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Words on Wednesday – #4 – The Land of Milk and Honey (a feline horror story) – Part One

This is the first episode of The Land of Milk and Honey, one of the many stories I wrote between the 1960s and 1980s. I believe this one was written around 1984. I had just bought my first personal computer, a Kaypro 2, which ran on CMS, the precursor to DOS. It had a 5-inch screen and two floppy disks. It is now a footrest under my desk but I can’t part with it.

Like most of my stories, this one needs some re-writing but that’s the reason I am posting them to my blog… I hate re-writing and editing and that’s what I would have to do in order to get them into publishable form. So it’s either post them here or they sit in a file box for another twenty years. 

All characters and events are entirely fictional

The Land of Milk and Honey (a feline horror story) – Part One – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins

The landing was much smoother this time. Just a short jolt then a series of small shudders. Roger could see the house a few hundred feet away. The sign was still up, the one that said, “Welcome to the Land of Milk and Honey.” He would have to take that down tomorrow. He didn’t want any billboards spoiling the view.

“We’re home,” he said to his wife and squeezed her plump hand. Carol smiled, and it seemed to Roger that the dark circles under her eyes were already fading.

“It will make a new woman out of you,” the doctor had told her. And the man from the agency had promised Roger that he would feel thirty years younger. And it seemed to be true. The balding, sixty-year-old man with the arthritic shoulder had been left millions of miles away on a planet called Earth.

And as the transport door opened and the steps were lowered, he had the uncontrollable urge to do something he hadn’t thought of doing since… well, he really couldn’t remember when.

“Race you to the house,” he laughed to his wife as he took off down the steps and sprinted across the grass to the signboard. He stopped, putting his hand to his mouth in sudden embarrassment. He looked around to see Carol being helped down the steps by the captain and walked towards her with his hands outstretched.

“Isn’t it adorable?” Carol smiled as she took Roger’s hand. “Our very own little yellow house. And look, they’ve planted flowers in the window boxes.”

The captain came up behind them. “It’ll take us several hours to unload everything and do some routine maintenance on the ship. Then we’ll leave you on your own.”

Roger turned to shake the captain’s hand. “Thanks for everything.”

“How does it feel to own your own planet,” asked the captain.

“A dream come true,” whispered Carol, still in awe of the whole situation. They had always planned on retiring to some out-of-the-way spot on some out-of-the-way planet but as the years went by that dream seemed to slip away as prices escalated and real estate became more scarce with over-crowding in the furthest reaches of the galaxy.

So they had resigned themselves to spending their retirement years on Earth, continuing to groan about the congestion and moan about the air pollution until they both went to early graves, stressed out and sick.

But one day Carol inadvertently started the chain of events that brought them to “The Land of Milk and Honey.” She was always receiving invitations from companies like “Publisher’s Videohouse” and “Great American Videozines” and “Reader’s Video Digest” to enter their sweepstakes.

She always clicked on delete without bothering to look into them. She didn’t have time to read magazines anyway, and she knew that if she didn’t subscribe to at least twenty six she stood no chance of winning. So this day, when she really wasn’t concentrating, she opened one of the emails. It was from a new one, “Universe Videozines,” and she was halfway through the brightly colored screens before she realized it was another sweepstakes announcement. She was just about to hit the delete key when her elbow brushed the coffee cup sitting next to her keyboard and in her attempt to save the coffee from spilling she accidentally hit enter instead.

Her husband was always on to her about having the holographic chip implanted over her ear so she wouldn’t have to manually type on a keyboard, but she was old fashioned, averse to jumping on to the latest technology bandwagon, and proud of it!

“Rats,” she muttered and clicked on the cancel button on the screen. But it was too late. She had become a contestant in the sweepstakes. For several months afterwards her mailbox had been cluttered with magazines which Carol had not been successful in canceling, despite at least a dozen attempts.

Then one Saturday morning, September 12th of last year to be precise, a “Highest Priority Message” had appeared in her inbox. It was from “Universe Videozines.” Carol tensed immediately, afraid she was being sued for non-payment of magazine subscriptions.

But it was not a demand letter at all. It was the announcement that she had won the sweepstakes, the only sweepstakes she had ever entered in her life. She was the owner of an entire planet called “The Land of Milk and Honey” located in some out-of-the way section of the galaxy.

As it turned out, it was the answer to their prayers. Carol and Roger were both coming up on retirement age and after much research had been unsuccessful in locating the perfect planet for their old age. They knew they didn’t want to retire on Earth. Earth was a planet for people of working age who needed the gray, noisy, glass and concrete cities in order to work in offices and factories.

They dreamed of trees and green hills, and streams with real fish that they both remembered from their distant childhoods. But as Earthlings had moved away from the overcrowding of their home planet, settling in the far reaches of the Milky Way, they had taken with them all the trappings of human civilization. Unsettled planets were scarce and the ones that were available—and inhabitable—were far too expensive for a middle class couple with modest pensions.

On their first visit to “The Land of Milk and Honey” they had fallen in love instantly.

“Truly a Garden of Eden,” Roger had declared.

“It’s paradise!” Carol had exclaimed.

Multi-colored birds sang in the trees, pink and white puffy clouds hung in the lavender sky, and the rivers flowed with a milk-like liquid as sweet as honey. They were reluctant to leave, and upon their return to Earth, realized how much more they disliked the hustle and bustle of big planet life. They couldn’t wait to return to the serenity of their new home.

And now they were back. For the rest of their lives they could live in peace and quiet. It was a hectic first day, but that was to be expected. The underground solar freezer was stocked with provisions. The furniture was arranged to Carol’s liking. The countless boxes of personal belongings were stacked around the house.

