groovy Girls, out cold.

Agnes turns her head only a little, but she sees all of this. At the moment, no one is directly interacting with her, so she lets her memories of twenty, forty, sixty years occupy her mind.

Her mind doesn't wander much, but has its moments. Moments when she’ll speak to someone as though they were someone else, but catches herself before she gets to far. The other day she told Amanda to put “that pretty yellow dress” on, and realized only when she saw puzzlement that she had been thinking of her daughter Shirley. Shirley died twenty years ago. Not that Agnes had thought Amanda was Shirley, she just saw a pretty female with dark hair in a certain dress, and didn’t realize how old the mental picture really was.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Her name is Agnes Lorrimer.

She refuses to sit in plastic folding chairs. She does not like the lines they make on her slacks, she says, so the aforementioned great grandson (Michael) and his father (Danny) carry one of the Queen Anne dining chairs out for her to sit on. She sits under the shade of the big cherry tree, with a glass of lemonade in one hand and a paper fan in the other.

The tree is older that all of them, older than the house behind her.

Noise is coming from above. The high pitched squeals of girls whose parents are more permissive than Agnes’s were (little girls did not climb trees when she was one such, regardless of their desire to).

Twelve year old Sophie jumps down from the tree. She hastily plants a kiss on Agnes's cheek. “Did you see that, Granna? Did you see how high I was? That was awesome!” Seven year old Madison starts wailing “Sophieeeeeee” from the branch she is afraid to get down from.

Agnes smiles as the daredevil runs off towards the tree and turns her focus to the other side of the lawn, where a gaggle of men (how many make a gaggle, she thinks it is six) surround a grill (she can't hear this, but they are trying to figure out which burgers are the veggie burgers and why George didn’t mark them when he put them on). Beloved Micheal breaks away from the group and walks toward her, lifting his hands in a gesture of hopelessness.

“I said to just give Karen a regular one and tell her it’s veggie, but Uncle George said she’d know, and he’d be the one to suffer for it.”

He throws himself on the ground and gazes at Anges. “How you doin', you gorgeous old lady?”

Agnes answers him with a tilt of her snowy head and a soft tiny hand under his chin. She raises his face and beams. He looks the most like her son, his grandfather when he was a boy (this boy is twenty-eight).

It is the fourth of July, and it is Agnes’s favorite holiday. Her family does this bigger than Christmas and Thanksgiving combined. As many as can make it travel to this old house in the Berkshires. It has been years since anyone has asked Agnes why she loves this particular holiday so much more than the others, and she wouldn’t tell them the real reason even if they did ask.

"I am wonderful, dear. Wonderful."

Friday, July 17, 2009

This story starts with a hat.

A red felt beret, with a large silver pin. The pin is in the shape of a star, and studded with blue and white rhinestones.

The woman wearing the hat is 95 years old. Her hair is whiter than white, so white it seems fluorescent. She has a small wrinkled, face with snappy brown eyes in it. Though her lips lost their pout years ago, she wears lipstick in the same patriotic red shade of her hat.

She wears a blue and white striped shirt, the kind French sailors wore when she was a girl, and white pants that have been painstakingly ironed by her devoted great grandson.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Writing On The Wall

We walked around outside, and were not displeased with what we saw. We’d have to replace the fence, but that’s the kind of thing that can be easily replaced. I am marveling at how cheap it is for a place with 5 bedrooms.

We walked in. The first floor didn’t impress us. The second floor depressed us. The 5 bedrooms were tiny and the wallpaper was hideous. A wall could be broken down to expand the bedrooms, wallpaper can always be taken down.

Then I saw the hole in the paper. On the wall in crayon was a tree and a rainbow and faintly scribbled words.

“I wish I could fly away from here save me someone”

No. Not this house. Something bad happened here.

As we leave, my Mom (who never went upstairs) said “I didn’t like the vibe in that house. That was not a happy house.”

I told her what I saw. She shuddered. "I don't want to know what happened there."

As we looked at more houses, I kept thinking of the girl who wrote it. I prayed that someone saved her.

Explanation of "Writing On The Wall"

This hasn't exactly been announced, but we've been looking at houses. To buy.

A year ago, we were doing the same thing, only in Worcester. Eleven months ago, unemployment hit and our down payment savings went to keep us fed and sheltered. We figured it would be another seven years before owning a home would be more than a fantasy for us.

About a month ago, my parents came up with an idea. In ten years they want to retire, and they want to retire to the area we're living in. They provide the down payment, and the house is owned by all of us. They put the money down, and we make the payments. When Sam is starting high school, they'll head back this way, and can either take over the house and we buy one by ourselves, or (if we're happy in it) we take over the house completely, and pay them back the down payment. This we actually can afford.

