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Amazon links to my stories: Autumn Breeze, A More Perfect Union, Double Happiness, The Wolves of Sherwood Forest, Neanderthals and the Garden of Eden can be found down the right side of the blog.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Christmas romance/short story

Merry Christmas and a belated happy Chanukah to you all,

They say don't burden a blog reader with lengthy anything, but this is my holiday present to you. For those not acquaited with my romance writing style read on and let me know if you liked it or not. Christmas Wings is a short story, inspirational romance, with the same whimsical theme as "It's a Wonderful Life."

For those who can't invest the time in the short story, I'll first present a clip from the holiday classic, It's a Wonderful Life, 1946. This Frank Capra directed movie was based on a short story called, The Greatest Gift, by Philip Stern.



Thanks to a certain dear friend for some little editing suggestions: 12/22/2013 rev. 1
CHRISTMAS WINGS

Apparently, everybody wants to get their cars fixed before Christmas, but could anything or anybody fix my broken life?

Ruth found herself without car, without much food, unemployment running out, and soon—too soon— without a home. But none of that mattered when she thought about losing her only daughter.

Her precious about to be six-year-old, Tina was sick, very sick.

Ruth put six candles into a raisin bagel.

“I’m not hungry, Mommy. You can eat it.”

“But honey, you have to eat and make a wish.”

“I liked the donuts.”

“So did I, but they don’t like me.”

“That’s silly. Donuts don’t have feelings.”

After the dinner, dessert, birthday party combo they watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” for the umpteenth time. What was it about little people and watching stuff over and over?

“How does an angel get to pick the person they want to help? You know, to get their wings.”

“I don’t know, maybe it’s somebody they knew or feel close to. Or maybe God tells them to.”

“I’m going to die on Christmas Eve, so I can give you a present. I’m going to ask God if I can get my wings by helping you find a new daddy.”

Ruth turned her head away so her little girl wouldn’t see the impending flood. After she had learned Tina was dying of Leukemia and then later that nothing could be done anymore, she ran through her savings grasping at half-baked dreams. All the accepted treatments had failed.

Failed, just like the loser she was. Just like her life.
Legs buckling, she dropped to her knees and then worried her daughter would for the first time see the ugly face of despair. Recovering just enough, she opened her arms for a hug. Aside from bright eyes here, she was an abject failure. Utterly, completely, miserably, a poor excuse for a human being.

Oh my darling. I am so sorry.

She petted her little girl’s grown-back golden locks. Took in the heady scent of baby shampoo as if it were her last breath and then snuggled with the light of her life. Without Tina, there’d be no reason to live, no need for charade.

Please God, save my little girl. Oh, please.

She recovered because she had to. “Honey, the best way to help me is to stay right here with me.”

Tina stomped her foot, stubborn like her dad used to be. “You need a daddy. I’m going to get you one for sure when I get to heaven.”

“I bet you won’t have to go to heaven to get me one. I’m still pretty, right?”

“You are the most beautiful mommy in the whole world, ever. I love your robin egg eyes and happy smile too.”

“Just like yours, baby.”

“Daddy said you got it. Whatever that it is.”

Ruth staggered through her words sobbing. “Well then, I’ll just take my ‘it’ and go find a husband for me and a daddy for you and we’re going to pray for a miracle, so you won’t leave me. There now.”

Later, she tucked Tina in. They prayed again for a daddy and a miracle cure. Ruth wondered if just walking by a guy dressed in something form-fitting, maybe gray leotards, short Scotty skirt, gray sweater vest, her long blonde hair flared out like a Christmas tree over her shoulders, would do the trick. Nobody could ever replace her daughter’s father, Winston. He was beautiful of body, face, mind, and spirit.

Was he a spirit up there? Would he get his wings by finding her a husband? Would he steer them to some impossible cure for Tina? Hubby would have to get said suitors and doctors to stop by the house until she could get her car fixed.

Before sleeping, Tina had instructed her mom to put up two sets of bells on the Christmas tree. But Ruth also added mistletoe to the entry arch.

You’d never know which miracle would come first, right?

# # #

Doctor Max Fielding, head of research at CHOP, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, picked up the phone.

“Hello.”

“Doctor Fielding?”

“Yes, sir.”

