Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Captive’s Choice

Daily Prompt  Captive’s Choice: You’ve been kidnapped and given a choice: would you rather be stranded on an island, dropped into an unknown forest, or locked in a strange building?

This one is just for fun!

I’m being held captive either on a deserted island, in an unfamiliar forest or in a locked building. Let’s examine this dilemma from the point of view of a Hollywood script writer.

The deserted (or not quite as deserted as we were led to believe) Island. We know, from  faithfully watching the saga on Lost unfold during its run, that some Hollywood script writers cannot write their way out of the paper bag they wrote themselves into. Let’s see we saw a polar bear on a tropical island, creepy people called “The Others”, an invisible but noisy monster, apparitions of lost loved ones, and, of course, the button that holds reality together and must be pushed every 108 minutes or the ancient Egyptians take over with hieroglyphs and a nuclear bomb.That said, they had  the last laugh, though, because  The Island, was not the real purgatory after all  – watching that series finale was. So no more islands for me. but then again, there was that cute Sawyer guy…

Ditto on the locked building. Obviously, and without needing to see anything, there are zombies either locked in the building with me, or trying to get inside. Hollywood seems to be cashing in big on zombies – brainless individuals with one thing on their missing minds. If we aren’t careful they will be successful in turning us all into zombies through the truly mind numbing offerings of reality TV. Either way, it will not end well for me, so I will avoid locked buildings and reality TV and keep what wits I have left.

So, by default, I choose the unfamiliar forest.  First of all,there are plenty of survival tools just laying about in a forest – sharp stones to whittle a spear, or throw to scare off the animals with scary agendas (like bears). I could fashion  a nest in  a tree, or makes  a hut with branches and vines. I could wash up in the nearby creek, or throw my spear to catch a fish that  I can cook over a fire I started with 2 rocks. Now I’m sure in some Hollywood scripts             there might be wolves or even werewolves, but I might just as easily (in  a Hollywood script) wander into the forest home of Robin Hood. Kevin Costner may have had a bit of (oh, okay, a lot) of trouble with his British accent, but he sure had one heck of a fine forest home with all the comforts – suspended walkways high up in the trees, an elevator powered by water, a pool for skinny dipping – what more could a bloke need?. Or, how about stumbling in on a hobbit village – those are some fine houses, although they tend to be a bit small. And if  I’d prefer a mobile home, the hobbits have trees that talk and walk you from place to place. Now these scriptwriters are on to something! Forests are so much more versatile than islands and locked buildings. I think I might just stay here!


Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: My English Fantasy

Daily Prompt: On the Road

If you could pause real life and spend some time living with a family anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I have always wanted to live in a small hamlet in rural England. Somewhere with one of those insanely delicious British names like Biggleswade, or Grange-over-Sands or Newbiggen-by-the-Sea, or perhaps Royal Wootten Bassett.  I’d live in a small village with quaint cottages separated by hedgerows. The cottage is a bit drafty in the winter, so the family and I must huddle around the Aga, an old relic that is the pride of the household. In the summer, the scent of herbs in the backyard garden adds a fragrance to the air coming in through the open window.  In the front yard a riot of summer blossoms spill over the fence and out of the window boxes with careless abandon.

Every morning I walk to the village center, greeting neighbors as I pass by. I carry a basket as it is market day and the local farmers have set up shop in the village square. I stop by the chemist for a few items and spend a good while selecting an ancient tome from the village library.  This is the highlight of my week. I find a nice spot on the green and munch on some berries as I read my book.

We have tea every day with biscuits, not cookies, and often hike miles with the dogs running free. We hike over hillocks and along the rocky shore, occasionally passing ancient stone markers as weathered as time itself in this island of ancient kings and fairy lore.

I don’t know if there are still villages of this sort in England. I suspect there probably are. And the people living in them probably can’t wait to move on to the big cities, such is how it usually works out. But I have my fantasy and my favorite novel of all things British, Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher (sorry Willy. I did buy a book of your sonnets at a bookseller while in London), which I read when I want to visit the friends I made when I first “visited” Dibton -in-Hampshire.

After visiting England this summer, I am even more enchanted with the land and its people. The richness of their heritage, their ascorbic wit and humorous take on just about everything is a delight. We had a gentleman pick us up at our hotel to take us to the bus station and his comments as we drove through London had us in hysterics. Now I know where the Monty Python Troupe found its inspiration. British humor is as much a part of the people as is the land itself. I believe it is in the very air they breathe.

