Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Ballerina Slipper by Alex Kramer


“Wow! Thanks grandma!” said Kia.

“You’re very welcome, Kia,” said her Grandma Joyce. “It’s was mine when I was a girl you know. It’s been passed down from generation to generation in my family.” Kia’s grandma had just given her a pearly white, ballerina slipper! The ornamental slipper was made from real pearls. It had Alexandrite gems streaming all around the bottom rim and engraved in silver the words “To A Real Ballerina” with a little gold heart right above it. It was the most beautiful thing Kia had ever seen.

“Now Kia,” said her grandma, taking Kia out of her trance. “Never let anyone take that from you. It’s very old and very delicate.”

“I promise, Grandma!” said Kia.

10 years later

“Wow! I would have loved to get something like that when I was five!” said Camille, Kia’s best friend. Kia had just shown Camille the ballerina slipper.

“Thanks! I always bring it with me before a big test like this one,” said Kia, beaming. “Just for good luck.” Kia and Camille walked into class, took their seats, and took the test.

They’d just finished the test and were headed home.

“That test was sooo hard,” said Camille. “I can’t believe I even finished it!”

“Speak for yourself,” Kia said. “I had, like, nine questions left.”

Camille was staying at Kia’s house for the weekend while her parents were away. They got home with the greeting of Kia’s dog barking and shouting from the inside.

“Be quiet you stupid dog,” said a man’s voice Kia had never heard before.

“Come on! It’s not here,” said another man’s voice, also unfamiliar. “We’ll just have to tell the boss what happened.”

“Hide behind this tree!” said Kia so frantically it made Camille jump. They ran behind the nearest tree while the door opened and the men walked out. Camille stuck her head out a little. One man looked around at the tree while Camille quickly ducked.

“I think there’s someone behind that tree,” said the man.

“Don’t be stupid,” said the other man. “That girl couldn’t have walked home so fast.” The men left, and Kia and Camille came out from behind the tree, both puzzled.

“Who were those guys?” asked Camille, she still had a puzzled look on her face. “What were they looking for?”

“I don’t know, but it must be something valuable,” answered Kia. She was hoping it wasn’t her slipper, but she had half a mind that it was. They walked in and saw that nothing was messed up. They both set their bags down and walked up to Kia’s room and sat on her bed, listening to music and reading magazines. Then suddenly they heard a scream! They both looked out the window at the same time. The two men were grabbing a woman’s purse and telling her to be quiet. Kia ran outside grasping the slipper while Camille darted after her. Kia bounded out the door with Camille (who had finally caught up) and raced toward the woman!

“Stop!” yelled Kia.

“Let go of her purse!” yelled Camille. The men dropped the purse and the woman ran in terror. Both men were staring at the slipper in Kia’s hand.

“Get the slipper!” one yelled. Kia ran, Camille couldn’t keep up. Kia kept running! She turned into a corner and saw it was a dead end!

“Give us the slipper,” said one man.

“No! It was my grandma’s and I’ll never give it up!” yelled Kia in terror. “Why do you want it anyway?”

“Cause it’s worth a lot of money and we were paid to get ‘em from ya.” said the other man.

“What do you mean ‘them’?” challenged Kia. “I only have one.”

“We found the other one in a box at your house addressed to you,” said a man while he pulled out another ornamental ballet slipper and was made from pink pearl with light green Peridot gems running around the top half. Engraved in gold were the words “To Ballerinas with Grace” with another little heart right above it only this time the heart was silver. Then the man pulled out a heart-shaped locket with a ruby inside.

“This stupid thing was also for you,” said the man and tossed the locket to her. She caught it as she lunged forward for the other slipper. Once she had the slipper, she started to run when she heard sirens from a police car. Camille had called the police! They arrived just in time to catch the robbers.

“Thanks,” said Kia.

“Your welcome,” said Camille in reply. They answered a few questions from the police and walked home.

The End…For Now

See next time what happens to Kia and Camille as they unlock more mysteries of the ballerina slippers.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Library Card

It was 10:02 AM.

“Wonder what’s keeping Mr. Lake? He’s two minutes past the hour,” sardonically thought the librarian who was pulling her daily past due report.

Within seconds of the thought, Mr. Lake burst through the entrance of the library. Flashing a smile, he held his convenience-store coffee in one hand and waved with the other.

“Good morning, Miss Ptacek.” How he loved to pronounce her last name.

His daily greeting irritated her. She had told him on numerous occasions to call her by her first name, April.

“Good morning.” She never called him by any name.

He headed straight to the daily periodicals, grabbed the Wall Street Journal and took a seat in the worn-out orange plaid chair. Even though he received the subscription at the office, he preferred to come here. It wasn’t Starbucks, but it was away from the office. After glancing through the headlines, he specifically researched the price of his stocks and mutual funds, as he did every day. Most of his portfolio had been going down lately. At least he had a sizeable amount still held in the bank. While his return at the bank was ridiculously low, as he made known to his banker, the FDIC insurance gave him some peace of mind.

He sipped his coffee and casually perused the paper after recording his stock prices on the notebook he kept in his pocket. He had one eye on the paper and one eye on the librarian. She looked nothing like his wife. Mrs. Lake had long brunette hair, deep green eyes and a tall and lean build. She was one of the most beautiful creatures he had ever laid eyes on. He stared at her every morning as she slept, never waking before he left for the office.

April Ptacek was short and slightly overweight. She kept her hair cut short to keep her dry-ends from splitting. She had thick glasses and hardly ever applied cosmetics to her face. Everyday she wore a short-sleeve tight cotton t-shirt, in various colors, with either khaki pants or a denim skirt.

