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August, 2015


by Larry

Popular author James Patterson, on writing, says the first thing is just getting the story down. Others say much the same thing: we all have stories in us, but in order to write, you first need to simply...write! Polishing and editing are important but come later.

Suppose one has the proverbial writer's block and is sitting there, just staring at the empty page. What to do? Just write, we are told. Yes, but what!?

This, then, is an experiment in telling stories I might have within me, to see if it is really possible to merely start from scratch, mentally blank, and have anything worthwhile come of it. It is a good example because right at this moment I have no idea how this will turn out and in fact suspect the result may be silly nonsense. We'll see.



Our dog, Peri, wanted urgently to go outside late last night. She had been out only ten minutes before, but seemed to need to go already again. I opened the back door, and she dashed off into the dark on the east side of our large yard, into an area where I could no longer see her at all. Then I began to hear sounds of something out there scurrying about through the leaves and brush with Peri racing about nearby.

Peri in the backyard, April, 2007

I imagined raccoons, opossums, porcupines, for we had a young one of those in our back area once, or a cat. I thought Peri might be trying to chase or attack whatever it was and being in turn bitten or scratched, and I yelled loudly for her to come back. No response. There were more of the thrashing noises, more racing about in the leaves, and additional chasing sounds.

I grabbed the broom from our deck and went racing off into the darkness myself.

I still saw nothing, heard more commotion, called loudly for Peri again, but she did not return, and so I followed her into the blackness, broom in hand, wondering if I should go back for a flashlight, but was there time? Any second she might have an intimate encounter with a toothy creature and its claws?

Nature is never far away, even in the city.

She reappeared. I still do not know what she had been chasing. An opossum probably, for they are often met with out there, and they can quickly run or jump up the side of our privacy fence till barely out of reach of a frustrated, leaping Peri. They then run along the top of the wooden slat fence as easily as if it were a bright, wide path.

Once Peri found a guinea pig in our backyard. She did not hurt it, evidently, but licked it a lot, so it was quite moist when I had rescued it. Later I gave it to one of my nephews and was sorry to hear that it had died after a short while. We also had a flop-eared rabbit in the backyard for awhile. It must have gotten away from its original owner somehow and wound up on our lot. I gave it away to another nephew.

We have had snakes in our back forty too. They are neat to see there.

Once, during a drought, we had a big female duck fly in. We have ponds, and at that time had also been putting out water in ceramic containers for squirrels and smaller birds. The duck seemed really tired or traumatized and needing a rest. It stayed with us about three days before suddenly flying off over the neighbor houses.

Owls and hawks have been in our big live oaks, but not so much after the trees got oak wilt and are struggling just to survive.

We have had stray dogs back there, one a cocker spaniel that had a ripe smell, a dog I had collected, or really that had attached itself to me, on one of my walks.

We posted fliers and put an ad in the paper telling of having found her, but nobody called or came by, and we did not feel we could keep her, so we took her down to the city pound.

She was a cute, energetic little thing, and I feel sure she found a new family, folks happy to offer her a place in their hearts and home.


Hazel wore short shorts and a tank top and had freckles, a red ponytail, mischievous eyes, a dimple on her chin, full lips, and just a hint of smile lines around her mouth. She took another bite of dark chocolate and savored the taste, letting the smooth stickiness linger in her mouth. Sweat was beaded on her face, her look concentrated inward as her tongue explored the sweet flavors. Summer sun and heat caressed her tanned body. Fine downy hairs on her arms and legs caught the slight breezes.

The adjacent swimming hole was clear with deepening blues as she looked down, and here and there she saw a perch or bass swimming through. Snapping turtles were said to be in the stream, but she had not noticed one.

Hazel wished she had company here. She liked to swim and then sunbathe on a fluffy white towel and enjoy a melting chocolate bar when she was through, but would have been glad to share this time with a friend.

Soon enough she would have to go back to the house. Her mother was there and ill, maybe dying, probably dying, though she would not talk about it and tried to act as if nothing at all were wrong, that she was just more tired than usual and needed a little rest. Yet lately she had Hazel doing most of the cooking for the two of them.

There had been a slew of doctor visits and times then when her mother was nauseous, yet hardly any of that now. She was looking thinner. Her still lively eyes seemed set farther into her face, her skin a bit yellowed. When she did not notice Hazel looking at her, those eyes sometimes showed fear or sadness.

Hazel picked up her towel, walked up the road, and started getting their supper ready.

(Hmm. OK. Well, that was not terrible, but maybe I won't give up my day job.)

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