Category Archives: my stories

Woodchuck (poem)

I don't write a lot of poetry and I'm definitely not an expert. But I do like to scratch out a poem now and then. I used to compose Haiku while commuting to work on the back roads of Massachusetts. I thought I would share this poem with you. It won third place in a poetry competition.

woodchuck

Woodchuck

Sliding under my garden fence,
so fluffy brown, so round.
How can she flatten herself to an inch
down so close to the ground?

What she consumed I could not squeeze
through such a tiny hole.
The largest thing, should fit between,
would be the smallest mole.

Standing on her two hind feet,
she boldly stares me down.
Her bright eyes seem to speak to me,
brow wrinkled in a frown.

Let me be, so I may feed
my babies under your shed.
So they can grow to help me feast
upon your garden bed.

If I could only train her to
eat bugs and pests for her health.
Then I might have a few things left
to feast upon myself.

~Judy Loose

Not the Way It’s Supposed to Work

Fiction by Judy Loose

Note: This is an Ernie "Ernestine" Pratt tale. She is the Florida PI featured in my novel Mangrove Madness by J.C. Ferguson. The story won an award in the GCWA writing contest a few years back.

Bam! I hit a speed bump going too fast. Didn’t expect it. My little red Mini Cooper takes the bumps kinda hard. He’s a replacement for my yellow bug who got trashed by a gorilla last winter. But that’s another story.

I’m so nervous, doing something new to me, poking my nose in other people’s business. Not that I don’t do that all the time, being a PI, but this is really personal.

I’ve tracked down a birth mom for a woman who was adopted. I just started finding adopted kids for their birth mothers and I’ve found two so far. It was pretty easy, since the kids were looking for the moms, too. It’s fun getting people together. I wasn’t at the reunions, but from what they tell me they were happy get-togethers with lots of tears and laughter. Nice. So, I added it to the list of things I do.

With the other two, I did all the work on-line, looking up records and sending emails. But, I tracked down this mom right here in Fort Myers, so I decided to contact her in person. She may not want to see me or hear about her daughter. After all, she’s been avoiding her for forty-three years, not even looking, as far as I can tell. Don’t think I could do that—give up a child and ignore it the rest of my life. But, I’ll probably never have a kid since I’m almost thirty and not married.

I find the house—a typical small Florida ranch, built in the fifties or sixties, cinder block, probably two or three bedrooms. It’s a peachy color, reminds me of a Creamsicle. The front yard’s a little dry. Bet she doesn’t have a sprinkler system. Haven’t had any rain yet and it’s May already. Her flowers look nice. She pays more attention to the plants than the lawn. Who am I to criticize? We have no lawn, our plants are more weeds than flowers. But, we live on an island, so no one notices.

I ring the doorbell but don’t hear anything, so I knock on the front door. Nothing. There’s a white Accord in the carport, eight or ten years old I’d guess. She’s probably home. I knock on the door, again. Well, maybe I bang on it.

I’m about ready to leave when a woman comes around the corner of the house wearing pink shorts, yellow tee, and bright green muddy Crocs. The gloves on her hands are covered with dirt. Saturday gardening. I should probably be doing the same instead of digging up old dirt for this woman.

Except for her pure white hair, she looks about mid-forties, maybe fifty. If she’s the woman I’m looking for she’s sixty. She’s five or six inches shorter than me, maybe five-six or seven, tan, healthy, none of the roundness or wrinkles that seem to come with age for most women. She’s in good shape for a sixty-year-old.

“Ms. Tipton?”

“Yes?” She smiles, but there’s a question in her green eyes.

“My name is Ernie Pratt from Pratt Associates.” I hold out a card. “I’m a private investigator.”

“What can I do for you?” She starts to reach, then pulls her hand back to remove the dirty glove, wiping her hand on her shorts before taking the card.

“A woman named Geraldine Adams hired me to look for her birth mother.”

The smile on her face disappears. “I don’t know any woman named Geraldine Adams.”

“That’s her married name. Her adopted name was Geraldine Graham and her birth name was Missy Tipton.”

“Oh.” Ms. Tipton leans, almost falls, against the wall of her house. Her face goes pale. Now she looks all of her sixty years. I don’t think she wanted to be found.

“Are you OK?” Stupid question, Pratt. Of course, she’s not OK. She probably feels like I punched her in the gut.

“I’ll be fine in a minute.” She stands up and kind of shakes herself. “Come inside. I’ll make us some ice tea.” She doesn’t even ask if I want any.

I trail after her through the carport and into the kitchen, which is spotless. White tile floors, older cupboards, new appliances. She takes off her crocs at the door, so I slip out of my sandals and stand there, not knowing what to do with myself.

“Go sit. Make yourself at home.” She waves a hand at me, like she’s saying ‘get out of my way.’

