Member Monday: Too Many Graves by Larry Watters

Welcome back to Member Monday!  It’s a pleasure to feature our beloved Writers Forum President, Larry Watters.

Author’s Note: Larry has a thing for cemetaries, and sometimes lets his imagination fly. This is from a members read in 2010. Visit us at our next meeting on December 8 for our twice-a-year readings. See info on our calendar page.

Too Many Graves

by Larry Watters

Matt shook his head in frustration. The first time he counted he thought he had made a mistake. He just as easily could have signed off on the tally, but being a perfectionist, he just had to get it right.

But when the second go-around came up with the same number, he got concerned. “Boy,” he said aloud to himself, “there should only be eighty-one graves, not eighty-three.” Then he giggled at the thought of what someone would think if they overheard him; a mass murderer maybe.

Matt Wampler was the supervisor of the, some would say gruesome, job of relocating graves before water started covering them next month.  Matt had won the bid for relocating the old Brandy Creek Cemetery to higher ground before the waters behind the new dam started flooding what had been the old communities of Brandy and Bourbon, both so named from the freely flowing kegs of yore.

It was a mix of old and new graves. Some of the sites dated back to the Gold Rush days when the area was host to California’s second major gold find. It was said that gold was on the surface back then, needing no picks, or even shovels, to gather it up.

Others were fairly recent. While the soon-to-be-covered towns were technically ghost towns, the cemetery was still active, popular with descendants of the early pioneers.

But having two too many graves was unsettling. He had hired a crew of five to dig the new graves, dig-up the old and rebury the remains. He suspected that his crew had got a little over eager when digging fresh sites with the backhoe and had simply lost count. He had let them go; except for Paul. He briefly considered that he and his sole helper could uncover all to find the empties, and then decided that they didn’t really have to go to that extreme; that they only needed to poke a rod down to find the empty ones.

They didn’t really need to check all either; only the twenty-three that were unmarked. Well, now twenty-five. The rest had markers.

He rang Paul on his cell, and explained the mystery. Paul said he’d be there the next morning with a couple of long rods for probing.

Contented, Matt decided to call it a day and enjoy the beauty of the new location. Situated on a small rise above the dam, it overlooked the soon to be lake. Scrub pines and oaks with their raucous Scrub Jays filled most of the hill side. But in clearings a cavalcade of color ran riot. The native wildflowers were in bloom.

Sighing, Matt pulled his lunch from his backpack in the shade. He ate the same thing most every time when he was working at the site; cheddar cheese from a local creamery, salami from a local meat locker, and Ritz crackers. It was a meal that seemed made for graveyards. Well, not really. But it was one that he was used to.

He fondly remembered being with his dad on road trips, and how it was almost a rule to have that same snack on stops. Sometimes roadside, but most of the time dad detoured off and found an old cemetery. After wandering to see who found the oldest grave, they would sit on the tailgate of the pickup and chow down; Matt with his sodas and Dad with his beers. Matt had outgrown sodas, preferring water these days.

He wished his dad had outgrown beers, but alas, it never came to be. Hal had never been one to get drunk, but Matt could never remember when his dad didn’t have a beer can stuck between his legs while driving, sitting on a tree stump when they stopped, or perched on the tail gate eating.

Listening to the birds, Matt sliced his salami, cut his cheese, and piled each on crackers. Cracker by cracker, he polished off the tube. He had a sense of being watched. Maybe it was the squirrels expecting a hand out. He hoped so any way.

Not many people shared his love of eating with dead people. It was an oddity that he could not explain. But today was different.

He really had the feeling that more than squirrels were watching. It was a sense that had saved his life back in ‘Nam.

“To be continued sometime in the future. I promise”

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free.  Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links.  The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter.  Thank you!

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Member Monday: The Choice by Lindy Jones

Welcome back to Member Monday.  It’s a pleasure to feature new Writers Forum member Lindy Jones, but I’ll let her introduce herself.

Author’s Note: I’m a former Scrabble Champion of the Imperial Valley and the former assistant to the editor of the The Club Racing News, the Porsche Club of North America’s National Newsletter, 1999-2009.  I currently teach cello and piano lessons and am the yearbook adviser at Boulder Creek School.

The Choice

by Lindy Jones

“I just can’t take it anymore,” the gambler swore and threw his cards down onto the table, “my mind’s just not into the game tonight.”

“Trouble at home, Eddie?” a shadowy man asked.

“I just can’t concentrate on the cards.  I keep picturing what’s she’s doing while I’m here.”

“Having trouble with the wife?” another man asked, taking a long swig out of a dark bottle.

“I know that while I’m here she’s with him — taking a long bath, putting on the lingerie I bought her, revving up to spend the evening with him.”  Eddie slammed the table with his fist, causing piles of chips to topple.

“Who is he?”

“You know the type, crisp white shirts, upper-crust kind of bloke.  While she’s with him, I don’t have a chance.  What could she see in me,” he said, indicating his holey t-shirt and faded baseball cap, “When she can have Mr. Fancy-pants with her every time I’ve got to hit the road.”

