Neespaugot by John Mugglebee

 

Excerpt from Neespaugot by John Mugglebee

Della gave the two boys another looking-over. One broad and muscular, the other short and wiry. One Slavic, the other Mediterranean. Brothers. Interesting.

“All right, you two. You’ve come here to know something, so here’s my deal. I’ll answer your questions if you promise to leave me in peace for good. Do you agree?”

“Yeah, sure, whatevah,” said Ezra.

“Good. Now, you, the little guy, you go first.”

Zeke nodded. “How old are you, ma’am?”

“Seventy-four. How about you?”

“Eleven.”

“Anything else?”

“How come people say you’re a commie?”

“Because labels are simpler than the truth, young man. I was a newspaper editorialist for many years, defending those without a voice against those with more than their fair share. In particular, I wrote against federal anti-immigration laws aimed at Southern and Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners, East Asians and Asia Indians. In short, anybody who wasn’t a WASP. My enemies labeled me an agitator, a Bolshevik—that’s a communist with an attitude. None of it was true, but that’s the thing about smear tactics. In this country, when it comes to race, religion, gender and politics, the label always sticks. I hope you’ll never have to learn that hard lesson, Zeke. Now, I’ll give you one more question, and then we’ll let Mr. M.I.T. have a go.”

The boy vacillated. His brother started to speak for him, but Della tapped her cane on the floor to silence him. After turning it over in his mind, the smaller boy blurted proudly, “Do you know our ma?”

“You idiot,” said Ezra, groaning.

“Hush, you. No, Zeke, I don’t know your mother, not really. She was born at the end of the First World War, by which time I was no longer having anything to do with your grandmother. I moved to France shortly thereafter. Okay, Zeke, normally it’s your brother’s turn, but due to his rudeness, you can have another.”

“No way!” said Ezra.

“Says the boy who broke into my house. Proceed, Zeke.”

Zeke looked to Ezra for a clue but got shut out, so he was on his own to come up with a question.

“Oh, yeah. Are you a lesbian?”

“Do you even know what a lesbian is, Zeke?”

“Women kissing each other?”

“It’s an orientation, child, a sexual orientation. A woman feels a pull towards other women. But I have never felt a pull towards other women—or men, for that matter. The fact is that I have only ever known one passion for another human being in my entire life, and she happened to be a woman. Before meeting her, I had no interest in a relationship of any kind. Since her death twelve years ago, I have lived comfortably and gratefully alone. So, my answer to your question is no, I’m not a lesbian. I’m not a label of any sort. I’m, well, nothing at all.”

“How did your friend die?”

“Sorry, Zeke. You’re moving off the subject. Your turn, M.I.T.,” she said, turning a critical eye on Ezra.

“Well, I don’t give a rat’s ass about ya dead girlfriend, that’s fah sure. My Ma’s a big fat liar, so I need you to put somethin’ straight for me. You got the Indian’s coin?”

The question, totally unexpected, hit Della sideways. “Who put you up to this?”

 

 

OF LOVE & LORE

By John Mugglebee

 

My novel Neespaugot tracks a colonial coin across the historical landscape of New England in order to trace an ancestral line of ethnically and racially diverse characters. One of the more frequent questions I’m asked is if my characters are based on real people. The simple answer is “yes, no and maybe.”

Countries, communities and families bond over lore, and my family was no different. I grew up hearing tales woven from our ancestry, colorful in a literal sense, stitched from Native American, African American, Scots-Irish, Chinese and Russian Jewish cloth. Very little of it was verifiable, but that meant nothing to a young boy in search of an identity. Mythology is not a statement of facts but a quest for hidden truths. The storytellers’ words were good enough for me, and all the storytellers were women. The men juggled two, sometimes three jobs at once and had little to say about anything, so it was up to the women in my family to dole out love and lore. It seemed only natural that those who carried life into the world should dispense its lessons.

My mom would have answered “yes” to the question of whether or not my characters are based on real people, and she would have backed it up with a small tintype portrait of a young Ching Archung standing on the Salem pier circa 1867, and by a picture of Bridget Griffin, Ching’s Irish wife. Mom left the tall tales of Native tribes and implausible births to Great-aunt Alice and Aunt Helen.

