Monday, January 2, 2017

December in Facebook Posts, Part 2

December 22, 2016

I'm still doing Christmas baking. Yesterday, I made gingerbread boys. I got an idea just from a photo in a cookie recipe book I saw at the grocery store checkout but didn't buy. I put Teddy Graham crackers on some of the gingerbread boys and folded the arms over them, so that it looked like the boys were holding teddy bears. Today, I baked sugar cut-out cookies, holly leaves and bells. Mom and I decorated them together with some red and green royal icing. The holly leaves have red hot candies for holly berries, and the bells have silver nonpareils for clappers and decorative stripes of red hot candies.

December 24, 2016 

I'm watching "Meet Me in St. Louis" and waiting for my brother and family to arrive. Merry Christmas, my friends. 

December 25, 2016

It was a little different to begin this year's Christmas with a church service as it fell on a Sunday. I sang a solo, "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem." With all of the busyness of the season, I didn't practice it nearly as much I had hoped to do, but it turned out well and I wasn't overwhelmed with performance nerves. I enjoyed having practically the whole family with me this year for Christmas. Even my niece who was not able to travel to be with us this year talked to us and watched the present opening by Skype or Facetime. One of the funnier moments of the day happened when I tried on a new winter coat, my big gift from Mom and Dad this year. I should explain, for those who may not know, that I am the baby of the family and my three older brothers are eight, ten and twelve years older. I was sitting between brothers Tim and Bruce as I opened my gift. As I was trying on my coat, I began to struggle with the zipper which was asymmetrically offset to the left. Tim, on my left, began helping me with my zipper. Then I was puzzled by the coat's belt. The buckle had a piece to poke through a hole, but the belt itself had no holes. Bruce began arranging my belt the way he supposed it should go. The ridiculousness of the situation started to get to me, and I started laughing and said, "I need my brothers to dress me." Bruce then pats me on the head and says, "And we can pat you on the head and say that you are all ready for school."

December 26, 2016

Here is a funny conversation in our house this morning. We had seven family guests stay overnight. I came down this morning to find my two nephews, Bill, 29, and Joshua, 23, on airbeds in the living room. My brother Bruce, Bill's dad, was sitting nearby. I said, "Oh, is this a slumber party?" Bill says, "Yes, it's for the cool kids." Bruce tells me, "You weren't invited," and then, "You notice that I'm here." Some time after this came the admission that it was more like the nerdy kids. My brother Dan comes down, and he, Bruce and Bill begin talking about various sci-fi and space movies. Eventually, Bruce and Bill begin to mention a movie Dan has never seen and doesn't know. Bruce says to Dan, "You're not nerdy enough for us. Go over there by the cool kids." Dan says, in mock sadness, "I've been rejected by the nerds!"

December 27, 2016

I thought I found the perfect Christmas gift for my aging techie Dad this year: a T-shirt that says, "iTired, There's a nap for that." He's wearing it today. I just looked over at him and saw him stretched out on the loveseat, obeying the instruction on his shirt, and told him he was wearing the right shirt for the day. Brother Dan was also wearing the right shirt today. It says, "Coffee, the most important meal of the day." He came down to breakfast as the family was in a big discussion on Keurig coffee makers and K-cups. This was the Christmas of the K-cups. Mom and Dad just got themselves a new Keurig machine, and several (maybe all?) of us kids gave them various K-cups to use in it. It wasn't all coffee. Some of them were for cocoa or tea. We didn't have any repeat flavors or brands either. Our Korean honorary sister Jeannie gave them some Korean red ginseng tea, which is, apparently, good for their health and longevity.

December 28, 2016

Brother Dan and family will be staying with us until Friday. This photo is the result of last night's activity, putting together a jigsaw puzzle my friend Debra gave me for Christmas last year. It's a collage related to Jane Austen literature with quotes from various books. My brother Tim (well, nephew Matthew) gave me a new jigsaw puzzle this year. That one has twice as many pieces and is a photomosaic of Van Gogh's "Starry Night." I thought I should warm up with this one. Dad and nephews Joshua and Micah had fun puzzling with me last night. We stayed up pretty late and got chatting too.

