Welcome to My World – A Typical Week with my Characters

Welcome to My World – A Typical Week with my Characters

Monday 03/30/2020

Something woke me upI startled awake, sitting bolt upright in bed. I looked around. The clock read 4:45. I stayed as still as possible, listening. My husband was asleep by my side. The only sound was the gentle whoosh-whoosh of his CPAP machine. The door to our bedroom was open a crack, but I could hear no noise from the rest of the house. Yet something had woken me from a deep sleep, something like a thump-thump-thump.

I got out of bed as quietly as possible, so I wouldn’t disturb Miles. I donned my robe and reached under the bed for my slippers. Something furry touched my hand. I screeched.

Miles jumped up, tearing his CPAP mask from his face. “Wha’s wrong?”

Wide-eyed, I explained. “Something woke me. When I reached under the bed for my slippers, something furry touched my hand.”

“Your slippers aren’t furry, are they?”

“No. And they don’t move when I touch them, either.”

Miles took the flashlight from his nightstand, knelt down, and shined the light under the bed. He got up and glared at me.

“What? What’s under there?”

He continued glaring. “Honey, did you bring a rabbit in from the yard last night?”

“Did I what?” I’m quite certain my Arrogant One, at his very worst, had never hit a higher note with his screeching.

Rubbing his ear gingerly, Miles gave me an apologetic look. “I’ll take that as a no.”

Just then, someone knocked on the bedroom door.

“Who is it?”

A small, tremulous voice answered. “Cleric.”

I sighed. “What’s wrong?”

Cleric with cheeks aflameSlowly, Cleric pushed open the door and entered the room. Even in the dim light, I could see her cheeks aflame. “I am so sorry to disturb you, but one of the rabbits is missing.”

“One of the rabbits?” I cocked an eyebrow at Cleric. “One of what rabbits?”

“One of the rabbits I brought inside last night.” Her voice was so soft, I could hardly catch her words.

My husband must have had no trouble hearing her, though. He heaved a big sigh. “Dare we ask why you brought rabbits inside the house last night?”

“Well, Master Miles, it has been very warm the past few days, but last night, the temperature dropped very low. The man in the magic box, the box you call a television, predicted we might get as much as two inches of snow overnight. I checked on the rabbits that live in the backyard, and they looked very cold. So, I invited them to spend the night in the warmth of the house.”

Cleric spoke as if this was a very normal thing to do, and indeed, it is for her. She continued, “They were supposed to stay in the kitchen, but this morning I found them hopping all over the house. I have found all but one. The others are having their breakfast of apples, pears, and carrots in the kitchen while I look for the missing bunny.”

At the mention of carrots, the errant rabbit poked his head out from under the bed. He twitched his ears and wriggled his nose, then hopped over to Cleric and looked up at her expectantly. He thump-thump-thumped one of his hind legs.

Naughty bunny“Oh, there you are! You naughty bunny! I should put you outside with no breakfast!” She picked up the bunny and rubbed her cheek in his fur. “But you know I will not. Come, now, let us allow Mistress Writer and Master Miles to return to their slumber.” She took the rabbit and left, turning at the door to wave goodnight.

Miles and I looked at each other and shrugged. Just another day in the life of a writer whose characters have fallen out of her young adult fantasy manuscript and into the real world.

Tuesday 03/31/2020

My husband was serving breakfast. My characters were lined up to get some scrambled eggs and breakfast potatoes, biscuits and country gravy, and pastries. As everyone took seats around the kitchen table, I frowned. “Has anyone seen Dragon? She missed dinner last night, and now breakfast this morning. I’m concerned she may be ill.”

Dragon in front of fireplace“Nay, tha beastie do na be ill.” My Old Dwarf spoke around a mouthful of food. “She jest be cold. She been snuggled-eed up by ’er fireplace since tha temperatures been droppin’ agin las’ afternoon.” He chuckled. “Ye be knowin’ how she be, complainin’ aboot the weather. She be right as rain as soon as it be warmin’ up and be stayin’ thet way.”

I nodded. I know that Dragon suffers from the cold even more than the rest of us. She was born in the heat of the desert, and spent most of her life there, at least three centuries, basking in the scorching sunlight. The Minnesota winters are hard on her, but she seems to suffer most in the spring, when temperatures fluctuate greatly between balmy and freezing.

sandwiches and lemonadeAs the day progressed, the early spring sun warmed the air considerably. Miles and I took advantage of the beautiful weather to do some clean-up in the yard. My Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Gypsy helped us clear the yard of fallen branches and other detritus left by the harsh winter winds and snow. Cleric and Sorceress made us all a picnic lunch and even my Arrogant One, my Bounty Hunter, and my Old Dwarf joined us in the gazebo for sandwiches and lemonade.

When we were finished with lunch, we all headed in to clean up. As we opened the door from the deck to the living room, we were hit with a wall of heat.

“What on earth . . .?” Miles gave me a puzzled look. “It feels like someone set the thermostat to maximum!”

He and I went to the hallway to check. The thermostat was set at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, but the temperature read 95.

“Dragon!”

I raced down the stairs to the conference room. There, Dragon was curled up in front of a blazing fire.

“Yo! What the heck are you trying to do?”

Dragon lazily opened one eye and gave me a toothy smile. “I am trying to get warm, obviously.”

“The fire goes. Now!” I crossed my arms over my chest and glared at Dragon. “You have this place so hot, the paint is going to start melting right off the walls!”

“Piffle.” She made no move to douse the fire.

My Old Dwarf entered the room. “Eh, Beastie! Ye be havin’ it as hot as a dwarven forge in here! Douse thet fire afore ye be roastin’ me in me very armor!”

When Dragon still made no move toward the fireplace, my Old Dwarf produced a bucket of water he had been holding behind his back and threw it on the fire.

As the flames sizzled and drowned, Dragon leaped to her feet and started chasing the dwarf, who sprinted toward the stairs. “Eh, ye be too slow ta be catchin’ me! Ye be gittin’ soft, all tha time sleepin’ in front o thet fire!”Dragon chasing Old Dwarf

“Soft? Soft? How is this for soft?” I heard the whoosh of fiery dragon breath, and a chortle from the dwarf.

“Eh, ye be havin’ ta be doin’ better’n thet, beastie!”

Just then, the smoke alarms started screeching. Miles came running into the conference room. “That crazy beast is going to burn this house down!”

“You get the alarm to stop, and I’ll deal with Dragon.”

Yup. Just another day in the life of . . . well, you know.

Wednesday 04/01/2020

2 weeks of food in one mealBreakfast was quiet this morning. My Old Dwarf was my only character who joined Miles and me at the table. The two of us watched, slack-jawed, as the rotund figure downed a stack of flapjacks with butter and syrup, a dozen scrambled eggs, two biscuits with sausage gravy, a half pound of bacon, three ham steaks, two dozen sausage links, an entire cheddar hash brown casserole, half a loaf of toasted sourdough bread, a dozen banana nut muffins, and two urns of coffee.

Miles leaned close and whispered in my ear. “Do you realize your pint-sized minion just ate the equivalent of two weeks’ grocery budget in less than 10 minutes?”

The grubby glutton in question swiped his hand through his beard, scattering crumbs everywhere. He belched several times, patted his belly, then looked at us expectantly. “Be there any DE-zert?”

Yup, just another day.

Thursday 04/02/2020

Miles and I were in the laundry room, taking the clothes from the washer and putting them in the dryer. I felt some water splashing on my arm.

“Not funny, honey.” I gave Miles a stern look.

“What’s not funny?” He looked mystified.

I made a face at him and turned back to the wash. I felt more water splashing on me. I rounded on Miles. “Stop splashing water on me!”

“I’m not . . .”water dripping 3

We both looked up as more water dripped from above.

“What the heck?”

scryingWe both ran up the stairs to the bathroom that sat right above the laundry room. There, Sorceress stood staring into the sink. The faucets were turned on, and water was overflowing the basin, flooding the room.

“What are you doing?” Screeching seemed to be my most used form of communication lately.

