Dawn Pisturino's Blog

My Writing Journey

The Cows are Back!

(Photo by Dawn Pisturino)

Yesterday was a perfect, God-filled Sunday!

All week, we’ve experienced frigid temperatures at night and cold, windy weather during the day. The water we leave out for the wildlife has been frozen solid every morning. The poor birds walk around on the ice, pecking at the solidified water.

Sunday morning was sunny, bright, and calm, although the air was still crisp and clear. I smiled to see the baby coyote lying down in the sunshine in the backyard, waiting for his breakfast. He looked perfectly content, soaking up the sun, while disgruntled quail and doves milled around him with ruffled feathers, trying to stay warm.

A couple of hours later, a bull and cow wandered into the front yard, looking for water. Luckily, my husband was home, and he filled up a tub of water for them and moved it over by the driveway. But then, they didn’t want to leave! They just stood there and looked at us when we tried to shoo them away. (My post, Free Range, explains the free range laws in Arizona.)

The coyote, who had left earlier, saw his territory invaded by these two great beasts and kept coming back to check things out. They weren’t scared of him, which surprised me, and he wasn’t scared of them.

The coyote and the cattle were after the same thing – WATER! – and both were keeping an eye on their territory and the available water supply. It was very interesting to watch, especially since they were so POLITE about it.

I really felt God’s presence here Sunday morning, and it reminded me of just how PRECIOUS WATER IS! The animals know it. More people need to get a grip and realize that we can live without WiFi, Facebook, and other modern inventions. BUT WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT WATER! We can’t live without the basic necessities of life.

(Cow peering at me from behind the oleander bush. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Dawn Pisturino

December 13, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Coyote Update

(Close up photo of the Baby coyote and wild birds. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

This morning, the baby coyote was lying down in the backyard, waiting for his breakfast. (This is an update to my post, Coyote Whisperer.) As soon as he saw me, he stood up and waited patiently while I put out his dry dog food. Actually, he was patient for about two seconds, then he began dancing around in anticipation of eating.

He looks so healthy and beautiful! His winter coat is shiny and full, he’s put on weight, and his fur has beautiful markings on it. He let me get up close enough to take pictures with my phone (camera clicks scare them), but what I really wanted to do was stroke his lush fur with my hands. I’m not foolish enough to attempt that, however! I really can’t even call him a baby anymore, and I don’t actually know if he’s a male or a female. (And there again, I’m not going to risk getting mauled by poking around.) We call all the coyotes “Bambi,” regardless of sex. That’s our signal to let them know we are going to feed them.

Not long after, his Mom and Dad showed up. They, also, look healthy and thriving, which makes me very happy.

(Mother coyote standing guard while Father coyote eats. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Coyotes are very sensitive to noise, and they’re always sniffing the air and looking out for predators who might harm them. They don’t like my neighbor’s dogs, who chase them back out into the open fields. They’re used to our dog, Max, who’s usually locked up in his kennel, and playfully tease him because they know he isn’t going to hurt them. Even if he chases them, they just run a short distance, stop, and turn around and look at him. Then they wait for us to call him back. It’s like a game to them. And when Max goes after the Baby, they chase each other around a bush until we call the dog back. It’s the cutest thing to watch. But the Baby isn’t afraid. He just wants his food.

(Max. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

And then there’s the birds!

(Hungry quail. They are very aggressive when they are hungry. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Well, that’s how our day starts out every morning!

Dawn Pisturino

December 7, 2021

Remember Pearl Harbor Today.

Pearl Harbor Day, December 7th

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Reprise: Bigfoot!

(Still photo from Bigfoot film by Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, October 1967)

Crack! The bullet zings past my ear, hitting an old oak tree.

I drop the salmon wiggling in my hands and run along the bank of the Mokelumne River, propelling my long, hairy arms for speed. Behind me, the hunters move carefully through the dense underbrush, tracking my movements.

Sharp green thorns snag on my hair and tear at my flesh as I struggle through the blackberry briars and wild grapevines. I hike deeper into the wilderness on two strong legs, climbing skillfully around granite boulders barring my way. In the distance, the jagged outline of Deadwood Peak rises above the trees. If I can only get there, I will be safe.

Rounding a bend I see her, tearing meat from a rabbit carcass with big, sharp teeth. Mama! Her shaggy brown head turns in my direction. With a low growl, she opens her long, hairy arms as if to embrace me.

And then she smells it, the distinct odor of musky sweat. The hunters are near!

We run, ignoring the stones piercing our feet, causing us to stumble. Behind us, the humans call back and forth, “Bigfoot!”

