The Big Bad Pig Reforms

One day my four-year-old grandson was here for a couple of hours while his mom was otherwise occupied, and he was telling me this story:

“At the other grandma’s house we were reading a book. It was a story about three nice wolves and a big bad pig.

“There was a mother wolf and the three nice little wolves. Then the nice wolves had to go and build themselves each a house. And the big bad pig tried to knock their houses down. He did, he knocked down their houses. And the nice wolves ran away.

And the nice wolves ran into a house that was really strong and the big bad pig was going to knock it down, too.”

So what did the big bad pig do,” I asked. “Did he knock the house down?”

“No. He couldn’t. But then you know what happened? The nice wolves opened the door and let the big bad pig in and he became a good pig. Yes! He became a good pig and they were all playing together and everybody was happy.”

I must ask “the other grandma” about this book of hers, I thought. I hadn’t heard this version. No, it sounds very strange indeed. But then my husband went online and found out there is indeed such a book out now. It’s listed on Amazon here: The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig.

One little wolf builds his house of cement and the big bad pig comes with a jackhammer. The next one builds his house of bricks and the pig comes with dynamite and blows it up. (Remember we’re living with savvy children these days. No straw and stick houses. No huff and puff.”

Caution: spoiler alert!
Anyway, the big bad pig does knock down all the little wolves houses, but in the end do indeed invite the big bad pig in to play with them and be their friend. He responds by becoming a nice pig. I can see this as the author’s attempt to show children one way of coping with bullies. Make them friends. Not a bad plan at all.

At least it works with some people. While other bullies, hardened and scarred by a life of brutality, would respond to the offer by trashing the house and devouring his intended victims. In this case the wolves. Or, for a really quirky twist, would the nice little wolves end up eating the pig? Wolves might, you know. (Oh, well. I needn’t inject a dose of morbid reality here.)

Some parents will applaud what the Amazon book blurb calls a “delightfully skewed version of the traditional tale. Some will call this approach enlightenment; some will say it’s a disappointment. I haven’t decided, but I do wonder about the long-term effects of turning the traditional villain into nice little heroes and the traditional victims, the three little pigs, into one nasty villain. But if this is the only version the children ever hear….?

What do you think?

Word Press Daily prompt: disappointment

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O Molly, I’ll Never Forget!

Hello Everyone,

It’s been awhile. For those of you who don’t follow my main blog, I had my first round of chemo-therapy April 11th & 12th. Each day involved about six hours hooked up to IV. You can read about it here. By now I think I’ve mostly recovered; this week I’m starting to feel more energy and tackle more household tasks.

I may not be doing a lot of fiction stories for awhile, but I still get the urge be-times. Yesterday morning I wrote this scrap of poetry just for fun:

Molly O’Haggerty O’Rourke
my colleen from county o’ Cork
Oh, I’ll soon be sailing
and she’ll soon be wailing
My fortune I seek in New York.

Says Molly O’Haggerty O’Rourke,
“Your colleen from county of Cork
sure, you’ll be forgettin’
as soon as you’re settin’
your eyes on the girls of New York”

I says to her, “Love, don’t be clowned—
a truer love never was found.
I’ll send for you, sweetheart;
sure, we’ll make a new start
and light up the streets of York town.

A Highland Tale

“Oh, it were sich a sorry time for Scotland, ye ken,” the white-haired  storyteller began, “Those were the days of the dreadful Highland clearances, when the English were drivin’ the tenants off their crofts and fillin’ the whole land wi’ their sheep. The highlanders were sorely oppressed. Forbidden tae speak the Gaelic, they were, or tae wear the tartans, or play the pipes.”

Though most of them knew it by heart, the town lads were gathered round him, eager to hear the tale told again of the brave chieftain’s son who died trying to keep his precious bagpipes safe from the British soldiers patrolling the land.

“Down in yon glen is a cave, ye ken, where stout-hearted young Donald was sure he could hide his pipes the whiles, thinkin’ someday the Sassenachs would give up and go home. By the light o’ the full moon he and his best friend snuck down that lane ye’re seein’ there — course it was nae but a wee path then — and stashed his pipes in a safe place inside the cave.”

The local lads squirmed with delight, each envisioning himself as the fearless friend accompanying young Donald down the moonlit trail.

