Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Tribute to Courage In the Fire: Ima Lee Gee Pierce

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Last December, only days from her 45th birthday, our niece, Ima Lee slipped from this world to the next.  She did not go quietly or without a fight.  She fought cancer with every force offered and from a powerful will to live.  Her life as a whole not just the few years she battled cancer, but the whole of it prepared her.

img_3753On December 1, 1971, before her first birthday, her Dad died in an automobile crash outside Tinker Field in Oklahoma where he was reporting for a duty assignment.  Her mother, Kaye, my husband’s sister and my beloved sister-in-law died of cancer on August 25, 1987 shy of her 41st birthday, when Ima Lee was 16.  She became a single mother and the birth of Chassity gave her a clarity of purpose that had eluded her as she struggled to make sense of her life.  Make no mistake SHE loved that child, now a beautiful accomplished young wife and mother.  Her fierce love for her child led her to the Man who would become her husband and Chassity’s father, Clark Pierce.  She enlisted and served in the United States Airforce, like her father before her.  Following her service they settled in Missouri to raise the child they loved.

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Over the years marked by misunderstanding and geographical distances we had fallen out of touch with Ima Lee and her family, but Thanks be to God we got the opportunity to reconnect and reconcile.  Terry even got the honor of officiating at Chassity and Danny’s wedding in August 2012 in Gatlinburg, TN.  We were blessed to be able to help in some small way getting her to some of her doctor appointments and chemotherapy treatments.  Our gratefulness for that time with her and Clark cannot be measured.  We came to love her and her family deeply and that love continues as we follow Chassity and her family on Facebook.

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LIfe here is full of pitfalls, fires, and storms.  Life here is full of beauty, laughter, and mountaintop experiences.  Life here offers opportunities to come together or to tear apart….CHOOSE TOGETHER.  Ima Lee’s Life taught me that the test of our strength and our faith GROWS when we embrace the people we love and fight for every moment with them….even that we will be united in heaven.

God Bless Clark, Chass, Danny, and Owen as they mark this time when they said “Good by, See you Later.”  Love to you all.img_4329

NO STRANGERS AT THE MANGER: What should keeping Christ in Christmas look like?

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Forget for a moment the window decorations, nativities on the court house lawn, the emphatic rebuttal of “Merry Christmas” to every one who declares, “Happy Holidays”.  Don’t forget them completely for they are important, but when I saw the poster above from a website that almost always criticizes those of us who know the value these outward displays have, I was convicted.

Consider how powerful Christ would be in our communities if we lived the message openly and without shame.  Somehow wearing a button that declares, “Keep Christ in Christmas” loses its impact if I am chewing out a store clerk or shoving a fellow shopper.  And with or without the button, the nativities on the court house lawn, or any public displays of Christ in Christmas choosing to be cheerful, loving, giving, and forgiving carries Jesus into the world, if I let others know I love the Lord.  His own words in the parable of the sheep and goats declares this:

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭25:34-36‬ ‭NIV‬‬

So, WANT CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS?  LET THE CHRIST IN YOU [the hope of glory] SHINE into every dark corner of this world.

 

WANT CHRIST IN CHRISTMAS?  Look for him in the most vulnerable, the forgotten, the suffering, weary workers, lonely neighbors. . .make your own list.  Look with His eyes, the eyes of God who blessed an old couple with a son, who chose a young woman and her betrothed to parent, who influenced an emperor to take a census, and who sent Angels to a rough group of shepherds.

SHINE!  And together we will find Christ in Christmas.

 

 

EGG HOUSE Comments Under THE Microscope of God

img_5599At The Egg House in Lake Wales, FL for our Sunday morning breakfast before church, the multiple TV screens were tuned to Fox News.  Sound was muted, but closed captioning revealed the latest bombshells from Campaign 2016.  I leaned into Terry’s space at the table and commented, choosing to use Secretary Clinton’s term from an earlier speech, “Frankly, as people I find both major party candidates ‘deplorable’.”

I could elaborate on why I said this, but I will not, because before the morning was over, the Holy Spirit convicted me in a way that I hope will continue to stay with me until I leave this earth.

“You, too, have been and occasionally still are deplorable.”

