The Case of the Missing Lawn Chairs #TuesdayTidbit #Memoir #Inspiration

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. Her brown hair is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

 

THE CASE OF THE MISSING LAWN CHAIRS

By Abbie Johnson Taylor

Copyright 2021.

 

“Somebody stole our lawn chairs!” Dad announced.

For many years during the summer months, my family attended weekly band concerts at Kendrick Park in Sheridan, Wyoming, on Tuesday evenings after dinner. We brought lawn chairs and listened to the community band playing old standards, marches, and popular songs. Afterward, we trekked to a nearby ice cream stand for dessert, leaving our lawn chairs stashed behind a tree out of the way, sure in the knowledge that they would still be there when we returned to claim them before walking home. But now, all we could do was gape at the empty spot where we expected the chairs to be.

It was the summer of 1983, and I was home from college on break between my junior and senior years. My ten-year-old cousin, Shelley, who was visiting from South Dakota with her family, had accompanied Dad and me and our Irish setter Clancy to the park. She said, “Oh, no.”

Clancy had wandered off and was sniffing something nearby, blissfully unaware of this tragedy. Dad finally said, “Well, why don’t you two start walking home? I’ll look around and see if whoever took them dumped them somewhere else. I left my New Yorker magazine in my chair, and I wasn’t finished reading it.”

With Clancy, he headed off in one direction while Shelley and I sauntered the other way toward home, which was only about a block away. While waiting to cross a busy street, Shelley suddenly cried, “Look, there are our chairs.”

“Where?” I asked, turning my head this way and that. With my limited vision, I couldn’t spot them.

“They were in the back of that pick-up that passed us. One of the guys in the cab just gave us the finger.”

“Let’s wait for Dad,” I suggested.

A few minutes later when he caught up with us, and Shelley told him what she’d seen, he said, “Well, I’ll be darned. Come on. Let’s go home. It’s safe to cross now.”

At home, we found Mother watching television in the living room. When Shelley excitedly told her what had happened, Mother asked her, “Did you see what the truck looked like?”

“Yeah, it was a green truck,” Shelley answered. “and there were two guys in the cab.”

Turning to Dad, Mother said, “Well, you should call the police. With Shelley’s description, they might be able to find the chairs.”

“Yeah,” Shelley cried, jumping up and down and clapping her hands.

Clancy, who always got excited when anyone else did, voiced his approval while dancing in circles and wagging his tail.

After shushing the dog, Dad said, “I suppose it wouldn’t hurt.” He made his way to the phone in the hall.

That summer, I’d been reading an Ellery Queen murder mystery which featured some police brutality. Not having had much experience with law enforcement, I wasn’t sure it was such a good idea to call the police about stolen lawn chairs. At least we didn’t have a dead body on our hands.

But Shelley was so excited about the possibility of helping find the lawn chairs. I didn’t want her to be scared. So, I remained silent while Dad made the call.

A few minutes later, when Clancy’s barking announced the arrival of the local constabulary, Shelley and I were sitting on the couch together. She must have read my mind for she moved closer to me, giggling. “You nervous?” she asked.

I should have told her there was nothing to be nervous about. Remembering what I’d heard a thousand times on the television show, Dragnet, I should have advised her to give them just the facts.

Instead, I only laughed nervously as Dad opened the front door while Clancy continued to bark and wag his tail. Grabbing his collar, Dad said, “Let me just put him on the side porch.”

To my relief, instead of an entire crew of policemen who arrived after Ellery Queen reported a murder, there was only one detective. Instead of barking orders at people like Inspector Queen, he introduced himself and engaged us in small talk before asking about the crime.

Shelley was a trooper. She described that pick-up truck and the guys in the cab as best she could, saying, “I didn’t get the license plate number, though.”

“That’s all right,” the officer said, scribbling in his notebook. “That sounds like Ricky Rodriguez’s truck.”

Dad described the lawn chairs and said, “My New Yorker magazine was in one of them.”

“Okay,” the officer said, scribbling some more. “I’ll see what I can do. It was nice meeting you all.”

The next day, Mother received a phone call from the detective. He told her they’d found the chairs, along with other contraband, in the back of that green pick-up. Unfortunately, they needed to keep all found items for evidence, and we didn’t get the chairs back until October. But miracle of miracles, that New Yorker magazine was still folded up in one of those chairs.