Finally the captain and crew of the transport ship shook hands with the Wests and left for Earth.

“Well, Mrs. West, that’s the last time we’ll see human beings for six months,” commented Roger. And good riddance too, he thought. “I wonder what it’ll be like with no neighbor’s barking dogs, no children shouting in the street, no traffic, no hordes of people everywhere we go. It’s too good to be true!”

He sat in his favorite armchair, the one he had insisted on bringing, despite the threadbare armrests.

“Yes, too good to be true,” repeated Carol. “Let’s leave the rest of the things unpacked until tomorrow and explore a bit. I want to see one of those milk rivers again.”

“I don’t see why not. But let’s have something to eat first.”

With peanut butter sandwiches filling their stomachs they climbed the rise behind the house holding hands. It was like being on a second honeymoon. They walked for half an hour without speaking, only turning to smile at each other and stopping to smell the aroma of the strange flowers.

Carol jumped the first time a yellow bird flew out of a tree and landed on her head, but then two blue birds landed on Roger and they laughed at each other’s feathered head adornments. The birds flew off and the Wests continued their walk. Occasionally they noticed mice sticking their noses out from under rocks to sniff at the giant intruders. Roger almost stepped on a couple of purple mice dozing in the grass.  

“Isn’t this splendid?” smiled Carol as they sat under a willow tree on the edge of a vanilla ice cream lake. “And I can’t get over how tame the wildlife is.” As if to emphasize her point, three blue speckled mice appeared about a yard from Carol and cocked their heads in appraisal of the strangers. “Look, Roger, they’re not afraid at all.”

“Why should they be? Obviously they don’t have any predators. And they’ve never seen humans before.”

“It really IS the Garden of Eden, isn’t it? Rivers flowing with milk, flowers dripping with nectar, and animals that are as tame as pets.”

“Yes, it’s wonderful.”

“More than wonderful,” sighed Carol dreamily.

“I think it’s time we walked back to the house,” said Roger, as a band of gleaming lilac clouds streaked the orange pastel sunset. “I wonder if those are rain clouds.”

Roger awoke at two o’clock in the morning to the sound of soft rain falling on the roof. He looked out the window and in the darkness the milk rain looked like silver ribbons suspended from heaven. The beauty of the planet had awoken the latent poet within him. The man from the agency had been so right. This was paradise. There was no question about it.

They were both up early the next morning and surprised themselves at how much breakfast they ate. Back home it had always been a cup of coffee and a glass of orange juice before they both rushed off to their jobs. Roger had been a claims adjuster for Northern Insurance Company. The last one on earth, as it turned out, for on his retirement he was replaced by a robot. And Carol had recently been asked to retire from All Cities Bank as the company no longer had any use for a human teller.

Roger had brought a pre-fabricated picket fence with him from Earth, not because the only house on the whole planet needed a fence, but because he had always wanted a white picket fence, and now he was going to have it. Fixing the fence up was most definitely his first project.

“Well, I think I’ll get everything straightened up inside the house,” Carol announced, so Roger went off to put up the fence by himself. He started to pound the posts into the ground, but realizing he didn’t have the right tools, went to the storage shed behind the house. On the paving all around the shed he noticed animal tracks. As all they had seen so far were mice and birds, he was curious. These prints obviously didn’t belong to either one. They were too big. Wolves maybe? No, they weren’t that big. And anyway, they had been assured that the wildlife on the planet was not dangerous… just small creatures like lizards and small rodents… all very tame.

He bent down to look at the prints more closely. No. How could it be? Cats! House cats! That was definitely it. He could recognize a cat paw print when he saw one. Why weren’t they warned about this? That was the reason he had fallen out with the Anderson’s, their cat-loving neighbor back on Earth. Every morning he had to clean the paw prints off his car. Not that he had anything against people owning pets, but they should at least have the decency to keep them locked up indoors. Especially cats. Always winding around your legs and leaving their fur all over you, he shuddered with the thought. And the racket they made at night. It was completely uncivilized.

Yet, there was something a little odd about these prints. Some of them were distinctly every day house cat paw prints. But some of them…

He went back to pounding in the picket fence. The soil was a grey color right around the house, rather sandy in texture. He was letting his imagination run away with him. But he remembered the cat litter box he had seen in his neighbor’s garage. Oh, don’t be ridiculous, he chided himself! Now he was being really silly.

At precisely twelve noon, Earth time (they were ecstatic to learn that their little planet revolved around its sun in the same time frame as their home planet as they could not have dealt with that kind of time change), he stopped work for lunch.     

Carol presented him with a tuna salad on a bed of multi-colored lettuces looking exactly how he liked it back on earth. The organic preservation techniques had apparently worked perfectly.

“My dear,” he said after swallowing the first bite of salad. “What would you say if I told you there were cats living around here?”

“Cats?” Carol almost choked on her lettuce. “You mean like mountain lions and panthers?”

“No, I mean like Fuzzy and Tinker and Snowball.” Those were the cats owned by their neighbors on Earth.

“Really? Just living wild like feral cats?”

“Well, I haven’t exactly seen any, just their tracks. At least they look like cat tracks although I can’t be 100% certain. It could be some other animal native to this planet. Sort of cat-like!”

“What do you mean by cat-like?”

“I don’t know. But doesn’t that seem odd to you?”

“I suppose if there are birds and mice there could be cats too.” Carol put down her fork and scraped her chair back. “I didn’t put enough pepper on the tuna. Do you want some?”

Roger ignored her question. “All the birds and mice we’ve seen are so tame. But if there are cats around waiting to pounce on them, don’t you think they’d be a little more wary?”