Aunt Helen, my mom’s older sister, lived four miles north of Boston, in Everett, a working class city of 40,000 predominantly African-American, Hispanic and Asian residents. Aunt Helen and my mom looked nothing alike. Mom was dark-skinned and sloe-eyed; Aunt Helen passed for white (their two brothers looked Chinese). The two sisters married outside their supposed racial demographic, Mom settling down in all-white Beverly, Massachusetts, with a second generation Russian Jew, and Aunt Helen wedding a black sheriff from Everett. Aunt Helen was a kind woman subject to bouts of hysteria. Once, I heard her screaming at a house plant. On another occasion, she assaulted a living room wall with a broom handle. But of the hundreds of boyhood visits I made to Everett, that was the extent of my first-hand experience with my aunt’s psychological withering. Aunt Helen told me the story of Lydia Freeman, an African-Native American woman who would form the basis for the eponymous character in Neespaugot. According to Aunt Helen, a middle-aged Black-Indian spinster went to work in the mid-1800s for a bachelor doctor of Scottish descent, either as his maid, gardener or midwife – Aunt Helen couldn’t make up her mind which one. Miss Freeman soon became pregnant in her 50s, and she and the doctor were married a decade before the Civil War.

Even to a kid, the yarn sounded hokey. I was prepared to accept some embellishments if they coated kernels of self-worth, but Aunt Helen’s claim was really out there. So, I took the matter to the two other dispensers of family lore, my mom and the family doyenne, Great-aunt Alice, whom we all lovingly called Aunty. Mom refused to demean her kooky sister in the eyes of a seven-year-old, instead choosing prevarication, neither confirming nor denying any aspect of the tale. “Ask your Aunty the next time you see her.”

Great-aunt Alice, an elderly woman of bark-brown skin and golden generosity, lived alone in Salem, in a small one-bedroom walkup near Salem Willows Park, a seaside grassland where the amusement rides were. We kids would fight over who got to sleep over at Aunty’s and get spoiled rotten the next day at the park. Aunty would walk us down Essex Street to the Common, passing by the witch houses and the House of Seven Gables and gazing across the bay to Marblehead where the woebegone Naumkeag tribe lived until small pox wiped them out in 1617. On one such walk, I asked Aunty what she thought of Aunt Helen’s tale of the doctor and midwife. She said she didn’t know how plausible the doctor bit was. “On the other hand,” she said, “my grandmother most definitely did conceive my father when she was 50.”

Years later, between the passing of my three storytellers and the writing of Neespaugot, I got ahold of a copy of our family’s genealogical tree. It dated back to 1794, beginning with Freeman, Lydia, who was married to George Sylvester Osborne with whom she had one child in 1846. The record validated Aunty and Aunt Helen’s assertion that Lydia Freeman gave birth to her one and only child at age 50, at a time when child mortality ran at 50%. As for the rest, the record remained mum. Was Osborne a doctor? Was Lydia Freeman an African-Native-American? Freeman sounded suspiciously like free man, a common and administratively lazy last name given to ex slaves, but it’s all conjecture.

As I perused the pre-20th-century fruit of my tree, I realized that most of the names were completely foreign to me. I had the impression that I was walking through a cemetery, staring at tombstones chiseled with appellations that used to apply to somebody who breathed and expired and sank into oblivion. I refused to accept that. Sometimes, it’s all you have to go on, a name, and it’s up to a storyteller to make something of nothing. Love and lore demand it.

Neespaugot: The Legend of the Indian's Coin

  • Print Length: 380 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0974260797
  • Publisher: Brandt Street Press (May 20, 2017)
  • Publication Date: May 20, 2017

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

My review: 

Reading an epic family storyline like Neespaugot brings so many emotions into play.  I loved so many of the family members. I loved Lydia and her Scottish Husband. I loved at least one person from each generation, many times more.  I cried for the pain inflicted on innocent people and I laughed just as often.

Powerful and fascinating men and women that carry out the vision of their ancestors are only the beginning.

Families with their strengths and weaknesses displayed actually allow for more intense feelings. Not everyone is all good or all bad and this book teaches that point through the relating of brother against brothers and sister against sister.

There are petty grievances and insurmountable odds in these families and it paints the history of the country and the world in the telling of the family dynamics.

Part history and part mystery there is something so compelling about these generations of people that kept me utterly entranced.

Without a doubt, this book is a testament to strong family histories, the good, bad, and the ugly.

