Mitzi Matterhorn was not afraid of scientists, either

Posted on October 21st, 2014 in Stories


Part one here. 


While Priscilla the pug chatted with a butterfly (one might interpret her snapping jaws as trying to eat the butterfly, but really, it was an animated conversation), Mitzie paced back and forth on the scientist’s porch.  On the stroke of two, she rapped on the wood.  The door flung open.  If possible, the scientists’ hair was even wilder.  A laptop was tapped under one arm and a cat squirmed under the other.  Mitzie raised her eyebrow.  ”What are you doing?”


“Ordering Mr. Boots some boots.  His paws get cold.” Herr Vempkauff’s eyebrows crowded together like fuzzy caterpillars huddling for warmth.  ”What are you doing?”


She scowled and pointed to the folded clippings clenched in his fingers.  ”Are you ordering boots with the coupons I gave you?”


“No.”  Herr Vempkauff’s cheeks reddened.  He was a terrible liar.  Mitzie waited until he sputtered, all the air blustering out of his cheeks in one puff.  ”Fine!  I’ll order Mr. Boots’ boots later– even though a cold front is coming and he won’t be able to roam outdoors in comfort, thanks to your impatience.”


“A cold front means an influx of spiders, and Priscilla hates spiders,” Mitzie informed him, sweeping inside with Priscilla, who was perhaps the only pug who did not hate spiders.  She gazed inside the messy living room, where papers were stacked on top of papers and books on top of books.  In fact, a stack of books made up the wobbly coffee table, the stiff looking chairs and filled several cardboard boxes that pressed together, served as a couch.  She squinted toward the kitchen and shuddered.  The only thing Mitzie hated more than spiders was messes, and this house was making her skin crawl more than a tarantula.  ”Shall we get started?” she asked Herr Vempkauff, delicately perching on one stack of books that was high enough to serve as a stool.


“No need.”  He patted his lab coat pockets until he located a small vial.  With a flourish, he presented it to her.  ”Here you are.  Three drops in a bucket is all you need.  It’s Spider Hiroshima– it’ll take them all out.”


Mitzie crinkled her nose.  ”Is it pug proof?”




“Is it Mr. Boots proof?”


“Oh, heavens no!”  Herr Vempkauff was so horrified he scooped up his cat and pressed his cheek to the feline’s whiskers.


“Then I suppose you better get back to work,” Mitzie drawled, smoothing her skirts.  ”And I’d like it to smell good, if you don’t mind.  Vanilla or honeysuckle, something of that nature.”


“You want it to smell good?” Herr Vempkauff repeated.  His caterpillar brows were about to vibrate off his creased forehead.


“Of course!  I despise spiders!  If I’ll be splashing this about, I want it to smell lovely.  It must be pug safe, human safe and butterfly safe.”  At Herr Vempkauff’s puzzled look, Mitzie explained, “Priscilla loves butterflies.”


“Of course.”  Herr Vempkauff shook his head.  Grumbling under his breath, he started downstairs toward his lab.  ”Why do you hate spiders so much anyway?”


Mitzie drew in a deep breath.  ”That’s a long story.”  Before Herr Vempkauff could protest, she began.  ”It all started when I was three…”


To be continued, Invisible Friends!

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Good night deer

Posted on October 19th, 2014 in Stories

In the big, big house,

Far, far from town,

The old man has put up the horses,

Even the deer have cut their losses.


Inside, Mama’s wiping down the counters,

The little ones are curled up in their beds.

Even the dogs have given up sniffing,

In favor of some old comfy rug dreaming.


The old man comes in for his bedtime bath,

Mama shuts off the lights and whispers,

“All right, ya’ll.  Time to say good night,

And don’t let the bed bugs bite.”


Good night, old man with bubbles in his beard.

Good night, Mama in her stained apron.

Good night, chattering little birds.


Good night dreaming dogs,

Good night snoring hogs,

Good night whispering kids—

That’s right, Mama can always hear this.


Good night horses,

Good night goats,

Don’t eat until you choke.

But most of all, good night deer,

Good night stars,

Good night wherever you are.









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Mitzi Matterhorn Was Not Afraid Of Bugs

Posted on October 17th, 2014 in Stories


She was, however, terrified of spiders.


When her mother pointed the fallacy of this to her, Mitzie scrunched up her nose and turned her head.  ”Bugs are not spiders, spiders are not bugs.”  That’s all she would say about that, and her mother threw her hands up and went to make dinner.


As one afraid of spiders, there were many places Mitzi Matterhorn did not dwell.  Stairwells were out, particularly dark and shadowy ones with lots of dusty corners perfect for spiderwebs.  Closets, unless well lighted and walk-in, were off limits.  Pantries, laundry rooms and the coat room at school also made the list, and her exasperated friends grew quite tired of fetching her boots and her snacks daily.  ”Why can’t you get  your own crackers?” they would whine, and Mitzi would scrunch her  nose and cross her arms over her chest, glaring her best glare.  ”Do you WANT me to be bit by spiders?  Do you want a black widow to crawl into my left ear and out my right?  Do you want a tarantula to tap dance on my skull?”


