Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Bottle of Beer and a Pot of Tea

The Deception Series Book 1
by Sherry Morris
January 1945 in Washington, DC

Chloe awoke shortly after 3:00 p.m. as the Havana Special chuffed through Savannah, Georgia. She opened the aisle curtain and squinted into the light. Scooting to the edge of her bunk, Chloe let her legs dangle as she grabbed her pocketbook. Seizing the ladder, she stepped down the swaying rungs. She walked into the ladies’ lounge to freshen up. Chloe washed and dried her hands, then moved into the spacious primping compartment. She sat on one of five bolted-down stools in front of a stainless steel counter and wall-to-wall mirror. The railway had provided hair lacquer, tissues and six bottles of perfume on a silver tray.

She touched up her makeup and brushed her hair, then sprayed her curls into place with the lacquer. While she blotted her lips with a tissue, the metal door banged open as a woman and a little girl entered. Chloe smiled at them and left.

She stumbled through the rail cars with the rapidly escalating side-to-side pitch of the train. In the jam-packed dining car, she bought a ham sandwich on buttered white bread, gobbling it as she plodded to the first lounge car. There weren’t any empty seats in there either. Chloe continued walking until she arrived at the special tavern lounge observation car, at the end of the train. She lucked into a comfortable chair next to a glass-topped end table, just as someone left. She tried to disappear into the laughter permeating the art deco room streamlined in pink, mint and periwinkle.

The piano man began his first set. Chloe soon lost herself in his melodies and reminisced over the good times. The day she met Bill…the mischievous twinkle in his eyes…their secret love—on her part, anyway. Bill had never once said, “I love you.” He’d just used her. She admitted it to herself. How could she have been so stupid? All she wanted was for somebody to love her. To wrap his arms around her and kiss and comfort her. Someone to make her feel that she was lovable.

I was so stupid. Nobody loves me. Never has, never will. And now look what a mess I’ve gotten myself into. I have to run. Far away.

Shuddering at the memory of her last night in Washington, Chloe allowed herself a good cry.

* * * * *

Helping herself to the napkins arranged like a fan on the end table, Chloe picked a couple of them up. The Havana Special was embossed on them. She wiped her eyes and nose. Determined to begin anew, Chloe gritted her teeth and stood up with perfect posture. There. That didn’t hurt too much. Maneuvering through the smoky haze, she hummed along to the Mitchell Ayers song the piano man was playing. In between well- groomed heads, she caught a glimpse of a bartender with a Clark Gable mustache.

Someone bumped against her back as the train pitched hard on a curve. He said, “Pardon me.”

He smelled wonderful, like that guy she’d brushed by in the corridor last night. Chloe didn’t bother to turn around and look at him because the slight jolt stung her bruises and sore muscles. She stifled a gasp and half smiled, looking from side to side, trying to keep her sight on the bartender. There was something magical and comforting about his aura, drawing her to him.

Chloe dodged animated hands waving lighted cigarettes and booze. She arrived at the bar and steadied herself by holding onto the pink marble counter. Leaning in close to the bartender, she requested as loudly as she could without screaming, “Hot tea please.”

The bartender was crooning the lines of “Make Believe Island”. He finished the first verse and shouted, “Are you sure you want tea, miss? I’ve got some killer martinis.”

Chloe caught a little hint of a British accent in his spoken words, but not in his singing. “Yes, hot tea with sugar please.”

He dashed off to the kitchen to fetch a fresh little pot of tea.

When he returned still singing, Chloe enjoyed his soothing voice as she scooped three sugar cubes into a gold-rimmed teacup. She visualized the fantasy in his lyrics. Sunshine, blue water and beautiful flowers on Make Believe Island. A magical paradise where the future is much better than the past. Chloe laid the small silver spoon on the cup’s saucer.

The crooner grinned at Chloe while she fished coins out of her purse. She dropped them on the bar.

Looking forward to that first delicious sip, Chloe balanced the cup and saucer in her left hand and her purse and the small silver teapot in her right as she navigated through the lively throng.

* * * * *

Mike Taurus pushed his way up to the bar and motioned for the barkeep to lean in closer. He complied.

Mike whispered, “What’s the story with her?”


Mike shouted, “What’s the story with her?” He spun around to make sure no one else had heard him. The mix of servicemen and women as well as a few civilian ladies were immersed in their own merriment. He returned his attention to the bartender.

The bartender stroked his mustache. He hollered, “She bawled her eyes out and then came up here swaying to the music. Beats me. I can’t believe there’s some stupid stooge who would hurt a classy dame like that.”

“Gimme a bottle of beer and a pot of tea.”

The bartender winked. “Sure thing.” He popped the top off a bottle of beer, placed a cup and saucer on the counter and then dashed off to the kitchen, where he retrieved a second little pot of steaming tea.

Mike threw a dollar bill on the bar. He slid the beer into his pants pocket. Opening the hinged lid on the pot, he plunked in five sugar cubes and snapped it shut. Mike Taurus carried the teapot, along with a cup and saucer, toward the end of the car.