Together, we melt into the shade of a thick stand of pines, hoping to slow down and catch our breath. But our feet become tangled in nets concealed by pine needles, and suddenly, we are swinging up, up into the air, and dangling from the limbs of a sturdy pine tree.

Mama struggles inside her net, growling with rage. I struggle, too, yelping helplessly as the net swings back and forth above the hard ground.

“We’ve got them now,” says a bearded hunter to his companions. “Bigfoot! That TV show, Monster Search, will pay us big bucks for these babies.”

“We’ll be famous,” cries a husky hunter with red hair. “Scientists won’t laugh at us anymore. Finally! Proof that Bigfoot exists!”

“How are we going to get them back to San Francisco?” asks an old man with spectacles. “I mean, we weren’t really expecting to find anything.”

The bearded hunter pulls out his camera. “I’m taking plenty of pictures, just in case something goes wrong. They can’t call it a hoax this time!”

While the camera clicks and the three men argue over the best way to get us back to the city, I turn my head from view and gnaw on the net’s thick webbing with my teeth. Pretty soon I’ve made a small opening, large enough to stick my fingers through. I wiggle them at Mama, and she understands what to do.

The red-haired hunter chuckles as he pokes me in the back with a long stick. I give him a warning growl, but he keeps it up. My powerful jaws chew faster on the netting.

“We need some of that fur,” says the old man with spectacles. “We can send it to a lab for analysis.”

“Good idea!” says the red-haired hunter. “Then, if they get away, we’ll still have proof.”

The three men stand under the nets, looking up at our shaggy brown bodies hanging in the air. Suddenly the nets give way, and Mama and I find ourselves lying on top of the three men on the ground.

We howl victory cries and scramble to our feet. The men, tangled in the nets, shout curses at us as we run away.

The Miwok Indians tell stories about us — great hairy beasts roaming these desolate mountains. They fear us and protect our sacred habitat on Deadwood Peak. We are going there now, secure in the knowledge that we cannot be followed. Men from the city will continue to hunt us. But, with help from the Miwoks, they will never find us. And we will never let them capture us alive.

Dawn Pisturino

©2014-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Coyote Whisperer

(Injured coyote. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

ALL PHOTOS BY DAWN PISTURINO.

My first experience with coyotes was two eyes glowing in the dark, watching me from the sagebrush. People told me lurid tales of coyotes snatching little children, eating family pets, and circling around people who were out hiking in the desert. So, naturally, I developed a fear of them when we moved to Arizona from California in 1987.

Over the years, coyotes have roamed freely on our five acres of desert land, especially when we started putting out food and water for the birds. Some days, it felt like Grand Central Station, with coyotes coming and going. I never felt comfortable with this, but I also didn’t want to fence our land off all the way around. We keep the land cleared around our house, but otherwise, we leave the land in its natural state. We like watching the birds, rabbits, and other critters. We maintain our land as a wildlife sanctuary.

In 2017, an older coyote began hanging around, and I would go out and talk to him and leave dry dog food out for him. He was clearly tired and worn out and became a regular visitor. I worried about the other wildlife, but he never tried to harm a rabbit or a bird or anything else. In fact, on Christmas Eve, I saw him lying down in the back yard, like a dog, enjoying the sunshine, with birds and rabbits milling around him, and never bothered any of them. I remembered that Bible verse (Isaiah 11:6) about the wolf dwelling with the lamb. It was a beautiful thing to observe in real life and a wonderful Christmas gift. I was truly amazed.

In the summer of 2018, we experienced a severe drought in Northern Arizona. Even in Flagstaff, where I was working at the time, pine trees turned brown, the normally green meadows looked brown and dry, and wildfires threatened the whole area. For the first time, the campgrounds prohibited campfires — something long overdue. Around Williams, there seemed to be a constant wreath of smoke as the U.S. Forestry Service conducted scheduled burns.

The coyotes looked horrible! They were skin and bones and struggling to survive. My husband and I agreed to put dry dog food out for them whenever they showed up. The number visiting had already shrunk over the years, and we wanted them to live.

One day, the old coyote was carrying something black in his mouth, and I chased him around the yard, trying to figure out what it was. I was praying it wasn’t one of our wildlife. It turned out to be an old, dried up watermelon rind. That’s how hungry these coyotes were!