***

Note: The above true story appears in the current issue of Magnets and Ladders, which can be read here. You’ll also find it on Beetley Pete’s blog here. I was inspired to write this piece last year while taking a memoir class from fellow author Glenda Beall, who blogs here.

 

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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Comedian Shares Life Through Laughter #FridayFunReads #Reblogs #Inspiration

I posted a version of the following review here a few years ago. The version below appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders, which can be read here. Thanks to Mary-Jo Lord, editor-in-chief, for revisions she made to this review, with my permission, of course. Enjoy!

***

COMEDIAN SHARES LIFE THROUGH LAUGHTER

REVIEW OF IF YOU ASK ME: (AND OF COURSE YOU WON’T)  BY BETTY WHITE

BY ABBIE JOHNSON TAYLOR

Copyright 2022

 

Could you use some good laughs, especially during these unprecedented times? If so, look no further than Audible, where you can download a recording of this book, narrated by Betty White herself, may she rest in peace. I couldn’t help laughing when I saw her on television as the scatter-brained Rose in The Golden Girls. She was also on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but I was a little young when that was running. My mother watched that as religiously as I watched The Golden Girls.

According to her biography on her IMDB page, Betty White was born on January 17th, 1922 in Oak Park Illinois. Her mother was a homemaker, and her father was a lighting company executive. Her family moved to Los Angeles when Betty was two. She attended Horace Mann Elementary and Beverly Hills High School. Hoping to be a writer, she became more interested in acting after writing and playing the lead role in a graduation play at Horace Mann.

Her television career began in 1939 when she and a former high school classmate sang songs from The Merry Widow on an experimental Los Angeles channel. She also worked in radio and movies. Best known for her roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970) and The Golden Girls (1985), she performed in a variety of other television shows including Life with Elizabeth, Date with the Angels, The Betty White Show, The Golden Palace, Hot in Cleveland, and Betty White’s Off Their Rockers. After Rue McClanahan’s death in 2010, Betty White was the only living golden girl until she passed on December 31st, 2021 at the age of ninety-nine. She won seven Emmy awards and received twenty Emmy nominations. She was the first woman to receive an Emmy award for game show hosting Just Men and is the only person to have an Emmy award in all female comedic performing categories. In May of 2010, she was the oldest person to guest host Saturday Night Live and won a Primetime Emmy Award for this. As of 2012, she was the oldest Emmy nominee.

In If You Ask Me, Betty White combines her ideas on such topics as friendship, technology, and aging with anecdotes from her childhood, career, and work with animals.

Humorous quips about exercise and hair color, and her rumored crush on Robert Redford are delivered in classic Betty White style. She shares what happens backstage at awards ceremonies and how her role as Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show changed her career.

She talks about developing a friendship with a guerilla, meeting two whales, and adopting a dog rejected by Guide Dogs for the Blind. I can relate when she says how frustrating it is not to recognize a face, especially when the face belongs to a celebrity she meets at a party and thinks she should know. Being visually impaired, I have the same problem but don’t run into celebrities at parties. In any case, I recommend this book to anyone needing some good laughs.

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. Her brown hair is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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Hunting Out of Season #TuesdayTidbit #Fiction #Inspiration

Even though it’s Tuesday, I’m posting the following story as part of fellow author and blogger Stevie Turner’s Friday Write feature. This work of flash fiction appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. I was inspired to write it after someone told me she’d actually overheard a stranger say the story’s first lines into his cell phone.

 

HUNTING OUT OF SEASON

by Abbie Johnson Taylor

Copyright 2022.

 

“Next time you don’t pick up the phone, I’ll beat the shit out of you!” His words were loud and clear through my sister’s cell when she answered his call.

I pulled the rental car to the side of the road. Turning to her, I said, “Give me that phone.”

She complied, her hand trembling, nearly dropping the device. “Not any more, buddy,” I told him. “Not if I have any say in the matter.”

The call was disconnected. “He thinks he called a wrong number,” I said. “He’ll call back.”

Sure enough, the phone rang, and his name came up on the screen. “Hi, Mike,” I said.

“Who the hell’s this?”

“Oh, you don’t remember me from your wedding a few months ago? I’m Debbie’s big brother Rick, six-feet tall, muscular. I had a bad feeling about you. So, I wasn’t surprised when Debbie called me yesterday after not speaking to anyone in our family for three months and begged me to fly all the way out to this god-forsaken state of Arizona to rescue her. She didn’t tell you she’d invited me for a visit? That was smart. You would have beaten the shit out of her then and made her tell me not to come.”

