Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Tousled Man

 Straggled hair touched with slivers of silver and unshaven for a week, he sat before his tiny blaze of kindling. He gnawed on the crust of yesterday’s fragrant loaf, and sipped pinot wine from a discarded Campbell’s can. Driblets of snow scattered down from a frowning sky looking to pile itself deeper by morning.

  The stately man who approached our friend was no stranger. In great coat, widely belted and lapelled, he obviously was well to do. “Wilfred,” he said addressing the seated object of our attention, “I have a task for you this evening. You shall give away five fifty dollar bills as I instruct.”
  Thomas was a fine baker in a lesser part of town, whose loaves were deeply admired in his neighborhood. His display case burst with the light and dark magic of bread, rolls, croissants, and baguettes. When Wilfred entered his shop, sweet-scented with caraway and sesame, Thomas greeted him warmly with season’s greetings. “Thank you, in kind,” responded the tousled man, “I have a proposition: You have a large clientele, many of whom are needy. If someone comes in with just enough to buy a roll, give him or her one of your fine loaves as well. In exchange I have a fifty dollar bill for you.” “Done and done,” responded Thomas.
  In a similar fashion, Wilfred went to a tiny pastry shop filled with cinnamon smells of cookies, cakes, pies of a dozen sorts, elephant ears, marzipan, donuts and crullers. Then he visited an independent grocer, replete with the odors of cloves, sweet orange and roasted coffee. Next came a local florist selling poinsettias, roses, wreaths, and trees: balsam and Douglas fir, Frazer, Norway and blue spruce, and Scotch pine, but no daffodils yet, all causing clouds of aromatic joy. Last he stopped at a seller of toys, whose mountains of dolls with carriages and shingled houses, blue belled bicycles, tooting, star-blessed electric trains, and balls of ever shape and hew. For the purchase of a small gift, another of greater value was to be added free of charge.

The sheening moon swaddling through a cloud-tossed sky of wannabe snowflakes, and Wilfred was back before his tiny Yule log. “You have done well,” said the stately man, “You’ll join the wife and me for dinner this evening?”

“Of course, Santa.”

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A new tail

Morte d’Petite Rouge

  Everybody hated her. Nobody liked her. Sheila, a little red squirrel; she was nasty, vindictive and ruthless. (She never named any of her twelve daughters Ruth.)  When Constable Caper was called to view her, she had a long icicle through her frigid middle. He was a stately and very bushy pewter squirrel, and wore his badge proudly.

  The backyard was soon abuzz about the unsolved murder. Tillie’s Treetop Teahouse et Boutique brimmed with gory gossip. Tillie’s specialty was wholegrain bread cubes with honey dip and sassafras tea. At the counter, Cary, a retired crow, and Muffle Mouse were debating the case. Muffle’s wife Millie, and Ruby Rat were having hors d’oeuvres. Millie preferred cheese, while Ruby really enjoyed her lox.  They talked politics. When the constable arrived for a cup of tea everyone mobbed him with questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? The constable left with his tea but not a word.

  On Winter Solstice Eve, Filbert Chipmunk had gotten a magnifying glass, a deerstalker hat and a briar bubble pipe. His brother Hickory got a sling shot and a velour bag of hard, dried corn kernels. His aim was improving. He only hit his brother three times. His brother, of course, was the intended target.

  When the boys learned of the mystery, they both became excited. “Solve it!” “Hit somebody with my sling shot!” Off they went in search of Constable Caper.

  “Now, boys,” the constable warned, “Stay behind the red ribbon.” “Why?” asked Hickory. “Because it’s a crime scene – very dangerous. Clues and all that. Professional,” he grumpily responded returning to his investigation.

  “The game’s afoot. Clues!” cried Filbert, whipping out his magnifying glass. All he had done with it so far was annoy some ants with sunlight. Intently they circled the restricted area. “Humm!” he murmured, hovering over a spot. “What is it? The murderer’s glove?” cried Hickory with glee. “A red herring,” his brother proclaimed. “Oh, a false lead, a dead end, a cul de sac, a street to nowhere.” “No, a piece of smoked kipper,” said Filbert placing the clue in a plastic bag. They also found a dead beetle, the lid off a jar of marmalade, and a peanut. The latter they put in themselves rather than a bag.

  When they searched for Constable Caper, they had found he’d gone to the station house. They chased after and learned he had picked up three suspects. The whole backyard community packed the courtroom for the hearing.

 The first suspect, Sammy Skunk professed his innocence, though he had no close alibi. Roberta Rabbit, however, said she got a whiff of him at the time of the crime, over at the trash heap. The second suspect, Jasper Jay had lots of motive. He and Sheila had been known to quarrel at the seed tray. She often won. Jimmy and John were Jasper’s buddies and swore he was with them at the time. Greg Groundhog was the third suspect. Not out much, he was known to have run-ins with Sheila, who was a territorial bully, especially with quiet inoffensive creatures.

  The hearing went on for days and suspicions went round and round. Then, on a Wednesday, Filbert and Hickory were sitting in the back row. The prosecutor specified that Sheila had been snacking at the time of her demise, and so, was distracted from whoever snuck up behind her.

  Hickory sat straight up. “That’s it!” and began whispering to Filbert. “Order in the court,” Judge Owl stated solemnly. Filbert piped up, “If you please, Your Honor, what was Ms Sheila snacking on?” The prosecutor responded, “She had found a piece of sushi and tried it.”

  Filbert leaped to his feet, clue bags in hand. “Your Honor, I believe you will find that Ruby Rat should be questioned. She is the only one who really likes fish. If her teeth match the marks on this piece of kipper, she was at the scene!”

  Pandemonium! Ruby Rat scampered to escape but Constable Caper apprehended her. Everyone cheered. Filbert and Hickory were heroes. Mom Chip was so proud of her boys. She treated them to peanuts and they settled down for a long Winter’s nap.