A Surprising Situation

A Surprising Situation

Anna running after Colton and Blue

As soon as Blue bolted for the barn, dragging Colton along with him (https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/10/06/heading-for-the-trail-ride/), Anna dropped Rosie’s reins and raced after her son. My characters started to follow.

Stop

“Hold it!” I quickly dismounted, turned to my characters, and put up my hands to stop the stampede. “Clara, Rocky, come with me. Everyone else stay here with the horses. And one of you grab Rosie so she doesn’t step on her reins and hurt herself.”Anna and Colton

Anna had already reached Colton and Blue by the time my two characters and I entered the barn. I heard the panic in her voice when she spoke to her son. “Are you all right, Colton? What happened?”

Colton turned toward his mom’s voice. “I’m okay, mom, really. I just don’t know what happened out there. Blue had been doing so well with his training. He’s never run off like this before! Is he okay? He’s not hurt, is he?”

“Do not worry, Colton. Clara will examine him. She is very good with horses.” Rocky joined Colton and his mom and put a hand on Colton’s shoulder. The boy nodded and smiled at Rocky.

Clara walked over to the wide-eyed pony, who snorted and pinned his ears back. Slowly, as Clara murmured soothingly to him, Blue relaxed. He rubbed his head against Clara’s shoulder and nickered. “He appears to be uninjured, Colton. He just seems to be fearful of something.”

“Maybe you were right, Marge.” Anna looked up from where she was still fussing over her son, checking him for cuts and bruises. “Maybe Blue just got spooked by so many new horses all at once.”

Clara and BlueClara stroked the pony’s neck. She leaned against the sturdy animal, placing her forehead to his. After a few moments, she turned to face me. She gave me an almost imperceptible shake of her head and whispered so Anna and Colton could not hear. “I do not believe it was the horses that alarmed Blue.”

I furrowed my brow. I wanted to question my Cleric but knew I could not speak with her in front of Anna and Colton, who only knew her as my friend, Clara. It would be far too difficult to try to explain her real identity and origin. It could also be dangerous for all my characters should the wrong people ever learned of their existence.

I removed my hat, raked my hand through my hair, then plopped the hat back on my head. “Anna, why don’t you and Rocky take Colton back outside? It will be easier to check for injuries in the sunlight. Clara and I will stay here with Blue until he is completely calm.”

Hay bales in the wayAnna nodded, and helped her son navigate the pathway to the door. “There’s a bale of hay there, Colton. We have to walk around it.”

“I know, mom.” Colton grinned, and turned back to where he had last heard our voices. “Gee, the way she treats me, you’d think I was blind or something.”

“Oh, Colton!” Anna did not sound amused.

Rocky laughed, though, and leaned over to whisper to the other boy. “You and I share the same sense of humor, Colton!”

Colton let his mom and Rocky lead him the rest of the way to the barn door. I waited until they were outside before turning to Clara. “Okay, what did Blue tell you?”

Clara, my Cleric with the innate ability to communicate with animals, continued to stroke Blue’s neck. “He planted a picture in my mind. From the image, I believe there is someone lurking around the farm, someone not very nice.”

I frowned. “Can Blue determine the person’s motives for lurking?”

Clara sighed. “If he can, he is unable to communicate them to me. That is too complex a concept to express in an image.”

I rubbed my jaw. “Can you describe for me this lurker Blue revealed to you?”

Clara nodded. “It is an older human male, with a bald head, but neatly trimmed facial hair . . . what I believe you term a mustache and a goatee. He wears small, rectangular spectacles with dark frames, a threadbare suit of indistinct color, and a funny little bow around the collar of his shirt.”Art - leader - multi-genre (1)

My jaw dropped. “What? That sounds like Arthur from the writers’ group Lost in the Words!” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/09/01/still-searching-for-answers/

I shook my head and scoffed. “But what would Arthur be doing here, lurking? If he has legitimate business here, why not just announce himself?”

Clara shrugged. “We should take Blue outside. Maybe he can show us where this Arthur person is and you can ask him that question.”

I nodded.

Clara placed her forehead on Blue’s again and communicated to him our intention. Once he understood, Blue seemed perfectly content following us out of the barn. Once outside, he tugged on his lead and led Clara over to where my other characters had gathered around Colton and his mom. The pony ignored my characters and the illusory horses. He nickered and rubbed his head against Colton’s shoulder.

Not bothered by illusory horses“Aw, that’s okay, boy. I know you didn’t mean to do anything that could have gotten me hurt. You were just frightened of something.” Colton put his arms around Blue’s neck and gave the pony a hug.

“Whatever frightened him before does not seem to be bothering him now, so it could not have been our horses.” Rocky gestured toward the illusory horses milling around behind my other characters and looked at Clara. He raised an eyebrow at her questioningly, but she shook her head.

Anna sighed. “Well, I hate to be a wet blanket, but I think we should call off the trail ride.”

“Aw, mom!” Colton’s face crumpled. “I’ve been looking forward to this so much, and our friends came all the way over here . . .” The boy swiped at a tear that threatened to roll down his cheek.

Anna pursed her lips at her son’s inevitable protest. “I know, honey, but I just think it’s too dangerous for you to be riding Blue on the trail if there’s any chance he might bolt again.”

“Anna, I’d like to try something, if it’s okay with you and Colton.”Colton

“What do you want to try, Marge?” It was Colton who answered.

Anna“Well, Colton, I’d like to have Clara lead Blue around out here and see if we can discover what he’s afraid of.” I answered the question for Colton but looked at Anna for approval.

“I’m okay with that, if Colton is.”

Colton nodded. “It would be good to find out, so we can help him overcome his fear.”

I gestured to my other characters to take their horses and move back, giving Clara and Blue some room. Then Clara started to lead Blue over to where he and Colton had been standing when the pony had bolted. “We’ll start there and see what happens.”

The pair had not taken two steps when Blue planted his feet, pinned his ears back, and whinnied loudly.

I followed the pony’s gaze. “Well, let’s see what’s upsetting Blue.” I walked over to a nearby thicket and parted the thick vegetation. “Well, would you look at this! Care to explain what you’re doing hiding in a clump of bushes, Arthur?”Hello Arthur

 

What is Arthur doing lurking around Anna’s farm? Be sure to come back next week and see how he explains his actions. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

Heading For The Trail Ride

Heading For The Trail Ride

Morning

The day of the trail ride dawned clear and bright, with a cool autumn nip in the air. A gentle breeze carried with it the sharp tang of woodsmoke from several fireplaces throughout the neighborhood, and birdsong fell from the trees like rain.

Grooming horses

My Foreman and the lads had been up since before dawn, first feeding and watering the illusory horses, then grooming them to a shiny gloss before saddling them. Dragon, Cleric, and I joined them at a more reasonable hour.