Or maybe it’s in the tea!

My Village

a new neighborhood

houses with stone and brick accents


the builders had aspirations, I think

to make it seem like an English village

American style

there’s a little village green

across from my house

I can see the gazebo from my window

we actually gather there, once or twice a year

there is a winding path which leads

to the picturesque stone bridge itself

a pond which caters to Canada geese

and within walking distance

of our own little “Stonebridge Village”

grocery, hair  salon, doc-in-a-box, yogurt shop

gas station and aren’t we lucky

our own Dunkin Donuts

although I’ve been to England

we were mostly just in London

and I imagine something

quite different in a village over there

pretty cottages, moss covered roofs

yards full of herbs and flowers and hedgerows

lining the pathways, people on bicycles

waving to neighbors, rather than

running them down with their cars

the grocer knows I like pears

the doctor was there at my birth

the book lady knows I like poetry

and the chemist greets me by name

oh, and fairy lights are strung all year long

not just at Christmas

what about my village would an English lady envy?

Probably the Dunkin Donuts

pc 2012

Staying in Focus with Michael J. Fox

Thursday night, Michae J. Fox returned to television with a new show.  Over 2,000 people hosted premier parties to welcome Michael back, and I was one of them.

Diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s at the age of 29, Michael has lived with this disease for two decades. He has been not only an inspiration to those of us living with Parkinson’s, but he has provided a beacon of hope for us as well with the launching of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.  On the website‎, you can Join Team Fox and  host  or take part in fundraisers, sign up to volunteer for clinical trials (many of which fail to be conducted due to lack of volunteers) apply for a grant, have your questions about Parkinson’s answered and learn about the Foundation’s purpose and how they are helping the research teams to find  a cure.

Michael inspires me with his can do attitude and the pragmatic way he has handled the challenges of life with Parkinson’s.  One of my favorite Fox quotes is: Whatever big dream is driving you, you only can’t if you don’t.  Michael is right. You can do anything, if you just give it  a try, but you’ll never know if you don’t.

I also like the response Michael gives his kids if they have some minor thing to complain about. Michael had learned that  a lady, trapped in a tree during  one of  those tsunamis that have occurred in recent years, actually gave birth to her baby in the tree and waited there until help arrived. So when the kids come in with their minor complaints, Michael says, “A lady had a baby in a tree. What’ve you got?”

We can always look around and find people struggling with something far worse than we are. So instead of whining and complaining, celebrate the positives, look for the silver lining (or at least the humor) and don’t forget to follow your dreams. The premier party was all about optimism and  Michael J. Fox is the poster boy for that!

The new show is  a magical mix  of humor and poignancy. It deals with the challenges of living with Parkinson’s with a heartfelt humor, and there were moments in the show when  the message touched my soul. In one scene,  Mike’s wife questions his apparent attraction to a woman who moved into their building and Mike answers that it wasn’t so much that he was attracted to her, but that she was attracted to him, that after all he had been through, he could still be attractive to someone despite the Parkinson’s. That is one of the fears all of us with chronic diseases have – that people will see  only the disease, and miss all the other wonderful things about us. Scenes like these make the show so much more than a typical sitcom. and I applaud those who write for the show and  those who assembled the excellent cast. Well done!

I had  a small gathering of friends and  family for my premier party, but we had a good time. The laughs were fun to share, as was the food and conversation. We all agreed that the show was entertaining and spot on, and I think everyone left with their spirits lifted.

I look forward to the next episode. In the meantime i will focus on the can do an d the big dream and put my pesky disease in its place right at the back of the line.

After all, a lady had  a baby in a tree… what’ve I got?


Here are  a few pictures from our party:

We had agreat time and shared some laughs!

We had agreat time and shared some laughs!IMG_2236IMG_2233 prizes and folders filled with info for my guestsIMG_2238

Yum! Goobers and rasinets!

popcorn ready and waiting for the show to begin.
popcorn ready and waiting for the show to begin.


Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt a – z: A Big Clumsy Dog

Daily prompt; Write a poem or story in which each line begins with a letter of the aphabet a to z



A Big Clumsy Dog

”Aargh!”  I said

but where could she be

creating a ruckus

dousing paint on me?

