Saturday, June 27, 2009


This short story is in response to
Click on the above link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word mega-challenge.

Mega Challenge: Chorus line, clam chowder, apples, jack-in-the-box, puddles, Iran, quarry, housekeeping, speed, letter, motorcycle, grandiose, summer, flying off the handle, blue jays
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

After spending time at Miss Cowpepper’s, helping her clean up after a flood, I realized she was not the only one who needed help with house cleaning.
As a right-brained artist, I am organizationally impaired. Sometimes I drive Parker crazy. I’m lucky he isn’t the type to be flying off the handle all the time or we would be in a constant battle over the housekeeping.
My sister Marigold helped me create a weekly task list to get my house under control. I was already weeks behind, because what would take her a day to accomplish, took me two weeks.
This week’s task was to clean the closet in the spare room and get rid of anything I hadn’t used in two years. I found old clothes and old tax returns. I pulled out dusty tapes and CDs, including my parents’ album of A Chorus Line. There were copies of high school and college yearbooks. In a corner, I located a toy motorcycle my nephew had left there the summer he was eight. Now he’s twenty-one. I found figurines of blue jays I never liked but kept because they had been wedding gifts. I’m not sure why I had never thrown out my childhood jack-in-the box. The music grinder on the side no longer turned and the broken spring had prevented Jack from jumping up for years.
I found a box of letters sent to my mother from my uncle who had served in the Peace Corps in Iran, before the Shah had been deposed. I appreciated them when my mother gave them to me, but now my uncle might like them as a record of his experiences there.
Finally, when the closet was nearly empty, I found what had been my real quarry, the wedding album I had stored away years ago and couldn’t find.
I chewed on a couple of apples while I browsed through the photos which depicted a nearly perfect wedding. Just as we had left the reception, after changing out of our wedding garb, the sunny April day had turned to rain. At the back of the album was a photo of Parker and me, holding our shoes, running barefoot through puddles to our car, laughing in the rain. It was my favorite photo from that day. It reminded me that through even bad times, Parker and I have always been able to laugh.
Speed was not my forté when I sorted through old things. I stopped to look through books and letters. Then I had to decide if each item was destined for the trash or the Goodwill, worth enough to sell online or had enough sentimental value to keep. So my grandiose plan to complete my task in one day was dashed. By the time Parker arrived home from work, the closet contents were scattered throughout the room in piles.
My husband shook his head as he entered the room, knowing it would take days to get the guest room back in order, but he gave me his usual smile.
“Look what I found.” I held up the wedding album. By the time he browsed through it with me, it was nearly eight o'clock and we hadn’t given one thought to dinner.
“Hey, Rosie,” he said. “I’m in the mood for clam chowder. How’s that sound?”
It sounded perfect to me. I took a few minutes to change out of my dusty shirt and apply a dab of lipstick. Then Parker and I walked hand-in-hand to Neptune’s Palace for cold beer and hot soup.
We laughed like hyenas on the way home when my groom and I were soaked by a sudden rainstorm.
(©2009 C.J. Peiffer)

Thursday, June 25, 2009


This post is in response

to a writing prompt at
Click on the link to join in or view other responses.

Bored? What makes you assume I have a problem with boredom.
I had to think for a long time to remember the last time I was bored. I’ll tell you about that later.
I'm rarely bored because nearly everything interests me. I like to watch people. I love nature. I can watch clouds change as they roll across the sky for hours. I could probably watch grass grow without being bored.
But, that being said, I do things to keep myself from being bored, without really thinking about it much.
I am in information junkie. I almost always have a book or magazine with me, and sometimes a crossword puzzle. I carry a small notebook. I can doodle, make a shopping list or think out a problem on paper.
As an artist, I am very visual. I carry my camera with me most of the time. I search for photo opportunties for art ideas and for the dozens of photo memes out there. So I am busy looking, watching, seeing everything around me. For example, I sometimes contribute to the Shadow Shot Sunday meme. Now I see shadows everywhere, whereas formerly they were almost invisible to me.
I have an imaginative inner life, so anytime I have to wait, I write a story or a blog post in my head. I can imagine I am somewhere else and imagine the details of that time and place. As a former teacher, I imagine teaching imaginary lessons to imaginary students.
If I am doing mundane tasks, like driving, pulling weeds, or doing laundry, I listen to audio books borrowed from the library. Or, I can make a game out of anything ----searching for a certain number on a license plate, counting the number of green things going into the washing machine, anything to avoid boredom.
I am pretty-much able to fall asleep almost anywhere, and since I often don’t get enough sleep, I’m normally tired enough to take a nap. I can sleep on an airplane, bus, or in the car (as long as I’m not driving.) Tuesday, I dozed in the waiting room of the eye doctor while my mother was being examined. One cannot be bored while sleeping.