“If tapes of what you have said and the ways you have acted in the past were played on a public stage, people would condemn you.”

“I suggest you don’t replay those and reject them when the enemy comes and taunts you with them, because YOU have been forgiven.”

“However, that forgiveness was bought with a price and it is available to ALL.

“Let ME,” the HS said, “remind you that Jesus died for deplorables like you and likewise died for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and even for the despicable members of terrorist groups, for skin headed neo-Nazis, for bleeding hearts, and war hawks.”

Like an alcoholic or a addict of anything, I once lived in bondage to my prejudice, my selfishness, and my pride.  Because of Christ I live a life in recovery.  I literally have to guard my mouth and guard my fingers on the keyboard, submitting them to Christ, to keep foul despicable speech from making the rounds.  Most of the time it is not a constant reining in that it once was as God works in me, but there are still moments when I lose it or very nearly do.  Like anyone in recovery, I live one day at a time but I am never alone.  When I am on the verge, when I call other people names, when I get to thinking I can handle this on my own, God steps in and redirects my path….like I have often done with a toddler.

So, I will pray for the United States of America, the country I love, and for whoever becomes President.  I will even vote, but I am just saying that is not a decision I want to make.

Praying for all deplorables for whom Jesus died of whom I am the worst.

 

One Final September Fiction from My Novel, Braking Points

Prologue

The pictures tumbled onto the floor, old snapshots scattering at Lily’s feet; brow wrinkled with question, she stooped to gather a handful. What on earth were these?

She stared at the photos, struggling to recognize the faces, they looked familiar and yet unfamiliar at the same time. Why on earth did she have this box of pictures on the shelf of her closet? Why on earth had she been in the closet? Was this even her closet? She had no clue. She let the handful of pictures fall from her hand, as they fell she spied one of them that captured her attention. Fingers trembling she picked it up and regarded it.

Who were these people? Where was this taken? The background was sand, ocean, and sea grass, a family photo with three boys, one a teenager with a scowl on his face, two younger ones grinning and squinting in the sun, a man—Lily touched his face with her finger, a wave of affection filling her momentarily before flittering away, leaving a hole that caused her to recoil her finger as if she had touched something hot. The man was smiling and holding a little girl with bright eyes and tousled hair, a pretty little thing, Lily thought, and a woman sitting in the center of the group, laughter on her face.
The smell of the ocean air filled Lily’s nostrils. Wiggling her toes reflexively she could almost feel the warmth of sand on her feet. So real, palatable causing a desire for the waves to well up in her only to come crashing down, leaving her confused. She looked around her. Who had spilled all these pictures on the floor? Well, they could just clean up their own mess. The family beach photo became a wad in her fist as she thrust it into her pocket.

imageChapter One

Home-Todd County, Kentucky

No matter how well you eat, how active you stay, or how much you try to stay young, time, like rain and wind on a rock, chisels away at the flesh. “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

The thought was not a new one to Max, but he hated how his own body with its age related infirmities confirmed the erosion. He shuffled from barn to house across ayard which only a few years before he crossed with the wide gait of a tall man. He stooped slightly now, leaning to accommodate the catch in his hip present since he broke it two years earlier. He remembered following his granddaddy on this path as a boy. The distance looked shorter, but felt longer. Max remembered how feeble the old man became before he died and wondered if he looked that old and crippled. Humph! Well, of course he did! At eighty-seven he was older than his granddaddy had been when he died. Max did the math in his head—he preferred doing math there, not relying on pen and paper or electronic gadgets. Ezra Carnes died whenMax was twelve. Ezra was seventy-five that same year. Max shook his head. Granddaddy had been dead seventy-five years! Max paused, took a breath, exhaling a sigh. Whew! Seventy-five years!

He was thankful for the memories that remained. Many had vanished. Max acknowledged his good fortune to have known his granddaddy and to remember their times together. Max savored the value of those times as he hobbled toward the front steps. He’d have paid more attention to remembering, if he’d known how important it could be.