“Why, I am scrying, of course.” Sorceress gave us a look that plainly said Duh. Then she looked at the floor.

“Oh, no! Oh, I am so sorry! I was so engrossed in my scrying I did not notice the water had overflowed the basin.” She quickly turned off the faucets and grabbed some towels. Miles and I joined her efforts at drying up the flood.

“Why were you scrying in the bathroom sink?” I handed her another big bath towel. “What happened to your scrying bowl?”

Sorceress threw some wet towels into the bathtub and continued mopping up with the towel I had handed her. “I cannot find my scrying bowl. I believe I lent it to the Gypsy lad when he was learning how to scry, but he cannot find it either.”

Throwing the wet towels into the tub, Miles, Sorceress, and I all grabbed some more dry towels and continued mopping.

“With this terrible virus devastating your population, I was worried about some of our friends. I was attempting to scry on Colton and his mother, and on Marisol and her mother, to determine if they are well.”

“Are they?” I swapped out my towel again.

“Yes. I saw all of them clearly in the water. They all remain healthy. Next, I was going to try to scry on Christine and Talia from the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store, and on our neighbors, Mace and Gloria.”

telephone1I sighed as I tossed another sopping wet towel into the tub. “Why don’t I just call them on the telephone and see how they’re doing?”

Sorceress’ cheeks flamed. “Oh. Oh, yes, I suppose that would work.”

“Yes, I suppose it would.” I gave Sorceress an arch look as I handed her some more towels.

Just another . . . do I have to say it?

Friday 04/03/2020

I looked up as my Young Hero strutted into the living room. I immediately noticed the smug look on his face.

“What’s up?”

MusclesHe grinned at me. “Well, Mistress, as you know, being half-dwarf, I am shorter than most humans of a similar age. That has never troubled me. But it has always vexed me that I have none of the great muscle and bulk of my dwarven kin. So, I have been exercising.” He pushed up his sleeve and flexed his arm. “Look!”

I gaped at the boy’s arm. It was indeed impressive. My Young Hero sported the muscles of a champion bodybuilder. I whistled. “How long have you been exercising?”

“Not that long. Along with the exercise, I have been taking some health potions the elf gave me. They have really helped.” He struck a pose and showed off his muscles some more.

I frowned. “You took potions my Arrogant One gave you?”

The young lad nodded.

I arched my eyebrow and sighed. “Was that really smart?”

My Young Hero stopped showing off and furrowed his brow. “You do not believe he would have given me something unsafe, do you?”

“You know him as well as I do. What do you think?”

Just then, my Arrogant One entered the room, whistling nonchalantly. My Young Hero rounded on him. “What was in those potions you gave me?”

“Why? Did they not work?”

I stood and got between my two characters. “What was in them?” I glared at my Arrogant One.No muscles

“They were harmless enough. But if the lad not satisfied with the results, so be it.” He snapped his fingers and my Young Hero’s muscles deflated like leaky balloons.

“It was all just an illusion! Why you dirty, rotten . . .”

My Arrogant One didn’t stick around to hear the rest of my Young Hero’s invective. He took off like a rabbit, the lad right on his heels.

Yep, you guessed it. Just another day.

Saturday 04/04/2020

“Eh, lass, ye better be stoppin’ tha war.” My Old Dwarf took a big bite of a crisp, red apple, and continued speaking around the mouthful of food. “Yer Bounty Hunter, an’ yer Foreman an’ tha two laddies be aboot ta be kiltin’ each udder oot in tha back yard.”

I sighed and headed for the door.

“What’s going on?” I yelled at my characters as I stepped out onto the deck.

My Foreman, my Gypsy, and my Young Hero were holding their saddled mounts by the reins in the middle of the yard. Arrows were sticking out of the saddles. The three characters were yelling at the top of their voices at my Bounty Hunter, who was yelling back, just as loudly.

I ran down the steps.

“I asked what’s going on here!” I raised my voice, trying to be heard over the ongoing brouhaha.

“This is the first day in months the weather has allowed us to ride our horses and this lout is out here firing arrows at us.” My Foreman scowled.

HorsesTarget“This is the first day in months the weather has allowed me to engage in some target practice. And I am not firing at them. They are intentionally riding into my line of fire. I have as much right as those three to use the yard.” My Bounty Hunter nocked another arrow in his bow and turned toward his target, which was set up in front of the garden shed.

“You have the right to use the yard, but not our paddock when we are already here riding!” My Gypsy grabbed the other man’s arm, causing the arrow to go wide, flying over the fence into the neighbor’s yard.

“Stop! Right now! All of you! You.” I pointed at my Bounty Hunter. “Front yard. There is more than enough room to set up your target in front of the garage doors. You can shoot from the end of the driveway. I know Dragon has extended the spell of concealment that far.”

I turned back to my other three characters. “Gypsy, use your magic to retrieve that arrow without being seen. And all of you – try to solve these problems without fighting, won’t you?”

Without waiting for an answer, I turned and went back inside.

An hour later, Miles came in the front door and up the stairs. I looked up as he came into the living room. He was holding an arrow.

“What happened?”Bulls eye

“Your Bounty Hunter scored a bulls-eye . . . on my tire.”

I sighed.

 

Welcome to my world! I hope you have enjoyed observing some random events from a typical week in the household of Mistress Writer and Master Miles. Be sure to come back next week and see what is in store for my little band of displaced characters. I’ll leave the porch light on for you . . . if it hasn’t been broken by an arrow before then.

porch light broken

An Entertaining Afternoon

An Entertaining Afternoon

Miles and I over a cup of tes“Honey, what are your plans for this afternoon?”

My husband handed me a cup of piping hot blackberry tea and beckoned me to sit at the dining room table. He pulled up a chair and joined me.

Writing my blogI took the cup of tea and appreciatively inhaled the fragrant steam. I blew on the liquid to cool it, then took a few sips before answering Miles. “I have to come up with an idea for this week’s blog, but after that, I think I’m free. Why? Did you want to do something today?”

popcorncontroller for DVDMiles sighed. “Well, I’m all caught up on the work around the house, and with the COVID 19 restrictions, I can’t go anywhere or do anything outside the house. So, I was hoping you and I could go on a date. After lunch today, I can make some popcorn and we can watch some old movies on DVD. I think perhaps some fantasy would help lift our spirits.”

Dwarf“Poppin’ corn? Ye be makin’ some poppin’ corn?” My Old Dwarf walked past the dining room table and headed to the adjoining kitchen. I could hear him rummaging around in the refrigerator. When he returned, he had the makings of some sandwiches . . . enough to feed a small army for a week or keep one hungry dwarf from starving in the two hours until lunchtime. As he spread the food out on the table and began to assemble the sandwiches, he gave Miles a hopeful look. “Did ye been sayin’ ye be makin’ some poppin’ corn later this day, laddie?”

Miles and I looked at each other and sighed.Distributed popcorn

Soon after lunch, my characters and I found our seats in the living room, facing the television set. Miles distributed large bowls of buttered popcorn to everyone before he took his seat next to me.

Foreman facing right closeup“Thank you for inviting us to see this movie with you and Mistress Writer, Master Miles. This should be very entertaining.” My Foreman smiled as he took a handful of popcorn and started eating.Elf

“Yes, thank you!” Cleric daintily nibbled a kernel of popcorn. “What is this movie about?”

Dwarf“Be there any dwarves in tha movie?” My Old Dwarf was already half-way through his bowl of popcorn.Elf cleric close-up 2

“Or dragons?” Dragon, in her guise as the maiden Dray, looked hopeful.

Gypsy close-up facing right“Or Gypsies?” My Gypsy lad grinned. “There must be Gypsies!”

 

I laughed. “Well, you’ll just have to wait and see for yourself what it’s about, but I can tell you there are no Gypsies, no dragons, and no dwarfs. There are some witches, and a wizard, along with some flying monkeys and a few other fantastical creatures. I think you’ll enjoy it.”Witches, wizard, flying monkey, and more

controller for DVD 2Miles reached for the remote control for the DVD player and started the movie. Everyone grew quiet.