“expect  she’s hiding

from  your angry tone

gals like my Sally

have always come home;

if you want to find her

just quiet down

keep  still as you can

lose the loud sound

making a fuss

never is the right way

old Sally’ll stay hiding

perhaps through the day;

quietly listen

remember, don’t shout

Say, “Sally, where are you?

time to come out!”

under the bed

vacant of sound

without whining apology

*xanthous hound

yawns and stretches

zips  by with a bound!


Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Tell Us a Joke

Daily prompt: Ha Ha Ha

A little laugh to start off your weekend.

Cucumber and Carrot were walking down the street on a nice sunny afternoon, when a car careened off the road and hit Carrot.  Cucumber called 911 and Carrot was rushed off to the hospital. Cucumber waited for hours at the hospital, and finally the doctor emerged from the operating room.

“Well. I have good news and bad news,” the doctor said. “First of all, Carrot is going to make it. That’s the good news.”

“And the bad news?” asked a worried Cucumber

“The bad news is he is going to be a vegetable for the rest of his life.” 🙂

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: Ripped Into the Headlines/Home Invasion

Daily Prompt: Ripped Into the Headlines

Our Top Story: Home Invasion.

Earlier Sunday, the home of Bill and Pat Coyle was invaded by a gang of two little people. Upon arriving at the residence the little people boldly rang the doorbell. Pat recalls looking out the peep-hole, but not seeing anyone, opened the door. The two little people stormed into the house. The smaller one declared  that he was a zombie.. Armed with  shark and alligator shaped water shooters, the two ruffians demanded that  the Coyles  turn on the water sprinkler so they could cool off.IMG_0919 The Coyles had no choice but to comply.  Later the petite invaders demanded


they  play “the princess, the cat and the bad witch”,  assemble some puzzles, stack dominoes in rows and watch them fall, assemble an airplane and play Wheel of Fortune on the computer.


IMG_0916 Following a phone call made to an accomplice, whom the Coyles believe was code-named “dad”, the two forced the Coyles to outfit their car with little people safety seats and drive them to Cold Stone Creamery. After consuming the treat they directed the Coyles to purchase for them, a car drove up and whisked them away. The Coyles identified the car as a Honda Accord with a broken mirror on the passenger side. The Coyles opted not to press charges, realizing that they really had enjoyed the day. The next morning, “dad” called. “What did you do to them yesterday?” he inquired. “They were exhausted  and feel asleep at seven o’clock.” The Coyle’s offered to have their home invaded by the two little hooligans anytime “dad” needed a break, as long as he promised to  drive them away in the getaway car before the Coyles, both seniors, fell asleep standing up. The diminutive home invaders have reccruited the Coyles into their gang. Code names, “Grams ” and “Grandpa”.

Beware the Ides of March

I just happened to hear on the TV that today is the Ides of March. Having taken Latin for 3 years in high school, I am well aware that on the 15th of March, 44 BC Julius Caesar was assassinated, betrayed by not so nice friends.

In case you are wondering what the Ides of March are, according to Wikipedia,, instead of counting through a month sequentially, the Romans counted backwards from three fixed points in the month — the Nones (the 5th or 7th depending on the length of the month) the Ides(13th or 15th) and the Kalends ( first day of the next month). No one can accuse the Romans of being simple-minded.

So, it was on the Ides of March  that Julius Caesar was assassinated.  Various celebrations have surfaced in regards to the Ides of March. Back in the day, (Caesar’s time) people celebrated with picnics, drinking and revelry because as March was the first month of their year, the Ides were included in their new year celebrations. More than two weeks to celebrate  the new year! Well, no one has ever accused the Romans of not knowing how to party! Today we can join the Canadians as they celebrate the day by drinking Bloody Caesar Cocktails.  I personally avoid hanging out with guys named Cassius and Brutus every March 15th.

But what really came to mind when I realized that it was March 15th, was a certificate I came across while I was going through some old school papers to include in my memoir. This certificate was issued to me in 1969.  Only a handful of people will remember the awarding of this certificate. (Kathi, if you are reading this, you might be one who remembers.)

We arrived at school one day and were given a Latin test by the Association For Promotion of Study of Latin. I must admit, I was not taking it  completely seriously. In 1969, I was a sophomore in high school, finishing up my second year of Latin study.  I didn’t think I had  a chance of doing well, and remember writing “et, tu, Brute” as my response to several questions .