“Well, it looks like thanks are in order.” I nodded my appreciation to the three horsemen, who had taken care of our mounts as well as their own.

“We could not wait for you slugabeds to join us.” My Gypsy waggled his eyebrows and grinned at us, as Cleric tried to stifle a big yawn.

“Oh, prithee, stop being so jocular this early in the morn!” Cleric scowled at my Gypsy, then rubbed her eyes and tried unsuccessfully to stifle another yawn.

“Indeed,” Dragon agreed, glowering at the lad. “If such annoying gleefulness continues, I may be forced to start this evening’s barbecue a bit early.”

“He’s been like this all morning.” My Foreman chuckled and reached over to tousle the lad’s hair. “Now, if you ladies are sufficiently awake, mayhap you should mount up and walk your horses around the paddock to loosen up a bit.”

Dragon scoffed. “Is it not too early?” She turned to me. “What time are Anna and Colton expecting us?”

what time is it

“They thought we could begin our trail ride from their place between nine and ten this morning.” I checked my watch. “If we leave now, we should have no problem arriving at their place by then.”

Dragon sighed. “Then let us mount up, and I will cast a new spell of concealment over horses and riders alike, so we can leave this property unseen by any of our neighbors. I can release the spell once we are on the backroad, hidden by the trees and brush.”

We all nodded.

Appaloosa for meAs I swung up onto the compact blanket Appaloosa Dragon had created for me, I called to my characters, “Everyone needs to remember the names we used last time. Do not slip and call me Mistress. You may call me Missy, as is your custom in public, even though Anna and Colton will be calling me Marge. This black and white appy I’m riding is Scribe.”

Tor and Centaur

My Foreman nodded as he stepped up onto his ebony stallion. “I am called Tor, and my mount is Centaur.”

Rocky and Gypsy

My Gypsy vaulted into the saddle of his black-and-white cob. “My name is Rocky, and this is Gypsy.”

Cab and Hero

My Young Hero gave his chocolate palomino pony a pat on the neck as he mounted. “I am Cab, and this is Hero.”Clara and Blessing

 

Cleric led her tall, strawberry roan mare over to the mounting block. “The name I use is Clara, and I ride Blessing.”Dray and Dragon

Dragon clambered onto her stocky Palomino. “I am known as Dray and my mount is Dragon.”

I smiled, satisfied that everyone would remember. As Dray nudged her horse to stand next to mine, I raised a questioning eyebrow at her. “Have you completed casting your spell?”

Dray nodded. “We can leave the property unseen.”

We walked our horses single file along the side of the house and onto the street. As we proceeded past the other houses in the neighborhood, invisible to all and sundry, we had to dodge several cars pulling out of driveways as people headed off for work and school. When we passed Bastina’s house, I saw her and her daughter, Marisol, standing in their front yard.Riding past Marisol

Squirrel and horsessquirrelI almost fell off my horse in a dead faint when I saw the little girl’s eyes widen, and I watched her tug on her mother’s skirt. When she pointed in our direction, Dray and I exchanged looks bordering on shear panic. Our wide-eyed dread turned to relief, as Marisol continued to point, her gesture following the path of a fat, sassy squirrel that had been running alongside our horses. The child and her mother laughed at the animal as it scrambled up a tree, and sat there, clutching an acorn and scolding loudly. We continued trotting along the street and headed, still unseen, toward our destination.

Dirt roadovergrown two-trackIt took us less than an hour to make the trip to Anna’s farm. Half-way there, after traveling for fifteen minutes along a wide dirt road remarkably devoid of traffic, Dray released the spell of concealment that had kept horses and riders hidden from passersby. Moments later, we left the road and walked our mounts carefully along an overgrown two-track that would take us to our destination.

As we trotted up the driveway, we saw Anna saddling her flashy dapple-gray mare, Rosie. We waved and exchanged greetings.

“Where are Colton and Blue?” Clara was looking around, a worried expression on her face. “The last time we came here for a trail ride, Colton was already mounted and waiting for us.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/09/02/an-old-mystery-revisited/

“Oh, don’t worry! Colton’s been waiting for you for over an hour now. He was so nervous you wouldn’t be able to come today, even though I told him a dozen times or more you accepted the invitation.” Anna smiled broadly. “He just took Blue into the barn a few minutes ago. He forgot his jacket there when he fed Blue this morning, and he thinks he might need it today.”

Colton and BlueMoments later, the young boy came out of the barn, shoving one arm into the sleeve of his jacket as he held his pony’s lead with the other hand. “Did I hear voices?”

“Hi, Colton!” A chorus of greetings brought a huge smile to Colton’s face.

“Hi, everyone! I was hoping you’d come! I can’t wait to get on the trail and show you all how great Blue is!” Colton, blind since birth, continued walking toward our voices, unaware his therapy pony, Blue, had stopped dead, feet planted firmly. Colton came to an abrupt halt when he reached the end of the lead that attached him to the pony.

“Wha…? What’s wrong, Blue?” Colton felt his way back along the lead line and stroked Blue’s neck once he reached the balky pony. “It’s okay, Blue. These are our friends.”

Anna furrowed her brow. “What’s wrong? Blue never acted this way around the other horses and ponies at the training facility.”

“It’s not surprising.” I motioned to my characters to move their horses back a bit. “Blue knew all the other animals at the facility and was comfortable around them. He probably just needs a few minutes to get to know us and our horses. Maybe if we introduced our mounts one at a time . . .”

But Blue wasn’t having any part of it. He pinned his ears back, turned, and trotted back into the barn, practically dragging Colton along with him.Colton and Blue going back to barn

 

 

What’s happened to Blue? Why is he acting this way? Be sure to come back next week and see what’s happening. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

It Worked!

It Worked!

Meeting up with Dragon outside conference room 2Scrolls from Chris-Tal ClearI was just heading for my office when Dragon, in her preferred guise of an elf maiden, emerged from the conference room. She had been in there working with the scrolls she had obtained at the Chris-Tal Clear Metaphysical Store.

Should be safe from MarisolDragon looked tired but wore a satisfied smile. “I have cast the first spell, the one provided by Talia. I should now be well protected from our young neighbor, Marisol – or anyone else. No one should be able to see my true nature when I have used my shapeshifting ability to assume another form. And, unlike the previous ward I used when Marisol was around, maintaining this spell should not drain all my energy or use all my power.”

I smiled. “That’s good. Now, what about the scroll Christine provided – the incantation to prevent Marisol from seeing through your spell of concealment?”

Conference roomDragon shrugged and chewed on her lower lip. “I have prepared the spell components and I have committed to memory the words of the incantation. Now, I just need to be in the presence of the child so I can cast the spell.”