Max focused on the steps. These days avoiding falling concerned him. The shortest trip, the simplest activity required careful planning. Once he would not have paid a lick of attention to the ordinary act of walking. Now Max planned ahead when he moved. When he reached the house he’d fix Lily and himself two tall glasses of lemonade. It would be his reward for having gotten all the way to the barn and back with no mishaps. The plot of ground he was crossing contained more foot traps than mine fields he’d crossed during World War II. The catch in his hip reminded him of that fact every day, but the accomplishment of crossing the yard was worth the danger. What fun is life without a little danger?

He paused at the foot of the steps to the porch, catching his breath and preparing for what he knew he would encounter at the top. He could see Lily from where he leaned on the railing. While Lily remained a wisp of a woman, her catlike agility and her lively wit had faded. She stared out at a world she no longer understood, a world that once beckoned her, now only baffled her. People, family, even Max at times created such anxiety for her that she trembled and wept. Lately, however, she had been some better. At least she seemed less frightened. He had worried this morning when he found her sitting on the bedroom floor, an upended box of old photos scattered around her. He feared she would be agitated, episodes like that paralyzed her at times. But, thankfully she seemed more concerned that “whoever made the mess in the floor needed to get right in there and clean it up” than frightened. Yes, today she had even agreed to venture onto the porch.

Max watched her. She rocked in the chair, picking with her fingers at something on the lap throw that shielded her legs. Pick, Pick, Pick. Rock, Rock, Rock. Max studied her for a moment, trying desperately to glimpse into the present Lily, his Lily. He shook his head and chided himself. In spite of evidence to the contrary, his Lilyremained. The years had taken their toll on him as well. He was hardly the man she’d married. The trip to the barn and back proved that fact. Yes, Lily had changed, but deep down the essence of Lily remained. Sixty-five years ago he’d promised to love her and protect her all the days of his life and with the help of God, he intended to do it.
There was no recognition in her eyes as he approached; only questioning. He smiled in greeting.

“Hello, Lily,” he said, keeping his voice even. He had learned to avoid startling her and to follow her lead in conversation. She continued to observe him, but she was calm. The tremors did not overtake her.
At the onset of her memory loss, he’d kept the rigid rules the experts laid out and reminded Lily constantly that he was her husband, that the man who came every day was their youngest son, Andrew, who lived across the road, that she had three sons and onedaughter, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Over and over, day after day he reminded her of innumerable lost memories, only to watch her descend into a pit of anxiousness and despair.

Initially, she would repeat what he said immediately after he said it, clinging to the words only to watch them dissolve. Later, she began repeating simultaneously, which tended to confuse not only Lily, but also Max, so that both of them lost the root of the conversation. Five years earlier similar incidents summoned a shared silliness with laughter as the result. Lily rarely laughed now. Max heeded the orders of the professionals, until one day she dissolved into tremors that left her sputtering nonsense.

That’s when Max called it quits with the doctors and hit the brakes. Hadn’t he promised to love not torture? He made up his mind he’d learn to love the Lily of the here and now without forcing her to join him there. The doctors who told him to keep her based in reality also told him that she would never recover. The disease, bit by bit, would steal her from him. Torturing her wasn’t going to cure her. His intention from that moment was to bring whatever bits of joy he could to Lily daily. He determined to share whatever life they had left on the earth, to follow her lead and trust the good Lord for the outcome.

Leaving the course set by the so-called experts, he returned to the pattern of love they had honored throughout their marriage. He found in this path that his love for her deepened and as her ability to love him back slipped beneath the surface, Max gasped for air, but held on.

His broken hip had left him with a limp, but he didn’t badger it constantly to move like it had before. He did his best to exercise it and adjust to the new way of walking. He didn’t chide Lily either. He intended to love her and care for her the best he could. She wasn’t the same but she was a part of him. They were one flesh. She was watching him quizzically now, unsure but not frightened. He continued smiling.

“Do I know you, sir?”

“I’m Max.” His steady voice contradicted the hurt he felt, when she asked such questions.

“Max?” She narrowed her eyes. “Have we met before?” A slight smile turned up the corners of her mouth.

“We have now.” He wasn’t lying. Daily he reintroduced himself.

“Could I get you a glass of lemonade?” He asked politely. She nodded.

