The Day My Brother Became my Hero

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It has been far too long to remember just what I was doing out in the yard amongst the bees and the dandelions, but it was a glorious spring day. I looked up at a rattle of bicycle fenders to see one of my brother’s chums hop from his bike, leaving its wheel spinning in the grass. “Hey Cricket!” he called, trotting straight up to my brother.
“Hey, what’s up, Ronnie?” I hollered.
They weren’t about to notice a six year old girl. After all, they were all of nine or ten. The screen door to the kitchen clacked shut behind them. I was on my feet at once to find out what they were up to.
“Yea?” said Mom, planting her ball of dough on the bread board as I stepped inside. “And Ronnie’s welcome to stay here and play all afternoon if he wants.”
“But how can he show me his new puppy? His puppy’s at his house. That’s why he came to get me.”
“Take your sister if she wants to go…”
“No way!”
“Or stay here.”
“She ruins everything,” he said, throwing down his cap. “Can’t she go to Kay’s or something?”
“They’re gone for a week, kiddo,” she said, rolling out her dough this way and that. “So how about it Carol? Want to go with Greg and Ronnie to see a new puppy?”
“Sure,” I said, in spite of Greg’s smoldering look as they tramped out the door.
“You need shoes.”
“Can I wear my brand-new red tennis shoes?”
“Oh…try to keep them clean.”
“Goodie!” I cried as I dashed over to their cardboard box on the closet floor to sniff at their new rubber before tying them mercilessly tight, since they were a full size too large. I watched my two feet walk as I stepped outside.
“I’m ready,” I said as I caught up with Greg and Ronnie at the end of the lane.
They kept their backs to me and set out, trading mumbles.
“Hey!” I cried, clopping to keep up. “This isn’t the way to Ronnie’s house. Mom’s going to…”
Suddenly Greg wheeled about, giving me a shove that nearly knocked me off balance. “No she isn’t, or I’ll fix you up a whole lot worse.”
“Why would she ever find out?” I said, knowing in my bones that I was still going to pay for this.           
“Good! Just stay far enough behind us not to be nosy and keep your mouth shut.” And with that, he and Ronnie resumed their saunter down the buckled sidewalk, past the catbirds and the daffodils, and past the privet and the picket fence which was at last replaced by parking meters and paving brick. They walked into a dime store and bought some candy.
“Could I have some?” I said. “I didn’t bring any money.”
Greg took a big bite of his candy bar. “Then you don’t get any,” he said, thrusting his chewing mouth into my face.
They looked at boy’s toys for some time and then went to the park to spend the afternoon, playing baseball. No one was about to let a girl play. I looked all about for clover in the grass to make bracelets, but there was none. I might have gone home, but Greg would get into trouble and take it out on me.
Presently it was past time to go and Ronnie was convinced that it was at least an hour late. “We’ll take a shortcut,” said Greg with a wave, as he set out at a brisk jog.
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I ran along after them until we wallowed through some daylilies and clambered up a bank to the tracks with my side aching. A green heron called, somewhere beyond the chorus of cricket frogs. I could scarcely keep up. I watched the white toes of my red tennis shoes come down upon tie after tie. Once in a while, I’d slip off a tie and stumble. I was falling behind. Just as I heard a train whistle, my toe slipped off the back of a tie into a deep hole, catching me hopelessly fast by the heel and setting me down hard. There was the whistle again. I couldn’t begin to reach my laces. Greg and Ronnie were getting too far away to hear. White hot terror flooded me as I yanked and yanked on my leg.
Suddenly they were running for me, wide eyed and waving their arms. “The train’s behind you!” screamed Greg as he grabbed below my knee and pulled with everything he had. “You idiot sister!” he sobbed as Ronnie heaved from under my arms. Without warning, we were on our sides in the nodding weeds of the steep bank as the train raced by.
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“My shoe!” I wailed. 
Greg shot to his feet. “I’ll get your damned shoe after the train’s past,” he said, furious that I’d brought tears to his eyes.
Mom met us at the screen door. “Just in time for supper,” she said. “Did you have fun?”
“Yea,” said Greg. “The uh, puppy’s real cute and stuff.”
           