Carol sat back down, pepper mill in hand. “Maybe the cats on this planet are different from Earth cats. Perhaps they’re vegetarians.”

“Cats are cats. It makes no sense.” Roger wiped his mouth with Carol’s favorite napkins from Earth, the ones with the big yellow sunflowers and orange poppies. “In any case we were told there was no wildlife bigger than a small rabbit.” He had specifically asked about cats and was assured cats were not indigenous to the planet.

“Well, if I was a cat, this is definitely the kind of planet I would want to live on,” Carol chuckled. “Milky rivers and birds and mice all over the place. Why, it’s cat paradise, isn’t it?” Carol didn’t share her husband’s dislike of felines but she could certainly live without them.

Roger folded up his napkin, placed it neatly next to his plate and stood up.

“Did you like the salad, dear? You didn’t say anything. Was there enough tuna?”

But Roger was distracted. “I’ll be finishing up the fence if you need me.” Carol kissed him gently on the cheek as he opened the kitchen door. “Cats!” he muttered.

Roger didn’t mention the subject of felines to Carol the rest of the day. No need to upset her, or himself, any further. It was such a spectacular day and he wanted to enjoy it. But the thought remained in the back of his mind.

Stay tuned to this spot next week for part two!


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Magical Memories – #6 – Miami 2013

Palm trees before a storm is my favorite photo from a trip to Miami in April 2013. I had my DSLR for about 4 months and didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I was still using it in Automatic mode like a point & shoot camera and only shooting JPEGs, not in RAW. I didn’t know much about photo composition either, but as an artist and graphic designer I suppose it was innate. Nevertheless, looking at this photo today I can see if I had moved around a little I could have done a better job positioning the buildings. I had it printed on canvas and hung it in the bathroom where I still enjoy looking at it. 

You can view the original posts (4 of them) with more photos by starting here: https://onegoodlifetravels.wordpress.com/2013/10/31/miami-an-unexpected-love-affair-part-one/


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Fabulous Felines – #131 – formerly known as Feline Friday

Frankie says: not only is this a cozy box to hang out in but it also makes a wonderful scratching pad… especially at 2:00am when the sound ricochets around the house.

Frankie and Freddie had a conference when I was out of the house and informed me that they can no longer keep up with the schedule of Feline Friday. This was a huge relief to me and honestly, the only reason I didn’t change it myself was because I thought they were attached to the idea of Feline Friday. We unanimously decided to change the name to Fabulous Felines. 

This photo of Fitzbo (on the top shelf) and Foothill (on the bottom shelf) is a throwback to the late 1980s/early 1990s. Fitz was a girl and Foothill was a boy. They were devoted to each other.  

Freddie just wanted to drop in to remind us that Frankie isn’t the only one who does boxes.


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Monday Magical Memories – #5 – Visiting the Parthenon in Athens of the South 2014

When I visited Nashville, Tennessee in January (2014) the last thing I expected to be doing was walking up the steps of the Parthenon, temple of the Greek goddess Athena.

On a tour the day before the International Tour Management Institute symposium started, we had driven past Nashville’s replica of this iconic building in Centennial Park. I knew I had to come back on my own and investigate. So on the last day I skipped the seminars and farewell luncheon and trudged up to the park in the bitter cold. There was actually a heatwave that day… a high of 35 degrees F (1.66 degrees C)… twenty degrees warmer than the previous few days!

To see all my photos from this visit, please click here: https://onegoodlifetravels.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/visiting-the-parthenon-in-athens-of-the-south/


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Words on Wednesday – #3 – Uncle Theo – Part Three

This is the final episode of Uncle Theo so now I have to decide on another story that deserves to be exposed to the light.

As I have mentioned, Uncle Theo is one of the many stories I wrote between the 1960s and 1980s. I believe this one was written in the 1980s. I only wish I had dated them at the time but I didn’t. Fiction, and possibly science fiction/fantasy allows a tremendous freedom as anything is possible!

My hope is that once I have all or most of these dozens of stories out in the universe, I can write more stories from a different viewpoint three or more decades later.

Although many of my stories are written in the first person, all characters and events are entirely fictional

________________________________________________

Uncle Theo – Part Three – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins

There were a number of years between childhood and adulthood when I refuted all magic and miracles. I embraced reality and was busy studying the nervous systems of frogs and wrestling with algebra while dealing with the assassinations of world leaders and desperately trying to figure out how I could fit into a world I did not fit into. I discovered that the transition from child to adult was a difficult and serious business that I was not cut out for.

During my eighteenth year, when high school was over and university not yet begun, I rediscovered Ray Bradbury. His stories brought back memories of Uncle Theo and I believed in him for one more summer.

But that summer passed and Ray Bradbury was buried once again along with Uncle Theo under an onslaught of exams, papers and seminars in my first year of university. I had enough to cope with in the real world without struggling with a fantastical one as well.

As the years went by I did think of Uncle Theo once in a while, but mostly as a pathetic old man with a wild imagination. And then, as that long-ago summer became more and more distant and my childhood seemed to belong to some other person entirely, Uncle Theo ceased to exist for me.

I was caught up in the nightmare of learning how to be a grownup. I couldn’t seem to get a handle on it no matter how hard I tried. All my friends managed it so easily. They knew what they wanted out of life—a career, marriage, security—and they went out and got it. I had the same opportunities they did, but somehow was unable to take advantage of them. I was still floundering around trying to find myself while all my contemporaries were busy raising families and running corporations.