*

As they sipped their lemonades, Max noticed the object she’d been picking at when he joined her on the porch was a photograph. He asked her if he could see it. Flattening it out with his hand he saw it was a family snapshot taken when Peggy, their youngest child and only daughter, was about a year old. Max had Peggy in his arms. The boys circled them. They were posed outside a beach house they had rented for two whole weeks off the North Carolina Coast. The Atlantic Ocean loomed in the background. Sea grass framed them.

“It’s a lovely picture. I was trying to remember who the people are.” Lily said. It was the longest sentence, the most inquisitive, Max had heard from her in weeks. He smiled.

Max fingered the photo before deciding what he would do. Finally he held it out to her. One by one he identified each of their children beginning with Ryan, the oldest, then Barry, then Andrew and finally Peggy. She nodded slightly and touched each face as he named them. Then gently he took her finger guiding it to her own face in the picture.

“…And this lovely girl is you, Lily.” Then he pointed to his face and considered his words carefully. He longed to scream, ‘and this is me, Lily, your husband, me, Max. Please, remember, Lily; we drove all night to Ocean Isle Beach. You and I have been back several times. Don’t you remember, Lily?’

But, what he said was, “and this is Max.”

“Max,” She said softly.

For an instant he wondered if she had spoken to him. He wondered if she remembered he had just told her his name was Max. Perhaps she had connected the two, but watching her as she held the photo, he knew she hadn’t. She studied the photograph and then asked again who they were. Several more times he repeated the names. Finally, wearily, she leaned back in the chair with her eyes closed. Mercifully, the rocking and picking had stopped. She was so still Max thought she was asleep. He leaned over to take her glass before it fell. Suddenly, he realized her eyes were wide open watching him.

“I always loved the ocean, didn’t I?” Her voice contained more breath than sound, no more than a wistful whisper.

“Always,” he replied, just as softly.

*

The moon cast eerie shadows on the pitted ground. Max realized he should have brought the flashlight, but it was too late to backtrack now. The distance to the barn appeared to have doubled. Struggling for footing and breath, Max put out one hand, steadying his frame against the solid barn door, when he reached the structure. Moment by moment he waited until he regained stability, his pulse slowed and though still slightly winded his panting eased into deeper measured breaths. He glanced around almost expecting one of his children to pop out of the shadows. With a yank, he pulled the doors open and felt for the light switch. Ah, there it was; flipping the switch; he blinked repeatedly, adjusting to the light that bathed the barn. There she sat, his 1996 Buick. What a beauty!

Max slid into the driver’s seat, turned the key and backed her out of the garage. A glance at the gas gage confirmed his suspicion that he’d need to fill her up, but other than that at eight years of age and less than thirty thousand miles on the odometer, she was primed and ready. He pulled her around near the front steps, before climbing out. As an afterthought he reached in and snatched the keys from the ignition.

*

It was after midnight when Max mounted the steps for the second time that day. The Buick glistened in the moonlight, ready for the get-a-way. He couldn’t identify the source of the plan, but the old snapshot and Lily’s brief remembrance gave it wheels. His children were sure to pitch a fit, so he’d call them after several miles down the road. He could hear their voices. “Dad, what on earth are you thinking?” “What business did two elderly people have taking a 700-mile road trip?” He’d tell them what he knew. Going was the right thing to do and it had nothing to do with business.

Tomorrow Lily and he were heading east. He’d avoid the interstates; take the roads they’d taken back in 1960. He’d court his bride of sixty-five years every day of the trip. Who cared if he had to introduce himself again and again? He did that anyway.They’d travel the slow lane. They’d travel one mile at a time. Foolish! Hah! Sometimes the wisest choices of all look foolish.

Entering their bedroom, he settled next to Lily and whispered, “Lily, tomorrow you and I are going to the ocean.” She murmured in her sleep. He kissed her shoulder. Then following the pattern of a lifetime, Max prayed. As he breathed “Amen,” a weight lifted. He drifted to sleep knowing that tomorrow would a perfect day for travel.

September Fiction 2016–A Darker Side

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Some stories have a darker side. This is one of them.

