Let’s Talk About…

Some charcoal briquettes
Image via Wikipedia

Let’s talk about chickens.

When I was very young, I had a pet chicken, a white bantam hen named Dickie.

I don’t remember how she, of all the chickens my parents raised for fun and drumsticks, became a pet. I think she belonged to a clutch of chicks my mother raised in the kitchen closet beside the water heater. As such, she would have had an advantage over the yard chicks.

Dickie wasn’t much of a playmate. She preferred wandering around the yard scratching for bugs. In summer, when the back door was open, she spent the mornings on the porch, looking through the screen door while mother worked in the kitchen. They conversed. Dickie clucked, Mother answered. Discussions were superficial but pleasant.

My pictures of Dickie are packed away, but I remember them well. In the best shot, I held her up for a good view of the camera. I wore jeans, a long-sleeved striped t-shirt, a scarf, and a straw cowboy hat. A six-gun was holstered on each hip. We were a couple of tough customers, Dickie and me.

The only thing detracting from our dauntless image was the scarf that covered my head and tied under the chin. It made the hat fit more snugly than usual, and it made me look like a sissy. Dale Evans never wore a scarf. But it was winter, and I was subject to sinus infections. Anyway, whenever my mother was cold, she made me wear a scarf.

Dickie’s claim to family fame lay in her refusal to lay. While other hens were fruitful and multiplied, Dickie just kept up the daily kaffeeklatsche. She didn’t bother to produce even the occasional breakfast egg. My parents discussed the un-hen-like behavior.

Then she stopped appearing at the back door. Mother found her in a dark corner of the garage, where, after barbecuing, my father had set a lidless cardboard box of charcoal briquettes.

Dickie had transformed the box into a nest. She intended to hatch charcoal.

At first we thought was it cute. Then it turned serious. She was obsessed. Every time my parents removed her from the nest, she returned. Her appearance altered: her back remained white, but her underside was as black as the eggs.

This led to more discussion. Mother said hens would “set themselves to death” and that Dickie was on the path.

So Mother hatched a plan.* We visited the Luling hatchery and purchased a half-dozen baby chicks. Unable to get white, to match Dickie, we settled for black, to match the charcoal.

Back at home, Mother tiptoed into the garage and placed the chicks, one by one, under their new mama.

Instead of welcoming the hatchlings, however, Dickie went ballistic, squawking, scratching, flapping her wings. Mother scooped the babies back into their ventilated box and retreated.

Dickie lowered herself onto the briquets and resumed setting.

Later, Mother said it had been a mistake to attempt the transfer during the day. Chickens are more easily deceived in the dark.

That night, my parents discussed the situation over dinner, again, and decided on a new strategy.

The next day, my father evicted Dickie and trashed the box of charcoal.

Mother prepared to raise more poultry in the kitchen closet.

Dickie picked up where she’d left off, scratching for bugs, visiting with Mother, occasionally helping me gun down a horse thief.


*Sorry about that.


Image by Vladsinger (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Kaye George’s CHOKE Nominated for Agatha Award

I am pleased—but not surprised—to announce that Kaye George’s CHOKE: An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery has been nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

The Agathas, which honor the “traditional mystery” (“loosely defined as mysteries which contain no explicit sex or excessive gore or violence”), are awarded annually at the Malice Domestic convention in Bethesda, Maryland.

A review of Choke appeared here last June. After almost nine months of deliberation, I still agree with what I wrote then. So instead repeating myself, I’ll provide a link.

I will add, however, that although Choke contains no explicit sex, would-be PI Immy Duckworthy wouldn’t mind if it did contain just a bit. She runs across some awfully good-looking guys in the unlicensed private detective business. Both Saltlick, Texas and Wymee Falls have more than their fair share.

Some of them don’t even turn out to be criminals.

Boomtown #1

The first screening of “Invisible Men Invade Earth” was an unqualified success.

I should say the first two screenings.

David’s video was scheduled to run at 7:00 p.m. However, due to the enthusiasm of the folks operating the projector, it began at 6:47, right after the Doc Bloc had finished.

Most of the audience had left the theater for the break, so very few saw “Invisible Men.” Just in time, however, the manager appeared and announced the mistake. And “Invisible Men” ran again at the official time.

Now about the unqualified success: The audience laughed. Those who saw it the first time returned after the break telling others, “It’s about a space ship and aliens and cats.” Then they watched and laughed again. So did newcomers.