“But some spy had betrayed them…” The storyteller paused to look at his audience with a stern glare. “The lads were but a short way from the cave, headed for home and safety, when they were attacked by half a dozen soldiers. Oh, they were stalwart highland sons and they put up a fierce fight, but they dinna have proper swords and were hopelessly outnumbered. Before long the two were mortally wounded.

“They managed to crawl back intae the cave, but there they died, and there the English left them lie. But young Donald had the last laugh: never did the soldiers find his bagpipes. Legend says his spirit lingers in that cave tae this day, and on bright moonlit nights he comes out tae play his pipes. Many a soul has told of hearin’ them skirlin’ in the night. Some even say they hear the clank of swords as if the lads are still battlin’ the soldiers.”

“I dunna believe that” one young skeptic spoke up.

His friends turned and stared at him, aghast, but he was unrepentant. “There’s nae sich things as ghosts playin’ pipes.”

No one else had words to rebuke such heresy, so the group of boys broke up and went about their business.

That night happened to be a bright moonlit night. A shadowy form made its way down the old lane, taking care to blend in with the shrubs. Soon the old storyteller, a sack in one hand, was entering the cave.

He set down his sack and rummaged around in one of the old shafts until he found a bundle wrapped in old blankets, muttering to himself as he did so, “Great-great-grandpa were a smart man tae make up that nice little tale o’ poor Donald and his friend. Folks needed a bit of superstition tae keep them from snoopin’ here, but it’ll be coming to an end soon enough, I’m fearing’.” He shook his head. “Lads these days are sich skeptics.”

Carefully he unwrapped the bagpipes and carried them outside the cave. He took the instrument in his arms, pumped the bag full of air, and began to play. Soon the wail of the pipes was rolling down the lanes and fields.

A mile back down the lane three lads were creeping along, flashlights in hand. Their leader, the chief heretic himself, was telling the others in low tones, “I know there’s nothing to that old tale.”

A moment later they heard the distinctive wail of the bagpipes. They stopped in their tracks and stared at each other, then all three turned and hightailed it back to town.

After half an hour of playing the pipes, the old storyteller lovingly wrapped them in the blankets and stowed them away. Then, with his sack in one hand and his torch in the other, he made his way along one of the shafts until he found his pick axe. He took it up and began chipping away at the rock around the vein of amethyst.

Very likely someday someone would get up enough nerve to explore this old abandoned mine, but until then he’d carry on profiting from what his great-great grandfather had found.

My response to the Word Press daily prompt: superstition

A Dark and Stormy Night (2)

Part Two

Royal peered out the window, barely able to see between the rivulets of water running down the pane. “Maybe it’s someone lost in the storm? Or now that he’s out of town, he can’t see to go on.”

“But whoever would start out in a night like this?”

“Maybe it’s thieves who just robbed a bank and need a place to hide out,” said Bluette.

“Just the thing we need to hear,” Mother said in a sharp, reproving tone.

A white zigzag arced across the heavens. “It’s a two-tone,” Bluette announced. “Light body, dark top.”

Royal had gotten a good look, too. “It’s a ‘56 Olds 88 — you can tell by the grille. It has one of those new Rocket V 8 engines,” he said with a superior air. He poked his sister. “Light and dark! You don’t know anything about cars.”

Bluette stuck her tongue out. “It’s cream with a tropical green roof, just like Uncle Nolan’s car. Who cares about engines? I do hope it’s them.”

“Yes,” Mother exclaimed with delight as the vehicle came to a halt near the front door. “It is Uncle Nolans.” She hurried to the door with the children right behind her.

The passengers spilled out of the car and dashed for the sheltering porch. Mother flung the door open. “Come in, come in!” she urged. “What brings you out in this storm?”

“Oh, just thought it would be a good time to pop in for a visit,” Uncle Nolan said as he peeled off his wet coat. “With the lights flickering off and on, we thought the electricity might go out altogether and things would get chilly at our place. Then, of course, we thought of you folks with your nice warm fireplace and decided that’s where we’d rather be if we have to sit in the dark.”

“I hope you don’t mind us coming over,” Aunt Stacey added. “I thought with Tom gone you might appreciate a little company on this miserable night anyway.”

“Oh, yes, we do!” Royal said as he helped hang their jackets over the kitchen chairs to dry.