Just minutes into the film, my Old Dwarf asked around a mouthful of popcorn, “What be wrong wit tha color? It be lookin’ all brownish and muddy-like.”

Sepia 2Miles paused the DVD so I could explain. “This movie starts out in the mundane day-to-day world of the main character, Dorothy. It was filmed in sepia tones . . . what you called muddy brownish color . . . to present a contrast with the rest of the film.”

“Why does it need a contrast?” My Bounty Hunter frowned.

“That will become apparent. Now let’s just watch the movie.” I sighed as the movie resumed.

Things were going well until Dorothy began singing about a storied land Over the Rainbow. My Arrogant One scoffed and sniffed disdainfully. “What is she doing? People don’t just start singing like that!”singing over the rainbow

Miles paused the movie again. “This type of motion picture is known as a musical. As well as being very entertaining, the song lyrics are used to eloquently express important themes and ideas.”

Miles and I exchanged exasperated looks as he hit play on the remote control, and the movie resumed.

TotoClericMy characters seemed to be enjoying the story until Miss Gulch tried to take Toto from the Gales. There were numerous murmurs of alarm among the group, and Cleric leapt to her feet, knocking over two bowls of popcorn. “No! No, she must not be allowed to destroy that poor, innocent animal!”

Miles stopped the video again and cleaned up the spilled popcorn as I tried to calm Cleric. “Relax!” I placed a hand on her shoulder. “It’s make-believe. It’s just a story. The dog will be fine.”

Cleric blushed. “I do know it is not real, but I got so caught up in the story! I apologize for getting so upset.”

Miles went to the kitchen and returned with more popcorn. Once everyone was settled down again, he started the DVD once more.

controller for DVD

Charactersfrequent whispers about the movieThe movie continued with frequent whispered comments from my characters about everything from the realistic portrayal of an approaching tornado (and the unrealistic portrayal of Dorothy up inside the cyclone), to the background music (which some of my characters found distracting), to Professor Marvel’s crystal (Sorceress admired it), to the way Miss Gulch shape-shifted into the Wicked Witch (Dray found it most intriguing).

When Dorothy opened the door of her house to the color and splendor of a different land, all my characters gasped. But when Glinda proclaimed only bad witches are ugly, my characters immediately broke into a loud debate, and Miles paused the movie once more.Dray angry 2

“One’s physical appearance is no clue to their inner virtue or lack thereof.” In spite of the fact that Dragon had assumed the appearance of her alter-ego, Dray, black smoke started to drift from her nose.

Arrogant One full body 2“I am not certain I agree with that.” My Arrogant One stood to face Dray. He drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and scowled. “Elves are the most beautiful race in any world, and our virtue is legendary!”

My Gypsy hooted. “Legendary? Your virtue?” He grabbed his sides and dissolved into a fit of laughter.

I stepped in before the altercation could become physical. “Okay, that’s enough. Let’s hold the rest of the comments until the end. Just sit back and enjoy the movie, please.”

Miles and I sighed again, but soon I was as amused by my character’s reactions as by the movie itself.

watching the movieMy characters seemed rather taken with the Munchkins, smiling as the little people sang Dorothy out of their city. They all seemed intrigued by the Scarecrow and the Tin Man, but they appeared unanimously disdainful of the Cowardly Lion.

As we continued watching Dorothy’s journey through Oz, my characters made only occasional whispered comments. I could hear my Young Hero, my Gypsy, and my Foreman oohing and aahing over the horse of a different color, while Dray, Cleric, and Sorceress were enchanted with the Emerald City. They all seemed bored as the Cowardly Lion sang while Dorothy and her companions awaited the return of the guard so they could see the Wizard. And they loudly booed the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz as he tried to intimidate Dorothy and the others.

“Big bully! I would like just two minutes alone with him!” Dray fumed.

As Dorothy and her companions entered the Haunted Forest, you cold have heard a pin drop in our living room. The only sounds were from the movie. But when the Lion started his mantra of I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks. I do — I do — I do — I do — I do, my Old Dwarf loudly harrumphed. “Ye be wise ta be believin’ in ’em, beastie. Ghosties be real!”

“Indeed.” My Young Hero was ashen, with sweat on his brow and upper lip. “I can attest to that fact.”

dwarf attacking tvA look from me silenced my characters again until the witch’s winged monkeys landed in the forest and started capturing Dorothy and the others. Suddenly my Old Dwarf jumped up and brandished his axe and ran right at the television. “I be savin’ ye!”

I yelped. “No! Stop him!”

My Foreman and my Bounty Hunter grabbed him and pinned his arms to his side. Miles and I jumped up and quickly disarmed him.

The rotund figure squirmed away from his captors and sputtered. “But . . . but . . . look!” He pointed to the television. “Them wing-ed beasties be catchin’ Dorothy an’ the others. We gotta be savin’ ’em!”

I scowled. “It’s not real, remember? It’s just make-believe. And they’re not really inside the television. It’s just a movie. You know, pictures that move.”

Dray frowned at the dwarf. “For as many years as we have been here in this world, for as many times as you have watched this magic box Mistress Writer calls a television, one would think you would have a rudimentary understanding of how it functions.”

My Old Dwarf hung his head and shuffled one foot back and forth. “I be real sorry. I been forgettin’. It all be seemin’ so real!”

I nodded. “I understand. But if you’re going to watch the rest of this movie, you have to stay in your seat and not cause any more commotion.”

The red-faced dwarf nodded and shuffled back to his chair. Miles backed up the DVD to the point where the winged monkeys made their appearance. While the dwarf was visibly agitated by the scene, squirming and fidgeting in his seat, he remained silent.

got the broombooingAll my characters were on the edge of their seats as Dorothy’s companions were making their way to her rescue. When Dorothy melted the witch, they broke into raucous cheers and applause. And they booed the Wizard again when Dorothy and the others returned to the Emerald City with the witch’s broom.

“Bully!” Dray glowered at the figure on the television screen.

The Wizard earned more boos and jeers when he was unable to control his hot air balloon and wait for Dorothy.

Sorceress close-upSorceress scowled as Dorothy clicked her heels together and made the trip back to Kansas. “I cannot believe Glinda was so cruel as to make Dorothy and her companions endure that ordeal when she could have told her without delay how to get home.”

Sepia“It be all brownish an’ muddy-like agin,” my Old Dwarf grumbled around his mouthful of popcorn.

“They are back in the mundane world again.” Dray whispered.

As Dorothy proclaimed there’s no place like home, there was not a dry eye among my characters, and my Bounty Hunter seemed to sum up everyone’s feelings. “That is an indisputable axiom.”

Everyone’s feelings, except perhaps those of my Arrogant One. He snickered and raised an eyebrow. “Indeed. Now I wonder why that important theme was not eloquently expressed in song.”

My characters drifted out of the room trying to top each other in creating songs about home, and going home, and how there’s no place like home.Music

Later, Miles and I talked about inviting my characters to watch more movies with us.

“I’m not sure they really understood the concept of the musical, but I think they enjoyed the show anyway. I bet they would love the Harry Potter series, or the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or maybe The Dark Crystal or even some of the Jumanji movies.” I gave Miles a questioning look as I handed him the dirty bowls to place in the dishwasher.

My husband appeared to consider this as he added the detergent and finisher, and started the appliance. Then he gave me a mischievous grin. “Oh, no, no, no, no! I disagree. The way they all left the room singing, they obviously loved the music! I think we should invite them to watch West Side Story with us.”

West Side Story

 

It’s hard to keep my little band of displaced characters entertained during this time of COVID 19 social distancing. It’s even harder for Miles and me to stay entertained. How are you all dealing with these troubling times? We hope you will return again next week to spend some time with us. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

 

Still Looking for Answers

Still Looking for Answers

CrawfordArt - leader - multi-genre (2)As the last member of the writers’ group Lost in the Words exited The Local Coffee Shoppe after their meeting, Crawford frowned at me. “You know, you’ve made a powerful enemy in Arthur. He doesn’t like anyone standing up to him or making him look small, especially in front of his peers.”