Rodney’s Last Stand

imageRodney Crick scanned the intersection, flipping the two sided sign that dangled from the door from OPEN to CLOSED. Through grimy Venetian blinds, his eyes searched the landscape, lighting first on the Missionary Baptist Church diagonal from his tiny grocery, his gaze falling next on the old high school with its gymnasium built with WPA funding and workers, following clockwise, seeing the police cruiser edging past the gym and the nursing home that stood adjacent to Rodney’s store on the right, watching as it traveled east to the intersection. Bobby Earl Frank lifted a hand out the window of the cruiser, waving toward Rodney’s store without even glancing that way. Rodney did not return the wave.

To a casual observer nothing appeared unusual, the light that controlled traffic at the intersection flashed yellow for east/west traffic…

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September Fiction: FOWL PLAY

When I was a kid, my Momma kept chickens. We got eggs and an occasional chicken dinner. Or in the case where the rooster jumped on my brother Terry, pinned him to the ground and pecked a good sized hole in his forehead—rooster dinner. Momma ended that bad birds life with a flick of her wrist. Nobody messed with Momma’s kids except Momma.

Somewhere in my sixties I started this novel as yet unfinished. Should I give it another shot? You be the judge; I will accept your decision. So here is more September Fiction.

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Fowl Play

Part One: Life Expectancy
Chapter One

A chicken is designed to live thirty years. Most chickens do not live that long because they succumb to a multitude of stresses, disease, and predation. But with a little common sense care and good nutrition, your birds can live a long, happy life. Poultryone.com

“Chickens!?” Mavis Purcell lifted one eyebrow and narrowed her eyes. She crossed her arms beneath her ample bosom rocked back in her chair so that she was gazing slightly upward at the foursome standing across the desk from her.

“Chickens.” The Reverend Henry Porter affirmed as the three who flanked him nodded in agreement.

Mavis tried to choose her words carefully since she had had run-ins with this band of marauders on previous occasions. She glanced from one to the next before speaking, keeping her voice level and non-committal.

“You do understand the idea of this experiment is to choose a pet, like a gold fish, or parakeet or a dog, why even a cat, but chickens? Where on earth or let’s get more specific, where in this facility could you keep chickens? A chicken is not a pet and—”

Thelma Louise standing to the left and back of the Reverend Henry Porter was waving both hands and bouncing in place. Mavis smiled, but her deep sigh threatened to reveal her growing exasperation. Thelma Louise looked like an octogenarian cheerleader with her plump white curls, her crisp white blouse and navy blue pleated skirt that hung longer in the front than the back. Everything about Thelma Louise bounced.

“AND, Oh for heaven’s sake, what is it, Thelma Louise”? An edge crept into her voice, just a hint of stridence that Mavis struggled to control as she waited for Thelma Louise’s response.

“I had a pet chicken when I was a little girl. Daddy bought her for me at Easter. I called her Sadie. She was soft and yellow”

“And, exactly where did you keep Sadie?” Mavis asked.

“In a box, in the kitchen, near Mama’s stove.”

“And when she got bigger, did she stay in the kitchen?” Mavis cocked her head to one side, her smile gone and her tone bordering on sarcastic. This would be a tale to share with Earl over supper at the Cracker Barrel, should she ever get an evening free for such luxuries. Graduating with honors from the University of Kentucky with a degree in hospital administration failed to prepare her for the nuances of her position at Heritage Village. Chickens! What next?

Thelma Louise furrowed her brow; the bouncing stopped. Mavis watched as a large tear—made even larger due to the magnification of Thelma Louise’s coke bottom lenses—formed in Thelma Louise’s eyes. Her lowered lip trembled, but with an exaggerated intake of air, Thelma Louise found her voice.

“Sadie lived her whole life in the kitchen. I would take her out of her box to play and well, Daddy accidentally stepped on her, left her flat as a pancake.”
“How long did Sadie last?” Mavis inquired, struggling mightily not to laugh.

“Two days.” Thelma Louise admitted, then with renewed purpose and strength of voice asserted, “But the point is Sadie was a chicken and my pet.”

The Reverend Henry Porter put his arm around Thelma Louise’s shoulder patting her arm. His facial expression as he looked at Mavis bordered on the kinder side of reproach. Removing his arm from Thelma Louise’s shoulder and glancing sideways at Agnes and Ruth, he eased forward, leaned over Mavis’s desk and leveled his eyes with hers.

