Tag Archives: Carding Chronicle

Shiver Season

SH-shiver seasonThis week, the cold weather has finally returned to Vermont. While Edie Wolfe, Ruth Goodwin, and Andy Cooper are scrambling to find their winter accoutrements, their dogs are eager to get outside!

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.


The weather had been deceptively warm—too warm, really—for so long that the first real cold of November caught everyone by surprise.

Edie Wolfe’s winter jackets were still packed in the back of her closet. Andy Cooper couldn’t find his heavy gloves, and Ruth Goodwin stayed up very late at night, swapping her summer shirts out of the closet to make room for the turtlenecks she’d packed away in April.

That morning, to add an edge of interest, the wind stepped up its activity from ambling to blustery, spinning a sprinkle of cold rain into tiny balls of snow that coagulated in the hollows among the brown leaves hugging the ground.

Edie pulled on an insulated sweatshirt as she stirred up her kitchen’s wood stove, laying small logs on the embers to get the fire hot. It was quite the juggling act, placing the wood just so while hopping from one foot to the other in an attempt to warm herself.

It was tempting to turn on the furnace for a few minutes to warm up the house while she waited. But every time her eyes strayed to the thermostat, Edie heard her father saying: “Real Yankees don’t use oil when they can use wood.”

She jumped around some more, wishing she didn’t agree with her father.

Across the green at Cooper’s General Store and Emporium, Andy hitched the old rocker he kept in the basement closer to his wood-burning furnace. Over the years, he’d hired out the stacking parts of the store’s heating system to a series of high school students who worked under his watchful eye. But he reserved the stoking of the furnace for himself. Not only was he sensitive to its many eccentricities, Andy thoroughly enjoyed the daily opportunities to bask in its heat.

“There is no heat that warms you quite the way that wood does,” he told himself with a sigh, his hands wrapped around a large mug of cocoa laced with strong coffee.

Ruth carefully spread her jeans and a thick sweater out on the floor of her bedroom while her coffee brewed in the kitchen next door. Her small and tidy home was one of the many rewards she’d reaped from her first—and so far, only—husband when she divorced him. And he had been a devotee of radiant floor heating.

A few minutes later, Ruth sighed with satisfaction as she pulled on her pre-warmed clothes.

While their humans acted like so many heat-seeking missiles, the dogs in their lives parked themselves close to the doors that led outside, each of them ready for a morning frisk.

Edie’s cocker spaniel, Nearly, rocked from side to side, excited little whiny noises escaping from him from time to time. This was his kind of weather, and with the die-back of the thick undergrowth, it was his kind of terrain as well. There would be so many new smells to investigate.

Ruth’s beagle, R.G., occasionally abandoned his post in a vain attempt to herd his human toward the door. Coffee in hand, Ruth opened the back door to see if he needed to relieve himself but R.G. made it clear he was not leaving without her.

“Oh, all right, all right,” she muttered. “I supposed I can grab a bagel at the Coop.”

R.G. tilted his head back and howled with joy when Ruth grabbed his leash. Then he rushed out the open door, his tail lashing the cold morning air.

Sable, Andy Cooper’s rescue dog, tried to be a bit more diplomatic. She sat close by her human’s rocker, her chin up, shoulders back, and ears tipped forward.

“You look like you’re getting ready to salute,” he said, his hand cuddling her chin. Sable had been rather a surprise in his life. Andy thought he was done with dogs after he lost his chocolate lab a few years back. The heartache had been almost unbearable.

But he’d never regretted Sable for a moment. “It was a mutual rescue,” he’d confided in Edie.

He drained his morning mocha then stretched upright, pushing his hands into the small of his back. “Let me get my boots on, and we’ll be off,” he said. Sable was up the stairs, and seated at the store’s back door before the last word was out of Andy’s mouth.

“Hmph, I guess we’re in a hurry,” he muttered.

