Friday, August 30, 2013

The conclusion to Blown Together, A Campfire Circle Story - By Judi Phillips

Episode 5

This is the final episode of Blown Together – A Campfire Circle Story. We hope you have enjoyed this serial romance. If you missed any episodes, visit on the entertainment page.

When her gray eyes turned smoky, Brad swallowed hard.  He shouldn't be noticing.  She was Richie's little sister.  Well, not really little, but just the same ...  Besides, she probably didn't want to hang around a man with a ready-made family.  His relationship karma was seriously busted.

Taylor was the first to speak.  "I'll, um, go check out the window."

"Good.  Great.  Ah.  Good idea."  What was the matter with him?  Babbling like an idiot.

"Papa.  Where can I play?"

A perfect distraction.  "Right here in the living room is fine.  Maybe in the corner by the stairs."  She'd be protected there in case glass started flying.  He carried the toy box over, then unlatched the cover.

Faith shucked off her Dora the Explorer backpack, settled on the floor and began pulling out all her favorite pink princess stuff.

Brad was aware of Taylor the minute she returned wet again.  He struggled not to race over to her.  "Need any help?"

"Nope.  Just a broken pane."  She smiled.  "Nothing in there will get hurt by a little water.  When it stops raining, I can fix it."

Taylor brushed against him, and he nearly spun her around.  To do what?  Take her in his arms and kiss her?  Not a good idea.

She walked by and the moment passed.  Leaving him with thoughts of staying here tonight, with her, until the storm was over.


His daughter's voice snapped him to his senses.

"What, sweet pea?"

"I think Misty needs to go out."

*  *  *

Taylor focused her attention on Faith.  Misty was just the excuse she needed to put some space between herself and Brad.  A good walk in the rain might cool her down.  Wash away any fantasy thoughts about him.  "What's Misty doing?"

"She's been going back and forth to the kitchen door."

Taylor crossed over and ruffled Faith's hair.  "You're such a smart girl.  That's exactly what Misty wants."  She grabbed the leash.

"Can I take her out?  Please."

Taylor shook her head.  "That's not a good idea.  It's really stormy out there."
"I'll hold her leash very tight."

Taylor looked at Brad.

"No, Faith, you stay in here and keep dry with me."

Faith pushed out her lower lip, but nodded.

"I'll be right back."  Taylor clipped on Misty's lead.

Back in the kitchen a short time later, Taylor removed her rain gear and Misty's leash.

"Is it still a bad storm?"  Faith's little brow was furrowed.

"It's not as windy."  Taylor knelt in front of Faith.  "Are you worried about the storm?"

"A little.  It was scary when the tree fell.  But I'm a big girl."

Taylor wrapped an arm around Faith and looked up at Brad.  "She's being a really brave girl."

Faith nodded, freed herself and returned to playing with her toys.

Brad stared at Taylor for a moment, as if he wanted to say something important.  "You're good with her."

Taylor stood.  "Thanks.  Probably comes from dealing with a roomful of kiddos not much older than her."

"It's more than that.  You seem to like her."

What in the world did he mean?

He glanced at her, then looked away.  "After Faith was born, her mother refused to marry me.  Said she wanted to return home--to France.  It wasn't the right timing for her to be a mother."

Taylor rested a hand on his arm.

He scrubbed his face.  "Look.  It's getting darker outside and it's not even supper time.  Maybe we should light some candles."

Taylor accepted the change of subject. She wouldn't press him further.  He'd tell her more when the time was right.  "I keep candles in the bottom drawer in the bathroom.  Faith, can you get those, please?  Brad, you'll find oil lamps on the mantle.  And I'll get the Aladdin Lamp."

Brad helped Faith with the candles after lighting the lamps.

Faith clapped her hands together when Taylor lit the lamp.  "Wow.  That is really bright."

Taylor smiled.  "It is, isn't it?  It was my grandmother's.  When Grandpa first built Brookview, they didn't have electricity."
Faith wrinkled her brow.  "How did they run their computer?"