Mother gave everyone a big hug, even Uncle Nolan. “Your timing is perfect,” she said. “Someone was just speculating that the house would be struck by lightening,” Mother gave Bluette a meaningful look, “while someone else was predicting a tornado would blow us half way across the country. You folks can help put paid to such gloomy thoughts.”

“My word! Well, I must say some thoughts like that were bouncing around at our house, too,” Aunt Stacey admitted, glancing at her own children. “So maybe we can cheer each other up.”

“We should make hot chocolate for everybody,” Bluette suggested.

“Yeah, and popcorn, too,” Azure added. She looked at her cousin Caroline, who nodded enthusiastically.

“That’s a great idea,” Mother said. “But, Royal, you need to bring in some more wood in case the power does go off.”

Royal grabbed a flashlight from the shelf beside the stove and turned to his cousin Michael. “Want to help me split some kindling and bring in the wood?”

“Sure, let’s get at it,” his teenage cousin replied.

“I’m so glad you came,” Bluette said to her cousin Darlene, who was the same age as her.“You’ve saved me from a really tough slog,” she added as the girls wandered back into the living room.

“Like what?” Darlene asked.

“Mom was just saying I had to write a letter to Great Aunt Opal thanking her for the handkerchiefs she sent. Did you get some for your birthday, too?” She rolled her eyes. “It’s hard to write some gushy ‘Thank you’ for a gift you’ll never use.”

“You know, Bleet, I found a really good use for Aunt Opal’s hankies. I use them for bookmarks.”

Bluette stared at her. “Bookmarks?”

“Yeah. I fold them up and iron them so they’re really flat and use them to mark my place. That way I don’t have to leave books cracked open like this.” She pointed to the book Bluette had left on the arm of the chair. “Then I can write and tell Aunt Opal that I’ve found her handkerchiefs ‘really useful.’ And everybody’s happy.”

“You know, that’s not such a bad idea.” Not being as neat and organized as Darlene, she’d have never thought of it herself. “At least it’ll give me something to say when I write her.”

She picked her book off the arm of the chair. “I’m really glad you all came over. Have you ever read Wuthering Heights?”

“Yes. Isn’t Heathcliffe a heartless brute!”

Soon Michael and Royal were carrying in armloads of firewood, Uncle Nolan was stoking the fire and the aroma of hot chocolate was scenting the air. Before long the corn was popped and everyone was sitting around by the fireside enjoying the visit even if the lights were apt to go off at any moment.

“Hey, everybody. Wouldn’t it be neat if the electricity did go off and we get to sit here in the dark?” Royal asked in between mouthfuls of popcorn. He grinned at Michael.“That’d make the evening just perfect.”

A Dark and Stormy Night…

Part One

It was a dark and stormy night. Lightening flashes steadily lit up the sky, thunder boomed, and a deluge poured down on the earth below.

One house in particular, located just outside the village, seemed to be receiving the storm’s most violent attentions. Perched on a slight rise and without many sheltering trees, the old two-storey home shuddered under the onslaught of the gale force winds.

Inside the house the occupants quaked now and then, too. Father was away on business for several days, which no doubt unsettled the family even more. Mother was trying to do some mending, but the electricity flickered now and then, making her task rather difficult. The older two children were absorbed in their story books.

Azure, the youngest daughter, whimpered as the lights momentarily dimmed again. She squeezed closer to her big sister Bluette, who sat reading on a couch near the fireplace.

As another fork of lightening pierced the blackness outside, Bluette looked up from her book, Wuthering Heights, and listened for the thunder clap. “Perhaps our house will get hit by lightning and burn to the ground,” she commented.

Royal, the oldest boy, had been devouring the first chapter of The Wizard of Oz. “Maybe a tornado will blow our house clean away and we’ll land over in California,” he said as another blast of rain sloshed over the windows.

Bluette refuted. his suggestion. “Tornado season is past.”

“But you never know. Freak weather happens sometimes.”

Mother set her mending aside. “Life of the party, aren’t you two? I think you both need to give up on those frivolous books and do something useful. Bluette, don’t forget you need to write a letter to Great Aunt Opal thanking her for the handkerchiefs she gave you for your birthday. Put that book away and get out your notepad.”