“This is Angel Winston. I need to get my wings. You’ve got an experimental program for possibly curing Leukemia and I’d like you to consider Ruth Trent’s daughter, Tina, of Philadelphia.”

“Your connection is weird, Angel.” It sounded like Angel was in the middle of a hurricane. “You mentioned wings, are you with the Air Force?”

“Never mind that now. Ruth lost her plant manager’s job to out-sourcing. You heard of Widgets, USA, now in China. Lost her husband in Afghanistan. Her home is almost foreclosed. She’s taking leftovers from bakeries. Her car needs a new head gasket. And her daughter has chosen Christmas Eve to die. And she will if we don’t do something. She’s stubborn.”

“Well, a number of things . . .”

“Yes, I know the 40 volunteers are confidential.”

“I have a heart, Angel, but we can’t be having this conversation.”

“Just check case number 17.”

“Who do you report to?”

“The guy on top. I take my orders from him.”

“I don’t care if you take your orders from God himself. We must maintain hands-off fairness. I’m going to have to go.”

“I’ll send you their pictures and info. Take a look at her mother, ah, I mean the file.” How this person got his email. Was it NSA via the President through NIH?

“I’m afraid you’ve ruined her chances by employing undue influence. Good day, sir.” He hung up, but felt terrible. He should have told the man: with only three weeks til Christmas and if Angel meant literally the child would die around Christmas time, CHOP’s program would not work. Then his texts chirped and his emails beeped.

The texts read:

“We have little time left for this Christmas miracle.”

“My boss is all over me on this one.”

“This will change your entire life.”

“Besides, there’s my wings to consider.”

He must have been dealing with a madman. Still, he’d check number 17. Curiosity was always a weakness with him. Perhaps in another life he might have been a detective.

He picked up his phone. “Jamie, could you check the status of number 17?”

His secretary and nurse assistant reported 17 as just admitted to Saint Jude’s in fair condition. He called security to have his landline phone log and cellphone checked, but they reported he had received no call and couldn’t pin down the source of the texts. Where was NSA when you needed them?

Later, Jamie buzzed him. “Doctor, number 17 died 33 minutes ago. I am so sorry.”

“I know, a little boy, four years old. God awful. I’ll make the call, but I want you to run the lottery from the pool for a new volunteer, immediately.” He would never interfere with a blind and fair system, no matter how many Angels called him. He couldn’t save them all, but maybe one more.

“Yes, Doctor.”

More texts and emails came in. He inspected them one by one, read all the very compelling info and then staggered when he saw a full page image of the little girl’s mom, Ruth. He relaxed, now euphoric in reflection. Sweat on his fingers. This gorgeous woman used to go to the same gym. The most fantastic creature he had ever seen in his life. She had exhibited signs of fainting the first time they met. This twisted his heart with the odd implication someone actually found him desirable without knowing he was a doctor. Her empathetic heart, sweet disposition, overwhelming smile and obvious attraction to him had made them fast friends, maybe besherte or soulmates. He nicknamed her, Sunshine, to match her hair and life nurturing nature. He soured on the next thought; he had finally decided to make time and date her, if only in short intervals. The prospect of finding a cure for leukemia kept him in the lab seven days a week, often back again at night. But then she disappeared by quitting the gym. He tossed away his libido and all things male to become a one-eyed monster focused on saving mankind, God willing.

A new text came in.

“Ruth’s been eating too many donuts, lately.” Would this guy ever quit?

He had to allow the lottery to pick a new number 17.

Jamie buzzed him. “The new and local volunteer is on your screen, doctor.”

“Thanks, Jamie, I’ll take care of the call. Prepare the paperwork, shots, extraction-pac, and cross-matched RBC for transport.” The secret lay in infusing the child with cancer killing T-cells. The patient might exhibit AIDS like side effects, for which the mother would have to sign the consent form one more time.

With 1637 possible volunteers from all over the world, it was no small miracle that Ruth Trent’s child, Tina, was chosen. Living just off 54th and City Line and considering how much he’d like to tell her in person, he knocked his knee jumping up, which spun his chair. He sprinted for his coat. High school geekyness to the extreme.

Jamie peeked up from paperwork, with a look of alarm. He never left early.

“It turns out the new patient is on my way home.”

“I should go with.”