You can find a copy here. It is certainly a great read. Amazon

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Scat Cat! by Nancy Quinn: A Featured Fun Guest Post

Scat Cat!

    When we left the urban lifestyle of Washington, D.C., for a more tranquil existence in the rural mountains of Montana, one of our adjustments was learning to live with the new neighbors.  Our home was in a different kind of neighborhood.  Instead of being surrounded by men, women, and children, we had cougars, wolves, and bears.  These predators rarely comprehend the idea of boundaries, or the notion that good fences make good neighbors, so we find them roaming about our property, often very close to the house.  

    Our most frequent nocturnal visitors are cougars that seem particular interested in our daughters playhouse swing set.  Perhaps it is just the curiosity of all felines, but I often wonder what they would do if I left out a ball of string.  It’s doubtful they would play with it because it isn’t food.  As stunningly gorgeous as they are, we don’t want to encourage their visits.  For the safety of my family, dogs, and horses, our goal has always been to discourage predators.  As an example, one particular night stands out in my memory.

    On the second floor of our home we have a large bedroom window that provides a grand view of the back of our property.  While admiring the stars one dark evening the motion detectors suddenly activated the perimeter lights, nearly blinding us.  Once our eyes adjusted, we saw standing in the middle of the yard a very large cougar.  He paused only long enough to realize the brightness was nothing to fear before walking over to the swing set.  This had me wondering how many times he had visited us before, unnoticed.  He sat regally in the play area, surveying all about him, like a king overlooking his kingdom.  Being a wildlife artist, I was enamored with his beauty and grace, temporarily forgetting what a potential threat he was to our family.  It would be dangerous to allow him to believe this was part of his territory.

    I was about to comment on this fact to my husband, but when I turned to speak, he was not there, having immediately retreated to the closet.  He ransacked it, searching for his rifle and ammunition.  As he fumbled to load it, I continued to admire the feline in his pose.  My husband opened the window, but was blocked by the mesh screen.  As he tugged fruitlessly to remove it, the cat rose from his perch and began to walk toward the woods.  On my last look at him, the cougar, who seemed completely unaware of the flurry he had created only a short distance above, slowly and confidently sauntered into the tree line, still secure in the knowledge that this world was his.

    We tried to follow his movements through the darkness with a flashlight, but the battery soon died.  My increasingly frustrated husband, incensed by the attitude of the beast, rushed downstairs and out onto the patio where he fired a single shot into the air, then shouted, “And stay out!” as a warning for the puma not to return.

    I have no wish to harm this mountain lion or capture him, except in spirit on canvas and paper.  I have handled many cougars in captivity, but seeing them in the wild is a thrill I will never tire of.

For more stories in our western adventure read “Go West, Young Woman!”   https://www.amazon.com/Go-West-Young-Woman-Military/dp/1555718299?  

Book website: https://nancy442.wixsite.com/quinn

Art website:  http://quinnwildlifeart.com/

In the Zone by Saralyn Richard: A Featured Fun Guest Post

In the Zone
Guest Blog by Saralyn Richard


Anyone who has dedicated himself to writing a book knows that it takes large portions of inspiration, perseverance, and focus to bring a story to life. The act of writing a book requires many hours of concentrated effort. Sometimes an author is able to concentrate so fully on the setting, characters, and plot of a story that he is transported to “the zone.”