At this point, yes, her friends rather did, but one never said such things aloud.  Instead they’d hand her the boots and crackers and grumble under their breath as they chewed.  Mitzi would pretend not to hear them, and everything would start all over again the next day.


Of course, there was no way this could continue forever. At some point Mitzi would grow up and have a home of her own, and unless she married the world’s richest exterminator, her future husband couldn’t spend his every waking hour scouting spiders for her.  Her friends would have jobs or children, and as much as she tried, she couldn’t train her pudgy pug Priscilla to search for spiders.  Instead of pointing out the spiders, Priscilla would slurp up their webs– and sometimes, much to Mitzi’s disgust, the spiders as well.  After the one incident with the jumping spider, she’d scrubbed Priscilla’s tongue so hard she was sure the pug couldn’t taste her kibble for a week.  After that, Priscilla ignored every spider– particularly the tasty looking ones.


So, there was only one thing to do.  Mitzie Matterhorn would have to develop the world’s best, 100 percent foolproof spider away spray. Oh, sure, she could just get over her fear like her mother suggested, but what would the fun of that be?  Why would she have to change? It was the spiders that were the problem, not her.  As Mitzie tended to enjoy art and writing more than science, she didn’t just need the world’s best, 100 percent foolproof spider away spray, but a scientist to create it.


That’s how she ended up on Herr Vempkauff’s porch at nine on a Saturday morning.  Everyone knows you never disturb a mad scientist that early, particularly on a weekend as they’ve been up creating chaos all night, but Mitzie didn’t care.  There was a tiny web in her kitchen right by the fridge that morning.  If she didn’t act fast, she’d have to throw everything out for fear a spider slipped inside and stamped their sticky eight feet all over everything and if she did that, her mother would have to go to the store.  Her mother hated going to the store.  This was not a good situation for anyone.  ”Herr Vempkauff?” she shouted, knocking.  ”Herr Vempkauff, hello?”


The door flung open and a wild-haired, bug-eyed, lanky old dotterer thrust his head out the screen.  ”Grasshoppers!  Can’t you see I’m sleeping?”


“It’s nine in the morning.”  Mitzie was unimpressed.  Actually, she was downright judgmental.

“Fine.  I’ll march over to your home at four in the morning and we’ll call it square.”  Herr Vempkauff started to slam the door.

“Wait!” Mitzie cried.  ”I have a job for you.”

“Can you pay?” Herr Vempkauff was unimpressed.  Actually, he was downright judgmental.

“I can pay you in love and endless appreciation.”

Herr Vempkauff started to slam the door.

“And coupons!” Mitzie howled.

The frizzy head poked back out.  Mad scientists, as a rule, were frugal.  Herr Vempkauff was downright cheap.  ”What’s the catch?”

“No catch.”  Mitzie’s mother was a champion coupon clipper.  If she had to go to the store, she wanted it to count for something.  Mitzie extended the envelope of coupons she’d swiped from her mother’s box.  It was a hefty price to pay, but sacrifices must be made in the name of science.  Herr Vempkauff peeked inside and whistled.  ”Ok.  You got me.  What’s the job?”

“I need a spider-away spray.  One that’s 100 percent foolproof.”


Herr Vempkauff smirked.  ”Are you scared of bugs?”


“No, spiders.  And I’m not scared, I just don’t appreciate them.  Particularly anywhere near me.”


“Bugs are spiders,” Herr Vempkauff pointed out.


“No, they are not.”  Mitzie gnashed her teeth together.  ”Spiders are not bugs and bugs are not spiders.”  She scrunched her nose and stuck out her hand, determined to seal this deal properly.  ”Deal?”

Herr Vempkauff tucked the envelope under his arm and closed his callused hand around hers.  ”Deal.”  This time, he gently slammed the door.  ”Come back at two!”


Mitzie rolled her eyes.  She was going to have to train this mad scientist to work on proper hours and not burn daylight.  ”Isn’t this exciting, Priscilla?” she asked her faithful pug, lounging in the sunlit steps.  ”Soon, we’ll have no spiders.”


Priscilla’s stomach rumbled in sympathy.


To be continued….


Thanks for your kind words on my last post!  I’ll come visit everyone this weekend!




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Dear Squeaky,

Posted on October 11th, 2014 in Stories











Dear Squeaky,*



It’s been a year now since your death.  A big year for both of us, with a lot of changes—you battling cancel and winning the fight to find peace, me breaking the three year cycle of depression and self-destruction by moving to a new town and starting graduate school.  My major?  Education, writing and literacy.  You always told me that my writing was my gift, and I could do  a lot better than writing fluff features as a reporter for the local paper.  Call it layoffs or divine intervention on your part, but I’m happier than I’ve been in five years.


