Harry Potter Goodies: Put-Outer, Pumpkin Pasty, Goblet of Fire, Lightning Bolts, Felix Felicis, and Remembrall

Here are a few more of my Harry Potter Christmas Tree ornaments!

Put-Outer 2

Dumbledore’s (and later, Ron’s) Put-Outer (Deluminator) – I made this from salt-dough, which I then painted silver. I didn’t have a regular cigarette lighter on hand, but if I’d had a silver one or a black one, I’d have used it (after it was empty of lighter fluid, of course). I would have then created a label for the Put-Outer on my computer. However, I didn’t have a lighter to use as the body of my Put-Outer, so I made my own. :)

When the dough was still very flexible, I used the tip of a mechanical pencil (you can use anything small and sharp, like a pin) to stipple the words, “Put-Outer” on the handle. The thumb-piece is a separate piece of salt dough that I hot glued onto the handle once they had dried (and before I painted the Put-Outer). I screwed a screw eye into the thumb-piece while the dough was still pliable, and I let it remain there while the dough dried. Then, when it was dry, I unscrewed the screw eye for the painting process.

Pumpkin Pasty

Pumpkin Pasty – made by my eight-year-old daughter out of salt-dough (which I then painted). Didn’t she do a great job? She’s so creative. It’s about 3″ in diameter. She made it in two pieces: First, the crust, and then, the filling. She pressed the two pieces together when the dough was still sticky, so I didn’t need to hot glue them together.

Goblet 1

The Goblet of Fire – I’m not entirely satisfied with this one, so you may get an update sometime in the future. I like that the goblet is wooden, because that makes it light, which will be nice for a Christmas tree ornament. I may end up painting it, however. Also, I don’t love the flames. AND I want to figure out a way to make it look like the parchment is floating. The one thing that I do like about this ornament is the burnt parchment pieces (Don’t burn the edges of the parchments slips yourselves, kids! Let your parents burn them for you!). Each parchment piece contains one of the names of the four wizards who competed in the Tri-Wizard Tournament: Cedric Diggory, Fleur Delacour, Viktor Krum (written in Bulgarian!), and Harry Potter. It was fun to decide how their handwriting might look (with the exception of Harry’s handwriting–since he didn’t write his own name).

Lightning Bolts

Lightning Bolts – I’ll bet Harry’s glad his lightning bolt scar isn’t golden! I made these from Cardboard, which I spray painted gold and then glittered gold. The glitter didn’t stick to the wet spray paint, so I’ll be mod-podging it on.

Felix 1

Felix Felicis – Liquid Luck, given to Harry Potter by Professor Slughorn. I made this potion using a tiny glass bottle that I purchased at Hobby Lobby. It came with a cork. The hanger is a screw eye. The potion itself is a bunch of golden seed beads. I bought a big pack (maybe a cup’s worth) of beads, and it was enough to fill six of these tiny bottles. I experimented with the label, making it horizontal and then vertical, and I ended up liking the vertical version best. It’s something I made on my computer. Here’s a file you can download:

Felix Felicis Tall Version


Remembrall – Sent to Neville Longbottom by his grandmother. I made lots of these using tiny clear Christmas balls, which I found at Hobby Lobby. I then poked a square of red netting (like for tutus) inside each one. The squares were about 3″ x 3″–it doesn’t take much. Then I hot glued some gold ribbon around each Remembrall and replaced the silver hangers. The gold ribbon is a bit stretchy, almost like it’s made of plastic and not fabric. I like this, because it forms to the Remembrall and doesn’t stick out in places like a flat, stiff ribbon would.

And there you have it! My latest Harry Potter goodies.

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And the Winner is…

Emily H.! Congratulations, Emily! Can you please email me your contact information?

Thank you, everyone, for entering this giveaway. I hope that even though the rest of you didn’t win a copy of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, you will still seek it out. It’s such a worthwhile, fun, intelligent read!

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Gearing Up for Halloween

The leaves are still summer-green and it’s still a million degrees during the day here in northern Florida…but the light has that autumnal slant to it, which makes me very happy. I love autumn and all that goes with it, especially Halloween!