December 28, 2016

My brother Dan posted the photo of me above on December 28th. I didn't post any words then, but I will now. This photo was taken at the 9/11 Memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange, New Jersey. You can not see it from this perspective, but you can see the New York City skyline from this point. I was reading the names of victims, many of whom were New Jerseyans, on the monument.

December 28, 2016

Another funny moment in our family. At dinner, we were discussing Gary Chapman's five love languages, which are, in no particular order, quality time, words of affirmation, physical touch, acts of service and giving. The family wondered what my love language was, and mom thought it might be physical touch. I was sitting between brother Dan and sister-in-law Dorothy who both immediately began to stroke and pet my back with both hands.Nephew Micah reached across the table and began to brush my arm with his fingertips. I said, "I feel so loved," and then, "I also feel like a golden retriever."

January 2, 2016

(Okay, so this is technically not a December post, but it deals with a December event.)

I had an eventful weekend. This Saturday, I had the privilege of attending the wedding of two friends, Kathy and Steve, who had their first date twenty years ago! I enjoyed the ceremony at a little church where the former chaplain of our singles' group is the director of youth ministries. The reception, held at the church, was a combined winter wonderland and New Year's theme. I enjoyed seeing old friends I hadn't seen in a while and meeting some new ones, including the nine-year-old piano player from the ceremony who enjoys reading and writing stories. Afterwards, I met up with friends at the home of Todd and Jo Anne for a New Year's Eve party. I'm so happy and blessed to have a number of good friends.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December in Facebook Posts

I have been thinking that the little snippets of life I post to Facebook are a diary of sorts, and compiling these bits together should give you an idea of my recent activities.

December 1st

I got a Christmas decorating injury. I must have sliced my finger on a cardboard box and -- sorry if this is disturbing to some of you -- actually sliced into my fingernail at the root end. Who knew that Christmas decorating was dangerous?

December 3rd

Some news. I got my new proofs this morning and approved them. "Action Men with Silly Putty" should be available in print in the next three or five days. I'll make a big announcement when it is.

December 5th

Last week, I wrote up a draft for the first chapter in the Paloma book (a biography.) I still need to fill in some blanks for chapter one and got some new information from Paloma's mom. I helped Mom decorate the house and prepare a special Christmas luncheon for her Bible study ladies on Friday. I arranged the fruit salad plates and helped serve. Mom made a terrific seafood medley with crab, shrimp and scallops in an alfredo sauce over rice. Dad put his origami skills to work with some fantastic napkin folding. (He folded trees with green napkins and pinwheels with red ones.) I finished off the week going to see Handel's "Messiah" by the Cathedral Choir at Hawthorne Gospel Church with friends Jeannie and Iris. Friend Stan was part of the choir, and his son was the tenor soloist. It's been a wonderful Christmas season so far.

Soprano soloist Winnie Nieh

December 5th

I just got my copy of Maria Lynn Hurty's "Christmas Crazy to Jesus Joy" Advent devotional. I read her reference to the "greasy grimy gopher guts" song and thought, "That's my Maria." She does make a spiritual point of it, I promise. I'm pretty sure she serenaded me with that song once upon a time. I know she taught me the "My Reindeer Flies Sideways" song to the tune of "Pomp and Circumstance." Really, it looks like a lovely book with some nice thoughts, beautiful photography and some Maria humor.

December 5th

Well, here it is. "Action Men with Silly Putty" is now available in print. $:) 8.99 It would make a good Christmas present for someone or maybe just a gift to yourself.

December 7th

I did some transcription today from one of my interviews with Miss Paloma. Earlier, I helped to rearrange the furniture to make room for the Christmas tree in the front room, and Dad assembled it. Decoration for the tree will happen tomorrow. Already, two packages arrived at the house with gifts I've ordered. I did all my shopping online. Tonight, I plan to watch the live "Hairspray" on NBC.

