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My Writing Journey

Miss Lizzie’s Tea Party

lamug_miss-lizzie

Miss Lizzie’s Tea Party

by Dawn Pisturino

Illustration by Ken Lamug

I never wanted to attend Miss Lizzie’s tea party, but mama insisted I go.

“Miss Borden is a kind and gentle lady,” she scolded. “I don’t want to hear anymore nonsense about those grisly axe murders! Rich young ladies like Miss Borden don’t go around chopping up people’s heads.”

“But Mama,” I protested. “Miss Lizzie and the maid were the only ones at home. Who else could have chopped off her father’s nose and split his eyeball in two?”

“That’s enough, Olivia,” Mama warned. “You’re going to the party, and that’s final.”

* * *

I had often seen Miss Lizzie sitting in an upstairs window, beckoning the neighborhood children inside for homemade cookies.

Every time she waved at me, my body quivered like gelatin fresh out of the mold. After all, this was the woman accused of hacking up her father and stepmother with a hatchet!

And even though the jury found Miss Lizzie innocent way back in 1893, folks ’round these parts never forget.

But I always reluctantly waved back, as Mama had taught me, and hurried home.

Then the invitation came. Miss Lizzie was hosting an afternoon tea party for all the children in the neighborhood.

Mama was so thrilled, she cleaned and pressed my prettiest, frilliest party dress and bought me a shiny new pair of shoes. “Papa’s law practice has been falling off lately,” she explained. “He needs a wealthy client like Miss Borden to get going again.”

Annie, the housemaid, curled my hair. “You can’t go, Miss Olivia, you just can’t. My mama told me never to go inside that house. I mean, never! And she should know. Bridget Sullivan, the Borden’s housemaid, told her there was blood and brains splattered everywhere. They found Abby Borden’s hair braid lying on the rug, sliced clean from her head!”

Tears welled up in my eyes. “I have to go, Annie. Mama will whip me with Papa’s razor strap if I don’t.”

“Well, don’t eat anything. She never admitted it, but Miss Lizzie tried to buy poison from Smith’s Drug Store right before the murders.”

* * *

Miss Lizzie opened the front door with a wide, toothy grin.

Every muscle in my body screamed, Run! Now! While you can!

But mama’s voice kept ringing in my ears. Miss Borden is a kind and gentle lady . . .

So I followed Miss Lizzie down the hall to an elegantly furnished drawing room — an empty drawing room. None of the other children had come. Cowards!

And then I saw it, gleaming by the fireplace, a shiny new axe!

Gold paint glittered along the sharp edge, marred by dark stains that looked like blood. I clenched my fists, trying hard to ease the queasiness in my stomach.

“You’re admiring my new axe,” Miss Lizzie said. She stepped closer, her pale blue eyes foggy with distant memories. “My father was quite skilled with an axe. One afternoon, I went into the barn and found my beloved pigeons lying on the ground with their heads chopped off. My father was standing over them, holding a bloody axe. I screamed and ran into the house.

“That night, Bridget served pie for dinner. Pigeon pie!” she said as her lips twisted into a smile.

The drawing room door opened then and a fat cook with a red face entered carrying a large pie in her hands. “Sit yourself down, my dear. The pie is ready to eat! I got lucky, Miss Lizzie. I found our special ingredient at Smith’s Drug Store.”

Smith’s Drug Store! I grabbed my reeling head, ready to faint at any moment. Pie! Poisoned pigeon pie!

Screaming, I lunged for the axe and swung it around, knocking the pie out of the cook’s hands, slicing off her forefinger. She howled in pain as blood spurted from the wound. I swung the axe around again, nicking Miss Lizzie’s ear. Fluffy brown curls fluttered to the floor, sliced neatly from her head.

Miss Lizzie tackled me to the ground and held me there while the cook bound her bloody hand with a towel and telephoned the police. My chest heaved with great, gulping sobs as Miss Lizzie’s face drew closer and closer until her lips brushed against my ear.

You see how easy it is,” she whispered.

THE END

Published in the February 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Copyright 2012-2016 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! MAKE IT SCARY!

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Sammy’s Sleigh Ride

Mouse and Santa's sleigh

by Dawn Pisturino

One winter night, Sammy Mouse ran away from home. He wanted to go to the North Pole and see Santa Claus. So he put his clothes in a suitcase, bundled up in his heavy winter coat, left a note for his parents, and sneaked out of the house.