Sable got more excited by the second as she watched Andy draw on his boots and pull a hat over his ears. As soon as the back door opened, she exploded into the yard to run several yards up the path leading to Half Moon Lake, their favorite walk, and then ran right back again, barking joyously in the cold air.

Andy had just grabbed his favorite walking stick to follow the dog when two cars pulled in next to his truck.

“Well, this is a pleasant surprise,” he said as Ruth and Edie swiveled out of their seats. The barking index rose several notches as the three dogs greeted one another, ran, pivoted, and then ran some more.

“This cold sure does wake them up, doesn’t it?” Edie said as they watched the canine greetings.

‘Yeah, sure does.” He looked at his two friends. “Would you be in the mood for bagels?”

“I sure would,” Ruth said. “R.G. had me out of the house before I could finish my coffee, never mind grabbing anything to eat.”

“Be right back,” Andy said.

And so shiver season began in earnest that morning with a quick-stepping walk down a path through the woods, the dogs taking ten strides for every human’s one as they darted through the shriveled undergrowth to follow every promising scent.

November can be a very good month.


Carding Time

SH-daylight savings timeAs always, your recommendations to friends to visit Carding, Vermont are deeply appreciated so please do not hesitate to spread the word. As long as you keep visiting, I’ll keep writing.

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

This morning, we’re going to join the coffee klatch at the Crow Town Bakery. This is an amorphous group, one that contracts and expands and changes membership from day to day. Today happens to be an all-guy day, and they’re discussing the recent changing of the clocks.



“Who’s idea was this, anyway?” Andy Cooper grumped to the morning coffee klatch gathered in the corner booth at the Crow Town Bakery.

“Some guy named George Hudson, a Kiwi,” Amos Handy said.

Andy gaped at him. “Seriously, Amos, how do you know these things?”

The older man shrugged. “Working with the books in the Swap Shed, I get to read a lot.”

“Go on, then, tell us,” Charlie Cooper, Andy’s younger brother, said. “Why did some New Zealander want to monkey around with our clocks so that we all lose sleep in the spring, and then have to deal with the sun setting at 3 p.m. in January. If there’s any time of the year when I’d love to have a bit of extra daylight in the afternoon, it’s January.”

“Hudson was an entomologist, a bug guy, and he wanted more sunlight at the end of the day so he could collect specimens after working his day job,” Amos said. “That was back in 1895 or so but the idea didn’t get anywhere until World War I.”

Hillary Talbot stopped by the table, a pot full of steaming coffee in her hand. The members of the morning klatch paused to admire the bright yellow beads in her hair, and her mismatched socks—one kelly green and the other magenta. “Are you guys talking about Daylight Savings Time again?” she asked.

The men looked at one another like small boys caught with handfuls of verboten candy. “What do you mean, again?” Charlie finally asked.

Hillary rested her coffee container on the table. “Every year, you guys complain about going on Daylight Savings Time in March and then you complain about going off Daylight Savings Time in November. We just switched the clocks so I figured that was the topic of conversation this morning.”

She looked down at Peter Foster, and they smiled at one another. “I like the beads in your hair,” he said.

She touched them with her hand, her smile spreading wider. “Yeah? Some nice guy I know bought them for me.”

Ted Owens, the local postmaster, glanced from Peter to Hillary and back. “So tell me, when are you two finally going to get married?”

The couple blushed, and Hillary got busy topping up the coffee cups on the table.

“Well?” Andy asked.

“Well, you’ll just have to wait and see, Andy,” Hillary said. “But in the meantime, I have a question for all of you.”

Five faces turned up toward hers. “And your question is?” Amos said.

“When we go back to standard time, we fall back an hour, right?”

The five heads nodded.

“So we have one day a year with 25 hours in it, am I right?”

More nodding.

“So I want to know if you’re going to waste that extra hour complaining about something that will literally take an act of Congress to change…”

“Ha, and we all know that Congress can’t be bothered to do anything at all, especially if it’s useful,” Amos said.

