Local Authors on the Radio

A fun way to learn about North State writers is to tune in to North State Public Radio’s weekly radio program, Nancy’s Bookshelf. The host, Nancy Wiegman, has lived in Chico since 1990. She started broadcasting with Chico State University’s NPR station KCHO as a classical announcer that same year. She has hosted Nancy’s Bookshelf since 2007.

Every week, Nancy interviews local, regional, or national authors. Just this year, Nancy has interviewed three Writers Forum members:

Recent guests include a neurosurgeon on America’s health care system, a high school teacher on the Lassen Peak eruptions of 1914-15, and a Chico author with a collection of family recipes.

You can listen to Nancy’s Bookshelf on Friday mornings from 10:00 to 11:00 on North State Public Radio at 88.9 FM, or go to the website to listen to a podcast of past episodes. Just follow any of the links above.

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Who is Ethical Norm? by Sharon St. George

Welcome back to Member Monday. Today we feature a piece by Sharon St. George. Here’s a little more about Sharon.

Abridged_excerpt_from_Chapter_1_of_CHECKED_OUT 2Sharon Owen, writing as Sharon St. George, is the current program director of Writers Forum. She is also a member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. Visit Sharon at www.sharonstgeorge.com or on Facebook at Facebook.com/sharonstgeorge.

Who is Ethical Norm?

by Sharon St. George

Who is Ethical Norm?

Sorry, trick question. Ethical Norm is not the husky man from Cheers who sat at the corner of the
bar. Norm’s ethical boundaries might have been compromised by his appetite for beer, a
proclivity that, on more than one occasion, caused him to behave in an unethical manner.
Ethical norm is a term I first heard in a college fiction writing course. My professor assigned
Shirley Jackson’s short story, The Lottery, to be read by the class. During the discussion that
followed, the professor pointed out that the ethical norm of that community was an integral part
of the story setting. Without it, there would have been no story.
I recently refreshed my memory by searching out a definition of the term. I found that Webster
tells us norms are standards of proper or acceptable behavior; ethics are rules of behavior based
on ideas about what is morally good and bad. When these are combined, we have standards of
acceptable behavior, not necessarily mandated by law, but based on a particular society’s ideas of
what is morally good and bad. There is general agreement that as a society, we expect certain
behaviors from society at large, even when they do not fall under the purview of law.
Some of literature’s most memorable works have used the concept of a given society’s ethical
norm to startle readers’ minds into active thought about the behaviors they expect from
themselves and others who share not only their community, but their nation and their planet.
Another example, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, demonstrates what happens when a group
of young boys become castaways on a tropical island. Does their survival depend on establishing
an ethical norm different from what governed their behavior before they became shipwreck
survivors?
This important element of setting reaches beyond fiction. A 2016 Academy Award-winning
documentary short subject film titled A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness is a stunning
example of the concept of how one society’s ethical norm differs from others. Set in Pakistan, it
sheds light on the practice of honor killings, and involves a 19-year-old woman who survives an
honor killing attempt by her father and uncle for marrying the man she loves. It brings to light
the statistic that approximately a thousand Pakistani women are murdered each year by male
relatives for dishonoring their families. The film has already prompted Pakistan’s prime minister
to address the need for a stronger law against honor killings in his country. In her Oscar
acceptance speech, courageous woman filmmaker Obaid-Chinoy stressed the “power of film” to
bring about social change.
So when we consider the setting for our novel, short story, or work of nonfiction, we’re not
looking merely at the time and place, but we also consider the ethical norm of that setting. We
know that it will affect the main characters, it will affect the other characters in the story, and it
will affect the reader’s reaction to the work. It is inspiring to realize that writers who expose
unacceptable ethical norms can do more than entertain and inform, they can make a better world
possible.
  1. Breach CoverIn Breach of Ethics, Sharon St. George’s third novel in the Aimee Machado Mystery series, a troubled surgeon faces an ethical dilemma while operating on a ten-year-old girl. His efforts to save the life of the child prodigy pianist result in ominous consequences involving Aimee and her band of intrepid crime solvers.