Well, either that phrase occurs in Latin far more frequently than one would expect, or those were the 19 points I missed, because imagine my utter and complete shock when sometime later, my name was called to come up and receive my Certificate of Superior Merit, Magna Cum Laude for “Meritorious Proficiency in Latin”, having correctly guessed (?) my way to a score of 101 out of  a possible 120. The incredulous looks on the faces of my friends were an extra kick to receiving this award..

I was sure it had been a mistake, and that the day would come when I would be stripped of my honors and forced to return my certificate to its rightful owner. But that day never came.

A funny aside to this story — I ended up marrying the guy who won this award the previous year. In his case it was well deserved.  I remember returning to my  high school the summer before I married Bill, to help my younger brother pick up his text books for the coming school year. I ran into my religion teacher, Father O’Rourke, who asked how I was doing.  When I told him I was engaged to Bill, he said, “That boy is  a genius, you  know.”

certificateAfter 37 years of marriage, I tend to agree, and find myself proud to have achieved the same award as a genius. Maybe I really did know more Latin than I gave myself credit for. I did go on to take the optional third year of Latin and I believe  the study of Latin helped me ace the vocabulary section of the SAT.

So, in retrospect, the Ides of March remind me to have a little more faith in myself, or that miracles can occur in the unlikeliest of circumstances, depending on my mood at any given time. And whereas it didn’t turn out well for Caesar in the end, I say, “Carpe Diem! Et tu, lectors?”

(The Canadians have just arrived with the Bloody Caesars. Time to party!)

Staying in Focus: Pat and the Mystery of the Colonoscopy

Well, while all of my faithful followers were tucked snugly in bed last night, I spent the night drinking.  No, I wasn’t on a binge or celebrating the Super Bowl.  I was drinking a cocktail of PEG 3350, Sodium Sulfate, Sodium Chloride,  Potassium Chloride, Sodium Ascorbate and Ascorbic Acid mixed with water.  In other words, a  product called MoviPrep, ( sadly, no relationship to cinema), the foulest tasting concoction on the planet, designed to cause your intestines to turn themselves inside out and hang themselves out to dry. At both 6:00PM last night, and worst of all, again at 3:00AM this morning, I downed a liter of this foul stuff followed by a 16 oz. chaser of water. By now, I’m sure many of you recognize the colonoscopy cocktail party. First, you starve (all day) then you binge (on the MoviePrep), then you purge (believe me, your intestines will take care of this part, your job is to get them where they have to go — fast!)

While I was waiting for things to, ah, start happening, I was playing Mystery Manor on Facebook.  And I started to think that while the prep is all too real, the colonoscopy itself is a bit of a mystery. I’ll explain my thinking further in a minute. (Keep in mind it is now 4AM and I’ve had about 3 hours sleep, so thinking is a challenge at this point)

By the time the second round was finished, it was time to head to the colonoscopy center, where very nice, gentle people, put me to bed, with nice warm blankets and enough wires and electrodes to turn me into a cyborg.  They wheeled me into an icy cold room, asked  a few questions to confirm my identity, just in case someone off the street decided to steal my colonoscopy (Is there a lot of that going around?) and then I woke up back in my  curtained cubicle, and my husband (designated driver) was waiting there to take me home..

And that’s where the mystery comes in.  Unlike other medical procedures, there is little evidence that one was done. Through the magic wizardry of the doctors, all I remember is – nothing.  One second I was awake and the next I was waking up somewhere else. I don’t even remember falling asleep!

If you have surgery, you remember because you have stitches and stuff.  If you have a tooth pulled at the dentist, you have stuff stuffed in your mouth and a missing tooth. If you give birth, you have a baby. But a colonoscopy — no scars, no stuff, no baby.  You may have the need to push some excess air out of your system, but that’s about it.

However, the wizard of colonoscopies, Doctor Stephen Furs, and the man who knows the inside of my colon far better than I, solves the mystery at last — he brings proof of the procedure – full color pictures of my newly-cleaned colon in  8 X 10 glossies. No, I’m kidding about the 8 X 10 part, the pictures are creepy enough in thumbnail size.

