Beastly Tales EXCERPTS

Beastly Tales
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T. Lee Harris

Wanting the Fish, Pendy Takes a Rider, Blessing of Saint Francis, Now You Sea God, Now You Don’t

Jeannine Baumgartle

Rabbits in Heaven

Marian Allen

Fish and Visitors, The Styrofoam Kitty

Joy Kirchgessner

Dixie, Music of Trickling Water, Queen

Sara Deurell

Monkey Can’t Buy Me Love

Jordan Coe


~Wanting the Fish
by T. Lee Harris

~Rabbits in Heaven
by Jeannine Baumgartle

~Fish and Visitors
by Marian Allen

Great Horned Owl (painting)
by Joy Kirchgessner

~Pendy Takes a Rider
by Bonnie L. Abraham

~The Styrofoam Kitty
by Marian Allen

by Carole Wyatt

Cougar (painting)
by Joy Kirchgessner

~The Music of Trickling Water
by Joy Kirchgessner

~Lighning Bugs
by Jeannine Baumgartle

~Monkey Can’t Buy Me Love
by Ginny Fleming

Bluebird (painting)
by Joy Kirchgessner

by Dirk Griffin

~Blessing of Saint Francis
by Glenda Mills

by Jane E. Jones

Calico Catnap (painting)
by Joy Kirchgessner

~From Outside
by Jeannine Baumgartle

by Joanna Foreman

~–Not Even a Mouse
by Jeannine Baumgartle

Sharp Shinned Hawk (painting)
by Joy Kirchgessner

~He Tells Me I Cannot Love the Raven
by Marian Allen

~Now You Sea God, Now You Don’t
by T. Lee Harris

~Out of the Cradle
by Marian Allen

White-Tailed Deer: Safe Passageway (painting)
by Joy Kirchgessner

by Jeannine Baumgartle

Wanting the Fish
by T. Lee Harris

The fish were laughing at me. They gathered in the shadow of my papyrus boat, waiting for the next entertainment. I situated my feet on the sides of the canoe, and gripped the spear firmly — which must’ve twitched the attached cord, because it suddenly jerked backwards. Turning, I disengaged the cord from the teeth and claws of the large, playfully growling cat. “Neffi! Get off!” Rippling spotted fur in satisfaction, he sauntered to the back of the boat and flattened himself over the bundled stems where he watched the gathered fish, tail lashing. “Nefer-Djenou-Bastet! You have got to be the most unhelpful animal in the two lands. I’ll never catch a fish if you keep doing that.”It took some effort to put the cord right, but at last, I was standing again, spear poised, reviewing the morning’s instructions: Hold it firmly, but not too tightly, let the shaft be an extension of your arm, and most of all, want that fish!

Rabbits in Heaven
by Jeannine Baumgartle

I lie down for a nap, for some reason thinking about heaven, wondering what it will be like…and wake to a field full of rabbits. They pose, noses quivering, in all the prettiness of their kind, unconcerned by spirit intruders.

There is plenty for them to eat. They pallumph casually in the sunshine, the watching and listening signaled by their sentries inclined more toward wind in the grass, and flower nods, and sun-paths that streak into the woods, than to caution. Even bird shadow doesn’t disturb them. Shadows here are only quiet, restful places to gaze out from.

I make a bunny chart on the yellow note-pad I brought with me….

Fish and Visitorsby Marian Allen

Brittany was four. She hated her name and she loved her Mommy and Daddy. Her best friends at pre-school changed at least once a week, but her best friends at home were always Lavern, the stuffed armadillo, and John Randolph. John Randolph was an inflatable Tyrannosaurus Rex two feet taller than Brittany. …

“I was in the kitchen, under the table, eating those crumbly things with chocolate in them, and I heard one of the ladies I don’t know tell Mommy that Aunt Britta’s a man-eater, and always was, and she’d better keep an eye on Daddy!” She was really worried, almost scared. Those red, red lips. …

Brittany explained it to John Randolph. “You just have to be careful. You have to think about what you’re doing, and act like you’ve got a little sense. Then the man-eater won’t hurt you.”

“How much little sense is enough, though?” asked Lavern. “Does your Daddy have enough?”

“Probably,” said Brittany, but she wasn’t sure.

Pendy Takes a Riderby Bonnie L. Abraham

The mule, who had been standing with his back to the door, looking out the small window, turned and snorted softly, stretching his neck until his nose was just in reach of Gambion’s hand.