When I finally remembered the last time I was bored, I had to go back about four years. A medical problem arose on a Saturday. My doctor told me to go to the emergency room immediately. That was probably about 9:00 am.
After poking, proding me and delivering me to various departments for all manner of tests, twelve hours later the hospital staff decided to admit me. I had grabbed just my wallet with my ID and health care cards. I had no reading materials with me. I had dozed on and off all day. Also, at the time, I had been working nights, so my usual time to be wide awake was overnight. So there, I was in the hospital room, wide awake with nothing to do. There was a TV connected to cable. (At home, we have chosen not to have cable.) I expected with 30 or 40 channels, I could find something to watch. But early am on Sunday, station after station aired infomercials. So besides being in pain and worried, I suffered from a very rare case of utter boredom. Normally when I can’t sleep it is because my mind is racing with interesting ideas, but not that time.
I tried some of my usual tricks. I wrote, in my head, about my trip to the hospital, but even that bored me. The clock on the wall seemed to be ticking off seconds instead of minutes. I thought morning would never come. I broke the boredom only once, when I threw up all over myself and the floor, causing a flurry of nurse and cleaning-staff activity.
While I dozed most of the day, my husband, who is much more restless than I am, would have been far more bored than I became later that night. Between medical tests, I insisted he drive home to take care of the pets and get something to eat. Before he left, he asked if I needed anything. In a stupor, I said ‘no.’ When he returned, he thought to grab a technical manual for himself (now that is something I would find boring) but he thought I was so out-of-it, that I wouldn’t want to read.
(By the way, my condition was temporary and they sent me home two days later.)
Now, when I try to think of another time I was bored, I can’t remember anything other than a few boring college lectures over forty years ago.

My advice to those who are easily bored. Plan ahead. Take a book or magazine and a notebook with you everywhere. Read, draw, write a letter or poem, make a grocery list, or plan next summer’s garden. Practice writing or planning in your head. It will keep you from being bored and make you more efficient at what you do because you mapped it out ahead of time. Take an interest in the world. Learn to watch and listen to the thousands of wonderful and interesting things around you. You may never be bored ---nor boring ---again.

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009




Congratulations to the winners of my first GIVEAWAY.


1st Place:


East Seaboard USA
Check out her blogs:
Life With A Little One And More:
Book Blog:

As the 1st place winner Jenners had first choice of her prize and she chose FISH.


2nd Place:


Check out her blog:

Diane also chose FISH as her first choice, but it was already taken, so she will receive her second choice CHIEF.


3rd Place:



BookLady chose FLOWER SACK 2 as her choice of prizes.

BONUS PRIZE: Question #5 was to go to the 5th response, but since there were only 4 responses, no one won that prize.

BONUS PRIZE: Question #20 was to go to the 3rd response to that question. Diane Wagner (also the 2nd Prize winner) won an assortment of blank greeting cards featuring Pro Artz designs.

All prizes will be mailed soon.

(©2009 C.J. Peiffer)



The first winner will have his/her choice of one of the following hand-signed, matted, and shrink-wrapped pieces of art. The second winner will choose from the remaining five and the third winner will choose from the remaining four. In addition there will bonus prizes (see RULES.)