    Breach of Ethics will be released by Camel Press on May 1, 2016. It is available now to preorder from Amazon and Barnes and Noble in paperback and eBook format.

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: Due for Discard by Sharon St. George

XG8D1047 web email 100dpiWelcome back to Member Monday.  Today we feature the work of Writers Forum member and Program Chair Sharon St. George.  Enjoy an excerpt from Sharon’s first book, Due for Discard.

Due for Discard (Chapter 9)

by Sharon St. George

Saturday morning I checked my disguise in the mirror. In my shortest skirt, highest heels, blue contact lenses and a blond wig left over from a grad school Halloween party, I was ready to visit the Natural History Museum where Bonnie Beardsley had flirted with her alleged stalker. Odds of running into him, if he existed, were astronomical, but I liked the museum and had nothing better to do.

After an elderly gentleman docent gave me an absurdly detailed lecture on the skeletal structure of turtles, I wandered over to the aquarium’s viewing wall to wait for a highly-touted visitor favorite: fish feeding time. The gathering crowd squeezed together for a better view of the fishy antics. Feeling slightly claustrophobic, I tried to step back, but whoever was behind me didn’t budge. Meanwhile the space in front of me had closed, and I couldn’t step forward. The body behind me wasn’t quite making contact with my backside, but I definitely felt my personal space being invaded. The mini-skirt that barely covered my behind wasn’t helping.

A low voice spoke near my right ear. “Awesome creatures, aren’t they?”

I responded with a barely perceptible nod of my head. This was creepier than I’d expected. What would I do if this was the stalker?

After a few minutes of watching various forms of marine life snatching and gobbling their breakfast, the crowd dispersed. I wondered if the man behind me would make a move. I didn’t have to wonder long.

He stepped alongside me, still watching the fish-viewing wall. I was surprised to see how harmless he looked. Probably in his late thirties, only a couple of inches taller than my five foot four, he was slender, clean-shaven, and handsome verging on pretty. His clothes were Eddie Bauer. His light brown hair was thick and well-cut. The term metrosexual came to mind. A straight guy, apparently, but with a flair for grooming and style. And not creepy in the least.

He turned to me. “Hi. Do you come to the museum often?”

“Once in a while,” I said.

“Do you live in the area?”

“Uh, huh.”

“I hope you won’t think I’m too forward,” he said, “but I haven’t met many people since I moved here. Could I buy you a cup of coffee? Pick your brain about things to do in Timbergate?”

The museum cafe was a short walk within plain sight of staff and visitors. I figured that was safe enough, so we headed for the coffee shop where we found a free table.

“I should introduce myself,” he said. “I’m Arnie Palmer. No relation to the golfer. I suck at sports.”

Holy crap. Of all the fish exhibits in all the natural history museums in the world, Arnie Palmer had walked into mine. He had to be the Arnie Palmer from Manton who popped up in my online search. And he was a guy, so he sure wasn’t Arnetta, but was he Bonnie’s stalker?

“And you are . . . ?” he said.

My mind raced in warp speed as I tried to invent a name for myself. What came out was really stupid.

“Ingrid.”

“Ingrid . . . ?”

Damn, I needed a last name. A lock of hair from my wig tickled my cheek.

“Wiggins,” I said, feeling a little faint. “Ingrid Wiggins.” A waitress came by to take our orders. I asked for coffee and apple pie. Arnie ordered green tea and pecan pie.

“Lots of apples where I live,” Arnie said.

“Oh?” I played dumb.

“Manton. Thirty minutes east of here. Up in the pines. Do you know it?”

“I’ve heard of it.”

“Not much to do there, but it’s cooler than Timbergate, and the rent’s reasonable.”

I took a tiny bite of pie and washed it down with coffee. I was torn between the need to know more about this guy and a yearning to get the hell out of there, but there was one question I had to ask.