He started showing up around 5 pm every day, and that became our routine for dinner. One afternoon, I was sitting on the front porch waiting for him to show up. A truck driving down the road suddenly stopped, and I heard a gunshot. I figured the driver had killed a rattlesnake, but a chill ran through me when I thought about the coyote. I prayed it wasn’t him! The driver smiled and waved at me as he drove by as if he had just done me a big favor. The coyote never showed up for dinner, but I also didn’t see anything lying in the road.

The next day, my husband and I were walking down in the wash and kept seeing strange circular markings in the sand. I thought maybe kids were playing there. Then I found strange markings in our yard. I couldn’t tell if they were big-ass snake trails or if the dog had been running around with his leash on. But it really bothered me. And that night, the dogs kept barking.

At 5:30 the next morning, my husband woke me up and told me there was an injured coyote in our yard. I ran outside, and there he was — my coyote! He was lying in the dirt with a big gash in his right shoulder. I got as close as I could so I could look at the wound, but he lifted his head and bared his teeth at me. So I snuck up from behind and looked, and yes, it was a very deep gash. He had been shot, and even though the wound looked clean, it was very deep. My poor coyote was dying.

It was very hot outside, so I put food and water next to him. As the sun got higher and brighter, he moved to another spot. I moved the food and water with him. He raised his head and looked at me with such a look of gratitude in his eyes, I will never forget it. If we didn’t bond before, we certainly did at that moment.

My husband told me, “He’s going to end up under the front porch. Just watch.”

I didn’t think so because he kept moving farther away from the house and into the bushes, where it was cooler. As I watched him, I figured out that the strange markings in the yard were caused by the coyote dragging his right front leg. Later, I found him lying under the car — and then, I found him under the front porch! My husband was right.

Photo by Dawn Pisturino.

The next morning, my husband found the coyote’s dead body under his truck. I cried my eyes out. And I was so angry at that driver for shooting him! There was absolutely no reason to shoot him. I still cry when I think about it. And I figured out that the circular markings in the wash were caused by the coyote thrashing around in a circular motion in the sand because he was in so much pain. I found the same markings under my husband’s truck.

At the same time, I felt honored and grateful that this poor creature – that was so injured and in so much pain – had made his way to our house for help. He knew he would be taken care of here.

Since then, we have other coyotes who come for breakfast and dinner:

(Coyote family. The baby coyote is on the left, looking up at the camera. With Mom and Dad. Photo by Dawn Pisturino.)

Welcoming new baby coyotes into our life gives me hope that the local population will survive.

Dawn Pisturino

November 16, 2021

Copyright 2018-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Jurassic Park: The Movie

Photo: Universal Pictures

(Attention! Spoiler Alert!)

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 science fiction thriller, Jurassic Park, tells a linear story using continuity editing. The movie explores the ethics of scientific manipulation of nature and introduces the concept of chaos theory. The editing, done by Michael Kahn, is seamless and flawless. There are no superfluous scenes. Each scene is designed to support the story and the theme of the movie. The pacing of the movie keeps the tension building to the climax. The editor relays the story “clearly, efficiently, and coherently” (Barsam and Monahan), leaving no doubt or confusion in the mind of the viewer. Based on the book by Michael Crichton, the camera moves smoothly back and forth between situations and scenes (parallel editing), just like a book. The opening music, written by John Williams, is ominous and primitive, implying that the viewer is entering untamed territory.

The opening scene (the master scene) shows the expert hunter standing grimly by with his gun as workers unload a metal crate. This is on the Isla Nubar, 120 miles off the coast of Costa Rica. An accident occurs, and a worker is killed when the creature inside the crate is released and grabs the worker’s leg. The viewer never sees the creature. Its presence is inferred by the creature’s movements and vocalizations, the intense and horrified expressions on the people’s faces, and the scene where the injured worker is pulled from the grip of the expert hunter. The viewer understands that something predatory and dangerous was in that crate.

A “blood-sucking” lawyer (reflecting blood-sucking mosquitoes), arrives at the amber mine at Manos de Dios (hands of God) in the Dominican Republic. There is a lawsuit now against the project. A scientist (a “digger”) views a piece of amber that was just found, containing a mosquito. From his facial expression, the viewer understands that this is a rare and valuable find.

In the Badlands near Snakewater, Montana, Drs. Allen Grant and Ellie Sadler are working hard and painstakingly on a dinosaur dig. Dr. Grant is skeptical of new technology. He dislikes kids. Dr. Sadler is more flexible and is trying hard to convince him to have children with her. The scene with the fat kid is hilarious. The camera perfectly captures the changed expressions on his face. Dr. Grant shows that he has a sense of humor.

