My Imaginary Friends: #6 Rocky

When I was a kid, we spent every summer in the woods. On the day school let out, either early in the afternoon before lunch time, or ten to fifteen minutes before the end of the school day, a scratchy announcement came over the school’s intercom. “Will Jadi, Pam and Barbara Campbell please collect their things and come down to the Principal’s Office?”

All the other kids watched us with round-eyed excitement. “You and your sisters got called the Principal’s Office, what’d you do, you guys must be in biiig trouble!” they chanted.

My parents would be standing at the front doors to the elementary school, chatting with the principal or his secretary. Out in the street the VW bus waited, packed to the gills. If that microbus was a fish, it would have been a stuffed bass.

Tiger the cat lay on the front dashboard. We got a dog a few years later and the family dog and cat accompanied us everywhere.

Once the kids had been collected, my parents drove to the camp we called home from that last day of school until the week before school started again.

**

My father was a research entomologist. He and his Forest Service crew set traps in the woods to see what might be eating gypsy moths. Each year those traps yielded a flying squirrel (one glorious year, two of them). Dad brought them back to the cabin where we’d set up a cage for the creature we inevitably named Rocky.

The campsite we returned to every June had a screened-in porch that filled the side of the building looking at the lake. We put Rocky’s big cage there, built him a nest up by the warmth of the bricks of the back of the fireplace, and let him out each night when he woke up.

Watching Rocky fly through the air of that porch was better than any t.v. show.

 Years later, I wrote about a little girl visiting her cousins. They always have critters, and she meets a flying squirrel for the first time. His name, of course, is Rocky. – Jadi

Flying Squirrel Images | Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD
Image courtesy of Free Vectors, Stock Photos & PSD

Hannah and her brother clustered with their cousins in the cabin’s screened-in porch. “What’d you catch this summer?” she asked.

Dom was carefully lifting a cardboard box out of a wide mesh wire cage. “A flying squirrel! We named him Rocky. Right now, he’s sleeping. Flying squirrels are nocturnal. That means they wake and get active at night.” Dom pointed at the wall. “Rocky likes to fly around the porch. We helped Dad build a home for him!”

Hannah saw that Uncle Aaron, with the help of the children, had erected platforms around the backside of the fireplace.

“And he really flies?”

“No, Princess,” Dawn answered. “Rocky has webs of skin between his legs and torso. They spread when he leaps to give him flight conductivity.” Like all the Schroyers, Dawn’s speech became pedantic when she got the chance to explain something. But Hannah wasn’t listening. Exclaiming, she crowded close as Dom gently lifted a tiny furry body out of the box and handed the creature to Ryan. Large black eyes looked at her.

“He kind of looks like a chipmunk. Can I hold him next?” Hannah put out a hand.

Ryan shook his head. “Mom says, never disturb him during the daytime. But we wanted to show you him. Tonight when he’s active we’ll let him out of the cage for a while. When Rocky gets used to you, he’ll eat out of your hands!”

“What else have you got?”

“Alive or dead?”

Hannah looked at Dom in horror.

“She means animals that are living, as in, breathing,” Jake prompted.

“You remember the ranger camp on the north end of the lake?” Dom asked. “Dad knows the head ranger. He brought us Rocky. Remember how last year they brought us a flicker with a broken wing?”

“So, this year we have Rocky, one diamond back turtle, and three frogs,” Dawn listed proudly. “We had a garter snake, but Mom made me let it go already. We put all the others in the fish cage out by the dock for the summer; we’ll let them go later. We have to keep Bello away from the frogs, though! That dumb dog thinks he can eat them!”

Hannah listened, tasting a familiar sour jealousy. Her father was allergic to cats. And dogs. And anything with feathers. They had talked Fred into a tank of guppies one Christmas, and before Easter the fish had floated belly up, covered in lurid, fuzzy moss. That was her family’s single venture into pet ownership.  – from my short story Princess Rain Clouds in The Trail Back Out

NOTES: Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © and property of Jadi Campbell. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

 

 

My imaginary Friends: #5. Fred Podolski, the Guy on the Crackers and Cookies Run  

I create back stories for every single one of my characters, even the most minor figures.

Fred Podolski was a thumbnail sketch of a character in my novel Tsunami Cowboys. All we know is that someone dreams about him driving a truck in pea soup fog in the early morning hours. Fred causes an eleven car pile up.

Fred Podolski. What did Ronnie know about him, anyway? He was related to Gus, the owner of her favorite downtown café. When she went in at lunch for a bowl of soup, sometimes Fred sat at the front counter chatting with his brother or sister-in-law.