“We have a newscaster here named Palmer. Are you related?”

“No.” He shrugged. “I get that a lot, though. It’s a very common name.”

True. I’d discovered that during all those people searches.

I glanced at my watch. “You asked about things to do in Timbergate. I have a couple of suggestions, then I have to be going.”

“So soon?” His obvious disappointment was flattering, and just short of pathetic.

“We have community theatre, a concert series, a convention center, art exhibits, a sports arena, but you said you suck at sports, so I guess that’s out.” I took a breath, trying to slow my rapid-fire delivery. “Anyway, you can get more information at the Visitors Bureau. When you leave the museum parking lot, make a right at the intersection. It’s just down the street.”

“Any singles bars in town?”

“Probably, but I don’t do the bar scene, so I’m not a good person to ask.” Considering my mini-skirt and four-inch heels, he probably found that hard to believe. “It’s been nice meeting you, Arnie, but I really have to go.” I stood. “I’m meeting my boyfriend for lunch at the gun club. He teaches marksmanship there.”

“No problem. In fact, I’d like to meet your boyfriend. I just bought a gun and I could use some pointers. Can I get your phone number? I’d like to follow up on this.”

Mr. Harmless just bought a gun? Great. “I just moved,” I said. “I don’t have a new phone number yet.”

“No cell phone?”

“Sorry.”

He looked disappointed, then brightened. “What’s your boyfriend’s name? I can call the gun club and ask for him.”

Would this never end? “He doesn’t like me giving out his name. He’s a little paranoid. Besides, anyone at the gun club could help you.”

I walked out of the coffee shop, pinched toes screaming in pain, stomach growling protest at the apple pie I’d left behind.

What a fiasco. Ingrid Wiggins with a paranoid, gun-totin’ boyfriend. Not the alter ego I’d have imagined for myself. Worse, I had no hard evidence that Arnie Palmer was the museum stalker. And yet, there was the bizarre coincidence of his name. I sensed there was something connecting Arnie to Bonnie Beardsley, but short of seeing him again, I had no idea how to figure out what it was.

 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!

Success Story Saturday: Sharon St. George Signs Three-book Contract

Writers Forum member Sharon St. George recently signed a three-book contract with Camel Press, the fiction imprint of Coffeetown Press in Seattle, Washington. St. George’s hospital-based mystery series is titled The Machado Mysteries, and features Aimee Machado, a forensic librarian who works in an acute care hospital in rural northern California. Her brother, Harry, plays a part in helping Aimee solve these amateur sleuth mysteries.

The debut book in the series, Due for Discard is already in the publisher’s hands. The deadline for her second book, Checked Out, is May 1, and the third, Breach of Ethics, is a work in progress due  August 1. They will be published as print on demand (POD) paperbacks and as e-books. At this early stage, the date has not been set for when the books will be available to purchase.

St. George is proud and happy to be published by the same company that publishes Steve Callan, another Writers Forum member. Callan’s nonfiction book, Badges, Bears and Eagles, published by Coffeetown Press, is enjoying great success.

For those who do not recognize the author’s name, Sharon St. George is the pen name of Sharon Owen, Program Director of Writers Forum.

Visit Sharon St. George at www.sharonstgeorge.com

Success Story Saturday: Ken Levens

Welcome back to Success Story Saturday.  As often as possible, we’re featuring Writers Forum members who have been published, won writing contests, or have otherwise found recent success as writers.  

Today we celebrate playwright and Writers Forum member Ken Levens for his recent play As You Wish, starring Writers Forum Treasurer, Jennifer Levens.  Writers Forum Program Chair, Sharon Owen, and Writers Forum Membership and Hospitality Chair, Jennifer Higley, are here with all the details.