I frowned. “Should you take a walk through the neighborhood and see if you can get close enough to her to cast the spell, or should I invite her and her mother over for a visit?”Where to cast the spell 2

Dragon sighed. “Let me see if I can cast the spell without her seeing me. Then I can recreate the illusory horses and barn, restoring everything to its previous state, and cast the spell of concealment on it all. After that, we need to have Marisol visit. That way we can see if the spells provided by Talia and Christine are effective.Cast second spell

Several days later, Dragon found me in my office. “I was successful today! Marisol was playing in her front yard and I was able to approach unseen and cast the spell.”

I nodded. “And have you recreated the illusory horses and barn?”

Horses by barnDragon shook her head. “I will do that now. I will cast the spell of concealment on the property first, so any illusions I create will be hidden from all but those of us who live here. Everything that is real will remain visible to all and sundry, but the horses and barn, as well as anyone riding them or working with them in any way, will go unnoticed by your neighbors and guests.”

I wrinkled my brow. “How long will that take? I don’t want to invite Bastina and Marisol over before you have completed.”

Dragon stroked her chin as she considered this. “It should take me a mere few hours, longer if I have unforeseen interruptions. Mayhap you could invite them for luncheon or tea tomorrow.”

“Okay, I’ll call Bastina later this afternoon and extend the invitation.”

The next day was a beautiful, sunny, crisp autumn day. At a little past noon, Dragon, Cleric, Sorceress, and I welcomed Bastina and Marisol to a picnic on the gazebo.

Picnic 2

Me and Marisol“Oh, my favorite! Creamy peanut butter and orange marmalade on Anadama bread!” Marisol danced around with a huge smile on her face. “How ever did you know?”

I returned her smile. “When I invited you and your mother over for a picnic, I asked your mom about your favorite foods.”

“That’s cheating!” Marisol giggled. “I imagined you had read my mind!”

Marisol accuses Dragon 2Dragon was pouring beverages. “Milk, Marisol? Or lemonade?”

“I would rather have the lemonade, but I’ll have the milk, please. Mommy prefers I have that, especially when I’m eating anything sweet.” The precocious five-year-old rolled her eyes and leaned closer to Dragon, whispering in a conspiratorial voice. “Mommy says I need the calcium and vitamins more than I need the sugar.”

Dragon and BastinaDragon smiled and poured the child a large tumbler of milk. “And you, Bastina?”

The woman cast a wistful look at the lemonade, then glanced in her daughter’s direction. “Milk for me, too, please. I need set a good example for Marisol.”

Gypsy galloping horse at gazeboThe six of us were enjoying our lunch, when I almost choked on a mouthful of food. I watched, wide-eyed with trepidation, as my Gypsy galloped his mount straight toward us. He was less than a foot from the gazebo before performing a rollback and racing off in the opposite direction. I quickly glanced at Marisol and saw her mesmerized by something in the same spot by the gazebo where my character had just ridden his horse. I started sweating.

The entire scene had not gone unnoticed by Dragon. “Marisol, what has captured your attention, child?”

Marisol and I with hummingbird“Look!” Marisol pointed. “Can you see the hummingbird?”

I looked where the girl was pointing and was surprised to see the little Ruby-throated male hovering right next to us.

Marisol and Dragon with hummingbird“Hummingbirds are attracted to the color red.” Marisol looked accusingly at Dragon. “If you were still a dragon, I would say you were the cause of the bird’s interest, but you refuse to be a dragon anymore. Perhaps he is attracted to my red hair-ribbon.” Marisol pulled the ribbon from her hair and held it out for the bird to see. After a quick inspection of the item revealed it not to be a food source, the tiny bird flew off.

Dragon and I exchanged looks of relief. The child obviously could not see Dragon’s true form, nor could she see the horses being ridden all around the yard. Both spells had been a success.

talking about herbsBirdwatchingThe rest of the afternoon went splendidly. Cleric and Sorceress discussed various herbs and their curative properties with Bastina while Dragon, Marisol, and I engaged in birdwatching. I was sorry to see the visit end as the mother and child thanked us for a lovely day and took their leave.

After our neighbors left, my Foreman and the lads cantered their horses up to the gazebo.

“I presume all went well?” My Foreman circled his high-strung ebony stallion.

“It did.” We all beamed.

My Young Hero patted his chocolate palomino pony on the neck. “I am so glad! That means we get to keep our horses. It has been so good to get back to riding! You know, the weather is forecast to be crisp and clear for the next few days. Perchance, could we all go on a trail ride?”trail ride

Anna, Blue, ColtonMy Gypsy edged his black-and-white piebald closer to the gazebo and snatched a piece of cake. “You know, a trail ride would be wonderful. Maybe we could drop in on Anna and Colton. They should be home from the training facility by now.”On phone with Anna

I grinned. “As a matter of fact, they are. Anna called me this morning, but I hadn’t had time earlier to tell you the news.”

“Oh, prithee, do tell us now, Mistress!” Cleric’s eyes were bright with interest. “How is Blue? Was the training facility able to develop his talents so he could work with Colton?”

“How is Colton?” My Gypsy nudged his horse closer again so he could hear. “Has he been able to get over the loss of Peaches, aka Mystery, and form a strong bond with Blue?”

“Well, you all remember the last time we heard from Anna, she reported a slight improvement in the relationship between the boy and his new pony.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/06/09/news/

My Gypsy nodded. “Yes, it was after Cleric and I went over to talk with Colton.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/an-anxious-day/

I smiled. “Well, since then, Colton and Blue have made tremendous strides. Several times at the training facility, Colton went missing at night from the dormitory where the clients and their families sleep. Each time, a staff member found the boy sleeping in Blue’s stall, snuggled up to the pony. And Blue has started standing at the gate, nickering for Colton as the time for their lessons approaches.”

 

My Gypsy and my Young Hero whooped for joy.

Colton and Blue in round penI grinned and continued. “As for the training, Blue took to it like a duck to water. Anna, Colton, and Blue have been at the training facility all this time, just arriving home a few days ago. Blue was evaluated and found to have the proper temperament to work with a blind rider, so the instructors began building on the training he had received when he was at the facility previously.”

Cleric interrupted. “That training was before John and his daughter found Blue at an auction. Did the staff at the facility ever find out what happened to Blue’s original owner, or how a highly-trained and valuable animal ended up at a second-rate auction?” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/a-good-deal-or-crazy/

I shook my head. “They have not been able to track down the family who acquired Blue from them those many years ago. They’re no longer at their former address, and no one at the stable where that family boarded Blue knows where they went or what happened to the pony. The family just settled their board bill one day, took the pony, and left. The stable owner thought they might have purchased their own farm, but he said the family was very closed-mouthed about it.”