“Right,” Hillary said. “So you’ve got an extra hour in your day. Time’s kinda precious, right? So how are you going to spend it?”

And with those words, the bakery’s star waitress hustled off to pick up her next round of orders, and deliver them to her customers.

Most of the coffee klatch quintet watched her go. Hillary had a way about her that each man appreciated, though for different reasons. But Ted took the moment to study Peter’s face, wondering why his friend wouldn’t answer the marriage question.

“What?” Peter asked when he caught Ted staring at him.

“Did you two already get married and not tell anyone?” Ted asked, riveting the attention of everyone else at the table. The prospect of new gossip was irresistible.

Peter’s face went up in flames. “No, no,” he said, shaking his head. “Nothing like that.”

“So what is it, then?”

“Ahem.” Hillary’s throat clearing was audible across the restaurant, and Peter’s eyes flew to her face. When she had his attention, she raised her hand to her tightly closed lips, and twisted it in a locking motion.

“Ooooh,” the men at the table chorused. “A secret.”

Peter stood up. “Yep, and it’s going to stay that way.” He grinned. “At least for now. I’ve got to get to work.”

The men waited until the bakery door closed behind Peter before they resumed their conversation. “So how long do you think that secret’s going to keep?” Andy asked.

Amos pressed his lips together, considering. “Won’t make the end of the day,” he said decisively, “whether we’ve got an extra hour or not.”

“So to get back to what we were talking about, why are we saddled with Daylight Savings Time?” Charlie asked.

“World War I,” Amos explained. “The Germans decided to put more sun at the end of the day  so they could save on coal during the war, and then the U.K. and the U.S. followed suit because if you want to kill people, you have to get up at the same time they do. We did it again during World War II but then abandoned it until the oil shortage in the early 1970s.”

“Did you know that was mostly a manufactured panic?” Charlie interrupted. “It was more the perception of shortages that drove prices up than actual scarcity.”

Amos’s eyes lit up. He liked nothing better than a good conspiracy theory.

“So what did the oil shortage have to do with Daylight Savings Time?” Andy intervened before Amos could get cranking.

“What? Oh yeah, well, Congress thought we could save oil by pushing the clocks ahead,” Amos explained. “Of course, no one knows whether it worked or not because Congress wouldn’t fund a study to see what happened.”

Charlie suddenly yawned, stretching his hands high above his head. He couldn’t decide whether he was tired or it was just that his normal sleep pattern was off. “I suppose we could just ignore the change, and keep our clocks set the same year-round. You know, Carding time.”

Andy laughed as he drained his cup and reached for his wallet. “I thought that was what we already lived on, Carding time.”

Pie Night

SH-pie nightAs always, your recommendations to friends to visit Carding, Vermont are deeply appreciated so please do not hesitate to spread the word. As long as you keep visiting, I’ll keep writing.

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

This week, we’re going to head up Belmont Hill for a visit to the farm where Lee and Chis Tennyson live with their two boys, Scott and Little Freddie.

Freddie is a child of many enthusiasms, and his latest is music.



As a general rule, Chris Tennyson preferred to make apple crisp rather than apple pie. Pie required apple peeling while crisp allowed the cook the luxury of keeping the apples’ skins on.

But her husband, Lee, and their two sons, Scott and Little Freddie, just craved apple pie. So they gushed with glee when they spotted two sticks of butter on the kitchen counter next to the flour canister.

“Pie! Pie! Me love pie!” Little Freddie shouted.

In spite of the fact that she’d given birth to both of them, Chris experienced daily amazement at how different her two sons were from one another.

Scott was a Tennyson through and through, tall, slender to the point of lanky, brown-eyed, and already graceful in the way of the men in her husband’s family.

Here and there, around the eyes mostly, Chris could detect traces of her genetic contribution to Scott but he was truly the image of his Dad.