After John Hammond, the wealthy entrepreneur, arrives and convinces the pair to go to Costa Rica with him to view his “biological preserve,” the scene cuts to San Jose, Costa Rica. We see a sweating fat man (Wayne Knight of Seinfeld fame) at a café, meeting with a suspicious-acting man. It is clear that something criminal is going on. The man offers the fat man a lot of money in exchange for some “viable embryos.” The viewer does not yet know how this scene is related to the other scenes, but his imagination is captured, and he wants to know what’s going to happen next. The director is slowly laying the groundwork for the plot of the story.

In the helicopter, Dr. Grant (a paleontologist) and Dr. Sadler (a paleontological botanist) meet Dr. Ian Malcom, a theoretical mathematician who calls himself a “chaotician.” John Hammond is not impressed with his “rock star” personality. The other doctors have not heard of chaos theory. Malcolm flirts relentlessly with Dr. Sadler.

When the helicopter reaches the island, the camera reveals a lush, tropical paradise. The music becomes uplifting and upbeat, inspiring feelings of expectation and hope. There is a promise of adventure.

As the travelers are transported in a Jeep to the main center of the island, they witness huge electrical fences equipped with 10,000 volts, moats, and large concrete walls, which are meant for the “stability of the island.” If it’s just a “biological preserve,” why do they need all of this heavy-duty protection?

The Jeep stops at a truly beautiful and peaceful pastoral scene. The camera dollies in for a close-up of Dr. Grant’s facial expression. He reaches over and grabs Dr. Sadler’s head and turns it. Both of their faces show overwhelming awe, surprise, and excitement. They are looking at a live brachiosaurus! Dr. Malcolm looks awed but concerned. The lawyer gleefully says, “We’re going to make a fortune with this place!”

The camera shows a long shot of a lake with herds of brachiosaurs and other creatures. Dr. Grant is confirmed in his theory that these creatures roamed around in herds. The viewer is also overwhelmed with awe and admiration. There is no doubt that this is a splendid park that everyone will want to visit!

At the visitor center, the doctors watch a video presentation about the “miracle of cloning.” The viewer needs this information to understand the plot and the theme of the movie. Scientists in the film extracted “Dino DNA” from mosquitoes trapped in amber, but the DNA is incomplete and filled in with DNA from frogs. (The DNA, therefore, is corrupted, or mutated.)

Throughout this segment, the doctors are so excited, they break all the rules, and John Hammond cannot control them (a foreshadowing of things to come.) Overhead, we hear the announcement that the boat for the mainland will leave soon. At the same time, the doctors are witnessing a dinosaur hatching from its shell (the miracle of life.) These dinosaurs are impure, altered, corrupted, and laboratory bred. While the lab scientist (B.D. Wong) seems completely unconcerned, Dr. Malcolm is calculating in his head all the predictability/unpredictability ratios. The lab scientist reveals that all the animals are female and cannot breed because the chromosomes have been muted (implying perfection and control.) Dr. Malcolm refutes that with an impassioned speech about the history of evolution, the power of life, and the inability to contain it: “Life finds a way.” When Dr. Grant discovers that they bred velociraptors, a close-up of his face shows his mood change from elation to deep concern. Dr. Malcolm’s speech and Dr. Grant’s mood change portend danger and chaos.

The expert hunter confirms their concerns when he says, “They should all be destroyed.” The viewer recognizes him as the man with the gun in the master scene. He explains that these creatures are calculating problem-solvers who are always watching and waiting and testing the fences to get out (a foreshadowing of the future.) The hunter is a realist who has seen these creatures in action.

At lunch, John Hammond goes on and on about the significance and legacy of his theme park, and the lawyer goes on and on about the lucrative investment. Dr. Malcolm is appalled and points out their “lack of humility before nature.” He calls them careless exploiters who did not earn the right to use this technology. As a result, they have no understanding of what they have created and take no responsibility for the results. The theme of the movie is summed up nicely here when he says that the handsomely-paid Jurassic Park scientists were so caught up in “whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think whether or not they should.” And Dr. Grant and Dr. Sadler back him up about the unpredictability of the result (foreshadowing what’s about to happen.)

The chaos elements begin to reveal themselves: the grandchildren arrive, who are knowledgeable city kids but vulnerable in this environment; a tropical storm is imminent; and Dennis, the disloyal fat man, hacks into the computer system in order to implement his nefarious plan.

When the basic tour begins, Dr. Malcolm remarks that the huge gates to the park remind him of King Kong. Richard Kylie narrates information about dilophosaurus, describing it as a deadly creature that spits poison into the eyes of its victim (foreshadowing later events.)

