Monday, December 29, 2014

Do You Love Stories?

December 29, 1965
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky for the last time in 1965. In a couple of days I'll have to start trying to remember to put 1966 on all my papers. I can hardly believe it's almost a new year. I'll be 15 next year. 15! That's a while away since my birthday isn't for months and months, but still, 15. That sounds so much better than 14, don't you think?

Christmas was last week. I love Christmas. I told you that last week. And guess what I got under the tree? Books! I love books. And a new ink pen. I loved that too. Now if I could just get a new typewriter, but Dad says I'll have to just keep using the one I have. That I don't need one that plugs in. I can hit the typewriter keys. It'll be good for my finger muscles. Zella says, yes, indeed, if anybody gets a new typewriter, it will be her! 

But I'm the one writing a book. Of course, Zella is the one working for Dad at the paper. And my book is just for fun. So I guess I'll be happy with the typewriter I have.

See those book covers up top. That's my story. Not the one I'm writing, but the one I lived. It's free right now if you've got some kind of modern something or other that lets you download, whatever that means. I feel like somebody is visiting me from the future. ( But I've been told it might not be free after a few days, so if you want to read about what happened to me last year, this is a really good chance. 

By the way, which front of the book do you like best? You can probably guess the one I like best. Right. The one I got to be on. Same book. Different front. 

Gee, I can't wait to have a book published with my name on it too. That would be even better than my picture on it. I'll have to think up a good cover for Bailey's Bug. I guess it's time to see what they're up to. Last time, they'd just crossed the road and were heading into the dark beyond. 

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
   (Continued from a couple of weeks ago. See the whole story under the Bailey's Bug link up top.)

   Once Bailey was away from the road, the dark stopped being so black. He didn't have any trouble picking his way through the trees. He hurried up in front of Lucinda to lead the way. After all, it was his hum that was telling which way to go. Even so, it was nice having Lucinda and Skelley close behind him.
   "Hoo. Hoo."
   Bailey stopped in his tracks and Lucinda and Skelley caught up with him. 
   "What's that?" Skelley lifted his head and cocked up one of his ears.
   "An owl," Lucinda said.
   "Are they very big?" Bailey couldn't imagine what sort of animal might go with that noise. "They sound like they could be very big."
   "Big enough." Lucinda peered up toward the tree tops.
   Bailey heard the owl again. The sound made him shiver. "What do they eat?"
  "Mice." Lucinda kept walking. "Maybe even cats if they could catch one which they couldn't. Never a dog as big as you so stop walking on my tail." Lucinda jumped to the side to keep Bailey from stumbling over her. "What would eat a dog?"
   "My master used to warm me that lions and tigers would." Skelley spoke up. "Boa constrictors too."
   "Boa constrictors?" Bailey's voice came out in a squeak. He had no idea what boa constrictors were, but they sounded scary.
   "Snakes big as tree trunks." Skelley lowered his voice as though one of the snakes might be listening from up in the trees. "They swallow whatever they eat without chewing and squeeze it to death inside them. Awful things, they are."
   A bush rattled and Bailey almost jumped out of his skin. He looked around. "Are they here in the dark?"
   "Oh no, they live in zoos," Skelley said. "Nothing out here but owls and such. Right, Miss Lucinda?"
   The cat muttered under her breath. Skelley, not knowing Lucinda as well as Bailey did, took that as encouragement to keep talking. 
   "Owls and mice and raccoon and skunks," he said. "I crossed paths with a skunk once. Looked a bit like a black and white cat, but begging your pardon, Miss Lucinda, it had a horrible odor. Worse than anything ye can imagine and he turned tail and squirted his nasty stink all over me. Me master dunked me in tomato juice before he'd let me back in his tent. A nasty business, it was."
   Bailey stared around him. The moon had come up to make shadows that shifted and swayed under the trees. Horrible things could be hiding out there in the night.
   Owls that hooted. Skunks that stunk. Raccoon. Bailey was afraid to ask what raccoon did, but whatever they did, he wanted to wait until the sun came up to face them.
   "I think we better rest here until morning. It might be better to cross rivers of cars at night, but we need light here in the woods."
   Lucinda was more than ready to stop. She jumped up on a fallen tree trunk and curled into a ball in a spot of moonlight. Skelley and Bailey scratched out a hole beside the log and snuggled down together. 
   Bailey had no more than closed his eyes when howls brought him to his feet. "What's that? Dogs?"
   "No dog that I've ever heard." Skelley was on his feet beside him.
   The hair on Bailey's spine inched up as the yips and yowls went on.
   Even Lucinda was on her feet, her tail straight up. "Coyotes." 
   She sounded really scared for the first time since they left the Robinsons' house.
   That scared Bailey more than the howling. "What are coyotes?"
   "Something like dogs." Lucinda stretched her head up to listen. "Only wild and smart. My mother warned me about coyotes. Told me to get right up in a tree or the top of the barn if I ever saw one."
   All at once, as if on cue, the howling completely stopped, and the night around them went silent. It was almost as if everything in the woods was holding its breath to listen the same as Lucinda was listening. 
   "Don't worry, Miss Lucinda." Skelley edged over to stand in front of her. "We won't let the varmints get close to you."
   "That's gallant of you, but I think it will be safer for all of us if I do what my mother said and climb a tree."
   She was on the bottom limbs of the nearest tree before all the words were out of her mouth. As she climbed higher, there was a crash of wings. A bird that seemed almost as big as the bulldozer monster had that morning, swooped down out of the tree. It fixed its great shining saucer eyes on Bailey and dived straight at him.
(To be continued)