After a pause, he said, “Of course I wouldn’t have done that. I know who you are. We talked about going hunting in October when the season opens. Maybe Debbie and I will come this fall, and we can do that.”

“Seriously?”

“Look, we’ve have some disagreements…”

“Disagreements? You call a broken arm and bruises all over my sister’s body mere disagreements? I don’t think so, buddy.”

“I told her I was sorry. Sometimes, I lose control when I get angry. I’m trying not to…”

“Yeah, right. That’s what they all say. Forget it! I’m taking her back to Wyoming. If you come after her, you’ll be in big trouble because you’ll be hunting out of season. As a matter of fact, there is no hunting season for the type of game you’re after.”

I ended the call and handed the phone back to Debbie. “Can you believe he said he wanted to come up to Wyoming and go hunting with me?”

She managed a weak smile, as she slipped the phone into her purse. “You’re good.”

“So are you, Sis.” I resisted the urge to pat the shoulder of her broken left arm. “Let’s get out of here.”

As I put the car in gear, she fanned her face. “God, I hate Arizona summers. Why did I ever leave Wyoming?”

 

THE END

 

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. Her brown hair is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

New! Why Grandma Doesn’t Know Me

Copyright 2021 by Abbie Johnson Taylor.

Independently published with the help of DLD Books.

The cover of the book features an older woman sitting in a wicker chair facing a window. The world beyond the window is bright, and several plants are visible on the terrace. Behind the woman’s chair is another plant, with a tall stalk and wide rounded leaves. The woman has short, white hair, glasses, a red sweater, and tan pants. The border of the picture is a taupe color and reads "Why Grandma Doesn't Know Me" above the photo and "Abbie Johnson Taylor" below it.

Sixteen-year-old Natalie’s grandmother, suffering from dementia and confined to a wheelchair, lives in a nursing home and rarely recognizes Natalie. But one Halloween night, she tells her a shocking secret that only she and Natalie’s mother know. Natalie is the product of a one-night stand between her mother, who is a college English teacher, and another professor.

After some research, Natalie learns that people with dementia often have vivid memories of past events. Still not wanting to believe what her grandmother has told her, she finds her biological father online. The resemblance between them is undeniable. Not knowing what else to do, she shows his photo and website to her parents.

Natalie realizes she has some growing up to do. Scared and confused, she reaches out to her biological father, and they start corresponding.

Her younger sister, Sarah, senses their parents’ marital difficulties. At Thanksgiving, when she has an opportunity to see Santa Claus, she asks him to bring them together again. Can the jolly old elf grant her request?

***

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SPRING/SUMMER 2022 EDITION OF MAGNETS AND LADDERS #SocialMediaMonday #magazines #Inspiration

A photo of Abbie smiling in front of a white background. She has short brown hair which is cut short and frames her face. She is wearing a bright red shirt and a dark, flowy scarf swirled with hues of purple, pinks and blues.

Magnets and Ladders is an online magazine produced twice a year by Behind Our Eyes, a writers’ organization to which I belong. I’m pleased to announce that a memoir, book review, and short story of mine have been published in this issue. You may find work by other authors you recognize. So, snuggle into your preferred reading area with your favorite beverage and enjoy some great fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and more.

 

SPRING/SUMMER 2022 EDITION OF MAGNETS AND LADDERS

The Red Stuff #TuesdayTidbit #Reblogs #Inspiration

Image contains: Abbie, smiling.

 

 

 

Thanks to fellow blogger Chris Hofstader for publishing my creative nonfiction piece in his magazine. When you click the link below, you’ll need to scroll down close to the end to find it. If you’re using a screen reader, the quickest way to get there is to press your heading level 1 navigation key twice. But if you’re blind or visually impaired, you might want to read other articles in this publication and subscribe.

My piece was also published on the Recovering the Self blog and in Magnets and Ladders. Enjoy!

***

For six years, despite my limited vision, I cared for my late husband, who was totally blind and suffered two strokes that paralyzed his left side soon after we were married. Bill was so finicky that mealtime was often a nightmare because he didn’t always want to eat what I wanted to fix. So, I had to scramble to find a substitute for him while still enjoying what I wanted to eat.

 

Read the full story here.