“You’re enjoying the blue sky, too, are you?” Gambion slid his hand gently over the soft muzzle, then reached up and scratched between the tall, pointed ears.

Just a little higher.

The boy shook his head, as though ridding his hair of some crawly thing. Strange. Thought I heard something.

Stall’s not too bad. Rather have a good scratch with a currycomb, if you don’t mind.

Gambion jerked his hand back, causing the mule to start.

“Sorry, boy.” He reached out again, and patted the animal on the neck. “I’m just feeling a little strange.”

S’all right. As long as you go get that currycomb.

Dixieby Carole Wyatt

“Don’t worry honey, it’s not another dog,” Daddy assured her with a twinkle in his eye.

“Then what?” Momma queried as she slowly walked down the split concrete steps afraid of what she might find in the back seat. A weak neigh drifted out of the open car window.

“Not a horse!” Momma’s face was red as she aimed an accusing stare.

Daddy opened the car door and lifted out a scrawny, piebald pony that could barely stand on its own. Its head was down as if trying to balance. Ribs stood out from its mud-spattered coat as it wheezed.

“Jimmy,” Momma exclaimed in frustration. “You were supposed to get work today, not dog food!”

The Music of Trickling Waterby Joy Kirchgessner

On a sunny, summer day, in a back yard around a shallow, rippling garden pool designed especially to attract birds, the little feathered wonders gathered to refresh themselves. The human owners of this oasis built a glassed-in patio to watch the activity and surrounded the pool with avian friendly trees envisioning a feng shui-like beauty and tranquility. But realistically, nature has a pecking order.

Earl and Roy, being lowly sparrows, were waiting last in a long line at the pool. Hot, dirty and exhausted, they perched in a weeping mulberry and passed the time chitter-chattering to each other. Earl was a mated bird; Roy was younger and had not yet found a partner.

“I just can’t figure it out. I keep in shape, keep myself groomed, and try to bathe regularly,” aiming the last statement in ineffectual protest at a female robin who was taking her sweet time in the pool. She was smugly splashing about and savoring her right of domination. She stretched her wing languorously.

Earl heckled her, “Don’t you have a nest to sit on somewhere? Those eggs must be getting cold by now.” Then he said to Roy, “If we could get the princess out of there, the line might move a little faster.”

Lightning Bugsby Jeannine Baumgartle

I love lightning bugs. When the very last shades of sunset become more mist than color, and the long grass is wet with dew, soft light rises in random flares all over the yard. Children are drawn to the momentary radiance, play at capturing it till the moon turns them into sylphs and sprites.

Monkey Can’t Buy Me Loveby Ginny Fleming

The summer of my twelfth year, I was truly, madly, deeply in love. The boy was ungrateful and unaware of my preteen passion and yet I worshiped the very concrete he walked on. His name provoked silver bells in my head, Disney bluebirds in the air and happy butterflies in my stomach– put mildly: I believed I’d die without this gorgeous hunk of masculine beauty in my life.

To my young eyes, JT was a dark-haired Adonis. …

Then, as cruel Fate would have it, I was wrenched away from my summer love by a forced vacation in Florida (a visit to my aunt’s house in Daytona) with only the sun and the beach to occupy my time. Bummer. Two weeks away from my Prince. What, oh, what to do? …

That’s where I found him. Joe. Joe, the spider monkey. A pound and a half of brown-eyed mischief and fun, accompanied by two ounces of monkey-doo approximately every half-hour. …

While moping dejectedly about my Dad’s foul mood (constant, since I’d acquired Joe), it occurred to me that Joe might be a useful instrument in my pursuit of JT. So, it came to pass, on a bright sunny morning, at the summer days’ wane, Joe and I traveled the ten blocks or so to Grandma’s house, a journey gleefully necessitating passing my true love’s castle.

Blessing of Saint Francisby Glenda Mills

October 4th was one of Joseph Francis Jerome Shane’s favorite days. It was the feast day for St. Francis of Assisi, a man who had found God most profoundly in the splendor, complexity, and beauty of nature. Because of his spirituality, October 4th was also the day for the blessing of animals. Father Joe had spent the cool, crisp morning in the parking lot of St. Clare’s, laying hands on cats, dogs, hamsters, fish bowls, lizards, and one very large snake, asking God, through the intercession of St. Francis, to keep them safe and healthy. Now he was on the road, making rounds to the farms to bless the horses, cows, goats, pigs, and sheep.