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My Hollyhill Christmas

December 22, 1965

   Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky at Christmastime or almost Christmas, anyway. I am so excited. Are you? I love Christmas. 
  What do I love about Christmas in Hollyhill? I like the red and green lights the county workers string up on the street light posts. I like the pine tree in front of the courthouse with a star on top and lights draped around it. I love the Christmas parade with the sirens and at the end, Santa waving from the firetruck. I used to sit on Santa's lap and wish for things Santa could never get in his sack. Like my mother and Tabitha coming back. 
    But then Dad told me that wasn't the kind of thing to think about Santa doing. That it was the Lord I needed to be talking to. I'm so glad the Lord is there to talk to any time and that I can just look up and ask him about things anytime. That's another thing I like about Christmas - that it was when Jesus was born. I like singing the carols at church even though we squeak a little on those high notes. I like seeing the Christmas pageant with the angels in tinsel halos. I liked being one of them when I was a little kid. Now I get to watch and take pictures. 
    I like that about Christmas too. Getting to take pictures. Film and flashbulbs are always on my Christmas list. I don't know which I want to be most - a photographer or a writer. Dad says I don't have to decide yet since I'm only fourteen. Good thing because I couldn't. Tabitha warns me that sometimes life pushes us down paths we don't expect to walk, like her here with little Stephen. But that's okay. I guess I was pushed down some of those paths before I was old enough to know about anything, but it turned out okay. Dad says the Lord had a lot to do with that. (You can read more about that in Scent of Lilacs - still a free download, whatever that means.)
   But back to Christmas. I like our cedar tree that we cut out on Miss Sally's farm and decorated with things we've had forever. Aunt Love has a bell that belonged to her mother. We put it up high so Stephen can't reach it. But I look at that bell and try to see back through the years to when Aunt Love was my age. That's hard to do. And then I think about someday somebody in my family, some kid sometime, might look at one of the ornaments I'm putting on the tree and wonder about how I was right now. I like wondering about things like that.
   Mostly I like how we all get together and give gifts to each other. Not because we have to but because we want to. Some of them homemade. Some of them from the store. All will be wrapped in love. Wes will give me a big chocolate candy bar and tell me a Jupiter story. Dad will get me a new notebook and pen and shoes and stuff. Leigh will get me a blouse that is way fancier than anything I ever wear. Tabitha will get me a book and books always make me happy. Aunt Love will give me a muffler she's knitted. It's okay that I have three already. She can't remember that she knitted them last year. 
    I love Christmas. I love that baby Jesus was born and brought joy to the world!
   Merry Christmas to all of you! Tell me what you like about Christmas. Now or when you were a kid like me.  
   (I didn't have time to write more about Bailey, Skelley and Lucinda this week, but they are heading out into the dark unknown on the far side of the road. I'll figure out what happens next and write it next week.)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Loving December and Christmas on the Way

December 15, 1965
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. About Christmas. Don't you just love December? Christmas comes in December and there is so much to love about Christmas. First no school for a couple of weeks. All right, that shouldn't have been first. Jesus being born should have been first. But He knows I'm ready for a break from school. All those tests and homework papers and teachers talk, talk, talking. I don't guess everything about school is bad. There are my friends. I like getting to talk to them. 