The scene cuts to a conversation between Dennis and John Hammond. Dennis has financial problems, which is why he is willing to sell dinosaur embryos for money, and John Hammond responds that people should pay for their mistakes (foreshadowing future events.) When his plan is in place, Dennis makes a fumbled explanation of going to the vending machines, steals the embryos, and exits the building.

On the tour, the scientists have not seen any dinosaurs except the tame and sick ones. There is an illusion of order and peace. When the storm hits, however, the chaos begins. The park systems begin to shut down, including the cars containing the scientists, the lawyer, and the children.

The best segments in the movie, in my opinion, are the scenes involving the T. Rex and the car. The editing is seamless and flawless. There is no indication anywhere that the T. Rex is not real. The acting is superb, revealing the absolute terror and horror felt by the children. The children come face-to-face with the creature, as indicated by this photo (T. Rex point of view):

As the T. Rex terrorizes the group, every character is suddenly confronted with his own mortality and feelings of powerlessness. There are several shots where the T. Rex and a character come face-to-face and even meet each other at eye level (the eyeline match cut.)

The cowardly lawyer leaves the children alone and gets his comeuppance in a dramatic scene that reveals how powerless humans are compared to these creatures.

The viewer cannot help feeling glad that the lawyer got his just reward because he just wanted to exploit these creatures for profit. The editing here is a marvel of technology because it looks absolutely real, with no obvious separation between the physical scenery and the artificial creature.

When Dennis leaves the park and gets stuck in the mud, he loses his glasses and the shaving cream canister containing the embryos. When he meets the dilophosaurus, he treats it like a dog, calling it stupid, asking it to fetch, and remarking, “No wonder you’re extinct.” He has no respect for the power and danger that have been unleashed. The creature meets him face-to-face in the car, after outwitting him, and kills him. Dennis gets his just reward, and the embryos are lost forever in the mud.

As the characters deal with varying life-threatening situations, Dr. Grant protects and rescues the children, thereby learning that kids are not so bad after all. The characters learn that everybody is necessary in a survival situation, no matter their age or gender. John Hammond realizes that human life is more important than leaving behind a fantastical legacy for the world. Dr. Malcolm is proven right. And the hunter learns that weapons are not enough against a calculating predatory creature that was able to outwit him.

Dawn Pisturino

Thomas Edison State University

January 22, 2018

Copyright 2018-2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

Works Cited

Barsam, Richard, and Dave Monahan. Looking at Movies, 5th ed. New York: Norton, 2016.

Spielberg, Steven, Dir. Jurassic Park. Perf. Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard

       Attenborough. Universal, 1993.

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Godzilla Rules

After the bombing of Hiroshima, filmmakers became obsessed with sci fi movies that exposed and speculated about the harmful effects of radiation poisoning on humans and the environment. Giant, monstrous creatures produced from radiation exposure became a popular theme, particularly in Japan, where the original Godzilla was born in 1954. A whole series of movies featuring Godzilla and sundry other monsters followed. Even today, remakes of the Japanese originals remain popular. And merchandise sales of T-shirts, toys, and other items remain strong. Godzilla even earned his own pop song:

Blue Oyster Cult – Godzilla
Godzilla original movie theme, 1954.

Godzilla Rules!

Dawn Pisturino

October 2, 2021

Copyright 2021 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

16 Comments »

The Egyptian

egyptian-cat-goddess-statue-

The Egyptian

Four large black cats rushed to greet him when he opened the apartment door. Four pairs of gleaming yellow eyes watched him curiously. Four shiny, custom-made rhinestone collars flashed at him. Four soft, furry bodies rubbed themselves affectionately against his grey flannel-clad legs, purring loudly. He stood still in the doorway, afraid of tripping over one of the sleek black bodies or stepping on a long black tail.

“Cleopatra . . . Hathor . . . Horus . . . Anubis!” cried a familiar voice. “Leave the poor man alone!”

The cats meowed loudly as a tall woman with honey-colored skin entered the room. She was dressed in a long-sleeved, full-length black silk caftan embroidered with shiny gold thread. Her thick black hair was piled high on top of her regal head. Her heavy gold earrings, necklace, and bracelets shone brilliantly in the bright sunlight streaming through the open windows. She clapped her hands together, commanding the attention of her feline pets, and waved them toward the open kitchen door. The cats scampered off, eager to please their mistress.

He entered the apartment cautiously, closing the door behind him.