December 10th

Mom and Dad got a new high-def TV on a Cyber Monday deal. When it was first set up, we didn't have the new cable box, so I enjoyed connecting it to my Youtube account to play my Youtube lists and recommendations on the big high-def screen. Some of the musicians I follow make very visually pleasing videos, often taken in nature scenes, so it was very enjoyable to see them in high-def. We watched Piano Guys, a cellist named Tina Guo and The Harp Twins, Camille and Kennerly, among others.

December 10th

I'm putting more ornaments on the tree today. We have a number of bird ornaments, airplane ornaments, star and angel ornaments. For some reason, I tend to arrange these on levels towards the top of the tree, birds then planes, then stars, then angels. This is what I try to do anyway. Right now, unless I move him, I've got a little boy flying a kite that is somewhere in the airplane level and practically in the realm of the angels. (This thought was not in the original post, but I thought I would add it here. That kite has a lot of lift!) 

December 11th

My family seems to know I like to cuddle up in blankets in cold weather. One year, for Christmas, I received a Snuggie. Another year, I received another brand's version, what my brother dubbed the "blue burrito." The blue blanket zips and snaps around you and transforms you into a kind of burrito. Well, it's blue burrito weather. In fact, I have that and an additional blanket.

December 12th

I have to report for jury duty tomorrow. Do you think that if I tell them I'm a mystery fiction writer, I won't get assigned to a case?

So, the day went by fine. I was in the jury pool for a criminal/murder case. I suppose it could have worked as a research opportunity as a couple of you pointed out. On the questionnaire, I did mention my mystery novel and named "Forensic Files" as a TV show I watch. Anyway, I wasn't selected, and I don't need to return tomorrow. I was able to do a lot of nice reading on my Kindle and finished the book I had started.

December 15th

I made up a new word for the state of today's weather ... bbrriness.

December 18th

I'm watching a movie starring two of my favorite classic actors, Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart, "The Philadelphia Story."

December 18th

We had a lovely Christmas cantata yesterday. The worship team proceeded down the aisle with electric candles. One of the little girls in church dressed as an angel and sat by the manger scene with a little lamb puppet. We sang with a a combination of CD accompaniment and live piano. We even had a small brass section, two trumpets and one saxophone, playing for the processional, recessional, Christmas carol singalong section of the program and in the foyer before and after the concert. Hot chocolate and cookies were served. It was all lovely. One friend commented (slightly paraphrased), "You know how you are watching a Christmas movie and everything is so cozy, and you wish you were there? I felt like I was in a Christmas movie. I was there."

December 19th

I've been enjoying reading friends' posts about their Christmas baking. Yesterday, I baked peanut butter blossom cookies with Hershey kisses. Today, I hope to make gingerbread men with a new Kitchen Aid mixer.

December 20th

I just made some gingersnaps for Christmas. I tried out a recipe from a food blogger and adapted it slightly with some seasoning ideas from an Alton Brown recipe. These have a combination of fresh grated ginger and minced crystallized ginger instead of ground ginger. Mom, Dad and I all taste tested them and decided they are pretty good. I added a half cup flour to one half of the dough for making gingerbread boys tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Life Update:Transition, a New Project and Book News

So, I've been neglecting this blog and even Google + for a while now. I'm hoping that will change very soon once things start settling into a new pattern. My life has been going through some change, good change ultimately.

For the past ten years, I have worked for a local newspaper in northern New Jersey, part of the North Jersey Media Group. North Jersey was taken over by Gannett ("USA Today") and changes started happening. There were new meetings and there were interviews, and eventually there was a question of whether I would be staying on with the company in a new position or if I would be among those laid off. I was among the lay-offs, which, although it was not the outcome for which I was hoping, I began to see it as a new opportunity to do something different, to venture out with some freelance writing.

Some of the last month with the company was stressful. I covered four towns, and now that many New Jersey towns have Board of Ed elections on Election Day, I had a lot of candidates to interview between BOE and town council candidates for four towns. One town had 10 candidates for Board of Ed alone. I put in some overtime during Election Week.