The living room is nothing fancy, but comfortable. There are plants in a big window and in the corners with lights shining on them. Furniture is mix and match, old and new. Nice pictures on the walls – no photos that I can see. I park on the couch and a big gray cat jumps into my lap from nowhere. I scratch, he purrs, and my discomfort disappears.

Ms. Tipton plunks two glasses of ice tea on the coffee table and sits at the other end of the couch. “It’s not sweetened. I have no sugar in the house.”

“Fine by me. I like it that way.” I take a sip to prove it.

“Ms. Tipton, about your daughter…”

“The name’s Eleanor. People call me Ellie or El.”

“Ellie, your daughter has been looking for you for years. She’d like to meet you.”

She gazes off across the room like she’s watching something on the blank TV screen, saying nothing. I sip my tea and pet the cat, waiting her out.

She turns and looks at me. “You must be a cat person. Sam doesn’t go near most people.”

“I have two at home.” We talk about the antics of cats for a while.

“Sam’s adopted,” she says, “like my daughter.” Back to the subject at last. “I don’t think about her at all. That’s what you have to do, you know. Put her out of your mind. When she was born, if you put a child up for adoption there wasn’t much chance of ever seeing her again. So, you learn to not think about it. Wipe the whole incident out of your memory.

“I wanted to name her Mistake but the social worker wouldn’t let me, so I called her Missy.” Ellie is still staring at the TV. Maybe she’s seeing her past life play out on the tube.

“Seventeen years old, way to young to raise a child.” More silence.

I’m starting to fidget, I’m not the patient type. Sam, the cat, jumps off my lap and disappears. I guess he’s not patient, either.

“Do you want to meet her?” I ask.

“Not really, but I suppose she has the right to meet me if she wants.”

“I can bring her by, or you could meet somewhere for lunch.”

More silence.

Banging on the front door interrupts our non-conversation.

Ellie gets up off the couch and opens the door. Much to my surprise, Geraldine Adams or Missy Tipton stands there. She looks like her mother except for reddish brown hair instead of white. Same height, same build, same green eyes…almost the same face. They even look about the same age.

“What are you doing here?” I ask.

“I followed you. Got tired of waiting.”

“That’s not the way it’s supposed to work.”

“Is this my mother?” She points, her finger an inch from Ellie Tipton’s chest.

“Yes, I’m your mother, Missy.”

“Bitch!” Missy screams. Then swings her huge, fully loaded purse and hits Eleanor Tipton on the side of her head, knocking her on her ass.

This is definitely not the way it’s supposed to work.

Of Mice and Marquis

Fiction by Judy Loose

Millie hummed as she cruised up I-75 on Friday morning, headed for Busch Gardens with Brian and Becky secured in the back seat. She enjoyed these outings with her grandchildren, driving her Grand Marquis. She’d had the car for fifteen years, and it still purred.

As much as the kids at five and seven enjoyed these trips, Millie enjoyed them more. Right now, Brian and Becky had their heads together, giggling, looking at something on the seat between them.

“What is it, Becky?”

“It’s the mice from my school project.”

Oh no! What was Becky planning to do with mice? “You were supposed to leave them with your neighbor.”

“She doesn’t even like mice. She screamed at the babies,” Becky whined.

“What babies?”

“Joe and Jim had babies,” Brian answered.

“Joe and Jim?”

Joe and Jim were obviously Joe and Jill. Should she turn the car around and take the mice back to Fort Myers? She pointed the car toward the rest area.

“Oh, Nana. You’re not gonna take them home, are you?” Becky pleaded.

Not far to Tampa. The round trip to Fort Myers would take a couple of hours. The kids would be hungry and cranky long before they arrived. So would Millie. She avoided the rest area.

“No, Becky. But they are not going in the room with us.” It was January and cool. They could leave the mice in the car. Would she regret that decision?

When Becky went out to feed the mice that night, Millie peered into the cage. The babies were tiny, pink, squiggly things, like ugly gummy bears. Becky held one up for Millie. No way! She backed off and shook her head; a shiver of disgust ran down her spine.

Saturday, Busch Gardens was great; no one threw up on any of the rides. Brian petted the giraffe; he loved giraffes. The children wanted to take the mice to see the other animals but accepted Millie’s firm, “No.”

On Sunday, after dropping her grandchildren at home in Fort Myers, Millie sang with the music in her car. She adored Becky and Brian, but she was glad to take them home. As she stopped for a red light, she opened the front windows for fresh air and something crawled across her shoulders — must be a bug. She reached up and flicked it off. A mouse flew out the window and into the next car. A woman screamed, the light changed to green, and Millie stepped on the gas.

~~

When Millie traded in her old stand-by Grand Marquis a month later, she didn’t tell the salesman about the mice that kept appearing — on the dash, in the back seat, in the trunk, or the one that had crawled up her leg the day before.

