Summer Bird Stories

Family-Friendly Short Stories, Cartoons, and Illustrations

Slogging through the Middle

It’s the middle part of the project that often seems the hardest.

Here are some ideas for getting through to the end.

Beginnings are fun–a new idea that seems so perfect in your mind & you can’t wait to see it on the page. Endings are great–there’s such a sense of accomplishment! But the middle? Well, there’s almost always a point where it looks like it’s not going to work and everything is just terrible.

However, it’s worth finishing!!

HOW?

Remember that there are still things to learn from this project that you can only learn by finishing.

Use it as an experiment to see if it can be saved–brainstorm and try something new.

Tell yourself that you can polish it later, for now you just need something on the page to work with.

Give yourself a deadline and race to meet it without worrying about how things look–for now.

Any other ideas?

Charlie’s Room: Sick Day

Marianne was feeling sick. Isaac kept waking up to hear her coughing in the middle of the night. By morning, he felt like he hadn’t slept much at all. His throat was sore and he felt sort of floaty.

He was pretty sure he was sick too.

After tucking the covers back around Marianne, Isaac put on his slippers and trudged down the hall. He could hear Charlie coughing. Isaac sighed. It was going to be a long day.

He called in sick and then called the attendance line for the school. Then he started cooking some oatmeal. He finished cooking breakfast as Marianne stumbled into the kitchen, looking half awake.

“Sick day today,” he said. “I called in to excuse Charlie and me. You probably should call in sick too.”

“My afternoon meeting is just a phone call,” Marianne mumbled. “I can do that.”

“Okay.” Isaac turned off the stove and dished up some oatmeal. “Orange juice?”

Marianne made a face. “Sounds terrible. My throat hurts. It would be like lemon juice in a paper cut. Throwing up orange juice would be awful, too.”

“Good point.” Isaac put the pitcher back in the fridge. “Would cocoa be better?”

She shrugged. “I think so.”

Charlie woke up late and Isaac reheated everything while Charlie sat at the kitchen table with his head buried in his arms. “I don’t feel good.” Charlie’s voice was muffled. “I don’t want to go to school today.”

“It’s a sick day today,” Marianne answered. “We’re all staying home.”

“But what if I still feel sick tomorrow?” Charlie asked.

“Luckily, tomorrow is Saturday. You wouldn’t go to school anyway.”

They decided to stay in pajamas and watch movies. Marianne and Charlie went to set up nests of blankets and pillows in the living room. Isaac promised he’d join them shortly.

After leaving the dishes to soak, Isaac pulled out his family recipe book. It was the one his grandmother had put together for him when he was finally old enough to hold a knife steady and chop vegetables. It was a huge book, and all of the recipes were handwritten.

It had everything from the family cocoa recipe to great-great-aunt Betty’s wood polish. Today, he flipped through the pages and stopped at the elderberry cough syrup recipe. It didn’t cure colds instantly, but it did seem to keep them from lasting longer.

He dug through the cupboards and fridge to pull out the dried elderberries and honey and cinnamon bark and cloves and ginger. As he chopped and boiled, he started to relax. Just the fumes were helping him to feel better.

He added a good spoonful of the syrup to mugs of peppermint tea. While they cooled a little, he popped some popcorn. It took a couple of trips, but soon he was snuggled into his own little nest watching movies.

That night, Isaac woke himself up coughing, but Marianne seemed to be sleeping better. When he got up in the morning, he could smell pancakes. He stumbled into the kitchen, yawning. Charlie was already there waiting. “I think I feel better than yesterday,” Charlie said. And then he coughed a few times. They all laughed.

The sick day became a sick weekend. They stayed in pajamas and watched movies and drank peppermint tea with elderberry syrup. By Sunday evening, Marianne and Charlie were feeling better. Isaac was pretty sure he was well enough to go to work in the morning.

“So, this cough syrup is a secret family recipe.” Marianne held up the nearly empty jar of syrup.

“I don’t know that the family recipes are secret. We just never seem to be able to share them. Something always happens, and we get distracted. I think it’s a charm on the book.”

Marianne put the jar down. She looked puzzled. “What book?”

“The family recipe book my grandmother made. The one with all the handwritten recipes.” It was right there on the counter.

“I don’t think I’ve seen that one. You’ll have to show me later.” Marianne looked out the window.

Isaac nearly pointed out that the book was right there. But, as he opened his mouth, Marianne was already marching to the back door. “Charlie,” she yelled over her shoulder. “Get the spray bottle. There are cats digging in the garden again!”