Taylor laughed.  "No computers back then."

"That's right.  I forgot.  Papa's told me about the old days."

Brad groaned, a sheepish grin on his face.

"The old days, huh?" Taylor teased.  He was so--such a hunk--when he was embarrassed.  Her gaze caught and held his for an eternal moment.  Without even trying, he rocked her world.  Obviously, nothing had changed since that mortifying day when she'd decided to flirt with him.

Faith tugged Taylor's sleeve, breaking through her memories.  "Can we eat?  My tummy is grumbling."

Brad laughed.  "We'll have to light a fire."

Just as well they had a pint-sized chaperone, Taylor decided.  Misty wasn't going to be any help.  She wouldn't stop Taylor from planting a kiss on Brad's delectable mouth.

Faith had a puzzled look on her face.  "Why do we need a fire?"

"So we can cook supper."

"Just like when we go camping."

"That's right.  Come on, sweet pea.  I need some help."

While Brad and Faith built the fire, Taylor made the patties.

By the time they cooked hamburgers in a cast iron skillet and finished eating, night had fallen.  It was still raining, but the wind was gone.

"Let's play a game," Faith suggested.

"Which one?"  

"Princess Candyland."

"Of course."  Brad looked at Taylor and rolled his eyes.

"I'd love to.  I've never played that one."

Faith looked at Taylor like she'd come from another planet.  "You never played Candyland?"

Taylor shook her head.  "Not the Princess version."

"You'll love it."

Taylor smiled at the absolute assurance in Faith's voice.

Her eyes began to droop just as they finished the first game.

"Come on, sweet pea.  Time for bed."  Opening Faith's backpack, Brad helped her put on pajamas and brush her teeth.  "I assume there are two bedrooms upstairs--just like my camp?

Taylor nodded.

While Brad put Faith to bed, Taylor stirred the embers, added another log to ward off the chill and curled up on the couch in front of the fireplace.

Only a few minutes passed before Brad returned.  "She was practically asleep before I finished tucking her in."

Taylor patted the cushion beside her.  "Saving Misty tuckered her out.  Have a seat."

He settled beside her, heaving a sigh.  "This has been a crazy day."

"It has, but I'm glad you were here.  Made it more of an adventure than an ordeal."

"And you're great with Faith."  He slid his arm along the back of the couch, stopping when his fingers grazed Taylor's shoulder.

His slightest touch tantalized her.  She fought to keep her hands off him, refused to make a fool of herself again.  "She's an adorable little girl."

"And you're an adorable big girl."  He moved closer.  Putting a finger under her chin, he tilted her head and caressed her lips with his.

Heat splintered through Taylor.  The wind could have blown away the house and she wouldn't have noticed.  Her wish from that long-ago day on the dock had come true.  Brad had finally kissed her.


Movie Reivew - Elysium - by Jeffrey J. Thivierge

Do you remember a couple of years ago when a bunch of people banded together and called themselves “Occupy Wall Street” and decided that they were going to take over public parks and turn them into campgrounds?  The entire point of that movement sparked the whole 99 percent versus the 1 percent debate prior to the 2012 election.  The gist of it was that 1 percent of the population controls most of the wealth and that 99 percent of the people pay for the financial mistakes that the 1 percenters make, a la the 2008 global financial crisis. 

Elysium is set in the year 2154 and portrays what some people think the world might look like if we continue down our current economic path.  It would appear as though class warfare has completely eliminated the middle class and there are only two classes of people left.  The ultra rich and privileged, who have fled Earth for a new, artificial, but pristine space station, Elysium, and the dirt poor, who live in absolute squalor on a tremendously overpopulated planet Earth.  Good Will Hunting, aka Matt Damon stars as Max, an ex-convict who was orphaned as a child, did some time in jail, and is now simply trying to claw his way through his meager existence on Earth.  Max meets up with Frey (Alice Braga), his childhood friend that he knew from his days as an orphan, who now works as a nurse.  Frey is among the working poor and has troubles of her own, a daughter named Matilda that is dying of leukemia.  