“Can we get one sometime, Mom?” I caught Greg’s eye. I could see that he was ’way more than merely glad that we got home. He might have had his awful moments, but he would certainly do for a brother.
Carol Marrs Phipps

Do We Have a Smoking Dragon?

            I used to teach at Ch’ooshgai Community School, a boarding school on the top of a mesa on the Navajo Nation. One spring morning when the students were in the hallway changing classes, one of the older boys began calling out: “Herald! Herald?” Soon there were others calling out to Herald, and in short order it became a daily routine during class changes. “Herald! Herald? Oh, Herald!”
            I had the older boy in one of my classes. “So, who’s Herald?” I said, looking up from my attendance sheet.
            He shrugged his shoulders and grinned, trading glances with other kids in the room, but he had nothing to say.
            I got the same response from other students when I asked, but the calling out to Herald was to last until the end of school. I kept my ears open. One day whilst the students were visiting quietly as they finished up an assignment, one of them said to another, “When he lands on the roof of the school, you’ll cry, Jerome.”
            “No way,” said Jerome. “You’ll cry when it thunders and you get all your stupid hair singed off, dumb ass.”
            “Who’s he?” I said, ignoring the profanity. “Are you two talking about Herald?”
            All I got were cherubic grins and shrugs. 
            I had repeated instances like this. Nobody would answer my questions, but I was beginning to piece together a great dragon of a beast with a twenty foot wingspan, able to set fire to things from the air. Could this be the fabled Thunderbird? No wonder no one would tell me. Outsiders were always making fun of their legends, and they weren’t about to give me the chance to.
            There were certain old people who swore that there was indeed a gigantic bird which flew up and down the Rockies before storms. Ornithologists scoffed at this of course, saying that somebody with binoculars would have seen it long before now. But could there ever have been? I well remember the bobcat that Dad shot in the chicken house which the Zoology professors insisted could not possibly have been there. I started doing some research. Soon I discovered Argentavis magnificens, a late Miocene monster of a bird with a 23 foot wingspan that weighed between 150 to 175 pounds, which flew the skies of Argentina, six million years ago.
            I finished my maté and went outside to a rock to eat my fry bread and mutton stew and to look out over the dry grass of the countryside. My head spun at the thought of it, as I sped south in my mind’s eye into a never-never age of pristine wonder, past the tall trees of the White Mountains, past meadows and upland hills, long before there ever was a Nogales, and on down the great mountain chain, all the way to the slopes of the Andes Mountains in Argentina, where the great Argentavis soared on the updraughts of a gathering storm, just like the dragons in Good Sister, Bad Sister, except that our dragons are rather more Jurassic, with bony tails and mouths full of teeth.     
Tom Phipps
 

Blog Tour: John Priest, Author of The Curse of the Sea Shell Cave

Author Pic

I’ve been a children’s author since 1985, with books traditionally and independently published.

I am one of seven children (three girls, four boys) and live with my wife and family in the West Midlands, UK (two daughters, their hubbies and three great grandkids).

I have written many different types of books and scripts over the years and besides children’s books I have written adult horror, sci-fi and comedy thriller scripts.

I was invited to Pinewood Studios, UK, in the late 1980’s after a Director had read my script and thought it showed great promise.  He sent it to the USA for another reading but unfortunately nothing ever came of it. I keep meaning to change the script into book form but other new ideas always take over.

Book Cover

My latest children’s book is The Curse of Sea Shell Cave, a detective/whodunit for children.  Inside you will find the Jay-Pea-Eyes aka Junior Private Investigators searching for clues to solve another mystery.  It’s the second book in the JPIs series and is available in paperback and various e-book formats.

 

http://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Curse-of-Sea-Shell-Cave-9781784075163.aspx

Apple iBookstore:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-curse-of-sea-shell-cave/id838581712?mt=11

Barnes & Noble NOOK book: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-curse-of-sea-shell-cave-john-priest/1118904669?ean=294004575530

 http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Curse-Shell-Cave-Investigators-ebook/dp/B00JVM27IG

 http://www.amazon.com/The-Curse-Sea-Shell-Cave/dp/1784075167

 https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/417609

 http://www.general-ebooks.com/book/73020780-the-curse-of-sea-shell-cave

 http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/childrens/the-curse-of-sea-shell-cave,priest-john-9781784075163

 

John Priest is always pleased to hear from readers. Simply use the contact form at: http://www.johnpriest.co.uk

 

Pappy Taylor’s 93rd Birthday

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One evening on the first of October, better than twenty years ago, Gary Harrison and I drove down to Effingham to call on Pappy Taylor for his ninety-third birthday.