Considering that I woke up this morning looking at my new thirty-year-old face, that’s saying a lot.   Ben says I’m better than I ever looked, but you and I both know true love is the best concealer there is.  It may just be the eight new pounds I got as a birthday gift, but at least they went to most of the right places.  You should have seen him—he was hopping around like the toad that lives in the garden.  “Your present’s here!” he exclaimed, flinging open the side door.  A man in a double-walled tired pickup pulled up with a Big Green Egg ( a ceramic smoker) in the back.  I was so excited I thought my face would split in two.  “How can we afford this?” I whispered while the man was rolling it down the ramp and up to our porch, scared to say anything too loud, for sure he’d know we were a fraud and take that beautiful smoker away.


You would have been so proud of him, Squeaky.  He took a page out of your Woody’s book and flung an arm around my shoulders, kissing my cheek.  “Darling, you’ve worked so hard this year, you deserve it.”


The next night, he surprised me by having the neighbors and all our friends over for a brisket and barbecued ribs dinner he smoked himself (with a lot of help from the neighbors).  You’d love Robin and Greg—they’re the nicest people you ever met, with four great kids. Robin reminds me a lot of you—she never says a bad word about anyone and she’s always laughing.  Little Annie is an artist and drew me a card.  They gave me the second surprise of the day, backing their Excursion up to the garage with five bags of deer corn in it.  I don’t know what made me happier—a bunch of barbecue or feeding all the whitetail and axis that have permanently camped out behind the house.  (If you thought your squirrels were demanding, you’ve never met a nursing whitetail Mama!”


“It’s almost been a year,” Ben told me the other day on our nightly walk, wrapping his fingers around mine.  “Could you imagine last year we’d be taking walks at 7 o’clock without a single car on the road, or feeding deer by hand?”


“No,” I told him, and I meant it.  Of course, one year ago we were living in boxes while you were fighting to go home.  The night you died we were broken into, a drug addict taking every piece of jewelry I owned except what I wear every day, like my wedding rings.  What hurt the most was not the necklace I wore to prom or the sapphire necklace and earring set my mother had given me for my 16th birthday, but my charm bracelet, the one with the little blue fish that flapped his tail you had given me.  The detective actually found the bracelet later at a pawn shop—but the fish was gone.  It’s fitting, really.  Sometimes you have to let go of the things most important to you in life even if it hurts.  You just have to have faith that something is better on the other side.  After you passed, I couldn’t function for a week. I moved on autopilot, directing movers and unpacking boxes.  A new town, new house and fresh start didn’t ease the pain of knowing that I could never call your house again or drive up and see your serene smile.


But, as I’m sure you know, life doesn’t stop for one broken heart.


School helped a lot.  I’m taking a full load and holding a 4.0.  I still freelance on the side for fun, because you were right.  “Why do it if it’s not fun?” you always said, and I agree. I found out I had a bunch of food allergies, which cleared up my stomach issues (I know, I know, you’d been asking me to for years.)  It’s all right though.  The extra weight though was just what my body (and soul) needed.  The doctors were all shocked; they said it couldn’t be done.  By next fall we’ll have our own little one—if it’s a little girl, I’m going to name her after you.


If we were having tuna salad (I haven’t been able to touch it since you left) and your favorite potato chips, I know you’d look at me and say, “What about your writing, Miranda?  Your art?  School is nice, but what have you done for your soul?”


“Well, Squeaky,” I’d say, reaching for another potato chip.  “I’ve finished a new book and found a new art class—something actually in town that won’t break this starving student’s budget.”  I’d wait for your dry chuckle, like leaves dancing across the back porch.  “I may get my doctorate.  I want to open a school.”


I can see your thick white brow raise, your chin set between your sleek white bob.  Even at the end, a hair was never out of place.  “Oh?”


That’s when I’d grin.  “A school for art, and writing.  For children and adults.  A place where people can gather and share ideas and hone their craft, no matter what level they’re at.”  I’d lean across and touch your wrinkled hand.  “No one wants to write anymore, Squeaky.  Half of the kids I tutor don’t even know what a persuasive essay is!  If I don’t do something, there won’t be books by the time I get around to having kids!”


“I always wanted to be a writer.”  You said it every time I came over, always with the same wistful smile.


“I always wanted to be an artist,” I’d reply.  We’d look at each other and laugh, for we were two sides of the same coin.  An artist who dabbled in writing and a writer who dabbled in painting.  “Painting is important for writing,” you once told me.  “They go together so well.”


Thanks to you, Squeaky, all the kids that go to my school will know this as well as you and I do.


I know you’re busy working on a giant mural in heaven, but I just had to write.  I miss you so much sometimes it hurts to breathe.


Later, I’ll go upstairs and paint in the studio Ben built me, just because you said I needed to have my own space.  Don’t worry about me.  As you always said, “I’m on my way.”




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“Your birthday present is here.”

Posted on September 20th, 2014 in Stories


photo 1-27

Someone surprised me with a smoker….

photo 5-14


Happy Birthday to Me.

photo 2-26









If one has to turn 30….

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