My favorite part of Halloween is gearing up for it by reading lots of spooky stories. But nothing too spooky, please. Mostly, I like highly atmospheric stories with a bit of a thrilling edge to them (in other words, kids’ books). Some of my recent favorite “scary” books include:

  • Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (This one really is scary, I think)
  • Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book
  • Joseph Delaney’s The Last Apprentice series
  • Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood & Co. Book 1: The Screaming Staircase
  • Claire Legrand’s The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls

I also really like to write slightly-spooky flash fiction and short stories. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to write fresh stuff, lately, so I thought I’d share something from a couple of years ago–hopefully to get you all in a Halloween mood! I have revised it, though, and I think it’s stronger, now. It’s a piece of flash fiction, told solely through dialogue. I hope you enjoy it!


A Flash Fiction Story by Kim Harris Thacker

My brother’s deaths are a mighty inconvenience to me. It ain’t that I don’t miss him when he’s gone, but the pigs need slopping and the weeds need pulling, and he slops and pulls right well when he ain’t laid out, gray as ash. But you’ll miss him even more than me, I expect–since you’ll be his wife tomorrow.

It ain’t my aim to put fear in your heart—you and me always been like pups from the same litter—but it’ll be worse when you got babes to feed. There’ll be plenty, too, what with your ma bearing eight and ours a full dozen. You can’t bet on the Bitter Man striking, neither. Folks say it ain’t but once a century he spreads his cloak as wide as he done five years ago, when he flung it over your kin and ours and all them others in these parts.

There’ll be gobs to fill, mark me.

No, there ain’t no warning. First time, he done dropped headfirst from the south corner crabapple. But he were dead before he hit the ground, plain as muslin. Ain’t nobody but them as the Bitter Man’s kissed what look so hollowed-out.

Were only him and me living, until that first time. Then it were just me.

I washed him like you do that butter of yours, what you sell up the market—until the water run off him clear—and then I dressed him in his wake shift, what Ma sewed for him before she died. She saw her young dropping like flies and thought she better get to it, I guess. Too bad she didn’t sew one for herself. Mine fit her well enough, and I’ll get around to sewing a new one for myself sooner or later–though ain’t nobody to lay me out. I expect you’ll do it, if you ain’t already gone.

Right there. Right there, on that burnt patch of quilt, he done come lively all at once, like lightning striking a tree and sending it into a blaze of alive, instead of a char of dead. Hotter than pig cracklings, he was, and hungry. Had a pot of cold stew sitting on the table, here, and weren’t that fortunate! Never you mind your babes when he gets up, for his body got to be full of something until his soul fills all the cracks again, else you’ll run, scared, and running ain’t never a good idea. Bread and potatoes—salt pork, if you got it—them things is what he’s after, not you. Mightn’t look that way, but you just got to trust me.

Maybe get a meal ready right after his breath leaves him, just to be certain.

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Harry Potter Goodies: Grim Cup and Lockhart Autograph

Oh, my friends. I am so excited. My little family gets to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in a month!

If you know me, and you know how much I love all things Potter, then you will know that this is a Big Deal. I cry just thinking about it! And then I laugh and run around the room waving my arms like a maniac. ‘Scuse me, whilst I run and wave…

Okay, I’m back.

Because we’ll be at the WW of HP near Thanksgiving, and because we always start our Christmas preparations right after Thanksgiving, it seems natural that we should carry our Harry Potter Happiness into the month of December. So, the Thacker Family is having a Harry Potter Christmas, too! Normally, during the month of December, we study another country somewhere in the world and incorporate their Christmas traditions into ours. This year (and don’t you dare laugh), we’re studying the Wizard World. Instead of making gingerbread houses, we’ll be making a gingerbread version of the Weasley home (The Burrow). Instead of leaving out cookies and milk for Santa, we’ll leave out pumpkin pasties and butterbeer for Santa and mismatched socks for his elves. We’ll also have a Harry Potter-themed Christmas tree!

Which brings me to the whole purpose of this blog post, which is to show you the two ornaments I’ve already made for the tree:

Grim Cup This is the Grim found in Harry Potter’s tea leaves in Professor Trelawney’s Divination class (made using a fine-tip Sharpie marker and a cup and saucer I already owned and glued together using E6000 glue).

Gilderoy AutographThis is Gilderoy Lockhart’s autograph, laminated and hung with pink ribbon “by Hermione Granger.” It reads, “Please allow Miss Granger to check out any library book from the Restricted Section. Always, Gilderoy Lockhart” (with a little magic wand that’s spewing sparkles).

I’ll share all my ornaments with you as I make them! My goal is to use materials that I already have or to spend very little money buying materials. Before we moved here, to Florida, we sold many of our possessions, including most of our Christmas ornaments. So I knew we’d have to buy some when we got here. So I’m going to stick with my ornament budget! I think my biggest challenge will be creating a Sorting Hat tree topper. Maybe out of paper mache? We’ll see how it goes!