Elysium was built by the movie version of Haliburton, and is run by a ruthless, evil man (not Dick Cheney), John Carlyle (William Fitchner) that doesn’t mind watching employees die, as long as profits are up.  He conspires with Elysium’s Defense Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster) to install a reboot in the system that would oust the sitting President of the space station.  After being poisoned by radiation, Max (Damon) needs a way to get to Elysium for treatment, so he finds some old ex-convict buddies to help him get there.  Delacourt (Foster), however, uses all the technology and means available to keep the 99 percenters away from their precious new home.  

All in all, this wasn’t a terribly bad movie.  It wasn’t a terribly good movie, either, though.  Although the movie is less than two hours long, it felt like longer, which is never a good thing for me.  There’s an underlying love story, but not enough of one to consider this a decent date movie.  This is an incredibly violent movie with some pretty ugly scenes.  I wouldn’t dream of bringing my 14 year old daughter to this movie.  I understand that actors will, on occasion, pick and choose movies that fit their political beliefs.  The premise of this was a little ridiculous and at first I was frustrated.  Then my wife reminded me that my favorite movie begins with, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”  That’s when I decided Elysium wasn’t all that bad.  If you can just walk into Smitty’s Cinema and appreciate it for the cinematic adventure that it is and forget that it’s based on Matt Damon’s political views. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blown Together, episode 4 - By Judi Phillips

Brad shoved back his chair and raced upstairs, taking the steep steps two at a time. Broken wallboard dangled from the ceiling and chunks were scattered on the bed and floor. Rain leaked in around a tree trunk blocking a yawning hole. "I should have had that tree taken down last year. Bloody hell."

"Papa. You said a bad word."

He turned around to see two sets of frightened eyes, peering at him from just above floor level. The two of them climbed three more steps, Taylor's arm snug around Faith's shoulder.

He scrubbed a hand over his face. "I know, sweet pea. I forgot. Remember. You shouldn't."

"Is the camp going to be okay?" Her voice wobbled.

He hustled over to his daughter, his little girl, scooped her up into his arms and hugged her. "Of course it is. Grampa built it nice and strong." At least he hoped it would withstand this tropical storm.

She wrapped an arm around his neck and took a deep breath. "Okay."

Taylor stepped up and looked around. "We need something to catch this water. Do you have a cooler of some kind?"

"In the shed." He made a move to put Faith down.

"No. Stay here. I'll grab it." Taylor turned and ran down the stairs.

In a few minutes she reappeared, lugging an antique metal ice chest.

He let Faith slide down until her feet were on the floor and took the bulky cooler from Taylor. After some adjustment, he'd placed the chest where it would catch most of the rain.

"I think a few towels will catch the rest of the water." Taylor headed back downstairs, returned with a pile of towels and spread them over the floor. "You might want to spread some plastic over your living room furniture, too."

"Good idea. There's some in the shed. I'll get a tarp over the hole when the storm's over."

* * *

Taylor looked at the plastic-draped furniture and electronics. She shook her head. "How about you and Faith come to my place? I think there's a broken window, but not in the camp."
"Can I bring some of my toys?" Faith jumped up and down, clearly viewing this as another stage in the adventure.

Taylor smiled at her. "Of course. You have that nice tote. Pack 'em up and we'll take them over."
Faith clapped her hands. "This is sooooo exciting." She tossed her toys into the container.
Brad rolled his eyes.

Taylor shot him a look. "It is, isn't it? An exciting adventure?" She didn't want Faith to start worrying again.
A smile tugged at Brad's mouth. Taylor could tell he was worried about his roof. The last thing they all needed was an adventure with property damage. He nodded and hefted the tote containing Faith's toys.

"I'll get the food out of the fridge." Taylor bent down to meet the girl's eyes. "Faith, can you do me a favor?"


