(So this is a snippet of the developing Luna City #8 – a long look back into the past, when Doc Wyler, Miss Letty and her brother, as well as the Vaughn boys were children, and more or less friends. Engaged in purely kid-interests, in Depression-era Texas, which included kid-pursuits such as all day out of the house, war-games and makeshift forts, and perhaps more… this was the early 1930ies, of course.)

“Where are you going today, Letty?” Mama asked, on one Monday mid-morning after breakfast. It was the second week of the summer vacation. “You and Douglas?” Sunlight poured golden into the covered back porch of the McAllister house. The bees danced among the hollyhocks and delphiniums in the flower borders which curved around the grand old stone house. Around the side, beyond the carefully tended sweep of lawn, the dust settled silently back in the wake of a Ford truck, which had rattled past the McAllister house, heavily laden with a load of vegetables for a market in San Antonio.

“Out to play,” Letty answered. “At our fort, with Stephen.”

“Just be back by suppertime,” Mama replied, looking up from sorting the household laundry from several baskets.  Monday was washing-day; not such a chore as it had been once, since the McAllister’s boasted a patent washing machine, complete with a mechanical wringer which Letty was absolutely forbidden to touch because it was dangerous. It could mash your fingers to splinters in moments. “Did you finish your chores, then?”

“Yes, Mama,” Letty had. She was conscientious about chores, even at the age of eight. Eggs gathered from the flock of hens kept in back, scraps and cracked corn put out for them and the garden weeded. In the house, her bed was made tidily, the breakfast dishes cleared from the table. Douglas – her eleven-year-old brother – Douglas had finished his own daily chore, of splitting wood for the kitchen stove and hauling water from the well to water the garden. Douglas was very strong for his age – almost twelve and handled a small splitting maul and wedges with skill, slivering quarters of wood into smaller portions for the stove. “Can we make sandwiches to take for our lunch?”

“A day of it?” Mama smiled. “Of course – there’s some ham in the icebox, but don’t take it all. Your father will want his lunch as well. And there is some lemon cake from Sunday supper; you may have two small slices of that – oh, take a piece for Stephen as well. Just leave enough for your father.”

“Yes, Mama!” Letty wrapped her arms around her mothers’ comfortable middle for an exuberant and brief embrace. She ran up to her room on the second floor of the old stone McAllister house to change into her play clothes – a worn middy-blouse and a pair of her brothers’ outgrown knee-britches, her feet thrust into canvas tennis shoes – also outgrown by Douglas and boasting holes by Letty’s littlest toes. She didn’t mind that – after all, when they played around the fort, she would kick off the shoes and go barefoot. It was summer, after all. Summer was for bare feet, although Mama would sigh and say that being barefoot all summer was a sign of being poor and trashy. McAllisters were proper. They always had shoes, even if times were hard in Luna City. She and Douglas would have new shoes when school started, in August. For now, they went barefoot. When Letty absolutely had to wear shoes in summer, she wore her brothers’ old pair or crammed her feet into the Sunday shoes that she had new for Easter … and now which pinched dreadfully, but would have to last until Spring, when Mama and Papa bought them all new Sunday best and good shoes.

That done, she raced downstairs again, and into the kitchen. Outside on the back porch, she heard the regular thump-thump-thump of the mechanical washing machine. Letty know that having electricity in the McAllister house, and most of the better homes in Luna City was a sign of advance and prosperity. In the old days, doing laundry by hand took all the day and all the time and labor on the part of the women in the household … that is, if they did not sent it out, and who knows where it really went and what was done to it?

Letty quickly assembled sandwiches; she was deft with slicing bread and carving off thin slivers of ham in order to leave enough for Papa. Mama let her handle the biggest kitchen knife, at least. She wrapped the sandwiches in brown paper and cut three portions of cake – alike wrapping that in paper – just as her brother Douglas thundered down the staircase and erupted into the kitchen like a small and erratic storm. He had his .22 rifle slung, soldier-like over his shoulder, and a metal water canteen on a sling over his other. The canteen was a metal Army-surplus one; practically Douglas’ proudest possession.

“Ready, Letty?” he demanded, bouncing from one foot to another. “We gotta go to town first.”

“What for?” Letty wrapped the sandwiches and cake in a large calico handkerchief and tied the opposite corners in knots.

Douglas puffed out his chest with pride. “I eared two dollars in tips at the Tip-Top last week – helping people clean their windows and top up their radiators. I’m keeping out fifteen cents for ice cream … an’ some candy, but the rest I’m gonna put in my savings account.”