I went through periods of deep despair when I wondered if it was worth continuing on with my life. But I did continue. I had no way of knowing, of course, that Uncle Theo would not have allowed it any other way.

So alienated was I from that summer that when my mother’s letter arrived, it took me a few seconds to figure out who she was referring to. Uncle Theo, she wrote, had passed away some weeks before in an old folks’ home in the north of England. She said she had lost track of him many years ago, and if she had known where he was she would have at least made an attempt to visit him before he passed. But she guessed he had been too proud to let on about his circumstances. Anyway, he had given my mother’s name as his closest relative, and the director of the home had contacted her asking about the disposition of the body. My mother had opted for cremation.

Folded up in the letter was a small envelope with “Little Bunny” written in a shaky hand. My mother said this had arrived with Uncle Theo’s personal belongings. She apologized for taking so long to write, but this whole business of Uncle Theo dying had really taken up a lot of her time and she certainly had never dreamed that she would be the one left to deal with it all.

I opened the envelope. It contained a single piece of white paper. On it was written: “In this World is all of Me/Let the Magic set you Free!”

I recalled the glass sphere Uncle Theo had given me that summer. Where was it now? I vaguely remembered stashing it in the back of my storage room. I had intended to leave it behind when I left for California but when I was unpacking, there it was wrapped up in old newspaper just the way Uncle Theo had presented it to me all those years ago.

I wrestled three boxes to the floor from the top shelf. The first contained a family photograph album my mother had insisted I take with me to my new home plus a sheaf of sloppily typed, sentimental poems I had written in better times when I had still had some hope for my life.

The second box was where my childhood teddy bear lived. His arms and legs were attached to his body solely by the auspices of a tattered knitted suit I had made for him many years ago. And there, in the third box nestled between a pair of brass candlesticks, so ugly they had never seen the light of day, was a ball of newspaper. I was disappointed to discover I must have re-wrapped it because the paper wasn’t printed in Drataurean characters, or even Arabic, but in ordinary English, extolling the events of Derring-on-Sea in the month of April when I had left my home country and my parents for an adventure in the New World. I had a university degree in one hand and a marriage certificate in the other. As I discovered, neither piece of paper turned out to be of much use. Nor did the second degree, or the second marriage certificate.

I unwrapped the sphere and read the poem it had harbored all these years. Uncle Theo had promised I would understand its meaning when the time was right. I wondered if his death meant that time had come.

I carried the globe into the living room as carefully as if it was an injured bird. And like a bird, it seemed to take wing when it caught the glare of the California sun burning through the glass sliding doors. The strange shapes and other-worldly colors I remembered from some other lifetime, wakened at last from their dark slumber, flitted over the stark white walls of my apartment.

I sensed his presence in the room even before I saw him. Uncle Theo stood no more than five feet away from me in his red and white striped polo shirt. He was young and robust, his orange moustache thicker than ever. The green flash of his eyes seared into mine and emblazoned my brain with images of silver birds, golden forests and luminescent seas. My feet left the floor and my body was lighter than the air. I was transported to another galaxy where color was substance and light was form. I soared above the highest mountains of what I knew was Drataur, feeling colors, hearing emotions and seeing sounds.

Uncle Theo was flying beside me.

“I Knew I could Count on You to be Here,” he said. I was thrilled to hear the capital letters again. “You must Carry on for me Now, Little Bunny.”

I was beginning to understand. “All those years in the nursing home…”

“I needed a Safe Place to leave my Body while My Substance Traveled. There are Planets and Galaxies out there with such Beauty you could never Dream of!” he exclaimed as he spiraled downwards, executed a double somersault and flew back up on my other side.

“Isn’t this Fun? You Try it!”

“Oh no, this is the first time I’ve ever flown,” I exclaimed. Just looking down was making me dizzy.

“Well, you have Plenty of Time to get used to it. Light Years and Light Years of it.”

“But why me, Uncle Theo?”

“Didn’t I teach you anything that summer?”

“Apparently not. My whole life’s been a failure. Nothing ever worked out for me. I don’t know how to carry on for you.”

“But that’s exactly the Point, Little Bunny!” He reached out for my hand. “Let’s Float Down and Sit for a While.”

Next thing I knew we were back in my living room, he on the sofa and me on my rocking chair.

“Nothing ever Worked out for you Because you are Special. Not like your Friends. They are Ordinary—They don’t have the Gift.”

“The gift? You mean the globe you gave me?”

“Not Exactly, but in a Way. The Globe is only a Symbol of what I Gave you—of what you’ve Had all Along really.” He walked over to the table where I had left the sphere. He picked it up and ran his fingers over the surface. “You tried to be like Everybody Else but that wasn’t the Plan. You were going about Life in all the Wrong Ways. You always dealt with Life in a Rational, Logical Manner. But Imagine what would have Happened if you had Allowed Magic to Play its Hand…” The globe was a bright green sun, so bright I couldn’t look at it. It filled the room with its greenness. “…if you had Wished Upon a Star or Thrown a Coin in the Fountain or even Rubbed an Olde Lamp once in a while…”

“You’re making fun of me now, aren’t you? You’re being a little childish!”

“I hope so! Being Childish—or a better word would be Childlike—is what it’s all About. Being Open to the Wonder—thinking of the Future like a Five-Year-Old where Everything is Possible.” He put the globe down. The bright yellow light calmed to a pale, shimmering cream color.

I was upset. My life had been such a struggle. “Why didn’t you tell me all this before and save me all the grief?”

“I tried to. That Summer Night, sitting on the Park Bench, I asked you not to Forget how to be a Child, not to Forget the Magic.”

“I didn’t understand what you meant then. I was only ten.” No, the truth. “I didn’t really believe in you.”