 Leaving my job was bittersweet. My small office had moved into a bigger office, set in a nice New Jersey community among a beautiful downtown. We were there for several months, and I made new friends. I enjoyed several social events with the new coworkers, ice cream socials and book club meetings, which culminated in a final farewell party at a local restaurant. At the same time, I was assured God had good things in His mind for me and my future.

I joined the Upwork site for freelancers and set up a profile before my final day at the office. Within a week of being out of work, I was contracted for a new project, ghostwriting the biography of a remarkable young woman, an 11-year-old Florida girl, Paloma Rambana, who is legally blind and successfully lobbied the legislature for funding for visually impaired children.

It's really a suitable project for me for several reasons.

1) It combines my journalism and creative writing skills.

2)  I like kids.

3) I especially like this age group. My first book had 11-year-old characters.

4) I like feel-good uplifting stories.

Already, I have interviewed my girl twice by Skype, and it has been delightful getting to know her as she swung her phone or tablet around and gave me a virtual tour of her room and her artwork on the walls.

Paloma has been featured in the news quite a lot previously, often Florida news but also in "People" magazine and "Huffington Post."

Here is a very short clip of my young subject with Senator Marco Rubio.

And here she is addressing the American Legion, telling them about some of her activist efforts.

So, I am grateful to have a new project and to be working from home.

In other news, just yesterday, my mystery comedy novel, "Action Men with Silly Putty," came out in print format and is available on Amazon. This is big news. The process turned out to be slightly longer and more complex than I expected at first. I am happy to be able to make the announcement that it is finally available and in time for Christmas. I know many readers prefer traditional print books. The print version is $8.99.

Please, give it a try for yourself or as a Christmas gift. It's a mood lifter. One reader, who read the ebook version, said he released so many endorphins by laughing while reading that he may no longer have depression by the time he finished.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Action Men and the Great Zarelda, Part 9

Continued from Parts 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, and 8...

My opportunity to slyly rescue the iPhone or any of the other items from the box prior to the performance never came. Zarelda and Kumar kept at their station near it until the last possible moment, and then there was hurried instruction to prepare to go onstage.

The show went smoothly, and I think I executed my part well. There were a few surprise elements. Zarelda made several costume changes. They were so quick that I wondered if she had a costumer's equivalent of a race car pit crew backstage. One of these costumes, had she worn it on the plane in place of the red dress, I would have been adequately satisfied that there was nothing amiss with her legs. It was cut high on both sides with plenty of leg exposed. Instead of looking like a suspiciously potential smuggler of parrots, she looked like an exotic bird of paradise herself. Iridescent crystals hung in tassels down her front and, while the white gown was cut high on the sides, long feathery extensions, like exotic plumage, dangled down the center of her gown as a skirt in both the front and rear.

Midway through the show, she performed a trick I had never seen in rehearsal. I knew about this only in part, that at this point in the program, she would do a trick that didn't require my involvement. She emerged in a flamenco dress like the one in which I had first seen her, only this one was in cobalt blue. Her near-hypnotic power I had felt on first seeing her now seemed to take hold of the entire audience. She took graceful flamenco steps as she twirled and stomped down center stage, her arms arcing and twisting above her head. “You must help me with this one,” she told the audience. “Dream of Brazil. Dream of the Amazon. Dream of Brazil. Say it with me.”

It was a chant as she twirled and stomped, and the audience joined in. It took on an almost creepy tone, like a cult leader directing her flock. As she twirled, and the audience chanted, she transmogrified. I saw, perhaps, some of the special lighting effects that required Kumar's help. The cobalt skirt rippled with her movement, and as she moved, a projection of a tall waterfall was made onto her skirt, and it seemed to take on life. I was mesmerized by her. She flicked her wrist in a dainty dance-like movement, and a macaw, the very variety Jack had displayed on his cell phone so many days ago, manifested itself suddenly, resting on her hand. I noticed no secret pockets, no hidden compartments. It happened in an instant. It was magic.

From my half-hidden position at the side of the stage, I looked out to the audience. Somewhere in the midst of that crowd was Jack. What was he thinking now, a great big “I told you so?” Zarelda flicked her opposite wrist, and a second macaw roosted on her hand, and then, just as quickly again, they vanished, but where? Her voluminous skirt? It was hard to tell. It was magic, and, at that moment, I was a believer in magic like any child.