The barkeep winked and muttered, “That’s it, mate, get her on the rebound…” He continued singing softly, fading out at the end of the refrain.

The train pitched hard toward the left. The cup and saucer flew from Mike’s hand. The porcelain saucer broke in half as it hit the polished wood floor. The cup miraculously just bounced. Scalding tea sloshed through the little silver spout, searing his chest. Cold beer slopped down the front of his gray trousers.

* * * * *

Chloe balanced the teapot and cup as she passed by her berth, noticing the porter had made the bed. She drew a deep breath. The air was much fresher in the Pullman car than it was in the social areas. She walked back to the coach seat she’d occupied during the night, before the sleeper car was added. Perhaps I’ll try to make conversation with the sailor. I don’t wanna, but I do need the practice. When Chloe approached the seat, she was relieved to see the sailor was gone. His duffel bag and peacoat were missing from the overhead rack. He must’ve gotten off in South Carolina. I get a small reprieve. There would be plenty more servicemen to become acquainted with in Miami Beach.

Chloe plopped down in the window seat and clumsily opened the tray table. She placed the cup and saucer on it just as the train pitched hard. “Ow!” A gush of hot tea had spurted onto her hand. Sucking on her scald, she used her other hand to pour. Steam swirled from the steeped orange and black pekoe. Stirring to melt the sugar, she slopped a little tea onto the saucer. She took a careful sip and savored the hot comfort. Glancing out the window, Chloe marveled at her first glimpse of the palm trees whizzing by. She’d only ever seen them in books.

The conductor strolled through casually announcing, “Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve reached our top speed of seventy-nine miles per hour. Out your windows, you’ll see we are passing through the Georgia swamps. Please rest assured that the odor permeating the train is swamp gas and not your traveling companion.”

Chloe and the other passengers giggled.

As he passed her seat, the conductor leaned in close and said, “You can enjoy your tea, miss, but you need to return to your berth or one of the public areas before the next station stop. That seat has been reserved.”

Chloe’s eyes grew big as she blushed. “I’m so sorry. I haven’t ridden trains much. I didn’t know.”

He nodded and continued through the car.

The tea seared her taste buds as she gulped, staring out the window as day faded into night. I’m such a fraud. Sophisticated people ride trains for the glamour and adventure of traveling to new locales. Maybe someday this mountain girl will see the world.

Get Hundred Dollar Bill now at Amazon 

Napping Norah

by Sherry Morris

At 4:00 P.M. Compartment H was toasty warm. I had hated freezing in Compartment A. It was dark with the drapes drawn and the lights out. Jeeze, Napping Norah was still dead to the world. If only I had not a care in the world like her. Oh, well, goody for her. We hadn’t even introduced ourselves yet. I didn’t know what her face looked like. I hoped she wouldn’t be upset Dina and I had changed rooms. I would just explain to her Dina had a thing for ghosts. There was a holy ghost so Norah might understand. Oh, no. Did she know that Mini Mary Agnes was dead? Had they been friends? A picture of the hanging replayed in my mind. I shuddered and then shook it off. Life goes on for the rest of us. God bless Mary Agnes and her brother. What did Andy say his name was? David. David Starr.

I plopped down on the bottom bunk and kicked off my shoes. I climbed under the gold blanket and lay my head down on the soft fluffy pillow. I closed my eyes. What was that smell? Oh, it was so gross. I covered my nose and mouth. It must be the backed up toilet. And that was my entire fault. How could Norah sleep with that stench? It was so disgusting.

* * * 

I dreamt about a trio of witches. They were frolicking in an enchanted forest with cute little chipmunks and chimpanzees scampering and swinging through the autumnal maple trees. I could hear the turtle doves singing in harmony. A wise old owl perched rigid on top of the hat of the fat witch. She was stirring and stirring and stirring. Her incantation resonated melodically. “I dedicate this spell to all the guilty people who will soon be sentenced to die a shameful death inside this vat of blue Jell-O.”

I woke up pulse pounding, sweating and whimpering. Remembering the blue Jell-O shooters. Vegas. The disco chapel of love. Al Dente and I were drunk from slurping Jell-O and got hitched by a Super Freak look-alike as the disco ball spun and I puked on a Manx cat.

I nearly gagged and puked again because of the foul odor saturating the air. Wait a minute. That was not just the plumbing. I recognized that odor. Death.

I jumped up.

“Norah? Norah? Are you well, dear?” I knew the answer. I picked up my sneakers and poked her in the back with one. It didn’t press in. She was rigid. Oh no. Not again. I slipped on my shoes and climbed the first wrung of the ladder and felt her neck. No pulse. Not again.

I jumped down, ran into the hall and screamed, “Help! Help! Somebody please help!”

This time the responders emerged from their compartments at a leisurely pace. Pat-the-Pirate and Contest Carly quietly walked my way. Hack ‘em Up Hazel trudged along behind them with her fireplace poker. Dina came running, tripping on her skirt. Weepy Wendy pushed them aside and gave me the evil eye and a smirk as she entered my room and then quickly exited, drawing the gold silk drapes.