“Strange.” Cleric wrinkled her brow and tilted her head. “Sorry, Mistress, please go on. How did Blue’s training progress?”

Everything he could ask forI smiled again. “He’s everything a blind rider could ask for. Blue seems to have a sense about the dangers he needs to watch for. He is exceptionally calm and gentle under all sorts of trying and potentially dangerous circumstances. He watches for all the things Colton is unable to see – overhanging branches, traffic, loose dogs, unfriendly horses being ridden too close, obstacles in their path. The trainers were so impressed with Blue! They said the only animal they have ever had at their facility who showed the same innate ability to work with a blind rider was Peaches.”

Cleric smiled smugly. “Mystery . . . er, Peaches . . . told me we would find the right replacement for her, a pony who would take care of Colton just as she had.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/

I nodded. “I’m really glad you convinced me to get Anna to go to that auction. We were all dubious, but you were right!” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/what-will-we-find-at-the-auction/

My Gypsy dismounted but held his reins so his horse couldn’t wander off. He snatched another piece of cake before asking, “So can we ride over there soon?”

“Is next week soon enough?” I grinned. “Anna has invited us over for an all-day trail ride and sunset barbecue next Wednesday. That will give them some time to get settled in back home.”

Cleric blushed. “It will also give some of us time to get in some riding. We need to work up to a long trail ride, so we do not end up unable to move after many hours in the saddle next week.”

I grinned. “Wonderful! I’ll call Anna tonight and let her know we’ll be there!”

Be sure to join us next week to see how Blue and Colton manage on the trail together. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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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News

News

telephone1Backyard 050I hung up the phone and hurried out of my office. I went upstairs and stepped through the French doors onto the deck. I squinted and raised a hand to shield my eyes from the bright sun as I scanned the yard. I saw my Foreman, my Young Hero, and my Gypsy exercising their illusory horses, performing complicated maneuvers similar to those my Foreman would have used when he was a commander in the elite King’s Guard in his own world.

Dwarf and hamI looked around the rest of the yard, but didn’t see any of my other characters, so I went back inside. I headed for the kitchen, figuring it was the best place to look for at least one of my characters. Sure enough, my Old Dwarf didn’t disappoint. There he was, rummaging through the refrigerator, looking for a wee snack as he termed the full ham and the two loaves of bread he was appropriating.

“You do know it’s only an hour until lunch, right?” I raised my eyebrow as two jars of pickles, and a gallon each of coleslaw, potato salad, and pasta salad joined the food he had spread out on the kitchen table.

Dwarf and food

“Eh?” The old reprobate’s eyes widened in surprise. “Be it thet late already?” He opened the refrigerator again and snatched a six-pack of root beer. “I be havin’ ta be hurryin’ then, or I will na be done me snack in time ta be eatin’ me lunch.”

I shook my head. I knew better than to argue, so I just changed the subject. “I just saw my Foreman and the lads working their horses, but I can’t find anyone else. Do you know where the rest of the gang is?”

My Old Dwarf slapped a ham sandwich together and took a big bite. He talked around the mouthful of food, spewing crumbs all through his beard. “Yermisserbenookiniscar…”

I held up my hand. “Would you please learn some manners? Not only is that gross, I can’t understand a word you’re saying.”

Miles waving from carThe dwarf swallowed his half-chewed food, almost choking, then washed it down with a full can of soda. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and began again. “I be sayin’ thet yer mister been tookin’ ’is car inta tha place wot be fixin’ it.”

“I know where my husband is. What about everyone else?

“Wale, I been seein’ tha annoyin’ elfie oot in tha front yard earlier. He been prack-tee-sizin’ wit thet camera. His sidekick, yer Bounty Hunter, been wit ’em, but dinna been lookin’ too happy aboot it.” He paused and stroked his grizzled beard. “An’ tha goodly lass been goin’ off early this mornin’ wit tha magic lass an’ tha big beastie. They be gittin’ low on bits an’ bobs fer their spells, an’ be needin’ ta be collectin’ some bo-tan-i-cals.”

 

I nodded, trying not to look disappointed. “Okay, I guess I’ll see everyone at lunch.” I looked pointedly at all the food the dwarf had piled up on the table. “That is, if there’s anything left for lunch!”

ConversationWhen we were all assembled for lunch, I was eager to share some news, but everyone was chattering away. Miles was telling me what repairs the mechanic had made to the car that morning; my Foreman and the lads were discussing equestrian maneuvers; Cleric, Sorceress, and Dragon were cataloging the botanicals and spell components they had collected; and my Arrogant One was crowing to my bored Bounty Hunter about the beautiful photos he had taken in the front yard. Only my Old Dwarf remained unconcerned about the conversations around him, digging into his lunch as if it had been days rather than minutes since his last meal.

On phone with AnnaWhen it looked like everyone was finished, I cleared my throat and announced. “I had a phone call from Anna, if anyone’s interested.”

Everyone looked up and gave me their full attention.

Gypsy“From Anna? Of course, we’re interested!” My Gypsy’s eyes widened with interest.

Elf facing right“Anna called? Oh, I hope there is good news!” Cleric leaned forward to hear.Young Hero close-up

“How are Colton and Blue?” My Young Hero also joined the conversation.

“Well, Anna said after Clara and Rocky visited, Colton made a determined effort to make friends with Blue.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/an-anxious-day/

“Did he have any luck?” My Gypsy almost held his breath as he awaited my answer.

I tilted my head and rubbed my jaw with my thumb. “Not at first. But a strange thing happened. Anna made arrangements to take Blue to the facility that trained Peaches, who we knew as Mystery, to have him evaluated. She wanted to make sure Blue had the potential to work with a blind rider before she and Colton invested too much time on the pony . . . and before Colton became attached to Blue.”

“That makes sense.” Cleric nodded. “It would be heart wrenching for Colton if he became attached to the pony and then they found out Blue was not suitable for him.”

I nodded. “While one of the trainers was evaluating Blue, she suddenly had the feeling she knew the pony. Since all their animals are microchipped, it was easy to confirm.”

“Microchipped? What is that?” Sorceress furrowed her brow.

“Yes, I have never heard that word.” My Bounty Hunter leaned in to hear.

microchipMicrochipping a horseI sighed and raked my hand through my hair as I tried to think of a way to explain microchipping to a group of medieval characters. “Well, a microchip is an electronic device about the size of a grain of rice. It is like a computer chip in that it contains information that can be used to identify an animal in case the animal is lost or stolen. The microchip is implanted in an equine’s nuchal ligament, which is just below the base of the mane, halfway between the horse’s poll and withers. Then the information contained on the chip can be read with a scanner.”