“A whole two dollars – and people just gave it to you, like that?”

“’cause I was helpful, Letty,” Douglas explained.

“I wish people would give me money for being helpful,” Letty ventured, somewhat wistfully. Their father had taken them into the Luna City Savings and Loan the previous year, and ceremoniously presented them to the Chief Teller, saying that they were old enough to open bank accounts of their own. To save for their education, their father said, although Douglas had confessed that he would rather save up for a fancy wind-up phonograph. Much, much later, Letty would realize that their father had – most sensibly – chosen to demonstrate his own faith in the solidity of the Luna City Savings and Loan in this fashion. After all, the McAllisters were one Luna City’s leading families; Grandfather Arthur Wells McAllister was one of the founders.

“You have your Christmas and birthday present money,” Douglas consoled her. “When you are ten, maybe you can run errands and help at the Tip-Top.”

This was true – but Letty still wished that she had as much as fifteen cents to spend on ice cream and penny-candy. But she and Douglas were fortunate in having bicycles of their own. Times might be hard for many people, even in Luna City – and Letty knew very well that the McAllisters were fortunate indeed, even if her bicycle was an old boys’ bicycle and slightly rusted along the frame. She followed her brother, crossing the dusty main road which ran between San Antonio – the big city, far to the north, and Aransas Pass, down on the Gulf Coast, baking in the mid-morning sun. Beyond the shabby weathered Tip-Top Ice House with the range of gasoline pumps out in front, the road into Luna City wandered past a meadows and stands of trees, eventually past houses with smaller and smaller gardens as they approached Town Square, marked at one end with the gleaming façade of the grand Cattleman Hotel, and the white columns and pediment of the Luna City Public School at the other. This was a familiar passage for Letty: during the school term, she and Douglas went this way twice daily and back – to school, home for lunch, back to school and finally home again.

Town Square basked in the mid-summer sunshine, although the massive stands of oak trees cast pools of cool shade under their branches. Some of the oaks were so large that three children holding hands could not reach all the way around them. By the old Fire Station, she and Douglas drew abreast of a friend – or perhaps more accurately, a sort of friend. One who was determined on his part to be their friend, or at least be in association with them.

“’Lo, Artie,” Douglas rested his feet on the ground, and Letty followed suit. Artie Vaughn was yet a year and a half younger than Letty; a skinny boy with a nose way too big for his narrow face and dark hair which grew every which way, like an untidy haystack. He was tall for his age. “Got stuck with minding the baby again?”

Artie – barefoot under the faded denim overalls which were his only garment – nodded in agreement. He had his toddler brother Harry in a battered wooden wagon. Harry was three, but likewise big for his age. He had the same beak of a nose and unkempt black hair; like his brother, shorn by an inexpert hand armed with a bowl and a pair of shears. Artie and Harry’s father was one of Luna City’s small force of police officers. This was out of desperate necessity, as his small carpentry business in Karnesville had gone bust for lack of paying customers. The fifteen dollars a month paid by the city was what kept the Vaughn family from abject poverty – that and the kindness of neighbors and the extensive vegetable garden in back of the Vaughn’s tidy frame bungalow on Oak Street.

“Until Mama gets done with the shopping. Harry is too big an’ ornery to take with her. You going out to the Fort with Stephen?” Artie’s countenance reflected eagerness and a pathetic longing to be included in the afternoon. Letty sighed. Now they would have to invite him. Artie was like a burr that couldn’t be shaken off.

“Yeah,” Douglas replied. “Look – if you wanna come out to the Fort, you gotta know the password. For today, the challenge is ‘Montcalm’ and the password is ‘Wolfe.’ Otherwise you’re an enemy spy and we won’t let you in.”

“’Montcalm’ and ‘Wolfe’!” Artie exclaimed, beaming with happiness. “It’s the bees’ knees, Douglas! I won’t forget!”

“See you,” Douglas didn’t sound enthused, to any degree. Artie was a trial to Douglas, Stephen and Letty, only slightly alleviated by his free access to father’s collection of tattered True Detective Magazines (Vaughn, Senior purchased them for the professional articles, so he claimed), and Artie’s own imagination, which tended in the direction of flamboyantly creative. Artie was burdened by the damp and dampening presence of his baby brother, for he was frequently tasked with looking after the younger Vaughn. (“It’s not really fair,” Douglas confessed to his sister. “Artie’s a good egg – but really … having to play with a kid who isn’t even out of diapers? It’s just not fair, Letty! He’s not our baby brother!”  “At least we can pretend that he is a Comanche sentry,” Letty consoled her brother. “Or set him down and say that he is first base.”)