"Can you carry Misty for me? I don't have her leash."

Faith scooped up the little dog, gently wrapping both arms around her.

"She won't like the rain. So, if you hook one finger under her collar, she can't get away. We don't want to chase her again." Taylor winked.

Faith nodded, a serious expression on her face. “I'll keep Misty safe."

Taylor smiled. "I know you will. You and Daddy go on ahead."

She braced herself and held the door open against the wind. "Oh no. The tree took out your pole. She flicked the switch by the door. Power's off."

"Yours, too, I'd guess. And everyone else on Campfire Circle."

Clutching plastic bags full of provisions, Taylor squished through puddles in the mud-filled road. Running Brook was living up to its name. Water foamed over rocks, nearly overflowing the bank.

Relief at being inside was short-lived. In the rush to chase Misty, she'd left the kitchen door wide open. Rainwater drenched the floor. "Cripes! The floor is soaked. Good thing there's no carpet." Stepping carefully so as not to slip, she set the groceries on the counter. She grabbed a mop, pushed the water outside and slammed the door.

In the living room, Brad deposited the box of toys. Faith put Misty down and the dog vigorously shook herself before rolling over and scrubbing along the braided rug. Taylor grabbed three towels, handed one each to Brad and Faith. Everyone was quiet for a moment while they dried off.

Did her camp shrink in size with Brad here? Seemed a lot smaller. She really needed to get a grip, especially since he'd be here for a while.

He gathered up the towels, hung them in the bathroom and returned to the living room. "You said there was a window broken?"

"I heard one break, but it's not inside. Must be in the shed."

"I'll check it out."

"No. Stay here. You're not totally soaked. I have clothes here, but none that will fit you."

"Probably not." He eyed her up and down.

Was that a gleam of appreciation in his gaze? Since that long-ago flirting disaster, he'd never hinted he found her attractive. She tilted her head to one side and tapped a finger on her lips. "Might be fun to see you in the equivalent of a rolled-down top and high-water sweats."

He laughed. "And let's not forget the shrink-wrapped cut-off tee."

She could picture him. Broad shoulders stretching the t-shirt, ripped abs, lean waist. She licked her suddenly dry lips.

Movie Review - Kick-Ass 2 - By Heath Chase

In 2010, the best superhero movie I had ever seen in my life was released in theaters. Its name was Kick-Ass. My overall time with the film was a profoundly satisfying one, and I was truly blown away by its sheer entertainment. After my initial viewing of the movie I can remember myself chanting in my head, "sequel, sequel." And, well, now we have the sequel and all I can really do now is wish that one was never made. This may sound like an incredibly bold statement but the original film was one that was very special to me. I can remember watching my blu-ray copy at least three times in the week after it first came out. I simply couldn't get enough kick-ass; it just had this flare to it.

But let's put my disappointments away for about a minute and let me explain what this sequel is all about. First off, it is much closer to the comic series than the first film was, following each issue almost to a T. The story opens up in the near future of the previous film; Chris D'Amico's mobster father was killed by teenage crime fighter, Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson)  after a huge fire fight at his main stronghold, thus ending the cat and mouse chase. That is, until Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) decides to avenge his father's death and start the chase all over again to kill Kick-Ass by uniting a super villain group. After Kick-Ass finds a superhero group of his own, lead by none other than Jim Carrey himself, he deems it necessary to put a stop to the forming crime all around him. But there is just one thing missing. Mindy Macready, aka. Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), still mourning her father's death in the first film, is attempting to lead a normal life and Kick-Ass will do anything to get her back on his team.