“Yea!” he hollered at our knock. “Come on in! “Grab ‘ee a ch’ir!” He was sitting on his davenport, his ankles swollen with dropsy, coffee can cuspidor at his feet, when we stepped through the door. “Hand me that there fiddle, would ye, Gary?” He fingered its strings and tightened a peg as we hauled out our instruments and the evening began. “What do you ones want to play?” He leant forward and took a spit.

“What ever you feel like, Pappy,” said Gary.

Pappy sawed haltingly for a bit, rummaging about through fragments of tunes. “I know all kinds,” he said, “if I can just think of them. Here’s one. Lonesome Indian.” He commenced playing with a flourish as Gary and I followed along on guitar and banjo. With a scarcely a pause, he started another tune with the verve and abandon of a long lifetime of playing.

“Man!” I thought. “He must have been something in his prime.”

“You know that one, don’t ye Gary?” he said as he finished.

King’s Head, ain’t it?”

“Yeap. Now this here’s one,” he said, striking up another piece.

“Now what was that?” said Gary.pappy02

Six Pound ‘o Feathers in a Cuckoo’s Nest.”

“I don’t recall ever hearing that one.”

“Yea.

“Theah was an old woman, wanted a new feather bed,
And an old man, white hairs upon his head,
Old man he come from the west,
Old woman, wouldn’t have any but the best…

“Oh hell, I’ve clean forgot, but anyway he found six pound o’ feathers in a cuckoo’s nest,” he said, raising his fiddle again. “This here ‘n’s pret’ near my favorite.” For a long spell he played an elaborate version of Turkey in the Straw.

“Now what was that?” said Gary.

“That there was the piece that Turkey in the Straw was wrote off of. It’s called Natchez Under the Hill. Theah’s fellows ask what that is, and I say: ‘Ain’t ye ever heard of Nachez Indians?’ It was written ‘way back in George Washington’s time. See, the White man got to cheating them, and one thing and another, so they danced all night, a-getting ready for a big Indian war the next day. That’s what that there tune is.”

“Say Gary,” he said, nodding at me, “what’s his name?”

“Why, that’s Tom Phipps.”

“Well I know that, you fellows know what I mean, but I couldn’t think of his name to save my neck,” he said, leaning to one side of his fiddle for a spit. “Now here’s one…” He put his fiddle to his collarbone and played Paddyin’ on the Turnpike, a tune about the Irish who laid the first railroad tracks across Illinois. Then he played Flop Eared Mule, Picking Cotton Down South, Bear Pen Hollow and Devil in the Haystack. He played Sugar Foot Rag and West Coast Rag and somehow ended up talking about Buffalo Bill. “He was an Indian fighter,” he said as he picked at some small something on the side of his bow. “Now that’s the part that wasn’t right. The White man wanted their land, and the damned government come in and killed women and children, by God, and old men. And they hadn’t done nothing, nothing at all except to try to live peaceful. They killed women and children! That son of a bitch Custer got what was a-coming to him, by God!

“You know, the United States Government stole this universe from the Indian. No use a-saying they didn’t ’cause they did, and now they’re a-starting to acknowledge it. They stole it! A fellow asked if I wanted to see the monument out there, ye know, at Wounded Knee, and I said no, I ain’t going to. That ornery cu’se Custer had it a-coming.

“You fellows got any Indian in ye?”

“Both sides, I think,” said Gary.

“The Walkers,” I said.

“Well I have,” he said. “My dad was part Iroquois. He used to tell that they’d trade an old pappy01gun for as much land as a man could walk in a day. But then the White man went to cheating, and directly it was all gone.” he raised his fiddle. “Here ye go. You ones know this one.”