“You said we, the residents, could choose a pet. We, Ruth, Agnes, Thelma Louise, and myself, want a rooster and three hens. We’ll build a little chicken coop. Agnes downloaded the plans from the internet. They eat bugs, you know. They lay eggs for up to 18 years. Why! They’ll likely out live all of us.” The Reverend Henry Porter’s voice crested. Mavis could tell he was getting into full preaching momentum.

Mavis unclasped her arms and rising from her chair pressed her hands flat on her desk leaning forward till her face was inches from the Reverend Henry Porter’s. Their eyes locked, then with a sigh, she smiled and stood back.

“You say they lay eggs for 18 years? Just how long do they live after that?”

“The good Lord designed them for up to 30 years with good food, low stress and protection from predators.” He added weight to the word “predators” narrowing his gaze. Mavis propped her right elbow on her left hand and tapped her teeth with her forefinger. The Reverend with his three accomplices flanking, waited for her decision.

Mavis had spent weeks researching the “Residents with Pets” project; research that included visits to two sister facilities. The in-state establishment’s program was only six months old but the out-of-state program had recently celebrated their residents and pets program’s fourth anniversary. From all Mavis could gather both programs were successful with the residents, the staff and even the administration. Just like the journal articles inferred elderly people stayed healthier, mentally and physically if they had animal companions.

The plan Mavis presented to the Board of Directors took days to prepare, because she knew it would be a hard sell. If she hadn’t presented a detailed workable plan, the pilot project would have died at that meeting. Even with all the preparations, the Board was divided. Some of the Board of Directors stood with her. An equal number strongly opposed the concept. Two of the undecided voted for it so it had passed by a narrow margin, with Mr. Frank Askew, Mr. Milk-Toast himself, declining to vote.

Even so, Chickens had never entered her mind. The policy and procedure did not specify which pets and the exclusions prohibited reptiles and wild animals, but there was no mention of chickens. Mavis cringed realizing suddenly that not only were chickens not excluded, neither was any barnyard beast. The way this day was going the Colonel would be lumbering in her office next demanding a horse. She sighed; the bottom line decided. The guidelines did not exclude chickens.

But, Thirty years! Who would think birds could live that long. The Reverend hit the nail when he said the birds would likely outlive their owners. Then what? They’d be too tough to fry or roast. With her luck, they’d leave them to her in their wills. Exhaling audibly, she bit her bottom lip then spoke.

“Okay, we’ll give it a try, but you have to have the coop built first and it has to look decent and be far away enough so that the odor doesn’t offend.”

The Reverend and his little flock smiled in unison and Thelma Louise commenced what might have been a dance step if she could have lifted her feet. As it was, she resembled one of those bobbing hula dolls. The Reverend reached across the desk grasping Mavis’s hand in his and shaking it like she’d just come forward to be baptized.

“Thank you, Thank you, Sister Mavis. We’ve cleared it with Otto. He’s picking up supplies right now and his brother’s going to build it. Agnes ordered the brooder—”

“Whoa! Hold up! What if I had said no? And a….what brooder? Where will that go?”

Ruth spoke for the first time. “We knew you wouldn’t say no. We’d already prayed those little chicks here.”

Agnes supplied the next answer, “The brooder will go into the boiler room. The chicks will be about three days old when we get them. The hatchery will have already vaccinated them for Marek’s disease. They will be in the brooder for a couple of weeks.”

In spite of herself, Mavis laughed. “Ok, chickens it is. Now you four had better get on down to lunch, before Miss Margaret comes searching for you.”

The four exited with The Reverend Henry Porter holding the door. Agnes with her walker, Ruth in her wheelchair, Thelma Louise shuffling, and the Reverend Henry Porter strutting, the foursome departed in single file. At the door, the Reverend Henry Porter turned and said,

“One more thing.”

“Yes.” Suspicion laced the word like arsenic in a drink.

“We have a name for our business, “The Early Birds Hatchery.” He saluted, pulling the door closed behind him.

“What!? Business!?!” Mavis sputtered then plopped into her chair. The office emptied and the door closed, Mavis closed her eyes and took slow even breaths. The old rooster and his hens had worn her out and it wasn’t even 11 AM.