“What did you do to this one?” she accused.

* * *

After dinner the train stopped in Pittsburgh. The local authorities removed the “possible death” victim. That was how the railroad had to report it. They didn’t have the power to declare someone dead. Needless to say I was never setting foot in Compartment H ever again.

Much to the ladies’ vehement protest there was no Pittsburgh plumber standing-by to unclog us. Just as well by me even though it was a double edged sword. I hadn’t aligned the clues together the right way yet. I stared out the window in the parlor car. The rain whooshed down in steady sheets. A freight train was whizzing by. It looked like a trash train. It probably didn’t smell as bad as Compartment H did.

My mind began clicking. What did Al’s dog tags and the bleach bottle have to do with the dead sailor? And who planted them? The minstrel of melody, Alfredo Dente? Mini Mary Agnes? She was dead when the package was delivered but who knows when it was mailed or dropped off at the courier…I really needed to talk to Mom to see how it had arrived.

And who had access to my mother’s footlocker with the yarn inside? When were the dog tags planted in the rainbow skein? Could Mom have been the one sending me the clues? She certainly wasn’t the murderer any more than Al Dente was. He had no backbone.

But Al was supposedly in the Navy and the dead guy was a sailor. Or was he? I shouldn’t assume anything. After all he wasn’t wearing dog tags. I could ask Big Marc if wearing dog tags 24/7 was mandatory. If I could find Big Marc. Where could he be? Did someone steal an old man? Was he ejected out the window of the train when I pulled the emergency brake? Could crotchety Big Marc be the murderer?

Big Marc certainly had access to Mom’s footlocker when he helped load the luggage. Could he have hung Mini Mary Agnes? Was her death a homicide? What time did Reverend Donaldson leave compartment A?

And how is Al Dente all mixed up in this? It was such an odd time and place and method for him to reappear after five years of absence. But I guess he had to show up some place some time.

I remembered that Many Agnes’ brother, David Starr, smelled like bleach. Did the murderer try to remove his or her DNA evidence off of the victim’s body with bleach? I closed my eyes and pictured him lying on the sand. His blue uniform didn’t have any white bleach spots on it. So very odd.

Someone had sent me a bottle of bleach as a present. Anonymously. Gift wrapped patriotically in red, white and blue. Then wrapped in plain brown paper and tied up with string… a few of my favorite things…so the song goes. From The Sound of Music. Al Dente loved musicals. So did Dina and I. We were so nerdy. Or cultured. I giggled. Yeah, right.

Who was patriotic? Big Marc. Who liked red, white and blue? Mom had several outfits coordinating with that theme. One with a flag and fireworks, one with bees and one with a big red sequined anchor. Nautical. Navy. Sailors. David Starr, Al Dente and Big Marc Clinger were in the Navy. Who else was?

Someone had brought a gallon of bleach on the train! I remembered seeing it on the pile of crap waiting to be carried on board. I needed to find out who brought it.

I paced in the parlor car walking the length of it as three crusader ladies sipped iced water in holy silence. I smiled at them and said, “Hello. Do you think the rain will stop soon?” I tried to make polite conversation.

Two glared at me with their noses stuck high up in the air. The oldest woman, about sixty-five and dressed in a tan ruffled moo-moo buttoned to her three chins said, “It shall rain for forty days and forty nights and all the sinners of the world shall drown in shameful stench.”

I could feel them willing God to strike me dead with lightning but I didn’t care. I did not kill Napping Norah. Nor Mini Mary Agnes. Nor her Starr of David.

Lieutenant Hottie had been right rolling his eyes at me on the beach when I was trying to tell him the deceased wouldn’t have attended the church service because he was Jewish. Jeeze, Sandra. You can be so tunnel-visioned sometimes. He was wearing that necklace because that was his name, David Starr.

It wasn’t my fault that for some horrible reason it was my charge in life to discover the dead. I certainly didn’t want this creepy job. I didn’t want to go back to my job with the Department of Public Works either. Nope. It was time to change my destiny by gosh by golly. By goody gumdrops. I wished I had some green spearmint gumdrops to bite into.

I fished around inside the credenza drawers and found a pencil, ivory railroad stationary and a matching envelope. There was also a thick pack of Juicy Fruit gum. Yum. I didn’t know how so many people could chew the sugar-free stuff that was so popular these days. I enjoyed the old Fruit Stripe gum and Juicy Fruit and Big Red.

I left the sweet stuff, closed the drawer and walked with purpose across the car. I sat erectly in a comfortable leather chair next to an end table. I licked the tip of the pencil and immediately crinkled my nose. It wasn’t my pencil. Yuk. I wondered who else might have licked it. Johnny Depp perhaps? Did they have pencils back in pirate days? Sandra, focus. You have an important task at hand.

By the light of a nice little lamp with a green glass shade I wrote my resignation letter.

Dear Mr. Ishkabibble,
I hereby resign my position with the Cocoa Beach Department of Public Works effective two weeks from your receipt of this notice.

