August Heatwave Reading List

Kathy Waller:

Ramona DeFelice Long shares a list of short stories just made for August Reading. Titles are some she–and her readers–remember fondly from school. If you can’t read all of them, at least be sure to read “August Heat.” You’ll see why readers remember it.

Originally posted on Ramona DeFelice Long:

RamonaGravitarEvery summer, when the doldrums of heat hit and I feel as wilted as the impatiens in my front porch planter, I think of a short story I studied in high school: August Heat by William Fryer Harvey. I re-read it every summer, as a reminder of why I fell in love with short stories.

Reading this story, you can feel the oppressive, brutal, maddening heat. You can understand the confusion of the two men—each an artist in his field—who discover one another by happenstance. Or, is it happenstance? Or, fate? Or, the heat?

Another story I remember from high school is “The Most Dangerous Game” by Richard Connell, though my memory about this one was jogged by recent events rather than the weather. If anyone believes that the short story is no longer a relevant form, this tale of hunting big game might change your mind.

Thinking about…

View original 532 more words

Weekly Photography Challenge: Creepy

Finally I have something that fits the category.

I posted one of these shots several years ago and promised to say more about it later, but after some thought I realized I didn’t know what to say. So I let it go.

Now, however, is the time.

The photos were taken at the Dishman Museum on the Lamar University campus in Beaumont, Texas, where David and I attended the Boomtown Film and Music Festival for a screening of one of his videos. We walked into the Dishman to register and found this piece of Art looming over us. It reached out and pulled my camera from its bag. I began snapping.

My first thought was, It’s from The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, a picture book I love even more than my second-graders did. The pink, the snouts, the little house, the flowers. Pigs.

Then I realized the pink shapes were more wolfish than piggish. Rabidly wolfish.

Fascinating.

Nightmarish.

IMG_2882

IMG_2883

IMG_2895

 

IMG_2908

IMG_2905

IMG_2907

 

IMG_2886

 

And cute. Darned cute.

***

WordPress Weekly Photography Challenge

Creepy

 

The Cruise from… You-Know-Where

Kathy Waller:

Captain James Kirk will be going on a cruise in 2017. Me? Been there, done that. Read the whole sad story on Writing Wranglers and Warriors.

Originally posted on Writing Wranglers and Warriors:

0kathy-blog

Posted by Kathy Waller

Stardate 2015: “William Shatner Announced As First Host of the First Official Star Trek Cruise”

Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William S... Publicity photo of Leonard Nimoy and William Shatner as Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk from the television program Star Trek. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shatner, aka Captain Kirk, said he’s excited to be part of this celebration of Star Trek’s 50th anniversary. He thinks the fans will enjoy it, and it’ll be fun.

I went on a cruise once, with seven cousins, over Thanksgiving. It was fun. We enjoyed it. Ever since, we’ve called it “The Cruise From You-Know-Where.”

Well, that’s what we call it in front of the under-twelve crowd.

I’d never been on a cruise, but I’d always loved carnival rides, so I knew I’d be a good sailor. The first night, I went to bed saying, “I’m going to let the waves rock me to sleep.”

The next…

View original 909 more words

“Hell on Wheels”: The Story of a Lethal Librarian

Excerpt from “Hell on Wheels” by Kathy Waller appears in MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 TALES OF CRIME ON THE MOVE, published by Wildside Press, 2015

Join Austin Mystery Writers for the launch of MURDER ON WHEELS at 7:00 p.m. on August 11, 2015, at BookPeople Bookstore, 6th and Lamar, Austin. Authors will read and sign. Refreshments will be served.

***

The day I found Mama stirring ground glass into the filling for a lemon meringue pie, I took the bowl away from her and called a family conference. We had to do something before she dispatched some poor, unsuspecting soul to his heavenly rest and got herself thrown so far back into prison she couldn’t see daylight.

A typical Dairy Queen restaurant, located alon...

A typical Dairy Queen restaurant, located along U.S. Route 67 in Texarkana (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The next day, while Mama was down at Essie’s Salon de Beauté, my brothers and sister and I crowded into a booth at the old Dairy Queen, just across the corner from the library where I worked. The DQ was practically empty. The only customers—besides Frank and Lonnie and Bonita and me—were senior citizens, and most of them had their hearing aids turned off.

When the waitress had delivered our orders and retreated behind the counter to her copy of People magazine, I explained why I had called the meeting.

“It hurts me to say it, but the time has come to put Mama out of her misery.”

Lonnie stabbed his straw through the plastic lid on his frosted Coke. “Mama don’t have no misery. I never seen nobody so contented with her lot.”

Bonita poked her pointy elbow into my side and reached across the table to pat Lonnie’s hand. “I think Marva Lu’s talking about a different kind of misery, baby brother. I’ll explain later.”