“There were things you had to Discover for yourself, Little Bunny, through the Pain of Living.”

“That’s not very fair. I hurt a lot.”

“You think I didn’t Know? You think there weren’t Times when I wanted to Step in and Rescue you? But I couldn’t. It doesn’t Work that Way. I had to go through the Same Things myself. Oh yes. I went through the First Part of My Life bumping into Walls and falling through Trap Doors, just like YOU!”

The sun in the California sky was waning. My white walls were turning grey. But I didn’t want any artificial light invading our space.

“I was Presented with the Gift and Introduced to Drataur. I wasn’t Born there, Nobody is, you have to be Invited. But now it’s Time for me to Leave Drataur and Join the Others as one more Voice in the Hum of the Universe. And so I Pass the Mysteries of Drataur on to you. And when your Time comes to Pass the Magic on to Another, when you have learned all there is to Learn of the Chanting Birds of Saltir and the Quizzical Dailils of Grxxl 3 and the Wafting Grasses of the Tiger Moons and so much More, your Voice, too, will Join the Choir of the Cosmos and you will be Free. But for now…”

Uncle Theo’s arm had transformed into a silken wing. It was translucent and fragile-looking, but when he touched my arm I could feel the power seething within the membranes. It was pouring out of him and into me. I felt his strength and his energy. And at that moment I knew I could indeed continue.

We were once again flying through the atmosphere of Drataur. But with his newly formed wings, Uncle Theo was too fast for me and I lost sight of him. Then a purple cloud drifted by and temporarily blocked the light from the Twin Suns. There was no goodbye. He was gone.

I was back in my apartment. It was dark outside. The sounds of the traffic hurtling by on the freeway just a quarter mile away pounded on the night air like surf at the beach.

I sat with the sphere cradled in my hands. This was to be my memory of Uncle Theo. His world was contained within it. I rocked back and forth, back and forth, staring into the globe as the glimmer of green within grew stronger. And I knew it was up to me now to find my own Magic.

THE END


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Monday Magical Memories – #4 – Snow in Yosemite 2018

The rain started during the night… yes, actual wet stuff! It’s been raining on and off all day and is still raining this evening. It may be tapering off now and there is no more rain in the forecast for the foreseeable future. It’s been chilly too, only a high of about 48° F (about 8.8° C). I’ve been thinking about snow and how wonderful it would be if it snowed for just one or two days in the flatlands of Los Angeles (we do get snow in the mountains and foothills). Well, that is unlikely and also fortunate because people don’t know how to drive in the rain, let alone snow! But in the meantime, I’m looking back at my trip to Yosemite National Park in February 2018.

On the last morning of our trip I woke up early (as I usually do), opened the drapes and was surprised to see it was snowing. It had been cold but we weren’t expecting snow. I woke up my roommate by yelling, “It’s snowing!” She stirred in her bed and said, “Yeah, right,” and went back to sleep. She didn’t believe me.

I ran outside with my camera and started shooting. Such a wonderful sight. The scene above was the view from our window. It doesn’t get much better than that! I was back in Yosemite at the same time this year but no snow in sight.*

 

Yosemite is magnificent in any weather but in the snow it is magical! I feel fortunate to have been there at the right time in 2018.

*Correction: just to set the record straight, looking at my photos from this year I now remember there was some light dusting of snow at the higher regions but nothing we could walk in.

 

 


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Words on Wednesday – #2 – Uncle Theo – Part Two

I am still bathing in the glow of posting Part One of Uncle Theo last week. That act has already changed my life. My short stories and poems from the 1960s through the 1980s have sat in file boxes for decades. I knew if I didn’t make the effort to expose them to daylight they would spend another couple of decades sitting in the dark. Just posting Part One of this little story has now allowed me to make decisions and move on with other projects. It is freeing!

(If you haven’t read Part One, please read it here before reading Part Two.) 

And so, here we go with Part Two:

Although many of my stories are written in the first person, all characters and events are entirely fictional

Uncle Theo – Part Two – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins

Morning came eventually. I was late downstairs for breakfast. Dad had already left for work. Uncle Theo was apparently still in his room. “Must be exhausted after his long trip,” suggested my mother. Hah, if she only knew!

“Of course, he’s not really your uncle,” she told me in answer to my question about his place on the family tree. “He’s a second cousin, I believe, several times removed, but I’m not sure what part of the family he actually belongs to.”

I chuckled to myself as I built a peanut butter mountain on my toast. Of course she wouldn’t know anything about the Drataur side of the family. I wondered what all the other second cousins several times removed were doing at that very moment and if they had ever made the trip from Drataur to Earth.

Were my distant cousins munching on peanut butter sandwiches and chugging down glasses of orange juice? Could they smell bacon and eggs frying on the stove? Or were they picnicking under silver trees on a pink hillside with turquoise clouds floating by in a lilac sky?

“I don’t suppose it’s possible for you to leave some peanut butter for someone else, huh?” My mother interrupted my reverie. “Linda! Do we have the honor of your company or are you off on some other planet?” She yanked the peanut butter jar out of my hand. For a moment I was shocked at her reference to another planet. But, of course, she couldn’t possibly know. “Look, you’re dropping it all over the table cloth.”

“Sorry! I wasn’t concentrating.” I had made up my mind to ask Uncle Theo about my distant relatives. If he really was an alien being then I wanted to know the whole story. And if he wasn’t—well, I didn’t want to face that possibility at this moment in time. I was willing to fully embrace his version of life. I no longer had any doubts.