What else is fun about Christmas? Church programs and Sunday school times. See the card. Janie made this for me in Sunday school. Isn't it the sweetest card you ever saw? Janie is eight. So she's not in the Beginners class that where I help Miss Vangie keep all the little kids happy. Or at least sort of occupied and quiet. Thank goodness, Miss Vangie always brings vanilla wafers. Little kids love cookies. But Janie is in the Primary class. Miss Sally teaches that class. Janie does like to sit with me in church sometimes and so she made me this card. I like the presents under the tree, don't you? 

That's another thing that's fun about Christmas. Presents. I guess I shouldn't say that. People are always saying it's more blessed to give than receive, but I see that most everybody starts smiling when somebody hands them a present. But the giver is usually smiling too. And I do like getting presents for the people I love. I'll have to write Janie a little story about Christmas and give it to her. She'll like that.

Do you like getting presents or cards that people make especially for you? 

I'm writing this story especially for you. Maybe tonight we'll get Bailey across that road and into the dark beyond. Do you think he's going to be scared? 

Bailey's Bug by Jocie Brooke
   (Continued from last week. The whole story is under the Bailey's Bug title up top of the page.)

Chapter 9

   When Bailey said go, they raced across the first road to the middle. There they sat a while gathering courage to challenge the second road. Cars whooshed by on both sides of them and it was easy to imagine being stuck there on that narrow strip of grass forever. 
   Bailey stared toward where the lights always showed first on the road they still needed to cross. He could barely count to five from the time he saw the lights until they zoomed past. Would they be able to run fast enough? 
   "Well, are we going or not?" Lucinda demanded.
   "Going." Bailey stood up. No lights coming. "Now." He ran as fast as he could across the hard blacktop. Skelley passed him before he got to the other side. 
   Suddenly lights shone out and then a huge truck barreled down the road toward them. It blasted its horn when it caught them in its lights. The two dogs leaped into the ditch even though they were well off the road. 
   Lucinda stood her ground at the edge of the road and yowled at the truck. The sound was lost in the rush of its many wheels and the clatter of its trailer. She glared after it until the red lights on its back disappeared down the road.
   "Forget about him, Lucinda." Bailey jumped out of the ditch with Skelley behind him. "He didn't get us. We made it across."
   "Across." Lucinda looked back at the road. "Yes, we're across." She sounded very tired. "I guess we'll have to go on now." 
   Without another word, she marched straight toward the thickest dark under the trees.
   Bailey looked back at the road too. Back that way were lights and houses and people. Not Reid, but other people who might feed them. While on this side of the road, there was nothing but dark. What if the hum in his ear was wrong?
   He felt anything but sure as he followed Lucinda into the woods with his tail dragging the ground. All of the sudden, the road seemed easy compared to the spooky darkness under the trees. Even the big yellow bulldozer he'd fought that morning didn't seem so bad now when he thought about it. At least he could see it and know where it was. Anything could be hiding in the dark woods.
   Skelley didn't seem any more eager to enter the woods than Bailey. The baton rattled around in the old dog's mouth, and his bones gave a tremble under the hide stretched tight over them.
   "Just a bit of a chill," he said when he noted Bailey looking at him. "Me master used to say somebody had walked across his grave when he had a shake like this."
   Talking about graves didn't make Bailey feel a bit better. He laughed to hide his nervousness but it sounded shaky even to his ears.
   With eyes shining golden in the reflection of a passing car's lights, Lucinda glared at them from the edge of the woods. "Don't be scaredy dogs!" she said. "Nothing here but trees and bushes and a mouse or two."
   "How do you know?" Bailey caught up with her.
   "Cats can see better than dogs. Cats do everything better than dogs."
   With that, she turned and her black body blended in with the dark and practically disappeared.
   "We better be after her, lad," Skelley said. "We'd never forgive ourselves if any harm came to Miss Lucinda while we were back here dragging our feet."
   From the dark shadows ahead of them, they heard an exasperated meow. Bailey and Skelley scurried after her. 

(To be continued) 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Hollyhill Christmas Parade

December 8, 1965.

Jocie Brooke reporting from Main Street, Hollyhill, Kentucky. Well, I'm not actually standing on the street right this minute. I'm at home in my room, but a few minutes ago I was standing out there in the chilly air ready to cover the news. 