“I think I understand.” Sorceress nodded, but she and the others still looked confused.

“It sounds like a simple identify spell.” My Arrogant One looked bored.

The others brightened as they thought they understood now. I considered correcting the elf, but decided it was probably the only explanation they really needed. I shrugged.

“Yes, well anyway, when they scanned Blue’s microchip and checked their records, they found Blue had been trained at their facility many years ago. He had been matched up to a small boy who had Cerebral Palsy.”

John, Casey, and Old Blue“A boy?” My Gypsy frowned. “But John said Blue belonged to his daughter.”

“Yes, but remember John said he purchased the pony at an auction, not from a training facility.” My Young Hero steepled his hands as he spoke, and looked to me for further information.

I nodded. “The people at the training center have no way of knowing what happened to Blue after he left their facility. Sometimes a pony’s rider will outgrow the animal and move on to a larger horse. Sometimes the rider passes away. Sometimes the rider’s financial circumstances change, and they are no longer able to keep the horse. The animals are supposed to be returned to the facility if they are no longer needed, but sometimes, like with Blue, that doesn’t happen.”

My Young Hero raised an eyebrow. “So, when John and his daughter found Blue at an auction, they had no way of knowing he was a trained therapy horse, just what Casey needed. Boy, talk about finding a hidden treasure!”

I agreed. “Yup.”

“So, if Blue is a trained therapy horse, will he be suitable for Colton?” Cleric fidgeted with the belt on her robe.

Colton and Blue in round pen“Anna said the trainers are going to work with Blue and Colton. They already had their first session. The trainers put Blue on a lunge line and took him and Colton into the round pen. With the trainer maintaining control through the lunge line, they let Colton ride the pony. Blue was a perfect gentleman on the lunge line, and he responded to all Colton’s cues, so it might work out.” I smiled. “But the most encouraging thing happened after the session. Colton was helping put Blue back in his stall, and he held out an apple for the pony. Instead of walking away like he’s been doing, Blue took the apple and stood next to Colton while he ate it.”Colton giving Blue an apple

“That’s a big step! I bet Colton’s happy.” My Gypsy wore an ear-to-ear smile.

I furrowed my brow. “Well, it’s a good first step, and maybe Blue will come around in time, but Anna said Colton still needs time to work through his own feelings. He still misses Peaches and he feels guilty trying to make friends with Blue. He’s doing it mostly because of what you told him.” I directed my remarks to my Gypsy. “Anna said you made a big impression on Colton when you explained how much Blue misses his former owner, and how depressed the pony is. Colton’s doing his best to put his own feelings aside and help Blue. Anna said her son told her I have you and my relatives and friends to help me with the loss I’ve suffered, but Blue only has me.”

“He is a very empathetic child!” Cleric swiped a tear away. “I hope it works out for them.”

I got up and started clearing the table. “Anna said she’ll keep us in the loop, let us know how Colton and Blue make out with their training and their bonding. And she’ll let us know when they come home, if we want to visit.”

“You bet we will!” My Gypsy whooped, and my other characters nodded in agreement.

Be sure to join us again. Maybe the phone will ring, and Anna will share more news about Colton and Blue. In the meantime, maybe we can persuade my Arrogant One to show us the photos he took in the front yard. Or maybe we can discover what is behind his sudden passion for photography.

We’re always glad to have you along for the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. And remember – we’ll leave the porch light on for you!

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A Change of Pace

A Change of Pace

Elf facing rightGypsy close-upI was on my way to the kitchen when Cleric and my Gypsy trudged through the door from the deck.

“Welcome home. Dragon told me you two went over to see Anna and Colton today. How’d everything go?”

https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/26/an-anxious-day/

Colton meeting BlueMy Gypsy shrugged. “I was able to convince Colton to meet Blue, so I guess that is an improvement. But the pony did not seem interested in meeting his new owner. He allowed the boy to pet him but did not respond the way I had hoped. He did not nuzzle the boy or even nicker at him. After a few minutes, he just walked away. Colton was very disappointed. I had just convinced him Blue needed him as much as he needed Blue. Then the pony showed no interest in being friends with Colton.”

CaseyCleric lowered her eyes and tugged at her robes. “I did my best to communicate with Blue. I told him about Colton’s disability, and I stressed how much Colton needs him. The pony seemed indifferent. The only picture he kept placing in my mind’s eye was a little girl in a wheelchair, whom I assume was Casey, his former owner.” Cleric’s cornflower-blue eyes were wet with unshed tears. “Oh, Mistress, he misses her so much! I wonder if there is room in his heart for a new owner.”

“Well, I certainly hope there is. Colton misses Peaches as much as Blue misses Casey. If they give each other half a chance, Colton and Blue might be able to help each other cope with their respective losses.”

My two characters nodded glumly.

I looked at my watch. “But right now, you’d best get ready for dinner. Miles should have it on the table any minute now.”

They nodded again and headed off to clean up for dinner.

Nature HikeAt dinner, I announced that I would be going on a nature hike the next day, weather permitting. “Anyone wanting to join me better be in the car and ready to go by 7am. And because it’s been a while since our last outing, I’ll remind all of you now – if you are coming with me, there will be no robes, cloaks, suits of armor, etc. You will wear the modern garb of the realm and leave all weapons, staffs, wands, and magic paraphernalia at home.”

gypsy-facing-right“Pfft! It is not our first rodeo, Mistress.” My Gypsy laughed and waggled his eyebrows the way he always does when attempting to be a comedian.

Arrogant One“It is a hike, not a rodeo.” My Arrogant One sneered.

“I know that. It is not my first rodeo is just an expression, meaning that the person saying so has experience in whatever situation they are discussing.” My Gypsy quoted what I had told them the other night on the way to the auction. He raised one eyebrow at my Arrogant One and gave him a superior look. “You really should attempt to learn some of the idioms of this world.”

Bounty HunterMy Arrogant One blushed scarlet and was about to reply, but his sidekick, my Bounty Hunter, cut him off. “Mistress, are we to be allowed some time tomorrow to use your magic box, the thing you call a camera? You have permitted it in the past.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/03/24/magic-or-technology/

“Well, I don’t know.” I stroked my chin as if considering the possibility. “I haven’t had much chance to take my nature photos this spring. The weather and other circumstances have precluded any hikes. I’m not sure I want to share my camera this time out.”

Most of my characters looked disappointed, but Dragon grinned at me as I continued. “Of course, if you all had your own cameras, it wouldn’t be a problem.”

“Our own cameras?” Everyone’s eyes widened.

dragon talking“Yes. Mistress and I discussed the possibility of me creating illusory cameras for each of us. I believe I can have them ready by tomorrow morning.” Dragon smiled.