Each piece of art is matted to 11" X 14" and will fit an inexpensive standard-sized frame. Colors may vary somewhat from what you see on your screen because of differences in computer color settings. I chose a variety of images so that you might find something you like or something that will make a good gift for someone else.

Note: The titles do not actually appear on the mats. They were added digitally for this post.

Prizes will be mailed only to U.S. addresses. If you live elsewhere, you may have it sent to a friend or relative in the U.S.

There will be several BONUS prizes which will include one or more T-shirts with the following logo and a few surprises:

(art work& text ©2009 C.J. Peiffer)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

COW PARADE™ Chi-COW-go (Odd Shots)

cow featuring a skyline view of the city
Nancy Parkinson
sponsored by
Central Michigan Avenue Association

These images are in response to
Click on the link to post your own image
or see what others have posted.

In September of 1999, I visited Chicago to see the Cows on Parade™ displayed on street corners, parks and buildings throughout the city. Over 300 fiberglass sculptures had been decorated by Chicago artists. At the end of the exhibit, they were auctioned for charity. For a detailed story about the exhibit, see a previous post Chi-COW-go, Chi-COW-go, that CUDlin' town.
The photos below are a small sampling of the variety of designs on the cow sculptures. My very favorite, "Diamonds Are a Cow's Best Friend" by Victor Skzebneski and sponsored by Salvatore Ferragamo can be seen HERE.

"Holy Cow"
a tribute to long-time baseball announcer Harry Caray, sat near the WGN studios
Ken Aiken, Aardvark Studio
sponsored by
Harry Caray's Restaurant

"Double Moo"
cow in Doublemint Gum colors
Peter Van Vilet, Lou Beres & Associates
sponsored by

"Fruits of Summer"
colorful cow near the aquarium along Lake Michigan
Shawn Finley
sponsored by
Chicago Park District

(as in "Elsie" I presume)
cow milk truck
David Innes
Sponsored by

"Out of Cowtowner'
typical bovine tourist
Manley Armstrong & Caren Spigland
sponsored by
(photos ©1999, text ©2009, C.J Peiffer)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

STORMY WEATHER Part 7 - Short Fiction

(click on images for larger views)

This short story is in response to
Click on the above link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word mega-challenge.

Mega challenge:
sow, close, console, lives, minute, polish, bass, pussy, complex, resume, bow, sewer, house, import, intern
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

This is a continuation of previous entries:
STORMY WEATHER Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6

(the final episode)

