Mystery – Death at the Ye Olde Pub

Inspector Lynch’s plump hand brushed the raindrops off his wool cloak. He tucked the hood tighter around his ruddy, stubbled chin. Thirty minutes had gone by since he’d received a phone call and made his way straight across town to the pub as the sun tried to peek through the clouds. Aw, my England, my England, he mused and thought of his favorite author, D.H. Lawrence. This distracted his mind before dealing with the dead. Passing by the statue of Robin Hood in Nottingham brought a wry smile to his lips. He really didn’t like the piece. It seemed to send the wrong message to the community—redistribution of wealth by any means. The idea was a bit repugnant to him. The copper cast statue had been hauled to the small park in 1952 and serenaded by a band from the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment at its dedication. Since then, thirty years had passed. Like the statue, he had become worn around the edges and had acquired a hitch in his left hip from arthritis. But he knew his opinions on local artifacts shouldn’t be his prime concern this particular day, they should be on the pub. Yet he couldn’t help thinking of other things on the way to the alleged crime scene as the latest community project was hard to miss. All over town, there were synthetic robin birds with pointed caps covering their crests mounted in plain sight.  There were thirty-odd birds, five-foot tall with multiple patchwork colors painted over every inch. He knew they would only remain in place for a mere twelve weeks then be collected and auctioned off in October, but he thought they were gaudy. The proceeds would go to Nottinghamshire Hospice; a good cause he couldn’t fault.

 A few more paces and he’d be at the pub. The name of the place, Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem Inn, never made much sense. Yet, he couldn’t argue with anyone on that subject either. After all, the establishment opened in 1189, and he did enjoy going there from time to time for a pint of ale. The various wee rooms were cozy and had a distinct air about them. The place was rather charming, embedded in the rocks beneath the Nottingham Castle.

Short Story- Winter

DollHouseFromParents

Sara came up with the idea of serving a weekly neighborhood meal in the kitchen at their farmhouse. It wasn’t enough that they had a couple dozen horses to tend to; some boarders and others slated for their lesson programs. The horses ranged in size from pony to draft, and she loved each one of them individually.

Every Saturday new people appeared at the house for an early supper. Some would put a donation in the box by the stove, others would not. Either way, it was fine with Sara. She enjoyed cooking new recipes and bringing people together made her feel complete. Community was everything and running these events was, in a way, inevitable since they had an overstocked freezer, fridge, and pantry. All of it; the meat, fruit, and vegetables had come straight from their land. What they couldn’t consume, they either canned and sold or gave to the needy at the city shelters.

There were too many people in the house this winter afternoon. Outside the kitchen window, Sara observed the recent snowfall resting on the ground. The open patch of dirt surrounded by four shovels, was the only bare spot. The hired hands were taking a break from the ritual while drinking steaming liquid from the mugs off of their steel thermoses. It wouldn’t be long before they finished.

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Short Story – The Wigglynoses

Written by Elsa Wolf – Circa 1972

To my rabbits with love-

ChurchNormandyRegionOnce upon a time, long ago, there was a family of rabbits named the Wigglynoses. They had six children; Inky, Winky, Pinky, Percy, Molly, and Olly. They lived in a churchyard under a statue of the Virgin Mary. It was near Christmas now, and all the Wigglynoses were being very good except for Percy. He was a mischievous boy who often disobeyed his mother and snuck into the church when she said he shouldn’t. When it was time for the children to go to see Santa, all the children were very happy. They told Santa what they wanted and if they were good or not, and to everyone’s surprise, Percy told the truth.

As soon as they got home, they went out into the churchyard and found their Christmas tree. Everyone helped decorate the tree except for Percy. After the good little bunnies hung items on the tree, Percy would pull them off and throw them on the floor where they would break into pieces. A half-hour later almost everything was ruined. His father was so angry that he spanked Percy and told him to go back outside and find pretty things for the tree to replace the ones he’d broken. Percy returned and hung the new decorations up while his brothers and sisters put presents under the tree for each other before going to bed.

