Monday, April 28, 2014

April Showers - Part 4 - By Judi Phillips

Brenda shoved open the car door and stepped out into the rain. "This day just keeps getting better and better." On the verge of a temper tantrum, she fought back tears. 

"It's going to be okay." David joined her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"Well, it can't get much worse."

"Let's hope not."

She turned toward the car. "We have to get back."

"You can't drive across the bridge."

"I should be able to. There's only a couple of inches of water."

He clasped her arm and shook his head. "The current could have weakened the pilings. If the loss of support caused a collapse, your car would take a nosedive into Running Creek. That would make for a much worse day."

She yelled over her shoulder to be heard above the wind. "Then we'll walk across." She stared at him. If he objected, she'd have to decide whether to go it alone or not.

"That should be okay. The road hasn't been flooded that long."

She opened the back door and lifted out the sump pump.

David took the box from her and tucked it under his arm. "Ready?"

She nodded. When she stepped on bridge, the current swirled around her ankles. She grabbed for the railing. "I'm hanging on."

"Good idea. No sense falling and getting even wetter." 

"To say nothing about being swept over the edge." She gripped the rail even tighter.

He caught up and walked beside her. "Right. I'm definitely not in the mood for a swim."

They slogged through the water, leaning into the gusty wind. It seemed to take hours rather than minutes before they reached the other side. Now to face a muddy road. A short time later they entered her camp, soaked and filthy.

She touched David on the arm. "Thank goodness you stopped by." Self-reliance was all well and good, but sometimes a helping hand was even better. Especially from a really good-looking man.

* * *

In the basement, David muscled the old pump out of it's gravel bed, disconnected the hose, replaced the new one and plugged it in.

Watching from the basement steps, Brenda heaved a sigh when the pump turned on and began sucking out the water.

David high-stepped through the inches of water to the steps. "I'm going to my place to get my shop vac. Once most of the water is pumped out, we'll clean up with the vacuum. Quicker that way."

"That would be great." She looked at him and their glances tangled. "I was dreading a massive mop-up operation."

David grinned as he jogged to his camp through the drizzle. The downpour had finally let up. He'd forgotten the great feeling that came from helping someone, especially an attractive woman.
Working together, the cleanup didn't take long.

Hands on her hips, Brenda looked around the small basement. "I'm glad now that we never finished this off."

"Wouldn't make much sense. There's not room for much more than the mechanicals. Maybe a couch and chair at the most."

"Besides, who'd want to sit down here when there's such a nice view upstairs?"

Finished, they climbed the stairs. In the bathroom, David changed into the dry clothes he'd brought from his camp, Hide-A-Way, while Brenda changed in her bedroom.

"I don't know about you, but I'm starving." Her rosy lips widened into a smile. "I've been too busy--and too panicked--to eat."

"I wouldn't refuse food." He grinned.

"I think we need more than the plain old pasta I planned. How about a kitchen sink pasta?"

"Uh, what's that?"

"You know, throw in everything but the kitchen sink."

He rubbed his stomach. "Sounds good to me. I have some groceries in my car that I never unloaded."

"I'd hate to have you walk back again."

"Not a problem," he said, pleased he could contribute. "I drove my car here with the vac."

"Great. I'll raid my fridge. It will be an awesome meal."

* * *

Brenda opened the sauce she'd canned, her favorite recipe from Mom's friend. She'd always called it Sally's Sauce. She opened the jar, releasing the delicious aromas of summer, poured the sauce into a pan and turned the heat low.

The screen door banged as David made his way into the kitchen, his arms full of groceries. "Mmmm, that smells good." David pulled some veggies from the bags and set them on the counter. "What can I do?"

His question startled Brenda. Johnny had never set foot in the kitchen, either to cook or clean up. "You don't need to do anything."

"Of course I do. I can cut stuff up while you cook."

David sliced zucchini mushrooms while Brenda sautéed hamburger and put the pasta in the boiling water. As they moved around the kitchen, David brushed against her. Frequently. Each time, her awareness of him inched up a notch.

Was he doing it on purpose or was it accidental? Maybe she'd take a chance and find out.

The third time he rested his hands on her shoulders to move past her, she turned. In his arms, nearly touching, she tipped her head and their gazes locked. His brown eyes darkened to ebony.

He bent his head, paused, then his mouth brushed hers. Her pulse raced, sending tingles from her lips to her fingertips to her toes. Without hesitating, she returned the kiss.

He lifted his head. "Thought I'd start with dessert first."

She giggled. Like a schoolgirl. Her cheeks warmed. Like a schoolgirl. And it felt nice. "I like the way you think." She kissed him on the cheek and turned back to her task. Even though her nerves jumped, she couldn't stop grinning.

Cooking continued with occasional interruptions to share tasting.

And more kisses.