What is this mystical “zone” authors talk about? It can be likened to a runner’s high, a surgeon’s precise focus, an actor’s immersion in a role. It happens quite fluidly, without intent. It has happened to me several times when I become completely engrossed in the story I am telling, so engrossed that I could not tell you whether it is night or day outside, where I live, or even who I am. Instead, I am inside of a scene. I am not just one of the characters—I am all of the characters. I am the pictures on the wall, the rugs on the floor, looking in all directions and observing, no, participating in all of it.
Naughty Nana by Saralyn Richard guest post on The Path of the Writer with Sojourner McConnell
When I wrote Naughty Nana, a children’s picture book about my wild and crazy Old English sheepdog, who “just wants to have fun,” I went into the zone so deeply that I became Nana. Since she is the narrator of the book, I had to know what she was thinking in that goofy canine brain of hers. I had to walk on all fours and communicate with nudges and rollovers, digging with my paws and jumping with exuberance. I didn’t actually crawl on the ground, but mentally, I was in her body and mind, envisioning the world from her point of view. When I was able to do that, I did my best writing.
Writing an adult mystery novel, Murder in the One Percent, required a different form of empathy, but again, I had to get into the heads of several diverse characters. One night I was so deeply into the zone that the plot ran away with me, taking me to an unplanned event involving a horseback riding accident. This event turned out to be pivotal in the overall plot of the book, and I owe it all to being in the zone.
How does one go about reaching the zone? There is no surefire route. We hear of writers who are transported by alcohol or drugs, but I wouldn’t recommend relying on those. I have had some zone-like experiences when dreaming or exercising, times when my mind empties itself of distracting thoughts and allows me to focus on my story. I tell my creative writing students to write as if they were the actors in the screenplays of their stories, fixed in their settings, driving the action of the plot. Then, if they are lucky, the zone will take over to transform the writing from good to great.
Does writing from the zone make a difference in the quality of the book? I’ll let my readers answer that question.
Author Saralyn Richard's guest post on The Path of the Writer with Sojourner McConnell
Naughty Nana is available at www.palmcirclepress.com, and Murder in the One Percent, published by Black Opal Books, will be available later this year.
For more information check my author website:  www.saralynrichard.com or contact me at saralyn@saralynrichard.com.

Romance at the Do-Drop-In by cj Petterson: A Featured Fun Guest Post.

Romance at the Do-Drop-In

cj Sez:  I think I could make a story out of this:  There once was a love quadrangle (of sorts) going on at my house. A few years ago, my patio became the go-to place for food. I had a habit of putting out dry bread for the birds, and one night a little nubbin of a kitten showed up and ran off with a piece of crust in its mouth. I figured that was one really hungry feline because the cats I knew didn’t generally eat hard, dry bread. The kitten came back the next evening and the next, so I started putting out cat food, knowing it would cost me in the long run because I’d have to trap it out and get it spayed or neutered, whatever the vet determined.

Didn’t take long before a yellow cat appeared, and Son and I learned Nubbin was a female because she started courting Yellow Cat. Yep, SHE did the pursuing. I watched the little flirt follow him around the yard and rub her face against his. So, because I didn’t want to populate the neighborhood with kittens, we made a trap. We aimed for Nubbin but caught Yellow Cat first and had him neutered. A few weeks later, we caught Nubbin and had her spayed. That was the end of their budding romance. Both of them lost their alluring hormone scents, and as a result, she’d panic and run to hide every time she saw Yellow Cat. Confused him all to pieces.

A couple of years later, a big, grey cat with white feet showed up, and there was no question about him being a tomcat. Nubbin fell in love with Boots’s manly scent and began to pursue him. His interest in her was akin to that of a big brother. He’ll tolerate her face rubs with an occasional push away, and he’d chase off Yellow Cat when she got nervous and ran. Boots imprinted on me, but I had become partial to Yellow Cat who purred and let me rub his tummy. I couldn’t touch the other two.

The big surprise was that Boots imprinted on me. He followed me around like a dog when I was out in the yard and sat like a sentry at the back door where he could watch me work in the kitchen. He also bit me hard twice when I wasn’t paying attention to him (two courses of antibiotics for infected hands/wrists). He was very feral and very smart. He avoided all efforts to trap him out to have him neutered.

About the same time that Boots arrived, a little turtle came into the yard to feast on fallen fruit from the fig tree. Mr. Turtle also loved the cat food—as did (and still do) the cardinals, blue jays, thrashers, the occasional curious wren, raccoons, and ’possums. If Mr. Turtle happened to be in the area when I was refilling the cat food bowls, he came running (truly) when he heard my voice. I once had to rescue him because he had straddled one of the water bowls and was hanging there spread-eagled, all four feet off the ground, unable to move.

So there we were: Yellow Cat in love with Nubbin, Nubbin adoring Boots, Boots wanting to own me, and me partial to Yellow Cat—Mr. Turtle just stopped by for the food.

I’ll admit that if I hadn’t put out that first crust of bread, none of that would’ve happened, but I’m blaming that little hussy, Nubbin.

Nubbin and Boots eventually disappeared from the yard, I hope to a higher-class restaurant, but Yellow Cat is still with me . . . an old bachelor and quasi-tame. Mr. Turtle still stops by for the food.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.

cj

PS: I know it was “Mr” Turtle because I happened upon him and his girlfriend one evening after a romantic fig dinner.