Now, I will spare you from having to view my colon picture gallery (they’ll be on the mantle at home if you want to drop by) and if you’re thinking, well, photos can be faked – trust me, no one is that imaginative!

But despite my humorous take on all this, colonoscopies are a serious business. Were it not for my primary care physician, Dr. Maureen Dollinger, urging (and nagging) me to get my first colonoscopy, I may have learned too late that my polyp was cancerous. As it turned out, I had a procedure called a colectomy, where the part of the colon with the polyp was removed and that took care of the problem. I was spared a colostomy bag, chemo this timely test.  That was over five years ago and seven colonoscopies later. l want to urge everyone out there who is 50 to call and make an appointment today.  I waited until I was 54, and it was almost too late.

And despite the rather unpleasant taste of the cocktail, it is worth it in the long run. The prep is the hard part; the colonoscopy is so easy you sleep right through it.   If I can soldier through the prep 7 times, anybody can.

For any of my followers in the Raleigh, NC area, there is a 5K Run/Walk for colon cancer awareness on Saturday, March 2, at Fred Fletcher Park in Raleigh.  For more information go to Get out in the sunshine and take a walk for a great cause. 75% of the funds stay in the local area to fund colon cancer awareness, prevention programs and bringing screening opportunities for those under or not insured.

Oh, and by the way, my colonoscopy was clear!  No polyps in the colon.  Next one: 3 years from now.  I think I can wait that long for another colonoscopy cocktail.

Bottoms Up 😉

Staying in Focus: Ground-Hogs, Holidays, and Colonoscopies?

Happy Groundhog Day!!!

Now don’t worry – it’s not Ground Hog day again, it’s just that I am late in getting to this post. But at least the ground-hog had some good news for us. He did not see his shadow, so that means an early spring.  Although the way the weather has been, it’s hard enough for the weatherman to predict the weather, let alone a ground-hog.

As is our tradition, Bill and I watched Ground Hog Day last night. I attribute this movie with helping the ground-hog break into the line up of holiday icons, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But unfortunately for the ground-hog,  predicting the weather doesn’t create the same excitement as a sleigh full of toys, or even a basket full of Easter joy, so he has a long way to go to reach A – list status. Right now, Ground Hog day is listed under Observances, so his first job is to get his day leveled up to Holiday status

He will have to work really hard if he wants to unseat Santa.. After all, that rotund fellow in the red suit has been in the catbird seat a long time.  And it hasn’t all been a bed of roses for the jolly elf either, at least according  to Hollywood,. After all, he has had his reputation besmirched by evil capitalists in big box stores, finding himself in a mental hospital and then on trial, not to mention having his own son turn up on the naughty list, his workshop nearly destroyed by a toy clone and lost to another group of evil toy makers who almost absorb Santa’s enterprise with the unwitting help of is brother, Fred Claus. And let’s not forget how he almost used up all of his special magic in searching  for a wife to turn to for advice and give the brownies all their spice.  But in the eleventh hour, he succeeded, and Christmas was saved, at least for this year. It’s not easy being number one.

Halloween, although  listed as an Observance Day, has achieved holiday status. and while lacking a central icon, has chosen instead to rule by committee – ghosts, vampires, witches, zombies all rule the night, wandering in search of treats with the threat of tricks if not satisfied.  Halloween is the edgiest of the holidays, it’s allure lying in things not of this world, in the slightly scary act of wandering in the dark, under the light of a full moon, begging for handouts. And it appeals as well to grown-ups, giving them the chance to recapture lost youth as they dress up in costume and play pretend once again.

Thanksgiving, purportedly about giving thanks for all we have, is mostly about parades, food, and football and anyway, what can one say about a holiday whose icon is a turkey?

New Year’s Day is mostly a non event, as people are busy recovering from too much alcohol consumption and resolving not to do it next year. Good luck with that!

The Easter Bunny also has one up on the ground-hog. Baskets full of joy, not to mention Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs,  has far more universal appeal than the weather predicting of the prognosticator of prognosticators. But Ground-hog Day does give people, at least in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, a reason to party the day away singing and dancing, sculpting in ice and auctioning off single men for charity

.I find it interesting how we pepper the year with celebrations, large and small, to mark the passing of time. In addition to the big holidays, we have others like the Fourth of July, when we celebrate our nation’s birthday with picnics and loud explosions..