I scoffed. “So, what’s he going to do? Name a character after me and then kill off that character in the most horrible way imaginable?” I laughed.

Crawford raised an eyebrow at me. “Have you ever edited a character out of a manuscript?”for-todays-blog-013

My eyes flew wide, and I shuddered, remembering. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/unforeseen-consequences/

Crawford looked at my expression and nodded. “Then you understand what could happen if Arthur wrote you into a story, then edited you out.”

I made a metal note to come to the next meeting of Lost in the Words and be especially complimentary to Arthur.

Crawford led Dragon and me to a quiet table in a remote corner, as Griff went up to the counter to get us another round of beverages. The bistro was not quite as busy right now as it had been upon our arrival, but Crawford and Griff had some sensitive information to share with Dragon and me that we did not want overheard by anyone else.

“I’m so glad you came today . . . in spite of the fact you may have stirred up a peck of trouble with Arthur!” Crawford smiled and took his seat as Griff set a steaming cup of hot chocolate in front of me. “And I’m glad you brought your Dra . . . er, your friend, Dray.”

Griff placed an aromatic cup of spiced tea in front of Dragon, moved his chair closer to hers and sat, a huge smile on his face. “I’m glad Dray came, too. It seems we have much in common.”

The two of them exchanged a knowing glance, and Dragon turned to me and said in a quiet undertone, “Griff is a . . . visitor . . . to this area, much like me. And he and I can communicate in the old way.”

Dray and GriffI understood this to mean Griff had probably arrived in this world much the same as Dragon and my other characters. Perhaps he had fallen out of the pages of one of Crawford’s manuscripts. I also understood Dragon and Griff could communicate telepathically, as was the custom of dragons . . . and griffins, too, evidently – at least this particular griffin. I smiled at them, but they were already deep in silent communication, staring intently into each other’s eyes like a couple of besotted teenagers.

CrawfordMarisol 2With no further preamble, Crawford drew me back to the problem at hand. “So, you have . . . a character . . . you can’t quite figure out?”

Crawford and GriffinI nodded. “And Drag . . . er, Dray and I thought someone with a unique friend like Griff may have encountered someone like . . . my character . . . and might be able to share some information about her powers.”

“Well, as Griff and I told you when you presented this problem to the writers at the meeting, neither of us have ever encountered anyone who has magic power, but is not any conventional form of magician.”

My shoulders slumped and I heaved a big sigh.

“But I have friends,” Crawford continued, lowering his voice. He took a sip of his mochachino while covertly looking around the café. Apparently deciding no one was eavesdropping, he continued. “One friend in particular has been a wealth of information for me in my writing. She is my go-to person for anything involving magic that does not follow the accepted norms.”

I brightened at this information. “Do you think she would help me?”

Crawford frowned and rubbed his chin. “Well, I don’t know for certain that she will have any useful information or insights into your character’s powers, but I do believe she will talk with you. Just tell her I sent you.”

I nodded. “How do I contact her?”

Crawford reached into his wallet for a business card and handed it to me. “She and her partner run a New Age store, Chris-Tal Clear. The address and shop hours are on the card. It’s just an hour or so drive, southwest of here. When you go, be sure to talk to Talia. Christine is a nice girl, but she’s pretty clueless about real magic.”

* * *

Dragon elf maiden turning redIt was two days before I had time to go to the New Age store, Chris-Tal Clear. Dragon went with me, trying to avoid another encounter with Marisol. The child had visited again the day before, and Dragon was near exhaustion by the time the little girl left. “We must determine with what we are dealing! I can not continue expending such stores of energy trying to keep my true self hidden from her!” Dragon was in her guise of an elf maiden, but I could almost see smoke drifting from her flared nostrils.

“Is it important at this point to continue hiding your true nature from Marisol? After all, she has seen you already. She knows what you are.”

Dragon disagreed vehemently. “Yes, she knows, but I do not think we want the rest of the world to know. What happens if someone else enters the yard while she is there, and I am revealed? Already Mace and Gloria saw me. The two deputies saw me as well, and only their innate skepticism prevented them from believing their own eyes.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/08/04/it-was-a-nightmare/

Dragon shuddered and shook her head again. “No, I must continue keeping my true nature hidden from everyone, starting with Marisol.”

quaint town shopping districtI drove down the main street of the quaint little town where Crawford’s friend operated a New Age store. I had never been there before and was having trouble finding the shop. Finally, I pulled into a parking lot cattycorner from a strip of sturdy brick buildings that looked like they dated back to the early days of the Old West, when this community had been a boomtown. “Let’s look over there.”

Dragon and I walked across the street and entered an old-fashioned hardware store. “Maybe we can get directions here.”

HotelNo one there had ever heard of Chris-Tal Clear, nor were they familiar with the street where it was located. Neither was anyone in the next three stores we checked. Finally, the desk clerk at a restored nineteenth century hotel directed us to a place about five blocks away, on the other side of the railroad tracks.

alleywayOnce we crossed the tracks, the condition of the buildings changed considerably. The historic district we left, now years past its sesquicentennial, had meticulously restored buildings, clean and inviting. On this side of the tracks, the buildings were newer, but none looked as if they had ever been cared for. I doubted many had seen as much as a broom or a paintbrush in many years.

alleyway 2Checking the street signs at each intersection, we wandered around some back alleys before stumbling onto a street whose name matched the one on the business card. As we approached the middle of the block of derelict businesses, we finally saw what we were looking for – Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store.

Chris-Tal Clear

Dragon lifted a delicate eyebrow as she surveyed the small, dilapidated storefront, with its dirty windows and peeling paint. “Are we sure about this?”

I scoffed. “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

“This is not a book.” Dragon wrinkled her nose. “Can someone who operates such a humble shop hold the answers we seek?”

doorknob fell off in my hand“Well, the only way to find out is to go in and talk to Talia.” I reached for the doorknob, which promptly fell off in my hand.

That is not a good omen.” Dragon frowned.

The door slowly swung open, and our jaws dropped.

Inside the dirty little storefront was a clean, bright, retail business with well-designed displays and more merchandise than could have possibly fit in the space defined by the exterior dimensions. Chris-Tal Clear had everything and anything connected to New Age, mysticism, or spiritualism. There were teas and essential oils, wands and crystal balls, potions and cauldrons, runes, stone art, jewelry, geodes, crystals, candles, incense, books, figurines, pentagrams. There was way too much to take in at a glance.

Christine2A diminutive woman, who appeared barely out of her teens, stood near the doorway. Her white hair matched the gown she wore, an outfit that looked more appropriate for a special ritual, an important ceremony, or a fancy costume party than for working in a store. She reached out and took the doorknob from my hand. “Sorry. Happens all the time.” Her voice was as small as she was, with a reedy, ethereal quality that raised the hair on the back of my neck.

I cleared my throat. “Hello. You must be Talia.”Talia2

A deeper voice laughed a throaty laugh. The sound came from the other side of the store, from a dark-haired woman in business casual attire. “No, that’s Christine, the Chris in Chris-Tal. I’m the second half of the team. I’m Talia.”

Dragon and I gaped at the two women, who couldn’t have been more different.

TaliaChristineI started to walk toward Talia, then took another look at Christine, in her long, Medieval gown. Looking back at the older woman in her super-short skirt, white silk blouse and dark blazer, I shook my head, trying to clear the cobwebs. “You’re Talia?”

question mark

Dragon murmured, “Do not judge a book by its cover.”

Why did Crawford tell me to speak with Talia and not Christine? Is Talia really the magic expert? Will she be able to shed any light on Marisol’s powers and their origin? Be sure to come back next week and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

I See a Big Problem Here!

I See a Big Problem Here!

Cell phoneBackyard 050

I put down my cell phone and turned to face my characters.

