Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Java Jail


By Laurie Kay Olson
© 2011 by Laurie Kay Olson

  It is true what they say, that being a mother is the greatest job ever, at least most of the time. All it takes is a case of the flu to turn those little angels into demon spawn. Not their flu, yours. Those happy little shrieks you normally appreciate suddenly pierce your skull like a bolt of lightning. This can also turn you into Cruella DeVille on steroids.
I leaned against the kitchen counter, hoping that it would support me in ways I could not do for myself at the moment. There was a major breakfast skirmish going on behind me and I knew that the cereal was going to fly. If they didn’t knock it off there was a definite possibility that I would be the one to launch the opening salvo. My kingdom for a grenade launcher. Was it getting cold in here?
At the moment I just didn’t care about much of anything. My throat ached only slightly less than my head, the nausea was creeping upward, and everything hurt like I had been sleeping on a bed of rocks. I was on the verge of taking my husband’s name in vain, even though he had managed to get the “herd”| dressed for school. I tried not to look too closely, although I did see that Gina had red stockings on with a pink dress. Oh, well, it wouldn’t hurt her to be a fashion “don’t” for a day.
Coffee, I needed coffee. That would perk me up enough to get the kids off to school and me to call in to work. It took some concentration then. A coffee pot, right, I needed the coffee pot.
“Tommy!” the shriek was a bullet through the skull. I grasped the edge of the counter to steady myself and turned around. Tommy had fished the toy from the box of cereal out of Lisa’s bowl. I quickly retrieved it from them and placed it on injured reserve. It was out of the game for today. No one would get the toy until later. Tommy was the loudest protest, but that was probably because of taking Gina’s spoon to the head. I think I did it without shouting. I think. I’m not sure. If I only had a hangover I would be feeling so much better.
It was feeling colder in here. I wrapped the blue chenille bathrobe tighter and wiggled my toes inside my bear claw slippers. I was dressed in the ghosts of Christmases past. I would not have picked out either of these fashion items for myself. I suppose I brought it on myself when I said that I preferred to go barefoot. Little Lisa would have easily transposed that into “bear-foot” and then insist on these slippers. They made my feet sweat.
I would be happier in men’s pajamas and slipper socks. I was a mommy martyr at times. I especially felt like a martyr right now. Where was Todd anyway? I could really use his help. Of course he was getting ready for work. Soon, so blessedly soon I would have the house to myself and I could collapse for a few hours. Where was I? Oh, right, water. I filled the coffee pot. Now I needed coffee. I opened the cupboard and looked at the selection of coffees therein – too many to choose from. I certainly wasn’t going to grind beans today. I resorted to default mode and grabbed the red can of Folgers.
My fingers curled around the plastic lid. I couldn’t pull hard enough. Normally that was no big deal. Suddenly the can vanished from my hands. I looked up at my freshly laundered husband neat and tidy in a clean Polo shirt and Dockers. He smiled at me encouragingly and popped open the can. He looked down, raised one eyebrow, and then turned the can toward me. There in the fresh grounds was Judy, one of Lisa’s dolls. The dark brown flecks spotted her yellow floral sundress and white high heels. I reached in and pulled her out by her long blond hair. We turned together to look at Lisa.
“Put her back in there!” Lisa ordered imperiously. Her pale brown hair was still floating with static from the application of her sweater. It gave her a misleading fragile appearance.
“Why?” I asked, not sure that I really wanted to know.
“She’s been a bad girl and now she’s in jail,” Lisa claimed.
“You couldn’t let her out for good behavior?” asked Todd.
Lisa shook her head. “She isn’t e-vegetable for patrol until tomorrow.”
For a six-year-old she had some amazing moments of being precocious. “You mean eligible for parole?” I asked.
She nodded. “That’s what I said.”
“Can she at least get some exercise in the yard while I make some coffee?” I asked.
Lisa thought for a moment, one chubby finger put to her lips, and then nodded emphatically. A reprieve had been granted by the judge.
I carefully placed Judy on the lid while I scooped out the coffee. Todd marshaled the kids into their coats and mittens with a maximum of chaos while Lisa watched carefully to make sure that Judy when right back into her cell. Todd was muttering something about reviewing our television watching habits.
As Todd took the kids to school I wondered what Judy’s crime had been. As I poured my cup of coffee I remembered. Of course, the shoes, she was wearing white after Labor Day. I put one hand to my forehead. I was not thinking clearly. Oh, I definitely belonged back in bed.
I picked up Judy and took her with me. I needed someone to talk to.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Armchair Cowboy Rides Again

(c) 1999 by Laurie Kay Olson

My dad still pursues his vicarious life --
Far from his family, away from his wife.
His heart still answers the call of the west,
Imagining he wears a star on his vest.
Like John Wayne, he's a man true and gritty.
Like Marshall Dillon he befriends Miss Kitty
While maintaining the law in some dusty town,
Awaiting high noon for the big showdown.
With the Cartwright boys he's ridden the spread,
Checking up on the cattle, head by head.
Many days he's lived on hardtack and beans
While herding cows through steep desert ravines.
He's hunted Clint Eastwood just for the bounty
And even gone up north to work as a Mountie.
With Kenny Rogers he's gone and gambled his pay,
Living to gamble another day.
He's been through his share of barroom brawls
And gotten punched out in livery stalls.
He's given his heart to the pretty schoolmarm,
He's succumbed to a young senorita's charm.
Eventually this fantasy ends --
He returns to his family, and to his friends.
He turns off the TV, gets up from his chair --
\What an amazing life he's led sitting there.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

This too shall pass

I face the end of the old year with the end of my old job. Just ten days before Christmas I was laid off. For the first time ever I cried over losing a job. I had really enjoyed this one and loved the people I worked with. I feel so down-hearted, but I also knew that something like this was coming. If nothing else my hours would be cut back. The business for my department had taken some large hits over the last year.

On Monday I went back in to distribute the presents I had bought everybody there, including the dogs. They were tiny, inexpensive things that I couldn't really return - or was it that I didn't have the heart to? At any rate, I was able to say some goodbyes I hadn't been able to the previous Thursday. They had let me go after the rest of the staff had left for the day. I got to say Merry Christmas, and I got to pat one last dog. I was also able to send a message no hard feelings. I had said if they needed me for any contract work that they could still call on me. This helped to show that I meant it with no ill will toward them.

So I am now gearing up for the job search. I spent more than an hour dialing the phone and two and a half hours on hold to get through to the unemployment office this morning. I couldn't apply online because I had a worker's comp claim this year. It turned out to be a serendipitous occurrence. The lady there was able to tell me that if I wait until Jan. 1 to file then I will receive $60 more a week. She marked my file so that I can apply online this time. The only reason they needed to talk with me was to ascertain whether my unemployment was related to my worker's comp claim. I feel much more relaxed about things now.

Of course, the first thing I had to do was buy a new computer. That was a pretty hefty financial blow, but thanks to Christmas sales, I think I made a good job of it. This time off will also give me the time I need to continue writing my book. That part I am definitely looking forward to.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Local Woman Run Over By Reindeer

(c) 2001 by Laurie Kay Olson


Well, it all started back in November jist afore Thanksgivin’
Ol’ Mabel Shively, the mayor’s wife, started naggin’ on me
To be one o’ Santa’s elves in the ChristmasParade this year.
I know how she can git if she don’t get her way.
I figured I might as well give in up front an’ enjoy the festivities
Rather than havin’ her givin’ me grief at ev’ry turn this Christmas.
At the veru first meetin’ my boy Bubbais complainin’ about elves
An’how they ain’t cool, so he suggested that we all wear sunglasses
Since the stockin’ caps and pointy shooes thing had been done to death.
Mabel didn’t like that idea one bit, so naturally  all the elves
Just up an’ took right to it, even Santa said he’d do it.
Seein’ as he was head elf an all up to the North Pole.
Bubba managed to smooth it all over with Mabel by explainin’
That since we didn’t have no snow Santa an’ the gang
Would need some protection from that good ol’ Arkansas sunshine.
So the Saturday afore Christmas  we loaded Santa into an ol’ buggy
That was bein’ drawn by a horse that Mabel’d made a set of antlers for.
I don’t think that poor ol’ nag liked them things wavin’ around
I don’t think he liked havin’ a red rubber ball tied to his snout neither.
As if anyone would mistake him for Rudolph by any stretch.
Eny-who, all the kids in the county lined up from the drugstore
All the way down to the bandshell at Foxworth Memorial Park
Waiting for Santa to make the four block trip to see ‘em.
Personally, I think Santa would’ve been a heap more convincin’
If he hadn’t insisted on wearin’ his badge on his red velour suit.
I wouldn’t be surprised if he had his gun strapped on underneath too.
Well, we started off with the Pea Pod Junction Junior/Senior High band
Leadin’ the way playin’ Santa Claus is Comin’  to Town so well
That you could almost make out what they was actually playin’
All us elves walked along side Santa an’ his makeshift reindeer,
Handin’ out candy on all sides an’ yellin’ Merry Christmas to one an’ all
While ol’ Rudolph was gittin’ all het up about that ball on his snout
He started to shake them foam rubber antlers somethin’ fierce
The parade route was short, but it was two blocks too long for that ol’ nag.
All of a sudden he reared up an’ tried to get away from those antlers
I barely turned around in time to see that strange creature conin’ at me.
With Harlan, I mean Santa, holdin’ on for dear life, white beard in his eyes.
Next thing I knowed I was spread-eagle on the pavement.
When first the horse an’ then the buggy went right over me.
I woulda been just fine with a couple o’ cracked ribs
An’ a big ol’ horse-shoe shaped bruise on my backside
But that was when Santa fell outta the buggy right onto me
An’ busted my left arm in a couple o’ places
It may sound kinda bad, but at least this Christmas
I won’t have to spend the whole day bastin’ the turkey
An’ worryin’ about whether my Jello mold has set or not.
No siree, Earl’s promised to take care o’ dinner this year.
Though my guess is he’ll just go shoppin’ down to the Piggly-Wiggly
An’ get turkey Tee-Vee dinners to throw in the oven at half-time.
If I made the dinner that way he’d probably complain clean through to Easter.
I’m thinkin’ Mother’s Day.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

No Place Like Home


© 2011 by Laurie Kay Olson

 I am a sculptor by trade. Lydia Hensley, you may have heard of me, but I doubt it. Most of my work sells locally. This was not the vocation my parents wanted for me, but I get a great deal of satisfaction from this work. I employ a variety of mediums – stone, wood, and clay. I have done some lost-wax casting, but I don’t get the same inspiration from it as the others. My workshop is the renovated garage behind the house where I work in solitude with occasional interruptions from my cat.
I live in the house in which I grew up. My parents chose to leave it to me because of my “uncertain and unstable” life. I was, to their horror, single and in a profession with no medical or retirement benefits. In contrast to the perfection of my younger sister, Aurelia, who had married, had children, and worked part time as a dental hygienist. Even though Mom and Dad had left her their entire stock portfolio, she still resented my owning the house for reasons she would not disclose.
It was the age old sister story. Aurelia had always tried to catch up to me and resented that I was older. When times were good we were Lia and Dia, the dynamic duo of disaster. So much of the time, way too much of the time, she was jealous. I’m sure that I rubbed it in on occasion too. I won’t lay all the blame on her.
This really came to a head the Christmas I was 13 and Aurelia was 10. I received what I considered to be the best gift ever. It was a pair of ruby slippers in my size – a replica of the ones Judy Garland wore in the Wizard of Oz. I was in seventh heaven. They fit perfectly and had a low heel – my first pair of heels. I was so entranced with them I danced and twirled and admired my feet. It never occurred to me that Aurelia thought I was flaunting them at her. She wouldn’t even watch the Wizard of Oz because she was terrified of the flying monkeys. Also, she had received an amazing collection of little mice all dressed for different occasion from school to weddings.
She stole my slippers and hid them. No matter how I implored and Mom and Dad threatened, she would not say where they were. This was the time she had one up on me. I cried for weeks. Lia and Dia never existed again. Aurelia walked around with a distraught look, would cry when pressed, but would not confess.
Last spring a tremendous windstorm toppled the old oak tree in the back yard. Before the tree service arrived, I went outside to say my goodbyes. Aurelia and I had spent hours in that tree. It was our clubhouse, our hideout and the place we would go to think or talk.
As I approached the tree I took in every detail. It had grown so much over the years that it hardly seemed like the same tree it had been. I would have the men cut the tree into a nice collection of pieces to use in my work. Some of the larger branches as well. My eye caught a glimpse of something among the branches. Some of the bark had gotten scraped away in the fall. It was something red. I carefully climbed through the branches and scraped away more of the bark, and then a little more. It was red, and it had once been shiny. This was close to the main crotch of the tree.
The guys arrived to cut apart the tree a few minutes later and were more than willing to work with me to cut the tree into the pieces I required. When they got to the piece where I had found something I had them cut that into an extra large piece with some branches still attached. They moved it into my studio for me.
Once the pieces of wood were stored in my shed and the debris cleaned away I found myself face-to-face with the old crotch of the tree. I pulled out my wood tools and slowly began carving the bark and wood away little by little. There I found my long-lost slippers. They had been just plastic enough to have survived the past three decades and the tree had taken them in and grown around them. I sat and contemplated them for some time.
After Aurelia had taken my beloved shoes and been silent about their location I had turned my back on her. I had never climbed our tree again. She must have put them in the crotch of the tree where it had a little flat, recessed place where we sometimes put things. What’s more is that she must have expected me to find them there. Obviously she had not expected it to take so long.
Images played through my head and I began to carve more and more. The two main branches became two little girls with the shoes between them. Lesser branches were re-carved into the oak tree. I spent months carving, sanding, polishing and curing. Finally, I had a small tree with the shoes growing out of them, two little girls with familiar faces, and the other branches with knots and leaves that shaped into the faces of our parents and grandparents.
I had worked like a woman possessed and I had not noticed the arrival and passing of summer. Autumn had come. Aurelia’s birthday was just around the corner. We hadn’t spoken in years. Now was the time. She needed to know that I had finally found the shoes where she had left them for me.
The sculpture was packed up with the care I would have given if I were shipping it to the Louvre. It was a declaration of d├ętente.
Three days later the phone rang. I answered to hear sobbing at the other end. “Aurelia?”
The sobbing continued. She was even hiccupping as she had when she was a little girl. “I’m so sorry!” she finally wailed.
“I am too,” I said, tears springing into my eyes.
We talked then, really talked, like we had when we were little girls. Secrets started spilling all over the place. After she had stolen the shoes, complete in their pasteboard box, she had buried them behind the garage. After a few days of my, she had begun to feel guilty and had dug them up again. She had scrawled “I’m sorry” on the lid and left it in the tree for me to find, but I had never gone back. Most shocking was she admitted that when I was passionate about anything she had feared that I wouldn’t love her as much. When I didn’t go back to the tree she was certain I had never loved her at all. How could a child who was so loved have so little self esteem? All of the old hurts followed. My resentment over constantly being compared to her “perfect” life slipped out. Her resentment because she had been compared unfavorably to not having the drive and initiative I possessed. Neither of us had known that our parents had been playing us off each other in an attempt to make us more well-rounded individuals.
Her despair over my receiving the house was because she had wanted it so that she could leave her husband came next. He had been cheating on her for years and she was too terrified to leave and not have a place to live with the kids. My eyes stung with tears again. So her life wasn’t perfect after all. In return, I told her of the loneliness of my life. Sure there were friends, but it wasn’t the same as family.
I think it was about three a.m. before we reluctantly hung up, too tired to talk any further. Many fences had been mended and many plans made. By Christmas we were a family again. Aurelia had left her husband and filed for divorce. She and her kids moved in with me. There is more than enough room. My cat hid under the bed for several days before she got used to the family. I couldn’t say I blame her. There were days when I would have liked to have hid under the bed, but I love the bunch of them.
Of course, Aurelia brought the shoes with her. I redesigned the sculpture slightly and added a glass table top. It stands in the foyer now.
My nephew, who is becoming a fine woodworker, made a sign for the front door: Lia and Dia’s Place Forever. We hung it in place with great ceremony and a pledge to keep it true – shoes or no shoes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Armchair Cowboy

(c) 1998 by Laurie Kay Olson

Many people know my dad and his wife,
But few know of his vicarious life --
In the company of Louis L'Amour,
The likes of Zane Gray, and many more,
He's gone to experience the old west
Both at its worst and again at its best.
From his old armchair this cowboy would roll
Down to a dusty watering hole.
To throw back a whiskey to quench his thirst,
Downing the rot gut as though it was cursed.
Then out under wide blue prairie skies
He'd ride with a posse to catch the bad guys.
He's forded wide rivers swollen with rain,
He's stopped the villain from robbing the train.
He's been the far-reaching arm of the law,
In gun fights he's been the fastest to draw.
But the time would eventually come
When this cowboy must hang up his gun.
He would reluctantly close the book,
His eyes retaining a distant look.
Just looking at that ratty old chair
You'd never guess all that happened there.
For now his trip to the west is done --
Out hero rides into the setting sun.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Local Man Comes Down With Flu (sic)


 (c) 2005 by Laurie Kay Olson

(Earl Parker to spend New Year’s in Dog House)

Well, it all started when my boy Bubba come home Christmas Eve
All worried ‘cause some o’ the bigger kids’ tol’ him that Santa
Had died in a water skiin’ accident while on vacation down in Baja
So there wasn’t goin’ to be no presents comin’ this year.
He didn’t know how he was goin’ to get his Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
Since he’d had to pay for the broken window down to the mortuary
After him an’ little Billy Watson got over excited on Halloween
An’ thought there was a zombie comin’ after them while they was Trick or Treatin’
Next door at the Mason’s house ‘cause they give the best candy in town.
I think that is was partly their fault since ol’ Orrin Mason dressed up as a scarecrow
An’ waited on the front porch like he was a real scarecrow just flopped on an ol’ chair.
He’d come to life at the last second and scare the kids halfway to the firehouse
Afore his wife, Dottie, would call them back an’ give ‘em extra candy to calm ‘em down.
I’m sure Dottie reamed him but good once the kids were outta earshot.
Then again, even Orrin couldn’t’a figured that one little ol’ candy bar
Would make it all the way to the second floor window,
Let alone actually break the glass.
It nearly scared ol’ Kenny Frewer, the mortician’s assistant, half to death.
All he’d been doin’ was puttin’ on his coat while lookin’ out the window.
Although his choice of Halloween costume with the ax in his skull
Probably wasn’t the best one right then an’ there.
He did kinda look like a zombie just risen up and walkin’ through the mortuary.
But I die-gress. Bubba come home that afternoon a couple o’ weeks ago
Walkin’ like he had the weight o’ the whole world on his shoulders
An’ lookin’ like it was all gonna end tomorra anyway.
Nothin’ me or Erma Rose could say would convince him that Santa was still a-comin’ –
Not even when we explained that Rudolph had rescued him at the last minute
An’ given him a good dose of that mouth to mouth resurrection,
An’ the worst Santa had suffered after all that was a bad sunburn.
So there I was, tryin’ to figure out how to make Christmas okay for Bubba.
An’ not comin’ up with much of anythin’ on my own brain power.
So I went over to ol’ Doug Miller’s place to see if he had any bright ideas
Since somethin’ similar had happened to his girl, Willie Ann, a few years back.
His wife, Lurleen, served us some o’ her spicey eggnog while we talked it over.
I don’t know how I forget from one Christmas to the next how she makes it –
You know, not enough egg and too much nog, if you get my meanin’.
Afore I realized what was happenin’ Doug an’ me were standin’ on the roof o’ my place
Singin’ Christmas carols like there wasn’t no tomorrow an’ getting’ half the words wrong.
But by that time we was way past carin’ an focused on the task at hand.
Gettin’ me down the chimney in a Santa suit we had borrowed from Doc Corwin
Once he was done givin’ out presents to the orphans down to the Legion Hall.
Doug tied a rope ‘round my middle to lower me down slow an’ off I went.
It was a tighter fit than we had figured, but I was still goin’ down.
Next thing I knowed everything was goin’ down an’ there I was in the livin’ room
With all the bricks and soot all over the place an’ Erma Rose givin’ me “the look.”
I was just glad that she was too distracted by Bubba’s problem
To make up a big, festive fire for Christmas Eve
Or I’d’a come off a might burnt around the edges.
Bubba an’ Loretta Sue were so surprised that they spilt their hot cocoa all over everything.
I know I’m gonna be apologizin’ for this one right on into the next century
Providin’ Erma Rose lets me live that long.
As for Bubba, he’s decided to go one believin’ in Santa Claus forever.
He says that not believin’ is too hard on his nerves.
I say it’s too hard on my backside an’ my liver.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Jingle Bells

Okay, I'm at the office on a Saturday. I hadn't intended to be, but I forgot my niece's address and I need to mail her Christmas presents today. So I was sitting here, alone, when all of a sudden I hear bells. Jungle bells. Has Santa come to find me HERE? I stand up and look cautiously around. There, a few feet away, is Toby, the dog that belongs to the lawyer downstairs. He is at the top of the stairs scratching his neck and making his jingle bell collar ring. So I invite him in for a couple of dog treats before sending him on his way. What a strange reminder that it is Christmas! Woof!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Local Woman Receives Visit from King

  (c) 2005 by Laurie Kay Olson

(From the Succotash County Times, August 23, 1987)

Well, I’d been cannin’ my bread an’ butter pickles all mornin’
An’ it was getting’ so hot in the kitchen I was sweatin’ like
An ice cream freezer at the Independence Day picnic an’ crawdad cook-off.
So I took me a break an’ went out on the front porch to catch a cool breeze
An’ put up my tired feet, an’ drink a glass or two o’ lemonade.
I’d no more ‘n’ got to feelin’ like my ol’ self again when this man walks up.
He had black hair an’ sunglasses on so’s I couldn’t see what he looked like
But he said the lemonade looked mighty refreshin’ an’ could he have a glass.
I said sure thing an’ he sat down on the chair acrost from me.
I introduced myself as I was pourin’ him a tall glass an’ refillin’ mine.
When he sipped at his glass he told me that his name was Elvis Aaron Presley.
Well, I thought my jaw was gonna drop clean through to China.
Just to prove it he took off his glasses an’ laid ‘em on the table.
Sure enough, I’d know those baby blue eyes anywheres.
An’ my heart gave that funny little kerflop just like it used to
Back when he was alive an’ kickin’ an’ singin’ up a storm.
I says to him “Elivis, hon’, you’re supposed to be dead an’ gone!
What’re you doin’ walkin’ ‘round like this an’ scarin’ folks half to death?”
Then he says that he surely was well dead an’ buried at Graceland,
But he had a whole heap o’ unfinished business before he can move on.
So I ask him what’s keepin’ him here instead o’ with the Good Lord.
An’ he tells me he needed to let Priscilla know that he really did love her,
An’ that Lisa Marie was the pride o’ his whole life,
An’ he wanted her to know how sorry he was about her an’ Michael Jackson
An’ their break-up. not ‘cause he was black or nothin’
But ‘cause show business, with all that attention an’ money.
Makes it extra hard to make a marriage work out.
He also said that for awhile he’d been on a campaign
To get people to stop singin’ “Happy Birthday” like they was a choir o’ mice
Or a pond o’ bull frogs rather than just plain folks.
But that didn’t work out too well since it seemed that the song
Was always started out by the most tone-deaf person there.
I can tell you, Elvis Presley is just one o’ the finest boys ever!
We talked for an hour an’ more, an’ he thanked me for the lemonade
I fixed him up a peanut butter an’ banana sandwich
An’ packed him another one for the road
‘Cause he said he was meetin’ Jack Kennedy an’ the Big Bopper
At a convenience store in Jonesboro that evenin’.
I waved good-bye an’ wisht him well as he took off
He turned back an’ told me he’d by me a big purple Cadillac
Next time he found himself out an’ around these parts.
Wasn’t that just like him all over? So generous an’ all?
I wasn’t until he’d been gone a good twenty minutes or so
That I hadn’t gotten a autograph or a photo or anythin’.
But he had sung me a couple choruses o’ Hound Dog an’ Viva Las Vegas
It’s somethin’ I’ll remember and cherish clean into the next world.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Typecast

Okay, the short story "Just My Type" is a bit unusual for me. I entered an online challenge to write a short story inspired by a typewriter in a short time. It was a lot of fun and pushed me out of my comfort zone a bit. See what you think.

Just My Type

 
By
Laurie Kay Olson
© 2011 by Laurie Kay Olson


I was born in 1903, at the beginning of a brand new century. Decades stretched ahead of me, filled with opportunity. I was on the leading edge of communication technology. I could hardly wait to get out and type my mark on the world. I was loaded with good characters.
I never knew my parents. I hear that they were a very hard working slide rule and compass, and they had a lot of help with us kids. But you know what they say, “It takes a factory.” I had barely had my first ribbon loaded when I was shipped off to Minneapolis. I had been adopted by a very nice savings and loan that wanted the very latest technology in its offices and I was it – shiny and new, just off the assembly line and still green behind the carriage return. But I was eager to please. I was there for bank statements, loan agreements, and letters. My $ key got a good workout there.
I worked with a team of young women with large pompadours and tight shirtwaists. Their fingers tickled as they worked. I talked to them all day long, but they never seemed to notice. They apparently didn’t speak Clackish. They did make soft noises I couldn’t understand. Still, I just couldn’t help talking to them when they were with me. It seemed every time they touched me I just had to speak. At night they would 4uck me under a dust cover to keep me clean and warm while they were away.
Weekends were lonely, though I would listen to the clock for hours as he told me his life story.  It wasn’t much of a story since he seemed to have spent his time going around in circles, and he spoke so slowly it was tiring. I could hardly wait for Monday morning and the return of the bustle.
I stayed at the bank until 1934 when it was closed because of the Great Depression and I ended up in storage for years. I wasn’t alone. There were many of us there. No one could move. No one could speak. Eventually we were liberated from our prison. We all came out dusty and dirty and in need of a new ribbon, but we were cleaned and repaired in short order.
Before I knew what was happening I had been drafted and I was in the army. Those army clerks weren’t as gentle as those at the bank. It was hard work all day long and often late into the night. Orders, letters, requisitions, and reports passed through my keys until my platen was sore and my ribbon wore out, but I kept going. It felt good to do my patriotic duty along with everyone else. I was part of the war effort from the very first moment on December 7, 1941. I ordered supplies and ordnance. I sent men out. I brought men home. I delivered the saddest news any family can get.
When my company was deployed overseas, so was I. It was uncomfortable on the ship, being locked away in the dark, never knowing if we were going to be blown up by the Japanese.  We made it though.
Life on an island was very different from the States. My time at Fort Hood didn’t give me a clue to the heat and humidity of the tropics. My keys kept sticking, no matter how well they kept me cleaned and oiled. Still we muddled through.
At long last we achieved our goal – victory in the Pacific! Everyone celebrated. It was finally time to go home. There was a flurry of new activity. Travel orders all around. My return to the states didn’t happen for several months, and then I thought I would be shipped back to the base.
It was not to be. I found myself sitting on a shelf in an army surplus store. It was depressing. I couldn’t speak. There was no one to talk to in that place. I was wedged between a helmet and a canteen. I fell into the depths of a depression from which I thought I would never recover.
One day I noticed a young woman staring at me. Her brown eyes were bright and curious. I knew that I no longer had the sparkle I used to have. She reached out and gave my name plate a rub with one finger. Yes! Pick me! Don’t leave me here alone! She turned to make her soft noises to someone else.
A few minutes later I was lifted down off the shelf by the sales clerk, a stuffy little man must have also been war surplus. The girl ran her fingers over the keys and gently pressed a couple of letters. I was in love. I had heard of love at first type, but I had never believed in it before. She could press my space bar all day.
She took me to college with her and together we happily typed term papers and letters home. We wrote poetry and short stories together. I couldn’t believe my good fortune that she was an aspiring writer. It wouldn’t just be college studies and abandonment. This was for life! Oh! And the way she set my margins!
College papers eventually gave way to recipe cards and Christmas letters. The poems and stories became fewer. There was the occasional emotional letter to the editor when it was more like the old days. I still had my place on her desk. Life was much more laid back. One day another girl sat down with me. At first she just poked at me and then. . .
The quick brown fox . . . the quick brown fox . . . the quick brown fox . . .
She was just learning to type. She also wanted to write. Juvenile poems and half-written stories were added to my repertoire. I was over 70 years old then. Dust had gathered in places where it would never be cleaned away. I kept going. She was like a daughter to me. I still loved her mother and waited anxiously for those fingers to return. Those times were becoming fewer and fewer.
Then one day it happened. I was shoved to one side and a brand new machine took my place. Sleek where I had been sturdy. Electric speed compared to my manual plodding. Once again I fell into a depression. Even the daughter seemed to forsake me. Before long I was sitting on a closet shelf, forgotten.
I had never been so lonely in my life. There wasn’t a clock here, no fellow prisoners. First one, then another year passed. But I wasn’t forgotten. One day the door opened and her hands reached for me. My love! Her hands held me for the briefest moment before they were gone again. It was the daughter’s hands I rested in now.
I was on my way to college again. There were more years of term papers, letters home and even more poems and short stories. This time there were also envelopes that I addressed to magazines all over the country. I started feeling important again. I wasn’t sending men to war, but fledgling stories and poems into the world. We were partners. After all of my experience with her species she was a strange girl. She would talk to me in her soft sounds and gently pat me occasionally. I think she was thanking me for my help.
By the time I was in my 80s I could see that it couldn’t last. She had learned well the ways of my keyboard, but it was time for another kind. She had outgrown me, electrics, and electronics. It was time for a computer now. It seemed that my time on this earth was spent. Once again I was shelved. Soon I found myself sitting in a driveway with strangers walking by, but no one seemed to want me. Was I destined at last for the great landfill I’d heard of? There to rust and die.
One man stopped and looked me over carefully before handing the daughter five dollars. He didn’t take me home but to a beautiful place where I was surrounded by others of my kind. It was clean and quiet. They called it a museum.
So after a life of working hard, I am finally retired and resting comfortably. No one presses my keys any more, but they do come by to see me from time to time. I have made it over 100 years now. If someone could find a new ribbon for me I could still work, but somehow that belongs to a much younger generation... I am content with my shelf and my life. There are so many good memories to savor as I watch the world go by.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. . .

I have set my book aside for just a few days and have taken up the challenge to write a short story with the theme of a typewriter in 1500 words or less. I haven't written a short story in years. I am working on the final draft now. It's weird, but as you most likely know by now, weird is my thing. I will most the story next week

I'm almost afraid to touch the book. Like it will vanish into thin air if I start working on it again. But I know it won't and am girding my loins for some editing and rewriting. I have a new scene to add as well. Stay tuned. I will also be posting more Succotash County bits soon.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

New Horizon

I have printed out the first 50 pages of my novel and have laid in a supply of red pens. Now I will go more slowly and thoughtfully with the book. It deserves to be coddled for a while after the slap dash way it came together. There are parts of it in the middle that I am not sure I remember correctly. Since the main character lives alone, I have decided that her cat needs to become more of a character for her to talk with. She won't exactly answer back, but the character can pretend she does. I already have a scene where the cat brings a garter snake into the house to play with and the MC has to put them both outside again. This is based on a true story of me and my cat. In my case she only brought it onto the patio near me. However, she loves to catch moths, some of them huge, and bring them into the house to play with. I have to catch them then and put them back outside. This afternoon I saw her run away from a squirrel when she normally chases them or ignores them. Actually I think she plays with them and the squirrel may have been "IT" this afternoon. So the next leg of my journey begins.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Local Woman Buries Husband

(c) 2002 by Laurie Kay Olson


You wouldn’t believe all the people that come by.
Word spread faster ‘n’ a grease fire over to the diner
On all-you-can-eat-for-a-dollar-ninety-five burger an’ fries night.
They come from all over the county to see Earl –
Just as though he’d been someone famous, or leastwise important.
An’ he certainly was a sight to see, I can tell you.
But here I am getting’ ahead o’ myself.
Let me start from the beginnin’ – it all started when we decided
That we really needed to give the garden back o’ the hay barn an’ the lawn up front
 A good ol’ fashioned fertilizin’ but there wasn’t no money.
Our two li’l ol’ cows Bessie an’ Bertha couldn’t do it all themselves.
An’ my compost heap wasn’t producin’ half what I was expectin’
Since the raccoons keep gittin’ into it an’ stealin’ anythin’ they think might be tasty.
Dang fool creatures keep leavin’ their leftovers on the roof
Till Earl finally accused me of tryin’ to feed them like they was pets.
I pointed out to him that I had enough work tryin’ to keep him,
Two kids, two cows an’ a dozen chickens fed without startin’ in on the wildlife.
An’ if I was gonna, I probably be kinder to the critter than the put out
A leftover frozen blueberry toaster waffle that Bubba spit on to make Loretta Sue mad.
Eny-who, it was about this same time that our boy Bubba was hangin’ around
The eye-tinerant circus that was set up over to the county fairgrounds.
He got his self a part-time job helpin’ with the elephants.
Well, within a couple o’ days him an’ his daddy cooked up this plan.
So they go to the circus boss an’ offer to haul away
A big pile o’ elephant poop just for the takin’ – no charge.
That ol’ circus boss agreed quick as a lick from a hound dog.
Said he couldn’t get rid o’ the stuff fast enough,
So Earl an’ Bubba borrowed an ol’ dump truck from Ed Early down to the machine shop.
It took ‘em all mornin’ to fill up the truck, even with the help o’ some o’ the circus hands.
Apparently the elephants had gone off their diets when they ran across some kudzu
An’ the effect had been rather overwhelmin’ to say the very least most.
When they came home they smelt so dang bad I made them wash their hands
With the garden hose an’ eat their lunch sittin’ on the back stoop.
By the time they was done eatin’ an’ ready to go start spreadin’ it around
Some of Earl’s buddies from the Lodge had come by.
They wanted to see what ol’ Earl was up to with that truck o’ Ed’s/
I had got my ol’ clothes on so that I could get out an’ help with the work.
An’ I was checkin’ out what elephant stuff looked like
By climbin’ up the truck an’ lookin’ over the side.
All o’ a sudden-like my feet started to slip an’ I tried to catch myself.
One o’ my feet accidentally hit the do-hickey that dumps the truck.
I jumped off right quick so that I didn’t get dumped too.
That was when I saw Earl standin’ there in harms way.
So I started shoutin’ for him to move outta the way
All whilst I was tryin’ to move the do-hickey back the t’other way.
But naturally the dang thing was stuck harder than a butt from a billy goat.
An’ o’ course Earl wasn’t listenin’ to me, as usual.
So by the time he realized what was happenin, it was too late.
Next thing we all knowed, Earl was totally buried in crap.
We all rushed over to start diggin’ him outta there.
Word spread an’ soon there was a whole crowd helpin’ an’ watchin’
An’ some o’ the fellas were makin’ jokes about how Earl didn’t know crap
An’ a bunch o’ other jokes I know you can’t print.
Earl was madder ‘n’ a wet hen in the pourin’ rain by the time we dug him out.
He didn’t calm down until he’d had a long, hot shower, changed clothes,
An’ gargled half a bottle o’ Listerine to get the taste outta his mouth.
I’m gonna have to buy a whole case o’ Oxydol just to get our clothes clean again.
Earl still wants to get come dirty straw that Bubba saved up from the camels’ beddin’
This time Earl says he’s gonna play it safe an’ just load it up in a couple o’ Hefty bags
An’ trust that I won’t dump them over his head too.
O’ course I hadn’t even thought o’ anythin’ like that until he said it.
Lucky for him that I still love him after all these years.

The Finish Line!

After a long marathon I finally crossed the finish line just before work this morning when the NaNoWriMo website confirmed the word count of my book to be over 50k words. I won the challenge! There are no big prizes or anything. Crossing the finish line at all makes you a winner. Plenty of people don't make it.

There is still a lot of work to be done. A book of 50k is fairly slender. I have a beginning, a middle and an end, but there is plenty still missing from the middle. Then there are the months of rewriting, editing and rewriting some more. Then I will be faced with finding an agent and a publisher. In other words, I've run the race, now I have to climb the mountain.

The book itself turned out to be quite different from what I had been expecting when I started out. As you will often hear writers complain, the characters took over and had their own ideas of what was going to happen. My main character (MC) wasn't supposed to fall in love, then she met one of the other characters and there was no stopping her. Or him. But it led me to create friction, climax, and all that other good stuff that a story is supposed to have. There are characters and places named for people in my life. Though they have little connection. The town drunk, Emory, was named for my maternal grandfather and he was a teetotaler. Nurse Nancy Kay is named for my sweet sister-in-law and the only thing they share in common is the name. The sheriff's wife, Shirley is named for my mother and they are quite different.

When I got down the last thousand or so words, the stress started to lift and I started writing faster nad enjoying it more. So I am looking forward to the time ahead with no clock ticking. I will also be making notes on the next book for the next NaNoWriMo. It will be a sequel to "Tales from the Succotash County Times." I haven't decided which of the three sequels I have in my head I plan to do, but I am leaning toward "Succotash County Anthology," where we get to know the individual denizens of that locale quite a bit better.

I now face having a cold sore as a result of the stress. I shall bear it gladly, for I had a lot of fun doing this. This was due, in part, to the NaNo Facebook chat I joined. And to tracking my NaNo progress on a chart on the NaNo website. Many who competed have no intention of taking their novel any further. For those, like me, who are, I have created a FB group so that we can keep supporting each other. They are from all different walks of life all around the world. It was great getting to swap ideas with people from Ireland and Japan, among other places. Canada is a big one, too.

It is so fulfilling to find the dream I created as an eight-year-old finally coming true.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Down to the Wire

I've only got a few days left in the NaNoWriMo challenge. I have become a little mentally unhinged, but I am almost there. Just a little less that 4,000 words to write. I can do it! And once I have completed the challenge, I can go back and find out if any of what I've written makes any sense at all. If it does, I begin the process of editing.

In the middle of all of this chaos, I took some time yesterday afternoon to meet with three old schoolmates  I haven't seen in 35 years. We reunited on Facebook a couple of months ago and had a great time catching up. Going from 18 to 53 and getting used to how we looked to each other was quite a trip! I haven't laughed so much in a long long time. Thanks Jane, Briggs and Annie for a wonderful afternoon.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Local Woman Receives Visit from King

(c) 2005 by Laurie Kay Olson


(From the Succotash County Times, August 23, 1987)

Well, I’d been cannin’ my bread an’ butter pickles all mornin’
An’ it was getting’ so hot in the kitchen I was sweatin’ like
An ice cream freezer at the Independence Day picnic an’ crawdad cook-off.
So I took me a break an’ went out on the front porch to catch a cool breeze
An’ put up my tired feet, an’ drink a glass or two o’ lemonade.
I’d no more ‘n’ got to feelin’ like my ol’ self again when this man walks up.
He had black hair an’ sunglasses on so’s I couldn’t see what he looked like
But he said the lemonade looked mighty refreshin’ an’ could he have a glass.
I said sure thing an’ he sat down on the chair acrost from me.
I introduced myself as I was pourin’ him a tall glass an’ refillin’ mine.
When he sipped at his glass he told me that his name was Elvis Aaron Presley.
Well, I thought my jaw was gonna drop clean through to China.
Just to prove it he took off his glasses an’ laid ‘em on the table.
Shore enough, I’d know those baby blue eyes enywheres.
An’ my heart gave that funny little kerflop just like it used to
Back when he was alive an’ kickin’ an’ singin’ up a storm.
I sez to him “Elivis, hon’, you’re supposed to be dead an’ gone!
What’re you doin’ walkin’ ‘round like this an’ scarin’ folks half to death?”
Then he says that he surely was well dead an’ buried at Graceland,
But he has a whole heap o’ unfinished business before he can move on.
So I ask him what’s keepin’ him here instead o’ with the Good Lord.
An’ he tells me he needed to let Priscilla know that he really did love her,
An’ that Lisa Marie was the pride o’ his whole life,
An’ he wanted her to know how sorry he was about her an’ Michael Jackson
An’ their break-up. Not ‘cause he was black or nothin’
But ‘cause show business, with all that attention an’ money.
Makes it extra hard to make a marriage work out.
He also said that for awhile he’d been on a campaign
To get people to stop singin’ “Happy Birthday” like they was a choir o’ mice
Or a pond o’ bull frogs rather than just plain folks.
But that didn’t work out too well since it seemed that the song
Was always started out by the most tone-deaf person there.
I can tell you, Elvis Presley is just one o’ the finest boys ever!
We talked for an hour an’ more, an’ he thanked me for the lemonade
I fixed him up a peanut butter an’ banana sandwich
An’ packed him another one for the road
‘Cause he said he was meetin’ Jack Kennedy an’ the Big Bopper
At a convenience store in Jonesboro that evenin’.
I waved good-bye an’ wisht him well as he took off
He turned back an’ told me he’d by me a big purple Cadillac
Next time he found himself out an’ around these parts.
Wasn’t that just like him all over? So generous an’ all?
I wasn’t until he’d been gone a good twenty minutes or so
That I hadn’t gotten a autograph or a photo or anythin’.
But he had sung me a couple choruses o’ Hound Dog an’ Viva Las Vegas
It’s somethin’ I’ll remember and cherish clean into the next world.