The vault was dark inside. While Parker ran to our house for flashlights and other tools, Miss Cowpepper and I looked on the shelf close to the left of the door. We found a crossbow. Next to it, an antique rifle and several swords. I lifted one sword from the shelf and pulled the blade from the scabbard. It was shiny, as if it had been polished recently. I surmised that if the safe were airtight, metal might not tarnish.
“So this is where my father hid the rest of of his military memorabilia,” she said. “I thought there had been more when I was a child.”
I pulled a box that sat on the floor of the safe into the basement. A grate over a sewer drain clanked as I dragged the box away from the safe’s entrance.
When I heard Parker return, I called to him to request he bring a kitchen chair for Miss Cowpepper. Inventoring the vault might take hours, possibly days.
With the flashlights, we saw stacks of frames, dozens of old books, and what looked like a bass fiddle at the very back of the safe.
Parker went upstairs. He returned with a floor lamp from the living room and an extension cord he had brought from home. He returned to the first floor to clean up the lunch dishes and install window locks and dead bolts.
While I pulled more boxes from the safe, Miss Cowpepper sat near the first box, sorting through old photos. She gasped, holding up a picture.
“What?” I asked.
She showed me the photo of a small pale girl holding a white cat. “I thought this photo had been lost. It’s me and my first pussycat named Whiskers.”
“That’s the name of the one that just died, isn’t it?”
“I name all my cats Whiskers. Too bad cats don’t really have nine lives. I do miss him. He was a sweet boy and looked almost exactly like my first Whiskers.” She sighed and set the photo on the lid of one of the other boxes.
I patted Miss Cowpepper’s arm to console her while I looked at the small black and white snapshot. “Would you like me to make you a larger version of this. I can do it on my computer?”
Miss Cowpepper decided that would be wonderful.
We found boxes of imported figurines, mostly stamped “Occupied Japan” wrapped in yellowed newspapers from the 1940s. I knew some of those might be in demand on eBay.
There were stacks of papers, mostly complex legal documents neither of us understood. Miss Cowpepper told me the grandson of her father’s lawyer was her attorney who handled the trust her father had left her. She’d have him look at them.
Parker called down, asking if we’d like to take a break for tea. Miss Cowpepper nodded.
I answered, “Start the water boiling, we’ll be up in a minute.”
After bathroom breaks and tea, I had to tear Miss Cowpepper away from another detailed discussion with Parker about old films to convince her to resume our inventory.
We found lots of military books. One was written by a Union soldier who had been interned at Andersonville during the Civil War. The only books I thought might be of monetary value were two volumes of The Personal Memoirs of General Ulysses S. Grant*. A handwritten note inside one cover, which Miss Cowpepper verified was in her father’s writing, said simply “First Edition, 1885.”
It took us a few more days to go through everything. We contacted Miss Cowpepper’s lawyer to help with the legal papers and stock certificates we found. I called my friend Kathy who was an antique collector to help us decide what, if anything, might be of value.
The next day Miss Cowpepper allowed Kathy, her attorney, and me into her house. Miss Cowpepper didn’t care if anything was valuable. She was simply glad to have the old family photographs. She had decided what she wanted to keep and asked us to give anything that might be valuable to a museum or sell it and give the money to an animal shelter. She requested that her will be updated to do the same with the rest of her belongings after her death.
Then she asked us to go away and leave her alone for a few days. She had seen more people in a week than she had in fifty years and had had enough of other people for a while. My sister Marigold would be arriving the next day to help me sow seeds for my first herb garden, so I needed to take a break from Miss Cowpepper anyway.
A week later, the garden had been planted and Marigold had returned home. One morning, I carried a wrapped package and a picnic basket to Miss Cowpepper’s porch. After several knocks, she answered the door.
“I have something for you,” I said.
The tiny woman invited me to the kitchen for a cup of tea.
I asked her if I could visit her once in a while. She didn’t answer while she concentrated on pouring hot water into china cups.
When she turned back to the stove to return the tea kettle, I set my basket on her table and opened the lid. When she was ready to sit down, she stopped when she saw what was in the basket. Miss Cowpepper’s pale eyes shone as she gently lifted the six-month-old white cat I had found at an animal shelter.
“He has all his shots, is litter trained, and has been neutered. Here are his papers,” I said placing an envelope on the table. “Parker will leave a bag of cat food on the back porch this evening. I saw you still have a a bag of litter and a box. Do you need anything else?”
She shook her head, then placed the small cat on the floor to explore his new home.
I tore the brown paper off the package and showed her the photo of her and her first cat which I had enlarged and enhanced on my computer. I had placed it in one of the empty frames we had found in her vault.
“Oh, Rosemary. Thank you. These are far better than ten vaults full of old papers,” she said stroking the fur of the kitten which was rubbing his face on her ankle. She reached across the table to grab my hand. “You’re welcome to visit Whiskers and me anytime.”

(This is the end of this long story, but
Miss Cowpepper, Rosemary and
Parker will appear in future stories.)

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

*Historical note: In 1884, Ulysses Grant was broke after being swindled by his investment partner. (Former presidents were not granted pensions until 1958.) He was dying of cancer and distraught about his family’s future. Mark Twain convinced him to write his memoirs and to allow the book to be published by Twain’s own publishing company, promising 75% of the book’s proceeds as royalties. Grant completed his autobiography in June, less than one month before his death on July 23, 1885.
The first volume was published in December 1885. Within three months, the first check sent to Mrs. Grant was the largest royalty paid on a book up to that time, over $200,000. Additional royalties paid over the next few years brought the total earned for Grant’s family to almost $450,000.
Grant’s autobiography has been compared to Caesar’s Commentaries and described as the finest writing produced by a participant in the Civil War.
The final words of Grant’s memoir are, “Let us have peace.”