“But, Mother!” Bluette let out a wail quite much in tune with the wind outside. “I’m just at the part where the writer is snooping through Catherine’s diary and hearing knocks on the window. I can’t quit now! Anyway, I don’t have a clue what to say to Aunt Opal? We have tissues now. Nobody uses handkerchiefs anymore. I don’t know what on earth to do with the things, so how can I thank her for them?”

Mother gave her a stern look. “A gift is a gift. She deserves a thank-you.”

With a heavy sigh Bluette laid her book face down over the arm of a chair.

“And Royal, you should go out to the garage and chop some of that firewood into kindling in case we need more.”

“What if the power goes out? I’d hate to be out there in the dark.”

“Take a flashlight. And we do have a couple of kerosene lamps around, if you’d rather have one of those.”

“Trade you,” Bluette piped up. “I’ll go chop kindling if you write Aunt Opal for me.”

“Come on, Bleet. You can’t handle an axe.”

“Can so!”

“Bluette, let your brother do his work. And Royal, please call your sister by her proper name.”

“But everybody calls her Bleet,” Royal protested. “It suits her.”

“Does not!” Bluette stuck her tongue out at him.

Mother glared at him. “Here we chose such a lovely name for your sister. How did she ever end up with that terrible nickname?”

Just then, above the noise of the storm, they heard the put-put of an automobile driving into the yard. They gazed at each other, then everyone jumped up and hurried to the window.

“Whoever could that be?” Mother said, a tinge of fear in her voice.

To be continued….

Daily prompt word: frivolous

 

Both Sides of the Coin

Those of you who follow my main blog, Christine ‘s Collection at christinegoodnough.com will be seeing this first book review for the second time. I decided to post the second book review for the sake of contrast. these are my opinions, for what they’re worth, and you may totally disagree. Please feel free to leave a comment giving your own thoughts on either book.

Only last week I learned that Amazon offers 100 free e-books every month, so I took a chance and downloaded Marcy McKay’s new book. And since this story is all about a feisty, nervy girl, I’ll link it to today’s Word Press prompt.

Pennies From Burger Heaven
by Marcy McKay
SkipJack Publishing

If you desire a compelling, suspenseful, poignant story with lots of twists and turns in the plot, this will definitely fill the bill. Life on the streets of Remington, Texas, is rough and raw at best. It becomes sinister after Copper’s Mama, a homeless prostitute, disappears one morning. Her eleven-year-old daughter, Copper, blessed with determination — and a good deal of scared — sets out from their cemetery “home” to find her. She heads into the inner city they know so well, slowly untangling the web of her mother’s past involvements, hoping one of the threads will lead to Mama.

If the reader doesn’t want to be dragged through the mire of a ghetto — the crime, drugs, gang wars, predators and hookers — then don’t read this. Language isn’t a stream of profanity, but there’s enough realistic dialogue. God, Jesus and religion get a lot of bad press among the destitute. There’s your stereotype phony televangelist, weak in the area of “lust of the flesh.”

That said, McKay has been accurate in her portrayal of the living conditions among the homeless and the people who prey on them, as well as the religious confusion that exists among the unchurched. Coming from a non-religious background as I do, I see the thinking of my own people in this story.

For me the real hero isn’t so much the I-can-look-after-myself, spit-fire Copper. She is very obviously the victim here as well as the protagonist. Rather, it’s the Detective who tries so hard to grab this scrawny little alley cat who’s clawing, kicking, and lashing out at him and everyone else. He wants desperately to rescue her before she gets tossed under a bus and squashed flat.

Thanks to some supernatural — maybe even divine — intervention, this kitten is granted her full nine lives. On one hand, you somewhat anticipate the ending, yet all the slimy twists and turns — and final revelations — are totally unexpected.

Marcy McKay has penned a sequel to this book; this doesn’t appear to have been released yet. If you’re interested, the book is free on Amazon until the end of March.

On the Other Side of the Copper…

I’ve heard that you can learn a lot about good writing from reading the stuff that doesn’t work. In which case you writers may want to check out this cozy mystery because this story doesn’t work well for several different reasons. (Again, in my opinion. Some reviewers think it’s great.)

Starboard Secrets (Series: Cruise Ship Cozy Mystery Series)
by Hope Callaghan
Self-published

This is a rather short mystery and the writer must have wanted to save time; Millie, the main character, boards the ship for her first day at her brand new job, see a dead body right off, and immediately start making inquiries.