That was a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Bonita’s explaining was why it took Lonnie till he was twenty-nine to get his GED.

Frank, sitting across the table from me, grabbed a napkin and wriggled his way out of the booth. “Now look what you made me do. Scared me half to death, making such a mean joke about Mama.”

Walt Disney World Resort

Walt Disney World Resort (Photo credit: Wikipedia)what you made me do. Scared me half to death, making such a mean joke about Mama.”

He dabbed at his tie with a napkin. “This necktie is a souvenir from when we took the kids to Disney World. That gravy landed right on Donald Duck’s tail feathers.”

I glanced over my shoulder at the other diners, several of whom were looking our way. “Frank Dewayne Urquhart, stop carrying on and sit back down,” I hissed. “You’re attracting attention.”

Frank unclipped his tie and laid it across the back of the booth. By the time he settled down to finish his steak fingers, the senior citizens had turned back to their burgers.

“Now, quit worrying about that duck’s derriere and look me in the eye,” I said, in the steely tone of voice I used on seventh-grade boys I found hiding in the how-to books, giggling over The Joy of Sex. “I am not joking. This is serious.”

Frank stuffed a couple of napkins into his collar and dunked another steak finger. “Serious?” He leaned toward me, his eyes wide and his voice just a whisper. “You want to … put Mama down … just because you saw her add something to the pie? I bet you didn’t have your contacts in. Might’ve been powdered sugar. She’s probably practicing something new for the Methodist ladies’ fundraiser cook-off.”

English: An omelette

English: An omelette (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The new bishop’s going to judge the cook-off.” I took a sip of my Diet Dr. Pepper and gave Frank time to think. “I can see the headlines now: ‘Murderous Methodist Does in Bishop with Omelet’. And every penny of our inheritance will go to pay a lawyer to try to keep Mama out of prison. Squeaky Vardaman says defense attorneys charge more when the client’s guilty. And Squeaky’s the district attorney, so he ought to know.”

Bonita stabbed me again with her elbow. “Uh-oh, look who’s coming.” We all followed her gaze.

A bright red Corvette was racing up the street. Ignoring the stop sign, the driver shot through the intersection, just missing a pedestrian, who scrambled onto the high curb and wrapped his arms around a light pole for support.

“There she is, on her way to Essie’s to get her hair screwed up.” Lonnie grinned. “Man, Mama can drive that car, can’t she?”

Frank cleared his throat and wiped his fingers on a napkin. “Yeah, Marva Lu, I see your point.”

English: A Corvette C5 in red

English: A Corvette C5 in red (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bonita wrinkled her nose and wound a blonde curl around her finger, a habit she’d gotten into when she was five years old and people told her it was cute. “Why don’t we keep a real close watch on Mama and make sure she doesn’t have a chance to put anything bad in the food? I mean, killing her seems a little extreme.”

“Are you volunteering to babysit around the clock?” I said.

Bonita wrinkled her nose again. “Well, what about putting her in the Silver Seniors Retirement home? We could have her committed. Then she couldn’t cook at all.”

“No way,” said Frank. “Old Dr. Briggs is as loony as Mama. He isn’t about to certify her. Hell, there’s not a man, woman, or child in the county, including us, who’d dare to cross her. After all, she owns the bank.” He wadded his napkin into a ball and dropped it into the empty basket. “You going to convince her to move to the home, Bonita?”

Before Bonita could get her nose back in gear, Lonnie finally caught up with the conversation. He sat up straight. “Killing her? What do you mean, killing her? You saying you want to kill Mama?”

English: Pink smilie Suomi: Vaaleanpunainen hy...

English: Pink smilie Suomi: Vaaleanpunainen hymynaama (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Shhh. Use your library voice, Lonnie.” Bonita patted his hand again. “Kill is just a figure of speech. Like one of those smilies we talked about before your test.”

I rolled my eyes. “No, it’s not a smilie. We’d better make sure right now that everybody understands what we’re doing.”

“I’m not doing anything,” whispered Lonnie. “If you’re going to kill Mama, I’m heading for the sheriff right now. Move, Frank, and let me out of this booth.”

I glared at Frank. He stayed put. I smacked Bonita’s hand off Lonnie’s and closed my hand around his. Poor Lonnie, he’d always been Mama’s favorite, and so softhearted. I should have known our talk would upset him.

I assumed the sympathetic tone I used when citizens called to complain about the library having dirty books. “Lonnie, sweetheart, you heard what I said about Mama’s new recipe. And you remember how Uncle Percy died last month, just hours after Mama cooked him a special birthday lunch.”

“Dr. Briggs said that was Uncle Percy’s ulcer.” Lonnie jerked his hand back. “Frank, let me out.”