Shakespeare’s Wife Sets the Record Straight in As You Wish

 by Sharon Owen and Jennifer Higley

Riverfront Playhouse was recently the scene of a laugh-a-minute production of As You Wish, starring Jennifer Levens and Chad MacFarlane.  The two-act, two-character play was written and directed by Ken Levens and ran as a fundraiser during the January 10-12 weekend.

In the production, Levens portrays Shakespeare’s wife,  Anne Hathaway, sent forward in time to set the record straight about her marriage. MacFarlane is a contemporary young American man who fancies himself an expert on Shakespeare. He is simply referred to as American Guy.

Sparks ignite quickly when Mrs. S and American Guy meet and begin a dialogue about The Bard.  The play is a delicious repast of clever one-liners, salted with literary allusions and peppered with zinging puns.

Mrs. S confuses her anagrams, referring to Americans who go “driving around in gas-guzzling STDs.” She berates Walt Whitman, saying his work is “just one long run-on sentence,” and attacks opera, calling it “Italian for death by music.” And the female half of the audience was partial to her quip, “If the world were a logical place, men would ride side-saddle.”

A good quote to describe Mrs. S in a nutshell is, “I don’t cause commotions; I am one!”

The American Guy has his share of keepers, too. Such as, “All you need to know about love is that women are crazy, and men are stupid.” And he refers to Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a play in which actors portraying Latin-speaking Romans, actually spoke their lines in perfect renaissance English.

Other quotable quotes:

“Love is not like Bingo–you can win at Bingo.”

“King Lear is a warning about not growing old before growing wise.”

Some of the literature, entertainment, and modern issues discussed by Mrs. S and the American Guy were:  Monty Python, Doctor Seuss, Tolstoy’s War and Peace, the bees vanishing, GMO’s, fracking, and Lemony Snicket. Other references included Swift’s A Modest Proposal and the classic movie, Soylent Green.

Mrs. Shakespeare’s period costume was beautifully rendered, with décolletage that left little to the imagination where her ample bosom was concerned. By contrast, American Guy’s casual surfer dude costume looked just right for his character. The actors both projected their voices at ideal volume, neither too loud nor difficult to hear at any point in two hours of speaking.

Altogether, As You Wish  proves that playwright Ken Levens knows his literature, from its birth up to the present day, and knows how to serve it up with humor and wisdom.

Writers Forum members, we want to celebrate with you so please send your success stories to writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.  

Best of Member Monday 2012 #4

The Webmaster is off to Uganda; great time to re-run past Member Mondays based on fan comments.

Maudie’s Chickens
by Sharon Owen

Maudie was five years old when Papa put her in charge of the chickens. The first thing he taught her was how to feed them.

“Don’t use but half a can of grain. And scatter it around so they all get a chance at it.”  He dipped into the grain can, cupped a handful, and tossed it lightly out into the chicken yard. “Here chickee, chickee,” he clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “Here chickee, chickee.”  He scattered another handful. “That’s the way it’s done girl, now you try it.”

Maudie hugged the can against her chest with one arm while she tried to scoop out the grain the way he had shown her. Most of it fell to the ground at her feet, but Papa just said, “That’s it, girl. From now on, these chickens are depending on you.”

Next he taught her to change the straw in the nests where the hens laid their eggs. She quickly learned to arrange each nest with just enough straw to cushion the rough boards.

Her favorite chore was checking on the baby chicks. She peeked at them every day, opening the roof of the brood box just enough to reach in and touch the downy yellow babies. Sometimes she took one out and cradled it for a moment, marveling at the soft, weightless life she held in her hands.

Papa’s chicken house was divided into two sections. One side for the layers and the other for the fryers. When Maudie’s chicks were grown, Papa put some in each section. She fed and watered all the chickens, and she gathered the eggs from the layers’ side every day. Maudie wanted her chickens to be happy, because Papa said when they were happy they laid eggs with double yolks.

Every time Mama broke an egg with a double yolk Papa said, “Give it to  Maudie. She takes good care of her chickens.”

One Sunday after church Mama said, “I could use a fryer, Roy.”