02. April 2019 · Comments Off on Custody Dispute – Part the 2nd · Categories: Luna City Short Stories

(Wherein the previous owner of Ozzie, AKA Captain Kitten the Kitchen Kat – appear and emphatically demand his return.)

“What happened then?”  Katie demanded, not half an hour later – her fine beryl-colored eyes gleaming with righteous indignation and concern. “And who are these people, anyway? You found Ozzie – that night that you fixed that splendid haute-cuisine supper for me. He was hanging out in the hedge between the Café and the Stein’s place – I remember that very clearly, in spite of having too darned many glasses of your landlords’ wine that evening.”

She and Richard sat out in the brief covered patio space before the Airstream, relishing the calm afternoon, the sun slowly sliding down in the western sky, a bottle of Sefton Grant’s priceless white mustang grape wine and two glasses between them. Ozzie was behaving with absolutely kittenish abandon, settled onto Kate’s lap, purring with energy and nudging her hand when she stopped stroking his ears and chin.

Richard sighed, heavily. In his mind, his call on Kate’s affections and those erratic feline attentions of Ozzie were inextricably linked. Gained one, gained the other. Loose one … perhaps loose the other, and perhaps his own grip on a contented life, here serving out caviar cuisine on a canned tuna-fish budget in Luna City. During the ride home from the Tip Top his resolve to keep Ozzie hardened into adamantine stone. Not having Ozzie would mean not having anything meaningful at all.

“Chris took notice of the fuss – not that he could avoid it, since everyone was pretty overwrought – and he called Joe Vaughn.”

“Oh, good!” Kate’s pleasant round countenance brightened. “And Joe told them where they could take their custodial demand and shove it sideways? Ozzie is yours – you found him, took care of him, fed him – made him Captain Kitten!? Everybody in Luna City knows that he’s been yours, no matter where he came from.”

“Well, Joe calmed down the Palmers … that’s Marta and Fred. They live in New Braunfels – is that where that enormous tourist plaza is, where we all met on the way to Marble Falls to cheer on Chris when he competed in that marathon run? Yes, thought so. I couldn’t forget a place like that…Amazing the effect that a uniform has on the ordinary middle-class tax-payers. Especially when it’s Joe wearing it. His sheer forceful presence ensured a compromise, of sorts.”

“Everything is bigger in Texas,” Kate agreed, her expression rather smug. “And yes – that’s the place. The most palatial and cleanest bathrooms around. Did Joe convince them that Ozzie is yours? Honestly, Joe in official mode is perfectly terrifying.”

“No – not entirely,” Richard sighed again. “The Palmers insisted that Ozzie had been chipped … that is, some little identifying device inserted into him, registering original ownership. Apparently, any practicing veterinarian possesses a device which can read those chips. Doc Wyler may be the only one in this county who does not utilize such…”

“Well, he’s old school,” Kate consoled him. “So old-school, I don’t think this present century has registered with him at all. Anyway – he doesn’t do small animal practice, save as a favor for friends. What compromise did Joe make them agree to?”

“That we should present Ozzie tomorrow at 10 AM tomorrow at a veterinary clinic in Karnesville – myself with Ozzie, and the Palmers; there to wait upon the decision of the thingy-chip-reading device. I have the address – and the Palmers secured an appointment and ascertained their willingness to perform such a process. They said they would stay tonight at the Cattleman and meet me in the morning in Karnesville. Kate my darling, I greatly fear that I shall lose Ozymandias.” Richard, under the influence of two or three glasses of Sefton Grant’s peerless vintage, was moved to unburden himself of his deepest fears. “I don’t want that to happen, my dearest Kate, Kate of Kate Hall. Ozzie is more than a pet … I see him as my other self, you know. My familiar, the being in which a good part of my selfish, unworthy soul resides.”

“You are rather cat-like,” Kate agreed. Richard was uncomfortably reminded that his dear keen-eyed Kate had his number down to the thousandth decimal place. “Probably why Ozzie also adores you. A symbiont soul.” She didn’t enlarge on this insight any farther, for which Richard was grateful.