“Sounds like you need to teach them a lesson.  Show them who the real man is.”

“Right,” Eddie said, stumbling to his feet, lifting his last bottle, taking one last mouthful of liquid bravery.  He gave his friends a parting salute, as they wished him luck.  As he opened the bar door, the rain hit his face, awakening his senses.  He mounted his motorcycle, revved the engine, and accelerated off in a scattering of gravel.

On the way home, Eddie stopped by his old apartment, still half-filled with his belongings, since their marriage the month before.  He unlocked the gun case and grabbed his handgun.  He hoped the confrontation with Mr. Fancy-pants wouldn’t lead to violence, but he wanted to be prepared, just in case.

As Eddie pulled into the empty driveway, he noticed the house’s windows were dark, except for flickering lights coming from their bedroom window.  Sitting on the porch swing, he removed his boots and wet hat.  He eased open the screen door, letting it shut quietly behind him,  grateful he’d greased it just the week before. Muffled sounds came from the bedroom, quiet classical music, murmured voices.  He bit his lips in mute rage, containing the desire to punch a hole in the wall.  He tiptoed down the hallway, gun held high in his steady hands.  He hugged the bedroom door, laying his ear against the wood and heard a man confess, “I love you.  I love you.  I love you.”  The gentleman’s baritone voice sounded refined, and it caused Eddie’s blood to boil, and a thousand murderous thoughts to flood his brain.

Eddie threw open the door.  He glimpsed a scented candle, the wick sputtering in a puddle of melted wax, a half-open box of chocolates, two wrappers thrown on the floor and his wife lounging on their bed in her favorite lace lingerie, her long hair scattered on her pillow.  Her lashes fluttered open, and when she caught sight of her husband, wet with rain and holding a gun, she bolted straight up in bed.

“Alex, you’ve got to decide, is it going to be him or me?” Eddie snarled as he pointed the gun at the Regency-era gentleman on the television screen.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free.  Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links.  The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter.  Thank you!

Member Monday: The Little Leaf That Wouldn’t Fall by Phil Scrima

Nonno (Phil Scrima) and Terra, his German Shephard

Welcome back to Member Monday.  Today we take a peek at Phil Scrima’s latest book The Little Leaf That Wouldn’t Fall.

This is a story about a Little Boy and a Little Leaf who grew up together. They go through the seasons of life and have a loving bond forever. It’s a story about life and death, and that life carries on.

“My Mom and Dad said that leaves can’t talk,” the Little Boy said to the Little Leaf. “How come you can talk to me?”

The leaf curled up, smiled, and then answered, “Anything is possible in a little boy’s or girl’s imagination. That’s what makes them special!”

PHIL (Nonno) SCRIMA lives in Redding, California with his wife Joanne; they have two sons, one daughter, nine grand children and one great-grandchild. Although Phil writes adult fiction, he decided to write some children’s stories for his grandchildren and other children who would like to fantasize in the wonderful world of imagination.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free.  Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links.  The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter.  Thank you!
 

Member Monday: An Excerpt of Highland High by Aaron Steinmetz

Welcome back to Member Monday.  This month we’re highlighting Writers Forum member authors who will be featured at the upcoming Authors Fair on November 10th at the Mt. Shasta Mall.  It’s a pleasure to welcome back my friend, the always entertaining Aaron Steinmetz.

I was back in the diner, a cup of coffee in front of me, a hamburger the size of his head trying to fit into Creak’s mouth. I glanced up at the clock over the counter: three in the morning.

“What if you just dropped the case?” Creak asked through half a mouth of hamburger. “Think you’d sleep then?”

“Dunno.” I sipped from my mediocre coffee. Mediocre coffee for a mediocre private eye.

“It’s up to you,” Creak said. “This insomnia of yours, it’s in your head.”

“See, I thought that too. Then I met him.”

“Who?”

I paused, then said, “Remember the Manchester job?”

“Yeah. No one got paid for that one.”

“The kid who got killed, what was his name?”

“Don’t remember. Why? Still blaming yourself for that?”

I didn’t say anything, glanced around the diner, then turned back to Creak. “I saw him. The kid. He appeared to me.”

“When?”

“The day after you left.”

“You were awake for over a week. You were hallucinating.”

“He spoke to me,” I continued. “Called himself Treasure, said my penance had begun. I know how this sounds. I’m starting to think there’s more out there. Ghosts and–”

“Did he say anything else?” Creak asked quickly.

“Yeah. Said I have to find Amaranthine. Whatever that is.”

Creak stared at me, his mouth open.

“What? You know what Amaranthine is?”

Dropping his half-finished hamburger, Creak slid out of the booth. “We need to go now.”

The little bastard was serious. He never leaves a good burger.

* * *

Outside, Creak was walking as fast as his little legs could move. I hustled, hollering, “Creak, my truck is–”

“It’s down the street, Sandy, hurry up!”