I find this story implausible from the get-go. Not much of the first chapter is devoted to her learning about her new position, rather she dives right into this investigation and trying to ascertain and interview the suspects. By the end of the next day the whole staff knows she’s searching for the killer. Not very bright.

There’s not much character development beyond quick descriptions. Millie’s coworkers seem to be of interest to her — and to the author — only insofar as they can contribute to her investigation. This may be getting right to the point, but it would be nice if there was more interaction apart from Millie’s curiosity.

The story is told mainly from Millie’s point of view, but the writer occasionally tosses us into one of the other character’s minds for minute to show us what they are thinking of Millie. I found this distracting.

As she picks up bits and pieces of info, Millie adds names to her “suspects” list, often at the slightest hint of this person having some discord with the deceased. I find this annoying, like she really doesn’t have a clue how to investigate and is grasping at straws.

For me, Millie doesn’t come across as a very bright or likable person, rather nosy and irritating, with an axe to grind. She’s out to prove to her ex (a private eye who isn’t around anyway) that’s she’s worth something by solving her own mystery. Thus her relating to others on board tends to hinge around her own issues.

Millie is portrayed as a devout Christian, yet her so-often-mentioned resentment toward her ex-husband tells us that “forgiving and letting go” isn’t a big part of her creed — at this point. However, betrayal is painful. Her pain isn’t resolved in this first book of the series; hopefully it will be as the series progresses.

I downloaded this book in the Cozy Mysteries & Mystery Books Box Set. In all fairness the third book in this group, Waves of Deception, is a good, believable, quick read.

Back Again

Hello Everyone,

I was shocked when I opened this blog and saw that it’s actually been a month since I posted here. I thought, “Maybe two weeks…” As you know, I have been dealing with health issues — and especially so this past month — but I’ve been blessed with a bit more inspiration lately to work on this again. A bit of spring cleaning and sorting is in order, maybe add a page or two.

As to my battle with leukemia, the decision has been made that next month we’ll start firing the big guns. At my Cancer Clinic appointment in February Dr Hart told me she felt it’s time to start chemotherapy, beginning in April. On March 8th, as a preliminary, I had a CAT scan and Dr Hart took a bone marrow sample. Not your nicest experience, but it’s par for the course. 😦

I have written a couple of stories lately in response to the Word Press Daily Prompt, like this humorous letter, RE: Missing Ferrari, using the given word “incomplete.” Read it here.

This week I’m inspired by Jeff Goins’ 7-day Blog Like a Pro challenge. Although I’m not at this time following each step, I’ve been watching with interest and checking out a dozen new blogs and articles.

Here’s the link to one of them, for anyone who’s interested in using Google.com for research: Five Google Tricks that will make you a better writer. This blogger has posted several other thought-provoking articles recently as well.

Another thing I’ve been doing lately is reading, and right now am enjoying P G Wodehouse. Read more about my impressions of this prolific English writer here.

Sci-Fi Adventure?

The writing prompt at The Write Practice a few days ago asked us to choose a plot and do a short science-fiction story. I’ve never done sci-fi and don’t plan to do any in future, but an interesting idea popped into my mind. So I thought…okay…let’s see where this goes. As you are about to learn, humor tends to infiltrate any genre in my stories.

The planet Wondancia, five light years from our planet, is inhabited by beings designed much like earthlings. But being so much more advanced in medical science, they’ve discovered how to restructure shoulders and armpits so as to accommodate an extra limb on each side. So at birth each baby on the planet Wondancia is fitted with an extra pair of arms. Needless to say, this comes in very handy.

A century ago these creatures invented powerful telescopes and began searching the various solar systems for signs of life. They took note of a particular blue-and-green ball with a surrounding atmosphere and wondered if it might be a planet hospitable to life. They named it Kantazandy, which to them means “blue seas and green hills.”

After some time they developed such powerful telescopes that they could actually see creatures moving around on Kantazandy. They took note of the fact that Kantazandians, though almost identical to them in shape and size, had only two arms each. What a handicap!

After much discussion, they concluded that every one of the people of Kantazandy would probably be so grateful for an extra pair of arms. So they prepared a space ship with their most advanced medical men to visit this planet. It was not only a fact-finding mission, but as mission of mercy as well.