BIO:

Author “cj petterson” is the pen name of Marilyn A. Johnston. Retired from corporate life in the automotive industry and now living on Alabama’s Gulf coast, Marilyn takes her pen name from her paternal grandmother in Sweden.

As cj, she writes contemporary romantic suspense and mystery novels as well as fiction and non-fiction short stories. Her latest short story, “Bad Day at Round Rock” is in the 2017 Western anthology THE POSSE. Her strong protagonists and supporting characters will take you on a fast journey through stories filled with suspense, action, and sassy dialogue.

Marilyn/cj serves as a judge for the Romance Writers of America’s Daphne du Maurier contests. She is a member of the international Sisters-in-Crime writers organization and their online Guppy group, the Alabama Writers Forum, the Alabama Writers Conclave, and a charter member of the Mobile Writers Guild.

“Bad Day at Round Rock” a short story in  The Posse, a Western anthology of tales of action, romance, myth and truth.   

Learn more about cj petterson at:

 

cjpetterson@gmail.com

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Simon&Schuster Author Page

Amazon Central Author Page  

Choosing Carter  — Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook

Deadly Star  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

blog at: www.lyricalpens.com

Attention Writers! An exciting opportunity for you has arisen!

Open Call.

Are you a writer, young, old, of an indeterminate age? Have you been published, want to be published, have a little story tickling your mind, or sitting in a drawer? Then send me your story. I will be sharing them on this blog in weekly increments.  They will be published featuring your name or pen name. Don’t be shy everyone can apply!

This is your chance.

Make it fun, exciting, pg 13 max, and all yours. Send me your story, your bio, your picture today! I want you to be featured.  You can become a Featured Fun Guest Post on the Page Turner.

Be read. 

I promise you will be seen by more people here, than if the manuscript is hiding in your trusty notebook or desk drawer.  This is your hour to be published. I will promote you,  on Twitter, Google plus, Pinterest, and Facebook. I will also give you the links to promote yourself. There is an opportunity to be reblogged. Reblogging happens on occasion and then you will be seen by even more amazing readers.

Contact me.

Want to take me up on this offer?  Then send me a message or a story and bio to vicgoodwin@gmail.com  Place “Guest Post” as your topic and then let’s discuss your day in the sun.  I will keep the story up for as long as I have this blog. I think I will always have this blog, as I am rather chatty.

Details: 

A short story in any genre that is PG 13.  Any word count over 350. Any topic that you want.  Make it humorous, touching, mysterious, romantic, personal, fiction, nonfiction, or anecdotal.  Basically, almost anything goes.  Don’t forget the pictures to compliment your story if applicable.

Become a repeat writer.

Contact me today and have your stories featured. Yes, you read correctly. I will post more than one of your stories in non-consecutive weeks. See some examples of the stories featured so far here in our newest opportunity.

Join in the Fun!

Make both of us happy! You and I are out to share some amazing stories. Get on board!!!

The benefits of baking and cooking for children by Robbie Cheadle: A Featured Fun Guest Post

The benefits of baking and cooking for children

Most children love to spend time in the kitchen either cooking or baking. It is a fabulous bonding experience with Mom or another caregiver and they always enjoying eating the results of their hard work afterwards.

I love to bake and both my sons have travelled the cooking, baking and eating road with me. Michael, particularly, loves to cook. He prefers to make more practical things than I do such as savoury and/or sweet pancakes, French toast and even stews and curries which he makes with his Dad. I like to make all sorts of fancy sweet treats and cakes.

I remember baking with my small boys. Gregory used to love to measure and pour the ingredients into the bowl. Funnily enough, Greg also loved to wash up. Sadly, this has not continued into his teenage years. I used to strip him down to his nappy and stand him on a few chairs lined up in front of the sink [so that he could not fall off] and set him free in front of a sink of soapy water. He used to splash around happy with a cloth washing up the bowl and wooden spoon. I kept the washing of any sharp implements and breakables for myself.

Michael, on the other hand, has never been a fan of any kind of cleaning up. He likes to measure, pour and, especially, to mix. He also likes to “lick” out the bowl. I have photographs of Michael covered from head to toe in chocolate cake mix with the bowl upside down on his head. What fabulous fun.