There was nothing particularly menacing about Zarelda that night. She seemed charming, delightful, a flirt with the audience, and yet I couldn't push away a certain foreboding sense of premonition as the evening wore on. I looked out sometimes at the audience and wished I could discreetly signal Jack about my sense of unease. I could pull on my ear lobe like Carol Burnett, but what would that possibly accomplish? I could signal like baseball players, only we hadn't established any such system of communication, and my sense of self-dignity was too great to make myself quite that foolish looking, tapping and pulling at random parts of myself. I had read once about a hostage blinking SOS in Morse code on TV. Would Jack pick up that signal or would it simply look like I was having an episode of petit mal epilepsy? Really, the performance and my role in it took up so much of my concentration that I was unable to sufficiently come up with a plan that actually made sense, and I really had no idea what I was expecting anyway.

I successfully maneuvered my way out the escape hatch of the vanishing box for our final act. Zarelda joined me in this private space behind the contraption briefly before she would appear in my place. It wasn't until she reached her hand up to my shoulder and then my face almost tenderly that I caught a whiff of a chemical smell, and everything went black.

 To be continued ...

&© 2016 Susan Joy Clark

Woohoo! A Third Five Star Review from Readers' Favorite!

 I'm so happy to receive yet another terrific review from Readers' Favorite. I'm so delighted that readers enjoy my story. This model gracefully conveys what I'm feeling inside after reading this review. :)

Reviewed By Jack Magnus for Readers’ Favorite

Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery, Book 1 is an amateur sleuth mystery novel written by Susan Joy Clark. Andy Westin and his boss, Jack Donegal, were toy men. They lived, breathed and played their occupation and had a great time doing it. It was during one of their business trips to the San Francisco Toy Fair that they came upon an auction where Jack was unable to resist the charms of a 1915 Steiff teddy bear. That bear had been part of the estate of a California wine heiress, Georgina Elwood, a recluse and collector. Immediately after taking possession of his new teddy, strange things started happening to Jack and Andy. First, Jack was assaulted by two armed men who thought he was someone else and threatened him with an ornately carved knife. Then his iPhone turned out to be missing. Not a problem for them as Andy had the Find My Phone app, but their misadventures were just beginning, and the two toy men were delighted to discover a mystery worthy of their complete attention.

Susan Joy Clark's private investigator mystery novel, Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery, Book 1, will delight readers who enjoy a bit of humor mixed in with their sleuthing and pleasantly surprise those readers such as myself who are usually unaware of - or worse - unappreciative of comedic touches in their reading material. I had a grand time following Andy and his iconic boss, Jack, as they gallivanted around the Bay Area and Southern California and played at being detectives. Andy is the consummate narrator who, while completely authentic and original in his own right, agreeably reminded me at times of Nero Wolf's able and wisecracking sidekick, Archie Goodwin. Clark's story is breezy, fun and fast-paced, and her plot is inspired. Jack and Andy are two of the most intriguing new private eyes I've come across in quite some time, and I can't wait until their creator conjures up another irresistible conundrum for them to play with. Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery, Book 1 is most highly recommended.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Two Great New Reviews from Readers' Favorite

Reviewed By Melissa Tanaka for Readers’ Favorite

Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery by Susan Joy Clark centers on a man by the name of Jack Donegal, who is an eccentric toy inventor, and his colleague, Andy Westin. Jack becomes a target when he is mistaken for another man after purchasing an antique teddy bear at a toy auction. From there, the two men take the situation into their own hands and decide to investigate the mystery behind the teddy bear and the secrets that it holds.

The first person point of view makes it very easy for readers to become engaged in the story, quickly slipping into the mind of Andy as he helps his boss and best friend untangle the web of mysteries that surrounds the bear and the criminals pursuing it. Although Andy is much more relatable a character, Jack is an enigma to witness, whether he is pulling random tidbits of information from the depths of his brain or quickly splicing together various contraptions in order to save the day. The witty banter between the two men and their lack of experience in sleuthing endears them to the reader, and by the end of the first chapter you cannot help but root for them. They James Bond their way out of several different situations, resulting in hilarity and various degrees of success.