She ran out the door, and Isaac picked up the recipe book and took it back to his desk. He shut the drawer with a sigh. He knew that Marianne wouldn’t ask about it later. He wasn’t even sure she could see it.

Perhaps Charlie could? Maybe they could try a recipe from the book sometime. Charlie was certainly old enough to chop vegetables.

Charlie came running through the kitchen with the spray bottle of water and hurried out the back door to join Marianne. Isaac watched them through the window as they chased the cats away from the rhubarb bed. They certainly seemed to feel all better. The sick days were at an end.

Flashback Video: To the Moon

This story was originally posted on February 28, 2018. I love writing silly tall tales! It’s fun to imagine they’re true for a moment, even if it’s obvious that they aren’t. If you search my website for the phrase “grandpa story,” you’ll find several more. Please let me know what you think!

The Food Critic

The restaurant owner came to the reception area as soon as the celebrated food critic, Mr. Gruff, checked in with the hostess. His first impression was that the man was immensely old. He was stooped over, with white hair and a long white beard and little wire-framed glasses.

Looking more closely, the restaurant owner realized that Mr. Gruff was a goat.

“Is this a joke?” he asked.

Mr. Gruff looked up at him. His eyes were strange. “Mr. Smith, I assume?”

The restaurant owner took a step back. A talking goat? Then he straightened up. He was a professional business owner. He could handle this. “Yes, that’s me. Are you Mr. Gruff?”

“Of course. Here’s my card.” The goat reached into his suit packet and handed over a little card stock square.

Mr. Smith read the first lines. “William G. Gruff, professional food critic.” He put the card in his pocket. “Right this way, sir.”

On the way to the table, Mr. Smith went over his options. He really didn’t know much about goats. Didn’t they eat cardboard and tin cans and such? How could a goat be a reliable food critic? Would his restaurant get a terrible review because the silverware didn’t taste good?

Mr. Gruff slid into his chair and looked around. “I see that most of the people around me are eating large salads. Is that today’s special?”

“It is. Here’s the menu. Would you like anything to drink? I can send it with the waitress who will come to take your order.”

The goat looked up from the menu. “Water is fine.”

Hurrying back to the kitchen, Mr. Smith pulled out his phone and started searching for information. What do goats eat? Apparently not tin cans or cardboard. The silverware was safe.

Salad would be fine. Mr. Smith let out a breath of relief and shared the results of his search with the chef. They could continue on as normal.

He thanked Mr. Gruff for coming after he finished his meal, and life at the restaurant went on. He nearly forgot to look for the review two weeks later. It praised the salads and professional staff. Mr. Smith framed it and put it on his wall next to the other positive reviews for his restaurant.

That would have been the end of it, except that a few days later, a horse in an expensive gown came in after making a reservation over the phone. This led to more internet searches, and some slight alterations to the food she ordered.

And then the crows came. And a family of pigs. And the entire restaurant was booked by a greyhound for his mother’s birthday one evening. The waitresses learned to add the customer’s species when noting down any dietary restrictions.

Time passed. Mr. Smith continued to host a surprising number of animal customers. This was strange, because when he went about town, he didn’t see any talking animals wearing clothes. Where did they all come from?

He did ask, once. A very pleasant parrot that chattered away a mile a minute came one early afternoon for lunch. The restaurant was empty, and Mr. Smith was working at the front desk.

He led the parrot to his table and paused. “Would you like a taller chair?” he asked, looking at the distance from the chair to the table.

The parrot flapped his wings and flew up onto the table. “No chairs at all, thanks. I just want one of those salads everyone’s talking about.”

This was his chance. “Where are they talking about it?”

The parrot squawked with laughter. “Oh, your security clearance isn’t high enough to know that.”

Mr. Smith frowned. Government work? How many animals were working for the government? What did they do?

Well, it wasn’t really any of his concern. He had a business to run. He didn’t have time to get mixed up in any sort of strange government something-or-other. But he did have one more question. “So, did you read Mr. Gruff’s review then?”

“Yes, of course. The extended version. He said that this was the first place that didn’t offer him tin cans or cardboard. You do your research and care about your customers.”

“Extended version?”

“Your clearance still isn’t high enough.”

Mr. Smith laughed. “Fair enough. I’ll get you that salad.” On his way to the kitchen, he was already searching his phone for what parrots ate.

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