I crossed that out. He could say he never received it. I took a clean sheet of stationary and started again.

Dear Igor,
I quit.
With Warm Regards and No Regrets,
Sandra M. Faire

I slipped the paper into an envelope and licked it shut. Now if only I had a stamp.

Oh well. I stuffed the letter into my back pocket and returned to pacing and sleuthing.

I spied with my little eye two potted plants in one corner. I’d never noticed them before. A dracaena and a Norfolk Island pine. Low light lovers. Dracaenas were London’s palm trees. They grew them in parks on the top of buildings. Yep. That sounds peculiar but I saw it on the travel channel. I wondered where Norfolk Island was. Somewhere in Virginia? I shrugged my shoulders. Norfolk, Virginia had a Naval Base…

There was a Norfolk Island pine tree stacked with the luggage when we were waiting to board in Florida. Who did it belong to? Did it matter? I’d find out.

Well now that I was almost officially unemployed I had no reason to return to Cocoa Beach other than to retrieve my belongings and to tell my landlady goodbye. My lease was up at the end of next month anyhow and since I’d paid a month in advance I was hoping we were even. I could just take off and start a new life. Away from all the dead bodies.

The church ladies sashayed up to me. “You stay away from our congregation. Do you hear me?” asked Mrs. Moo-Moo.

“What have you got against me? I don’t even know you.” My stomach flip-flopped. Why was she ordering me around?

“You do not want to know us, girlie. We can take care of your kind. An eye for an eye. A life for a despicable life…” She interlocked her arms with the other ladies and waddled hip to hip until they had to walk separately around the corner.

I shivered. No one had ever threatened me. Well except for that prissy cheerleader in tenth grade because of that rumor I started about her boyfriend… I enjoyed an evil grin.

Man, I wish I had a stamp. I remembered stuffing my mail in my suitcase as I was leaving for the train. Maybe I could soak a stamp off of one of the letters if it didn’t have the cancel lines through it. Hey, it was worth a shot. Where was my suitcase anyhow?

I spied it on the opposite side of the potted plants. Andy probably stowed my duffle there. I’d been evicted from yet another room. It was now another death investigation scene. With yellow police tape across the door. Now there were no vacancies left.

I walked over to my pretty cerulean blue duffle bag and unzipped the top outside pocket. I yanked the mail out, ripping the corner of a Victoria’s Secret catalog as the zipper bit into it. I tossed it in the trashcan under the credenza along with a postcard from the dentist reminding me it was time again for another cleaning. My teeth were pearly white and in fine working order. He could find a new sucker to overcharge. And I didn’t need any new bras and it wasn’t like I was shopping for steamy lingerie to tantalize Lieutenant Hottie. He wasn’t interested in me anymore.

Drat. Only one letter and it had a metered postage barcode not a lickable soak-offable stamp. It was from SunTrust Bank in Las Vegas, Nevada.

This was something else that needed to be taken care of. Now that my wayward minstrel of melody Alfredo Dente had returned I could divorce him. Or annul him. I wasn’t exactly sure if the marriage had been consummated. I didn’t have those kinds of feelings for Al Dente. To me we’d always be five years old, giggling on the monkey bars on the playground. I will never eat Jell-O again. It had made me so sick. Okay so the Jell-O wasn’t the culprit. It was the alcohol they mixed it with. What kind? Vodka? Rum? Hooch?

I didn’t even remember checking into the Dew Drop Inn. I woke up alone on the cold red tiled bathroom floor. Ghastly hung-over with a pillow under my head. My tangled hair was matted with stinky puke.

It didn’t really matter to me if the marriage had been consummated or not. It wasn’t like I was saving myself for my second husband. Lieutenant Hottie wasn’t the marrying kind and I was pretty sure Johnny Depp was in love with someone fabulous.

At least after the divorce or annulment I’d finally have closure.

I never touched this money before. I was in denial about the marriage. And now I knew why those automatic deposits from the federal government had been so small. My husband was in the Navy. However, it was a joint account and it mattered not that he made all the deposits. I figured half of all assets were mine. And this was what I’d use for seed money to launch my new life. Let’s see, six hundred and something bucks deposited every month for five years was roughly $35,000. Halved, that was nearly $18,000. Almost enough for a down payment on a little house somewhere normal. In Middle America. Yep. I’d just get a house and a cat and a fun little quirky job to pay the bills while I wrote my novels and saved the world.

Jimmy Tamales strolled through the car straightening up the newspaper strewn on the sofa and checking to see if the rear door was properly latched.

“Hi, Jimmy.”

“Good morning, Sandra. Can I get you anything?”

“Do you have one of those memory eraser thingys they used in Men In Black?”

“Sorry. But we can learn from the tragedies and move forward.” He tipped his conductor hat and waddled back down the car.

I turned the envelope over and slipped my fingertip inside one end of the flap. As I ripped it open it ripped my skin open. “Oww!” I shook the statement out as I sucked on my paper cut.