We're doing the things people do now. Looking at towns, judging the schools and the taxes, calculating commutes, and marveling at what certain amounts can get you in certain towns. We are learning that "needs TLC" means way more than paint and carpet and that "bank owned" may be less expensive, but you also won't get any questions answered...such as average heating costs.

So that is what led us to the house I will be talking about.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Something I Haven't Finished

I have had this story rattling around in my head since I was 12 years old. Clips and notes and bits of fictional conversations.

About a year ago I wrote the bits I keep coming back to. Here it is. I wonder if I'll do anything with it?


Bradley is a writer from Manhattan. He's a very popular writer, and he is content in his personal life. He's not the deepest guy you could meet. He's nice enough, but he has potential to be something more, if he tried. Which he doesn't.

He's working on a novel set in rural Maine, and he decides to live with a friend's aunt for a few months to soak up atmosphere.

He meets a family. Skye St. Ange and her daughter Rebekah Two. Skye's father, Tom, and her older brother, Heron have a carpentry business that Skye manages, so they can focus on the woodworking.

Skye was married to Georges. An artist and teacher who died of leukemia a few years ago.


“I’m going to ask Skye St. Ange out.” Bradley announces as Mrs. Lorrimer hands him a mug of coffee. She doesn’t blink or change facial expressions.

“Mmm. I don’t think that she’ll say yes.” She puts a bowl of berries , and another of oatmeal on the table and sits across from Bradley.

“Thank you, kind lady.”

“She’s a widow, don’t forget.”

“She’s only thirty-three.”

“She hasn’t gone with anyone since Georges died.”

“How many men are there between the ages of twenty and fifty in this town?”

“Nine. Seven are married. One's a divorced alcoholic, and Danny Parsons is a fruit.”

The blueberries become her punctuation as she drops them in her oatmeal..

“I’m surprised you’re allowed to call him that.”

“Dear, the only one who hasn’t figured it out is his mother (blueberry) I knew it when he was seven years old (blueberry)”

“My point is, that this town isn’t exactly ideal for a young, single woman.”

“Skye St. Ange is not single (blueberry) “

“I know she’s got Rebekah Two. I like her, a lot. She’s the smartest little girl I’ve ever met.”

“Rebekah Two is an old soul (blueberry) Everyone in that family is an old soul (blueberry)”

“I have to go to the shop to talk to Tom today, so I thought I’d just ask Skye if she wanted to see a movie when she’s done. You aren’t so far from civilization that there’s no movie theater nearby.”

“Hmp (blueberry) You don’t understand that family (blueberry) After Rebekah the First died, everyone waited for Tom to remarry (blueberry) Handsome man like that, only in his forties, two teenagers (blueberry) There were some widows and even a couple of younger single women who were pretty hopefull (blueberry) He was always kind, always polite, but always went home to Rebekah (blueberry)”

“That’s sad. He should have moved on.”

“They loved each other so much, he didn’t want to move on, and neither did she (blueberry)”

“Has Skye ever said that she doesn’t want to move on?”

Mrs. Lorrimer sighs impatiently. “Don’t play stupid (blueberry) I don’t mean Skye (blueberry) They love strong in that family (blueberry) Georges felt it when he came here, met Skye (blueberry) You can’t leave a love like that, death or whatever (blueberry)”

“Geez, Betty. It’s just dinner and a movie. I’m not trying to move into her house and adopt the kid.”

Mrs. Lorrimer is out of blueberries.

Bradley swallows the last of his coffee and reaches for his jacket. He is out the door.

“Breakfast and conversation, lovely as always, Betty. You shold be on the tourist maps.”

Betty Lorrimer snorts as the foolish, arrogant young man from another town leaves her house.

In the afternoon Bradley goes by the workshop. The smell of the salt air mingles with the sawdust as he opens the door.

Tom is building a cradle. He is sanding the sides of it until it is as smooth as his high standards want it to be. Bradley sits and watches him for nearly an hour, asks him questions about his business and takes a few photos.

On his way out, he hears Skye’s voice . He knocks on the slightly open office door. She looks up, and smiles when she sees him. She is friendly. but never flirtatious. He cannot explain why he is so drawn to her, save that she is so different from the women he susally dates. Skye is not ambitious, assertive or sophisticated. Later, he will say that she was like lemonade. Simple and unassuming, perfect and refreshing and addictive.

“What are you doing later?”

“Later can mean a lot.”

“What are you doing when you leave here tonight?”

“Going home. Probably helping Rebekah Two with her homework. Dinner. Dishes...ordinary things.”

“Can your Dad help Rebekah Two with her homework?”