Fred had a solid build and a ruined back. He always had on driving gloves, his sensitive long fingers poking through the soft leather. That was the extent of their connection, or so she’d thought. The dream informed her otherwise, letting her know that karmic threads attached them. Those threads had twitched mightily in the gray hour just before dawn. …. She went back one last time over the dream’s images. Ronnie re-viewed a freeze frame of giraffes and lions, the crates of animals dumb and placid, upside down in cardboard boxes. Fred would be on a ‘crackers and cookies’ run. He’d bash into a blue Subaru head on. – from the chapter Precognitious

Six years later I wrote a book of short stories titled The Trail Back Out. I returned to Fred and his life in Princess Rain Clouds. What happens if you’re a man whose job entails that you’re on the road most of the time? What if you have kids, and a wife with a family who doesn’t like you very much and doesn’t hide that fact? – Jadi

Late that afternoon, before the sun sank, the fathers and kids erected tents. Jake and his father tamped tent stakes into the root beds of thick grass while Hannah watched. Fred’s handsome face was red and the skin around his eyes was tight. He flexed his fingers. He disliked using his hands for anything but driving, and even then he always wore driving gloves.

Fred wrestled with the tent in frustration.

“Need some help there, Fred?”

“Christ, Aaron, don’t you ever mow this place?”

“Nope. It’s lakefront property to a cabin in the woods, Fred, not a lawn in the suburbs,” Aaron answered mildly. He was preoccupied with the Weber grill, prepping it for the meats to come. And he pushed rocks into place for the fire pit, making their circle bigger. “Somewhere you’d rather be?”

“Honestly? I swear to God, Aaron, if I wanted to erect a tent, I would have moved to Maine and bought stock in goddamn L.L. Bean.”

“Hey!” exclaimed Jake. “Dad! Did you get a new tattoo?”

“I want to see it too!” Hannah moved closer and her father rolled up his shirtsleeve to show them the red Celtic knot on his right forearm.

Uncle Don scrutinized it. “Nice,” he commented. “But, a Celtic design? Sure and begorrah, it’s the Clan Podolski out of Ireland’s Glenballyemon.”

Hannah giggled. “You talk funny, Uncle Don!” – from the short story Princess Rain Clouds in The Trail Back Out

Poor Fred.

Notes: © Jadi Campbell 2021. All photos and images © and property of Jadi Campbell. Tsunami Cowboys was longlisted for the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Award. The Trail Back Out was a 2020 Best Book Award Finalist for Fiction Anthologies. The title story was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

Clck here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

The Trail Back Out – Excerpt

As promised, here is an excerpt from my story The Trail Back Out. This tale was longlisted for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award. The entire collection The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest 2020 Best Book Awards Finalist in the category  Fiction: Anthologies.

The Trail Back Out © Jadi Campbell 2020

I: Prelude: Rain and Fire

Each evening, while twilight shadows lengthened, Ken sat and stared into the fire. What a shame it had taken what felt like the end of the world for him to return to the Adirondacks.

Ken had been working on the oil fracking fields and living in a container. The evenings consisted of lengthy monologues from men alternately bored, or angry, or scared, arguing over every subject with a captive audience.

Why aren’t there any solitary quarters, he’d thought more than once. When a new wave of the mutated virus arrived, the corporation went into lockdown. All workers would quarantine with them or leave.

Ken looked around and couldn’t imagine sharing a room with any of the men for an extended period. He stopped at the head office to quit and collected his back pay. Ken gathered his things (simultaneously relieved and strangely distressed that they made a small bundle) and drove away.

He traveled cross country, always heading east, not yet quite sure where he was going. In some places he took temporary work; no matter where he stayed, in his free hours Ken helped register people to vote. Outside Kansas City he bought camping gear and stocked the trunk of his car with canned goods and nonperishables.

His internal compass pointed its needle at his personal true north. When he pulled into Cranberry Lake township in upstate New York months later, Ken’s eyes burned. He passed signs that stated simply, Forever wild. Ken had arrived in one of the loneliest places that an already solitary human being could go in an increasingly lonely world. He was glad; it beat being in a ghost town.

Wet winds gusted, but he was sheltered. He scratched his face and watched the flames. “Scritchy,” Grace used to tease. She’d rub her cheeks hard against his bristles. He was the picture of the backwoods loner: a misanthrope in layers of clothes that all smelled like campfire smoke and dried sweat, his tee shirt faded, the wool jacket stiff with dry mud and the smell of damp lanolin.