“Emanuel!” She greeted him with a warm hug, and he inhaled the sweet, heavy Arabic perfume which she always wore. “Light a cigarette for me, won’t you, darling?”

He pulled a pack of expensive Turkish cigarettes from his pocket and held one in his mouth while lighting it for her with a slim silver lighter from Rome. Remaining silent, he handed it to her, and she took a long, slow drag.

“It’s been so long,” she said, after exhaling a small white cloud of smoke. “I’ve been trying to quit, you know. But today calls for a special celebration. Thank you for responding to my call.”

She looked at him intently with large dark eyes which turned up slightly at the corners. The effect was accentuated by the heavy black eyeliner she always wore. Then, smiling with pleasure, she suddenly grabbed his hands and pulled him down next to her onto the elegant gold brocade sofa. “Kiss me, you fool!”

He turned away from her. “That’s not a good idea, Fatima. Please, just tell me why you called.”

She leaned over and turned his face toward her with long, slender fingers, looking deeply into his eyes. Her soft lips brushed against his neck, then opened up eagerly to his own, and they embraced with a familiar passion. When she had gotten her fill, she pushed him gently away, laughing.

“Ah, my talented Emanuel – no man has ever kissed me the way you do. How I shall miss it!”

“The divorce was your idea,” he quietly reminded her. “I would have endured any agony to be with you, if only you felt the same!”

Her face darkened. “Such pain,” she said bitterly. “But there was no choice. I could not allow you to be hurt by my foolish folly.”

“But you have never explained that to me! You owe me an explanation,” he pleaded. “To throw away twelve months of bliss is also folly!”

She tapped the cigarette with her right forefinger over the ashtray, letting the ashes fall, then took another drag. “It’s quite simple,” she said, avoiding his probing eyes. “I’m leaving for San Francisco with another man.”

A cloud slipped over the sun, darkening the room. He stood up and abruptly turned his back to her, afraid of the tide of emotion rising up inside of him. He walked over to the fireplace and leaned against the mantel. The mirror hanging on the wall could not conceal his flushed face, smoldering dark eyes, and tight, white lips. Suddenly, the truth seared through his brain like an exploding lightning bolt. He was a fool alright, a stupid, ignorant fool who had run after this magnificent harlot like a pathetic little boy, promising her the whole world.

In spite of her passionate declarations of love and exotic love-making, she had never really loved him. But she had played him brilliantly, taking him on the most exciting ride of his life. The marriage certificate obtained in New York City had paved the way to her U.S. citizenship. Then there was the brand new Mercedes-Benz (gold, naturally) which she had proudly picked out one Sunday afternoon; gifts of solid gold jewelry; and trips to expensive seaside resorts. She had used him, body and soul, then booted him out like a worn out old shoe when she was done. Even his pledge to give her a liberal monthly alimony had turned on him. She was going to share it with another man!

His jaw tightened, and he picked up a small plaster statuette of Bastet, the Egyptian cat goddess portrayed in the form of a black cat with gold earrings in the ears, a gold ring piercing the nose, and a jeweled collar inlaid with rainbow-colored stones. There were four of them lined up along the mantelpiece – souvenirs brought home from their trip to Cairo, her birthplace. He threw it angrily against the mirror, smashing both into a thousand pieces.

Clenching his fists, he turned to look at her. A wave of fear rippled across her lovely face – a face he had treasured and adored. She squashed the cigarette into the ashtray and began to rise from the sofa, but he rushed over and pushed her down hard against the cushions.

“Emanuel, no!” she cried, throwing her arms defensively over her face.

Consumed with rage, he raised his right fist and brought it crashing down against her arms. He kicked her delicate legs with his heavy Italian leather shoes and punched her in the belly with a furious, driving force. She screamed in agony, doubling over with pain, and the sound of her torture was music to his ears.

Suddenly, an ear-splitting yowling sound filled the room. A hundred tiny sharp needles seemed to claw into the flesh of his back, ripping the soft fabric of his grey flannel jacket. Tiny, needle-like fangs sank into his muscular shoulder. He screamed in pain and reached backward, trying to pull the angry ball of black fur from his back. But the enraged cat sank its fangs into his right hand. He screamed again.

Frantically, he jumped around the room, falling over tables and lamps, trying desperately to dislodge the hissing, spitting demon from his back. In the background, he was dimly aware of his beautiful, unfaithful wife dialing 911.

Three pairs of large yellow eyes watched him angrily from the kitchen doorway. Three long black tails twitched furiously. And when the hissing started, his heart seemed to stop in his chest. Three slinky black bodies padded silently toward him. And when they sprang on him, claws piercing his skin through his fine designer clothing, a terrifying shriek echoed through the apartment, and blackness closed over him.