“Oh, Mistress! Dragon! That would be wonderful!” Cleric’s eyes were shining as she looked from me to Dragon and back again.

“Okay, then, whoever’s coming, I’ll see you first thing in the morning.”

* * *

Bright and early the next day, every one of my characters stood by the car, shifting around and fidgeting impatiently. Each was properly garbed, and each had a camera hanging around their neck.

“Where are we going today?” My Foreman opened the car door and waited for the others to get in before he took his seat.

Spring Peeper MeadowI got behind the wheel and started the car. “We’ll go to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum today. We’ll start at Spring Peeper Meadow and then go to the main section of the Arboretum. The weather is forecast to be warm and sunny all day, so I’m sure we’ll get a lot of great pictures.”

During the short ride to Spring Peeper Meadow, my characters inspected their cameras and discussed the basics of photography they had learned when I had let them use my camera on another hike. When we got there, everyone was chomping at the bit to get out and hone their skills.

* * *

6-19-13 - Miles 001Back home that night, I downloaded the photos from everyone’s camera onto my computer so we could all view the results of the day’s photo hike. I moved the computer into the conference room where there was more space, and Miles joined us.

“Did everyone get some good shots?”Elf

“That is what we are about to discover, Master Miles.” Cleric fidgeted nervously with the cord on her robes.

“Can everyone see the monitor?” I looked around the room and saw everyone nodding. “Okay, then, let’s get started.”

The first image that came up on the screen was a Gray Catbird. I nodded in approval. “Nice! Who took this one?”

Gray Catbird (6)

DwarfMy Old Dwarf raised his hand. “Thet be one I be takin’. I been fass-kee-nat-ed! Thet durn fool birdie been thinkin’ it be a kitty-cat.”

I laughed. “It’s called a Gray Catbird – gray, obviously for its color, and catbird because it can mimic perfectly the mewing of a cat.”

There were two more pictures of the catbird, and then two of an Eastern Chipmunk.

 

“Them be sum udders o mine.”

My Young Hero nudged my Old Dwarf and smiled. “You always find the furry critters.”

The rotund figure grinned.

“Then these next two must be yours as well. Nice shots.” I displayed images of two different Red Squirrels.

“Aye!” My Old Dwarf looked pleased.

“Is this yours as well?” I brought up the next image, a White-tailed Deer.

White-tailed Deer (3)

mens-991728_1280“No, that is one I took.” My Foreman furrowed his brow as he looked at the photo. “It is not as clear as I had hoped. I have to work on my focus.”

I nodded. “It’s hard with a point-and-shoot camera. It tends to focus on whatever is in the foreground, and the deer is behind some branches . . . which you will notice are in perfect focus.”

As I brought up the next two images, my Foreman frowned again. “These Wild Turkeys are in better focus than the deer, but neither bird would look up at me.”

I laughed. “You needed Cleric to sweet-talk them into posing.”

Cleric blushed. “I would have helped, but I guess I was too preoccupied with my own photography to notice that anyone else needed help.”

The next image on the screen was a male American Goldfinch.

American Goldfinch - male (2)

“Wow! Who took this one?”

Arrogant OneMy Arrogant One stood up, held his head high, grasped his cloak in both hands, and rocked back on his heels. “That would be one of mine.”

“Great lighting!”

He smiled and bowed.

“Is this one yours, too?” An image of a Yellow Warbler filled the screen.Yellow Warbler (2)

The elf nodded smugly. “He, too, was in favorable light when I took the photo.”

I nodded. “And the Yellow-rumped Warbler? Yours again?”

Yellow-rumped Warbler

“He is.” My Arrogant One frowned a bit. “The lighting was not as good for this one, but I still like the image.”

“Indeed.”

Bounty HunterThe next two images were of a male Northern Cardinal. My Bounty Hunter tilted his head and studied his photos. “He was a bit far, and difficult to find, even with so little foliage on the trees. I heard him singing for the longest time before I found him. I suppose the images are acceptable.”

“I think they’re quite good. Remember, you are all just learning to use the camera.”

I brought up an image of a Song Sparrow. “Nice!”

Song Sparrow (3)

My Bounty Hunter didn’t agree. “I took that one only because the bird was singing, as a Song Sparrow should. I think the second image of him is better. He’s closer and the lighting was better.”

I brought up the second image and we all agreed with the photographer’s assessment.

Song Sparrow (4)

The next image was a Chipping Sparrow. “Yours again?”

Chipping Sparrow (3)

Young hero 2“No, Mistress, that one is mine.” My Young Hero cleared his throat. “The lighting was poor, and I should have waited, but I liked the bird. I took a second photo of him as well, when he flew into a tree. I think that one is better.”

I brought that one up on the screen and nodded. “Oh, this is a nice image. You can see the mouthful of nesting material the bird has gathered.”

Chipping Sparrow (4)

The next image was a male Eastern Bluebird. My Young Hero smiled. “I took that one as well. It was a bit far, but I think the image is sharp enough. I remembered how you said to try to blur the background for a nice effect, too.”

Eastern Bluebird - male

I smiled. “Very nice! You’re learning a lot!” I brought up the next image, a Palm Warbler.

Palm Warbler (1)

“I did the same thing for this image, too.” My Young Hero looked pleased. “But I could not do it for the second image I took of this bird, as he flew down onto the grass.”

Palm Warbler (2)

I looked at the second Palm Warbler image. “That’s okay, you got a good, clear shot of him.”

I brought up the next image.

Garter Snake (7)

“Eeek! No doubt who took that picture!” Cleric shuddered at the image of a Garter Snake.

gypsy-facing-rightElfMy Gypsy grinned and waggled his eyebrows. “I found him just for you.”

“Oh! He is so big!” Cleric shuddered again as I displayed the second image of the snake.

Garter Snake (4)

My Gypsy laughed at Cleric. “He is just a wee little thing, and he does not bite.”

“Why can you not stick to images of creatures like these?” Cleric pointed to the photo of two turtles on the screen.

Turtles (3)

My Gypsy grinned. “That is one of my images as well. And the next one, when they were on the log in the pond.”

Turtles (4)

Cleric tilted her head as she studied the second turtle photo. “Oh, I think I saw you take that photo. I was trying to coax a pair of Canada Geese into showing off their goslings.”

“You mean these goslings?” I clicked onto the next image, two adult Canada Geese swimming with a line of five goslings between them.

Canada Geese (1)

Cleric smiled broadly. “Yes, that is the image. I also got a closer shot of the same five goslings on land, and a single adult goose in the water.”

I brought up Cleric’s other images and nodded my approval.

 

“Are the images of the male Wood Ducks yours as well?”