Percy couldn’t sleep. He went to the doorway of the bedroom and stood by watching Santa put the presents out, but Santa caught him and picked a few presents up and took them away. Percy was sure they were his gifts. Santa didn’t give things to naughty children.

In the morning, everybody woke up and ran out into the living room. Gasping and shouting with delight over the presents they saw; trains and trikes and everything they could ever want. Each thing had a tag attached with their names from Santa, except there were none for Percy. He burst into tears and ran as fast as he could, and Mama ran after him. She said that she was sorry to say that she didn’t think he should get any presents because he’d been a naughty boy. She continued to tell him if he behaved better he would get lots of gifts next Christmas.

Percy screamed in a shrill rabbit voice, “I can’t wait until next year! I must have them now!”

“But Percy, if you’re going to act this way, you’ll never get any presents, and you will be unhappy all your life. You must do what Daddy and I say. It was wrong of you to break our things and wander off when we tell you to stay home. Now, wash your little furry face and go play nicely with your brothers and sisters. Go on.”

“Oh, all right. I’m sorry.” Percy left the room with his ears unnaturally drooping down the side of his face.

 

Short Story – Wax Flowers Written by Great Aunt Elise Rykel, Circa early 1900’s

Dreamily looking out over the beautiful lake which her home faced, Mrs. B. wondered how much longer she would be permitted to enjoy this scene. She had already lived her three score years and ten. Who could tell how soon this living temple, which housed her soul, would cease to function. It would then be given over to the element of heat and reduced to a tiny heap of clean, white ashes. Mrs. B. smiled remembering the objections of her family, to her wish to have it so, but she knew that they would carry out her wishes.

Her thoughts drifted back through the years. She was eight years old. Frightened and trembling she hid behind the door of the room where her little brother lay, quiet and cold, with pennies on his eyelids. Upon emerging from her hiding place, she found that everyone was too disturbed and sad to pay any attention to her.

Her curiosity piqued as she saw a servant put a sheet over the long mirror in the parlor. The marble-top table, in the center of the room, was pushed to one side and the furniture, in general, re-arranged. The next thing she knew, there was a beautiful white casket where the table had stood. Her little brother was lying softly bedded in the white velvet, all dressed up in his Sunday suit.

People came, and among them, the little brother’s kindergarten teacher with the children from his class. One of them placed a lovely bunch of wax flowers in the folded hands of her little brother. She thought they were the most beautiful flowers she had ever seen.

The day came when they put a cover on her little brother’s white bed and over the dainty wax flowers. Nothing seemed to matter from then on. She left with the family and soon found herself staring into a deep hole lined with green boughs. Someone was holding her hand, and the good neighbor, Mr. Graham, held a huge umbrella over her father and mother, for it was a cold, rainy day.

She shuddered, as they lowered the white casket, with its shining silver plaque engraved with the little brother’s name and birthday fastened on the top, into the deep hole. Again, from then on, nothing seemed to matter for a long time.

She heard much talk among her parents about buying a new plot. Nice Sundays were spent riding around to places which her parents called cemeteries. Her father seemed to be especially interested in examining the soil and finally found a place which was very sandy and, as he said, dry.

On a bright day, not a Sunday this time, the horses were hitched to the carriage, and again she found herself beside a deep hole lined with green boughs. There were men there. They lowered some heavy ropes into the hole and brought up a long box. As it came up, dirty black water streamed out of it from all sides. Horror-stricken, she watched them place the box on the ground. There came to view a blackened, water-soaked thing that she knew contained her brother’s lovely white velvet bed. In terror she watched the men shine up the blackened silver plaque and heard one of them say that they would not advise opening the casket.

Oh, the little brother and the wax flowers! Were they black and wet too? Then and there, her mind reached out into the future and she chose for herself a tiny heap of clean white ashes.