* * *

Police sergeant James Watts had never encountered such a scene in his thirty years on the Hollywood police force. Nor could he explain to his satisfaction why four large black cats had so viciously attacked and killed their owner’s husband. The beautiful, grieving wife with the large dark eyes and foreign accent had wrung her hands nervously, tears streaming down her face.

Yes, it was true, they were going through a divorce. No, it was not what you would call a bitter divorce. They had both agreed to call it quits while they were ahead and to part amicably. No, she had no idea why the cats had turned on poor Emanuel. He had always treated them with such affection. Yes, of course, she understood that she was sole beneficiary to his estate. What was the nice police sergeant trying to imply?

The four large black cats were hauled off to the pound, where they were later executed for their crime.

The elegant Egyptian widow, dressed in filmy black robes, left for San Francisco with an up-and-coming architect, who left her two days later without leaving a forwarding address.

A week later, police broke into the San Francisco apartment of a mysterious black-haired woman after neighbors complained of a sickly smell permeating the halls. They gagged, covering their noses and mouths with gloved hands, as they surveyed the scene before them.

A corpse lay on the sofa, the bloated body of a dark-haired woman with purple-blue skin, who had evidently been mauled to death and then partially eaten by her feline pets. Four large black cats scampered into the kitchen when the officers appeared. They were never seen again.

  • * * *

Police sergeant James Watts of the Hollywood Police Department closed his newspaper, rubbed his stubbly chin, and leaned back in his swivel chair to think. Very strange, he thought, pondering this information. Very strange, indeed.

Dawn Pisturino

August 6, 2007

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Native American Tattoos – A Short History

native-american-tattooMany Native American tribes across the United States practiced the art of tattooing for a variety of reasons: to mark special rites of passage, such as puberty; to identify other members of a clan; to scare off enemies; to express spiritual beliefs; to honor great achievements, such as bravery in battle; to provide magical protection and strength; and to mark certain leaders, such as the medicine man.

Tattooers used geometrical designs to represent celestial bodies, natural phenomena, and animals. A person receiving the tattoo of a turtle, for example, would expect to achieve a long, healthy life since turtles symbolized Mother Earth, water, life, and health.

Tattooing was a painful process, but many tribes believed that pain brought a person closer to the spirit world. Designs were cut, hand-tapped, or hand-pricked into the skin with sharp needles made of stone, bone, or other materials. Then dye was rubbed into the wounds.

Black dye could be made from soot or charcoal. Ochre mixed with clay produced a brownish-reddish hue. And blue came from indigo or other materials.

These tattoos became permanent markings on the skin that could be enhanced with temporary body paint, especially during time of war.

Dawn Pisturino

September 25, 2012

Copyright 2012-2015 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

(This short article was originally a sidebar on another history-related article.)

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Butterfly Travels

monarch butterfly

Cymbals crash. Drums roll. In Pacific Grove, California, hundreds of school children, sporting orange-and-black butterfly wings, participate in the annual Butterfly Parade.

The parade is held every October to celebrate the arrival of thousands of monarch butterflies to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary. The monarchs spend the winter here, clustered onto Monterey pines and eucalyptus trees. They enjoy the moderate temperatures and misty fogs of the California coast. In February, when temperatures rise, the monarchs return home again.

Why do monarchs leave home in autumn? How do they know where to go? And how do they find their way back home again in spring?

When temperatures drop in the eastern part of the United States, monarch butterflies travel south, to the warmer climates of Florida and Mexico. Monarchs living in the West migrate to the coast of California. The butterflies need warm temperatures in order to fly. Otherwise, they will die.

Monarchs travel together in large groups for long distances. There can be as many as 1,000 butterflies in a group.

During the day, they can fly 12 miles an hour, up to 100 miles a day. Even though their wingspan is only 3 1/2 inches wide, monarchs can soar up, up into the air, as high as 2,000 feet. At night, tiny claws on their feet help them to cluster together in tree branches. They sleep until morning then start their travels all over again.

Scientists estimate that 100,000 monarch butterflies migrate every year. Some travel 4,000 miles to reach a nature reserve in the mountains of Mexico. In Santa Cruz, California, a monarch flag is hung when the first orange-and-black clusters appear. Six months later, the flag is taken down. Pacific Grove, California calls itself “Butterfly Town, USA.” Tourists flock to the city every year to get a glimpse of their colorful visitors.