Saturday, June 13, 2009

STORMY WEATHER Part 6 - Short Fiction

(click on image for larger view)

This short story is in response to
Click on the above link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word mega-challenge.

Ten-word challenge:
nausea, everything is on sale, expect great things, frying pan, pledge, birds of a feather, stick, Saturday morning, liver and bacon, caterpillars
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

This is a continuation of previous entries:
STORMY WEATHER Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5


        On Saturday morning, Parker and I headed for Miss Cowpepper’s house. The night before I had told him about the safe the workers and I had found in the basement. We worried that with a few people now knowing that the elderly woman had a huge, bank-vault-sized safe, she might be a target for thieves.
        Parker’s father had been a locksmith and Parker had helped him during school vacations, so he knew a bit about locks for doors and windows. We decided he would check Miss Cowpepper’s house to see how secure it was.
        Meanwhile, I still had to inform Miss Cowpepper of the safe that had been hidden in her basement. She had been napping the day before when I left. I was both worried about her and excited for her, causing me a bit of nervous nausea that morning.
        Miss Cowpepper opened the door a crack, but scurried away when I told her Parker was with me. She was an albino recluse who didn’t like visitors.
        I helped Miss Cowpepper up the stairs, then I continued my work from the day before, organizing things in the dining room after the recent flood had filled the basement and left an inch of water on the first floor. Parker had been helping the Jennings down the street, but their grown children were visiting from out of town for the weekend to help their parents, so he wasn’t needed.
        After checking the doors and windows and measuring the opening where the safe sat, Parker made a list for Lowe’s™. He would buy locks, hardware, and materials to create a new door to cover the opening where the safe sat in the basement.
        Before he left, I went upstairs to ask Miss Cowpepper if she needed anything else. She sat in a rocking chair in her bedroom watching TV.
        “Why thank you, for asking,” she said. “I just saw an ad for Shopper’s Market. It seems that nearly everything is on sale. You know, I have had a craving for liver and bacon for the longest time. And onions, too. Those Meals on Wheels dinners are good, but they never have liver. Can you cook the liver for me?”
        I wasn't much of a cook, but I assured her I could.
        At the front door, when I handed Parker the shopping list, he said to me, “Now Rosie, don’t expect great things from that safe. It may be empty.”
        “I know. I know,” I said. The night before I had been fantasizing about what might be in Miss Cowpepper’s vault. He knew how I could build things up in my head and then be disappointed.
        “Promise?” he asked.
        Held up my right hand. “I pledge not to get my hopes up or let Miss Cowpepper get hers up until we check the contents of the safe.”
        He kissed me on the cheek and left.
        In the kitchen, I found a frying pan and other things we would need to make lunch, then set the table for three. Upstairs, in Miss Cowpepper’s bedroom, I sat on the floor, leaning against the bed and watching a program on the Discovery Channel while the eighty-year-old snoozed in her chair. I dozed off in the middle of watching caterpillars inch their way along a stick.
        I awoke when Parker called from the base of the stairs. I helped him to cook liver, mashed potatoes and green beans as Miss Cowpepper had requested.
        When I went upstairs to wake her for lunch, Miss Cowpepper was watching a program about humming birds. She told me that besides old movies, her favorite shows were about nature, especially animals.
        “You and my husband are birds of a feather,” I told her. “That’s exactly what he likes to watch. I think you’d like him. Would you be willing to meet him?”
        She looked dubious.
        “Actually, I’m not nearly as good in the kitchen as he is. When he returned from the store, he started to cook all your favorites for lunch.”
        “Well, I do smell the bacon and the onions.” She sighed. “I guess if he went to the bother of cooking for me, I can meet him. He won’t laugh at me, will he?”
        I assured her he would not.
        Over lunch, Miss Cowpepper and Parker discussed old films. It was as if she had been wanting to discuss all the films she had ever seen, but there had been no one for her to talk to. Miss Cowpepper left nothing on her plate. We finished our meal with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sauce.
        While Parker cleared the table, I told Miss Cowpepper I had some exciting news for her. She just nodded, so I went on. “I think I discovered what the key thing is for.” Her eyes lit up. “Can you come with me to the basement?” I asked.
        I stopped in the dining room to remove the key from the wall. Miss Cowpepper hobbled with her cane to the basement. Parker and I followed behind.
        I steered the woman to the opening in the wall to show her the safe which had been hidden behind rotten wood that the workers had removed when cleaning up after the flood.
        “Oh my,” she said. I never knew anything was behind that old piece of wood.”
        I inserted the key into the hole in the vault door. It slipped in easily. I tried to turn it clockwise, but nothing happened. When I turned it in the opposite direction, it clicked. Parker came over to help me pull on the heavy vault door, but I didn’t need his help. It was so perfectly balanced that, with a light touch it swung wide open.