Sammy peered into the darkness, shivering with cold. Up above, millions of stars looked down at him. Sammy trudged through the snow, guided by the light of the full moon.

Sammy thought about all the wonderful things he would do for Santa Claus: help the elves make toys, feed the reindeer, and pack Santa’s sleigh.

When Santa Claus was ready to leave, Sammy would jump into the sleigh and sit beside him on the seat. Santa would laugh, “ho-ho-ho,” and Sammy would laugh, too. Then, up in the air they would go. Sammy would look down at all the little houses below.

When Santa’s reindeer landed on a snowy rooftop, Sammy would help Santa climb out of the sleigh. He would help Santa lift his big bag of toys and watch him slide down the chimney. Then, off they would go again!

Sammy walked a long time through the snow. When the sun began to shine, Sammy could walk no more. He curled up under a log and fell asleep.

When he woke up, Sammy’s stomach growled with hunger. He nibbled on a piece of cheese and hurried on his way. He wanted to get to Santa’s house before nightfall. Tonight was Christmas Eve.

But the longer he walked, the more tired Sammy felt. Everywhere he looked, he saw trees and snow. Where was Santa’s house? Where was the North Pole?

As night fell, Sammy began to get scared. Christmas was almost here, and he had not yet reached Santa’s house or the elves’ workshop or even the North Pole!

Sammy sat down in the snow and cried. He was wet and cold and hungry. He was tired, and his feet hurt. Worst of all, Sammy was lost!

Overhead, the stars seemed to be laughing at him. The man in the moon wore a big, shiny grin. Suddenly, Sammy heard bells jingling. Up in the sky, he saw Santa’s sleigh and eight reindeer flying past the moon. Sammy’s heart sank. Now, he would miss Christmas.

But wait, here was Santa’s sleigh coming right toward him! Sammy could hardly believe his eyes when the sleigh landed in the snow.

“Jump in, Sammy,” Santa said, smiling brightly.

Sammy jumped eagerly into the sleigh next to Santa. “Where are we going?” he asked.

“We’re going to take you home,” Santa answered.

The reindeer began to run across the snow faster and faster until suddenly, they were flying up into the sky!

Up, up, up they went. Sammy looked down. The trees in the forest looked like frosty toothpicks. The moon and stars grew bigger and brighter.

“Ho-ho-ho!” Santa laughed, his belly shaking.

“Ho-ho-ho!” Sammy laughed.

Before he knew it, Sammy was home. He helped Santa fill the stockings and put special gifts under the Christmas tree. He made sure he didn’t see what Santa had brought him.

When Santa was ready to slide up the chimney, Sammy said, “Oh, thank you, Santa!”

Santa laughed and shook Sammy’s paw. “You’re welcome, my little friend. Merry Christmas!”

In a flash, Santa was gone. But Sammy could hear reindeer hooves on the roof, and he never forgot the sound of the bells jingling on Santa’s sleigh.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Dawn Pisturino

copyright 2014 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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Trapped in the Snow

angelo-christo-snowcovered-forestDelaware Territory 1755

Nunganey trudged through the crusty snow searching for signs of beaver and other game. He longed for a blazing fire and his mother’s warm smile. But the villagers were counting on the hunters — the best of the tribe — to bring back fresh meat.

“Turn back!” shouted his father over the rising wind as a shower of white flakes fluttered down from the sky.

Nunganey’s heart dropped with disappointment. There would be no fresh meat. His younger brothers and sisters would cry with disappointment when their mother served hot watery broth, brewed from old bones, and meager portions of mashed acorns for dinner. His own hunger raged inside of him, and he longed for a piece of fat beaver cooked over a hot fire.

Suddenly, one of the hunters shouted, “Raccoon tracks!”

Nunganey’s father pointed at an old tree with a large hole in the center of the trunk. “Nunganey, follow those tracks and see if the raccoons have taken shelter in that tree.”

With the wind and snow blowing in his face, Nunganey followed the tiny footprints to the old tree, but the tracks led deeper into the forest. He knew he should turn back, but the boy was determined to find the raccoons.

The tracks disappeared at the base of another large tree. Nunganey climbed up the tree and peered into a large hole. He had found the raccoons!