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Book Review: NOT IN THE SCRIPT by Amy Finnegan…and a Giveaway!

I’m so excited to be a part of Amy Finnegan’s blog tour for her debut YA novel, NOT IN THE SCRIPT, which just hit the shelves two days ago! Here’s a synopsis of the story:

Millions of people witnessed Emma Taylor’s first kiss—a kiss that needed twelve takes and four camera angles to get right. After spending nearly all of her teen years performing on cue, Emma wonders if any part of her life is real anymore . . . particularly her relationships. 

Jake Elliott’s face is on magazine ads around the world, but his lucrative modeling deals were a poor substitute for what he had to leave behind. Now acting is offering Jake everything he wants: close proximity to home; an opportunity to finally start school; and plenty of time with the smart and irresistible Emma Taylor . . . if she would just give him a chance. 

When Jake takes Emma behind the scenes of his real life, she begins to see how genuine he is, but on-set relationships always end badly. Don’t they? Toss in Hollywood’s most notorious heartthrob and a resident diva who may or may not be as evil as she seems, and the production of Coyote Hills heats up in unexpected—and romantic—ways.

This novel in the deliciously fun If Only romance line proves that the best kinds of love stories don’t follow a script. (Goodreads)

As a writer, I have so much respect for authors who can pen really believable romance—which is just what NOT IN THE SCRIPT, Amy Finnegan’s debut novel, is. But it’s also so much more. Think real romance—the kind that’s messy, overwhelming, hilarious, and not about to be stopped—and then think of hiding that kind of a romance from your friends, co-workers, and a whole lot of nosy paparazzi, and you’ve got a fingertip on the fast-moving and completely enjoyable story that is NOT IN THE SCRIPT.

Emma Taylor is a successful young actress, but she has been less than successful in dating. Since she has only ever dated her costars, it’s a no-brainer for her to vow, after her last disastrous break-up, never to fall for another actor again. Cue model-turned-television actor, Jake Elliot. Jake is everything Emma’s past boyfriends have never been: kind, devoted, and determined to get out of the film industry and into college as soon as possible. Emma already completed two years of college before graduating from high school, but she, too, has goals she’d like to reach, including starting a charitable foundation and getting out from under the thumb of her mother, who also happens to be her manager. Emma and Jake are a perfect match, but Emma is determined never to have her heart broken again. Nor does she want to hurt her best friend, Rachel, who has always been on the sidelines and who has nurtured a longtime crush on Jake—at least, on the glossy-magazine-supermodel version of Jake (which, in Emma’s opinion, pales to the real deal). Throw in some overblown celebrity tabloid “scoops” that have Emma and Jake doubting each other’s feelings for the other, and you have a romance that also managed to have me biting my nails with suspense.

NOT IN THE SCRIPT moves back and forth between Emma’s point of view and Jake’s, and Finnegan does a perfect job with her characters’ voices. They—and all of the other characters in the books, whether major or minor—are all distinct and easily identifiable, simply by the manner in which they talk, banter with other characters, or gush. The story clips along (definitely a stay-up-all-night-reading kind of book), and the wit is laugh-out-loud funny. But the emotions are deep, too. And the wit! Have I mentioned the wit? Finnegan writes some absolutely hilarious stuff, from her one-liners to the awkward and totally funny situations in which her characters often find themselves. Here are a few examples of my favorite witty lines:

*Please note that some readers may consider these lines to be slight spoilers.

Emma to her friend Rachel, in regards to Jake, whom neither Emma nor Rachel has met, but whom Rachel has crushed on for a long time: “If a boy looks like he belongs in a museum, there’s a pretty good chance his head is solid marble.”

Jake, when he’s hinting to his super cool mom that she should take off so he and Emma can have some alone time, together: “Isn’t Star Trek on tonight?” I ask Mom. She loves watching reruns of old TV favorites, and I need to take advantage of that. I check the time. “Yep, liftoff is any minute now.” “Jake, dear,” Mom says, “please don’t confuse a space shuttle with a starship.”