I don’t know what David learned from the experience, but here’s what I took away from it: When making videos, cast cats in starring roles. Viewers laugh at cats, even when said cats do nothing but lie around being cats.

Viewers laughed at David’s script, too. One line in particular drew a roar. It elicited the same response during a showing for friends in our living room.

The laughter of friends is good.

But when strangers laugh, you know you’ve done something right.

And if David doesn’t know that, something is radically wrong. Because Mrs. Producer Davis has informed him of the fact at least ten times this evening alone.

I Haven’t a Thing to Wear

Isabella Stewart Gardner (1888), by John Singe...
Image via Wikipedia

Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes. ~ Henry David Thoreau

David’s video “Invisible Men Invade Earth” will be screened at the Boomtown Film and Music Festival in Beaumont.

Asked whether he’s excited about the event, David said, “Well, I will be.” He doesn’t like to expend emotion in advance of need. At just over three minutes, it’s the shortest of the Short Narrative Fiction, so it will be the first in that category to be shown.

I, on the other hand, feel rather giddy. I will be going as the Producer’s Wife. Mrs. Producer Davis, to be exact. At times like this it’s okay for a liberated woman to drop Ms. MaidenName and assume her husband’s surname.

(It’s also okay to do that without a film festival, but this Ms. MaidenName is afraid she’ll slip up and then various governmental agencies will get things all out of whack. And then she’ll never get her passport renewed ever again. She wants to return to the family castle [several times removed] on the Isle of Mull and to eat haggis in Oban. She can’t do that if TSA agents bar her from boarding the plane.)

Anyway. Wanting to dress appropriately, I googled “film festival dress” and pulled up several million hits, most of them concerning what to wear to Sundance. First on the list was a Sundance catalog, the highlight of which (to my mind) was a pair of denim crops (pedal pushers for those who remember their first incarnation) that have been “destructed by hand” to look like something my mother would not have let me wear in public if I had ever managed to destruct any denim to that degree. Price: $176.00.

Moving right along, I searched for images of past Boomtown festivals.There was  no Boomtown catalog, nor was there any photo that suggested I should grab my checkbook and run out to the mall. The festival is in Beaumont, not Dallas. Thank goodness. My Austin wardrobe will suffice. That’s just as well, because David and I will match. His Austin wardrobe goes everywhere.

“Invisible Men Invade Earth” stars William and Ernest. They’re born thespians. Rotten at taking direction, but good when called upon to ad lib. And they work cheap.

For a look at their artistic side, click here.

To All My Non-Blogger Blogger Friends: The Solution

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. ~ Albert Einstein (maybe)

Color mark from Crayola "Scarlet" cr...
Image via Wikipedia

Regarding the whingeing still audible from the previous post, silverneurotic has come through with a solution:

“Blogger will not let you comment IF you log in with your wordpress account…however, if there is an option to comment using the name/url option…your comment WILL go through that way. If the blog doesn’t allow that, you can always comment using your google id.”

I tried logging in with my name and URL. It worked.

Thank you, silverneurotic, for clearing up this knotty problem.

English: Color mark from Crayola "Orange&...
Image via Wikipedia

The one question remaining is why I kept trying to log in with my WordPress account—aka beating my head against the wall—when the other possibilities were staring me in the face.

Never let it be said I lack perseverance.


Color mark from Crayola "Yellow" crayon.
Image via Wikipedia

Once more regarding the whingeing: I meant no disrespect to Blogger, just to whatever glitch has turned it against WordPress.

A couple of years ago, impressed with the Blogger templates I was seeing online, I set up my own account there. It didn’t take me long to discover that those attractive sites were attractive because their respective bloggers had made all the right choices when setting up their sites: blue here, red there, green along the border, ivory background…

Color mark from Crayola "Green" crayon.
Image via Wikipedia

It was like having a No. 64 box of Crayolas and no idea where to start. The pressure was too much. I scuttled back to WordPress.

Color mark from Crayola "Indigo" crayon.
Image via Wikipedia

Once in a while I drop in on Blogger, but just to play with the crayons.

Color mark from Crayola "Violet (purple)&...
Image via Wikipedia

To All My Blogger Friends

English: Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions
Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions--Image via Wikipedia--Note: DISGUST is in pink, right between BOREDOM and LOATHING

Dear Blogger Bloggers,

For the past several weeks I have tried repeatedly to comment on your posts, but Blogger has repeatedly refused to accept my comments. Word verification is the hang-up: the letters I type never match the letters I’m told to type, no matter how many times I type them. And proof them.