“I was hoping you’d have dinner with me at Rose’s. Maybe see a movie after?” It is easy for him, asking women he likes out. He takes his acceptances and rejections with the same pleasant ease. This, however, is met with silence and a blank stare. A new response for him.


Still silence. She opens her mouth, and her lips start to form something. She doesn’t know what she is trying to say, but an answer comes from the other side of the door.

“Go.” Heron has come from the workshop. He is covered with dust and he looks only at his sister. He is almost stern when he tells her “Go. It’ll be okay. Dad and I will hang out with Rebekah Two. Go. You should.”

Skye thinks, then seems to relax. She looks from her brother to Bradley and smiles.

“Sure. I’d...I’ll...be home around six. After that is fine.”

Heron gives Bradley a small smile as he turns to go back to the shop. Bradley has and embryo of a thought that he has disturbed something. He could feel uncomfortable if he thinks of it more. He doesn’t. He shakes the feeling off to keep his easy demeanor. They set a time. Bradley expresses his gladness, and he leaves.

At the end of the road is a school bus.

Alighting from that school bus is Rebekah Two.

“Hello, Bradley.” The child never seems to blink. It fascinates him.

“Hey, Rebakah Two, How was school?”

She looks at Bradley as thought studying him. “My social studies teacher was pedantic. That’s my new word for today.”

“Pedantic is a pretty good word.”

“Not all the time.”

“It’s an impressive word, I mean.”

“You’re pleased about something.”

“I am.”

“Did you ask Mama out?”

“Rebekah Two, sometimes I think you’re a witch.”

“Sometimes I think you’re a writer.”

“What? I am a writer, silly.”

“I thought writers listened more. You say you’re a writer, but you act like you’re on vacation.”

While Bradley tries to think of a comeback in his battle of wits with a fourth grader -

“Mama said yes?”

“She did.”

“Right away?”

“Well...your Uncle convinced her that you’d be okay with him and your Grandpop tonight. She said yes eventually.”

“I’m glad. I do like you.” Rebekah walks around him and towards her Grandpop’s shop.

“Well, that’s a relief, I do like you, too.” he calls after her.

Bradley goes back to his room at Mrs. Lorrimer’s house and types up more notes on the quaint life of a seaside carpenter. He uploads his photos and sends a few text messages to his agent. Mrs. Lorrimer does not have an internet connection in her house, so he can’t send e-mail until he drives to the internet cafĂ© in Wells tomorrow morning. He showers, and as the hot water runs out, he feels the disturbance again. Slightly stronger than before. Again he ignores it and by the time he leaves for Skye’s house, he has forgotten it.

Four generations have lived in the Skye's house. Four generations of marriage and children and the ones left behind.

In every marriage, someone always leaves first.

Bradley never thinks of these things. He sees an old house that a pretty woman lives in.

Skye’s daughter is sitting on its front steps. Rebekah Two wears a sweater knitted by Rebekah the First for her daughter. Her mother. The sun is setting.

“Rebekah Two, what are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be at your Grandpop’s house?”

“Mama can’t go out with you.”

“Is she feeling all right?”

“She’s not sick. She can’t go out with you ever.” Rebekah looks serious and sad.

The thought that Bradley has been ignoring is yanked to the front of his mind with the finality of her statement.

The child sighs and shakes her head.

"She does like you a lot, Bradley. I can tell. But Papa loves her very much and he doesn’t want her to go. I’m sorry. I’m kind of mad at him, myself. I think he’s being selfish."

"Rebekah Two...your Papa...he's...er...dead."

"Yes, he is."

"Ooookay. Will you tell your mother to call me at Mrs. Lorrimer's house?"

"I can tell her, but she won’t do it. I know you don’t understand. I'll say sorry from her. She is."

Bradley turns and slowly walks down the steps. As he leaves, he hears Rebekah Two murmur (to herself or to him or to her half ghost parents?).

"I’m never going to get married."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Working Progress

My absence has been due to a focus on kid's stuff lately. I submitted a story for PEN New England's Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award (more info. on PEN NE here). I've also been taking my illustrations and tweaking them for greeting cards and similar things.

I have started "Kate's Store" (crazy creative name, huh?) on zazzle (check it out) and surprisingly sales have been better than I thought they would be. Oddly enough, I haven't sold any of the greeting cards that were the original products, but I have sold 5 coffee mugs with card illustrations on them and someone ordered a business card design I did.

Some more short story stuff has popped back into my head of late. I think this is because I'm slowing down on the product creation for the zazzle store, and my submission to PEN NE is sent in. I keep coming back to my story about Bertie Wooster.

Of course, I also bought "Life With Jeeves" recently and it's quite the bee's knees, what? Perhaps the bee in my b. is only because of the tip top lit. It's a subconscious whatsit. Jeeves would know the word I mean.