Max tried to duplicate the patient’s mother’s heartwarming smile. Jamie tossed her pen over her shoulder. “She must be pretty,” said with eyes rolling. Jamie buried her head in the paperwork but he could still see a blush. “Well, go on. Leave me here all alone.”

He didn’t know what to say so he decided to put foot in mouth. “You know I love you like a sister. . . . but you and the team will coordinate the follow up home or hospital visits.” Memo to self: offer to fix Ruth’s car.

Just 33 minutes later, despite snow flurries, he pulled up to an old three story Victorian badly in need of repairs. The place loomed over forward, perfect for Halloween.

# # #

Ruth had tried on her man-catching outfit and was practicing her smile in the mirror when the doorbell rang.

“Oh my God, it’s you.” Max had always been polite, giving her space. She never gave him her address, email, or phone. Perplexed. She smiled broadly while delivering a prickly line. “Well come on in, stranger. You haven’t turned into a stalker, Max? Have you?”

“No, not ever, Sunshine. I’m here to deliver a little good news.”

A little duplicate of her mother came running down the stairs, eyes widening the closer she got.

“Are you my new daddy I’ve been praying for?” She shook his hand while nodding her head seeking a yes answer. He squatted for an eye to eye.

“Maybe, sweetheart.”

Aside from being stunned by his remark, Ruth really never knew who had the worst case of infatuation. She wrote off his remark as an effort to placate her daughter.

It worked out great, bagels and coffee, quite chic, if he only knew, that’s about all she had in the house. He explained his position at CHOP, the 40 volunteers, the unfortunate loss of a little boy. She gladly signed every paper he slid over to her.

“So by some minor miracle the completely blind lottery picked you, Tina, to hopefully get well. I know nobody likes needles and shots but I’ve got little medical miracles inside this bag and brand new blood. Would you like to see what I’ve got in here?”

“I’ll take the needles and blood, Doctor, if you’ll marry my mommy.”

“One miracle at a time, baby,” Max said. He looked into Ruth’s eyes, as if searching for a yes. Sure they had chemistry, definitely the hots, but a life together?

While Max poked Tina with needles, he chatted her up with whimsical remarks and inventive fantasies.

Entranced and unflinching, Tina said, “So maybe I won’t have to die on Christmas Eve. Doctor, will you stay with us, on Christmas Eve, so I don’t kick the buckets? You see, I made a promise to my daddy that I would help him get his wings, starting that day.”

“I’ll be there.” A tear fell from Max’s eye, and sheepishly he peered up at Ruth. “If your mom will let me.”

What could she say? The universe was conspiring against her. Or was it the other way around? Over more bagels and coffee, they discussed the child’s belief in angels, wings, and her daddy Winston. Looking at his kind face and intense eyes, she dared to consider miracles.

“I love your outfit, Sunshine. I’ve missed you like you would not believe.”

“Me too. You still make me spin.” The first time she met Max, she had to grab hold of the weights rack to keep from fainting.

“It’s a good start.” He said his goodbyes with hugs, and kisses on their cheeks. Good enough for now.

# # #

Three solid weeks of stolen minutes and hours followed. They were definitely becoming more than friends.
On Christmas Eve, the three of them decided to hang bells Max had bought, all over the tree. It was fun and with the initial medical results encouraging, appropriate. He had never had a better Guinea piggy. Her progress might break every record.

“It’s encouraging but she’s not out of the woods yet.”

His cell rang. His nurse/secretary Julie was calling late. “I’m sorry to disturb you, Doctor, but ah.”

“Go on, Julie. I’m just decorating Tina and Ruth’s tree with some more bells.”

“I’m glad you are, Doctor. Wish them the best for me. About Tina, and aside from a merry Christmas for them and again, happy Chanukah for you, I have some very good news.”

“Let me put you on speaker.”

“Hi everybody and especially you, little one. You are doing so good, Tina, you won’t have to die today. Nope, maybe you’ll live a long, long life.”  She went on to explain how the computer predicted a complete cure, if they stayed with the regiment.

“Maybe I’ll get a handsome husband like Doctor Max someday.”

Ruth, staggered by all the news, bumped the tree setting the bells to ring.

“What’s that?” Jamie asked.