Cleric nodded. “I did not like the first one. That duck would not pose nicely. But the second one seemed to understand what I was looking for, and he swam right in front of a rock that was reflecting in the pond. I think it created a very nice effect.”

“I agree!”

I brought up the next photo, a beautiful flowering tree.

Flowers (1)

“That is one of my images.” Sorceress pointed. “Dragon and I decided that a trip to an arboretum demanded some images of flowers.”

Dragon nodded, then giggled. “Besides, flowers do not fly away and hide when you try to photograph them.”

sorceress-facing-right

As we viewed the images of the flowers, Sorceress identified hers. “Besides the flowering tree, my images include the purple and yellow pansy, the bleeding hearts, the yellow daffodil, and the two-toned columbine.”

dragon talkingDragon introduced the next images. “I took the photos of the two-tone daffodil, the orange-accented yellow tulips, the purple tulips, and the frilly orange flower, which I believe is also a variety of tulip. And, of course, my namesakes, the snapdragons.”

“Wow!” I looked impressed. “Your photographic skills are as good as your knowledge of flowers.”

Sorceress and Dragon blushed with pride.

Backyard 050“Well, I guess that just leaves my images. I managed to get two shots of my nemesis bird, a male Common Yellowthroat. Usually they just call from the undergrowth and reeds, and never show themselves when they see me with a camera.”

After the yellowthroats, my next image was an Eastern Phoebe. “The Phoebe only stayed around for one image. It was the same with my last bird, a Black-and-white Warbler.”

When we had finished discussing everyone’s images, my Arrogant One surprised me by asking, “May we do this again soon? It was a most enjoyable day!”

“I don’t see why not, as long as this fickle Minnesota weather cooperates.”

My smile turned to a frown as Miles announced, “The ten-day forecast calls for seven days of rain.”

I picked up a pillow from the sofa and chucked it at him.

Chucking pillow at Miles

Be sure to come back and enjoy the adventures and misadventures of my little band of displaced characters. We’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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An Anxious Day

An Anxious Day

Cleric popped into my officeCleric popped into my office for the third time that morning. “Have you heard from Anna yet?”

I folded my arms in front of me and frowned. I was tired and cranky. It had been a late night followed by an early morning, and I had a lot of work to do. I glared at Cleric. “What did I tell you the last two times you asked?”

“Ummmm…you said you would let me know as soon as you heard?” Cleric blushed and lowered her eyes.

I continued glaring. “And did I let you know anything?”

Cleric looked up and furrowed her brow. “Well, no, Mistress. That is why I am asking.”

I groaned and raked a hand through my hair. “Did it ever occur to you that I have not yet let you know anything because I have not yet heard anything?”

“Maybe I should come back later.” Cleric beat a hasty retreat.

“Yes,” I called after her loudly. “Maybe you should come back after I let you know I heard something!”

Old Dwarf popped into my office“Eh, now how kin ye be lettin’ tha lass be knowin’ ye been hearded summat iffin she do na be comin’ back?” My Old Dwarf entered my office and plopped himself down in a chair opposite me.

“Why are you bothering me?” I scowled at the old reprobate as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a half-eaten sandwich.

The dwarf gave me a look of pure innocence. He took a big bite of his sandwich and talked around the mouthful of food. “I be botherin’ ye, lass?”

“Ye be, er, I mean you are.” I averted my eyes and tried to ignore the bits of food that spewed onto the dwarf’s beard as he chomped his food open-mouthed. “What do you want?”

“I jus’ be wonderin’ wot been happenin’ las’ night at thet auction place ye an’ tha udders been off ta.”

I heaved a big sigh and gave him the short version. “Anna got a pony for Colton.”Anna, Blue, Colton

“Eh?” The dwarf raised one eyebrow and waited. “There mus’ be more ta tha story ’en jus’ thet.”

I glowered at the rotund figure. “Why do you want to know?”

“Jus’ cure-ee-os-ka-tee.”

“Yeah, well, curiosity killed the cat.”

“Wot cat?”

ColtonI heaved a bigger sigh but decided the only way to get rid of the dwarf and get back to work was to give him the rest of the story. “Okay, do you remember Colton, the boy whose pony showed up here several years ago?”

Mystery being led“Aye, he be tha owner o tha wee beastie ye been callin’ Mystery.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2017/12/31/mystery/

“That’s right, the one whose name was actually Peaches. She was a therapy animal, specially trained to work with Colton, who is blind.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2018/03/25/mystery-solved/

“Aye, I be rememberin’.”

“And you know Peaches died recently.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/04/28/sad-news/

The dwarf nodded and took another big bite of his sandwich.

Blue with ears pinned back“Well, shortly after we received the news that Peaches had died, Cleric had a dream. In the dream, Peaches told her where to find another suitable pony for Colton.” https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/05/a-new-mystery/

“So’s ye been tellin’ Colton’s mam aboot tha dream, an’ she been getting’ tha pony fer her laddie?”

I shook my head. “No, we couldn’t tell her about the dream. We could never explain that. But we did get her to go to the auction with us.”

My Old Dwarf grunted and stuffed the last bite of his sandwich into his mouth.

I saw he wasn’t going to budge from the chair until he heard every last detail, so I related all that had happened the previous evening at the auction. https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/12/what-will-we-find-at-the-auction/ and https://margecutter.wordpress.com/2019/05/19/a-good-deal-or-crazy/

I finished with another sigh. “Since it was so late when we finished getting the pony settled, Anna decided to wait until today to tell Colton about it. She said she’d give me a call later today and let me know what happened.”

Just then, Cleric peeked into the office again. “Any word?”

Before I could explode, my Old Dwarf jumped up and hustled Cleric away, scolding her loudly. “Iffin tha lass been hearin’ anythin’, she been tellin’ ye. Now, ye do na be botherin’ ’er no more taday. She be busy.”

I rolled my eyes, shook my head, and tried to get back to work.

When the phone finally rang about a half-hour later, I checked the caller ID and snatched up the receiver.

On phone with Anna“Anna! What’s the good word?” I held my breath, hoping that Colton had been pleased with his new pony.

“Sorry, Marge, there is no good word today.” The voice on the phone was weary. “When I told Colton at breakfast this morning I had gotten him a new pony, he threw a fit.” Anna did an impression of Colton’s voice. “How could you do that? Peaches can’t just be replaced! She wasn’t a saddle or a truck or a pair of shoes. She was family!”

Anna paused, then continued in a normal tone. “And then he stormed off and locked himself in his bedroom. I could hear him in there crying for over an hour.”

“Oh, Anna, I’m so sorry! I knew it would be hard introducing a new pony so soon after he lost Peaches, but I didn’t think he would react like that. He didn’t even go out to meet Blue?”

“He wouldn’t hear of it.”