I grabbed his hand again and hung on. “Jasper Alonzo, calm down. I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to think about it carefully and then give me an honest answer. After that, Frank will let you out, and you can go to the sheriff or anywhere else you want.

“Now, here’s the question: How would it make you feel if they put Mama on trial for killing Uncle Percy? Or somebody else she fed bad food to? And what if she had to spend the rest of her natural life locked up in the prison at Huntsville?”

Lonnie’s brow wrinkled like it always did when he was turning something over in his mind. One thing about my baby brother, he never made snap decisions. I usually admired him for that. In this case, however, even with the answer so obvious, I threw in some details.

English: Group of polygamists in the Utah Peni...

English: Group of polygamists in the Utah Penitentiary, 8 men standing in prison stripes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Think about what prison’s like, Lonnie. There wouldn’t be a soul Mama knows. And most of those inmates are so common, not our kind of people at all. Mama would have to share a room, and you know how she values her privacy. There’d be no more trips up to Neiman Marcus, and she’d have to dress just like everybody else, in horizontal stripes. She’s always been dead-set against horizontal stripes. Essie wouldn’t be there to keep up her weekly White Mink rinse, and without that, her gray hair would get that ugly yellow tinge to it. And how would she survive without her Friday bridge club? Think about it, Lonnie. What kind of life would Mama have?”

By the time I got to “yellow tinge,” all the fight had gone out of Lonnie. His brow unwrinkled. Tears welled up in his soft brown eyes. It was just the saddest expression I’d ever seen on that sweet face. He looked so miserable I was tempted to toss the rest of my chocolate sundae into the big red waste bin and tell my siblings to forget the whole thing.

But I didn’t get to be Director of the Kilburn County Public Library and Archives by caving in to every pathetic face that stared at me across the circulation desk.

“All right, Lonnie,” I said. “What’s your answer?”

He pulled on his straw but got only a gurgle, so he quit stalling. “Mama wouldn’t like prison at all. So I guess I’d feel pretty bad.” He shook his cup and managed to suck up one more taste of frosted Coke. “But I still don’t feel good about planning to kill her.”

I looked out the window. Old Judge Vardaman was shuffling down the sidewalk from the courthouse, heading for the library, where he would spend his usual hour dozing over the Wall Street Journal. On his way out, he would tiptoe into my office and sit down for what he called “a little visit with my sweetie-pie.”

Feral goat in Aruba

Feral goat in Aruba (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bonita saw me watching him and smirked. “Well, here comes Big Sister’s gentleman caller. Honestly, Marva Lu, I don’t know how you can stand to have that old goat around. He’s older than God.”

“You should talk,” I said. “The way you drool over the old goat’s son since he got elected D. A. is a disgrace.” I passed the remainder of my sundae across the table to Lonnie and smiled. “Anyway, Bonita, he’s not so bad. Goats can be very useful animals.” I shouldered my purse and stood up to leave. “Don’t worry, Lonnie,” I said. “You won’t have to do a thing. I’ll take care of all the planning myself.”

***

Our anthology!

Print and Kindle editions available at Amazon.com
Print edition available at Barnes and Noble.com and at Wildside Press.com

Excerpt: “A Nice Set of Wheels”

Excerpt from “A Nice Set of Wheels” by Kathy Waller appears in MURDER ON WHEELS: 11 TALES OF CRIME ON THE MOVE, published by Wildside Press, 2015

***

When the stranger stepped through the door, everyone in the store looked up. Old men playing dominoes at the Formica-topped table beside the front window. Farmers sitting in metal lawn chairs, their boot soles propped against the cold pot-belly stove, cussing Khrushchev and the Russians. Teen-aged girls wearing shorts and white blouses, pink hairnets protecting their pin curls, looking at the makeup shelf.

They checked out the worn jeans, the frayed collar on the plaid shirt, the scuffed boots. The beat-up old black suitcase he carried. The black hair close-clipped but with a lock falling across his forehead. The scar on his cheekbone. The eyes like pale blue ice.

In those few seconds he stood in the doorway, with the sun shining through the screen door behind him, they sized him up.

He didn’t look to left or right, just walked straight to the counter. I should have asked how I could help him, but I didn’t. I was holding my breath.

“Are the Coca-Colas cold?”

I nodded at the cooler half hidden by a rack of chips. He opened the lid and pulled out a king-sized bottle, shook it a bit to get some of the water off, and brought it to the counter. I took it from him and dried it with a clean terry cloth towel I kept behind the counter, then gave him the towel to dry his hands. When Uncle Harry sold Cokes, he let the bottles drip. He said if customers wanted them ice cold, they’d have to put up with a little water. But I like to make things nice.

I handed him the Coke and pointed to the bottle opener nailed to the end of the counter.