The perfect cliché. Shaggy hair, overweight, six feet two inches tall when he bothered to stand erect and wasn’t slouching so as not to intimidate other people.

No one to intimidate here. Ken had seen fewer and fewer people as the summer ended. In the last week he’d passed a total of two single hikers, a family, and a couple. Everyone had raised their hands in greeting and headed down the trail to the next pond or on their way back out.

On the day before, he had shared the wet trail for a few minutes with a female park ranger. He imagined how he’d looked: muddy boots, soaked hiking pants, brushing the rain out of his eyes.

He could picture himself, and suddenly Ken did. Across the fire a man stood in the shadows, with rain streaming off a poncho and dripping around his feet.

 “Sorry to break into your privacy like this,” the stranger said. “You were lost in thought. According to my map this was the nearest lean-to. I’ll keep going; it’s not dark yet.”

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021.

Two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more and buy my books.

The Trail Back Out is longlisted!

I was longlisted! My short story The Trail Back Out was named a quarterfinalist for the 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Award.

If you click on the link, 2021 ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Awards, you’ll have the same experience I did….. scrolling down and down and down to the T’s, wondering if the story made it or not.

An interesting experience. The next time I submit a piece, remind me to begin the title with the letter “A” !

Tomorrow I’ll post a bit of The Trail Back Out. I promise I won’t make you scroll for it.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2021. The entire collection The Trail Back Out was named an American Book Fest  2020 Best Book Award Finalist in the category  Fiction Anthologies.

Click here for my author page to learn more and buy my books.

 

I’m in Good Company!

It is my honor to announce that my new book The Trail Back Out was named a finalist for the 2020 Best Book Award in the category of Fiction Anthologies!

Past winners of the Best Book awards have included Amy Tan, George Saunders, Clive Barker and Ann Lamott. I am in very good company indeed. This is the 17th year these awards have been handed out in the publishing industry. It’s an extra honor for me because The Trail Back Out is the only self-published book in my category.

Click on this link to see the list of finalists and the winner. http://americanbookfest.com/generalfiction/anthologies.html

Life is short and art is long. This award is a reminder of why I keep trying to write my best work to give to the world. And I have an extra message to anyone who writes (which, since I’m here in the fine world of bloggers, means all of you….): if you have ever wondered about joining a writers’ group, do so. I belong to the Writers in Stuttgart. In my group are writers of poetry, autobiography, novels, plays, vignettes, short stories, songs, and stories. I workshopped many of the stories in my book with the other members, and the feedback of my peers definitely made my writing better.

Stay safe and healthy, everyone. And Happy Thanksgiving wherever you are!

—Jadi

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. In The Trail Back Out  two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and buy my books.

LIVE! The Green Under the Snow, from my new book The Trail Back Out

Starting NOVEMBER 13th AT 8PM! The Writers in Stuttgart’s live-streamed reading is back up on youtube, through the week! If you missed hearing us read in October, this is your chance. I read from my new book at about the one-hour mark in the program.

Click on this link to go there, and enjoy! The Writers in Stuttgart 

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2020. The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase. In my new collection of short stories, two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Hear Me Read Live, this Weekend with the Writers in Stuttgart

The Writers in Stuttgart are giving our first youtube (live streaming) online reading on Friday, October 23rd at 8pm (Friday at 2 pm EST). We normally give readings 3 – 4 times a year in theaters here in Stuttgart. During these strange days we’ve been holding our monthly meetings on Zoom and decided to take a chance on a virtual reading. The upside is that people can view it anywhere in the world. If you can’t make the 8pm time, our show can be viewed for 48 hours after it takes place. A description and the link are below if you and any one you know are interested:

On 23 October, 2020 the Writers in Stuttgart are celebrating the transatlantic relationship between the USA and Germany in honor of the 25th anniversary of the DAZ (the German/American Center) in Stuttgart. In their first live stream reading, the Writers in Stuttgart will explore American, German as well as a variety of other international perspectives on national, international and intercultural identities and the German-American relationship of past, present and future. Join the Writers in Stuttgart on 23 October, 2020 at 8:00pm (2pm ET Friday in U.S.) at

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCml9nOF5jfVJRjw4mIqsgCg

Stay safe & healthy, and I hope to see you this weekend.

Best Wishes,

Jadi

PS: I’ll be reading The Green Under the Snow from my new short stories collection, in the second half of the program.