Oh, yes, the wit is there. But there’s other great stuff, too! There are a lot of “hooks” presented right away in the story that, if you aren’t totally absorbed by the wit or the heart-thumping romance (you will be), are sure to keep the reader reading. These hooks foreshadow conflicts in the characters’ lives that must be resolved in order for the characters to grow. The best part is that the foreshadowing is never heavy-handed. Even the minor characters are thoroughly fleshed-out. They could each have their own book, in my opinion! Ooo…I’d love to see that… Anyway, each character has his or her own “back story”—even if it’s only hinted at on the page—and each has his or her own “future story” somewhere just beyond that last page. I love a quote by the award-winning author Richard Peck, who said (in a nutshell) that quality books for young people end up leaving the reader with the belief that the characters have lives full of possibilities yet to live. Finnegan’s characters fairly leap off the page with possibility—even Emma and Jake, whose “story” is told through NOT IN THE SCRIPT.

Finally, a word about research: It’s obvious that Finnegan has done a lot of it in order to get the film industry facts right in NOT IN THE SCRIPT; and yet, there is no “info-dumping.” I finished reading the book feeling like I understood how television series were created and filmed, and I ended up having a lot more sympathy for those actors whose faces we frequently see plastered on the tabloids accompanied by headlines such as, “Two-Timer,” “Heart Breaker,” and “Raging Diva.” Certainly there are actors whose real-life characters fit the aforementioned descriptions, just as there are non-celebrities who fit the same bill…but it was nice to finish reading a book feeling like I understood that celebrities’ lives were as real as mine—they just get more publicity.

I recommend this book to lovers of love, fast-paced plot enthusiasts, and people who want to cry. Did I mention that I cried the third time that I read this book? And the first and second times, too? Maybe I’m just a sob-fest…but this story touched my heart. Over and over again. It’s going on my “Favorite Books” shelf, for sure.

If you’d like to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of NOT IN THE SCRIPT, all you have to do is comment on this post. Be sure to invite your friends to comment, too, and ask them to name you as the person who referred them to my website so I can give you an additional entry for each person you recommend! This drawing is open to people with U.S. mailing addresses only, and it ends at 11:59 p.m. a week from today (October 16th). Good luck!


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Celebrating the Castle Glower Series by Jessica Day George

I’m over on Bookshop Talk today, celebrating tomorrow’s release of the third book in best-selling author Jessica Day George’s “Castle Glower” series! Come on over to read my reviews of the first two books (TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE and WEDNESDAYS IN THE TOWER) and to be introduced to Book #3: THURSDAYS WITH THE CROWN.

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Short Story: Old Joe, by Kim Harris Thacker

Old Joe

“Last boat comes in about a quarter-to-six,” Mr. McCabe says, “so ain’t many tourists coming into the lodge between then and closing—except maybe to go to the restaurant. You can get on with your schoolwork right here at the counter, unless somebody comes up. You need something, my number’s right there. Housekeeping’s extension five. You got to push ‘zero,’ first. Got all that?”

“Yes, sir,” I reply.

“Good. See you lock the door behind you at ten, and don’t forget to put up the sign.” He points behind the desk to a piece of yellowed paper, framed in a black plastic frame, that lists his cell phone number beneath the words, ‘In case of emergency, please call Doug McCabe, Wakulla Springs Lodge Manager.

Mr. McCabe grabs the keys to his old pickup and heads for the door.

I hadn’t thought to bring my homework, and it feels wrong to play around on my phone on my first day of a new job, so I walk around the lodge’s reception area, checking things out.

I’ve come to the springs to swim since I was little, but I hadn’t been inside the lodge in years until my interview with Mr. McCabe two days ago. And I was too nervous to notice much, then. The reception area takes up about ten feet of the lodge’s foyer, which looks like a run-down version of some huge, fancy ballroom out of one of those BBC movies Mom likes. The only thing that doesn’t seem to have been worn out by the passage of time is the ceiling, which is formed by thick, dark beams covered in Italian-style paintings. The hardwood floor is scratched up, and the Oriental rug that covers only a small part of it is faded and dingy. There are a few chess tables that look like they might’ve been really nice, back in the 1930s, but now their marble tops are covered in nicks. To one side of the chess tables, right next to the TV, is Old Joe. He faces the screen, like he’s watching the game that’s playing on mute on ESPN.

“Hey, buddy,” I murmur, running my fingertips over his glass coffin. I remember seeing him, back when I was a kid. My mom took me into the lodge to buy me some chips from the vending machine, because I was feeling shaky. After I saw Old Joe, I had nightmares about giant alligators for weeks. I bend close to the plaque on the coffin. Eleven feet long, over six hundred pounds…maybe two hundred years old. Someone’s discarded leaflet, lying on top of the coffin, tells me Old Joe used to hang out by the pool and never showed any aggression to anyone. But then, back in 1966, a poacher snuck into the springs and shot him with a 22-caliber rifle. Edward Ball, the rich guy who bought the springs, offered a five-thousand-dollar reward for information leading to the poacher’s arrest. The bullet that the scientists at FSU had dug out from the back of Old Joe’s head rests beside him, tiny to his bulk.