Uncle Theo eventually made his grand entrance into the kitchen, hugging my mother, which made her squirm, and then me. After seconds of the cereal, toast, eggs, and bacon and having carefully wiped the remains of said breakfast from his moustache, Uncle Theo announced he was going for a walk around the neighborhood. Would I like to join him? He didn’t have to ask twice.

“What are the children like on Drataur?” I asked as soon as we were out the front door. “Do they have to go to school?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so. Children Everywhere have to go to School.”

“Oh.” I was disappointed.

“But School is a little Different on Drataur because the Children Learn to Fly on the Wings of Imagination and they are Taught the Songs of the Universe, and they Discover the Meaning of Happiness.”

“But do they have to sit in a classroom?”

“Only the Classroom of Life.”

I tried again: “Do children have to tidy up their rooms and help with the dishes and do homework?”

“Well, yes. Children have to do all those things, no matter what planet they live on. But only if they have rooms and dishes and homework…”

“Some people don’t?”

“The Universe is full of all Kinds of People in all Kinds of Situations.”

“Hmmm. I guess so.” I was growing impatient. I wanted answers even though I wasn’t really sure of the questions.

“But Look, Let me Show you Something Special.” Uncle Theo held out his hands, palms turned up. “You see my Hands are Empty?”

“Yes.”

He made fists and passed his right hand over his left. “Now, open my left hand.”

I bent the middle finger back. There was something metallic between his index finger and third finger. A silver coin.

“Where did that come from?”

“Oh, we do that all the time on Drataur. That way we don’t have to be bothered with carrying pockets full of jingly coins. We just pull them out of nowhere.”

I wished Uncle Theo had been with me the week before when I had wanted to buy that jigsaw puzzle and didn’t have enough money because I had already spent too much on lemon sherbets.

“Now look in your pocket,” he said.

I put my left hand in my jacket pocket and when I pulled it out, I was holding a string of pink pearls. “They’re beautiful.”

“I Picked them off the Pearl Tree that grows Outside my Front Door. Here, let me Put Them on You.”

I could tell they weren’t ordinary Earth pearls because as soon as they were against my skin I could feel the warmth against my neck. I could feel their beauty rubbing off on me and years later whenever I wore them, I always looked prettier than I did without them.

As the hours and days and weeks passed that summer, there were other miracles and feats of magic and fantastical tales of the universe. But the greatest of Uncle Theo’s wonders was his ability to fly. When he told me about the children of Drataur flying on the wings of imagination I asked him to show me how. At first he told me I wasn’t ready. I thought that was an excuse because he was lying to me and he didn’t really know how to fly.

But three weeks later after many conversations and stories and questions and answers and revelations, he announced I was ready for my final lesson. And that was the day I got him in trouble with my mother.

“But mother, Uncle Theo flew down the stairs!” I tried to explain to that particularly exasperated adult when she caught me standing on the upstairs landing, flapping my arms in an attempted take-off. Of course, I had promised not to tell but it slipped out in self-defense.

“He flew down the stairs? Uncle Theo?”

“Yes, he says it’s easy if you concentrate…” How could adults be so dense?

“Oh really! Have you actually seen him fly down the stairs?”

“Yes,” I answered defiantly.

“When?”

“This morning. He was standing right here,” I explained. “He told me to close my eyes, then there was this whooshing sound and when I opened my eyes he was standing next to me at the bottom of the stairs. He flew just like he said he would.”

“Oh, Lin!” I hated it when she shortened my name. It was her way of scolding me as she knew I didn’t like it. “How gullible can you be? He probably slid down the bannisters.”

“He flew! And my name isn’t Lin, or even Linda. It’s Bunny.”

“Oh, for heaven’s sake, fly down the stairs then. See if I care if you break your neck.” She left, muttering something not very nice about Uncle Theo. I heard the kitchen door slam.

I was angry too. She had as good as called Uncle Theo a liar. If he said he had flown down the stairs then that’s exactly what had happened. But I decided to postpone my maiden flight just in case.

That evening Uncle Theo and I walked over to the park. We sat on a bench and watched the old people play bowls. Clonk, clonk. The black balls hit the white balls.

Years later, in my new life far from the land of my birth, I would think back on this night as the beginning of the end, and a new beginning too. It was seven thirty on that August night in England and the sun was more than an hour away from setting.

“No, she’s right. She is your mother and she is the one to say what is to be and what is not to be as far as you are concerned. And you see,” he paused, placing his right hand on my left arm, “I also promised her I would confess that all these stories I’ve told about Drataur and magic and flying are all untrue…”

“No!” I stood up from the bench. And in that moment I realized his words were no longer emphasized with capital letters. His speech was—normal. I wanted to run. Somewhere where I couldn’t hear him.

“Wait a minute, I’m not finished.” He pulled me back down on the bench. “The problem is I can’t tell you it’s all untrue because that would be the biggest lie of all. I have never lied to you. Everything I have said, in its own way, in the way I meant it, is true.”

“Do you promise? Cross your heart and hope to die?”

“I promise. Here, give me a hug.”

We hugged. And the tears running down my cheeks mingled with his.

“Sometimes, Little Bunny, adults try so hard to get you to grow up right they forget the importance of letting you be a child.” He took a big white handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped my eyes, then his own. “Now on Drataur—that is, I mean, well, I never really grew up all the way. I got stuck somewhere in the middle. And it’s hard being a child and a grownup all at the same time. But I can’t change who I am—and I don’t want to.” He put the handkerchief back in his pocket. “Just promise me, Bunny, that you’ll never forget how to be a child and that you won’t forget the magic.”

“I promise,” I said.