Holy macaroni. The balance was…wait a minute. Let me count the zeros…seven million three thousand six hundred dollars and forty five cents.

It had to be a big fat computer error in my favor. They had probably discovered it by now. But it was a nice big figure to gaze at. I stuffed it back in my suitcase and zipped it shut.

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Saturday, July 4, 2020

My Dirty Little Secret

by Sherry Morris

I needed air. I needed to jump off this train of ghouls and find peace. I missed home. Palm trees, sun and cake with gobs of buttercream frosting. A vision of Cocoa Beach flashed. And the dead sailor. I shook my head, trying to shake away the whole awful conundrum. I spied the door on the rear of the train and ran for it. I flung it open and stepped out on to the observation deck. Rain and wind pelted my face as I leaned over the metal railing.

No, no, no. I didn’t need the sobering reality. I needed comfort and fantasy. Tears dripped from my tired eyeballs. Again. I let them. I didn’t care who saw. Not that I wanted anyone to see me. I needed to disappear.

As the train slowed I stepped to the side and thought about jumping off. Tuck and roll is what you are supposed to do when you jump from a moving vehicle. I think. I’d loved all of the Worst Case Scenario guidebooks. What did they advise to do when you’re trying to identify a murderer; you discover your roommate has hung herself; your Mom is disappointed in you and you have just destroyed evidence, and what in the heck did it mean anyhow?

A clap of thunder preceded a heavy downpour.

The door squeaked open and then banged shut.

“Salutations marionette of mystery. What is the status of your comeliness? It has been light-years since our souls last collided.”

No this can’t be happening to me. Closing my eyes, gripping the rail tight, my stomach recoiled.

He nicked my neck with his fingernail as he clumsily brushed my hair back. I felt his hot breath on my skin and tried to pull away.

He whispered, “Your valiant minstrel of melody has returned. No longer an apprentice, I shall pedestal you to the heavens in the richness you deserve.”

Al Dente had just blown back into my life. Hurricane Alfredo.

I heard the squealing of the brakes and the blowing of the whistle as the train stopped. Great, just great. Why was it stopping?

My fingers found the gate latch, swung it open and I jumped down. He wrapped his arms around my waist as I moved and I lost my balance. We tumbled head over bottom down a prickly embankment, landing in a car graveyard.

I landed on top of Al Dente. My legs straddled his meek chest. Even with a short military hair cut he still looked like a scrawny nerd with a huge honker of a nose. I looked into his innocent blue eyes and all those old feelings rushed back.

“Where in the fettuccini have you been for the last five years?” I shouted, not waiting for an answer. “I woke up on the mildewy bathroom floor in a cheap motel way off the Vegas strip. Alone. You left me nothing but a joint checkbook, a marriage license and regret.”

Rain pelted my face.

“Lovely marionette of mystery, I can explain. If you will please remove your languid legs from my ribs and allow me to rise like the hallowed phoenix…I think I came to rest on a radiator.”

I crawled off of him and grabbed his hand. I jerked him up.

I heard footsteps approaching. I didn’t want an audience. I’d been waiting a very long time and I needed answers.

“Turn around and put your hands in the air!” ordered Lieutenant Hottie.

I cringed and turned toward him. He had his gun drawn. I threw my hands up high. “Don’t shoot! I—”

“Back away from her!” Lieutenant Hottie commanded as he ran over to Al Dente and shoved the gun barrel under his chin.

I shrieked, “Don’t! Don’t hurt him.”

“Who’s the geek?” the lieutenant demanded.

“It is I, Alfredo Dente. Husband of the discriminating marionette of mystery.”

Oh God. My secret was revealed. Strike me dead and open up the door to Hell.

“And so we finally meet,” said Lieutenant Hottie.

“What?” I asked. He said that as if he knew all about Al Dente.

“You have a lot of explaining to do, Dente,” said Lieutenant Hottie.

“Have you been wanting to meet Al Dente because you like his music? Or has he done something illegal? Or is it who his uncle is?” I asked.

“I’ve been waiting to meet your husband,” said Lieutenant Hottie.

Thunder clapped. The brightest bolt of lightning I had ever seen lit up the sky. Trembling, I wrapped my arms around myself.

How did he know? Is this why he had been so cold to me all these years? Is this why he had rebuffed all of my flirting?

Andy and a couple of North American Passenger Railway cops swarmed us. They cuffed Al Dente and hauled him up the hill.

“You okay, Sis?” Andy asked as he shoved Al Dente past me up the steep incline.

I couldn’t bring myself to speak. What could I say? I’d been outed. Alfredo Dente was the guy I had married in a moment of teenaged stupidity because he was in some sort of trouble he couldn’t tell me about. Little did I expect my groom to disappear the morning after our nuptials.

He and Dina and I had been best friends since we met in Kindergarten. Some time in the seventh grade Al Dente and Dina became step-cousins.

My dirty little secret was now irrevocably out in the open. It could only get worse if…

“Sandra Marie Faire. What have you done this time?” asked Mom. She goose stepped down the hill in her blue thong kitten heels. Today she wore an indigo chambray crop pants set with a lime green tee peeking out from under the indigo Peter Pan collared jacket.