“Sad. Sorry, big guy.” I glance down the length of the coffin. It’s covered in greasy smears. Whoever’s in housekeeping hasn’t been doing their job.

I turn away from Old Joe and go back to wandering around the foyer. Really old photos and magazine prints featuring the springs line the walls. There are a few black-and-white movie posters, too—from back when “Tarzan” and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” were filmed here. Some of the photos are in color and were taped onto light boxes…but the glow-effect is marred by the fact that the pictures are badly faded, maybe even by the very light that’s supposed to highlight them. I lean close to one of the photos. It’s from the 50s, probably, and a tourist—or maybe a bored employee—scratched the ink off of the upper half of the black bathing suit worn by the woman in the photo. The light shines like headlights through the two perfect circles where her breasts would have been.

“That’s Belinda Baby,” a voice says behind me. I whip around. A tall, dark-haired girl leans against the reception counter, her hands in her pockets.

“Uh…excuse me?” I ask.

She points to the picture I’d been staring at and walks toward me. “Belinda Baby. At least, that’s what Uncle Doug calls her.”

“Uncle Doug…you mean, Mr. McCabe? He’s your uncle?”

“Yep. I’m Maria. Housekeeping.”

“Neil,” I say, shaking her outstretched hand. “I’m…reception, I guess. Your uncle just hired me.”

She nods. “It’s going to get busy in a couple of minutes. The tourists like to come into the AC after the boat ride. I usually help out while it’s crazy.”

“Okay,” I say.

She grins, revealing straight, white teeth.

“So…you live in Crawfordville?” I ask.

Before she can answer, the glass doors facing the boat dock open, letting in a cloud of hot, sticky air and the scent of sunscreen and bug spray.

“Here we go,” Maria says, pulling me around the counter to face the onslaught of tourists. Most of them want to exchange dollar bills for quarters, since the vending machines are old-school and don’t take bills. Maria shows me where her uncle keeps the quarters, and for ten minutes or so, it’s as crazy as Maria said it would be. Some of the tourists want to know stuff about the lodge—they call it “quaint”—and Maria takes over.

During a brief lull in the action, she digs out a handful of the same pamphlet I had picked up off of Old Joe’s coffin and tells me to give them out to anyone who asks a question about the lodge or the springs that I can’t answer.

“Or tell them to go back to the ranger station on the boat dock,” she throws over her shoulder as she hurries off to find more pamphlets in her uncle’s office. “They know everything! But they won’t be there past six-thirty!”

By the time she returns, most of the tourists have left. A few push around some chess pieces, then head for the restaurant. Only one man remains.

I step out from behind the reception desk and begin to walk toward Old Joe’s coffin, where the man stands, but Maria catches my arm.

“That’s just Mister George,” she whispers.

I frown at her, confused, and she pulls me to the far end of the desk.

“He comes here almost every day. But he doesn’t really talk to anybody.”


“Uncle Doug says he comes because he likes it here. You know how old folks get: nostalgic and stuff. Uncle Doug thinks he was a kid back when this place had its hey-day and all sorts of people were making movies, here. Like that.” She points to the “Tarzan” poster. “Maybe he was even an extra. They hired people from Crawfordville, you know. But anyway, don’t bother talking to him. He’ll go, after a while.”

“Okay.” I glance at Mr. George, whose head is bowed and whose hand rests on the wooden platform beneath the glass coffin. “He looks sad.”

Maria shrugs. “He always does. It’s the nostalgia. So…it looks like the rush is over. Inez—the head housekeeper—she’ll come after me if I don’t get back to work. You got it from here?”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

Maria gives me another smile and heads through an open door halfway down the foyer.

Mr. George stands by Old Joe for a while, then settles into one of the overstuffed chairs in front of the TV, his small frame sinking almost out of sight.

Night after night he does this, except for when it rains. Then he doesn’t sit. He just stands by Old Joe for a while, dripping rainwater, and then he leaves. Sometimes, when he’s in that chair, he sits so still that I’m sure he’s snuffed it. So I dig up some Windex and some paper towels out of the plastic crate under the desk and walk over to clean Old Joe’s coffin–and to check on Mr. George out of the corner of my eye to see if I’m outnumbered by corpses.