And, let us not forget the more simple Observances like Valentines day, a celebration of love and Hallmark cards and, St. Patrick’s Day, a celebration of parades, shamrocks and the wearing of the green.

And we like to celebrate the lives of people who dedicated theirs to the betterment of all. People like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, who actually once had their own day, but now must share it generically with other presidents, in the interest of economy and  three-day weekends, Martin Luther King, Jr., a man of peace and whose vision led our nation toward equality and justice for all, Veteran’s Day, to honor our brave men and women who have served their country with honor and selflessness, Memorial Day, to honor those who have given their lives in service to our country and Labor Day, to honor those who work on all days except Labor Day, when everyone takes off and has a picnic.

And let us not forget the days we honor mothers and fathers and all the spin-off days for which Hallmark has a card:  Grandparents Day (9/8) Administrative Professional’s Day (4/24) National Nurses Day (5/6) and Boss’s Day (10/16).

Now, I have often wondered what was wrong with August.  Every other month has a holiday or at least a major Observance Day.  But August, nada.  Aside from some family and friend’s birthdays,  I personally fail to see a reason for the month of August, except that without it, our year would be lacking,( let’s see, 30 days has September..,)  31 days.  August is just another hot month, following the hot months of June  and July.  It was superfluous in my opinion, until I looked up holidays and observances for this post, and guess what?  I found  a reason for August, after all. I found out that August 21st  is , wait for it, Senior CItizen’s Day!  Now that’s a day with holiday written all over it.  How to celebrate?  Toasting one another with glasses of Ensure?  A competition to see who can insert their hearing aid the fastest?  Or trying to guess who has had the most colonoscopies?

Honestly,I tried to get through his post without that referent, but it’s on my mind  because I’ll be having my seventh colonoscopy tomorrow, and I do think I have the chance to win that contest, but I’m also leaning toward establishing a National Colonoscopy Day, so look out ground-hog, you’ve got some competition coming your way!

I may actually have one up (or maybe even 7) on Santa in this area.. I’m sure I have that ground-hog beat! Oh, well, time for some chicken broth, and  jello!

Be back when this colonoscopy is behind me:)

Staying in Focus: What If The Story had Started Like This?

This is creative writing exercise I recently  completed.  I had to find ten unfamiliar words, to include in the story, and then pick a character from a list to be the protagonist. How could I pass up Scarlett O’Hara? Length of passage 1,000 words.

ten new words:

1. bumptious   adj.   brash

2. horology n.  art of making timepieces

3. lavabo  n.   a basin holding water for washing

4. moire n.  watered silk or wool fabric

5   jass  n.  a card game for two

6. panatela   n. a thin cigar

7. ratafia n. an almond flavored liqueur

8. soidisant  adj.  so-called

9 .theorbo  n .  a 17th century lute-like musical instrument

10. nixie   n.   a female water sprite

Character:  Scarlett  O’Hara

What if the story started like this?

Scarlett O’Hara sat primly on the cushioned bench, folds of moire billowing around her.  She loved the way the forest green, watered silk material seemed to glow in the afternoon light. The forest green accented her emerald green eyes, which sparkled with delight as a horse and buggy made the turn onto the tree lined drive that lead to Tara.  Ashley had come as promised, to whisk her off to a day of visiting friends at neighboring plantations.

“My, my, Scarlett, you do look pretty today,” Ashley said as he brought the buggy to a halt.  “Quite the nixie, you are my dear.” The horse nickered softly as Ashley stepped down from the buggy and handed the reins to Jeb, one of Tara’s darkies charged with watering the horses of visitors to the plantation.

“Oh, Ashley, how you do go on with those words you find in all those books you read!  You confuse me with such talk!”

“A nixie, my dear, is a water sprite of the forest. An enchanting, elusive creature, one must treat with the utmost delicacy,” he explained, as he took her gloved hand and kissed it gently.

Scarlett missed most of what he said, trying to still her rapidly beating heart, lest Ashley hear it pounding so. To distract him she asked, “Ashley, before we depart, can I have Prissy bring you a ratafia to refresh you?’

“Ah, that would be most welcome, dear Scarlett.   May I also request a laveboto wash off my dusty hands?  It has been a dry and dusty summer.”   Ashley sat down next to Scarlett, as she motioned to the waiting Prissy to procure the requested items.  As Prissy turned to enter the house, Ashley drew a slim box out of his coat pocket, and handed it to Prissy.