Like Lee, Scott would never be handsome or cute in the traditional senses of those overused words. But thoughtful women would be drawn to his quiet, respectful manner. As his mother, Chris was glad of that. She had seen too many childhoods damaged when “cute” kids fell victim to the fickleness of high school popularity.

Little Freddie, on the other hand, was a very different child. Instead of being tall and lanky like his older brother, Freddie’s build resembled that of a football linebacker—broad across the chest—just like Chris’s father. But that’s where any family comparisons fell to the wayside.

Freddie was shorter than his brother had been at the same age, and he held his arms at his sides as if ready to ram his way through life. He was dark-haired, and the brown of his eyes was so deep, it was often difficult to see his pupils.

The old-timers in Carding nodded sagely when they spotted Freddie around town. “Throw back to his great-grandmother, that’s what he is,” they told one another.

And they might be right.

When she first started dating Lee, Chris heard all sorts of elvish-like tales associated with the first Tennysons in Carding, especially about the family matriarch, Elayna. According to town legend, she charmed the original Christmas trees grown on the farm and to this day, they work tiny miracles on the people of Carding.

Elayna was dark-haired and eyed, just like Freddie, which is why so many Carding-ites believe she has come back to life in the four-year old.

Back in the Tennyson kitchen, Freddie was still celebrating the imminent arrival of pie, dancing with his hands above his head, and accentuating his words with vigorous hops from one foot to the other.

Chris smiled as she looked down at her youngest child. “But this isn’t for you, remember? It’s for your concert tonight.”

Freddie stopped so short, his slippered feet slid out from under him, and he sat down on the kitchen floor with an audible “ooommffff.” He swung his head from his mother to his father as Lee struggled to hold in his laughter.

“Concert?” the little boy asked. “What concert?”

“The one with the violins, remember?” Scott informed him in that stoic big-brother way he’d recently adopted with Freddie. He loved his little brother but at the advanced age of seven, Scott felt that Freddie needed more discipline in his life.

Freddie leaped to his feet. “Su-zu-ki! Su-zu-ki!” he yelled before powering out of the room.

Lee and Chris shook their heads with a shared smile. Of all Freddie’s many enthusiasms, his passion for music was the constant in his little life. The interest had shown up early.

As soon as he could totter around a room on his feet, Freddie danced to any tune that floated through the air at the farm. From Bach to Eric Clapton to “Farmer in the Dell” to the Sesame Street theme, Freddie danced to it all, head bobbing, fingers waving, and feet stomping.

Scott thought he looked like an out-of-control Teddy bear but, of course, his parents thought Freddie’s enthusiasm was just too cute for words.

In addition to his dancing, Freddie experimented with the sounds of things. He’d rat-a-tat-tat on a table then compare that sound to the twanging of a rubber band. He created a drum kit out of a motley collection of buckets and castoff pails, using a pair of wooden spoons to keep the beat.

Lee bought him a kazoo, and Chris bought him a child-sized kalimba, both of which Freddie added to his repertoire with enthusiasm.

“Should we enroll him in music classes?” Lee asked his wife while they watched Freddie bang away in their front yard.

“I don’t know,” Chris said. “He’s only four.”

Now if you recognize Freddie’s reference to “su-su-ki,” you’ll know that his musical enthusiasms have found an outlet.

It all started one day at a local flea market when the little boy spotted a toy violin in a box of castoffs.

“Have you ever thought about getting him into a Suzuki program?” the flea market dealer asked as he accepted Lee’s dollar for the violin. “My granddaughter’s been taking lessons in the program since she was about his age, and she just loves it. She’s seven now, and plays the flute. And she’s amazing.”

The Suzuki method of teaching music was developed by Japanese violinist Shinichi Suzuki who wanted to bring beauty back into the lives of children who’d lived through the devastation of World War II.

This magical teacher believed that all children could learn to play music in the same way they acquire language, not through rote practice but through musical immersion, shared practice, and listening with their hearts. His teaching methods are now used internationally.