“Yohoh!” he called into the wind. “Yohoh!”

Shivering with cold, Nunganey clung to the tree and waited for a response. He called again, trying to shout louder than the wind, but no familiar voice shouted back.

Where were his father and the band of hunters? Had they left him behind? He scrambled down the tree and trudged through the snow with the wind at his back, looking for dark shapes moving among the trees. No voices called his name or answered his desperate cries.

Lost and alone, the boy shivered with hunger, wet, and cold. If he did not find shelter soon, he would freeze to death. He had his bow, arrows, and tomahawk, but nothing to build a fire. Even if he found shelter, how would he stay warm?

Old Grandfather’s words echoed in his head: Be strong, and Owaneeyo, the Great Spirit, will guide you. 

He soon came upon a hollow tree with an opening large enough for him to crawl inside. The center of the tree was dry and wide enough for him to stand up and move his arms and legs. But the wind and snow blew fiercely through the opening, chilling him to the bone.

Nunganey crawled out into the snow and looked around. Nearby, a dead tree had fallen to the ground. He chopped off the top of the tree with his tomahawk and propped it up against the opening in the hollow tree, leaving a small entrance to get in and out.

He fashioned a small block of wood out of the trunk of the dead tree and gathered a large pile of small sticks. When he had finished, he crawled inside the hollow tree, drawing the block of wood behind him to close up the entrance. Then he used the small sticks to plug up any remaining holes. He was now snug inside the hollow tree, protected from the wind and snow.

With his tomahawk, Nunganey removed the rotted wood lining the hollow tree and pounded it into small pieces on the ground. He now had a soft bed to lie on.

But it was cold and dark inside the tree. How could he get warm without a fire?

Then he had an idea. He jumped up and down, waving his arms, whooping and hollering, and dancing wildly inside the tree, until beads of sweat trickled into his eyes and he could jump no more.

Using his wet moccasins for a pillow, Nunganey wrapped himself in his damp blanket, curled up in a little ball, and went to sleep.

When Nunganey woke up, he didn’t know if it was day or night. But he was warm and dry, so he lay still for a very long time, listening to the wind, and finally the noise outside began to die down.

Nunganey put on his moccasins and felt around for the block of wood marking the entrance to the tree. It was so dark he couldn’t see. But then his fingers touched the rough contours of the block, and he sighed with relief. He pushed his hands against the block, expecting it to move, but it wouldn’t budge. He was trapped inside the tree!

He beat his fists on the trunk of the tree, tears stinging his eyes. Would he ever see his family again?

Then he remembered Old Grandfather’s words: Be strong . . . Owaneeyo will guide you.

Pushing his back against the trunk of the tree, Nunganey kicked the wooden block with all his strength. This time the block gave way, and a great blanket of snow fell down on the ground. A blast of cold air rushed in, and bright daylight flooded the tree. He was free!

Nunganey crawled out of the tree into the powdery snow. Many of the older trees grew moss on the northwest side of their trunks. He followed the moss-covered trees for many miles until he arrived at the creek which flowed past his village.

Suddenly, a large buck deer crashed through the bushes. Nunganey grabbed his bow and arrow. Aiming carefully, he waited until the rushing animal was almost upon him. Then he released the arrow, holding his breath, and watched the buck fall slowly to the ground. There would be fresh meat for his brothers and sisters!

Old Grandfather would be proud.

Dawn Pisturino

May 1, 2012

Copyright 2012-2014 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

PHOTO BY ANGELO CHRISTO.

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The Wonder of Books: A Childhood Memory

Bedtime Stories

A quote from author Eudora Welty:

“It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass. Yet regardless of where they came from, I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them — with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself. Still illiterate, I was ready for them, committed to all the reading I could give them.”  (One Writer’s Beginnings)

How I can relate to Welty’s introduction to books!

My mother treated books with all the delicacy and reverence of a holy relic.  Every Friday night, the family would pile into the station wagon and drive into town. The public library loomed before us like some great cathedral, magnificently lit, silent and austere; a place for study and reflection; a place of refuge and escape. My brother and I browsed through the racks, carefully opening the precious treasures, awed by the words we could not read and the colorful illustrations that dazzled our eyes. We carried off the chosen books, secure in our arms, and with smiling faces, looked forward to our bedtime story hour.