After that night we never discussed Drataur again. As much as I begged and pleaded, Uncle Theo kept his promise to my mother. We still took our walks and I still crept into his room late at night to sit in the green light, but it wasn’t the same.

And as the summer came to an end, so did Uncle Theo’s visit. One morning I went downstairs to breakfast and he was gone.

“Did you see him fly away?” I asked.

My mother looked away and wouldn’t answer.

Stay tuned for part three next Wednesday.


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Monday Magical Memories – #3 – Pumpkin Patch 2013

My mother lived in an assisted living home for the last few years of her life. It was VERY expensive but they really looked after the people living there so I thought it was worth it. The best part for me was all the day trips they provided that I was able to join in on. Shawn’s Pumpkin Patch was one of them.

The 95-year-olds and the 65-year-olds (like me) were all able to become kids again.

I went along on as many trips with my mother as time would allow.

So many pumpkins…

My mother is in the red wheelchair.

I really enjoyed all the colors and shapes of the different pumpkins and squash.

What a wonderful day for everybody in Culver City!

It is still emblazoned in my memory. I hope my mother enjoyed it. I certainly did!

Her generation was the last that enjoyed a secure retirement. There is no way I could afford to live in such a wonderful assisted living environment. I have my fingers crossed I can afford a tent…


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Feline Friday – #130 – boxes and pillows

No box goes to waste in this house. Frankie used the lid as a scratcher so it got ripped to shreds and the box is now in the recycling bin.

The box that Frankie is sitting on contains unused holiday lights so it’s a little crunchy… but Frankie doesn’t mind.

My apologies for disturbing your nap but no need for swearing!

Sorry Freddie but Frankie beat you to the latest box! You’ll have to wait your turn…

Frankie can keep the box… Freddie is happy with his pillows. 

 


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Words on Wednesday – #1 – Uncle Theo – Part One

So, scary moment but the time has come. I’ve been threatening to “do something” with my stories and poems for many years now and the time has come to put up or shut up. My writing has been sitting in file boxes for decades. Between 1965 and 1985 (more or less) I wrote hundreds of short stories and poems and even started a novel. I sent a couple of stories to a publisher in the 80s but received two rejection notices. Of course I realize now that’s all part of the process.

Life took me in a different direction and I stopped writing, but I never stopped thinking about those short stories and poems. A few years ago I started retyping some of them in Word. I realized they needed re-writing and editing and even updating… but I couldn’t make myself do it. So they sat on my computer. 

I wanted to self-publish but I knew I couldn’t do that without the editing. So, next best solution… post them on my blog. I’ll be doing this in serial form. Eventually I plan to start a new blog for my writing but that’s more procrastination so in the meantime I’ll be posting them here, hopefully every Wednesday as much as possible. 

This is going to be a time commitment with Monday Magical Memories and Feline Friday and my already busy life… but we’ll see how it goes. Instead of getting up at 6:00am I may have to get up at 5:00am! 

Although many of my stories are written in the first person, all characters and events are entirely fictional

Uncle Theo – Part One – © copyright Roslyn M Wilkins

When Uncle Theo came to visit that summer it never occurred to me when my mother told me he was from far away, she meant that far away. Or maybe even she didn’t know. All I knew was that it was a very long way from Derring-on-Sea, the small English seaside resort town where I struggled through childhood.

I was ten years and two months old when I first set eyes on Uncle Theo, and except for a small purplish scar on his forehead that contrasted with his bright red hair, he looked like a perfectly normal human being. At least, as normal as any middle-aged adult looks to a ten-year-old child.

He was wearing a red and white striped polo shirt with two buttons when he rang the doorbell at 53 Chester Avenue. I remember because he wore nothing but red and white striped polo shirts the entire time he stayed with us. My mother would throw four or five of them at a time in the washing machine and I would watch them spin around and around, their buttons knocking wildly at the little window in their frenzy to escape… or so I imagined.

“Did you sail on a ship?” I questioned my uncle as he unpacked his suitcase in the guest bedroom. “Mother says you came from a long way away.”

“Yes, Little Bunny, a Long, Long Way Away. And I Traversed the Miles in a Very Special Ship.” When Uncle Theo spoke you could hear the capital letters.

“I’m not a little bunny,” I corrected him. “I’m a girl. A big girl.”

“Then stop Hopping Around!” I thought he was scolding me like Mother but he had a big grin on his face that even his bushy red moustache couldn’t hide. And that is how I came to be known as Little Bunny forever and always.

“Come to my Room at eleven o’clock Tonight and I’ll show you Where I Come From. But Don’t tell your Parents. You know how Parents are! But for Now, here’s a Present for You. Catch!” A bundle of newspapers came flying across the room and landed in my outstretched hands.

“Good Catch!” he exclaimed. But it was the way he threw the package, because I couldn’t catch for toffee!

I unwrapped the newspaper slowly and carefully, layer by layer, intrigued by the strange lettering on the pages. (It was Arabic, my mother told me later, from some previous adventure Uncle Theo had been involved in.) Inside was a treasure, the like of which I had never seen before: a glass sphere the size of a grapefruit with tiny, odd-shaped cuts over the surface. Held up to the light it caught all the colors of the rainbow, and some that no rainbow had ever painted. Triangles, trapezoids, diamonds and circles splashed over the walls of the bedroom dripping reds, blues, oranges, greens, and other unimaginable colors over the bed, the dresser and the nightstands.

“How does it do that?”

“Magic,” replied Uncle Theo.

And that was only the first, and least spectacular, of the miracles Uncle Theo was responsible for that summer. 

At nine o’clock I was sent to bed. Uncle Theo winked at me as I left the living room and I giggled as I ran up the stairs.