“For Mr. O’Hara, with my regards, “Ashley said.  Scarlett knew the box contained panatelas, her father’s favorite cigar.

“Ashley, you are so thoughtful to remember how much Pa favors those cigars.”

“Well, I wouldn’t want your pa to think me a bumptious fellow,” Ashley replied.

Scarlett sighed.  She wished Ashley would use the same words everyone else used. She turned to him and asked, , “How do they fare at Twelve Oaks, Ashley?”  Scarlett loved Ashley’s home.  Though she also loved Tara, Twelve Oaks had a grace that the more rustic Tara lacked.  Scarlett wasn’t really concerned about the other folk at Twelve Oaks.  She just wanted to be sure that Melanie Hamilton, Ashley’s cousin, wasn’t visiting again. Scarlett did not like the way Melanie blended in with the family and the plantation.  It was as if she belonged there.  And if anyone was going to marry Ashley and move into Twelve Oaks, it would not be that mealy-mouthed cousin.  Scarlett had chosen Ashley for herself.

Prissy arrived with the basin and the liqueur.  Ashley rinsed off his hands and toweled them dry, then accepted the thin glass of ratafia and took a slip. “It has been a busy week. We learned to play a card game called jass from an associate of my father’s,   a gentleman from Charleston. We also welcomed a fascinating gentleman from Savannah who is a master in the art of horology.

Seeing the confused look on Scarlett’s face, he explained, “He is a maker of timepieces, the finest I have ever seen.” Ashley’s family seemed to be overly concerned about time, Scarlett thought.   In their garden they had a sundial on which was inscribed, “Do not squander time; it is the stuff life is made of.” Scarlett thought, however, that the Wilkes squandered time more than anyone, spending hours reading books and reciting poetry.

Ashley continued telling her about the events of the past week, but as Melanie’s name was not mentioned, she became lost in her own thoughts.  How to get Ashley to become a more romantic companion was the question which perplexed her the most.  So far he was ever the epitome of a proper southern gentleman, but Scarlett craved more than a kiss on the hand. She had to move things along somehow, without compromising her virtue, of course.

Scarlett realized that Ashley had finished his drink and one-sided conversation. She turned to him, smiling prettily, her dimples accenting her smile.  She put her hand gently on his arm.  “Well, shall we be about our business, Ashley, and pay some calls on our friends and neighbors?”  Scarlett didn’t really care about these friends and neighbors either, for to tell the truth, none of them liked her very much. She imagined it was mostly due to jealousy. Ashley was, after all, the catch of the county.  But she endured these visits because it gave her more time with Ashley, and she liked to rub their noses in their jealousy by seeing her in constant company with the dashing Ashley Wilkes.

Scarlett put on her bonnet, tying the bow securely beneath her chin.  Perhaps she could convince Ashley to give the horses some proper exercise, and let them run full out.  Jeb brought the horse and buggy around from the stables in back of the house, and Ashley assisted Scarlett into the vehicle.  As he took the reins, he filled her in on their destination.

“I have a surprise for you, my dear.  Please forgive me the subterfuge. We are actually going to Twelve Oaks.  I have arranged for several friends to meet us there.  My cousin, Melanie, is coming in from Atlanta, with a group of musicians who play theorbos. They have agreed to provide us with a concert during lunch.

Scarlett tried not to show her disappointment.  “What is a theorbo,  Ashley?”

“A theorbo is a lute like instrument, from the …”

Scarlett could contain herself no longer.  She felt her vision change to red.  With a shout of “Whoa” to the horses, she grabbed the reins from Ashley’s startled hands and said, “Please forgive the subterfuge, Ashley, and vacate the buggy.  You see, I am an actually a bumptious woman wearing a moire frock and not a proper soidisant southern belle. I like a nice glass of ratafia now and again, maybe even a slim panatela.  And I do not plan to squander time listening to theorbos all afternoon.  She gave Ashley a little push, and he climbed down from the buggy.  He stared at Scarlett, speechless, as she cracked the whip and let the horses run full out, the ribbons of her bonnet trailing in the wind.

She saw a rider ahead, riding toward her, a tall man in a black coat riding a black stallion. He doffed his hat to her as she raced by. Scarlett turned and blew him a kiss…

Word Count : 1,117