“Just a little miracle wouldn’t you say?” Max gathered the girl and woman into a group hug. He had an instant family. Thanks to Ruth’s deceased husband, Max’s life would change forever. If only he could convince a certain someone that her angel husband, Winston, believed they belonged together. He prayed for just one more miracle. Silly thoughts for a man of science, but what did he know, really? Lately? Not much, indeed.

A little later, Tina tucked in and sleeping, Max casually maneuvered Ruth to under the mistletoe.

“As your child’s doctor, don’t you think I deserve a kiss?” He pointed up at the hemiparasitic, poisonous plant, and quack cure for cancer hanging over them. A very pretty and in this case potent plant, indeed.

“Well, I guess, it’s the least I could do.” He stared down into her beautiful blues, noticed her dreamy, almost school girl excitement and knew she wanted him too.

He bent down and kissed her, sweetly. What sounded like a crescendo of chapel bells rang in his head.

“Did you make the bells ring?” She tiptoed into another kiss.

They weren’t close enough to the tree to jostle the bells.

“I think, Winston, has gotten enough wings for an eternity.” He wrapped her more tightly into his arms. “Would you consider marrying me? I mean if . . .”

She shut him up with another and deeper kiss, promising everything.

With a beaming smile and breathless voice, she said, “Maybe.”

Sunday, December 8, 2013

MEN ON TOP


Men on top.

As a chess master, I was attracted to the World Chess Championship recently concluded in which the young twenty-two year old challenger, Magnus Carlsen, Norway, took the title away from the forty-three year old champion, Vishi Anand, India. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch to present this here, but it might give you a peek into a world most know little about (see the video) and show a little about how the best at the top of their game treat the competition and the competitor. It’s true for women too. Right? These two men became friends primarily out of respect and a common love for chess. In writing, a sterling hero is often chivalrous or appreciative of another person’s efforts to achieve greatness. Generally the same end is sought by women; they just have a somewhat different way of showing it. This brings to mind women like Christi Yamaguchi, Laili Ali and the magnanimous way they treated their competitors.

This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t portray scalawags or heroes in the process of change.
 
You may find some interesting behaviors in the ways these two men present themselves:
Post final game press conference: World Chess Chamionship, 2013.

 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Sound Of Music

Tomorrow night, December 5th, 2013, Thursday, 8 PM til 11 on NBC, Carrie Underwood will pay homage to a much beloved role and actress, Julie Andrews. I'm sure she'll do well. But that's not why I'm writing.

My mom is suffering from a form of dementia, but she remembers completely only one movie, The Sound Of Music. But that's not why I'm writing.

This movie is a romance, first and foremost, with a very traditional happily ever after. Is it epic like Doctor Zhivago? In a way, yes. It's not as sweeping. Is it inspirational like one of Judy Duarte's romance novels' inspirationals? In a way, yes. It's not as focused.

So what is it about this movie/play/TV production/book-memoir that endears the audience to it? I'd like to say, there was never a greater evil to inhabit the earth (Nazism) and for love to be the weapon of choice in defeating this evil makes us all feel better. So better not miss it, if you write romance or are human!

For the record and to get ready for tomorrow night:
20th Century Fox's promotion for The Sound Of Music,
starring Julie Andrews & Christopher Plummer, 1965.

 
 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Devil or Angel

Devil or Angel

Do guys like devils or angels? Do they like the naughty girl or the straight-laced? It depends. Are we talking straight laced to the point it must always be the missionary position and only on a harvest moon? Are we talking naughty to the point that she ties you down, literally (and then performs a ritual sacrifice)?

Of course, the answer is, it takes all kinds, but you had better show both the hero and heroine considering what they like and don’t like, what they want from a life partner.  I’ve read some romances in which I have no idea, beyond sex, why the two are together.

I think it would be interesting to have a hero or heroine who is both straight-laced and wild. How fun is that? Think, the naughty librarian. How about a woman who is addicted to porn (by herself) and is caught (extremely unlikely and I wouldn't write that, but . . .)? The unusual may not be very close to real life, but it would certainly be memorable and it would leave your reader with something more to worry about.

DEVIL OR ANGEL, original recording, 1956, by The Clovers


I want to know if you're a devil or angel. The ms. I'm working on now is all about a devil or angel. I got my inspiration not from the song, but from one of our own great and famous authors, Linda Thomas-Sundstrom. Nobody writes this type of character better.