(to be continued in Part 7, the final
episode of STORMY WEATHER, next week)

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Nossa Senhora da Glória in 1969.
My former student, on the bench on the left,
in now a chemical engineer and professor.

This post is in response to a writing prompt at

Prompt: What have you been busy doing that's keeping you from updating your blog?
How hard is it for you to get back into the swing of blogging when you take time off?

        I’ll answer the second question first. It is not difficult for me to get back to a blog I’ve neglected for a while, once I have the time to do it.

        There are several things that have been keeping me from updating my blog as much as I would like.

        1) Gardening.

        2) Reading.

        3) Working on my other 2 blogs.

        4) Reconnecting.
        As many of you who have followed my blog know, I served for two years in the Peace Corps in Brazil. In the forty years since, I totally lost contact with my friends and students there. Every so often, I would search online for the small town where I lived in the hinterland, knowing that eventually the internet would arrive there.
        About six years ago, I found a web site based there, but when I left a comment hoping to reconnect with people I knew, all I received was spam from Brazilian companies. Late last year, I found the e-mail address of a poet from that town, so I wrote to him with the names of people I wished to contact. Nothing happened.
        All of that changed on May 17th. The poet, Jorge Henrique, posted an article on the official web site of the town of Nossa Senhora da Gloria as well as on the web site of the town’s collégio. The article is about my Peace Corps blog.
        Since then, e-mails have been flying back and forth between former students, friends and acquaintances in Brazil. Also, I have been in contact with Brunie in California, the other PC Volunteer who served there. We each served two years, overlapping for one year. (Brunie returned home and two years later served another two years in Upper Volta, now Burkina Faso.)
        Forty years ago, I spoke Portuguese pretty well, but now I can't remember many words, and I seem to have completely forgotten how to conjugate verbs with three different endings, plus a multitude of irregular verbs. And, of course, forty years ago, there were no Portuguese or English words for e-mail, scan, computer, or blog. 
        I have to copy the messages I receive and paste them into an online translator. I use Then I have to write a response in English before translating it into Portuguese.  But the translators aren't perfect. They translate literally, but don't always catch the intended meaning. So I must go over each translation and make corrections. 
        When I see the translation, I often remember words I have forgotten and I usually remember enough to know when the translation is off.
        If I say "thank you" the translator, not aware I am female, will translate it to "obrigado" whereas the correct way to say "thank you" as a woman is "obrigada." If I wrote "Dear Maria" the translation would say "Expensive Maria."  
        Of course, it takes forever to translate back and forth. Then I always forward the messages to Brunie. Brunie, who spoke almost flawless Portuguese, has forgotten a lot, too. She is from a Latino family, so spoke both English and Spanish at home. When she worked in Burkina Faso, she had to learn both French and the local African language. After so many years, she admits to getting those four languages, plus Portuguese,  mixed up. I'm having enough trouble with two. (You can read about my difficulties in learning Portuguese HERE.)