After poking around a bit, Lee and Chris found a Suzuki music school, and enrolled Freddie. Tonight, along with his fellow students (about a dozen three- and four-year olds) they are giving their first performance together, plucking the strings of a wide variety of rather funky homemade violins whenever the word “pop” comes around as their teacher plays “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

The pies, courtesy of parents and grandparents, will be sold by the slice as a fundraiser.

Since it is so close to Halloween, the kids have planned something special for their audience. Instead of plucking the strings of their violins on the last “pop,” they’re going to shout “boo!”

Freddie is very excited about this so please don’t tell anyone. He wants it to be a surprise.

Pie, Pie, Me-oh-my!

Tomorrow is Thursday and there’s a new Carding Chronicle hovering on the edge of your reading pleasure.

This week, we’re going up to the Tennyson Farm on Belmont Hill to visit with Chris and Lee and peek in on their two sons, seven-year old Scott and four-year old Freddie.

Freddie has a new passion in his life—music—and he’d like to share it with you.

Hope to see you tomorrow!
SH-pie night

Ghosts, Part II

SH-abandoned houseAs always, your recommendations to friends to stop by and visit here are deeply appreciated so please do not hesitate to spread the word. As long as you keep visiting, I’ll keep writing.

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

This week features the second part of an excerpt from my next Carding novel, Lights in Water, Dancing. I thought it appropriate for this spirited time of year.

If you need a refresher on what happened last week or liked Ghosts, Part I so much that you want to read it again, here’s the appropriate link.


As the leaves fall and the ferns die back, the woods reveal secrets hidden at other times of the year.

Cassie shivered.

This couldn’t be the same house, could it?

Of all the places she could have ended up in her flight for life, Cassie had thought it was pre-ordained she’d find her way to Carding. And if she was right, she’d just tripped across the reason why.

A gust zigzagged down the hill to hop across the surface of Half Moon Lake, making the water slap against the meager remains of a dock. She moved closer. She had been a girl the last time she stood here. Back then, there had been a clutch of docks in front of the Carding cottages, built by the summer visitors. Was this the one her father made with her?

She placed herself on the pebbly shore about halfway between the dock, and the more substantial remains of the cabin now revealed by the baring branches of the trees pressed close to its walls. When it rained on their summer vacation, Cassie had spent hours reading in a chair by the window in her bedroom, and just as many hours gazing at the lake.

Was this the right angle? She squinted at the dock’s remains, willing it to be what she wanted. But she couldn’t be sure.

She dipped her fingers into the water to take its temperature. Certainly not what you’d find in August but she’d plunged into colder stuff in her time. In a second, Cassie stripped off boots, jeans, and underwear, and waded in, gasping at the lake’s icy grip.

If you’re in for a penny, you might as well be in for a pound, she told herself as she pressed on.

Fortunately, the lack of summer rain meant the lake’s level had risen no higher than mid-calf by the time Cassie reached her target, the intersection of the last intact piling with the front edge of the dock.

Like many daughters, Cassie had revered her father, Frank Markham. No one had a better smile or laugh or hugging arms than he did. No one was kinder. No one had ever loved her like he had.

She’d always known, as kids do, that her father was the stronger of her two parents, the one she could count on, the one who was smarter and braver. Her Daddy would never let her down…until he did, dying of cancer when Cassie was a confused fifteen-year old.

Now thoroughly chilled, Cassie reached under the edge of the dock, looking for the back of the bolt that held the two pieces together. They’d built the dock together that last summer, she and her Dad (her mother was too lazy and her seven-year old sister Margie not really helpful).

It was the end of the day with one last bolt to go when Cassie realized she had two nuts left in her pocket. Her father had put her in charge of all hardware—nuts, bolts, screws, washers, nails—and she took the job seriously.

“This one’s too big,” she told her father while peering at him through the hole in the center.