We played Cumberland Gap for quite a good long time. When we finished, Pappy stared off into days long gone. “Got married when I was twenty-four,” he said to no one in particular as Gary and I refined the tuning of our instruments. “I married her in Arkansas, when I crossed the Mississippi to work on the railroad. She was awful pretty, and she was sure my wife. She was full blooded Osage. She died of tularemia when I was twenty-eight.

“She took a notion for to eat some rabbit, so I went out and shot her a couple. Now I don’t eat no raw meat, but she did. In three days she took sick and died.”

He raised his fiddle and played Payroll, then Hell Amongst the Yearlings, then Mockingbird, then Arkansas Traveler and Old Molly Hare. On and on, picking up momentum, keeping us on the edge of our seats away into the night. At somewhere between one and two in the morning, we rose to leave.

“No need to be rushed off,” he said. “I can play all night if you fellows want to.”

A train whistle blew, off in the night, as we stepped outside.

“You’ve still got trains a-running through here,” I said. “We’re losing everything these days, trains, middles of towns. And all the small farms…”

“Why them’s the Hundred Cries,” he said as he steadied himself against the doorway.

“Hundred Cries?”

“Yea. My Indian father-in-law used to tell about that. The Hundred Cries is the voices of the multitude, never to be heard, as they’re driven from the wilderness for good.”

The next February, Gary and I were pall bearers at Pappy’s funeral. We rode in silence most of the way back to Effingham from the grave yard. “He was the last one wasn’t he, Gary?” I said at last.

“Yeap. Sure was.”

If Pappy (Harvey) Taylor was not the absolute last who had learnt his tunes from older mqdefaultfiddlers instead of from the media, he was without a doubt amongst the last. Pappy had tunes in his repertoire several hundred years old. King’s Head, which he had learnt from his dad, was about the execution of King Charles I in 1649.

I cannot help but feel that the passage of people like him leaves us all impoverished. Tunes imitated from the media are not the same. However, the passage of the old fiddlers isn’t the half of it. I grew up with regular square dances. The neighbors got together and had big sings. Dad sang with a barbershop quartet. We sang in church, a mile away. All this is gone. So what? We all know that the rural neighborhoods are gone, wiped out by centralization. But that’s not all. We used to sing every day in music class at school. We looked forward to the traditional carols we practiced at Christmas. Several years ago, the music teachers replaced the old songs with shallow parodies of them from the media. Soon the schools stopped having music classes. Soon the grade schools gave up recess. This is ‘way better for us, all sped up and modern, right?

Tom Phipps

Really Big Egg Causes Flashback

           

             Carol decided to make one of her fabulous omelets from the freshly laid ostrich egg that was given to us by someone who just didn’t know what sort of treasure she had. One egg fills our big iron skillet. We always save the shell, which leaves me with the task of putting a hole in each end without getting shell fragments into the egg white. I found the right bit for my Dremmel tool. As I rolled the egg about in my lap, thinking about Olloo and the strike falcons, I had a flashback.