“I don’t want to give him up,” Richard admitted. “But … I might have to. In all honestly, of the chip reveals all…”

“I know,” Kate reached out, from the folding patio chair, to clasp Richard’s hand. “Let’s napalm that bridge when we come to it, OK? Tonight – he is still yours. D’you need a ride to the veterinary clinic tomorrow? I’ll take you, of course. I’ll crash tonight on Araceli’s fold-out sofa and come to get you at … 9:15. That will give us enough time to get to Karnesville…”

“Perfect,” Richard returned the affectionate clasp. He wished that it could be something more … energetic. But this was Kate. Not a fence to go rushing towards. All would happen in good time. “It was tragic, though. Hearing about it from the Palmers. Joe verified, of course. She – their daughter – was a nurse. A very good and dedicated one, from all accounts. Loved by everyone, including our dumb chums, and all her patients and co-workers. Had one of those organ-donor agreements in place. Eyes, heart, lung and kidneys – all went to deserving recipients when they pulled the plug.”

“A good life, well-lived,” Kate nodded. “But that’s another matter entirely. “Her cat has been well-content living with you for … two years?” She sent him one of those beryl-green assessing looks. “Another transplant … just of the other sort. He’s as been as good for you, as if he was a heart or a kidney…”

“I know,” Richard admitted, although most of this was the mustang grape elixir speaking. Ordinarily, he shied from that embarrassing self-knowledge, much less voicing it. “Good of you to go with me tomorrow, Kate. If worst comes to worst, we might have to give up the Captain Kitten blog…”

“Not necessarily,” Kate replied. “I have enough cute pictures of Ozzie in my archives to last into the middle of this century.”

“Top up?” Richard extended the jug towards Kate, and when she shook her head, refilled his own glass and confessed. “I’m inordinately fond of the little blighter. He keeps my feet warm on cold nights. Glad to see me when I finish work for the day – and is not so stupidly needy as a dog. I’ll be deeply depressed if that chip device proves that he is really theirs.”

“We’ll sort that out in the morning,” Kate replied. During this conversation, Ozzie had curled into a tight ball, wedging his head into the crook of Kate’s left elbow. “Let’s not dwell on that any more – worrying about it won’t change anything, and all that it will do will be to spoil our lovely supper. What are you cooking for me tonight? It smells wonderful…”

“Chicken Marengo,” Richard answered. “That is actually the required veal demi-glace reduction that you detect, my dear Kate. I will be preparing it in the original version – chicken breasts with tomatoes, garlic and fresh mushrooms, garnished with fresh prawns, fried eggs and divers fresh herbs. It is legend that Napoleon’s personal chef concocted it after a successful battle and a quick whip-round of those delicacies fit for an emperor-general which were available in the near vicinity.”

“Sounds delish!” Kate exclaimed, with a warm smile. “Never stop cooking for me, Richard.”

“Never,” Richard assured her.

He did think, very briefly – that if he lost custody of Ozzie, some of the joy of cooking for Kate and Ozzie would leak out of his life. But Kate had requested that they not speak of that matter any further – and so he resolutely put it out of his mind, lest contemplating that stark loss further spoil the enchantment of an evening of Kate and fine cuisine.

 

(So – this is one of the story elements in Book 8. And – the rest will be revealed at a later date. Yes – I live to tantalize.)

Tip Top Ice House Gas & Grocery

Tip Top Ice House Gas & Grocery

Custody Dispute

 

Another day of rewarding work at the Café – Richard set his bike homeward, towards the Age, and what he had begun to think of as home, the little polished-aluminum caravan parked there. It was mid-afternoon on a Thursday. His Kate, his Dear Lady Tongue, had reported by a cellphone conversation earlier in the day. Her research on a story would take her from Beeville to Karnesville in the late afternoon – might she come by the Age for a supper, and possibly a cuddle?

Even though the cuddle would most likely be with Ozzie, King of Kings and Captain Kitten in his internet guise, rather than himself, Richard assented with happy anticipation. Yes – another splendid supper and sparkling conversation with Kate, his Kate of Kate Hall, his comfortable and affectionate friend, the woman who knew him for all his many faults and appeared to love him anyway. He headed away from the Café, leaving preparations for the next day in the mostly-capable hands of Luc, sometime drummer for a local band most famed for a name which gravitated in many directions from their initials – OPM – and his trained and trusty apprentices… planning in his mind a private, haute-cuisine classical French menu for his Kate, from what he knew to be on hand in the miniscule refrigerator in the Airstream, combined with snippings of herbs and salad greens from the bounty of the raised beds so lovingly-cultivated out in back of the Café. As he pedaled through the tree-shaded outskirts of Luna City towards Route 123, Richard realized that there was no cream in the little caravan refrigerator – bugger! So much for a simple dessert, and for a touch of crème fraiche … hang on, perhaps the Tip Top might have … yes, indeed. Under the management of Chris Mayall, the crowded and battered old shelves of the Tip Top Ice House, Gas and Grocery contained an unexpectedly broad variety of grocery items: mostly canned and refrigerated, bottled water and sodas, candy bars and dried beef jerky, crackers … indeed, everything but fresh green vegetables and fruits. A half-pint of cream – Richard veered into the crumbling apron of broken macadam paving which merged almost imperceptibly with the shoulder of Route 123, just before it narrowed again to cross the river on a newly-renovated four-lane bridge.