Now, on paper it doesn't sound too bad to me, but in reality the film feels extremely rushed (even within its lengthy hour and fifty minute mark) and just way too over the top. Now by no means was the first movie not over the top, but it did it in a smart and clever way and I really felt as if the film-makers put a lot of soul into its production. But with Kick-Ass 2, every character and problem that came into play just doesn't feel the way they did in the original. I'm sure the general population will have a great time with this flick, but for me--a huge fan of the franchise--things here just felt a bit stale.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Movie Review - We're the Millers By Niels Mank

If you are thinking this sounds like a great family movie about a great family, then stop right there. This is in no way a family movie. This is an R-plus rating with a lot of language, drugs and even a very disturbing crotch scene. That being said if you are all adults and looking for a great laugh, then look no further. We’re the Miller’s packs a lot of off-the-cuff humor with a great story that is easily followed. If you end up laughing so hard that you miss a scene, fear not, you will not be lost.

David (Jason Sudeikis) is a middle aged burn out that deals drugs. When his stash along with his money is stolen he makes a deal with his supplier to pick up a “smidge” of product in Mexico to clear his debt. He comes up with an idea to smuggle the product back in an RV while posing as a proud dad and his family. The only problem… he is not married and has no family. He enlists the help of his stripper neighbor, Rose (Jennifer Aniston), a homeless girl, Casey (Emma Roberts), and a young neighbor left home alone, Kenny (Will Poulter), to make up a fake family and pull off this ridiculous plan. After this “team” comes together it is nothing but one funny moment after another.

At first it was Jennifer Aniston, who plays (Rose) a stripper that drew me to go see this movie. As always Aniston’s performance was amazing. Jason Sudeikis who plays the leading character David was a logical choice for the role but could very well have been replaced by many other leading stars. His performance, while good, was not great. Will Poulter on the other hand plays the role of Kenny, a dork with no social skills, and delivers an amazing performance with mostly just his facial expressions. The biggest surprise was the character of Casey (Emma Roberts) who really played an amazing role and really showed her depth as an actress transforming from a homeless drifter to a proper little lady. She has come a long way since her last big role “Hotel for Dogs”.

While I expected the movie to be funny I did not expect that I would be laughing as hard as I was. In fact the entire theater was laughing at the ongoing humor in this movie. This is a must watch for any adults looking for a great laugh-out-loud humor movie. I would rate it up there with Hangover #1 and #2. Don’t forget to stay for the outtakes at the end of the movie.

Blown Together - Episode 3 - By Judi Phillips

Taylor crossed her fingers as she watched Faith disappear beneath the deck. There was just enough space for a tiny dog or a little girl to crawl through. Taylor crouched down on hands and knees to see what was happening. She hadn't grabbed a jacket, and the drenching rain from the storm soaked through her sweatshirt and hung heavy on her shoulders.

Brad knelt, his arm brushing hers.

So far, the day was a disaster. Broken window somewhere, escaped dog. Barely one chapter written. To top it off, she must look like a drowned rat. Scraggly hair. Not a stitch of make-up. Baggy sweats. This totally stinks!

Ignoring the sparks where Brad's touched hers, Taylor watched Faith, hand outstretched with the cheese bribe, inch toward Misty, softly calling her name.

"Faith, when you get to her, let her nibble on the cheese and hook your fingers in her collar." Taylor kept her voice quiet so as not to alarm either of them. "That way, you can back out and bring her with you."
When Misty took the bait, Taylor heaved a sigh of relief.

Fingers crossed, Taylor silently rooted them on, afraid the dog would panic and run again. It seemed to take forever, but Faith finally crawled out from under the deck.

Taylor scooped up Misty, wrapping her arms around her little dog, burying her face in her soaked coat. With Misty safe, the breath Taylor had been holding escaped in a long sigh. "Good job, Faith. You did everything exactly right."

Brad wrapped one arm around Faith and the other around Taylor. "All right, ladies. Let's get inside and out of this rain."

Taylor trembled, unsure whether it was in reaction to being soaked, Misty's rescue or Brad's arm. Maybe all three. She shivered when Brad's arm tightened across her shoulder. Okay, so she was lying to herself. Brad was the cause.