Other than the obvious fun and bonding factors, there are a list of other great benefits to baking with your children. I did some research on this and this is what I found:

  1. Maths skills: Baking helps children to learn maths concepts, in particular, measurement and simple fractions (half a cup, a quarter of a lemon). In addition, multiplication and division are involved if you half or double a recipe. Other kinds of cooking may also involve patterning (for example with salads and kebabs) and simple addition (how many people are you feeding? how many cupcakes do you need for the class?);
  2. Art skills: Decorating cupcakes, cutting out biscuits and making animals and people out of fondant (sugar dough). All of these activities encourage creativity and develop design abilities. An element of construction can also be involved if you are making a gingerbread house or a marshmallow tower and children learn how to fit pieces together and get a tower to stand up;

Cupcakes decorated for charity by the children of St Columba’s Presbyterian Church Sunday School – Parkview, South Africa

  1. Comprehension skills: Baking and cooking teaches children how to read and interpret a recipe. They learn to follow a sequence of steps and how to organise the required ingredients. Baking also teaches children techniques and vocabulary such as folding, beating, kneading and blending;
  2. Science skills: Contrary to popular belief, baking is a science. Children learn the scientific effects of raising agents such as yeast and baking powder. They learn about the interaction between certain substances such as salt and bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and milk, yeast and warm water. If they make a mistake and/or leave out an ingredient, disaster often follows which helps enforce these learning points;

Giant marshmallow made by Michael – the scientific effects of gelatine

  1. Life skills: Baking and cooking with your children teaches them lifelong skills. In the future, the job of feeding themselves and their future families will become theirs. Baking and cooking skills will stand them in good stead when they leave home; and
  2. Self-esteem: Baking and cooking helps increase children’s self-esteem as they see and taste the results of their efforts. It also teaches children to work together with someone else in a team and that hard work pays dividends in the end.

I am not an occupational therapist but I found the following additional benefits listed on an OT website for children:

  1. Bilateral coordination;
  2. Eye-hand coordination;
  3. Hand strengthening; and
  4. Spatial perception and planning skills.

These four benefits make perfect sense to me in the context of baking and cooking with children.

So, what are you waiting for, get cooking. An easy way to start is with mini pizzas. You can buy the bases ready made from most grocery stores and you can also buy the tomato paste source to spread on the bases. Grate some cheese, cut up some mushrooms, pineapple, ham and anything else that you fancy and let the kids have fun assembling their own pizzas.

Thanks to Robbie Cheadle for this delicious and delightful post. Robbie, you are welcome to share a post any Friday. You can follow Robbie at:

Blogs: robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com and Goodreads.com