I remember The Cat in the Hat and Madeline and so many more. I remember my mother’s voice, lulling us into sleepiness, and then the final ritual before going to bed:  putting the books away in a special cupboard, high enough so that we could not reach them without my mother’s help. Books were special. Books were expensive. Books were rare. They needed to be locked away and protected like royal jewels. But most of all, they required love, a deep and abiding love that would last a lifetime.

Dawn Pisturino

February 5, 2014

Copyright 2014 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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A Special Christmas Gift from My Daughter

For Christmas, my daughter took my poem, “Butterfly, Butterfly,” and had it set to music by composer and film maker Barry Gremillion. Then they recorded it for me. I cannot tell you how touched I was by this loving gesture. Thanks, Ariel and Barry!

CD cover: click photo to enlarge

Butterfly CD cover

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The Punishment

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The Punishment

Click photo to enlarge, download, and read.

Story by Dawn Pisturino. Graphics by Rebekah Joy Plett.

Published October 18, 2011 on Underneath the Juniper Tree.
Copyright 2011 Dawn Pisturino and Rebekah Joy Plett. All Rights Reserved.

Published on The Brooklyn Voice, June 25, 2012. Read it here.

Troberg Punishment ill

Artwork by Asheka Troberg, The Brooklyn Voice. Click to enlarge.

Copyright 2012 Dawn Pisturino and Asheka Troberg. All Rights Reserved.

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The oak chest and the bride who rushed to her death

Everybody loves a good ghost story! Click on photo to read the story.

freaky folk tales

The Mistletoe Bride

“Within lay the body of his lost bride, now a fleshless skeleton, wearing the beautiful wedding robes in which he had last seen her. The wedding dress was yellow and stained with age and corruption. Her fleshless hand was raised in a pathetic attitude as it trying to open the door of her tomb.”

Read the whole story: http://freakyfolktales.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/how-a-new-york-society-girl-came-to-inherit-the-ghost-of-an-english-bride/

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Interview with Underneath the Juniper Tree

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My Interview with Underneath the Juniper Tree, March 9, 2012

“Dawn Pisturino has been a staple in our dark little pages since before I can remember. We had a chance to dig through her delightfully warped mind and find out more about her fantastic writing. Please, meet Dawn Pisturino.

1. Stephen King once said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Which books do you find yourself always going back and reading over again?

I’ve read Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights fifteen times. I love its Gothic elements. Most recently, I’ve been reading Mary Downing Hahn’s middle-grade books. She writes creepy ghost stories and historical fiction for children.

2. How do you start a story? Do you start at the beginning, or do you dive right in the middle?

I start with a vision in my head and try to capture it on paper. Cutting out the fluff and getting right into the story engages the reader. Since I get bored easily, it keeps my interest, too.

3. Do you have any rituals before you start writing? Do you need to warm up? Or do you go right into it?

I must have my morning cup of tea before I do anything! If I want to establish a particular mood, I play music, read poetry, watch a movie or TV program, and read passages from Lovecraft or Poe.

4. What is your dream project?

My dream project is to finish the adult literary horror novel that I started, make it a best-seller, and sell the movie rights. Isn’t that every author’s dream?

And for all you budding writers out there, here’s some advice from Dawn:

Read, read, read. Not just popular fiction, but classic fiction and nonfiction. Everything you read stimulates your imagination and expands your point of view.

Check out Dawn’s interpretation of darling little Lizzie Borden in our February 2012 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree.

Excerpt from “Miss Lizzie’s Tea Party,” by Dawn Pisturino.

Miss Lizzie tackled me to the ground and held me there while the cook bound her bloody hand with a towel and telephoned the police. My chest heaved with great, gulping sobs as Miss Lizzie’s face drew closer and closer until her lips brushed against my ear.

“You see how easy it is,” she whispered.

Copyright 2012 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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Throw Back Thursday. Story Time.

The UNDERNEATH THE JUNIPER TREE anthology will be out soon!

Underneath the Juniper Tree

 

 

The Day Came Sooner For Me

Written by Harley Samson / Illustrated by Michael MurdockScreen Shot 2012-12-20 at 9.17.19 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 9.17.39 PMScreen Shot 2012-12-20 at 9.17.55 PM

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 9.18.09 PM

 

From the August 2011 issue of Underneath The Juniper Tree

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