A Quiet Shelter There

Come to Istanbul, where determined cats find an unlikely ally to rally the neighborhood before the next earthquake. Spend a day with the first dog. Travel with a man and a polar bear as they outsmart trolls who have overstayed their welcome. Walk with a blind hacker and his seeing-eye miniature horse as they take on a job that may be more than what it seems. Marvel at the price paid to make a mute dragon speak. Visit a nursing care facility, where the resident cat does far more than just lounge in the sunshine.

All are stories from A Quiet Shelter There, a new anthology published by Hadley Rille Books and edited by Gerry Leen. The collection is dedicated to the cause of homeless animals. Proceeds will benefit the Friends of Homeless Animals rescue services in Virginia. I’m pleased and proud that my story, Kindred Souls, is a part of it.  Check it out.

Here’s a taste of Kindred Souls:

Ten p.m. Friday. A sudden April thunderstorm. Home from her campus office, Dorothea Packer pushes the remote for the garage door and discovers the power’s knocked out. Lightning strobes in the distance, thunder rumbles a reply, as she leaves her little Chevrolet in the driveway and hurries across the wet concrete to the front door.

She begins the three-step climb; one she has made so many times before. On the first step, her cell phone rings. Juggling her briefcase, purse, and key ring, she reaches for the phone – in its special pocket on the purse.

It’s probably Jeffrey, her middle child. Her worrier. She wonders if she should change her ring tone, for Bad To The Bone has grown old so very fast. She pinches the phone between her thumb and index finger, already considering her words.

And misjudges the distance between the middle and top step.

No sense of falling, no notion of injury. One instant she’s reaching for the phone, the next she’s on her back at the bottom of the steps. Her glasses have fallen off; her briefcase, purse, phone and keys have dropped away. And it begins to rain again.

As she lay there, out of breath, that television commercial comes to mind, the one with the woman who whines, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” For an instant, Dorothea worries one of her neighbors might have seen her take the tumble.

Then the practical part of her – the engineer – kicks in. “Silly fool,” she mutters. “Be embarrassed later. You’ll catch pneumonia, if you don’t get up off the concrete, find your keys and get inside.”

She turns her head, first right and then left, looking for her glasses. Everything is fuzzy. Dim and out of focus. Then she spots the glasses, just outside the deeper shadows of the shrubs that line her porch. She touches them with outstretched fingers – and sends them skittering out of reach.

She tries again, but still can’t reach them. Time to stop fiddling. She needs to get inside, dry off, and pour a snifter of brandy – the Metaxa Amphora Seven Star Richard brought home from Greece five years ago.

The phone blares the opening riff of Bad To The Bone once more. Dorothea rolls onto her side to reach the phone – tries to roll, that is – and shrieks at the unexpected stabbing pain in her hip and lower back.

Now was the time to call for aid.

“Help me,” she shouts. “Someone help me.” Her cries are muffled, as if she’s covered by some sort of blanket. As she calls, her throat soon grows hoarse from the effort.

Wasted effort, too, for no one answers.

She sprawls there on her back, her face turned toward the house. The phone rings a third time. She can see it light up, laying there just out of reach, but she can’t move the inch she needs to answer it. As her clothing and her hair soak up the icy rain, she begins to shiver.

She tries to roll again, tries, and almost bites her lip off as the pain returns. She’s certain she will faint. As the world grays out around her, dark and indistinct shapes creep from beneath the shrubbery and steps. Dorothea tries to scream – and wakes up in her bed at the rehabilitation center.

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