I groaned.

Mom held a green polka dotted umbrella and awkwardly toted a package wrapped in plain brown paper all tied up with string.

“Sandra, this package came for you special delivery. I signed for it. There is no return address. See if there is a note enclosed.”

This was so surreal. I jumped from a train, monkey tangled with my guitar playing mobster’s nephew nearly gone long enough to be declared legally dead secret husband of a few drunken hours. The guy I’ve yearned for all these years shoved a gun under my husband’s chin. I discovered my dead dwarf roommate hanging in the potty. And now my mom is delivering a package to me in a junkyard in the rain.

It was at this point I realized I needed to step back and figure out just how my life became so whacked. Why couldn’t I be a normal girl and find a nice little office job and a nice little house and a nice little cat and a nice little boyfriend in a nice little bowtie?

No not a bowtie. A nice hot boyfriend.

I know. The heck with the cat, house and boyfriend, I’d move to Ireland and work as the confidential secretary to Tony O’Rourke, fabulous mystery recluse. I’d host magnificent charity events in the ballroom and dance with all the heads of state and exotic rich guys. Yeah, that’s good enough. I didn’t really need a boyfriend.

What was Al Dente mixed up in? Why was he arrested? Where had he been for the last five years?

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Hurricane Alfredo

by Sherry Morris

I woke up to the dark Thursday dawn. Mom was drooling in the chair, her lap draped with a green coverlet. She must have knitted all night.

I heard the chug-a-chug of the locomotive. Good, we were moving again. I quietly slipped out of bed and into the corridor. I hurried down the hall and I peeked in the curtains to my room. No reverend. It was dark but I would have seen him if he were there. I stepped inside and closed the door and flipped on the light. Mary Agnes wasn’t in her bunk.

I was still in my uniform from yesterday. I really wanted to brush my teeth and take a shower but not until I retrieved the dog tags from the cooler.

The lid was off of it. The dog tags were gone. The floor was wet. The yarn led into the bathroom. Oh, no. Mini Mary Agnes had found her brother’s dog tags. How horrific. I thought I was going to throw up. I felt guilty but then again she shouldn’t have been snooping in my cooler. Maybe she was really thirsty… No. She didn’t drink tea. I remembered her scolding me.

I knocked on the potty door not knowing exactly what to say. “Mary Agnes? Are you in there? Mary Agnes, it’s Sandra. Sandra Faire, your roommate.” I knocked again, louder.

No answer.

I opened the door and screamed. She was hanging from the shower rod. Trussed up in the yarn, dog tags and the belt from her white dress. I climbed up on the stepladder, grabbed her legs and tried to yank her down but it only seemed to tighten the yarn. I jerked hard and the dog tags broke off in my hand, but Mary Agnes didn’t. I shoved them in my pocket as I ran out in the hallway screaming, “Help!”

Hack ‘em Up Hazel and Pat-the-Pirate galloped to my aid. Hazel wielded a fireplace poker. Pat had a patch over one eye. She must take the glass eye out at night. I tried to tell them what had happened but my words were unintelligible. I kept jabbing my hand in the direction of my room. Tabloid Tilly shoved past me and entered the compartment. An Aboriginal scream permeated the car. Then all was quiet.

Weepy Wendy stumbled down the hall. “In there. Help.” I got the words out.

Wendy entered.

Matilda exited.

An agonizingly long moment later the nurse reappeared. She closed the drapes. And the door. “It’s too late. There is nothing we can do for her now.”

Strangely, Weepy Wendy wasn’t crying.

I was.

My brother shoved through the crowd of ladies in their nighties. “What’s going on?”

“Mary Agnes Starr hung herself,” I choked out.

He entered my compartment. A nano-second later Lieutenant Hottie joined him. And Reverend Donaldson and the North American Passenger Railway crew chief. It was getting awfully crowded in my room.

I started feeling woozy so I stumbled down the hallway and through the vestibule to get a drink of water. I entered the parlor car, grabbed a bottle and plopped down in a chair. I snapped open the lid and took a big long drink.

I had discovered dead bodies before. But they were all strangers to me, washed up on the beach. Not someone I knew. Not in my room. I said a little prayer for Mary Agnes Starr. I hardly knew ye.

So that’s why she brought the stepladder. She’d planned to kill herself.

As I swallowed I remembered the dog tags. Pulling them from my pocket I leaned over the table to read them in the light. My hands shook.

Dente, Alfredo P.




I was stunned. I had to be dreaming. Please wake up Sandra. Please wake up.

Al Dente joined the Navy? His dog tags hung the dwarf?

Lieutenant Hottie was on the train. No, no, no! He must not find these and link me to Al Dente. No! This is not happening! I ran into the restroom, locked the door, lifted the seat and flushed them.

Hurricane Alfredo.

Here he blows again.

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Photos from My Son's July 2019 Wedding

Here are my amateur photos from my son's wedding. Honestly, it was a gorgeous, spectacular two day celebration. I will replace these with the professional photos once I discover where they are hiding on my computer.