Facebook: @SirChocolateBooks

Twitter: @bakeandwrite

Ground Owls by Bryan Pentelow: A Featured Fun Guest Post

Ava paused at the mouth of the cave to take in the panoramic view of Dragon World spread out before her. Cupcake, her bull terrier sat beside her and looked around as well, she also sniffed the slight breeze which tickled her nose. Scents of vegetables being roasted and spicy sauces cooking wafted up from the meeting camp below making Cupcake lick her lips in anticipation of tasty snacks and titbits to come. She yapped and wagged her tail vigorously, though Ava was quite aware of the dog’s wish for her to stop wasting time and get down to the kitchen as quickly as possible. Ava looked around for the small Scrap dragon who always accompanied her on trips to Dragon world and found him licking at an orange streak of iron oxide in a large pebble by the cave mouth.
“Come on Sprocket, Cupcake’s hungry for snacks and you can find plenty of tasty minerals when we get down to the bottom.”
They hurried down the path and while Cupcake followed her nose to the kitchen area to become best friends with the dragon in charge of the cooking, Sprocket scampered over to a promising pile of boulders. Ava walked over to the large red dragon standing at a writing desk carefully sorting and signing a stack of scrolls with a large flamboyant quill pen. “Good morning Llewellyn. You seem to be very busy with papers to sign. Do you have time for a chat?”
“With you Ava, I always have time to chat.” The huge dragon dropped a bundle of scrolls into a sack hanging from the side of the desk and placed a glass paperweight containing the image of a dragon breathing out a sheet of blue-white fire on the remaining stack of papers to prevent the breeze from scattering them far and wide.
Ava climbed onto a high stool and Llewellyn sat back on his haunches folding his arms across the top of his white scaled belly and resting his elbows on his knees. The girl felt totally at ease being close to the towering beast despite his sharp talons, mouth full of far too many sharp fangs and the spirals of smoke and steam rising from his nostrils. When she had first come through the portal from her world with her cousins and her parents she had been petrified of the fire-breathing monsters that had swooped down from the sky to greet them but the kindness and calmness of their telepathic greetings which had tickled her mind and made her laugh had completely overcome her fears. Now she felt confident and comfortable with dragons of all shapes and sizes and visiting their world was as natural as going to the shops with her mum.
“I’m glad you came today, I’ve something new to show you,” said Llewellyn, rubbing his hands together and causing his claws to click like castanets. “A group of Ground Owls has moved into the edge of the wood down by the river where the milk palms grow and the dinosaurs sent a message to say the young ones have just started leaving the nests. I thought you might like to see them.”
“Yes, please. What are Ground Owls? Can’t they fly?”
“They can fly but usually hunt their prey by running along the ground though they do nest in holes in trees like other owls. Their wings are quite small and only good for gliding not for flying and they climb up to their nests using the sharp talons on their feet and a claw on their wing joints.”
“How big are they and what do they eat?”
The Adults are about thirty centimetres tall but over a third of that is leg length so they are no bigger than sixteen centimetres when perched. The babies are no larger than a tennis ball when they first leave the nest. They hunt and eat beetles and their particular favourites are the Rino beetles, the large grey ones with the two horns on their heads.” “But they are nearly as big as my dad’s hand; surely the baby owls can’t catch them?”

“Oh, they can catch them but are not strong enough to kill and eat them so have to start with smaller beetles.” “I would love to see them. Will you take me over there?”
“I’m afraid I have too much work to do today. But the wind is in the right direction so you could get your Tri-ley and sail over. One of the young dinos will tow you back when you’ve had enough.”

“Good thinking. Thanks for the idea. See you later.” With that Ava jumped down from her stool and whistling for Cupcake and Sprocket hurried off to get her Tri-ley from the shelter.

Within minutes she had unfolded the three-wheeled vehicle, rigged the mast and sail and with Cupcake sitting at the front like a ship’s figure-head was bowling across the lilac coloured grassland following the dinosaur trail to the milk palms by the river. Sprocket was ahead and above riding on the twin jet flames from his tail ducts. He performed loops and spirals enjoying the lower gravity of this world and leaving a pink vapour trail to mark his passage. She was careful to give the woods a wide birth as she approached the area where the dinosaurs lived and sent a thought to Cupcake not to bark and frighten the gentle creatures. Ava applied the brakes and furled the sail then walked slowly over to where one of the long-necked herbivores was stirring a huge vat of palm milk with a long wooden paddle.

“Hello, have you come to see the owlets or to try our latest batch of cheese?” The dinosaur lowered its head to look Ava in the eye as it laid the paddle on a long smooth wooden table.

Ava smiled and reaching out rubbed the top of the creature’s head which she knew they liked, while Cupcake rubbed her head against one of its thick, scaly legs.
“I’ve come to see the owls but if there is cheese to try I would love some after I’ve seen them. I will be hungry by then as I had breakfast rather early.”

Sprocket had gone looking for his friends among the young dinosaurs and returned at that point with one who knew where the owls were roosting.
“Follow my son and your dragon and they will lead you to the owls.” said the large dinosaur and the four friends set off. They moved slowly and quietly through the trees of the wood till they came to an open glade with three old rotten logs laying in the middle. Sprocket signalled for them to lay down and inch forward right to the edge of the clearing. For some minutes nothing happened and there was no movement in the clearing, then a fluttering blur dropped from one of the trees and there was an adult Ground Owl perched on one of the rotten logs.

The bird stretched as tall as it could, its head turning right round till it faced backwards then back the other way full circle to check for danger. Satisfied that all was safe it gave a high pitched screech then began running on the spot on top of the log.

The wood was obviously hollow as the bird’s efforts produced a low drumming sound and soon three other owls fluttered down and joined in the strange running dance and increasing the drumming sound.

To say that these birds flew down would be stretching a point, what they did was more of a slow and controlled fall. Their stubby wings flapping so fast they were like a blur on each side of their bodies but did not enable them to gain or even retain height.