Papa said,  “Come along, Maudie, let’s tend to it.” They walked together down the path to the chicken house. “Go on inside and bring me one of the fryers, girl.”

Maudie went inside. “Here chickee, chickee,” she crooned. One of her brood came toward her, jerking its neck, turning to fix a curious yellow eye on her. Was it time for grain, or had she come as she often did with special table scraps?  Maudie picked up the young hen and took her outside to where Papa was waiting.

“Stand back,” he said.

Maudie stepped backward and watched while Papa took the hen’s clawed yellow feet into one of his giant brown hands. He flopped the chicken down so that her head lay across a block of wood, and with one swift, sure stroke he brought a hatchet down across the bird’s neck. The head dropped to the ground, and Papa let go of the feet. The bird’s wings flapped, and it ran headless across the yard, showering the vegetable garden with dark red drops of blood, careening wildly until it finally crashed against the trunk of a plum tree, where it lay still at last.

“Go fetch that fryer, girl, grab it by the feet and take it to Mama. Hold it away from you, head down, so you don’t get blood on your clothes.”

Maudie’s eyes streamed with tears and she felt a choking lump in her throat, but she obeyed Papa. She had never disobeyed him. She had never even considered it. Mama had a large vat of boiling hot water in one of the deep cement sinks in the laundry porch. She took the bird from Maudie, held it by the feet and dipped it into the water. “We’ll just scald this fryer for a minute, Maudie, then the feathers will come right out.”  She pulled the bird up, dripping and steaming, it’s severed neck exposed. “See this?”  She grabbed a handful of its feathers. “See how easy it is?  The feathers practically fall right out of a scalded bird.”  She reached out and took Maudie’s arm. “Come here, Honey, take a handful.”  Maudie gripped some of the wet feathers and pulled. They came out easily, leaving a ragged circle of exposed white flesh.

“There,” Mama said, “see how easy that was?”

Maudie’s hand was smothered in damp, clinging feathers. She tried to brush them off, but they stuck to the fingers of her other hand. Mama watched her and laughed. “You’ve gotta rinse your hands with water, Maudie, you’ll never get ’em off that way.”

That night Maudie picked at her mashed potatoes while Mama and Papa talked over their day, laughing and passing the fried chicken back and forth across the table.

Maudie didn’t eat the next day. For a week she didn’t eat or talk or go near the chicken house. Finally Papa said he guessed they couldn’t keep chickens if Maudie wouldn’t take care of them.

“I’ll just have to butcher the lot of them, Mama. I’ll tend to it tomorrow.”

After her parents went to sleep that night Maudie sneaked out of the house and went to the tool shed. The hatchet lay on Papa’s work bench, still stained with blood. Barefoot, she walked the moonlit path that led past the chicken house to the pasture gate. She held the hatchet in one hand, and dragged Papa’s shovel in the other. Stepping cautiously to avoid goat-head vines and fat summer toads, she made her way to the farthest corner of the pasture where she bent to her work. The field had been irrigated that day, leaving the ground muddy and soft, but the shovel was so big she had trouble getting leverage. Finally she gave up and fell to her knees, digging at the damp earth with her hands. If she made the hole deep enough Papa would never find the hatchet. Thistles tore at her fingers, but she kept digging deeper and deeper.

“Girl, what are you doing out here?”

Maudie jumped at the sound of Papa’s voice, twisting her body around, trying to hide the hatchet from his view, but it was too late.

“Is that my hatchet, girl?”

“Yes Papa.”  She bent her head in shame.

“What are you doing with it?”

“Burying it.”

“Why?”

“You killed my chicken.”

“But girl, didn’t you know we were going to eat the fryers?”

“No.”  She raised her chin and faced her father in the moonlight. “You said I should take good care of them. You said they were my chickens.”

Papa hunkered down next to Maudie and took her bleeding fingers into his hands. He turned them over and touched the raw, dirt-filled blisters on her palms. Then he picked up the shovel and stood above her .