Cleric twisting cord belt“Well? Did you reach them? Did you invite them over? Are they coming?” Cleric’s cornflower blue eyes were clouded with concern, and she twisted the cord belt of her robe. She had been the one who suggested inviting our least favorite neighbors, Mace and Gloria, to join us for some backyard birdwatching.

Mace and Gloria birdingI nodded. “Yes, they will be here in about an hour, binoculars and field guides in hand. They are very anxious to show off how much they’ve learned since the last time they attempted any backyard birdwatching here.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/fun-and-mayhem-with-the-neighbors/

Dragon’s brow furrowed. “Should I strengthen the wards and the spell of concealment?”

I shook my head. “No, that would defeat the purpose of the experiment. We invited them here to determine if your spell of concealment has been breached. We want everything to be the same when they get here as it was earlier today, when Marisol and Bastina were here and saw what they should not have seen.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/just-who-are-these-neighbors-and-what-do-they-see/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/what-is-the-problem/

I furrowed my brow, trying to foresee any problems. “I know that Mace and Gloria – in fact, the entire neighborhood – has seen all of you. You all attended the neighborhood get-together with Miles and me last August.”

All my characters nodded, and my Arrogant One snickered. “Ah, yes, the get-together. I seem to remember a stage production of some note.” He snickered again, shooting an amused look at Dragon, who glared at him through narrowed eyes.

“Yes, we remember the entire incident . . . er, day.” A puff of black smoke escaped from her snout.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/07/29/a-ducky-day-for-collecting-flora-and-overhearing-a-murder-plot/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/05/to-die-for-stroganoff/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/12/solutions-or-more-problems/
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/the-case-of-the-poison-mushrooms/

I gave Dragon and the elf a quizzical look but decided not to pursue the subject. “As I was saying, even though our neighbors have seen all of you, I think it best if only Dragon and Cleric are here with me when Mace and Gloria arrive.”

“Why is that, Mistress?” Cleric tilted her head and fidgeted with her robes.

“Because I believe you were the only two Mace and Gloria saw with me the day they came to visit, and we ended up birdwatching. I think it would be a good test of Dragon’s concealment spell if everyone else went about the same activities as the last time. Oh, and don’t forget – don’t call me Mistress in front of them!”

Cleric nodded.

My Gypsy turned toward my Foreman and my Young Hero. “I believe the three of us were working our mounts.” They headed off toward the barn.

My Arrogant One gestured toward my Bounty Hunter. “My associate and I shall repair to our refuge in the shed, where we were last time.” He turned with a flourish and swept his cloak around him as he and his companion headed toward the garden shed.

sorceress-facing-right

Sorceress stroked her chin and narrowed her eyes in thought. “Ah, yes! I remember! I was in the house.” She turned and took her leave.

“An’ I been chasin’ thet durn bunny rabbit.” My Old Dwarf glowered at the rabbit, who had returned to raiding the carrot patch.Dwarf chasing rabbit

Elf facing rightElf cleric“I will go get some iced tea and cake for our guests.” Cleric hurried toward the house as Dragon shape-shifted back to her customary guise of an elf maiden.

Cleric returned with the refreshments just as Mace and Gloria rounded the corner of our house and waved in greeting.

neighbor-2neighbor“We’re so glad you called!” Gloria was practically bouncing with excitement. “I’ve been saying to Mace now that we’re more experienced, we should get together with you again for some more birding. See, I even have the right word now. Real bird watchers call themselves birders.” She smiled smugly as she flaunted her newfound vocabulary.

Gloria plopped into a chair between Dragon and Cleric, directing Mace into the chair next to me. She continued to dominate the conversation as Cleric served refreshments, chattering on and on about the various birds she and Mace had seen recently in their yard and at various local parks. I slowly relaxed as our guests did not seem to notice anything out of the ordinary when they picked up their binoculars and began scanning our yard for birds. The horses walking past the feeders were apparently invisible to them.Horses and birdfeeders

“We have everything set up to attract the birds. In addition to the regular feeders, we’ve put some peanuts, dehydrated mealworms, and grapes on an old table at the end of the gazebo boardwalk, and we’ve scattered some millet spray on the boardwalk, to entice the birds to come closer.” I pointed to the areas as I spoke.birdwatching with Mace and Gloria

“That’s a good idea.” Mace nodded sagely. “I know some birders frown on that. They prefer to see and photograph birds in their natural habitat, rather than at feeders. Some say attracting birds to feeders is a lazy way to bird, almost akin to cheating. But Gloria and I disagree. We do it a lot when we’re photographing the birds in our yard. We found, in addition to attracting them closer – an important consideration if you don’t have a powerful zoom lens – it helps keep them in one place longer. Normally, they’re flitting around so much, we can’t get a clear, focused image.”

camera for blogI nodded as I picked up my camera. “I agree. I take lots of photos of birds in their natural habitat, in trees and bushes and foraging in the grass, but I also enjoy seeing them at the feeders. I find I can get a much better look at them that way.”

“Oh, first bird of the day! First bird of the day!” Gloria bounced up and down and crowed as if she had just won some fantastic competition. “There are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the nectar feeders!”

“Wow!” Mace pointed at another of the nectar feeders. “The bees are sure making it difficult for the birds!”Bees on nectar feeder

I nodded. Before I could reply, Gloria squealed. “Look at those two Black-capped Chickadees. The one on the left looks a lot like the one we saw here before, the one with the feather disorder. Remember that one?”

Black-capped Chickadee

I turned my camera toward the birds in question and clicked a few photos. Checking the images, I nodded. “Yes, the one in the tree above the feeders looks like the one we saw previously. Its feathers aren’t as bad as the one we saw before, but you can see the difference between the ruffled feathers of the one chickadee and the smooth plumage of the chickadee posing on the dead branch to the right.”

Mace and Gloria examined the images I had taken and nodded.

Cleric pointed toward the table. “It seems some Blue Jays have decided to visit the feeding station. There are some on the table, and two waiting on the railing.”

“And the chipmunks are sneaking up onto the boardwalk and grabbing their share of the spray millet before the birds get it.” Dragon smiled and pointed.

“They’re so cute, but they’re such brazen little thieves!” Gloria laughed, as we all watched the action at the far end of the walkway.

“There’re some waterfowl at the back of the yard, by the pond.” Mace studied them with his binoculars. “The two larger ducks look like female Mallards. The four smaller ones are Wood Ducks, a male and three females.”

“And there’s a Canada Goose, too.” Gloria smiled broadly, showing off her knowledge. “Mace and I had been calling them Canadian Geese, but a naturalist at the park corrected us.”

“Marge, what are those brown birds with the streaked fronts and sort of scalloped markings on their backs?” Mace pointed to some birds foraging in the grass. “We’ve seen a few in our yard but can’t find them in our field guide.”

I smiled. “They’re juvenile Brown-headed Cowbirds. They’re barely more than fledglings. Their various adoptive parents stopped feeding him about two weeks ago.”

“Adoptive parents?” Gloria tilted her head and gave me a quizzical look.

I nodded. “Brown-headed Cowbirds are brood parasites. A female cowbird doesn’t make a nest or raise her own babies. She lays her eggs in the nests of other bird species, who then raise the young cowbirds. Each of these juveniles was raised by a different set of parents.”

“Why do they do that?” Dragon looked intrigued.

“Originally, they followed the herds of bison that roamed the country, feeding on the insects the herds stirred up from the grasslands. If they took the time to make a nest and raise their own babies, they’d starve, as the herds of bison wouldn’t be waiting around for them.”

Gloria’s eyes widened. “Wow! No wonder we couldn’t figure out what those birds were – there were no adult Brown-headed Cowbirds around them!”

Mace scanned the yard again. “There’s an adult American Robin splashing around in your birdbath, and another one on the fence, waiting its turn. And I see a fledgling robin on the fence, too. I remember you said the youngsters had speckled fronts.”