Action Men with Silly Putty is a dream come true for mystery fans, mixing comedy and suspense along with classic gadgets such as hidden cameras, recording devices, vibration sensors, and everything else a spy could possibly need. I absolutely loved this book!


Reviewed By Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers’ Favorite

Susan Joy Clark’s Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery is a hilarious mystery adventure. Jack Donegal and Andy Westin are business partners and best friends. They are toy men, meaning that they are not short, but in the toy business. Jack is a quirky and zany inventor – a master of everything - a techno-geek! Andy is the grounded and sensible marketing manager. This dynamic duo is in a league all of their own. While attending an estate auction in San Francisco, Jack purchases an antique teddy bear. Turns out, this is not your normal teddy bear. Jack is mugged in a case of mistaken identity, which catapults the toy men into an unbelievable adventure. Jack is determined is to out scam the scammers and find the secret behind this mysterious bear. Together, Jack and Andy put together the pieces this implausible puzzle, one “strange piece at a time.”

Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery is fun, engaging, and delightfully entertaining, you won’t want to put it down! Susan Joy Clark pens a mystery novel full of comedic escapades. The bungling Mr. Magoo combines with the eccentricity of Columbo in the main character of Jack Donegal. Clark’s narrative is witty, comical and adventuresome. The writing style is artfully imaginative, using amusing and uncanny descriptions. The story is written from the point of view of the side-kick, which is rare, but really works! The antics of the characters keep the action moving quickly.

The best description of this creative work is silly-serious; it encompasses both abstract and concrete, humor and mystery, famous artwork, secret societies, and dating advice. The villains are bad guys, thugs with slightly dark motives and criminal intentions, contrasting with the good guys who are out for justice, and motivated to do what is right. Action Men with Silly Putty: A Jack Donegal Mystery is a wild goose chase full of hare-brained ideas and geeky technology. It is a fun and enjoyable read from beginning to end.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Action Men and the Great Zarelda, Part 8

Continued from Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7

“Maybe the darkness will cue them to sleep?”

“I was hoping it would, but it doesn't seem to be working so far. They must have been sedated but woke up sooner than expected. I could slip them some Tylenol PM in a White Castle burger, but I don't like the idea of drugging them.” I had no idea how much sedative it would take for them to sleep or how much would be unsafe for them, and I didn't want to be responsible.

“Neither do I,” said Jack. “Maybe you should sing to them.”

“I've been singing to them. I don't think they're impressed.”

“Or maybe they'll be like human babies. The motion of the car will put them to sleep. Maybe you should sing them to sleep while you're driving.”

“I'm not sure I can sing and drive at the same time,” I said. Maybe that was just an excuse. I'd already serenaded the tigers … twice. Now I was racking my brain, trying to think up soothing-tiger-cubs-to-sleep songs, and was coming up with zilch. Maybe I was also getting nervous about my wild predicament. What was I going to do if I showed up at the theater with two wakened, active, noisy little tigers … act like Zarelda's willing accomplice?

“I have an idea,” said Jack. “I'll serenade the tigers while you drive.”

“You'll serenade them while I drive? How are you going to do that?”

“We'll use the FaceTime app. You can stick your phone in the box with the tigers. It will serve a dual purpose. It will act as a night light. Maybe, they'll be more content.”

It was a weird plan, one in a string of weird plans that Jack came up with and I went along with, but there was a little bit of sense to it. “Put the phone in the box with the tigers, huh? On one condition ...”

“On one condition? What's that?”

“That you'll replace my phone if the tigers decide to use it as a chew toy.”

There was a pause. “I guess that's a risk I'm willing to take. For the sake of the business, you need a phone upgrade anyway. Andy, somewhere in the back of a vehicle, is a box of our Buddy Bears. Take one out and toss one in with the tigers. I also have a polar fleece jacket in the back. Toss that in with the tigers to get them ready for nap time.”