Their ship landed on the Riviera in 2019, and the aliens disembarked. News of their arrival thrilled the whole planet! They learned that the inhabitants called this beautiful planet La Terre, or Earth in another language. What a dull name for a beautiful planet like Kantazandy! No accounting for some people’s taste.

And when the Wondancians understood that the Kantazandians were about to celebrate the year 2020, they thought it an opportune time to offer this new gift. Human beings — as the Kantazandians called themselves — were all thrilled at the prospect that each of them could be fitted for a new pair of arms. After all, everyone was wishing for a second pair of hands, weren’t they?

Alas! The humans soon realized that all their fancy wardrobes, including fashion designer gowns and jackets that cost them the earth, would now be useless and would have to be tossed. So the humans drove the Wondancians back into their spaceship and forced them to leave the planet.

“Ungrateful wretches,” the Wondancians muttered as they roared off into space. So much for foreign aid.

Nick Gets His Dream Vacation

I posted this story on my main blog because my browser stubbornly refused to access this site. However, being fiction, it rightly belongs here. My apologies to those of you who are getting it twice.

Christine's Reflections

They were just finishing lunch when Ethan asked, “Dad, could you take me to baseball practice this afternoon?”

Nick winced. “Sorry, Ethan, not today. I…have other plans.”

His wife Chastie glared at him and plunked her mug on the table. The last of her coffee shot up like a mini-geyser and sloshed onto the table. “So what will you be doing this afternoon that’s more important than your son.”

Nick focused on his own coffee cup. “This is perfect weather for fishing. I’ll spend a few hours on the dock and bring home a nice string of fish to fry for supper.”

Her eyes flashed with anger. “You’d fish your life away if you could.”

“Don’t be like that, Chas. I haven’t had a day to myself for a long time.”

She seemed ready to argue the point, but she sighed and said nothing. His conscience put in a few…

View original post 1,489 more words

The Runaway

The Write Practice today asks up to write a scene about a young man or woman walking through London. First in present tense, then in past tense. Here’s my version:

As I walk I’m careful where I put my feet, not wanting to step in some trash or trip over some litter, perhaps a child’s broken toy left lying. Now and then I stop to study the buildings around me, the tenement row houses and run-down apartment blocks. Cramped quarters where you try hard to shut your ears, not wanting to know about the shouts, cries, maybe even screams of your neighbours. Maybe hoping that it’s at least not the children getting the beating. But you tune it all out. You have enough problems of your own.

Snatches of conversation I’m hearing tell me a lot of immigrants are starting out life in Britain right here on these streets. How do they feel now about the Promised Land?

A gust of wind blows at my skirt and I smooth it down, trying to stay decently covered. Three black-haired, black eyed young men in a huddle look my way; one of them whistles. As I pass by they look me over, curious, but I’m too old for them. I give myself a mental shake and straighten my shoulders. I’m not some teenage runaway; I have business here.

How did she end up on these streets? And why am I here, trying to find her? This is madness. Again I pray for a miracle: Could she somehow just materialize in front of me.

When I get to the street corner my eyes scan the sign posts, willing “Faust Street” to appear on one of them. Next time I’m taking a cab right to her door. No, I correct myself. There won’t be a next time. Ever.

Surely it can’t be much farther. I plod on, conscious that the daylight’s disappearing. I glance up into the murky sky and realize the fog is rolling in. What would it be like to be caught wandering these East End streets in a pea soup fog. My mind flips to the story of Jack the Ripper. I force myself to think about my flower garden at home.

A man approaches, walking toward me, and something makes me look in his face. It’s not the scars that startle me, but the look in his eyes. Like a wolf sizing up a silly ewe. And I’m seeing myself very fitted to the role of lamb kebab.

At this moment finding her seems not half as important as it did an hour ago. All my being is crying to be out of this place, off these streets.

The man is so close to me now I can smell the stale tobacco on his clothes. He stops and eyes me too thoroughly. He seems to think he knows what I’m doing here. Well I’m not, mister! I take a several steps back.

“Where ye going’ lady? He reaches out his hand, gripping my arm with strong fingers. I’d like ta get ta know ye.” He pulls me toward him.

Half a block behind him I see a bobby step out of a shop and look in our direction. Thank God!