We don't usually do the parade at night, but Dad says the mayor is trying to shake things up a little. One thing for sure, the police car bubble lights look way more impressive in the dark. I took my camera to take pictures for the paper, and got some good ones while it was still daylight. You might see some of them in the Banner next week. But after dark, the flashbulbs weren't quite enough to capture great images. Still I liked this one of a couple of kids seeing Santa riding on the firetruck to finish up the parade. They looked like they knew it was a long way down here to Hollyhill from the North Pole. 

But I love parades. Well, most of the time. There was that one parade back last summer where some unwelcome guests crashed our 4th of July parade and brought Hollyhill some trouble. You can read about that in Orchard of Hope. But that was last year and this is now. Everything was peaceful for our Christmas parade. That's the way it should be. I mean, didn't the angels proclaim "peace, goodwill toward men!" when they told the shepherds about Jesus being born. 

I love Christmas stories too. Too bad I didn't have a Christmas scene in Bailey's Bug. But it's the middle of summer for them and Bailey, Lucinda and Skelley have to get across that great river of cars. Do you think they'll be brave enough to try to make it? I guess it wouldn't be much of a story if they aren't or if they don't make it. That would spoil everything, wouldn't it? 

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
   (Continued from last week)

   Bailey ignored the dark on the far side of the roads. Instead he watched the river of cars. There were two stretches of blacktop. On the side nearest them, the cars always came over a hill and down toward them. On the other side, the cars' lights seemed to appear from out of nowhere as they raced each other up the hill without slowing a bit. 
   They never changed directions. Never. Best of all, what looked like a narrow park with grass and bushes was smack in the middle of the two roads. They could hide out there for a while to gather courage to chase across the other road into the darkness beyond.
   Bailey stood up. "If we watch the top of that hill over there and wait until it's very dark with no lights coming, we can make it to the middle." Bailey pointed with his nose toward the hill. 
   "That we can, lad. Easy as jumping through hoops." Skelley flashed a grin, then picked up his baton to trot toward the road. 
   Lucinda stayed where she was, staring at the road and beyond. 
   "Are you too afraid to try it, Lucinda?" Bailey asked.
   "I'm not afraid of anything." Lucinda snarled at him. "I'm thinking."
   "It's good when you think." Bailey lowered his back haunches to the ground. "Let me know when you're through." 
   "Dogs!" Lucinda turned to glare at him. Her eyes glowed green in the lights of a car flying down the hill toward where they sat. After the car passed, she stood up, her tail straight up in the air. Then as if to convince herself to move toward the road, she said, "I suppose there will be sunshine in the morning wherever I am."
   "Indeed, Miss Lucinda," Skelley called to her over his shoulder. "They say there's worlds of sunshine in the country. For a truth, I've been many a place, but I've never been anywhere that didn't have its fair share of the sun's light." 

(To be continued. Do you think they'll get across the road? Read the whole story so far under the Bailey's Bug link up top of my report here.)

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Thankful Heart Except for Pumpkin Pie

December 1, 1965

Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. Thanksgiving was last Thursday. We had turkey and thank goodness, Aunt Love hasn't forgotten how to make dressing. Leigh made some kind of cranberry salad. I pretended to like it, but I would have rather just had the jelly roll of cranberry sauce from the can. Don't tell Leigh that! 
    Then Aunt Love said we had to have pumpkin pie. Don't ask me why. Maybe because everybody at church has a bumper crop of pumpkins and they are all giving them to Dad. I told Aunt Love that nobody expected us to actually EAT them. Just set them on the porch for decoration, but Aunt Love says she lived through the Depression years and believes in "waste not, want not." Sigh. 
    I guess I just should be glad the folks out at church have apples too. Aunt Love made an extra pie crust and let Tabitha and me peel apples to make a deep dish apple pie. Now that's a pie I can be thankful for.
    Dad preached on being thankful again on Sunday. He says a person should be thankful every day for his or her blessings and not just think he can throw up a thank you one day a year. He says a person should have a thankful heart all the time. He stopped preaching right in the middle of the sermon time and asked people out in the pews to say why they were thankful. Out loud. In church. Sort of surprised everybody, but Miss Sally stood up and said she was thankful for her church family and after that other people got over being shy and spoke up too. I even stood up and said I was thankful that my dog prayer and my sister prayer were answered. I figured everybody would laugh at that. Some of them did, but if you've read my story in Scent of Lilacs, you know what I mean.
    Even after we came home, I thought about reasons I should be thankful. Most of all, of course, is Dad. I don't know what I'd do without Dad. Then there's Wes and Tabitha and Stephen and Aunt Love, even if she is cross with me most of the time, and Leigh and Miss Sally and all the people at church. Well, most of them anyway. And my friends at school. Plus there's Zeb, my dog, and Cat at the office. Okay, maybe even Zella. Gee, I don't know about that. I'm pretty sure Zella isn't saying she's thankful for me! 
    What are your reasons for being thankful? 
    I guess I should say I'm thankful for my story about Bailey. It's fun to figure out a story and write it down.