The three of them sprinted around the house, up the steps and inside. Brad slammed the French door against the blowing rain. They huddled together in the kitchen, as water dripped off their clothes and pooled on the linoleum floor.

Chilled, Taylor rubbed her arms.

Brad's gaze captured hers. "We all need to get into dry clothes."

Regret splashed through her. Guess it was time to leave. She couldn't stop shaking, but nodded again. "Thanks for your help." She knelt and gave Faith a quick hug. "Especially yours."

Taylor reached for the door.

Brad rested a hand on her shoulder.

She trembled again, but not from the cold.

"Hey, where you going? I don't want you to leave. No need to get even wetter."

"I don't want to be more of a bother than I've already been."

His gaze softened. "You're not. I've got plenty of dry stuff here."

She eyed his rangy body and figured it was better to drown in his clothes than her soaked ones. "Okay."

"Sweet pea. You're wet and muddy. You need to change, too."

Faith scampered into the living room and up the stairs. Brad followed. "Be right back."

In no time he returned carrying athletic pants and a USM sweatshirt. "Here." He held them out for her. "You can change in the bathroom."

She surveyed her reflection in the full-length mirror. She'd been right. Even with the pant legs and sleeves rolled up, his clothes hung on her. The spicy scent of his aftershave, tantalized her, enveloped her, ensnared her. She shook her head to banish the spell.

The layout was similar to her parents' camp since her father and Brad's had built both of them together. She walked into the kitchen from bathroom, past a bedroom off to the left, and straight through the kitchen and into the living/dining area. The stairs to the second floor were at the far end of the room. This camp had more of a man-cave look, though. Dark brown leather furniture, big-screen TV with surround sound, no curtains.

Brad and Faith had changed by the time Taylor walked into the living room. Brad was seated on the couch in front of the fireplace, and Faith rummaged through a cupboard off to one side.

Brad gave her a once over. "How about a hot drink to warm up? Coffee?"

His assessing glance surprised her. "Tha-- that sounds perfect."

"Can I have hot cocoa, Papa?"

"Sure thing, sweet pea." Brad stood.

"Anything I can do?"

"You can keep me company." He grinned at Taylor. "It's all about the K-Cups."

Taylor laughed. "Convenience in a nice package."

His glance tangled with hers. "Yes."

She looked away. She hadn't intended the double meaning. When she was in high school, she'd tried flirting with him, teasingly suggesting a kiss, and he'd turned her down. Even though it was years ago, a tiny, hidden hurt still remained. Since then, she'd kept her feelings about him under wraps.

Taylor's stomach rumbled. She glanced at the clock. "It's after one o'clock. I didn't realize it was so late. How about I make sandwiches. I can use the rest of the cheese we used rescuing Misty."

"Great. Bread is in the fridge."

When the coffee was done and sandwiches made, Brad gathered the cups and Taylor balanced the plates, making one trip. They settled around the table just inside the living room. Taylor took a first sip of coffee. "Mmmmm. Hits the spot."

"So what scared poor Misty?" Faith asked.

Taylor related the story of the noise outside and Misty’s dashing escape outside. "I can't stay too long. I need to check that my house is okay."

There was a huge crack, the house shuddered and the ground shook.

Faith screamed and covered her ears.

Misty jumped down from the couch, trembled and started panting again.

Taylor cringed as she spoke. “What now?”

Friday, August 9, 2013

Blown Together, A campfire circle story - Episode 2 - By Judi Phillips

 With a flying leap, Misty landed in Taylor's lap. Her little tongue hung out, furiously panting and shivering.
Taylor held her tightly. "It's okay. It's okay." She repeated the words trying to soothe her poor little dog.
In reality, she was trying to calm her own concerns, without much success. A gust of wind whistled around the corner of the camp. Taylor stroked Misty. When she heard the crackle of breaking glass, her stomach dropped.

Clearly it was more than a rain storm. It felt more like a tropical storm.