Crows

A Story by Judy Loose

Won Third Place Nonfiction in GCWA 2016 Writing Contest

raven_calling

“Nana, birds talking to me.”

“What are they saying, Jason?” Sara sat on the back steps of the townhouse deck with her three-year-old grandson. He had quite an imagination. The clatter of the crows was so loud she could hardly hear herself think. The noise irritated her, plucked at her nerves. The birds always congregated in the woods behind her home, but nothing like today. They must be migrating. Did crows migrate? Hundreds, maybe thousands of blue-black wings filled the sky, landing in the woods behind the condo complex. Some were huge, maybe ravens. Did ravens and crows hang out together? The way they were gathering was creepy. It made Sara nervous.

Her grandson was talking. “I’m sorry, Jason. Nana wasn’t paying attention. What did you say?” The din of the birds was distracting.

“They say, ‘come…come…come with me.’” Jason cocked his head. “Can’t you hear, Nana?” He almost looked like a bird. Thin and pale with dark hair and eyes. When he ran, his little arms flapped in the breeze like a baby bird trying to fly.

She listened to the cawing, and it did sound like come…come…. “I hear it, but they’re probably calling to each other. It looks like they’re having a big crow party.”

“We go to party, Nana? My birthday. Jason’s three.” A Halloween baby. Tonight was Halloween.

“You’re having a party tonight, baby. Everyone will be here. Mommy and Daddy, all your cousins and friends. Everyone’s going to dress up.” Too bad Jason’s birthday landed on Halloween, hard to distinguish between birthday and holiday.

“Let’s go in and get ready.” She stood and took his hand to lift him to his feet.

“No, Nana. Birds talking to me.” Jason pulled away. He still had some of that terrible-twos attitude and disagreed with everything.

“OK, Jason. But let’s listen to them from inside. Nana has some cooking to do.”

“I wanna stay here.” He plunked himself down on the steps and folded his arms tightly against his chest.

“You can stay but don’t leave the deck.” Sara didn’t want to argue; she could see him from the kitchen.

As she stirred batter for a cake, Sara watched Jason through the window. He turned and looked at her every few minutes, grinned, waved, then returned to concentrating on the birds. She mixed orange and chocolate frostings, washed dishes, put things away…stopping now and then to peek out at her grandson.

Finished with her chores, she opened the door to call him. No Jason. Her heart squeezed and her breath stopped. He couldn’t have wandered far. He’d waved at her only minutes ago. Sara scanned the yard and spotted him sitting in the grass by the trees. The air escaped her lungs like an explosion.

He was surrounded by birds. So many birds. What were they doing? Silence, no cawing. Sara panicked and stumbled down the steps. As she ran toward Jason, the crows flew, blackening the sky, the whir of wings so strong her clothes swirled around her. Sara’s heart drummed against her ribs, banged in her ears. She thought it would burst by the time she reached Jason and grabbed him.

“Nana, you scared them.” He started to wail, and the crows wailed with him, screeching all around…in the trees, from the roof…as Sara hurried to her house and slammed the door behind her. Jason yowled in her arms.

**

By the time they’d dressed for the party and the guests had arrived, Jason was happy and playing again. He joined the children and a few adults trick-or-treating. Sara felt silly about her reaction to the birds that afternoon. She told no one. The birds must have landed in the grass, and Jason couldn’t resist. But why didn’t they fly away? They only flew when she ran from the house.

The doors were open to the warm night air. “Do you hear those crows?” She could hear them cawing, calling out, Jason…Jason…. What an imagination she had, worse than her grandson’s. But weren’t crows usually quiet at night?

Looking out, she could see their black bodies flying, covering the sky, blocking out the moon. She shivered and returned to the warmth of the party. Where were the trick-or-treaters? She wished with all her heart they would return with their candy.

Noise at the front door drew her attention and the children piled in, grinning and chattering and comparing their take. Jason sailed by her and out the back door before she could stop him.

“Jason!” she screamed. “Don’t go out there!” Everyone stared as she sprinted after her grandson.

No Jason on the deck or in the yard. She flipped on the outside lights. Nothing. No child, no birds, no noise. The emptiness chilled her.

“Jason!” Sara was frantic. Adults carrying flashlights poured into the yard, searching, crashing into the woods.

No Jason.

Sobbing, Sara sank into the grass. “The crows took him,” she said over and over.

Someone called 911. When the police came to organize the search, they sent Sara to the hospital in an ambulance.

**

A mild stroke, the doctors said. When she told people about the crows, they thought she was hallucinating, her mind scrambled. Sara knew better.

She returned home two weeks later, Jason still missing. The official opinion: kidnapping. Easy to take a child with crowds of children in the streets. No one would notice a stranger enticing a child into a car and speeding away.