Sequel

On a hot day in mid-summer, Mrs. B. was on a mission of charity in a congested district of her hometown. Every foot of space was built up. It seemed, on this day, there could hardly be breathing space for those living in the district.

She came upon two little boys sitting on a narrow strip of ground between the curb and the sidewalk. The ground was covered with cinders which they were scraping to get at the earth beneath. One of them succeeded in getting a little heap, and the other tried to help himself to some of it. Protectively the hands of the successful one closed around his treasure, and he cried out, “That’s my dirt.”

With a wistful expression on his face, the thwarted one got up. Between trucks, streetcars and other traffic, he dodged across the street. He pressed his face against a high iron fence which enclosed a large park-like area. This area had, at one time, been on the outskirts of town. But the town had grown into a big city which had crept all around this place. Trees, grass, flowers, paths winding in and out, up and down the alluring soft rolling ground, greeted the child’s eyes. Why couldn’t he play there and touch the good mother earth to his heart’s content? But, no, he turned away. This place was not for play. People came there to mourn and weep. It was a cemetery. Long narrow mounds, marble stones of all sizes, occupied the ground where he would have liked to dig and play.

Suddenly, there came upon Mrs. B. the recollection of the little brother, the wax flowers, the white box.

Ah, ye who mourn, remove the high iron fence, the monuments; level those mounds. Dedicate this beautiful spot with its shady lanes, its grass, its flowers, to the living memory of your dear ones. Give over the cast-off garments of flesh to the cleansing element of Light instead of darkness. Let not any child starve for its little heap of dirt to play in…

Short Story – The Legend of Lady Kogo By Gretchen Rickel Wolf, circa 1994

Japanese Doll

Costumes by Elsa

This is a tale of old, of long long ago, in the 7th century. It is the tale of the legendary beauty, Lady Kogo and her music, and the man who was Emperor of Japan at the time. This Emperor was a good and kindly man, much revered by all his subjects. But nevertheless, he was a sad and lonely man. In all his vast and beautiful palace, he had but one friend, the good and faithful Nakakuni, who had been his tutor when he was a boy.

There was a wicked and evil influence abroad in the palace so that even his Empress and their children loved him not. The powerful Taira No Kiyomori, the father of the Empress, hated and despised him because he was so jealous, wanting himself to be Emperor. And so, it the Emperor lived in lonely isolation, spending most of his time alone in his chambers. Often, he would sit by the window looking out on his gardens, the vast expanse of flowers and trees, and think to himself that all of this mattered not without others to share it with warmth and love. Often, he wished he were a simple man, a peasant, and wondered what life would be like with work every day, and a family to come home to at night.

He took to sitting at the window long into the dusk after he had watched the sun go down on another sad and empty day. And one evening, at this time, he thought he heard in the distance music very faint, but nevertheless beautiful music. He listened for a while, and then it ended. The next evening, at dusk, it was the same, sweet music coming to him from a distance, bringing him comfort, and a feeling of contentment.

Finally, after many days of hearing this music every evening, he decided he must know where it came from an who made it. So, he sent the good and faithful Nakakuni to seek it. Nakakuni followed the sound of the music, which led him to the river. He walked along its edge until he saw, in the distance, a lady sitting at the banks of the river with her Koto—Japanese harp—and then he knew from whence came the music.

This was Lady Kogo, she of great beauty. Her hair was like black satin, and her skin like the petals of a magnolia blossom. She was playing a sweet, sad melody. As Nakakuni approached her, she had sad thoughts in her mind and was thinking now of going into the river where, for a while, her robes would bear her up, and she would drift on the waters and look into the skies and into the blossom and the trees for the last time. Her robes, having become heavy with water, would take her underneath where her life would end, she would be tormented no more by her sad thoughts, and her terrible loneliness which had become unbearable since her brave and noble husband had lost his life in battle. Though mortally wounded and in great pain, he had led his men to victory, vanquishing a formidable and dangerous enemy.