“You dug a pretty good hole here, girl, but it’s not quite deep enough.”  He anchored the tip of the shovel in the shallow cup she had made and brought his boot down hard on its heel.

He lifted the spadeful of dirt and set it aside. “There, that’s about the right size for a hatchet.”  Maudie looked up at her father, but a cloud had covered the moon and in that moment he was a faceless giant towering over her in the darkness.

“Well go on, girl,” he said, “drop it in there.”

She picked up the hatchet and dropped it into the hole they had dug.

“Those chickens of yours are all layers now, girl. That means you’re gonna have to work twice as hard collecting all those eggs.”

The cloud drifted past and Maudie saw her father plain as day. “I will, Papa, I don’t mind.”

Papa knelt down beside Maudie, and together in the moonlight they packed the little grave with soft, damp clods of earth.

Member Monday: Maudie’s Chickens by Sharon Owen

Welcome back to Member Monday!  It’s a pleasure to share a piece from Writers Forum Program Chair Sharon Owen.

Maudie’s Chickens

Maudie was five years old when Papa put her in charge of the chickens. The first thing he taught her was how to feed them.

“Don’t use but half a can of grain. And scatter it around so they all get a chance at it.”  He dipped into the grain can, cupped a handful, and tossed it lightly out into the chicken yard. “Here chickee, chickee,” he clucked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “Here chickee, chickee.”  He scattered another handful. “That’s the way it’s done girl, now you try it.”

Maudie hugged the can against her chest with one arm while she tried to scoop out the grain the way he had shown her. Most of it fell to the ground at her feet, but Papa just said, “That’s it, girl. From now on, these chickens are depending on you.”

Next he taught her to change the straw in the nests where the hens laid their eggs. She quickly learned to arrange each nest with just enough straw to cushion the rough boards.

Her favorite chore was checking on the baby chicks. She peeked at them every day, opening the roof of the brood box just enough to reach in and touch the downy yellow babies. Sometimes she took one out and cradled it for a moment, marveling at the soft, weightless life she held in her hands.

Papa’s chicken house was divided into two sections. One side for the layers and the other for the fryers. When Maudie’s chicks were grown, Papa put some in each section. She fed and watered all the chickens, and she gathered the eggs from the layers’ side every day. Maudie wanted her chickens to be happy, because Papa said when they were happy they laid eggs with double yolks.

Every time Mama broke an egg with a double yolk Papa said, “Give it to  Maudie. She takes good care of her chickens.”

One Sunday after church Mama said, “I could use a fryer, Roy.”

Papa said,  “Come along, Maudie, let’s tend to it.” They walked together down the path to the chicken house. “Go on inside and bring me one of the fryers, girl.”

Maudie went inside. “Here chickee, chickee,” she crooned. One of her brood came toward her, jerking its neck, turning to fix a curious yellow eye on her. Was it time for grain, or had she come as she often did with special table scraps?  Maudie picked up the young hen and took her outside to where Papa was waiting.

“Stand back,” he said.

Maudie stepped backward and watched while Papa took the hen’s clawed yellow feet into one of his giant brown hands. He flopped the chicken down so that her head lay across a block of wood, and with one swift, sure stroke he brought a hatchet down across the bird’s neck. The head dropped to the ground, and Papa let go of the feet. The bird’s wings flapped, and it ran headless across the yard, showering the vegetable garden with dark red drops of blood, careening wildly until it finally crashed against the trunk of a plum tree, where it lay still at last.

“Go fetch that fryer, girl, grab it by the feet and take it to Mama. Hold it away from you, head down, so you don’t get blood on your clothes.”