The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase! In my new collection of short stories, two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

The Animal Kingdom: 37

Something unpronounceable, northern Thailand

I give you Installment #37, yet another offering to my blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page. Definitions on this installment are tricky!

  1. This potential volery hates voleries!
  2. The wrack wrecked my kittens’ definitions.
  3. Does the grind get its name grinding against things?
  4. Yup, whoops whoop it up….
  5. A badelynge isn’t bathing.
  6. The lodge lodged in their lodge.
Me being careful not to dislodge lodging, back trails of Cranberry Lake, Adirondacks. This remote beaver-dammed pond appears in the title story to my book The Trail Back Out
  1. Volery of birds (in an aviary) [1]
  2. Wrack of kittens [2]
  3. Grind of whales (bottle-nosed whales only)
  4. Whoop of chimpanzee
  5. Badelynge of ducks (on the ground) [3]
  6. Lodge of beavers [4]
Avoiding the volery, Oregon coast

NOTES: [1] Volery is only used for the group of birds and the aviary that encloses them when they are encaged. [2] Wrack is also used for baby rabbits. [3] Click here to hear how to pronounce badelynge…. youtube.com. Also a play on words because ‘bad’ is the German word for bath. [4] Ah, the lodge! Animate object, inanimate object and verb, all in the same sentence. The last time I was able to pull off this stunt was with whales #22  and foxes #7. © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase! In my new collection of short stories, two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

 

The Animal Kingdom: 36

Flurry at Wilhelma Zoo, Stuttgart, Germany

Hard to believe, but today I give you Installment #36 of my epic blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. A glide glitters as it glides.
  2. The salon took over the salon.
  3. The warren warrants another look.
  4. The flurry’s flurry reflected on the pool.
  5. A huddle has no need to huddle!
  6. The dappled dopping dipped and dived.
  1. Glide of flying fish
  2. Salon of poodles
  3.  Warren of wombats [1]
  4. Flurry of flamingos
  5. Huddle of hippos [2]
  6. Dopping of ducks (diving)
Warrenless
Diving dopping, Tokyo, Japan

NOTES: [1] With a tiny range, wombats are critically endangered. Only 200 Northern hairy-nosed wombats remain. wombatfoundation.com [2] The ‘river horse’ is endangered. worldwildlife.org © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

The Trail Back Out is finished and available for purchase! In this collection of short stories, two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and order my books.

 

The Animal Kingdom: 35

Here for your reading pleasure is Installment #35 of the ever-growing blog thread describing what to call groups of animals … See how many you can guess. Answers listed at the bottom of the page.

  1. The creep creeps, but isn’t creepy.
  2. An ugly is cute in a kind of ugly way….
  3. The consort consorted.
  4. The tribe hunted the tribe.
  5. A wobble does seem wobbly on its feet.
  6. Don’t you dare tell a buffoonery that they’re buffoons!
Grande Dame of the Buffoons, Semenoggoh Nature Reserve, Borneo
  1. Creep of tortoises [1]
  2. Ugly of walruses
  3. Consort of corgi
  4. Tribe of antelope
  5. Wobble of ostriche
  6. Buffoonery of orangutans [2]
Creep member creeping, Loro Parque, Tenerifa, Canary Islands

NOTES: [1] “All tortoises are in fact turtles—that is, they belong to the order Testudines or Chelonia, reptiles having bodies encased in a bony shell—but not all turtles are tortoises.” https://www.britannica.com/demystified/whats-the-difference-between-a-turtle-and-a-tortoise  [2] Sigh. Orangutan status: Critically Endangered www.orangutan.org.au © Jadi Campbell 2017. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. Fun animal names from en.wiktionary.orgwww.writers-free-reference.com, Mother Nature Network and www.reference.com.

As of today, my first book Broken In: A Novel in Stories is 8 years old. And as of two weeks ago, my new book is finished and available for purchase! In The Trail Back Out, two strangers meet in the woods. Children wear masks. A gambler hides in the cellar during a Category Five hurricane. A wife considers a hit-man’s offer. Princess Rain Clouds searches for happiness. An entire village flees, a life is saved, and a tourist in Venice is melting. Everyone keeps trying to make sense of strange events far in the past or about to occur. Let these characters be your guides. Join them on the trail back out – to a familiar world, now unexpectedly changed.

Click on one of these links to order a copy:

The Trail Back Out: USA

The Trail Back Out: Germany

Information on Broken In: A Novel in Stories and all my books is available here:

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: USA

Jadi’s Books Amazon Page: Germany