“And there’s an adult robin eating on the table, now that the Blue Jays have moved.” Gloria pointed.American Robin adult on table

“Our hanging feeders are very busy now, too.” Cleric pointed at the various feeders as she identified the birds. “A pair of Northern Cardinals is in the safflower feeder. There is a female American Goldfinch enjoying the sunflower chips in one of the cage feeders, and a male is in the feeder next to it.”

“Another male goldfinch is in the tree above the feeders, waiting his turn.” Dragon pointed.American Goldfinch male in tree

“He may have to wait a while.” I pointed back to the feeders. “A White-breasted nuthatch just chased the male goldfinch from the cage feeder. There’s another nuthatch on one of the suet feeders, while a third one’s on the tree trunk waiting his turn.”

“Now, a Chipping Sparrow is eating the sunflower chips.” Gloria pointed. “And one male House Finch is in the other cage feeder, and a second male House Finch is in the safflower feeder. The female House Finch is on the feeder pole, waiting.”

“The Gray Catbirds are watching us from the feeder poles.” Mace gestured toward the north side of the gazebo. “And there’re Downy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and Red-winged Blackbirds on the suet feeders in the back of the yard, and in the trees surrounding those feeders. You really have a busy yard today!” He looked impressed.

“Looks like you still have a rabbit problem.” Gloria smirked.Dwarf chasing rabbit

I followed her gaze and froze mid-smile. My Old Dwarf was running right toward us, cussing a blue-streak and brandishing his axe at a swiftly fleeing rabbit. He stopped next to the gazebo. “Do na be worryin’, lass. I be gittin’ tha little varmint!”

“Oh, look!” Gloria pointed right at my Old Dwarf and laughed again. “It looks just like that big rabbit is talking to us!”

Eastern Cottontail talking

I heaved a huge sigh of relief and relaxed once more. It was obvious Dragon’s spell of concealment was working well. I started to point at another bird when we were all startled by a new voice behind us.

“Excuse me, please. I hope you don’t mind, but I came back to see if I could pet the horses today.”

Marisol stood next to the gazebo, pointing at the three illusory horses my Foreman and the lads had just released into their simulated pasture. “Is that why you’re here, too? For the horses?” The small child addressed Gloria and Mace.Marisol points out the horses

I swallowed hard, then almost went into a dead faint as I saw my neighbors gaping at the spot where Marisol had pointed.

“I knew you had horses here!” Mace jumped up and whirled around to face me. “I knew it wasn’t my imagination that first time I came here. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/02/26/meeting-the-neighbors/

Very blue dragonDragon blanched, shapeshifting into a very blue version of her true self, smoke bubbles dripping from her snout at an alarming rate. “But . . . but how can you see them? You did not see them before!”

Cleric turned toward Marisol, studying the little girl. “No, they did not see them before. They did not see them until this child pointed them out.”Gaping at the child

Dragon, Cleric, and I gaped at Marisol, who was staring, transfixed by the horses and ignoring us.

Gloria turned from gawking at the horses. She saw Dragon in her true form, screamed, and fainted into her husband’s arms. Mace eased his wife’s limp form off the gazebo, away from Dragon. Then he pulled his cell phone from his pocket and called the county sheriff.

 

Is Marisol a witch? How else could she have defeated Dragon’s spell of concealment? How do we talk our way out of this with Gloria and Mace, and with the local authorities? Are my characters about to be revealed for what they really are? Come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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What Is the Problem?

What Is the Problem?

wide-eyedTaking Marisol by the handMy characters and I stood, gaping, as the woman and child walked down the side yard and turned toward their home. They had arrived in the back yard, having followed my Old Dwarf after they saw him, in full armor and brandishing an axe, chasing a rabbit down the street past their house. Once in the yard with us, the child – and possibly her mother – had seen Dragon in her true form, and all the things Dragon’s spell of concealment was supposed to hide from prying eyes.
https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/ https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/14/just-who-are-these-neighbors-and-what-do-they-see/

After they departed, we all stood for a stunned few seconds. Then panic set in.Pandemonium

It was pandemonium. Everyone was talking at the same time, voices rising, angry accusations being flung back and forth. It took me three tries to get my character’s attention.

“Quiet, everyone! Just settle down. We aren’t getting anywhere this way. Quiet!” I raised my voice to be heard over the racket.Arrogant One accusing Old Dwarf

Everyone fell silent, except for my Arrogant One, who ignored me. He pointed to my Old Dwarf. “If that witless lout had not gone gallivanting through the neighborhood chasing that rabbit, we would not be in this predicament.” The elf drew himself up, rocked back on his heels, grasped his cloak with both hands, and sneered at the dwarf.

“Let’s not be making any accusations.” I frowned.

“Eh, wot tha elfie be sayin’ be true ’nuff, lass.” The old reprobate hung his head and sighed. “If I only been stayin’ on yer property, liken’ ye al’ays be tellin’ me ta be doin’, mebbe yer neighbors wouldna been seein’ me. An’ then they wouldna been followin’ me an’ been seein’ everythin’ here.”

Dragon with smokeDragon shook her scaly head, and black smoke drifted from her nostrils. “Dwarf, you should not have been chasing the rabbit through the neighborhood, that is true. But even if you had remained here, if my spell of concealment has failed anyone can see us now even if they do not come onto the property. Our current predicament is, I fear, my doing, not yours.”

My Arrogant One gave Dragon a smug look. “Yes, well if you require assistance maintaining a spell of concealment, I am at your service.”How to hide all this

Dragon snorted. “You? You could not conceal a hummingbird! How do you propose to assist in the concealment of a barn, a paddock, a pasture, three horses, and a host of medieval characters?”Bounty Hunter Intervened

My Arrogant One’s cheeks flamed scarlet, but before he could reply, my Bounty Hunter stepped between the elf and Dragon. “Rather than lay blame, shouldn’t you be negating the spells of illusion that created all this? That way, in the possible absence of a spell of concealment, there will be nothing untoward for anyone to see.”Witches

Elf facing right“But that may not be necessary.” Cleric furrowed her brow and chewed her lower lip as she walked toward Dragon. “Maybe your spell of concealment has not failed, Dragon. Did not the child, Marisol, claim she and her mother were witches? Perhaps this is why they could see everything here.”Table set for spellcastingsorceress-facing-right

Sorceress nodded. “In our world, many who use herbs and botanicals practice some form of magic.” She turned to face me. “Is it possible the woman and child are witches?”

Dragon snorted again, black smoke shooting from her nostrils. “Do you think I would not have recognized someone with magical ability?”

I raked my hand through my hair and sighed. “Well . . .”gypsy-facing-right

“Witches? Magic? In this world?” My Gypsy raised an eyebrow. “You keep telling us that there is no magic in your world, only technology.”Dwarf facing right

“An’ iffin ye be rememberin’, I be already provin’ thet all thet jest be a lot o twaddle! Tha thingamabobs wot be called teck-noll-o-gee here be jest liken tha items in our world wot be havin’ magic in ’em, so’s thet anybody kin be usin’ ’em, iffin they be havin’ magical ability or no.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/magic-or-technology/

Young hero 2“And, if you will remember, Mistress Writer never said there was no magic in her world, only that the things that seemed magical to us – computers, cameras, cars, sewing machines, cash registers – were not magical.” My Young Hero rubbed his jaw. “I think that is different than saying there is no magic. There still could be witches in this world, could there not?”

I furrowed my brow. “Well . . . there are those in this world who claim to have magic power. Some call themselves witches, others have different names.”foreman-facing-left

My Foreman cleared his throat. “Then, rather than dispel the illusory magic, perhaps it would be better to find out if the small child and her mother really do possess magical ability. If they do, and that is why they can see the horses and everything that the spell of concealment is designed to hide, then that would prove Dragon’s spell did not fail.”

I tilted my head, considering. “I’m not sure how we would go about proving they’re witches. Perhaps it would be easier to find out if anyone else in the neighborhood can see what should be hidden from them.”Dragon with smoke bubbles

“But if we wait, and find out my spell of concealment has failed, how do we deal with others seeing everything?” Dragon was turning blue again, as she did when she was confused or nervous. Smoke bubbles dripped from her nose.