Holding Misty on one arm, Taylor tucked her dog close and hurried through the camp inspecting each room for damage. Nothing. Hopefully, it was one of the shed windows. Setting Misty down, Taylor hustled to the back door and yanked it open, prepared to check around outside.

Misty dashed out into the wind and rain. Apparently, in her misguided doggy brain, being outside in the pouring rain seemed a better idea than being warm and dry inside.

"No!" Taylor hurtled through the door, heedless of the pouring rain. "Misty. Come."

She caught sight of the panicked dog heading into the underbrush. Heart pounding, adrenaline clogging her blood, Taylor chased after Misty. The wind propelled her forward as she scrambled through the bushes, calling her dog's name. Shouldering aside soaked branches, the wind blew her into the Jennings' yard.

"Taylor? Get in here. What in the world are you doing?"

Looking up, she saw Brad standing in his doorway. She must have been shouting louder than she realized. "It's Misty."

He quirked an eyebrow.

"My little Yorkie. She's escaped. She hates storms."

"We'll help."

When Taylor saw his daughter in the doorway, she pushed aside her concern for Misty. "No. Faith should wait inside."

* * *

Brad knew Taylor was upset. Besides the rain drops running down her face, she looked as if she were crying. They had to help her.

He shook his head. "Faith might get scared waiting on her own. Besides she loves dogs." He stepped back into the living room. "Let's help Taylor."

Faith looked up. "Help her how, Papa?"

"Her little dog, Misty, escaped."


"Probably got scared by the storm." He held out her jacket, and she slid in her arms.

"I'm not scared."

"Of course not. You're a big girl."

While he slipped on his jacket, he heard Taylor continue calling. "Misty. Misty."

Outdoors, the rain pelted down, remnants of the off-shore hurricane. "Maybe you'd rather wait inside, sweet pea."

"No, Papa. This is an adventure. And I can help."

Brad grinned, pleased his little girl was so feisty. They caught up with Taylor and walked along the side of his camp. The wind gusted and then it was quiet for a minute.

Faith tugged on his sleeve. "What's that? I hear something."

They stopped and stood quietly. He heard a small whine. Squatting down, he peered under the deck and glimpsed a small tan and black pile of fur cowering in the corner. He beckoned to Taylor.

She crouched beside him. The rain had plastered her long, dark hair against her head, releasing the flowery scent of her shampoo. "Misty."

No movement.

She called again. "Misty. Come."

Still nothing.

He turned to Taylor. "Is there something she likes to eat? People food."

Grey-blue eyes wide, she stared at him. "Cheese." She shivered.

He rested a hand on her shoulder, offering comfort.

"Sweet pea. Can you run inside and grab some cheese? But go quietly across the deck so we don't scare Misty even more."

"Yes, Papa." Faith tiptoed across the deck and opened the sliding door into the living room.

Rain continued to pound on the deck and the wind lashed the trees.

Faith raced back inside, returning with an unopened block of cheese clutched in her hands.

He broke off a bite-sized piece. "Now, I want you to be really brave."

"I am." She squared her shoulders.

"I know. Can you crawl under the deck--like you do sometimes. Taylor and I won't fit. When you're close to Misty, hold out this piece of cheese so she can smell it. Then slowly back out. Say her name softly, tell her to come, so she follows you."

"Okay." "Faith touched Taylor's hand. "I'll save Misty for you."

A slight smile lifted Taylor's worried expression. "That would be awesome."

Brad's heart swelled at his daughter's bravery and thoughtful words. So different from her mother.

Blown together, A campfire circle story - Episode 1 - By Judi Phillips

Episode One

Taylor Winslow needed peace and quiet, at least over Labor Day weekend. She had teacher prep days beginning on Tuesday where she taught in Portland and her brand new first graders started school on Thursday. But the pressing issue was the manuscript for her book, due to her editor next week. Three chapters in the latest Holly Bright story were still not finished. She worked better away from the noisy city.