BAILEY'S BUG by Jocie Brooke
   (Continued from last week. The whole story so far is under the Bailey's Bug tab up top.)

[Last week, Bailey just asked Lucinda if she wanted to go home without finding their boy.]

   Lucinda opened her left eye. "I said I'd go with you to find Reid. But I'm not joining up with any circus where I have to ride on your back and act like an idiot."
   "Skelley and I were just talking about the circus. I wasn't going to join one." Bailey tilted his head a little and added. "Unless Reid did. Do you think he might have joined a circus?"
   "Dogs." Lucinda groaned and turned her back to Bailey. "I don't know why I put up with them."
   "She'll feel better after she's rested a wee bit," Skelley whispered. "As will we all."
   Bailey settled down and tried to sleep, but either the bulldozer monster was rumbling toward him or he was tumbling through hoops with cheers echoing in his ears. Finally he put his paw over his head and blocked out everything but the hum. The hum and Reid. At last he dozed off.
   When Skelley nudged him awake, it was near dark. They nosed around the park and found a sack with some crusts of bread and a hot dog. 
   By the time they got to the big road, it was very late. Cars zoomed first one direction, then the other. Their lights made flashing trails in the dark. 
   Bailey felt a little shaky inside. "There's still a lot of them."
   "Aye, that there is." Skelley's head turned back and forth watching the cars. "For a truth, we'll have to pick our times and be mighty careful, but if we want to get to another state we have to go across this road." 
   "What's over there on the other side?" Bailey peered across the road. He couldn't see any lights past the cars.
   "Can't say for sure. Never actually been across this road before, but looks to be country, pure and simple. Nothing that looks like a town," Skelley said. "What about you, Miss Lucinda? You know about the far lands?"
   Lucinda stepped up beside them. "I like towns with nice houses and windows full of sunshine. Not country."
   "Country," Bailey said. "I met a dog once who was from the country. He was forever talking about how great it was to run in the fields chasing rabbits. He wasn't happy his people moved to the city."
   "I suppose country suits some well enough," Skelley said. "But there be no trashcans and but few houses. I've even heard tell of strange animals that don't take kindly to them who cross their paths."
   "I can't believe our people would live in that kind of place." Lucinda looked at Bailey. "Are you sure your bug is pointing you in the right direction?"
   All of the sudden, Bailey wavered. The land on the other side of the road was dark. He'd never seen dark like that. It was easy to imagine those strange animals lurking behind trees waiting to jump out at them with gnashing teeth. Something maybe worse than the lions and tigers Skelley knew in the circus. 
   Bailey's feet were sore and his neck hurt. He wanted a full bowl of crunchy dog food instead of bits of bread and nearly empty cans to lick. Over there in the dark country, there might not even be that to eat. His stomach growled and he sat down to think things through.
   Skelley sat down beside him. "Never a mistake to mull things over a bit. Me master used to say it wasn't any good rushing into things. That has to be especially true with that thing is crossing a river of cars."
   Lucinda made a noise of agreement as her tail twitched back and forth like the pendulum of a clock. Bailey figured she was thinking about the sun in the windows back at their old house.
   He sort of wished he was curled up on his bed there too as the cars swooshed past, their wind ruffling his ears. A great huge truck, bigger even than the bulldozer monster, lumbered over the hill. The ground shook under Bailey as it barreled past. He could never stop one of those.
   But even worse than the cars and trucks was the dark in the far country. Just thinking about what might be in that dark sent a shiver through Bailey.
   He stood up and gave a shake like he'd just had a bath. All of the sudden, the hum that he hadn't been able to hear while he thought about the dark began sounding in his ears louder than ever. His feet tingled and his heart bounced around inside his chest the way it did when Reid called him. He couldn't stop now. Even if he had to go into the dark far lands by himself. 
(To be continued.)