There was a single car parked in front of the Tip Top’s sagging verandah; not that there was ever much of a crowd in the Tip Top on weekdays, and certainly not in the parking lot, unless there was a big do at the VFW post – that pink former classroom, in the grove of trees behind the Tip Top.

“Behave yourself, Ozzie,” Richard ordered his feline familiar, who was quite accustomed to the familiar routine: a day of hunting small vermin along the backside of the block of buildings which formed the northern side of Town Square, and a short ride in the plastic crate (which had originally been used for gallon jugs of milk) strapped to the rear of Richard’s bicycle. A return to the small caravan at the Age, home-sweet-home, a home of comfy soft surfaces, shelter from the dark and cold, and hungry predators who might make a nocturnal meal of a small, brindle one-eyed cat. “Back in a tick – your favorite of the female of our species is coming for a brief visit…”

“Mrrow!” Ozzie replied, butting the top of his brindle head against Richard’s careless caress. Richard went in through the swinging door of the Tip Top, utterly confident that Ozzie would be still in the basket strapped to the back of his mountain bike – like Richard himself, Ozzie was a creature of rigid habit. More »

27. February 2019 · Comments Off on What They Drive – Part Two · Categories: Luna City Info Dump

Answering the question – what do they all drive in Luna City? The make, model, condition and all usually say something about the character of the owner. So herewith a continuance of the list.

Harry Vaughn: his personal transport – other than the RV which he drove down from Alaska several seasons ago – is a vintage ’66 Lincoln Continental convertible, candy-apple red and in pristine condition. Harry Vaughn is considerable of a chick magnet among the older generation in Luna City. He also has a fifteen-foot aluminum boat with an erratically-functioning outboard motor.

Romeo Gonzales: Romeo, the oil-field worker turned top male model, arrived in Luna City at the wheel of an extended-cab pick-up truck, make and model unspecified, slightly battered but in good condition mechanically. Like many of the Gonzales and Gonzalezes, Romeo is an excellent shade-tree mechanic.

Susanna Wyatt-Gonzales: As a senior executive (now on hiatus from VPI) Susanna, like Doc Wyler, makes enough to indulge in the very best. In her case a late-model, velvet-black Mercedes sedan with custom pink leather interior.

Roman Gonzalez: Another extended-cab pickup truck, of course. Not ostentatiously new, but slightly battered from use, and usually slightly dirty, with a rack carrying several ladders, a big toolbox, and whatever else is required at the job site of the day.

Hernando “Nando” Gonzalez: It’s been almost three decades, but the legend of Nando Gonzalez lives on, in the ritual sounding of the air raid siren every November 1st at 11 AM. Nando drove a an immense,  boat-like late 60’s Cadillac into town every day for lunch at the Café – a car which increasingly suffered glancing collisions with curbs, telephone poles, fire hydrants, trash cans, the oak tree at Oak Street and West Town Square, the ornamental bollards in front of the Café itself, and other automobiles – until the then-police chief began sounding the siren in warning.

Xavier Gunnison Penn: An older RV, not in especially good condition, with Gunnison Penn’s treasure-hunting logo and picture emblazoned on the sides.

Luc Massie: Drummer for the band OPM and assistant chef at the café. Luc operates a small red Vespa motorbike.

The Walcott family has several vehicles: Clovis and Sook usually drive a late-model sport utility vehicle, black and with all kinds of automotive bling. They maintain an old Volvo sedan for the use of their teenage children to drive.

Did I miss anyone? Let me know.

(And also introducing a new character – well, new to Richard, anyway. It turns out that a lot of people have history with this new character!)