“We can deal with that problem if and when the need arises.” Sorceress frowned. “I agree we need to see who, beside Marisol and Bastina, can see what should be hidden.”Mace and Gloria birding

Cleric turned to me, a moue tugging at her lips. “Perhaps it is time to invite your good friends, Mace and Gloria, back for a bit of bird-watching? https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/fun-and-mayhem-with-the-neighbors/

Cell phoneI paled at the thought but realized Cleric might have the best idea. And the sooner we managed to get them into our back yard, the sooner we would know if we were dealing with a failed spell, or witches in the neighborhood. I picked up my cell phone to call my least-favorite neighborhood nosy-bodies.

Will Mace and Gloria accept an invitation to engage in some backyard birdwatching with us? If they come, will birds be the only things they see? If Dragon’s spell is still concealing the illusions on our property, how did Marisol and Bastina see everything? Do we have witches in the neighborhood? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Just Who Are These Neighbors and What Do They See?

Just Who Are These Neighbors and What Do They See?

Laughing at Dragon

Dragon bent down and gawped at the small human who called herself Marisol. The child showed no fear of the behemoth; in fact, when the befuddled beast turned blue, and smoke bubbles started dripping from her nose, the little girl giggled.Taking Marisol by the hand

“Marisol! Mind your manners!” Bastina hurried over to her daughter and took her by the hand.

“But, mommy, the dragon is dribbling bubbles from her nose!”

Bastina blushed scarlet. “I am so sorry. My daughter has an extremely vivid imagination and has not yet learned to hold her tongue.”

Dragon tilted her head, giving me a confused look, and I raised an eyebrow before turning to the woman and child. “Hello! There’s no need to apologize. My name is Marge, and these are some out-of-town relatives who are visiting.” I tried hard to remember the names my characters had previously used in public, but I ended up just waving my hand in their general direction and foregoing the individual introductions.

“Hello! As my daughter already told you, my name is Bastina, and this is Marisol. We live on the next street over. I’m so sorry we invaded your yard this way.”

“No problem.” I gave her and the child my best welcoming smile. “Always glad to meet one of our neighbors.”

We met before“I believe we have met before, actually.” Bastina peered at me thoughtfully. “It was over a year ago, but I’m sure it was you. I have a pretty good memory for faces. You and one of your relatives were making some purchases at the herbal shop my sister and I operate. It’s the one at the organic farm she and her husband own at the edge of town. I was waiting on customers that day, and I rang up your order.”

I furrowed my brow, trying to remember.Herbs and botanicals

Cleric walked over and joined the conversation. “I remember.” She turned to me. “You drove me to the farm so I could procure some herbs when the rest of our . . . relatives . . . came down with that serious malady.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/04/15/what-next/

“Of course! I remember now!” I turned to Bastina. “You really do have a great memory for faces. That was ages ago!”

“Your shop is very impressive!” Cleric smiled at Bastina.

“Thanks! Danica and I try to provide a variety of hard-to-find herbs and botanicals along with the more common ones. We persuaded her husband to let us open the shop there.”

“Is your brother-in-law an herbalist, too?”

Bastina shook her head. “No, just my sister and I. Robert grows organic vegetables, but he has turned over about ten acres to me and Danica for our herbs.”

Witch and cauldronMarisol giggled again. “Mommy uses lots of herbs. She’s always brewing something with them. She’s a witch.”

Bastina’s eyes flew wide and her jaw dropped. “Oh, baby! Why would you say such a thing?”

Marisol’s sunny countenance turned stormy in a flash. “Mommy, I have told you and told you – I’m not a baby anymore. I’m five years old, and you said yourself that’s practically grown up! And you are a witch. So am I.”

Bastina blushed again. “As I said, she has a wild imagination.”

“I really do.” The little girl nodded somberly, then broke into a wide smile.

Marisol with elf Dragon“How precious.” While we had been talking, Dragon had slipped away unnoticed. Now, returned in her accustomed guise of an elf maiden, she studied the small human. Dragon tilted her head and stroked her chin as if trying to figure something out.Red and blue scales

Marisol stared at her. “You look better with red scales than blue.”

“Scales?” Dragon lifted a delicate eyebrow at the child. “I have scales?”

“Well, not anymore.” Marisol giggled and started to say something else, but her mother grabbed her by the hand again.

“Marisol! Your manners, child!”

“I’m sorry.” The half-frown, half-pout on her little face belied Marisol’s apology. “Mommy, can I go pet the horses now?” She pointed at the three illusory horses milling about in front of an equally illusory barn.

“Horses?” Bastina looked where her daughter was pointing and frowned. “There are no horses.” The woman looked at us again, rolled her eyes and shrugged. “I don’t know where she gets such an imagination!”

black stallion 2 for blog“But I am not imagining the horses. They’re beautiful! One is a big, powerful-looking horse, the color of ob . . . ob . . .”

“Obsidian?” Bastina prompted her daughter.

“Yes, obsidian. Thank you, mommy. I think he may be a Fr . . . Free . . .”

“Friesian?” Bastina suggested.

Gypsy Vanner 2Chocolate Palomino PonyMarisol nodded. “The second horse, a black-and-white pinto, looks like a Gypsy Vanner with long, feathery hair on its legs. And the third one is a small, saucy-looking chocolate palomino pony.”

I shot Dragon a look of alarm, then stooped down to be eye-level with the little girl. “Well, you have quite the vocabulary for a five-year-old! Not many children your age would know the word obsidian. And you certainly know your horses!”

Marisol readingThe little girl beamed. “Mommy and I read all the time. I like to learn new words. And I love horses! Mommy gave me a picture book of different types of horses. I can recognize Palominos, Appel-loosas, Arabians, Pintos, Free . . . Free. . .”

“Friesians.” Bastina supplied the word again.

“Yes, and Gypsy Vanners. Horses are my favorite animals! Well, them and dragons.” Marisol giggled and gave Dragon a knowing look before turning back toward the horses. “Horses are so graceful. And fast! Faster than the rabbit the short man in the funny metal suit was chasing.” The child frowned up at her mother. “I hope you aren’t going to say that was my imagination, too, mommy! I know you saw the man and the bunny!” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/07/07/hello-neighbor/

Bastina and Marisol see dwarf

Bastina furrowed her brow. “Well, I saw something. It looked like someone chasing an animal. It appeared to be a small dog or a cat, but I suppose it might have been a rabbit.”

“It was a bunny, mommy!” Marisol frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. “And the man who was chasing it was short and fat and he wore a metal suit.”

“Marisol!” Her mother looked equal parts shocked and embarrassed. “You do not refer to someone as fat. That is rude!”

“Eh, do na be frettin’, lass.” My Old Dwarf chuckled as he walked over to Bastina and her daughter. “Tha wee lassie be right. I do be a mite fluffy aroon’ me girth.”

metal suitMarisol smiled at the dwarf. “And your suit is made of metal, isn’t it?” Marisol reached out and touched the armor on the dwarf’s shoulder.

“Aye, lassie, it be a type o plate mail armor. It be protectin’ me, but still be lettin’ me be movin’ aboot free and un-en-cum-burred like.”

“And you were chasing a bunny?”

“Aye! Tha durn varmint been inta tha carrot patch agin, so’s I been chasin’ it . . . ’till it been suddenly growin’. It been gittin’ taller ’en me! An’ then it been turning aboot an’ been chasin’ me!”

Marisol laughed. “Silly! Rabbits don’t grow that big, and they don’t chase people, not even short people!”

“Marisol!” Bastina scowled.

“I’m sorry, mommy! But he is silly. And he is short.”

“I apologize for my daughter.” Bastina took the little girl by the hand. “She is usually much better behaved! I think she needs a nap. It was so nice to meet you all.”

“Mommy, naps are for babies.” Marisol pouted.

“Naps are also for young ladies who have forgotten their manners.” Bastina’s tone of voice invited no further discussion.