“Yes, this is April Ptacek from the library calling. You have three books overdue. Please bring them back as soon as possible. Your late fee is one dollar for each book and each day they're late. Please note that there is a waiting list for A Thousand Splendid Suns. Thank you.”

April hung up the phone and started to dial her next number on the list when she noticed Mr. Lake standing in front of her.

“So, do you have a lot of calls to make today?”

April looked up at the man. Don’t you have anything better to do? “Yes, there are quite a few today. It’s Monday. Everyone forgets to bring them back by the weekend.”

“I bet you get some real hotheads on the phone, huh?”

Why was this man talking to me? “Not really. People are generally nice.”

Mr. Lake nodded. April waited for him to say more. “Can I help you with anything, Mr. Lake?”

Trying to think of something to say, he asked, “Yes. Uh, just wondering if you had any recommendations for some summer reading?”

It was August. “Well, of course. I always post my summer picks on the board right over there.”

He glanced at the board, “Oh. Okay. Well, I guess I’ll take a look then. Thanks.”

She sighed. “What kind of books do you like to read?”

"About anything really. Mystery. Humor.” He hadn’t read anything but legal briefs in years, so he wasn’t sure what genre he liked anymore. What was the last book he even read? Perhaps it was The Sound and the Fury in college. He hadn’t really enjoyed it.

“Humor, huh?” Why did this man insist on visiting with her everyday. Aren’t lawyers supposed to be too busy to be messing around at a library? “Hold on.” She left her desk and retrieved a book from a nearby shelf. “Have you read any Bill Bryson?”

He hesitated, “Maybe. Not sure.”

“Here, check this one out. He’s a very witty writer. It might be a nice break from depositions, or whatever it is that you lawyers do.”

He took the book from her hand and read the insert. “The Life and Time of the Thunderbolt Kid, huh? Sounds intriguing!”

Intriguing? A non-fiction memoir of a kid growing up in Iowa sounds intriguing? “Well, it’s entertaining, at least.” She added in a pedantic tone.

Then he looked into her eyes and gratefully remarked, “Thank you very much, April. I really appreciate the recommendation.”

His heartfelt thanks caught her off guard. Suddenly she felt guilty about all of the harsh thoughts she aimed toward him. She smiled, sincerely. “You’re very welcome, Mr. Lake. Anytime.”

“George. Please just call me George.”

“Okay, then, George. Can I see your library card?”

George Lake had come in every day for well over ten years but had never obtained a library card. April recognized the anxiety in his eyes. Yesterday she would have made him suffer through an explanation as to why he didn't carry a card. But not today.

“Lost it, didn’t you? No problem. Let me type you a new one.”

He gently took the card from the librarian, held it in his hands a moment and carefully placed it in his wallet. This man was accustomed to receiving high-end gifts. Plasma TVs. The I-Pod phone. A trip to the Caribbean. Even a new Gator for his vacation home in Colorado. But none of those gifts gave him the feeling this new library card did.

“Two weeks.”

“What?” he asked in somewhat of a daze.

“Return the books in two weeks. Or, I’ll be calling you!” April joked with him.

“Right! Two weeks.” He picked up his coffee and newly checked-out book. “See you tomorrow. April.”

He walked out of the library with a particular hop in his step. April watched him leave.

“See you tomorrow. George.”

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Unwelcome Visitor

You came by in the middle of the night and decided to stay awhile. It's been a long time since I've heard from you, and I had no bribes to make you go away. So you stayed and made your presence well-known.

You suck the life out of me. When you're here I can't read, write, talk. I can't even sleep. It's impossible to get comfortable when you're here. Sometimes I'm not sure if it's really you. You hurt so badly, could it really be you? Or is it something worse? Am I dying?

What in the world brings you here? Lord knows I've researched you to death. Is it hormones? Dairy? Nuts? Weather-fronts? Allergies? Nuts? Cheese? Stress? All of the above?

Today, I'm better after my husband delivered the medicine. Three doses of migraine medicine makes me somewhat functional, but your effects still linger. I'm tired, as if I've been beat up. You're not completely gone, so I worry about your return. But I pray you go away. Please go away, so I can be a person again.

I want to be that person that listens to my family with enthusiasm. That person who is ready to take on the world and get stuff done! But I can't when you're here. So please, once again, go away so that I can live.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Freedom

I asked my son,Cole, why we celebrated the 4th of July. His response:

"Because we like to do fireworks, picnics and play on rides."

An appropriate response for a six-year old, I think. Then I asked my daughter, Alex, to tell me what freedom meant to her. An aspiring writer herself, she wrote the following:

"Freedom to me means not being controlled, because we shouldn’t have to be. Anyone who thinks that he or she should be given more freedom than another is not recognizing another human being’s freedom. Slavery was a time when almost all African-Americans were given very little freedom or power. So freedom to me is not being controlled, it’s being free to choose what you want to do."

Alex, age 11

I hope my children never take their freedom for granted, as it can be an easy thing to do.

As I worked on my garden this morning, I made a list of the freedoms I'm thankful for. Here's what I came up with:

1) To go outside and feel safe.
2) To get into my car and drive anywhere I choose.
3) To talk to whoever I want.
4) To express my opinion.
5) To learn, especially to read.
6) To marry the person I fell in love with and still love.
7) To work in a pleasant environment.
8) To appreciate diversity.
9) To protect my children and raise them in a safe surrounding.
10)To create my own life.

Obviously not everyone in America enjoys these freedoms. But I pray everyone can enjoy at least some of these, someday.

What does freedom mean to my husband? I'd ask, but he's on his motorcycle, enjoying the freedom of the road.

Have a joyous weekend and God Bless America.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thanks Erin Smith!

Erin Smith was the first to review Goodbye Def Leppard on Amazon! My sales are well-exceeding my expectations. Thanks for all your support and look for my next novel to be published soon.