En Residence

“Roman, my old and rare,” Richard ventured on a morning, a week past the triumph of the Cattleman grand reopening, and the equally grand Wyler wedding. “Last night, as I was wending my weary way homewards, I noticed that some of your splendid chaps were unloading a quantity of … I presume it all was building materials? Yes, in front of that charming small villa, just around the corner from the old fire station house. Vulgar curiosity commands me – are renovations underway? Is this in the service of a new owner, who might yet become a habitué of this establishment? Or is it being fitted out as a B & B? Either way – it’s a winner for me.”
It was early morning at the Café; Roman Gonzalez, the working owner and supervisor of a not insubstantial and significant local construction company, was tucking into his customary full-English – customary on those days when he had a full day of heavy labor on his schedule. Now, he looked up from his heaping plate of sausage, bacon, fried egg, tomato and mushroom, baked borracho beans, and toast, and replied,
“Not much gets past you, Ricardo – yeah, that’s the old Everett house. Owner decided to come back to Luna for family reasons. It’s been a rental for about twenty years – and ya know how renters can beat up a place. Whole refit of the bathrooms and kitchen, repaint inside and out, and re-finish the floors. New windows, too. Nice bit of change – my guys can do it in their sleep.”
“Everett…” Richard ran a brief mental scan of the names of Lunaites in his mental Rolodex and came up dry. “The name is familiar, but I can’t quite place it.”
Roman grinned – only later did Richard note the lack of mirth. “Local notables, Ricardo. Miss Alice – Doc Wyler’s wife. She was an Everett. So was Old Charley Mills, on his mothers’ side. This Everett is Myrna Vaughn, by her married name.”
“Vaughn?” Richard ventured. “Any relation to Chief …”
“His mother,” Roman replied, and forked in another mouthful of beans, assisted with a side of fried toast. “And she’s a real pistol.”
“Oh?” Richard hinted in a manner intended to invite further confidence. Roman did not rise to the bait, instead folded the last slice of toast around the lone rasher of bacon and wolfing it in two bites.
“Gotta run, Ricardo,” Roman added, around that last mouthful, reaching for his Thermos. “Fill ‘er up, long day ahead.”
“This Mrs. Senior Vaughn – I take it you mean she is…”
“What I said – a real pistol. Ask around, you’ll get the idea.” Roman departed, leaving Richard frustrated and with his curiosity roused. He sought further enlightenment from Araceli – even though the Café was in the middle of the breakfast rush.
“I hear that Mrs. Myrna Vaughn – she who brought forth our illustrious chief of police into the world – is returning to Luna City after a long hiatus,” Richard ventured, hoping that his chief waitress and manager would prove to be a font of information, or at least, amusing gossip. “Is this in aid of Joe and Jess’s pending new sprout on the familial tree…”
“Yeah – that and Joe’s dad passed away last month … you do remember about that? The obituary was on the second page of the Beacon, and the flag in front of Town Hall was at half-staff for a week. And – you did notice that Jess and Joe went to San Antonio for the funeral?”
“Come to think on it, so I did,” Richard admitted. With the press of work in the Café kitchen, all having to do with anything outside of that often fled from his concern and memory within hours of his having encountered them. “And so now the widowed Mrs. Vaughn is moving back to town – Roman told me that his crew is renovating that charming little Spanish colonial cottage around the corner from Town Square. He would only say that she is … somewhat of a character.”
Araceli barked a short laugh. “Yeah, Joe’s Mom is a law unto herself. Look, I only knew her at a remove. The Vaughns lived here when Joe was a kid in school – so I can’t say I knew her all that well. But she coached the girls’ field hockey team back then – even did a bit, coaching other sports, as a volunteer concerned parent, you understand. She and Miss Letty went head-to-head over leadership of the Historical Society about the time that I started high school; that’s when she and Joe’s dad …” and Araceli hastily crossed herself… “Decided to move to Victoria, and then to Austin when the Legislature was in session. Oh, she told everyone it was because of Mr. Vaughn being elected to the Lege … but everyone really knew that it was because Miss Letty had slapped her down, good and hard, when she tried to throw her weight around with the Historical Society. Miss Letty does not put up with people trying to do dirt to Luna City. And Doc Wyler backed her up, when it came to VPI, when they established Mills Farm…”
“Something to do with … the Cattleman Hotel, wasn’t it?” Richard ventured, and Araceli nodded. The bell over the main door chimed sweetly again, and Araceli shot off in obedience to hospitality’s command.
Upon her return, Araceli enlightened him briefly. “Really, Chef – I don’t know all of the gory details. I was just in high school at the time and Joe was a senior. It made all the difference in the world. We might as well have been on different planets. You might want to talk to Miss Letty about that. She was there and she would know.”
“Indeed,” Richard agreed. “I suspect that what the old dear doesn’t know about Luna City, past and present, would fit into a thimble.”