Early Friday morning, she packed up her laptop, lounging clothes and comfort food, loaded Misty, her little Yorkie, into a travel crate, and headed out for the under-an-hour drive to Brookview, the family camp on Running Brook near Sebago Lake in North Windham. Without Internet and e-mail access to distract her, she'd be totally focused and could finish the rest of the book.

Her grandfather had built Brookview, located in Campfire Circle, a cul-de-sac at the end of a dirt road. Five other families had built about the same time. Other camps had been added as children grew up and land was divided.

Any chance her older brother's friend, Brad, would be at his camp next door for the long weekend? She'd had a crush on him forever. He'd gone away to college, then grad school--and come home with a degree and a daughter. Taylor had never heard the whole story of what happened to Faith's mother. Different versions floated around. She'd always been curious, but never got up the courage to ask him.
This was not the weekend to wonder about him. She had work to do.

By the time Taylor arrived at camp on Campfire Circle, the dark clouds chasing her had turned into a steady downpour. She hadn't bothered to get an update on the weather and now it was too late. Whatev... The only thing she'd planned on doing outside was write on the deck. Not an option now.

Misty scampered inside, shook off rain in a mini-shower of drops, and curled up in her favorite spot on the couch. The little dog watched Taylor's every move as she put things away. Food in the ancient refrigerator and on paper-lined shelves. Sleeping bag upstairs on the iron-framed bed she'd slept on since a kid. She hauled in an armload of firewood, filled a couple of jugs with emergency water and set a pail on the deck to catch the rain. Just as her family always did when a storm was approaching.

Taylor rolled her computer desk in front of the bay window overlooking the tree-lined brook. As soon as settled into the chair and opened her laptop, Misty closed her eyes, content Taylor wouldn't leave.

* * *

Brad Jennings agreed to spend the weekend at his camp, Time Out, on Campfire Circle. When his four-year old daughter, Faith, pushed out her little lower lip and looked at him with pleading puppy-dog eyes, he couldn't say no to heading to camp. A hurricane brewing out in the Atlantic had been downgraded to a tropical storm. So nothing more than lots of rain and a bit of wind was all that would be left.

He crossed the wooden-plank bridge over Running Brook and pulled into the driveway. He spotted a car parked in the Winslow's drive. Taylor? Looked like he wasn't the only fool to leave home on a stormy day.
At least he'd have adult company. Maybe they could get together later, do a Maine-style tropical storm watch, playing a couple of Faith's board games. Normally, he didn't mix his dates and his daughter, but she knew Taylor, so it wasn't the same thing. At least in theory.

"It's raining pretty hard, sweetie." He unbuckled Faith's car seat. "We can still go back home."

"No, Papa. We can have a camp tea party with Huggy Bear and Barky Dog."

Hoodie pulled up, Brad unloaded the car, needing three trips to haul in the sacks of food and Faith's toys. After sliding off her backpack, she immediately opened the huge plastic tote and pulled out her favorites, covering the living room floor with pink princesses and stuffed animals. These few moments of peace gave him a chance to respond to e-mails from students. Some first year students were already confused after only a couple of weeks of classes at USM. He also wanted to organize the notes for his upcoming lectures.

He'd been working for about an hour when the wind whistling around the corner of the camp startled him. He looked out the window, and saw the treetops swaying back and forth.

Stepping outside, Brad's concern about the weather increased. The temperature felt more like high summer in the tropics than early September in Maine. A gust of wind pushed against him. No choice but to hunker down and ride out the storm.

* * *

Late morning, Taylor pushed back her chair, needing a break from trying to write a scene that just wasn't coming together. Still lots more to go. Glancing outside, the sky was darker than it should be, looked more like early evening than nearly noon. Stressed, Misty had jumped on and off Taylor's lap several times. Now, she sat at Taylor's feet, looking up with worried eyes, and she'd begun her tell-tale nervous panting.
Never a good sign.

She turned toward the window facing the creek. A sheet of rain swept across the yard obliterating the trees outside.