The “bare” part of the title doesn’t fit any longer, as our Arizona living evolves around tank tops and shorts, but there was a bear in our neighborhood one summer, and we frequently see javelinas marching down the streets and munching on the cacti, as well as deer on the golf courses and coyotes everywhere. Besides the snake that landed on my husband’s shoulder as he was opening our front door, we have occasional visits from them on our back patio, in our garage, and hiding under rocks and bushes. Sometimes they’re rattlers. I saw a wildcat on my neighbor’s back fence, and a covey of quails was born in our backyard. But the most unusual animal to visit us showed up on our roof.
We heard the patter of footsteps for several nights and finally called pest control, thinking we had pack rats nesting up there. A man with a cage showed up late the next day and climbed up to the roof. When he finally descended and rang our doorbell, his cage was no longer empty. Inside was an animal sporting a gorgeous bushy tail and huge round eyes, like the ones we remembered from our night-flying squirrels. It was a ringtail, a nocturnal animal resembling a small fox with a raccoon-like tail. It is usually seen only at night in woods and rocky areas, not places like our roof, so it was thrilling to see it up close and to learn it’s the state animal of Arizona.
As a postscript to my three days of animal stories, you might be interested to know that I grew up in the city, never had a pet, and until I married knew wild animals only from zoos. I’d love to hear comments from my readers. And don’t forget, TAKING THE TUMBLE will be FREE Oon Kindle tomorrow through Sept. 28. Go to Buy at Amazon on my home page or,
The next week the plumber we’d hired finally arrived and installed our appliances. We set our dining table in front of the 8 ft. long windows of the living-dining room and invited close friends for our first try at entertaining in our new home. I had just put a casserole on the table when my friend Marian, who was facing the window, let out a piercing scream and pointed. I turned to see our mama bear had returned. She was standing on two legs, her front paws leaning on a protruding windowsill, peering in at us. Her head looked huge. The little ones were behind her busily munching the Cheerios we had put out for the raccoons. Years later my friend still reminds me of the shock she received that day.
From then on our garbage was frequently raided, but we never saw the bear or her cubs so close to the house again. We had to content ourselves with a possum who perched on a dogwood tree outside the window where it could see our TV screen and seemed always there for its favorite program. A skunk shared the dish of Cheerios with our raccoons on a regular basis, needing only to raise its tail to keep the ‘coons at a distance. And flying squirrels would perform their acrobatics for us by swooping down into the bird feeder, even though we had lights on in the back yard. There was also a tame deer who would lie down in front of our house close enough to pet, but the next time we were visited by unusual beasties occurred when we moved to Arizona—tomorrow’s story.
I’ve read that pets in romance novels attract readers, but that wasn’t on my mind when I included Oxy Moron, a pet lizard, into Taking the Tumble. He somehow landed there right from my subconscious and plays a small but significant part. Speaking of animals, however, I could tell a few stories.
We built our vacation house in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania several years ago and moved in before the plumbing arrived. A little chemical toilet was placed by the porch back stairs. One full moon night I went out to use the facilities. I had just pulled down my pajama bottoms when I heard a noise by the garbage can. A black bear was clawing at the heavy elastic that held down the cover. We stared at each other for a moment that felt like an hour. Then, to my surprise, she waved a paw at three little cubs I hadn’t noticed hiding behind her. They ran to a nearby tree and clambered up clumsily, the bottom one climbing right over the first two to get farthest away. It was like watching an old Keystone Kops routine.
Grabbing hold of my bottoms, I ran onto the porch and watched as the mother bear ripped off the garbage can cover and ate her messy meal before calling the cubs down for their share and then ambling away. The next time I saw her is tomorrow’s tale.
Blogging is brand new to me, so I’ll begin by describing another first—one with a surprise ending. A few years ago I sent a short story to Fanfares, a Canadian publication of the Stratford Festival of Canada, who had scheduled a play about Oscar Wilde for that season. They don’t print fiction, but I did get a review—and what a review it was!
“…One recent submission was slim and charming enough to slip under the razor wire of Miss Fanfare’s vigilance. Sent by reader Eve D. Crook of…Arizona, it proved to be…a short story: a whimsical parody of Wilde’s celebrated novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which, it will be remembered, a wicked young man lives free from the ravages of time and debauchery, his youth and beauty magically preserved by a portrait that ages in his stead.
“In Ms. Crook’s pleasing pastiche, entitled The Picture of DoriAnne Gray, this famous conceit finds its modern-day parallel in the photo-manipulation software now commonly available for home computers. DoriAnne, a matron not so far into her prime that rebellious hell cannot still mutine in her bones, causes to be erased from her digitized photograph all lines, sags and other toothmarks of cormorant devouring Time, whereupon her physical body begins to assimilate itself to its digitally enhanced simulacrum. The results are, on the one hand, greatly enhanced marital relations and, on the other, a moment of blind panic when, as astute readers will already have predicted, the hard drive crashes. Miss Fanfares thanks Ms. Crook for brightening her day with this ingenious little fable, and congratulates her on her shrewd grasp of the Zeitgeist of the cybernetic era…”
I got out the dictionary to make sure I fully understood the review and, as you can imagine, was thoroughly delighted. 🙂 I showed it to a writer friend who assured me one of the “True” magazines would go for it. And they did.
Within three weeks I received a contract in the mail, and shortly after the story appeared. (Without my name, as the stories in these magazines aren’t signed.) I could hardly wait to open the magazine. Stopped right in the supermarket aisle to read it.
A few changes had been made. The story was now titled, “Picture Perfect.” Well, O.K., I thought, that’s a pretty good title. Then I noticed that the names of my characters had been changed—not only DoriAnne, which no longer fit with the changed title, but the husband’s too. I can’t explain that one.
The story sounded just like I had written it (I’d made some changes from the copy I had first sent to Canada) until it came to my jokes and sly references to Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray. Every bit of satire had been removed!
I could have cried…but the check helped.
I’d like to hold a contest for unusual review paragraphs—great, awful, or just plain funny—the winner to receive an e-book copy of my novel, Taking the Tumble, when it is released. Just sign in with your name and email on my contact page and add your paragraph to the box. Or sign in just to comment or get my newsletter. Cheers! Eve