03. February 2019 · Comments Off on What Do They Drive? · Categories: Luna City Info Dump, Luna-ites

One of those things that I have practically had to make a chart for, when writing about Luna City – is keeping track of the vehicles which the various characters drive; they are mentioned now and again, and over seven (and this year to be eight books) I have to try and be consistent. Car ownership – make, model, style, color and condition – say something about the personality of the driver/owner. Herewith the run-down; as near to complete a listing of those motor vehicles (not necessarily automobiles or trucks) which I have noted in passing:
Berto Gonzalez: he routinely drives an assortment of luxury town cars and limousines as part of being employed by his Uncle Tony, who owns a car-hire service catering to the up-scale market. Berto also routinely drives a rather down-at-heels pickup truck owned by his father; a vehicle with a cracked vinyl seat patched with duct tape. He does not yet own his own personal vehicle, as he has no real need to do so.
Jess Abernathy-Vaughn: a bare-bones yellow Jeep Wrangler.
Joe Vaughn: ordinarily behind the wheel of the Luna City PD’s one cruiser, or one of the department’s sport-utility vehicles. His personal vehicle is a pickup truck, model unspecified, but of solid quality and well-maintained. Joe is fastidious, that way.
Doc Wyler: a very recent model Ford F-150 King Ranch model pickup, with the cattle-brand designed logo of the Wyler Ranch on the doors, and all the add-on bells and whistles. Doc is a man accustomed to the best and has the means to acquire and maintain such.
Sefton and Judy Grant: The Grants operate – and barely manage to keep it street-legal in the eyes of the motor vehicle licensing authorities – a vehicle pieced together from an old Volkswagon bus, with a pickup-truck bed welded to the back half of the chassis, behind the driver and passenger seats. The sides of the truck bed and the doors to the driver/passenger compartment are spray-painted with flowers, peace signs and vintage hippie mottoes, in between the rust.
Miss Letty McAllister: she does not drive.
Richard Astor-Hall: he does not drive, either.
Chris Mayall: a recent model Mitsubishi hatch-back; bright red in color. Chris, like Joe, is fastidious about vehicle maintenance, and is still annoyed at the bill for bodywork incurred when he collided with a deer – even though the Gonzalez Motor and Auto Body shop gave him the friends-and-family rate. Chris blames the deer for reckless grazing.
(to be continued)

Phillip G. Vaughn, Junior, formerly the city manager of Karnesville, and three times elected to the Texas State Legislature representing Karnes County, died on Saturday, 23 September, 2018 in San Antonio following a long illness. Mr. Vaughn, 74, was the son of Phillip G. Vaughn, Senior, and Mary Bodie Vaughn, of Luna City. He graduated from Luna City High School in 1962, and attended the University of Texas in Austin, where he studied history and public administration. Upon graduation, he served two years in the US Army, fulfilling his draft obligation. In June, 1969, he married Myrna Everett in the First Methodist Church of Luna City, where they subsequently made their home. Phillip Vaughn was employed as a manager by various firms in Beeville, Victoria, and Karnesville. Developing an interest in politics, he was elected to Luna City’s town council in the early 1970s, followed by four terms in the State Legislature. A public-spirited citizen, upon defeat for a fifth term, Phillip Vaughn was offered a position on the board of trustees for San Antonio’s Incarnate Word University, where he served until increasing ill-health forced him to retire from public life in 1996.

Phillip Vaughn is survived by his wife, Myrna, son, Joseph P. Vaughn of Luna City, daughter-in-law Jessica Abernathy-Vaughn, and a grandson, Joseph James Vaughn. A memorial service will be held at Croker Methodist Church in San Antonio on Wednesday, September 27, at 11 AM. Interment will be at the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. In lieu of flowers, friends and admirers are asked to donate to the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

31. October 2018 · Comments Off on Luna City Lucky Seven – Live on Kindle! · Categories: Book News

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The ebook version is available on Kindle, and in other formats at Draft to Digital. The print version will be live next week! Enjoy!

From the Back cover: Welcome to Luna City, Karnes County, Texas … Population 2,456, give or take! Fugitive former celebrity chef Richard Astor-Hall has become a valued member of the community, expanding service at the Café, keeping company with local ace reporter Kate Heisel, and training his new assistant cook, Luc Massie, part-time drummer for the punk rock band OPM. Trouble is brewing when Luc falls in love with the daughter of Sook Walcott, the most ferocious tiger-mother in Luna City … and progress of renovating the historic old Cattleman Hotel has slowed to a standstill. And is Richard’s past about to catch up to him, once again, when his old flame comes to Luna City to get married to someone else? All these questions and more will be answered in this, the seventh Luna City chronicle.