Sara brooded around her house, seeing Jason in every corner. He would never visit her again. Her heart was broken. She pictured him sitting in the grass surrounded by crows, talking to them. No Jason, no crows. Silence.

**

A year passed, and the crows never returned. Not even the few who usually hung out in the woods during the summer. Halloween came, Jason’s birthday. No party this year. Sara had no treats for the youngsters ringing her bell. She turned off the front light and slipped out the door to her deck.

She stared across the lawn to the spot she remembered seeing Jason. Why was she torturing herself? She should move from this place. But something kept her here, some illogical hope that he would return. The night carried the voices of children as they skipped from house to house.

Sara sat on the steps. Tears rolled down her cheeks.

And then they came. Thousands of crows glistening in the moonlight descended on the lawn in front of her. What were they saying? Nana? No, just cawing. So loud she couldn’t bear it.

As she stood to go inside, a giant crow landed on the railing. “Nana?

Sara collapsed on the rough wood floor. The sky filled with crows and ravens…cawing…calling her…Sara…Sara…Nana…and the air from their wings lifted her…lifted her into the black night…floating…flying…with Jason flying beside her.

Teeth

A story by Judy Loose

Second Place Nonfiction in the GCWA 2016 Writing Contest.

Dan hated his new teeth. Just uppers, not lowers. He still had his own bottom choppers. The plate fit improperly and hurt when he chewed, so he liked to remove it when he ate.

Living alone, he often dined out or picked up something to go rather than cook. On this particular hot summer night, coming home late from work, he decided to stop for pizza. The pizza shop was full, so he took his food with him. Enticing smells rose from the seat beside him in the car — mushroom, pepperoni, extra cheese. He could almost taste it. For a while he resisted, but it was a long drive. Opening the box, he grabbed a slice.

Of course, the teeth were extracted before the first bite.

Cruising down the highway, he continued eating. Not the safest way to operate; worse than texting while driving. Soon the pizza box sat empty. Almost home, he spotted a Dumpster behind the grocery store across the street. He lifted the empty box and tossed it. Perfect shot, right into the trash.

Home at last, he collapsed in front of the television before his nightly ritual — shower, dress for bed, clean his teeth…

No teeth!

Dan pulled a pair of jeans over his pajama bottoms, found a flashlight, and headed for his car. He searched the seats, under the seats, in every crack and crevice.

No teeth!

There could be only one answer. He drove back to the grocery store. Did he really want to go Dumpster diving? What were his choices? Forget it and get another set of teeth? But teeth cost big bucks. He didn’t have money to throw away. Child support for five boys, two in college, helped make the decision.

Dan looked around to see if anyone was watching. The store had closed and no people roamed the streets. He tried leaning over the side of the container, shining his flashlight to see.

No teeth!

He hoisted himself up and dropped into the nightly trash. Luckily, it held mostly boxes and not much food. His pizza box sat on top, wide open and empty, so he proceeded to rummage through the debris.

No teeth!

He heard a blip of a siren and a blue light flashed against the wall of the store. A head peeked over the top of the Dumpster, and a light blinded him.

“Police.”

Dan climbed out and brushed himself off. “Looking for something I lost,” he tried to explain.

“Dan?” The policeman lowered his flashlight and laughed. “What are you doing in there?”

Dan recognized Sam, his niece Marcy’s father-in-law.

“I threw away a pizza box and tossed something with it.”

“Why no shirt?”

“I was ready for bed when it dawned on me.”

“What did you lose?”

Dan hesitated. He didn’t want to tell him. Embarrassing!

“Come on, man. What’s so important you’d go digging through the garbage in the middle of the night?”

“My teeth.”

Sam doubled over, his laughter escaping like hiccups. “Oh, man. Wait ‘til I tell the guys.”

“Don’t tell Marcy.”

Still chuckling, Sam went back to his cruiser and drove off.

Dan decided to give up and go home. Walking back to his car he spotted something shiny in the middle of the street. Taking a closer look, he realized…

His teeth!

He leaned to pick them up, but they were imbedded in the asphalt. Apparently, they’d been run over a time or two. He found a screwdriver in his trunk and dug out the teeth, only to discover a crack down the middle. He was tempted to toss them, but changed his mind.

Asphalt covered the broken teeth, but stubborn Dan dropped them into a jar and filled it with paint thinner.

The next day he examined the dentures and decided the crack could be fixed. He found some crazy glue at work, glued them together, and clamped them in a vise.

It worked. They felt better than before they broke, but a faint taste of solvent lingered for a few days.

Dan wore those teeth for three more years before getting new ones.

Note: This is a true story as told to me by Dan, who is no longer with us, so the story can’t be verified. Any embellishments on the truth are his. I did see the teeth with the crack that had been crazy-glued. No sign of the asphalt, but the teeth looked a little gray.