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What is a Vibration Plate?

Vibration Plate

I first heard of vibration plates on an intermittent fasting podcast in 2018. The host stated it was the only exercise she did to build and maintain muscle. Intrigued, I consulted Dr. Google. I surfed around, ordered and read some books on the science and how to’s. 

Vibration plates were designed in the 1950’s to help astronauts who returned to earth with decreased bone density and muscle atrophy due to lack of gravity. They then made their way into physical therapy offices to help rehabilitate injured people who were unable to perform traditional weight bearing exercises. Gyms and sports teams have incorporated vibration plates into their regimens. 

Costco and Sam’s Clubs have had occasional demonstrations of a high quality vibration plate. I’ve never been able to try one of them, the queue has always been long. I bought this one from Amazon back in 2018 and it’s still working just fine, no issues. 

4 to 5 nights a week, I’ll do a gentle yoga routine, then workout on my vibration plate for 10 minutes. I find it very relaxing. I cycle through the 10 minute preset programs, a different one each night. I start out standing on the vibration plate. I concentrate to pull my pelvic floor muscles and abdominals up and in and hold them for 3 minutes. I had to work up to this, don’t attempt it on your first workout. I have a cystocele, a type of pelvic floor prolapse and this is the only thing that has kept my bladder up inside and in place, making everyday life bearable. 

After 3 minutes standing, I relax all my muscles and sit on the plate for about 3 minutes, with my legs held straight out. 

The remaining 4 minutes, I lay on the floor with my legs across the vibration plate. I use a yoga bolster to lift my hips into a bridge position and just relax. 

I look forward to my evening routine. I usually use the vibration plate in the dark while listening to a favorite podcast. 

I encourage everyone to consult with their physician, and if it's appropriate for you, be on the lookout for an opportunity to try adding a vibration plate to your fitness plan.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Who Pulled the Emergency Brake on the Train?

by Sherry Morris

A thunderous squeal, flashing lights, the crashing of stowed luggage and sleeping people resonated in slow motion. Screams and curses filled the distant air.

My head hit the bathroom door hard as it was jolted open. Peetie-the-Parrot flew screeching toward me. My world went dark.

* * * 

I felt myself being dragged backwards. Voices. Cuss words. Male voices. A blow to my stomach and all the blood rushed to my head. Forward propulsion. I opened my eyes and saw a great male caboose. Upside down. Clad in dark wash jeans. Handcuffs dangled. My hair hung down near my arms. I was upside down. Somebody was carrying me. Over his shoulder. I noticed a Glock tucked into his waistband. I grabbed cop handcuffs. He threw me down on a bed.

I brushed the tangled hair from my face and looked into Lieutenant Hottie Hernandez’s big brown smoldering…make those angry eyes.

He snatched his handcuffs from me and returned them to their holster. “Did you stop this train?”

Train? Train…oh, yeah, I was on a train.

“Sandra, did you pull the emergency brake and stop this train?”

“Well I didn’t do it by dragging my foot.”

“Why?” he demanded.

“Why?” I repeated.

“Yes, why?”

I watched his nostrils flare and his eyes bulge. I would have rather looked at something else bulging.

He got right in my face. “Why did you stop this train?”

I remembered. I needed a nurse. “I needed a nurse.”

“What’s wrong with you?”

What’s wrong with me? “My back hurts. Mini…Minnie Mouse hit me with the potty door. Oww. My side hurts, too. And I stubbed my big toe.” I put my hand up and felt a huge goose egg on my forehead. “What happened to my head?”

“You obviously bumped your head.”

“How do you know somebody didn’t conk me over the head?”

“Did they? Who?”

I propped myself up on my elbows and wondered how that toilet paper became wrapped around my leg.

“Who conked you over the head?”

“Huh? I don’t know. But they could have. Then again, I probably did hit my head on the bathroom door. Or toilet or something… I remember! Peetie!”

“Peetie hit you? Who is Peetie?”

“Peetie-the-Parrot. Pat-the-Pirate’s pet.”

“Oh, for the love of— Have you been drinking?”

“Drinking? No. I’m a good girl. You know that.”

I remembered Big Marc. I bolted upright and nearly passed out again.

Hottie caught me. “Careful! Lay back down.”

Under different circumstances I’d love to obey but… “Oh! Big Marc! Pearl Harbor! Old guy working as a car attendant. He stumbled and clocked his head, breaking out a window as he passed out in the parlor car. He had a heart attack. That’s why I pulled the emergency brake. I kept yelling ‘Help!’ but no one responded. I didn’t know which compartment Weepy Wendy was in.”

“Weepy Wendy?”

“Nurse. Nurse with scary hair.”

Hottie snatched out his cell phone, commanded something into it then turned his attention back to me.

Damn, he was so good looking when he was mad.

“What time is it? How long was I out? Where are we?”

“Oh-one-hundred hours, Thursday. I don’t know. Dillon, South Carolina.”