They carried their plates to the table in front of the bay window where the sun barely peeked out from under waning clouds. Sitting opposite each other, he reached across the table and filled their wine glasses, then raised his toward the sun in a toast. "This April shower should bring plenty of May flowers."

Brenda smiled at David across their impromptu feast. "The love-in-bloom kind."

Here's a taste treat for all my Campfire Circle fans.
Sally's Sauce

½ C. best quality olive oil
2 C. finely chopped yellow onions (or shallots from your garden work, too)
4 lbs. plum tomatoes, skinned and seeded
1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste
2 Tbs. minced fresh basil
½ tsp. salt
1 Tbs. freshly ground black pepper
4 C. water
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced (garlic chives from your garden work, too)
½ C. finely chopped Italian parsley

In a deep pot, sauté onions in oil until lightly colored
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally
Add water and simmer on low heat, uncovered, about 3 hours.
Stir in garlic, parsley and simmer another five minutes.
Taste and correct seasonings.
Makes approximately 3 quarts.

If canning, while hot, pour into glass jars and seal.
To freeze, cool uncovered to room temperature before filling freezer bags.

Movie Review - Oculus (R) - By Heath Chase

Oculus, the first real horror movie of the year. This one was a surprise to be quite frank, for after seeing its advertisements, I was not completely sold on the fact that this would be a film to hold much discussion. Though I was pleasantly wrong. So Oculus, a film that does not hold many notable names, but names that were filled with talent. Our story goes as follows: Two siblings--a brother and sister--reunite ten years after a tragic paranormal incident that occurred within their childhoods. This entity resides in a Victorian-esque mirror that hung inside their old home that absolutely drove their family mad; now it must be stopped once more.

The plot here is intricately designed and ever flowing and I've kept things brief about it for the mere fact that the film should be kept mysterious. I was genuinely impressed and interested with each act of the film and I felt as if the writing swiftly carried us viewers along in its well-timed thrill ride. The story travels in and out of present and past, reflecting both on these two siblings as children and adults in their present state and this greatly improved its pace and oddly enough reminding me of a tale you might find in The Twilight Zone. The characters were very real and likeable, though overdone in brief moments, and their actor counterparts felt authentic and very much "in" their roles. The mirror is even a mention worthy character in itself.

All in all, the movie was far more interesting than scary and that is perfectly fine, although it did have me tightening the drawstrings on my hood a time or two during the film's final act. This is a movie that should be seen and not overlooked, do not be deceived in thinking this is just another slasher-flick, instead, take a look into the mirror and see it for yourself.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

April Showers - Part 3

Hearing Brenda and seeing her expression of distress, David hustled down the basement stairs. Careful not to hit his head on the low ceiling, he looked around to see if anything was amiss. Sure enough, nearly an inch of water covered the floor. He jogged up the stairs, two at a time. "Come on. We'll make a quick trip to North Windham and pick up a sump pump there."

Her face still scrunched with worry, Brenda followed him, slipping into her jacket.

He patted her on the back, trying to reassure her. "We'll fix it. Best if you drive, though. Quicker than if I get my car."

She grabbed his damp jacket from the hook on the bathroom door and handed it to him, then they dashed through the deluge to her car.

* * *

Brenda 's fingers cramped as they wrapped around the steering wheel. She loosened her grip, but not for long. The windshield wipers barely kept up with the downpour.

She swallowed. "I should have checked."

"Checked what?"

"The sump pump. To make sure it worked."

"It's not something I'd think of doing. They're just there until we need them."

She snorted. "Well, sitting there and not working isn't helpful."

"I know. Just the same ..." 

She sighed, glad David was with her. It was comforting to have a shoulder to lean on, even if just for a day.

Turning on to Roosevelt Trail a few minutes later, she pulled into the first small strip mall that had a hardware store. Exiting the car, she raced inside, David close on her heels.

Stopping at the checkout desk, she nodded to the clerk. "This is an emergency. I need a sump pump."
"I'm sorry. We just sold the last one. Seems like lots of other folks are in the same boat--no pun intended."

She clamped her lips shut to keep from screaming.

David snagged her hand. "Come on. We'll find one somewhere else."

She followed him out of the store. Back outside, the rain pounded down even harder, if that was possible. "I'm not taking any chances this time. We're going to Lowe's."

"Good choice." He looked around as she pulled into the crowded parking lot. "Looks like we're not the only ones needing something extra."

"If someone has the last one here, I'll rip it out of his arms."

David's hearty laugh made her smile.

"I'm only half kidding."

"If you don't, I will."

She glanced at him. "Then you'll be my hero."

He grinned and she thought he stood a little straighter. Everyone likes to be a hero. Even if it's just for capturing a sump pump.

Just inside the door was a display of spring necessities, grass seed, fertilizer, potting soil. And sump pumps.

Brenda pounced on one. "They know what they're doing here. Just in time for April showers. Better make that April downpours."