        Brunie also sent me her photos to scan, 88 of them. She had an old camera that used only black and white film. I had a 35 mm camera and usually took slides. I have scanned some of those, but most of them are in a box buried somewhere in my house and I cannot find them. So I have been scanning a few of her 88 photos each day, then digitally retouching them. (Find some of the photos Brunie sent me HERE.)

        Sadly, we learned that a few people we knew in Brazil have died, mostly people who would now be into their 80’s. But, we also received some good news.
        I taught there in the ginásio, roughly equal to grades 7-10 here. Only a few years before I arrived the first ginásio had been established. Because many adults had never had the opportunity to study beyond elementary school, many decided to go back to school. So I had students ranging in age from 12 to 44.
        At that time, there were few businesses in the town, except for those that served the townspeople: bakeries, bars, cabinet makers. I worried that my students who would graduate within the next few years would have no opportunities to make use of their new high school diplomas.
        But I was wrong. I was thrilled to learn that many of my former students work in the fields of health, education, and social work. Several are college professors. One is a chemical engineer, another a meteorologist, and another a secretary of agriculture.
        To read the entire story and see many more photos, please visit my other blog: A Little “Peace” of Brazil
        Posts: Alegria! Alegria! Part 1 and Alegria! Alegria! Part 2

        Brunie and I have been invited to travel to Brazil, something we have both wanted to do for the past forty years. Everyone has offered to put us up, so our major expense would be transportation, but airfares are very pricey. There are no direct flights to the area, so with layovers in three or four cities, fly time could be as much as 28 hours. At first, I thought I might want to fly to Rio and take a bus to the northeast, visiting other Brazilian friends in Rio,  Belo Horizonte, and Vitoria, but the bus trip would take an additional 30 hours, even without the extra stops. However, Brunie and I will discuss this and see if it is feasible for either or both of us. If we go to Brazil, I doubt it will be this year, but maybe we can swing it in 2010. 
        I better start (right away) to brush up on Portuguese verbs.
(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

STORMY WEATHER Part 5 - Short Fiction

This short story is in response to
Click on the above link to join in or read other entries.

How it works: Raven supplies two sets of words (or phrases) to use in a piece of writing. One can choose the ten- or five-word challenge ---or combine both into a fifteen word challenge.

Ten-word challenge:
swashbuckler, heads-up, dry martini, recovery, jungle gym, whiskers, bathing suit, spade, circular reasoning, abrasive
(Words from the challenge are in bold face in the story.)

This is a continuation of previous entries:
  STORMY WEATHER Part 1, Part 2, Part 3and Part 4