“Okay.” Marisol scuffed her foot back and forth in the dirt. “Can I come back later and pet the horses?”

“Baby, there are no horses.” Bastina sighed.

Horses by barnMarisol turned to me and pointed toward the back of the yard. “There are horses over there in front of that barn, aren’t there? Three horses, just like I said before?”

I swallowed hard, not knowing how to answer. Dragon saved me.

“Do you believe there are horses there?” She knelt down to speak with the child.

Marisol nodded.

“Then there must be.” Dragon leaned closer to Marisol and lowered her voice. “And do you believe that I am a dragon, and I could gobble you up?” A puff of smoke drifted from Dragon’s delicate elfin nose.

Marisol giggled. “No, you’re not a bad dragon. You don’t eat people.” She threw her arms around Dragon’s neck and whispered in her ear. “And I still think you look prettier with red scales, not blue.”

scaly dragon looking right

Startled, Dragon shape-shifted back to her true form.

Bastina gasped and her eyes widened, but in an instant, her expression returned to a frown directed at her daughter. The change was so quick, I wondered if I had imagined her initial reaction.

“See mommy?” Marisol crowed. “I told you she’s a dragon.”

Bastina took Marisol’s hand. “Child, I don’t know what I’m going to do with you! Such an imagination!” But the woman glanced nervously at Dragon as she exchanged farewells with us and led her daughter away.Taking Marisol by the hand

wide-eyedMy characters and I stood, gaping, as the woman and child walked down the side yard and turned toward their home. After a stunned few seconds, we all started talking at once.

 

What is going on? Is Marisol really a witch? What about her mother? Why would the woman pretend not to see things she obviously sees? Have we seen the last of mother and daughter? Be sure to come back and find out. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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Hello, Neighbor

Hello, Neighbor

Marisol and Bastina in gardenMarisol sat on a blanket on the front lawn while her mother tended the garden. The little girl wrinkled her nose as her mother turned over the rich, black soil. She furrowed her brow and tilted her head as her mother pulled out some plants and discarded them, and placed fertilizer around others. After a while, she lost interest in her mother’s activity, and turned to her pile of picture books.

About 20 minutes later, Bastina glanced up from her gardening. Her daughter seemed content sitting on the blanket. She had obviously tired of leafing through her picture books, which lay scattered on the grass next to the child. Now, Marisol was putting together the 10-piece jigsaw puzzle, dumping the pieces out of the frame, and putting it together again, over and over.

The young woman sighed and looked wistfully at her daughter. Oh, why can’t she take an interest in the garden? Most children delight in digging in the dirt. Bastina shook her head vigorously, as if to dislodge that thought. No, she decided. There will be time enough for Marisol to learn her craft when she is older. For now, it is sufficient that she just enjoys being a child.

Bastina put down her trowel and pruning shears, stood, and stretched. Her muscles ached more today than a thirty-year-old’s muscles should. The woman performed a quick mental inventory of her supply of herbs, deciding she would try some chamomile tea and a peppermint rub later. She walked over and sat down on the blanket next to her daughter. “Have you finished looking at your books, baby?”

Marisol’s little face darkened like a thundercloud. “I didn’t look at them, mommy. I read them. I keep telling you I’m not a baby anymore.”

Bastina and Marisol on blanketThe little girl’s mother smiled indulgently at her daughter. “Oh, yes, I forgot. You’re a whole five years old now, not a baby at all! In fact, you’re practically grown up! So, perhaps you would be so kind as to finish weeding that flower bed for me while I relax?”

Marisol shook her head and frowned. “You know I don’t like digging in the yucky dirt, mommy. There are worms and bugs and other nasty things in it! And the last time I pulled a plant out of the garden, you got very cross. You told me it was not a weed, but a plant that would have produced a very beautiful flower.”

Bastina was about to answer her daughter, but she noticed the little girl was no longer paying any attention to their conversation. Marisol was looking toward the street at something – something quite fascinating, Bastina thought, if the expression on the little girl’s face was any indicator.

The young woman turned around to see what had captured her daughter’s attention. She shook her head and did a double-take, unsure she had seen correctly the first time. She and her daughter jumped up and stared at the approaching spectacle.

Bastina and Marisol see dwarfA dwarf in full plate armor was clomping down the street. He was cussing a blue streak and brandishing an axe at a large rabbit that appeared to be enjoying the chase. Several times, the long-eared critter slowed down and looked over its shoulder, almost appearing to wait for the rotund figure puffing and panting after it.

“Oh, my!” Bastina’s eyes widened.

Marisol tugged on her mother’s sleeve. “Mommy, can I go play with the man in the funny metal suit, and his bunny?”

* * *

Dwarf chasing rabbitI was lounging in the gazebo, reading a book. Sorceress, Cleric, and Dragon sat nearby, watching my Foreman and the lads work their illusory horses. I glanced up as my Old Dwarf raced past us, brandishing an axe, chasing a rabbit through the yard. “I be gittin’ ye this time, ye ornery little beastie, ye jest be seein’ iffin I do na! Thet be the lastest time ye be getting’ in Mistress Writer’s carrot patch!” The rabbit seemed to be enjoying the chase, slowing up whenever it seemed the dwarf might be lagging too far behind.

I smiled and returned to the book. Seconds later, I dropped the book and yelped as my Old Dwarf raced past again. The rabbit, now over 6 feet tall, was in hot pursuit of the diminutive figure.Rabbit chasing dwarf

I heard a snicker behind me. Without even looking around, I knew it was my Arrogant One. “Cut it out.”

“But it is so much fun!” The elf’s voice was an annoying combination of petulance and arrogance.

“Release the spell. End the illusion. Now.” I turned and glared at my Arrogant One.

Dragon and Arrogant One“Yes. Do it immediately!” Dragon turned toward the elf and smoke spewed from her snout.

“Oh, very well.” The elf snapped his finger and the rabbit disappeared.

My Old Dwarf stomped over and stood next to the gazebo. “I be bettin’ ye be thinkin’ thet be real funny.” The dwarf doubled over, gasping for breath.

My Arrogant One scoffed. “Yes, I do think it quite amusing that you are too witless to realize a small, helpless rabbit you are chasing relentlessly around the yard and through the neighborhood is not likely to suddenly grow and turn on its tormentor.”

I could feel the blood drain from my face. “Wait. Did you say through the neighborhood?” Without waiting for the elf’s reply, I rounded on my Old Dwarf. “How many times do you need to be reminded to stay on our property, protected by the spell of concealment? Do you want people to see you?”

“Ummmm . . .” My Old Dwarf shuffled his foot and fidgeted with his axe. “Lass? I be afeared thet mebee some people be seein’ me . . . right now.”

“What?” If I had been standing, I doubt my legs would have supported me.

wide-eyed

“Hello?”

My characters and I turned as one to face the new voice.

A small child tugged on the hand of a young woman, urging her further into our backyard. “See, mommy? I told you the man in the funny metal suit chased his bunny into this yard.” The little girl pointed, then her eyes grew big and round as saucers as she spied something else. “And, Mommy, look! They have horses!”

They see us

 

“Dragon?” My mouth went dry, and I could hardly speak. “They can see everything!”

Dragon’s eyes widened. “Forsooth! This is not good.” Her voice was barely a croak.

“Oh, hello!” The little girl let go of the young woman’s hand and walked up the steps of the gazebo. “We followed that man in the funny metal suit. He chased a rabbit into this yard.”

Marisol meets DragonThe little girl walked right up to Dragon and gave her an appraising head-to-toe look. “I am Marisol.” She pointed to the young woman. “And that is my mother. Her friends call her Bastina, but I call her mommy. We live down the street. What’s your name? Do you live here?”

Dragon with smoke bubbles

Dragon bent down and gawped at the small human, who showed no fear of her. The flummoxed beast turned blue, and smoke bubbles started dripping from her nose.

 

Has Dragon’s spell of concealment failed? If not, how did Marisol see everything in our yard? Can her mother see it all, too? Be sure to come back again as we get to know these two neighbors. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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