I’m finished with waiting for the problem to fix itself. I’ll report it to Blogger. In the meantime, I’m sending harmonious vibrations your way.

Disgustedly* yours,


*With Blogger, not with you.

Image by Machine Elf 1735 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

“I should wash him!”

“Well, then,” returned my aunt… “Now, here you see young David Copperfield, and the question I put to you is, what shall I do with him?”

“What shall you do with him?” said Mr. Dick, feebly, scratching his head. “Oh! Do with him?”

“Yes,” said my aunt, with a grave look, and her forefinger held up. “Come! I want some very sound advice.”

“Why, if I was you,” said Mr.Dick, considering, and looking vacantly at me, “I should—” The contemplation of me seemed to inspire him with a sudden idea, and he added, briskly, “I should wash him!”

“Janet,” said my aunt, turning round with a quiet triumph, which I did not then understand, “Mr. Dick sets us all right. Heat the bath!” ~ Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Bleak House where Dickens wrote David Copperfi...
Bleak House, Broadstairs, England, where Dickens wrote David Copperfield--Image via Wikipedia

During our (brief) study of Paradise Lost, a high school senior said, “Do you actually read this stuff when you’re home at night?”

Actually, and emphatically, No. I read Dickens.

Today marks Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday, and I’m determined to get my greeting in before I have to add the word belated. That means finishing this in 21 minutes, a daunting task when William is curled up in my lap, trying to control the touchpad and the space bar, and licking my hands. And deleting things. The deleting is bad, but the licking is worse. Ick.

Speak of the devil. He just deleted the paragraph above. I got it back.


When I was twelve, I checked out a copy of David Copperfield from the bookmobile and fell in love. Peggoty, Barkis, Aunt Betsey Trotwood, Mr. McCawber, Little Emily, Dora, Agnes, Uriah Heep, Mr. Dick, King Charles’ head, even the nasty little pug. I followed up with A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend, Dombey and Son…I haven’t read all his books, but I also haven’t given up the idea that someday I’ll be able to say I have.

Author and editor William Dean Howells said that Dickens wasn’t so much a novelist as a caricaturist, and paid homage to Dickens by creating in Annie Kilburn a wrong-headed character who is always trailed by his wife and a passel of children (a la Mr. McCawber) and who frequently speaks of his Growlery (a la Mr. Jarndyce of Bleak House).

I like Howells’ novels and think his comment about Dickens has its merits. But I couldn’t care less. Finding that Dickensian gentleman in Howells’ book delighted me. It was like finding an old friend.

Note that although I banged out twenty pages of lit. crit. on Annie Kilburn, I don’t remember that gentleman’s name. I never wrote a word about Dickens, except perhaps on an undergrad exam, but I can recite names from a string of his novels.

I’ve often thought that certain artists give such pleasure to so many, it’s a shame they have to leave. John Gielgud, Scott Joplin, George Gershwin, Lew Ayres, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Mark Twain, P. G. Wodehouse, Edith Wharton, Agatha Christie, Emily Dickinson, Victor Borge, Mary Cassatt…They’re keepers. They should be allowed to stay with us, acting, playing, reading, painting, composing, writing.

Charles Dickens is a keeper. But in his absence, books fill his place.

The clock tells me that once again my birthday card will be stamped belated.

But I don’t think the recipient will care.

Happy 200th birthday, Mr. Dickens, and many more.


Photo by Heron on 3rd October 2005. Released into the public domain.

Guest Post: E. B. White

E. B. White
E. B. White--Image via Wikipedia

While I’m in the throes of doing laundry so I can be up in five hours with all the other chickens and get to the airport (and consent to another pat down because the X-ray machine says I have metal under my arm), E. B. White provides today’s post.

Mr. White responds to the ASPCA, which has accused him of “harboring” an unlicensed dog.

Thanks to Letters of Note for sending Mr. White’s missive into my e-mail in-box this morning. And thanks to the ASPCA for accusing Mr. White and thus eliciting this lovely piece of American literature.


If Mr. White’s letter pleases, proceed to Mark Twain’s letters to the Hartford Gas Company. One of the letters is quite brief and appears in an editor’s note just below Mr. Twain’s signature (S. L. Clemens).



To all who have visited and commented while I’ve been otherwise occupied, many thanks. No matter what it looks like, you are not being ignored.


Image of E. B. White Cornell University senior photograph. Uploaded by w:user:cornell2010. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons