Tag Archives: aliens

Galactic Cruise Lines, on Lisa Burton Radio

Hold on to your hats everyone. You've found Lisa Burton Radio, the only show in the universe that interviews the characters from the books you love. I'm your host, Lisa the robot girl, and with me in the studio today is Henri, the Executive Chef on Galactic Cruise Lines' ship the SS Malpais.

What you can't see, is that Henri is an Alturan. He's nearly seven feet tall, and is a cephalopod type lifeform. I'm talking tentacles all over the place, and three eye-stalks. We've been enjoying a cup of Alturan tea before the broadcast, and he's really an interesting person. “Welcome to the show, Henri.”

“Hello, Lisa. It’s good to be here. I hope you enjoyed the Bascula tea I brought. It can cause hallucinations in some species, but not Alturans. I hope it doesn’t affect you adversely.”

“Oh, don't worry about that. I don't think robot girls can get hallucinations. Now, my bio says that one of your best friends is in security for the cruise line, and that he's an Elf. I find that fascinating. How did you two meet?”

“Baudwin Llewellyn isn’t just in security, he’s Galactic Cruise Lines Chief Sleuthhound. He’s a top notch investigator. We’ve been friends for years. I’m not sure I can even remember exactly where we met. I think some friends introduced us when we were all hanging out at a suit fighting match.”

“That sounds fascinating, Henri. What's a suit fighting competition, and do you hold those on the ship too?”

“We haven’t yet hosted a suit fighting competition on the Malpais, but I may suggest that to Kat when I get back to the ship. Suit fighting features two competitors remotely controlling robots that fight each other. It used to be popular mostly with young men in the robotics community, but recently Retired General Marta Aymar, the wife of Prince Lucien of the Ventos Prime elves, made it to the league finals. Since then, the sport has become much more popular and has attracted a lot of young female fans and participants.”

“That's terrible. Those poor robots. You did get the memo that say's I'm a robot didn't you?”

“I don't believe those robots are sentient like you. They are merely remote controlled equipment.”

“Alright, back to the interview. My bio says you met in the Elf Marines, an organization similar to the French Foreign Legion. Are you sure you don't remember?”

“As I said, Chief Llewellyn and I have been friends a long time. Did you have questions about what it’s like to be a chef on a cruise ship?”

“Sorry, Henri. Let me make it up to you with this Nutribar. I picked up the anchovy flavor, I hope it's alright.”

“Thanks Lisa. We Alturans love our nutribars. This is delicious.”

“There, all better. Well if it wasn't the Elf Marines, maybe you met Chief Llewellyn at Zed23, during your spy days.”

“Zed23. Right. Do I look like James Bond to you? I’m a chef not a spy, definitely not a spy. I’m famous for my wombat stew and triple chocolate cake. Those are two of the most popular dishes on the Malpais.”

“That's part of what makes you so interesting. With all your diverse background, you still had the time to work up a five star recipe for wombat stew. I'd think wombats are hard to come by in space.”

“Not really. I can use either Mathusian or Malturan wombats in my stew. I’m not sure which is better. I’m happy to use either. Well truth be told I’m happy cooking. It doesn’t matter what or where.”

“Every boy needs a hobby, and it looks like you found a way to make yours pay the bills. Here, have another Nutribar and tell us about the murders that occurred aboard the Malpais.”

“It is dreadful to think about, isn’t it? Sometimes people die on the ship just because their time has come, but if it was murder then that’s a whole different level of awful. I’m not aware of any incidents like that on the Malpais.”

“You might find this interesting, but I reached out to Baldwin Llewelyn and Ren Listripan, both deeply involved in cruise line security, and they don't seem to know anything about murders on the Malpais either. Somehow, these passengers turned up dead, but that seems to be the only available fact.”

“The Malpais has been hosting these competition cruises this year. They’ve been great fun. We had a ballroom dance one, an acapella singing one, and my favorite the baking competition. We’ve had some excitement during the competitions, but everyone has enjoyed them. Of course, not everyone agrees on who should win in any competition. I certainly had my favorites during the baking, but you know what they say, one species’ dessert is another’s poison.”

“When I spoke with Baudwin Llewellyn he mentioned that you’re cooking all the food for his upcoming wedding. He’s marrying the Malpais’ associate cruise director Kat Mitchell, right?”

“That's right, Lisa. I’m very excited. Both Baudwin and Kat are dear friends and I’m glad to play a role in their bonding.”

“I’ve heard that there will be royalty at the wedding.”

“General Royce Aymar of the EMEF is going to be Baudwin’s best elf for the ceremony and his wife is Queen Losira. It should be a wonderful celebration.”

“It's been an honor having you here, Henri. Let's have another cup of that wonderful tea, and maybe another Nutribar. Any last thoughts for our listeners?”

“Being a chef on a Galactic Cruise Lines ship is exciting. I’ve made good friends on the ship and I enjoy cooking for so many different species.”

“Henri is a recurring character in Jo Carey’s Galactic Cruise Lines series.

“Don't forget to click those sharing links on your way out. I know Henri will appreciate it, and you will too when your character appears on a future Lisa Burton Radio.”

***

Galactic Cruise Lines – This series is basically the Love Boat in space. Set on a galactic cruise line spaceship, this series will follow assistant cruise director Kat Mitchell and other crew members, like Alturan Chef Henri, as they travel the League of Planetary Systems on themed cruises where murder is afoot (or a tentacle, or a paw…) Cruises feature various competitions in the style of Earth reality shows circa 2005.
Category: Space Cozy Mystery

Jo Carey writes faced-paced, character-driven stories in a variety of genres from medical thrillers to space operas and cozy mysteries. Her novels are action-packed tales that often feature strong female leads surrounded by plenty of hunky male heroes. Jo's stories always include healthy doses of humor and romance.

Quote from Jo: “I write what I like to read–stories with happy endings and appealing heroes and heroines.”

Some of Jo's books are set in the League of Planetary Systems, a universe created by Frank and Jo Carey as the setting for many of their books. Each Book in the League can be read as a standalone novel, but if you'd like to read all of the LPS books in order you can find the sequence at

 

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Will O’ the Wisp, on Lisa Burton Radio #RRBC

Lisa Burton

Welcome to another edition of Lisa Burton Radio. I’m your host, Lisa Burton the robot girl, and my very special guest today is Patty Hall. “Welcome to the show, Patty.”

“Thank you Miss Burton, it’s an honor to be here.”

“Oh please, call me Lisa. Tell our audience how old you are.”

“Okay, Lisa, I’m fifteen and live in rural Virginia. High School class of 1978, if I make it.”

“We’ll get to that last remark in a minute. You live with a certain disability, why don’t you tell our listeners about that. If that’s okay.”

“It’s alright. My mother makes me wear corrective leg braces. They aren’t any worse than lots of other people, and it’s embarrassing to wear them. They’ve made me a social outcast at school.”

“I wouldn’t exactly say that. You seem to have some pretty solid friends to me.”

“Pete and Laura are the best. I suppose if that’s all the friends I can have, at least I have the best.”

“I think so too. Now, you ran into a bit of trouble out in the forest, what’s that all about.”

“We’re all into star gazing. We like to look at the constellations, planets, satellites, that kind of thing. One night we saw this glowing green thingie floating through the woods. It attacked this college boy who was camping for the night. It was terrible.”

“It sounds horrible. Did you ever determine what it was?”

“It’s called a Will O’ the Wisp, and it’s more awful than you think. It went into this boy’s body and made him sick. It controlled him and made him kill my uncle. Then it made the boy drown on dry land. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like his body filled up with water and killed him.

“And that’s not the worst of it. Another one attacked one of my Mom’s friends, and she’s trying to kill me.”

“Have you told anyone about it? Maybe there’s some kind of protection available.”

“Are you kidding me. Pete and I both saw it, but nobody is going to believe us. Laura says she does, but I can tell she’s trying to be a friend. My mother would have me talking to a shrink so fast– I mean, I’m thinking about running away, but I’m afraid it would follow me.”

“You mean your mom’s friend?”

“Yeah, her, but if she drowns I think there will be another one.”

“What will you do?”

“I don’t know, I think it must be alien, but that’s as much as I know. It isn’t like H. G. Well’s virus is showing up to kill off the aliens for me. All I know is that it came from up Bergamot Holler. If I can find where it comes from, I might figure out how to stop it. Except my mother wants me to stay away from Bergamot Holler. She says weird things happen up there. I found out some of my ancestors died up there too, and one of them drowned on dry land.

“I mean, what if there’s an alien ship buried up there and they’re mad at my family? I don’t know. It’s all making my hair fall out, and my nose bleed.”

“It sounds dangerous to me too. It would be hard walking through the woods with leg braces, then doing it at night with something dangerous in the woods.”

“I’m kind of used to it. The woods are where we watch for satellites. My mother is making me wear these things to the Homecoming dance. I don’t even want to go, but she’s forcing me. It’s embarrassing to show up without a date. I mean, who’s going to ask the girl with braces? Then if anyone dances with me it will just be to make a joke or show off to their friends.”

“Maybe she knows you can’t go back and do it later. High School is kind of a one shot deal.”

“No thank you. I’d rather wait until college. I’ll be out of these stupid braces then. That’s assuming I live that long.”

“So what would you study?”

“I want to be an astronaut. Bent legs won’t make any difference in space, and they might even be an advantage. The Soviets have lady Cosmonauts, how much longer can the US hold out? I think if I work hard, I could be one of the first ones.”

“I think you can too, if you study hard. In the mean time, get some help and try to avoid the Will O’ the Wisp.”

“It’s not the wisp that’s trying to kill me. It’s Mrs. Matthews who’s being controlled by the wisp. Can you imagine Mom’s reaction if I accuse her friend?”

“That could be a problem–”

“Yeah, and protective custody doesn’t look too good on a college application, or an application to NASA.”

“Thank you for joining us today, Patty, and I hope you figure it all out soon.”

“Thank you, Miss Lisa.”

“Our sponsor today is Will O’ the Wisp by our own C. S. Boyack. I’ll include all the details on the website. For Lisa Burton Radio, I’m Lisa Burton.”

***

img_1018There is something evil up Bergamot Holler, and it’s been targeting the Hall family for generations.

Patty Hall is fifteen years old. She loves stargazing, science fiction, and all things related to space exploration. This leaves her perfectly prepared for the wrong problem.

Patty is afraid her mother will send her to a care facility if she tells her what she’s seen. If she doesn’t figure things out soon, she’s going to join her father in the Hall family cemetery plot.

Patty has to come to grips with her own physical handicap, survive the wilderness, and face an ancient evil all alone if she’s going to survive.

Will O’ the Wisp is suitable for young adults. It involves strong elements of suspense, and is set in the mid 1970s.

This book is available in two different versions, depending upon where you live.

North American Continent http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00UPH6BNS

Rest of the world http://a-fwd.com/asin-com=B00UQNDT2C

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When my brain gets really really tired

I must be tired, I used two horrible modifiers in the title. Even when I'm tired, Lorelei the Muse won't leave me alone. She just keeps pushing. This came to me after my wife started watching the first Transformers movie. I went to the kitchen for a glass of water, and noticed the cover of her People Magazine.

It's the story I could never finish, or publish. It's just an example of what happens inside my tired brain. This is what you get when you take fatigue, add a science fiction adventure movie, an old photograph, and water.

***

I awoke to a low throbbing base sound, and crossed the bedroom to look out the window. It came from the barn out back.

A million stars lit the nighttime sky. Everything looked pretty peaceful. I dropped my old felt hat on my head, then plunked a pair of buckshot rounds into my shotgun before stepping outside.

The barn expanded and contracted in time with the noise. It was as if the barn was breathing, like some kind of wounded animal.

The sound of helicopters overshadowed the noise from the barn. I crossed the yard to find out what was happening.

The trio of helicopters whooshed overhead, and I had to hold my hat down as they started landing in my pasture.

A motorcycle sped down the road toward me. It slid sideways and stopped feet from where I was standing. The rider's platinum blonde ponytail swung forward as she skidded. She wore skin tight black leather from head to toe, with a black leather jacket over the top.

This woman was gorgeous. She stepped across the bike, and walked up to me. “Stand down, Sir.” Reaching inside her jacket, she flashed an I.D. card. “JonBenet Ramsey, Special Operations. We'll take it from here.”

***

It's not socially acceptable. I get that. It's just that my brain rarely ever stops. I suppose having thoughts like this isn't horrible in itself. It certainly isn't as bad as People Magazine plastering her image on their magazine to move copies.

I'm just talking about her. I'm not trying to sell something based upon her. What if she lived, but was taken away? Maybe this is my denial that someone would harm a little kid, but such things really happen.

I checked. She'd be twenty-six now if she had lived. It doesn't seem that long ago.

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The new X-Files and why it appeals to me

I griped last summer about Jurassic World. My comment was something along the lines of, “You had twenty years to come up with something new.” Jurassic World was almost a remake of Jurassic Park.

The new Star Wars movie takes up a middle ground. There are some duplications from the original series, like father issues, Death Stars, orphans, mentors, etc. I'm willing to forgive some of this, because they are trapped by the overwhelming success of the franchise. The one thing they did right was make it fun. It was way fun. Maybe it could have been more fun with different material, but it goes in the plus column.

The new X-Files goes in the win column for me. It does something that good science fiction does so well. It takes current events and situations, twists them around, and makes you think about them. The original Jurassic Park did this too. It made us think about genetics, cloning, and recovering endangered and even extinct species. Those were big topics at that time.

This kind of twist isn't unique to science fiction, there have been some political thrillers and such that pull it off. I just think science fiction does it best.

It's always risky making a reboot, because remaking the original content is kind of a safe zone. It was successful once, it will probably be successful again. Those behind it know they won't have phenomenal success, but they know it won't fail either.

The X-Files kept the original themes, like discovering just enough to to thwart someone, but never learning exactly what was happening. This was their success point from the original series. Then they added a whole cluster of stuff from today that the writers want us to think about.

This twist of modern stuff comes in the shape of a conspiracy theory. Someone (typical X-Files) is manipulating everything for a massive takeover. This includes socialized medicine, the current obesity problem, the ease of getting prescription pain killers, our terrible graduation rates, the fact that graduates are less capable than 30 years ago, GPS data in our phones to track us, extreme cost of higher education, and more than I can remember.

This manipulation is all designed to make us less capable of resistance. We'll be too dumb, too fat, and too drugged to resist. All of the NSA monitoring, GPS tracking, thumbprint scanners, and such makes dissidents easy to round up. They even tied in the September 11th attacks as a test drive for shutting down the airways… Permanently.

I'm excited to see what they do with all of it. Good science fiction can be limited to epic battles with advanced technology. Great science fiction will twist modern day issues into something that makes us think. The new X-Files has set the stage. Whether they pull it off or not remains to be seen. They've limited themselves to six episodes. Back in my day we used to call that a mini-series, but I think that term is outdated.

I know this trick about using modern day issues and it still gives me that wow factor when done well. I've occasionally dabbled in it myself. Some of you read a story I wrote about medical cloning, and another one about an artificial intelligence that refused to be controlled. I can attest to you that it isn't easy to pull off.

The only story I ever failed to complete was a short story based on taking modern technology to an extreme. I never could get it good enough to finish it. Maybe, someday I will. It has a working title of “SIRI, should I kill myself.”

So, The X-Files. Is anyone watching it? I have no doubt that they'll thwart evil, sprinkle it with aliens, and almost figure out what happened. This is their thing, and they've always done it well. Will they make us think about our modern world with skeptical eyes? I sure hope so, because when that happens it's magic.

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The Idea Mill #10

It’s time to revisit the Idea Mill. These are news bits that I get pushed to me via RSS feeds and Zite Magazine. I save them in favorites and post them when I get enough to make it interesting. These are the kind of information that spurs my imagination, and occasionally find their way into my fiction.

Okay, the first one I found in a local newspaper, but the rest are online. I hope the copy and paste function works. I may have to edit after it goes live.

Apartment building planned for Fifth and Idaho

 

image

 

A group of local partners plans to build an 84-bedroom apartment building on the northeast corner of Fifth and Idaho streets, an approximately $11 million project that would replace the vacant Gibson Funeral Home.

 

It’s like these people aren’t even reading my stories. Apparently, these kinds of things really happen. Poltergeist just got got more realistic in my mind.

 

Okay, I was going to leave the stupid dress out. It got so much internet action that it won’t be new to anyone. The question becomes one of what color is it. The real dress is black and blue. Like a bruise.

 

To my eye, it’s gold and white. This article gives some idea of why certain people see it differently. (I’ve always seen the world differently, so no surprise here.) The science behind this has to do with light sources. If you need some reptilian aliens with chameleon like abilities in your science fiction, this might help you explain them. In case you were living under a rock somewhere, there is a photo in the article, along with an explanation, here.

 

This one involves artifacts, phallic artifacts to be exact. It seems they were believed to ward off the evil eye. The evil eye is an ancient curse that could do, well, just about anything the giver intended, but it was always bad.

 

Fortunately, there was a solution to avoid the influence of the evil eye, in the form of various artistic boners. How come Indiana Jones never had to go after one of these? I suppose in an emergency, I could just unzip and wave it at my antagonist. Go ahead and look, you know you want to. Here. Actually, that wind chime is kind of cool, and would really piss off my neighbors. I wonder if it would ward off door to door solicitors. I wonder what kind of power that ring has if worn on the same finger I give to neighbors and door to door solicitors?

 

There is a space rock somewhere out in the asteroid belt named Ceres. It’s not big enough to be a planet, but it’s a whopper nonetheless. We have a remote ship moving in on Ceres, and Ceres is giving off lights. This article even has pictures.

 

These don’t look volcanic to me. It could be a distorted image, considering the distance and equipment. Then again if you needed to start an intergalactic war over a huge diamond deposit, or find some kind of malignant species in your science fiction this ought to provide some inspiration.

 

This article Is about a gigantic Elizabethan tapestry map. There is text that alludes to a mystery that happened in some hills where, “The Worldesend”, “was dryven downe by the removyng of the ground”. I have no idea what it means, but with a little research and some imagination, I’ll bet I could come up with a story.

 

This one is just weird. Although I did have bronze penis wind-chimes in here, so maybe it isn’t that bad. These are baby cages from the 1930s. They were designed to hang on the outside of apartment windows far above the city streets. Apparently, people were worried that baby wasn’t getting enough sun, so dangling him in a cage seventeen stories off the ground was the solution. People chastised Michael Jackson for doing something similar. I don’t have a specific idea here, but it sure adds some reality to your 1930s era story. Look at these photos here.

 

I don’t know how to put all these together, but I’ll try. A character, who looks a lot like Drew Barrymore (because Poltergeist) moves into her new apartment that was built from the remains of an old mortuary. Strange things start happening in the foothills outside town. Drew is drawn into her own imagination and believes ghosts from the old mortuary are at fault.

 

She soon discovers chameleon-like aliens, from their city on Ceres, are removing earth from the foothills and are about to undermine her new apartment. In a desperate bid to expel them from our planet, she places her baby in a window cage and steps outside to shake her ancient bronze Roman wiener at them.

 

Drew wins, and opens an adults only shop right down the street from Tom Hanks’ tapestry shop. They all live happily ever after.

 

Whew! More articles makes it harder to come up with a story at the end. Maybe I’d better stick to three from now on.

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Suspense

Life has been crazy this month. I wrote this as notes to myself awhile ago. It wasn’t too hard to modify into a blog post, because I want to stay close to some kind of schedule.

***

I love suspense, and am trying to get better at including it in my stories. You should consider this in your own fiction. How do you include an element of suspense? I’ll tell you later. Okay, that was a bad old joke, but true.

Suspense directly relates to plants and payoffs, except it doesn’t payoff; at least at first. It’s hard to resist letting the reader know about the cool thing you have planned, but it’s a must to pull this off. First you have to make the plant. I’ll free write something:

Angela shuffled into the kitchen behind her walker. Her frail, old frame stooped from a lifetime of hard work. She scooped the coffee grounds into her drip maker and switched it on. The furnace made a skittering noise as she opened her paper and sat at the kitchen table.

The furnace noise increased and moved closer. She slid her walker over to her chair and painfully stood. The sound seemed to be coming from the heating vent. With one hand on the walker, she bent down and pulled the register from the duct.

A giant insect-like claw shot from the register and grabbed her around the upper torso. It jerked her to the floor with a hollow thump. It shot back up and jerked down again, this time snapping Angela’s neck back at an unnatural angle.

The claw forced out once more and wrenched back hard. Angela’s brittle collar bones gave way and she disappeared into the ductwork…

Your readers will remember this. The kitchen of Angela’s old house is now a major tension point and you can use it repeatedly throughout the story. Set up an estate sale and have people buy items from this very room. Nothing has to happen. Add all the flickering lights and nuance you like.

Let the Realtor show the house to a young family. One of the adorable children wanders into the kitchen alone to check out the freezer. Drag it out. Nothing has to happen.

Hold a children’s birthday party here. Place the birthday girl in a chair over the duct. Lots of laughing, singing Happy Birthday, and just as they reach the crescendo…Nothing happens.

The duct smells horrible. Mom pulls the register and sprays Febreeze down there. Maybe something skitters away. What are these stains around the register? Scrub, scrub, scrub. Nothing happens.

The parents go out and hire a babysitter. The babysitter always gets it, right? She hears a noise in the kitchen. She tip toes into the kitchen and gingerly approaches the register. The cat jumps from the cupboard and squalls. The babysitter picks up the cat and goes back to the living room. “You naughty kitty.”

Eventually you have to pay this off, but with no more explanation than the scene with Angela, you can milk this for several chapters. Every time someone goes in the kitchen, your readers will be on edge. It’s even better if they’re alone and it’s dark.

There has to be something interesting going on at all times. The whole story can’t be about a flibber from the planet Glorn. Maybe some kind of Scooby club finds a few clues. Maybe they catch the baby chewing on Angela’s old dentures. These same ten chapters need to develop plot and character, but suspense can be a big part of your story.

Resist the temptation of showing the flibber for a few chapters.

So the hero manages to skewer it, what next? “This is just a baby flibber. There could be a whole nest of them nearby. The parents are really nasty” She raised her head and looked out the window at the abandoned colonial on the corner. “How long has the Phelps place been empty?”

Then have the teenage daughter go through an initiation. She has to enter the old Phelps place alone, walk under the dark stairs and take a selfie. Aannndd…nothing happens, just a sound like rustling leaves. The girls run away screaming and laughing. You start the whole cycle over again.

This can’t be the whole story. You still need plot and characters, but it’s a darned good tool for your toolbox.

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Another helping of Macabre Macaroni

Abandoned Toys

She let the cat out and sighed at the stairway. The bedding was clean, and she had to climb the stairs to make the beds. Her grandchildren left three days ago. Her old knees could handle the climb, one more time.

She loved having them for a few weeks. Her daughter and son-in-law needed some time to themselves. It was a whirlwind of visits to the zoo, bounce houses, super hero toys and dolls.

She dreamt last night about her husband’s gentle caresses. She hadn’t had those dreams for twelve years. They were so real, it was almost as if he were in bed with her. Like his fingers walked up her stomach, making tiny tracks between her breasts. She must have bit her own lip, because there was a mark there this morning. She flushed and looked around as she relived the memories.

She unfurled the sheet and slid the first bed away from the wall. She recoiled in pain when she stepped on something hard. It was a plastic toy; a red alien with a long tubular head, long claws, and sharp teeth.

“Whose idea was it to put something so awful in a kid’s meal?” She sat it on the dresser and moved to the second bed. When she finished, she carefully descended the stairs and placed the toy in the kitchen. She snapped a quick photo and emailed it to her daughter, asking if little Brian wanted her to send it to him.

She put the kettle on and carried the clean towels to her own bathroom. She picked up her husband’s photograph and hugged it to her chest. “Oh Dear, I wish it had been you.”

The kettle whistled and she grabbed a teabag from the pantry. The plastic toy lay next to the box of tea. “Silly old woman. I must have put you there when I thought about tea.” She sat the toy beside the sink, made tea, and took her cup to the patio.

She watched the hummingbirds when the email chimed. She turned on her phone and read; It’s not Brian’s but he thinks it’s cool. You can send it if you like.

She found an envelope and returned to the kitchen. The toy alien was gone. When she checked the picture, she recoiled in horror. The alien had a red eye reflection.

***

See if you can guess where this one came from. Hint: we had a visit from the grandkids.

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The Bluebell Co-Op

The Bluebell Co-Op

I poured my coffee into a plastic cup, grabbed my old cap and headed for the fields. I love walking around before the sun comes up. Sometimes you see a deer before she runs into the woods or hear a fox. It’s a magical time of day.

Besides, I’d have my ass parked in a Co-op truck for the next twelve hours. I was the new guy, so my fields got harvested last.

I waited many years to get into the Co-op. Members never leave, and someone about has to die before a new guy gets a chance.

I rounded the corner and stepped off into the first field. The wheat was tall and golden. All it had to do was stay that way for a couple more weeks. There’s always something for a farmer to worry about. This time of year it was hail, wind, or fire. Birds were another problem. If the geese came early, they’d get more grain than I would.

The Co-op gave me a chance to sell off my old equipment. I used the money to send my son to Bluebell Community College. Says he’s gonna show me how to convert this old place into a big time agribusiness. More power to him I say.

He brought his whole lacrosse team over last weekend and sat out the plastic owls and scarecrows. Seems old school these days, but they could buy me a couple of weeks. That’s all it would take, then the starlings and crows could have whatever fell on the ground.

I stopped off at the first scarecrow and pulled a pack of Camels and an old lighter from his pocket. I grabbed two smokes and lit one. My wife thinks I quit, and this is just between me and the scarecrow.

Everything looked good around the first field. I finished my first cigarette and made sure the butt was completely out. I lit my second one and headed for the second field. It looked good too. Poor old Ben Carver said the Martians landed in his fields and left some of them crop circles. We all told him it was probably kids from over to the community college.

Ben didn’t see it that way, said afterward that his dairy cows started trying to kill him. He sold them all off, quit the Co-op, and hasn’t planted in two years. That’s how I got my membership. Bad deal for old Ben; good deal for me.

I dropped off the lighter with the scarecrow and headed for the Co-op. This time of year it was always the same thing. Walk the fields, drive truck all day, come home dog tired and butt sore. The next day, do it all again.

A week went by and we started harvesting the Millers’ crop. I started my day with another walk. This time it was going to be bad. The wind blew overhead from the west and really shook the shutters. There was no way some of my crop didn’t blow down. There was distant lightning too. It really lit our room up and it didn’t flash either. It came on for long periods before going dark again; almost like a truck driving by. After the storm the winds came back from the east. I listened for the tornado sirens, but they never came. Wind going every direction and we’re probably lucky to still have a house.

It didn’t smell like fire, so the lightning must have passed without trouble. The first field was still standing. The scarecrow was bent over, but my cigarettes were still there. I stood him back up and headed for the second field.

There it was, and it was no surprise. The blowdown was about six hundred feet wide. I walked around it and tried to calculate the loss. It made a big circle, and there was another circle inside it. Those damned kids were gonna cost me a big chunk of my profits this year.

I decided to walk back and call the sheriff. Good thing I don’t keep any cows, I suppose. They’d be picking me out a rocking chair like old Ben.

I turned around and looked right into the fiery eyes of five scarecrows. They were less than four feet from me. The one with my cigarettes reached out and grabbed my collar and smiled with a glowing pumpkin grin.

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