“That’ll be a dime,” Uncle Harry shouted from behind the meat counter at the back of the store. “Seven cents if you drink it here and leave the bottle.”

The man pulled a dime from his pocket and dropped it into my hand. “I’ll bring the bottle back tomorrow.”

Uncle Harry left the meat counter and walked up to the front, still holding a butcher knife. His apron was stained with blood. “Where’d you come from?” he said.

That was none of his business, but the stranger didn’t take offense. “Shreveport, last stop. Working my way west. Been hitching rides, decided to stop here and look for work. You know anybody needs odd jobs done, or farm work?”

The girls hiding behind the makeup shelf giggled and shushed each other, except for Wanda Patterson, who looked directly at the man and smiled. Uncle Harry’s eyes narrowed. His frown told me he was about to say “No,” like he always does when men from outside talk about hanging around, but before he could say anything, Old Brother Fisher, who always tried to help people, slapped down a domino and called out, “Try the Conrad place. Frank Conrad owns several hundred acres the other side of the river. Heard him say the other day he needs some fences repaired, and three of his hands got caught in the draft and left for the Army. Bet he’d take you on. Might keep you to haul hay, maybe pick cotton.”

The stranger raised the Coke bottle and nodded at the old man. “Much obliged, sir.”

“Go up the road about a half mile to where there’s a gap in the fence on the left. Go on through—it’s private property, but nobody’ll care—and follow the old wagon ruts down to the river. Cross the footbridge. Other side belongs to Conrad. Big white house at the top of the hill.”

The stranger picked up his suitcase and started toward the door. Every eye followed him.

“Wait.” The eyes all looked my way. “What’s your name?”

He turned around and smiled right at me. Just at me. “Campbell. Campbell Reed. What’s yours?”

“I’m Rosemary.”

“I’m pleased to meet you, Miss Rosemary.” Still smiling, he pushed through the screen door and was gone.

Uncle Harry grabbed my arm and jerked me around to face him. “What have I told you about talking to strange men? That one’s trouble. Leave him alone.”

I pulled away and ran through the storeroom and out the back door, past Uncle Harry’s house and the outbuildings, up the footpath and onto the gravel bar that lay along a stretch of the river bank. Wading in to where the water was clear, I bent down and splashed some on my cheeks, then straightened up and let the slight breeze cool my face. I was fifteen years old, and I’d had enough of Uncle Harry treating me like a baby. I would stay down here till time for supper. If Uncle Harry wanted me back at the store, he could come find me.

I recognized the looks the men had given Campbell. Except for Old Brother Fisher, they thought the same as Uncle Harry: he was trouble. I knew what Wanda Patterson and her friends thought, too: not trouble, but a good-looking man to take them out on Saturday nights, to park with in the cemetery after dark, to beg their mamas to invite for dinner, and, if they were lucky, to marry and have babies with.

But when I looked at him, I didn’t see trouble or fun or babies or anything like that.

In the time it took Campbell Reed to tell me his name, I looked at him and saw a savior.

 

***

Austin Mystery Writers' New Crime Fiction Anthology

Join Austin Mystery Writers for the launch of MURDER ON WHEELS at 7:00 p.m. on August 11, 2015, at BookPeople Bookstore, 6th and Lamar, Austin. Authors will read and sign. Refreshments will be served.

Print and Kindle editions available at Amazon.com
Print edition available at Barnes and Noble.com and at Wildside Press.com

Join AMW for the Launch of Murder on Wheels ~ August 11

Please join

Austin Mystery Writers

Gale Albright, Valerie Chandler, Kaye George,
Scott Montgomery, Laura Oles, and Kathy Waller
&
Earl Staggs and Reavis Wortham

as they celebrate the launch of their first crime fiction anthology

MURDER ON WHEELS:
11 Tales of Crime on the Move

“Eleven stories put the pedal to the floor and never let up! Whether by bus, car, tractor, or bike, you’ll be carried along at a breakneck pace by the talented Austin Mystery Writers. These eight authors transport you from an eighteenth-century sailing ship to the open roads of modern Texas, from Alice’s Wonderland to a schoolbus yard in the suburbs of Dallas. Grab your book, hold on to your hat, and come along for the ride!”

Tuesday, August 11, 2015
7:00 p.m.

BookPeople Bookstore
6th Street and Lamar

Austin, Texas

“There is something for everyone…” ~ Amazon Review

“…light-hearted (and occasionally black-hearted) collection of short stories… I thoroughly enjoyed it. … take your choice–historical, humorous, dark and light. Good reading for mystery fans.” ~ Amazon Review

 “… dialog that is realistic and makes the characters believable and three dimensional. There is something for everyone…” ~ Amazon review

“… a diverting read.” ~ Barry Ergang, Kevin’s Corner

71QiKRIkj+L