        When I returned to Miss Cowpepper’s the next day, she seemed happy to see me. Only the day before she didn’t want to let me in.
        The days after the flood had been cool, but it was finally as hot as one expects in June. I would rather have had a glass of cold lemonade, but I accepted the hot tea Miss Cowpepper offered me.
        As the small albino woman heated water, I noticed a very old TV on the counter airing a black and white swashbuckler film.
        I sat at the kitchen table. “Do you like old movies?” I asked, just to start a conversation.
        “Oh my, yes,” she said. “I like those channels that show classic movies.”
        Remembering all the military memorabilia on her walls, I asked, “Do you like war movies?”
        “Oh, no. I don’t like to see all that killing.”
        “But you have so many military photos on the wall, I thought...”
        “Those were my father’s. His grandfather was a captain in the Civil War and he just loved that old stuff. My mother hated it. Once she threatened to throw it all away. My father had a heart attack the next day. After his recovery, my mother never mentioned it again. And now, I don’t have the heart to get rid of it either.”
        “How long have you lived here?” I asked.
        “I was born in this house. I lived here when I was little, but the neighbor children made fun of me. When I was old enough, my parents sent me to a special school. Everyone there was in a wheel chair, or lame, or had one arm, so no one was nasty like the neighbors. I came home just for holidays.
        “I was supposed to leave after I finished school,” she continued. “But I stayed on to be an assistant. I had to come home when my father died. I was about thirty then. My mother was devastated, so I stayed with her, but I remembered how everyone treated me when I was little, so I always stayed in the house. When she wasn’t well enough to shop, I called a neighbor who had a teenage son to ask if he would deliver groceries? Each Wednesday, I left a list inside the back door. He left the bags and a receipt. I left him a check for the groceries plus ten dollars. And do you know who that boy was?” she asked.
        I shook my head.
        “Bobby Jennings. He and his wife still buy groceries for me. But I give them thirty dollars now. Do you think that’s enough?”
        I told her I thought that was fine. I picked up my tea cup and Miss Cowpepper’s. I washed them at the sink and placed them in the dish rack while Miss Cowpepper told me about her mother’s death forty-five years ago.
        As I wiped the sink, Miss Cowpepper asked, “Honey, could you get that spade from the back porch and return it to Mr. Jennings?”
        I wondered to the closed-in porch at the back. I moved a curtain aside. In the yard next door, three children ran through a sprinkler and climbed on a jungle gym in their bathing suits. One of them looked my way. He stopped in mid-slide to point at me. “I saw her. I saw her,” he yelled, running toward the house. I quickly dropped the curtain over the window, deciding the boy was the abrasive type who would make fun of Miss Cowpepper if he had the chance.
        I placed the spade near the front door while Miss Cowpepper explained that she had borrowed it to bury Whiskers, her cat.
        “I buried him late at night so no one could see me,” she explained. Her voice shook when she talked about the cat who had died of old age a few weeks earlier.
        I helped Miss Cowpepper replace things where they belonged in the living room. I started to make a list of items she needed and offered to buy them for her. She told me that price was no problem because her father had been a successful banker and had set up a trust fund for her. Apparently she hadn’t spent even half of what was allotted to her each year.
        In the dining room, I stopped in front of the buffet to look again at the strange object hanging there. Miss Cowpepper had called it “the key thing” and had told me it was the most valuable thing she owned.
        “What is that?” I asked.
        “I don’t know.”
        I raised my eyebrows. “Then why is it so valuable?”
        Miss Cowpepper motioned me to the living room. She pointed to the huge family Bible on the mantle. I pulled it down and set it on the coffee table. We sat side-by-side on the couch. Miss Cowpepper slowly opened the book to the front page. “My father wrote that when I was a girl.”
        In careful longhand, in blue ink, it said:
               “The key thing in life is that it is the most valuable thing you own.”
        I nodded my head. Poor woman, she thought he was referring to an object.
        “The key thing is valuable because it’s worth more than anything else I have,” Miss Cowpepper said proudly.
        I ignored her circular reasoning. “But what is it for? Is it really a key?”
        “The only thing I found that looked like a key was that. It was taped to the bottom of my father’s desk. So it must be valuable. But I don’t know what it will open.”
        Soon workmen arrived to pressure wash the basement and Miss Cowpepper headed upstairs to hide. I watched TV in the kitchen while waiting for the workers to finish. Finally one of them called me to the basement.
        “Heads-up,” he said. “The ceiling is low down here.”
        Where pipes ran under the ceiling, I had to bend to prevent banging my head.
        “We cleaned everything, but look at this wood here. It’s all rotted. We ought to remove it.”
        I told them to go ahead. The wood was about four feet wide and covered a section of wall from floor to ceiling. I figured I would measure the opening and then Parker and I could buy a piece of plywood and install it ourselves. I waited as the men pried it loose with crowbars.
        Finally, it fell free, revealing the door of a huge safe, the kind one expects to find in a bank. It didn’t have a combination lock on it, but it had a huge hole that a very strange key just might fit. “Could it be....?” I asked myself.
        I waited for the workmen to finish, then ushered them out the back door.
        I ran upstairs to find Miss Cowpepper, but she was snoring under a colorful quilt while a wildlife program ran on her TV.  I left a note to say I would be back the next morning and quietly left the house, leaving a few lights on for the elderly woman and carefully locking the doors behind me.
        When I arrived home, I made myself a very dry martini while I waited impatiently for Parker.
(to be continued)

(©2009, C.J. Peiffer)