By the time he pulled into the Worton place, he’d had enough glasses of sweet tea and lemonade to float the Ark. He’d eaten pie, cake, cookies, one breakfast, and a couple of lunches. He was glad this was his last stop. Being cordial was upsetting his stomach. His front seat was already crowded with various jellies and jams, jars of vegetables, and a loaf of homemade bread.

Matthew Worton came running down the driveway to meet Father’s car. Matt was wearing his favorite Spiderman T-shirt and denim shorts. He had his mother’s chestnut hair and his dad’s green eyes. He was short for his six years, thin, and tan from playing outdoors all summer.

“Father Joe! Father Joe!” The boy was shouting before the priest was even out of his car.

“Hi, Matt. Is your mom in the house?”

“Yeah, but I need you to come to the barn with me right now. It’s real important. My puppy’s sick.”

Queenby Jane E. Jones

Queen was found at the stockyards, on her way to the dog food factory, in the early 1940’s. She was a sixteen-hand, Standardbred mare with a habit of rearing and throwing herself over backwards whenever something didn’t suit her.

My dad bought her for $25.00 and brought her home to our farm near Salem. Eventually, he convinced her that the rearing and falling over backwards was a bad idea, mostly by letting her do it repeatedly, and then making her do what she didn’t want to anyway.

I was three years old at the time and didn’t care if she had bad habits with the adults. She never used them with me. I loved her at first sight. My older sister and I already had a black Welsh pony, named Billy. From the moment I saw her, I abandoned Billy to my sister and claimed Queen as my own.

Transformationby Joanna Foreman

According to the rules, you have to live a specific number of animal lives before you can come to Earth a human. An animal can’t select his owner; all he can do is state his purpose in life. My purpose was to make a difference in this world. I think that’s why Michael chose me. My life as a Siberian husky lasted less than five months, but it was the best time I’ve had so far. The entrance was a piece of cake, but the exit was the worst imaginable for any animal I’ve ever known. However, I’ve only known a few, for I am yet a young soul; if this craziness doesn’t stop, I’ll never accumulate enough Earth-time to become an old one.

–Not Even a Mouseby Jeannine Baumgartle

Since I am no more than a quote from a popular myth, the term even, admittedly, and at first glance, sets me apart even further from this story. Why mention me at all, unless there is a role to be filled, a connection to the imagination that nothing else could bridge? I think I am alive, after all, in this context.

Now You Sea God, Now You Don’tby T. Lee Harris

The deep KLOOONNNG of a heavy Revere Ware lid hitting the kitchen floor launched him from the bath and toward the door with a bellow. Pausing to jam his arms into his ratty kimono, he pelted down the stairs. “Damn you! All of you! This I didn’t miss in Peru!”

The kitchen was empty except for the pan lid rocking gently on the linoleum and a splotchy trail of broth that led to the living room, across the parquet to the couch. Which was growling. …

“Cats. Why do I even like you?” He shook the mauled chicken wing at them. “Well, this you forfeit, cat creeps.”

As he stood to toss the wing in the trash, his gaze fell on the light table and the unfinished drawing surrounded by glossy photographs of the gleaming mask of the Moche sea god. The golden splendor drew him to it as surely as the fragrant chicken broth drew the cats.

Another cat face snarled out from the illustration board and the photos. A cat face of pure gold with inlaid teeth and startling blue eyes surrounded by eight tentacles of an octopus tipped with tongue-flicking snake heads. It was a riveting piece with a convoluted history. Made to adorn the brow of an ancient Moche king, it was looted from a northern Peruvian tomb in 1988. It then disappeared, only to be recovered by Scotland Yard from a dusty file cabinet in the offices of a prestigious London law firm almost twenty years later. Where had it been? No one knew or was saying. If the mask could talk …ah, it probably wouldn’t tell. It was part cat, after all.

Out of the Cradleby Marian Allen

I learned my lesson about the land when I was not much bigger than these youngsters. I had only hatched four months earlier and was barely swimming on my own, but I thought I knew as much as any of the grown merfolk.

“Stay away from the beach!” the old ones warned us, over and over, and we paid as little attention as these youngsters do now.



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