Nakakuni, the Emperor’s emissary, approached her slowly and gently, for he could see she was indeed very sad, and he could hear that the music she was playing was ‘inori’ (a prayer). He spoke to her softly of the beauty of her music and how it drifted on the winds to the Emperor in the palace, and how he, sitting by his open window every evening, was brought great peace and comfort. And so, the Emperor wished her to come to the palace and play for him there. And Lady Kogo knew that if the Emperor so wished she must accede to his command.

And thus, it was that the Lady Kogo went from her home in Kyoto to the palace every evening at the hour of sunset and played her music for the Emperor through the dusk until nightfall. The Emperor had at last found peace and happiness in the music of Lady Kogo, and she was relieved of her terrible loneliness and unhappiness which she had endured ever since the death of her husband.

One day, after many, many moons of playing for the Emperor as she finished her last melody, she slowly raised her head and looked into his face. She had not done so before because of the awe and reverence in which she kept him. Her head was always bowed, but this time she felt compelled to raise her eyes and look into his, and their eyes spoke to each other of love. And this love for each other was expressed by her through her music as it became sweeter and more intense, and the Emperor received it with great joy.

As time passed, this was perceived by the evil and wicked Taira No Kiyomori, and he became more consumed with hatred and jealousy of the Emperor than ever before—not only because he craved to be Emperor, but because he was jealous of the Emperor and Lady Kogo. And so, in revenge, he plotted to take her away from the Emperor. He would capture her and lock her in the darkest of dungeons where she could never be found. Now, word of this terrible plot came to Nakakuni, as he had spies among the followers of Taira No Kiyomori, and he warned the Lady Kogo. She fled from Kyoto to go into hiding, no man knew where.

Now, the Emperor was distraught and overcome with grief at the loss of Lady Kogo and her music. So horrified and angered he was at the wicked Taira No Kiyomori for his dreadful plot that he banished him to the Isle of the Great King Cobr, far out on the old and windswept sea, inhabited only by snakes and scorpions. It was said that the combined venom of a snake with that of a scorpion caused a long and agonizing death.

Seventeen long years passed as the good Nakakuni searched the land for Lady Kogo, and never found a sign or trace of her. The Emperor grew more and more distraught, and his health was failing and worsened daily by the loss of his loved one, and the good Nakakuni vowed to himself that though very old and weak and frail now, he would never give up his search. He was determined to find the Lady Kogo and restore her to his Emperor. So, he traveled around and around the countryside, always hoping, always believing that one day he would find her.

And, indeed, one day he heard the strings of a Koto—and no one played the Koto like the Lady Kogo herself. And once again, as he had done many years ago, he followed the sound of the music, and once again he found her at the edge of a river playing a favorite song of the Emperor called ‘Tsuioku’ (Remembrance). She was older now, of course, but still very beautiful. Yet, once again, very sad as she had given up hope of being reunited with the Emperor and was going to go into the river, where her robes would become heavy with water and take her below.

Once again, the good Nakakuni approached her slowly and gently and saw that though older and sad, she was more beautiful than ever. She was like a slightly faded rose, being more delicate and subtler than in the full bloom of youth. As she saw him, her face showed such joy that the good Nakakuni’s mind wandered and thought of her as the young woman he had encountered many years ago at the edge of a river. But then, recovering, he assured her that Taira No Kiyomori was gone forever that she could return to the palace in great safety.

They returned to the palace where the evil was no more. Taira No Kiyomori and his daughter, the Empress, whose mind he had poisoned against the Emperor had also died. The Emperor was soon restored to health, and his happiness was greater than ever. The Emperor’s children were restored to him, and all those who now inhabited the palace became his faithful followers. The good Nakakuni, so very old and frail, and wearied to the point of death from his long and grueling travels, was nursed back to health by Lady Kogo. He was given a high and honored place in the palace, many precious gifts, and the rest of his days were filled with joy and happiness surrounded as he was by the love and devotion of all who knew him and his great good deed.

The enchanting music of the Lady Kogo, forever more, was a blessing to the place.

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