 

28. September 2018 · Comments Off on Spring 2018 Luna City Chamber of Commerce Newsletter · Categories: Luna City Info Dump
02. September 2018 · Comments Off on From Luna City – Lucky Seven · Categories: Luna City Short Stories

A Short Story: The Gift

 

Tuesday, early afternoons was the time that Jess Abernathy-Vaughn held the brief meeting with Richard at the Café to review the previous weeks’ financials. These meetings had moved from mid-morning, and gradually became more and more perfunctory and business at the Café expanded, and to the mild astonishment of Jess herself, actually began to turn a profit which fell into a fluctuating zone somewhere between ‘barely marginal’ and ‘satisfactory.’

“No way would I ever advise someone wanting to make a fortune to start up a restaurant,” she remarked on that particular day, and Richard nodded, glumly.

“No, it’s more of a fame, fortune, and feeding people,” He replied. “On the other hand – people always want good food… it’s just that it’s a constant struggle to provide it at a cost that the public will judge to be fair. You know that the margins are always thin, and most people who go into full-frontal food service are as mad as hatters…”

“So I gathered,” Jess observed dryly, just as Luc emerged from the kitchen, blinking absently, like something strange, and tatted, fresh from a long stretch of hibernation or suspended animation.

“Is there something the matter in the kitchen?” Richard asked, with a slight edge in his voice, as Luc merely stood there, staring blankly at the tables, as if he had forgotten the purpose.

“No … nothing,” Luc replied. “I was just thinking.”

“It must have been painful,” Richard answered, and Jess snickered into her glass of unsweetened iced-tea. “You’d probably best not do it again.”

“On it, Chef,” Luc replied. “Oh, I just remembered. The cakes are done. That raisin-wedding-cake thing.”

“Why didn’t you say so!” Richard exclaimed and bolted from his seat.

“I took them out of the oven,” Luc said, to Richard’s back, and Jess rolled her eyes, thinking that yes, nothing could more have proved Richard’s point about the madness of food service in general than that brief exchange. But Luc’s expression briefly cleared as his distracted gaze wandered towards Jess.

“Oh – Hi, Mizz Vaughn. Mizz Letty doin’ OK?”

“Yeah, she is,” Jess replied, cautiously. Good heavens, Luc had made some progress towards a social manner. “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” Luc replied. “Hey – business doing good?”

“Very well, I think,” Jess answered. Luc nodded, as if mildly pleased at this revelation. Then he wandered back towards the kitchen, just as the old-fashioned bell over the front door jingled – that sweet, silvery, old-fashioned jingle. The door at Abernathy Hardware had the same old-style bell over it as well. Likely, they had come from the same place, decades before Jess was even born.

“Hi, Jess!” It was Pamela Pryor – Princess Pammy, as Jess had always called her, in her own mind. “I’m glad I caught you! I saw your jeep outside! Look, I have something for you, but I don’t have it with me at the moment! Are you going to be at home later? I can bring it by.”

“Sure, after about 4:30.” Jess sneaked a peek at her schedule, cruelly mapped out on her cellphone. “Is it bigger than a breadbox…”

“Nothing like that,” Pamela’s smile was brilliant, unforced. “Just something I found, when we were sorting out the guest rooms at the ranch, for Pop’s latest wedding. A little thing, really – but I thought of you and Joe, immediately, and I want you to have it for the baby … see you around five, then!”

Just then, Richard came out of the kitchen, scowling – a dark expression which lightened by several degrees when he caught sight of Pamela. Jess repressed a small sigh. Pamela – gorgeous, accomplished, blond and rich, by way of being Doc Wyler’s beloved granddaughter, had that effect on practically the entire world. Jess had always thought that unfair – but then, she had married Joe Vaughn, who was Pamela’s high school flame, so perhaps she herself possessed a charm or two. Still, Pamela had always made her feel inadequate, merely by existing.

“Hi, Richard!” Pam exclaimed. “We got your order for beef tenderloins for Pop’s wedding supper at the Cattleman. Andy and the boys will deliver them next week, if that’s OK.”

“Prime beef, nothing less than choice,” Richard said, with relief.

“For one of our best customers, nothing less,” Pamela agreed with a twinkle. “We’ll give you a call when it’s ready for delivery.” Her cellphone, deep in the depths of her Birkin handbag, burbled merrily, and she added. “Must fly – see you at about five, Jess.”

“See you,” Jess answered, without enthusiasm, and began closing up the folder for the Café. Little Joe peacefully slept in his stroller seat. “Nothing more for this week, Rich, unless you have any questions.”

“None at all,” Richard answered, sounding abstracted. “See you next week.”

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