“She’s usually not this happy to go to bed,” commented my mother.

The light of the summer sky was beginning to diminish but would hold out for a while longer. I lay in bed fingering the surfaces of the glass sphere. When I showed it to my mother earlier she suggested hanging it at my bedroom window and my father promised to make a hanger for it. As I turned it over in my hands I noticed an inscription on the bottom: “In this World is all of Me/Let the Magic set you Free.” I thought it was very pretty poetry but I had no idea what it meant.   

At ten o’clock I heard the grownups saying goodnight to each other and footsteps coming up the stairs. I heard the guest room door creak open, then footsteps going towards the bathroom. The footsteps came back down the hall and Uncle Theo’s door clicked shut. It was ten minutes past ten.

I must have dozed off because the next time I checked the clock, the luminescent ballerina’s hands pointed to eleven fifteen. I jumped out of bed and ran out of the room, not bothering to put on slippers or a robe over my pajamas. I saw a green glow emanating from under Uncle Theo’s door and I could hear a humming sound of a smooth-running motor.

I had second thoughts about my uncle’s invitation and wondered if I should just go back to bed and pretend I had forgotten. But curiosity got the better of me and I knocked timidly at the door. There was no answer, just the humming.

I opened the door just wide enough to see inside. Uncle Theo was sitting cross-legged on the queen bed, bathed in a green light. The whole room was green and I thought of the emerald city in the movie “The Wizard of Oz.” I was comforted and scared at the same time. The humming stopped.

“Little Bunny!” Uncle Theo welcomed me. He uncrossed his legs and slid off the end of the bed in one smooth motion. “Come in. I was just Communicating with the Great Cosmos, Getting in Tune with the Brain Waves of the Universe!”

He had evidently changed all the light bulbs to green ones. I had never seen green light bulbs before and I was impressed.

“Why is everything green?”

“Because Green is the Color of Life, my dear. Green is the Color of the Grass and the Trees and the Hillsides, is it not? Can you Feel the Green?”

“You can’t feel green,” I responded. Silly man, I thought.

“Ah, That’s what you’ve been Taught. Come, Feel the Bed. Feel my Hand. Feel the Carpet.”

I felt the bed. I felt his hand. I felt the carpet. Yes, I could feel it all. But green?

“Is the bed green?” he asked. “Is my hand green? Is the carpet green?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Then You Have Felt Green!”

It was all so obvious. In that moment I could feel the green seeping into my body and coursing through my veins. GREEN! I was green inside and out.

Uncle Theo took my hand. “Little Bunny, I Asked you Here for a Purpose. Look out the Window.”

He turned out the green lights and we walked over to the window that looked out on the bungalows across the street to the park beyond. The moon was only a sliver and the landscape was as dark as it was silent.

“Look for the Farthest, Faintest star you can See.”

I squinted my eyes and searched the heavens. I wanted to find it. “Above the tree, right there.”

“Are you Sure that’s the Faintest Star you can See?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” I said, although I wasn’t sure at all.

“Then Beyond that Star, as Far as you can Imagine, is the Planet called Drataur, Second Planet from the Twin Suns, in the Xtl Galaxy.”

“Is that where you’re from?”

“Yes.”

Uncle Theo put his arm around my shoulder and we stood, gazing at the faint star above the treetop, and beyond, for several minutes. It was a new experience for me. My father had never shown me such affection. I felt safe for the first time in my life.

“How long did it take you to get here?” I asked, breaking the silence.

“Just the Twinkle of an Eye, Little Bunny. Just the Snap of a Nerve Ending. Just a Wrinkle of the Grey Matter.”

I got lost after the twinkle of an eye, but I took his meaning, even though I didn’t understand how it was possible.

“Close your Eyes. Now Imagine you’re standing in a Lilac Meadow looking at a Tangerine Mountain. Puffy Turquoise Clouds are floating by in a Vanilla Sky. Do you see all that?”

“Yes, I think so.” And I really did.

“Well, that’s Drataur. Now, Where are You? Here or There? Keep your Eyes closed.”

“I  know my my body is here in this room but I feel like I’m there.”

“Well, That’s how it’s Possible. But Sometimes it’s Reversed.”

It made sense. But it didn’t. Just like everything else about Uncle Theo.

He switched the green lights back on.

“I think it’s time you went back to bed, don’t you? Your mother’s going to wonder why you’re yawning in the morning.”

But I was wide awake and didn’t think I would ever be able to sleep again. Drataur and its double suns were whirling around in my head. But as I stepped out into the hallway I felt some of the green oozing out of my body.

I had forgotten to ask about the inscription. “The poem on the bottom of the glass ball, what does it mean?” I whispered as he was about to close the door.

“I can’t Explain it Now. But you must Promise to Keep it Always, and one Day the Time will Come for you to Understand.” I was about to protest but he put his finger to his lips.” And not a Word of this to your Parents!”

“No, you know how parents are,” I giggled.

I pulled the covers up over me when I was back in bed and checked the clock to see how long I had been gone. The ballerina pointed to eleven sixteen. No. That wasn’t possible. Only one minute had passed since I left my room. Had I been dreaming the whole time?

I laid awake for what seemed like hours, alternately believing and disbelieving my experience with Uncle Theo. I wanted to believe it was all true. It seemed so real. Each time I checked the clock, only a minute or two had passed. Time didn’t seem to be moving at a normal pace.

I thought about everything my uncle had told me. Of course, it was all nonsense. How would it sound if I told anybody else—not that I would have, of course—it was too preposterous.

Stay tuned for part two next Wednesday.