Maudie’s eyes streamed with tears and she felt a choking lump in her throat, but she obeyed Papa. She had never disobeyed him. She had never even considered it. Mama had a large vat of boiling hot water in one of the deep cement sinks in the laundry porch. She took the bird from Maudie, held it by the feet and dipped it into the water. “We’ll just scald this fryer for a minute, Maudie, then the feathers will come right out.”  She pulled the bird up, dripping and steaming, it’s severed neck exposed. “See this?”  She grabbed a handful of its feathers. “See how easy it is?  The feathers practically fall right out of a scalded bird.”  She reached out and took Maudie’s arm. “Come here, Honey, take a handful.”  Maudie gripped some of the wet feathers and pulled. They came out easily, leaving a ragged circle of exposed white flesh.

“There,” Mama said, “see how easy that was?”

Maudie’s hand was smothered in damp, clinging feathers. She tried to brush them off, but they stuck to the fingers of her other hand. Mama watched her and laughed. “You’ve gotta rinse your hands with water, Maudie, you’ll never get ’em off that way.”

That night Maudie picked at her mashed potatoes while Mama and Papa talked over their day, laughing and passing the fried chicken back and forth across the table.

Maudie didn’t eat the next day. For a week she didn’t eat or talk or go near the chicken house. Finally Papa said he guessed they couldn’t keep chickens if Maudie wouldn’t take care of them.

“I’ll just have to butcher the lot of them, Mama. I’ll tend to it tomorrow.”

After her parents went to sleep that night Maudie sneaked out of the house and went to the tool shed. The hatchet lay on Papa’s work bench, still stained with blood. Barefoot, she walked the moonlit path that led past the chicken house to the pasture gate. She held the hatchet in one hand, and dragged Papa’s shovel in the other. Stepping cautiously to avoid goat-head vines and fat summer toads, she made her way to the farthest corner of the pasture where she bent to her work. The field had been irrigated that day, leaving the ground muddy and soft, but the shovel was so big she had trouble getting leverage. Finally she gave up and fell to her knees, digging at the damp earth with her hands. If she made the hole deep enough Papa would never find the hatchet. Thistles tore at her fingers, but she kept digging deeper and deeper.

“Girl, what are you doing out here?”

Maudie jumped at the sound of Papa’s voice, twisting her body around, trying to hide the hatchet from his view, but it was too late.

“Is that my hatchet, girl?”

“Yes Papa.”  She bent her head in shame.

“What are you doing with it?”

“Burying it.”

“Why?”

“You killed my chicken.”

“But girl, didn’t you know we were going to eat the fryers?”

“No.”  She raised her chin and faced her father in the moonlight. “You said I should take good care of them. You said they were my chickens.”

Papa hunkered down next to Maudie and took her bleeding fingers into his hands. He turned them over and touched the raw, dirt-filled blisters on her palms. Then he picked up the shovel and stood above her .

“You dug a pretty good hole here, girl, but it’s not quite deep enough.”  He anchored the tip of the shovel in the shallow cup she had made and brought his boot down hard on its heel.

He lifted the spadeful of dirt and set it aside. “There, that’s about the right size for a hatchet.”  Maudie looked up at her father, but a cloud had covered the moon and in that moment he was a faceless giant towering over her in the darkness.

“Well go on, girl,” he said, “drop it in there.”

She picked up the hatchet and dropped it into the hole they had dug.

“Those chickens of yours are all layers now, girl. That means you’re gonna have to work twice as hard collecting all those eggs.”

The cloud drifted past and Maudie saw her father plain as day. “I will, Papa, I don’t mind.”

Papa knelt down beside Maudie, and together in the moonlight they packed the little grave with soft, damp clods of earth.

A Note from the Webmaster: Writers Forum has the author’s permission to publish this work. The author retains full copyright ownership and protection. This work may not be reproduced or used in any way without the permission of the author.  If  you’re a member in good standing, please consider submitting a piece of your work to share.  Essays, poems, songs, articles and any other stand alone pieces are welcome.  To submit your piece, please e-mail it to webmaster, Alicia McCauley, at writersforumwebmaster@gmail.com.   Members featured here are guests in our Writers Forum house.  Treat them as such in the comments section and enjoy this beautiful thing we call writing.