I apologized again. “Is there anything we can do?”Petting Old Blue

I heard Anna sigh. “No, but thanks. I’ll give it a few days and see if Colton will at least go out to meet Blue. If not, I guess I’ll have to return the pony to John.”

After promising to let me know if anything else happened, Anna hung up, and I went off in search of Cleric.

* * *

Old Dwarf and ClericThe aged dwarf led Cleric into the conference room. He looked into her cornflower-blue eyes, wet with unshed tears, and he spoke gently to her. “Now, lassie, yer heart be in tha right place, but I do na be thinkin’ thet ye be thinkin’ this through.”

“Wha . . .what do you mean?” Cleric hiccupped with the effort to control her tears.

“Lassie, ye be tha one wot been knowin’ Mystery better’en any o’ us. An’ ye be tha one wot Mystery been talkin’ ta in tha dream. Ye be tha one wot be knowin’ wit’oot a single doubt thet tha new pony be tha one tha laddie be needin’. But ye do na be tha one wot be needin’ ta be talkin’ ta tha laddie.”

Cleric’s brow furrowed. “Why not?”

Gypsy, Old Dwarf and ClericBefore the Old Dwarf could answer, the conference room door opened. The Gypsy lad walked into the room and joined the conversation. “I could not help overhearing . . .”

“Ye coulda been helpin’ it, laddie, iffin yer great big ear dinna been pressin’ agin tha door!” The twinkle in the dwarf’s emerald green eyes belied his annoyance at the lad.

Ignoring the jibe, the Gypsy addressed Cleric. “I agree with the dwarf. You are not the one to talk to Colton. I am.”

When Cleric started to protest, the Gypsy cut her off. “Look, you may be the one who knew Mystery best, but I think I am the one who bonded with Colton.”

Cleric tilted her head, considering her friend’s words. Finally, she nodded. “Very well. But I will go with you.”

The Gypsy turned to go. “We will take the horses.”

Cleric grabbed his arm. “Dragon released the spell after the trail ride last September. I do not have a horse.”

Dragon appears“I will create another illusory horse for you.”

The three companions jumped at the voice. They looked around and saw Dragon shimmering into sight, curled up in front of her ersatz fireplace.

The dwarf gaped at Dragon. “By tha great god’s beard! Be ye tryin’ ta be stoppin’ me heart in me chest? Where did ye be jumpin’ up from?”

Dragon puffed a small cloud of black smoke from her nostrils. “I have found it advantageous at times to remain concealed. Usually that means fewer disturbances of my nap.”

The big beast turned to Cleric. “I presume you want the same horse as before?”

Cleric nodded, and Dragon began intoning an incantation.

Just two hours later, Cleric and the Gypsy dismounted in Anna’s driveway. In the nearby paddock, Blue studiously ignored the newcomers but Anna’s dapple-gray mare, Rosie, whinnied a loud greeting at their approach. Anna appeared at the barn door moments later to see what was disturbing Rosie.

riding up to Colton's

“Clara! Rocky!” Anna called to them, addressing them by the names they had used before. “What brings you here?”

The Gypsy smiled. “We were just taking our horses out for a bit of relaxation on the trail, and we found ourselves on your road. We did not think you would mind an unannounced visit.”

“Of course not! You’re always welcome to drop in.”

“How is Old Blue settling in?” Cleric led her horse over to the fence and reached toward the pony to pet him, but he walked away.

Clara shrugged. “He isn’t a kicker or a biter. When Rosie ran up to him, he just ignored her and walked away. He pretty much ignores me, too.”

“And Colton?” The Gypsy furrowed his brow. “How is he with Colton?”

Clara sighed, and slumped her shoulders. “Colton refuses to come out and meet Blue. I don’t know how to convince him.”

The Gypsy pursed his lips and squared his shoulders. “Perhaps if I talked with him?”

Anna shrugged again. “Be my guest. He’s in his bedroom – upstairs, first door on the right.”

Rocky and ColtonThe Gypsy handed his horse’s reins to Cleric and walked to the house. He found Colton in his bedroom, the door wide open. Remembering Colton was blind, the Gypsy called to him before entering the room. “Colton? Hi! Remember me? Rocky? Clara and I were out riding, and we thought we would stop by and visit. May I come in?”

“Sure. I remember you.” Colton sniffled and rubbed at his eyes. The Gypsy could see the boy had been crying. Before he could say anything, Colton turned toward him and blurted, “Do you know what my mother did? She got a new pony for me! It’s as if Peaches was no different than a pair of shoes I outgrew, or a truck that broke down.” The boy balled his hands into fists, and he punched his pillow. “Peaches can never be replaced!”

Boy_on_a_Horse“Of course not!” The Gypsy sat on the bed next to Colton and put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Peaches was very special. She was more than just your pony. She was your friend. Friends can never be replaced.”

“That’s right!” Colton nodded. “I knew you’d understand!”

“Oh, I do!” The Gypsy’s voice caught in his throat. “My family raised horses. It was my job to gentle the colts once they were weaned. Every year, I made friends with these colts, and every year they left for new homes once I had gentled them.”colt

“That’s horrible! You lost your friends over and over again?” Colton’s blind eyes widened.

“I did, but then the next year I would have more colts to gentle, and I would make new friends. I came to realize that none of the colts I helped raise could ever be replaced, but I had enough room in my heart for each new colt that came along. I didn’t stop missing the ones that were gone, but I did make new friends that helped me not miss the old ones so much.”

Colton didn’t say anything for a long time. When he did speak, his voice held a new note of understanding. “You’re saying that this new pony isn’t to replace Peaches, but to help me cope with my loss?”

Coping with loss

The Gypsy nodded and smiled. “That is exactly what I am saying. But there is more to it, something you do not know about the pony.”

“What’s that, Rocky?” Colton sounded curious.

John, Casey, and Old Blue“Old Blue used to belong to a little girl, a girl who couldn’t walk and had to use a wheelchair. She and Blue were best friends. Blue took care of her the way Peaches took care of you. But a few months ago, the little girl died. Blue lost his friend, and now he’s just as sad as you are. He needs someone to help him cope with his loss, too.”

Colton frowned. “Is that the truth, Rocky? The pony’s owner died? You aren’t just saying that to make me feel sorry for the pony?”

“Colton, I do not lie to my friends.”

Colton paused, and furrowed his brow in concentration. Finally, he squared his shoulders and set his jaw. “Rocky, will you introduce me to the pony?”

“Sure I will, Colton! I have a feeling you two are going to be very good friends.”

Will Colton really give the pony a fair chance? Will Blue give Colton a chance? Be sure to come back next week and see what happens when Colton and Blue meet. I’ll leave the porch light on for you.

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