He put out his hand. “Huh, right you are? Did these come from the same package?”

“Yeah. I only opened one. That’s all we needed.”

“Well, waste not, want not is my motto,” her Dad said. “Let’s put them both on, and that way, if we need another one later on, we’ll know where to find it.”

Cassie howled out her years of accumulated grief when her fingers found the spot where two nuts still lay cheek by jowl against the rusted washer. She shoved the wooden dock’s remains back and forth to loosen everything up, praying that the Carding winters had not made the rusty bonds between the hardware pieces permanent.

She was so surprised when the nuts and bolt fell out as a single unit that she nearly dropped them into the lake.

Now shuddering uncontrollably with the cold, Cassie leaped out of the water to dry her goose-fleshed thighs with her sweatshirt, grateful for its sun-enhanced warmth. Then she jammed herself into her jeans, and holding the hardware next to her belly, jogged in place until she could tell which foot was attached to her left leg and which to her right.

That took quite a while.

As she did, she turned in place to look at the abandoned cottage. Both she and Amos had been told that the summer cottages on this sweep of the lake’s shore had been torn down when the Mount Merino Landowners Association bought this face of the mountain. So why was the Markham family’s “usual place” still here?

Brushing sand from her feet with her underwear, Cassie coaxed her toes into her boots, carefully stowed her newfound treasure deep in a pocket, and then tied the sleeves of her sweatshirt to a tree limb where it could play flag in the drying breeze.

What had been a short open stretch of land between house and lake had, over the years, filled in with a thicket of Vermont’s most invasive plants—tall stalks of Japanese knotweed, twisting box elder trees, and Norwegian maple embellished with loops of fox grapevine that gave it an air of poignant romanticism, if you were into that sort of thing.

Cassie wasn’t. To her, romance was a tall glass of red wine at the end of the day with some good cheese and bread, and a man who would spend the better part of an evening rubbing her feet after she’s spent eight hours in the garden.

It took a while to negotiate her way to the front door. Cassie notice that the cottage’s siding had been stripped as had the shingles on its roof, indicating that the long-ago demolition team had started its work. But the sliding door on the front—twice the width of a normal entry door—was intact as were the windows. If Cassie had been stripping a building for demolition, she would have started there. Windows and doors are far more valuable than siding and shingles.

In spite of the bright sunshine, it was difficult to see much inside. She leaned with her forehead pressed to the glass of the large front window for a long time, willing herself to go inside. As she did, she worried the angular nuts and the threaded bolt between her finger and thumb.

When she tried to force it open, a loud shriek of protest from the door backed her right up against a teenaged Norweigan maple. Cassie shivered again but this time it was not because of the cold. She angled her face toward the opening, and her nose caught the distinct odor of rotting wood.

As her eyes adjusted to the dim interior, Cassie realized that the center of the big downstairs room—the place where they did everything but sleep on their summer vacations—had caved in, taking a pile of building supplies with it.

Storage, that’s why the building wasn’t torn down, Cassie thought. She had lived in Carding long enough to know that this was Harry Brown’s doing. He had charged the landowners’ association for taking down the cottage. But instead of making it disappear, he’d converted it into a temporary out-of-sight, out-of mind warehouse for supplies he “diverted” from other construction jobs.

She backed away, glad that Brown’s well-known greed had snapped her back to reality. But the sadness of the place pressed on her, and as she stood in the sun of that glorious fall day, Cassie let her tears flow silently down her cheeks.

“It’s been awful since you’ve been gone, Daddy,” she whispered. “I think I finally came out okay, living here with Uncle Amos and Tupelo. But Reggie’s been here…with Margie. He’s in jail but she’s…she’s…she’s become someone I don’t know. So bent, so strange.”

Cassie didn’t finish. With one quick check in her pocket for her new talisman, she sprinted back up the hill toward home, leaving the vapors of the past to weave their mournful patterns among the trees.