More screeching and chirping could be heard from overhead and suddenly a small fluffy ball dropped from the tree which overhung their hiding place, hit the grass, bounced twice and rolled to within half a metre of where they lay. Two large black eyes appeared in the fuzzy ball and blinked twice then two legs with clawed toes spread sprouted from the top of the ball and with a quick flip an angry owlet stood before them. It ruffled its feathers, spread its short wings and hissed loudly. The bright yellow, hooked beak was clearly visible as were the sharp climbing claws on the wing joints. Having declared its dissatisfaction with its landing and, the world in general, the chick turned and ran off towards the logs and other owls.

Ava found it almost impossible not to laugh out loud at the sight of the tiny owlet running. Its wing stubs spread for balance, its short tail wagging from side to side head thrust forward. The long stick thin legs high stepping rapidly as it covered the ground at an amazing speed.

Other fuzzy balls were dropping from trees around the glade till eventually a dozen of the comical fluff balls were darting and zig-zagging across the clearing. Finally, four adult females joined their chicks and began to herd them towards the fallen logs.

Ava slowly rolled to the left so she could get her small digital camera from her pocket them rolled back and raised the viewfinder to her eye. Adjusting the zoom and focus she was about to take a picture when a tiny flashing icon caught her attention. She quickly lowered the camera and pressed the button to engage silent mode then raised it again and proceeded to record the chick’s antics.

Through the powerful zoom lens, she could see the effect that the adults drumming feet were having on the rotten log. Out of one end of the fallen tree was pouring a stream of worms, grubs and beetles which had been disturbed by the bird’s actions. The chicks and female owls fell upon this feast, stabbing with beaks and talons and running after the faster insects. One chick pounced on a large Rhino beetle and began pecking at its armoured shell. The beetle reared up on its hind legs and the chick losing its balance and grip rolled off in a flurry of legs and feathers. Before the small owl could regain its feet the beetle turned, charged its foe and began to toss the fuzzy bundle about with its two horns. The chick was squeaking pitifully till its mother dashed up, flipped the belligerent beetle onto its back and plunged a lethal talon into its soft under parts. As her chick righted itself she tore off the beetle’s under-casing and shared the feast with her young one.

They watched the chase and feeding for another quarter of an hour then carefully backed away from the clearing and returned to the milk palm plantation.
The long table was covered with wooden plates and dishes containing a wonderful selection of cheeses, dips and piles of crisp dried leaf crackers.

“Find yourself a place and tuck in. There is a bowl or double baked hard biscuits for your dog and some tasty mineral rich rocks for Sprocket. So help yourselves. They had a long slow lunch followed by paddling in the shallows of the river to collect fresh muscles for the dragons who particularly liked the shells to crunch. As the red sun began to sink toward the horizon Ava tied two ropes to the front post of the Tri-ley and a pair of young dinosaurs harnessed to the vehicle and Sprocket and Cupcake aboard she set off back to the camp by the cliff.

On arrival at the camp, she released and thanked the young dinosaurs who nuzzled her with their scaly noses then galloped off home. Cupcake helped her pull the Tri-ley back under cover then she spent half an hour showing Llewellyn the pictures and movies she had recorded of the Ground Owls and laughing at their strange ways.
It began to get dark as the sun set and Lanterns were being put up all around the camp by small dragons, so Ava wished the large red dragon goodbye and accompanied by dog and dragon climbed the path and returned through the portal in the cave.

When she came out of the lift door into the pithead yard it was still early afternoon. Sprocket flew off to Pudding founders Lane while Ava and Cupcake headed for the museum.

She found Dave in his workshop/office at the back of the building and asked him if he would print some large copies of some of her shots and copy the movies onto a flash drive so she could watch them on her TV at home. This he did while Ava made tea and passed some broken ginger biscuits to Cupcake. That sat sipping tea and munching biscuits while the printer wired away producing the colour images which Dave laminated for her to protect them from damage. Clutching a cardboard tube containing the prints under her arm the girl and her dog made their way back home and arrived just before her dad and in time for tea.

What an adventure and the prints would look great on her bedroom wall.
Do you want to know more about Bryan Pentelow and his Sprocket Sagas collection? Then reach out to him at his favorite haunts.

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