I realized everything was quiet. The train had stopped. The air conditioning wasn’t whirring. I didn’t like this silence. I tried sitting up again. This time, slowly. He offered his hand to help me. Oh, his hand. His hot, strong hand. His touch sent shockwaves of pleasure through my body.

He let go, reached his arm across to the cup holder by the window and grabbed a small water bottle. The lid made a little peep noise as he cracked the seal and offered it to my lips. I let him pour the sustenance into my mouth. Of course it dribbled cold all down my neck. I pulled away.

“Sorry,” he said.

I wiped the water with the corner of his blue covers.

Andy came to the door. Hottie jumped up and talked to him in hushed tones. He turned to me and said, “I’ll get your mother to sit with you. I’ve got to go.”

“Where? And why are you onboard anyhow?”

“Big Marc Clinger is missing. I am conducting a murder investigation.”

“Big Marc is dead?”

“That’s not what I said. I’m investigating the murder of David Starr, the sailor you turned up on the beach.”

“Why aboard the train? There aren’t any suspects—”

He was gone before I finished. I remembered the planted dog tags. Shazam. The killer is on the train! And messing around with my mom’s yarn. Why is he…or she hiding evidence, or are they planting clues? Does the killer want to be discovered? Is this a murder mystery weekend?

No nothing that fun. Nobody is writing a murder mystery dinner party play. Well, I don’t know. Maybe Contest Carly or Rosemary might be. But if it is Rosemary we would never find out whodunit because she would only write the first act.

I was really tired. And boy did my head ache. Throb, throb throb. I just wanted to take two Extra Strength Tylenol’s, lie back and go to sleep and wake up in DC in time for Tony O’Rourke’s presentation.

I was just about to doze off in Hottie’s comfy covers, which smelled so good like he does, when Mom swooped in.

“Wake up! Wake up! Sandra Marie Faire!” She slapped my cheeks.

I pushed her back. We wrestled until I was sitting up. She placed a cup of tea to my lips. I pulled back. “Too hot!”

“Fine. I’ll put some ice in it.” She ran out into the corridor.

I had looked forward to an inspiring and relaxing excursion. Just my luck.

Mom reappeared with a pewter ice bucket and tongs. She plunked two small cubes in my mug and stirred them with a peppermint stick.

Leave it to Mom to pack peppermint sticks.

“What did you hit your head on this time, Sandra? I think you need glasses. You’re always walking into things.” She placed ice cubes inside a floral napkin and then stuffed it inside a plastic Wal-Mart bag. She twirled it three times tied a butterfly knot and pressed it on my head.

“Oww!” I tried to pull it away. She pressed harder. I squirmed. She won. I held the ice to my head.

I picked the toilet paper off of my leg and handed it to Mom. She huffed, threw it in the little stainless steel trash shoot and washed her hands. She came over and soaped up my hands with a wash cloth, rinsed it out then returned to wipe the soap away. I just rolled my eyes and compiled. Mom gets into these hyper-mommy jags and it’s better not to challenge her.

“What were you doing in the parlor car in the middle of the night? Do they have an internet connection in there? Were you surfing for inappropriate photos of Johnny Depp again? Sandra Marie—”

“I got kicked out of my room.”

“Why? Did you and Dina have a fight over another boy?”

I would always be twelve years old in Mom’s eyes. “No. Dina isn’t my roommate. They decided it would be fun if they paired up the writ—umm—book readers club with the missionaries or crusaders or whoever they are.” That was a close one.

“Why on earth?”

“I have no idea.”

“So who is your roommate then? Where is she?”

“Mary Agnes. She’s in our room with Pastor Donaldson. I was booted out for the night and had to sleep in the parlor car.”

Shoot. Too much info. Now I was going to have to tell her the rest of it.

“Why? What did you do to her?”

“I didn’t do anything to her. Why do you always assume… Mary Agnes is grieving. Her brother died.”

“Oh, how terrible. I’m sorry. Was it expected or sudden?”

I removed the ice pack, inhaled and stuck my tea in the cup holder. I swung my legs over the side of the bunk and propped myself up with Lieutenant Hottie’s two pillows.

She was going to find out so I might as well get the lecture over with. “Her brother is…was the dead guy I found washed up on the beach yesterday morning.”

Mom shuddered. A full body shimmy.

“Mom, are you okay?”

“That is too creepy and coincidental. You discovered his body and she is your roommate that very night. I think something is going on here. Something very fishy. And scary… She fumbled in the rickrack trimmed pocket of her pink chenille bathrobe. Pulling out her cell phone, she flipped it open.

“Who are you calling in the middle of the night?”

“Your father. We’ll just see what’s going on here. I don’t like it one bit.”

No. Not Dad. He would stop the train. No, wait. I already stopped the train. Now Dad would dispatch a local yokel squad car to take us home. I would be grounded for the rest of my life.

Mom huffed and shoved the phone back into her pocket. “No service.” She pulled a ball of mint green yarn and knitting needles from her other pocket and plopped down in the chair. “Put the ice pack back on your head.”

I did.
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