           Not so very long ago, Carol and I taught at Peach Springs on the Hualapai Reservation. We lived in a trailer with our son Will in the rocks beyond where the buzzards gathered in the morning to sun, far above the mailboxes in front of the Bureau of Indian Affairs building and the half dozen other houses called Valentine, Arizona. To avoid going crazy from teaching, we’d spend our weekends having adventures, wandering in the vacant lands round about.
            One morning, we started out at sunrise with Will in order to find a way up to “Car Top,” the tallest peak in the Peacock Mountains, some miles away across the valley. Gamble’s quail called from the scrub oaks in the wash as the first breezes came up the slope. We put our backpacks into our weathered Ford Festiva and set out along the roads, graded out of the sand of the valley floor, its wheels hammering along the endless washboard as we swerved here and there to avoid the worst of it.  
            Eventually we came to a cattle guard on the far side, swamped with sand and piled up on one end with tumbleweed. We could just make out the white of a house up in the feet of the mountains, beyond the mesquite and scrub oak as we began to climb, speeding through patches of deep sand and straddling gullies in the lane. Presently the lane reached  the house, windowless and forlorn, across from a grey barn and its fences, still able to hold cattle, but never to be part of a ranch again. On we went, lurching and climbing into the piñon pine, over a series of ridges, eventually finding ourselves churning our way up the sand of a dry wash for a very long time, until the thought of getting stuck made us turn about and park. We stepped out into the silence and mounted our backpacks. A canyon wren called. We sat on a glistening schist outcrop, tied our tennis shoes and set out, trudging through the sand of the wash.
            When the sun was overhead, a narrow lane left the wash to climb through the piñons and agave to a gravelly clearing with a squeaking windmill, still pumping water, and a stunning view of nearby Car Top. We spread out a picnic and studied the vista. It would be another day yet to reach its peak, if we were to go this way. It was past time to start back. Supper would probably be late.
            When we reached the car, I strained out from under the straps of my pack and set it in the sand. Undoubtedly was a waste of time, locking the car, I thought. We’re at least a good six or seven miles from the nearest human being. Still… I reached into my pocket. “Oh no!” I cried, as I frantically grabbed at every sort of pocket I had. “Keys! I’ve lost the car keys!”
            Will started back up the wash, retracing our steps. He was gone a long time. We were sitting by the car in despair when he reappeared, shaking his head. What would we do, just walk home? It would take all night, at the very least. We were already nearly out of water, and there were a lot more hours of afternoon sun. This was the Mohave Desert, after all. Could we make it? Suddenly he stopped short. cover.jpg EK“Here!” he hollered, snatching up the keys out of the sand. “I found ’em!”
            Just like Olloo, I thought as I turned up one end of the egg and switched on the Dremmel, ‘way out in the middle of the Great Strah in Elf Killers, finding the impossible one thing that saves everything.
Tom Phipps

Review: Cretaceous Clay and the Black Dwarf by Dan A Knight

e8df851aee7e1aa181cb84e26a0d9351_400x400Dan A. KnightCretaceous Clay and the Black Dwarf by Dan A. Knight is an intriguing and original Science Fiction tale not to be missed by fans of the genre or anyone who enjoys a fascinating and engrossing futuristic mystery.

Black Dwarves are going missing, but are they running away or is something more sinister afoot? Inspector Lastrayed of Nodlon Yard suspects the latter, but the question to be answered is who would kidnap and possibly murder black dwarves? And why only black dwarves who are synthetic biological androids grown in laboratories to be cheap sources of labor?

When the answer to those questions continue to elude the good inspector, he calls on the services of an old and respected friend, the infamous Elven magician, Cretaceous (Jack) Clay and his butler side-kick, Patrick Morgan, who just happens to be a black dwarf, to aid him with the investigation.

The first real break in the case comes when actual tangible evidence is left on the scene when a black dwarf, Evan Labe disappears from his apartment. Finally, they have proof of foul play, but the plot thickens because it appears that the crime was committed using magic and Clay is the only person known who has “real” magic.

I very much enjoyed this highly imaginative Sci-Fi Mystery which has the flavor of a futuristic Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and I’ve no doubt you will, too.

bd4b8262b89d7f7d511478c5130873ae895d39c3, Large Clay Cover

 

Blurb:

Jack Clay hunts a warlock who escaped from hell by possessing an innocent black dwarf.

Jack entertains thousands in the Circus, and he lives in Babel Tower high above Nodlon. Half-elf, and half-human, Jack is the only magical being in the Solar System. Surrounded by flying cars and high-tech, finding a useful market for a magic talent wasn’t easy for a man who is neither biot nor human.

Nodlon is not a paradise for non-magical biots! Biots work jobs no one wants to pay for, and Evan Labe is a biot. Evan is a black dwarf: a short person with a black chip in his forehead to keep him in his place. He dreams of a better life, but how will he find it? Tempted by an infomercial, Evan falls into a trap.

Nimrod once ruled the fertile crescent with an iron fist and a reign of terror. Now, he takes Evan’s body, and he returns to Earth! This time he raises an army to conquer the Solar System! Soon an epidemic of missing dwarves plagues Nodlon, and the trail leads to murder and a mysterious Black Dwarf.

Freedom must wait! Jack must hunt a foe with powers from beyond this world and stop him before it is too late.

Will Jack save Nodlon? Will he stop the Black Dwarf?

So begins the strange and quirky odyssey of Cretaceous Clay!

Biots are people too!

 

Review by: Carol Marrs Phipps