"I'm going to pick one up, too. If I don't need a new pump at the camp, I can always use it in the house I'm working on."

They checked out and headed back home.

* * *

"I'm going to kill Buddy for his April Fool's joke. On second thought, if I hadn't been here, I would have had a huge problem on my hands."

His lips quirked in a smile. He shifted in his seat and looked at Brenda. "Still, have you thought about beating Buddy at his own game?"

"Always. It seems like we've competed over everything since he could walk."

He laughed. "Kids are the same even when they grow up. My brother and I still try to one-up each other."
"I think Buddy has little brother syndrome." She grinned. "But he's always going to be three years behind me."

"Same with my bro."

"So how can we get him--Buddy that is."

He liked the idea that she included him. As if they were a couple. Maybe too soon for that. More like a team dedicated to Buddy revenge. "Is he a computer type? Maybe text him you just heard on the news that sunspots are killing PCs."

"I don't think he'd fall for that from me. I don't pay attention to that sort of thing."

"How about calling a pizza shop and ordering a couple of pizzas for delivery."

Brenda shook her head. "I don't want to waste the money."

"No. He has to pay. It's delivery, not DiGiorno."

"Won't work. He loves pizza. It's his favorite."

"You could make one Hawaiian and one anchovy."

"Nope. He'd pick off the pineapple, feed the fish to his cat, and eat the rest." He laughed and she added, "Buddy would never waste good pizza because of a little pineapple or anchovy."

David snapped his fingers. "Better yet. Call him and tell him that you fell off the roof while checking it after his call and broke your leg. Or text him so you don't have to admit it's an April Fool's joke right away."

"Awesome." She tossed a high five in his direction. "I'll text him as soon as we get back to Morning Glory."

In the blinding rain, she almost missed the road to camp. David pressed his feet to the floor as she took a sharp turn. She'd barely driven a hundred feet when she hit the brakes, and the car skidded to a stop on the slick, dirt road.

Water was pooled on the road ahead.

"We're in for it now." David rolled down his window and peered out. 

Brenda followed suit and groaned. In addition to the water covering the road, Running Brook raced under the bridge, and at least several inches had washed over the warped wooden planks.

Movie Review - Divergent (PG-13)

Before I begin my review of “Divergent”, I must first confess that I did not read the book.  My 14-year-old daughter and her band of friends that think that this is going to be the next “Hunger Games” have told me great things about the book.  To be honest, I have zero desire to read this series of books.
With that said, this movie is based on the book “Divergent” by up-and-coming young author Veronica Roth.  The movie is set in a future Chicago, and the viewer is led to believe that some sort of massive war has left the world in ruins, but Chicago has figured it out.  They have five factions of society:   Abnegation, who are selfless, Amity, who are peaceful, Candor, the truthful people, Erudite, the smart and/or intelligent people, and Dauntless, the brave protectors of the city.  When the citizens of the city reach 16 years of age, they are given a test to determine which faction they are best suited for.  The test, however, is only to help them decide, as they are allowed to make the final decision on their own.  Should they not fit in and leave their chosen faction, they are then left “faction-less” and are essentially homeless.  

The film revolves around Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), who was raised in the Abnegation faction.  When tested, she doesn’t fit in with any faction and is deemed divergent by her tester Tori (Maggie Q), who tells Beatrice that she should remain with her current faction and never to tell anyone about her test results.  Beatrice goes against Tori’s advice and joins Dauntless.  Once in Dauntless, Beatrice assumes the name Tris as her Dauntless name and begins training under Four (yes, that’s his name.... played by Theo James) and Eric (Jai Courtney).  

The newly minted Dauntless Tris struggles in her training, but works extremely hard to earn the respect of her fellow trainees and trainers.  Four works with her to improve her abilities, but also notices that what she lacks in physical abilities, she more than makes up for in her logic and work ethic.  In one of her trials, Four realizes that she is divergent... like him.  Together, they learn that Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the leader of the Erudites, is attempting to overthrow the leader of the government, which is currently held by Tris’ father, Andrew (Tony Goldwyn).  

The movie was worth watching.  I’ll probably even watch it a second time when it is released on DVD.  Was it “The Hunger Games”?  Nope.  Not even close.  I had no desire to see “The Hunger Games” when it was first released.  I hadn’t read the book and thought it would be dumb.  When my wife and kid eventually dragged me into the theater, I was so pleasantly surprised that I looked forward to the next installment.  I had high hopes for “Divergent” based on the comparison between to “The Hunger Games”, and sadly, I don’t think the movie lived up to the hype.  

“Divergent” was rated PG-13 for language and violence.   I think that this was an appropriate rating, but I also can’t see a reason why I wouldn’t let a 10-year-old watch it.  We brought along our 11-year-old friend to Smitty’s Cinema to enjoy this film with us and she was not traumatized by the movie.