Didn’t know what he was talking about. The only thing left in Highland was a dumb little mystic shop.

“Look,” Creak said, “there are things about me you don’t know.”

“Does it have to do with Amaranthine?”

“Yes.”

“Do you know what Amaranthine is?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have it?”

“Amaranthine isn’t something you can have, it’s a place. And don’t ask, I can’t take you there.”

“Why not?”

We reached the front door to the mystic shop, combination house and shop. Creak pounded on the door. “Because they kicked me out.”

The lady of the house, an unkempt woman in her late fifties named Belle, was reluctant to let us inside until Creak won her favor with an unusual show of affection: one thousand dollars cash. “Quickly,” she said. “Even psychics need their sleep.”

I was surrounded by garish fabric draping, crystal balls, crystal skulls, crystal crystals and candles, candles, candles. None of them were lit. A bitterly realistic florescent light I guessed she didn’t normally turn on during business hours lit the room. Didn’t seem to matter to Creak. He found the woman’s stack of tarot cards on a small table. Creak said, “Sit.” I obeyed.

“You’re not shuffling the cards right,” Belle said.

Creak ignored her, thumbing through the deck, not seated at the table but still standing eye-to-eye. He flipped the first card. The justice card. It was a king seated on a thrown with scales in his left hand, a sword in his right.

Creak cursed, pounding the table.

“You’re not doing it right,” Belle said.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Creak looked at me, shook his head and flipped over the next card. Another justice card. “That.” He flipped over a third card. Another justice card.

Got Belle’s attention. “How did you do that? There’s only one justice in the deck.”

Creak’s scowl turned fowler with each card he turned: seven justice cards, all in a row. With the last, he flipped the table sending tarot cards flying, flittering down like snowflakes. He stormed outside, tarot cards lying on the floor, all showing the same king, the same scales, the same sword.

“You snuck in here,” Belle said, pointing at me. “You changed the deck!”

“Sorry…to bother you,” I said, turning to the door.

“He switched decks,” Belle muttered, slowly backing away from the room. “He had to have.”

* * *

I shut the door behind me. Creak was standing in the lawn mostly shrouded in darkness, his back to me. “I don’t know why Treasure appeared to you, but I do know one thing: if you go to Amaranthine, they will kill you.”

“How do you know?”

“They don’t take well to our kind.”

“What are we?”

Creak turned to look up at me. “Killers.” He turned away from me, started walking back to my truck.

***

Aaron Steinmetz is the ‘word-renowned’ author of Sleepy P.I. and Highland High, two quirky comedies about a private investigator who doesn’t sleep until he closes his case. He is currently working on a third book in the Sleepy P.I. series for National Novel Writing Month, so that’s why he’ll look stressed out at the Authors Fair.

Be sure to stop by Aaron’s table at the Author’s Fair on November 10th and pick up a copy of Highland High to find out what happens next.

A Note from the Webmaster: If you’re a Writers Forum member in good standing and would like to be featured on Member Monday, please send your submission to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  Submissions should be 75-750 words, appropriate for all ages and error free.  Please include a short bio, a headshot and any related links.  The author retains all rights and gives permission to Writers Forum to publish their submission on the website and/or in the newsletter.  Thank you!
 

A Message From the President: November, 2012

Greetings all.

As we are in the final days of getting our act together for the 8th Northern California Authors Fair on Saturday, November 10, at the Mt. Shasta Mall, I thought something light would be just what Doc ordered (and it doesn’t require much thinking on my part).

I had the opportunity to spend a weekend in Angels Camp, a rustic old mining town nestled in the Gold Rush area of the Sierra Nevada Foothills on State Highway 49. I was attending an assembly at Frogtown USA Fairgrounds. If this seems oddly familiar, but you can’t quite place it, think Mark Twain and his short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.”

The Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee is one of the longest running events in the State of California. Its earliest roots date back to 1893, held that year in Copperopolis; the fair eventually found a permanent home outside of Angels Camp.  In the spirit of the old movie classic “State Fair,” the Calaveras County Fair is a blend of entertainment, exhibits, livestock, arena events, great food and our signature event, the Frog Jump. This piece of Americana will have you “Leaping” to return year after year.

In 1933 the California Fish and Game Commission became involved in order to regulate and protect the welfare of the California bullfrog. In 1995 the Board of Directors of the 39th District Agricultural Association adopted the Frog Welfare Policy, underscoring the Fair’s commitment to treat the frogs in a humane manner. Professional Frog Teams travel from all over the state to compete. Past champions get to camp at our beautiful Frog Pond. If you are looking for some tips on how to jump, find one of our Frog Teams.  They are true professionals! The Jumping Frog Jubilee is held the 3rd weekend of every May.

The world record of 21’ 5” was set in 1986 by Rosie the Ribeter.

On the left is where the celebrated frogs cavort; right is the arena where frog roping and bucking frogs events are held. On the hills in the background is where the froggies graze, and out-of-frame to the left is the pond where VIP frogs hang out. Of historical note is the World Record is 21’5″.