Every year, volunteers from the Monarch Project tag thousands of monarchs in order to track how fast and how far the butterflies can fly. The tags are number coded and attached to the hind wings of the butterflies. When someone finds a monarch wearing a tag, the number code, date, and location are recorded.

Monarch Watch and Journey North recruit volunteers to record when and where the first monarch butterflies are spotted every year in autumn and spring.

When spring comes, the monarchs begin the long journey home. Along the way, they mate and lay eggs on milkweed plants. Butterflies that hatch in spring and early summer live two to six weeks. Butterflies born in late summer live eight to nine months because they are the ones that will migrate to warmer climates when autumn comes.

Scientists are still studying how monarch butterflies migrate to distant places and find their way home again. Are they sensitive to the earth’s magnetic field? Are they influenced by the angle of the sun’s rays? Do they follow geographical landmarks such as lakes and rivers? Does some genetic code in their bodies prompt them to return to the same location generation after generation?

Nobody knows. But people who love butterflies welcome the delicate orange-and-black monarchs to their towns every autumn and spring.

Dawn Pisturino

Copyright 2013-2015 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Bigfoot!

bigfootCrack! The bullet zings past my ear, hitting an old oak tree.

I drop the salmon wiggling in my hands and run along the bank of the Mokelumne River, propelling my long, hairy arms for speed. Behind me, the hunters move carefully through the dense underbrush, tracking my movements.

Sharp green thorns snag on my hair and tear at my flesh as I struggle through the blackberry briars and wild grapevines. I hike deeper into the wilderness on two strong legs, climbing skillfully around granite boulders barring my way. In the distance, the jagged outline of Deadwood Peak rises above the trees. If I can only get there, I will be safe.

Rounding a bend I see her, tearing meat from a rabbit carcass with big, sharp teeth. Mama! Her shaggy brown head turns in my direction. With a low growl, she opens her long, hairy arms as if to embrace me.

And then she smells it, the distinct odor of musky sweat. The hunters are near!

We run, ignoring the stones piercing our feet, causing us to stumble. Behind us, the humans call back and forth, “Bigfoot!”

Together, we melt into the shade of a thick stand of pines, hoping to slow down and catch our breath. But our feet become tangled in nets concealed by pine needles, and suddenly, we are swinging up, up into the air, and dangling from the limbs of a sturdy pine tree.

Mama struggles inside her net, growling with rage. I struggle, too, yelping helplessly as the net swings back and forth above the hard ground.

“We’ve got them now,” says a bearded hunter to his companions. “Bigfoot! That TV show, Monster Search, will pay us big bucks for these babies.”

“We’ll be famous,” cries a husky hunter with red hair. “Scientists won’t laugh at us anymore. Finally! Proof that Bigfoot exists!”

“How are we going to get them back to San Francisco?” asks an old man with spectacles. “I mean, we weren’t really expecting to find anything.”

The bearded hunter pulls out his camera. “I’m taking plenty of pictures, just in case something goes wrong. They can’t call it a hoax this time!”

While the camera clicks and the three men argue over the best way to get us back to the city, I turn my head from view and gnaw on the net’s thick webbing with my teeth. Pretty soon I’ve made a small opening, large enough to stick my fingers through. I wiggle them at Mama, and she understands what to do.

The red-haired hunter chuckles as he pokes me in the back with a long stick. I give him a warning growl, but he keeps it up. My powerful jaws chew faster on the netting.

“We need some of that fur,” says the old man with spectacles. “We can send it to a lab for analysis.”

“Good idea!” says the red-haired hunter. “Then, if they get away, we’ll still have proof.”

The three men stand under the nets, looking up at our shaggy brown bodies hanging in the air. Suddenly the nets give way, and Mama and I find ourselves lying on top of the three men on the ground.

We howl victory cries and scramble to our feet. The men, tangled in the nets, shout curses at us as we run away.

The Miwok Indians tell stories about us — great hairy beasts roaming these desolate mountains. They fear us and protect our sacred habitat on Deadwood Peak. We are going there now, secure in the knowledge that we cannot be followed. Men from the city will continue to hunt us. But, with help from the Miwoks, they will never find us. And we will never let them capture us alive.

Dawn Pisturino

©2014 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

BIO: Dawn Pisturino’s poems, limericks, short stories, and articles have appeared in/on Danse Macabre du Jour, Brooklyn Voice, Underneath the Juniper Tree, Working Writer, and several newspapers and anthologies. She currently resides in Arizona.

Please visit my website: http://www.dawnpisturino.org

Thanks!

 

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