I went hunting in the back of the vehicle and found the box of bears. Using a Swiss Army knife in my pocket to cut through the packing tape, I opened it up and pulled out a bear. These weren't just ordinary stuffed bears. They said friendly phrases like “Let's be friends,” “Do you need a hug?” and thirteen other sayings when squeezed in the middle. I was really hoping the tigers wouldn't be rough with it and pounce on its tummy. That really wouldn't help our case. I tossed the bear into the box, feeling just a little bit like I was tossing a gladiator to the lions.

I found a navy blue polar fleece jacket folded up in the back. “I found a polar fleece,” I said to Jack on the phone. “It's hard to believe it's yours. It looks so ordinary. Where are the cartoon ...” I unfolded it. “Oh, there they are.” The whole troop of seven dwarfs sprawled out over the back. “Are you sure you want to toss this in with the cubs? What if they go number two on it? Or number one, for that matter. Either way, they'll do a number on it.”

“It's old,” said Jack. “I guess that's also a risk I'm willing to take.”

I tossed in the polar fleece. Suddenly, I remembered a roll of duct tape we kept in the rear of the vehicle. Jack wasn't the only one with a little bit of brain. I pulled off a piece of tape, rolled it, and stuck it to the back of the phone. I then taped the phone high up on the wall of the box interior. It didn't precisely tiger-proof the phone, but maybe it, at least, made it slightly less vulnerable.

As I drove off en route to Zarelda's theater, I could hear Jack's glee club voice singing “Danny Boy.” “Oh, Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling, from glen to glen and down the mountainside...” I suppose as a freckled reddish-head with Irish heritage, I should have as much Irish pride as anyone, but leave it to Jack to know old Irish folk songs from memory. I had to admit it was slow and soothing and, after a while, I felt like I needed an espresso to keep myself awake. Somewhere between White Castle and Zarelda's theater, I heard silence in the back, hearing neither tigers or Jack's voice. Singing lullabies to tiger cubs via the FaceTime app might be one of the zanier things Jack had done in his life, but it seemed to be successful.

When I delivered the box to Zarelda, she acted very grateful. “Thank you very much, darling.” She tucked a couple of folded bills into my hand. I didn't even unfold them in her presence to see which president was on them. Now that I knew the secret of the box, I didn't really want to accept them either, except that I was playing Colonel Klink – “I know nothing!” – so I tucked them away, acting like it was a generous tip for going the extra mile. As I expected, Zarelda didn't fuss with the box or open its compartments while I was in the room with her.

I headed then to my dressing room to transform myself into Andy the magician's assistant or Andy the glitterized '70s variety show wannabe, however you wanted to look at it. As I was fastening on my cummerbund, a sickening realization came to me. My iPhone was still in the box. If Zarelda found it, she'd realize I was in the know, and she might be able to access some other information as well. The bear and the coat were in the box still too, and any of those things could be traced to me, but I was especially worried by the phone.

We had a half hour still to show time, so I headed down to the prop room. Maybe I could retrieve it before the show without disturbing the tigers and without Zarelda knowing anything of it. When I came across the box, Zarelda was right there by it and so, interestingly enough, was Kumar from the Houdini's Magic Shop.


“Hi, yeah, I sometimes come and help out with the lighting and special effects during the shows. She didn't tell you?”

We had special lighting and effects? We hadn't rehearsed any while I was involved. I shook my head and then just stood there stupidly, not knowing what my next step should be.

“What are you doing down here, darling?”

“Oh,” I said, “Just some pre-show nerves. I just thought I'd walk around and, you know, get into character.”

Kumar's eyebrows raised up. “You have to get into character?”

I looked down at my pearlized and glitterized costume. I certainly didn't feel like myself. “I have a character. Yeah, I have a character.” Unsure what more to say, I just walked away and began pacing, wandering around the room, not sure how it helped me “get into character.” Zarelda and Kumar remained at their station and yet didn't seem to be doing anything more productive than I was doing. I had a feeling we were all three watching one another on the sly.

To be continued ... 

© Susan Joy Clark 2016