His eyes are always wide open, but I don’t think he sees me watching him.

One night, there’s a bad thunderstorm, and the rangers cancel the last boat ride. The dozen or so tourists who huddle in the ranger station leave, looking dejected. I settle in for a quiet night, but then the power goes out. There’s a flashlight in the desk drawer and a few battery-powered lanterns in Mr. McCabe’s office, and fortunately, the only guest is a travel writer who thinks the power outage lends atmosphere to his experience. I nod, keeping my opinion that he’s psycho to myself, and offer to let him take a lantern upstairs with him. He leaves, whistling and swinging his lantern so spooky shadows crawl up the walls and slip down again.

I’m just settling in to post something on my Facebook page that I hope Maria will think is witty, when Mr. George shows up, soaked to the bone. He stands by Old Joe, shivering.

The housekeeper’s linen closet is only a floor away, so Mr. George is still dripping when I return from it with a scratchy–but clean–towel. I hand it to him, and for a moment, it looks like he’s going to say something to me. But then he just grabs the towel, spreads it out on the same overstuffed chair he takes on the dry evenings, and sits down. There’s a coffee-and-tea stand by the stairs, so I make him a cup of tea. Old people like tea, I think. He takes it, without uttering a sound. His eyes are still on Old Joe.

“I think that glass could use some cleaning,” I say, hoping for some sort of reaction from this slightly creepy old guy. To my surprise, he nods.

I rummage in the plastic crate for the half-empty bottle of Windex and the paper towels. When I place the roll on the coffin, Mr. George, who had risen from his chair and staggered over to me and Old Joe, picks it up. With shaking hands, he tears off several of those dinky half-sheets, and then he places the rest of the roll on the ground, where it tips over. I watch it roll away until it hits the edge of the Oriental rug, afraid to meet Mr. George’s eye.

“Um…okay,” I mumble. “I’ll spray.”

Between the two of us, it doesn’t take long to make Old Joe’s glass coffin sparkle. And the minor exercise seems to warm Mr. George, because it isn’t long before he’s not shaking anymore.

Spray, wipe, spray, wipe.

“Why are you here?” a wheezy voice asks. I jump. It’s Mr. George.


“Why are you here?” he repeats.

“I—I work here. I’ve been here a month, now,” I say, in case he has forgotten that he has seen me almost every night for the entire month of August. “My name’s Neil. Neil Spear.”

The old man stares at me.

“You know…spear…like for fishing? Or…like…for wild boars and stuff?”

Mr. George leans closer to me. His breath reeks. “You ever hunted a wild boar?”

I shake my head.

“You want a lot more than a spear, boy.”

“Yes, sir.”

Mr. George raises his eyebrows. “So why are you here, Neil Spear? Why are you working the desk? You want to earn some money? Buy yourself a car?”

The fact that Mr. George is talking to me at all is so surprising that I can hardly latch onto anything he’s saying. Something about a car.

“I’ve got a car,” I say.

“Folks bought it for you, did they?”

“I bought it myself,” I reply, maybe sounding a little annoyed.

“What was wrong with the job you had when you was earning up for your car?”

“I was shucking oysters and cut my hand.” I hold out my left hand, which is pretty useless except when I want to show off a wicked scar. “Cut right through the tendons.”

Mr. George sniffs. “Ain’t no money in oysters, no more.”

“Well…that’s why I’m here. That, and my hand.”

“Ain’t no money sitting at a desk in a washed-up old lodge, neither.” His tone surprises me. I had thought, from what Maria had said on my first evening here, that he loved this place, with its big, stuffed alligator and its weird Mediterranean architecture.

“I don’t need much,” I tell him. “I’m just trying to get some extra so I can trade in my car for a nicer one—an automatic. It’s tough steering with a bad hand while you shift gears with the other.”

“You’re telling me,” he says, holding up his gnarled left hand so I can see his swollen knuckles. “Arthritis. Ain’t no hands-free cars yet, though, not that I know of.”

“No, sir.”

“You going to college?”

“In a couple years.”

He nods. “Never went to college, myself. You going to get one of them scholarships?”

“Don’t know, sir.”

“Kid needs money, if he’s going to college.”

I open my mouth to reply, but he turns his back on me and leaves the lodge, slamming the glass doors behind him so they rattle.

I run to the reception counter to call Maria. Unfortunately, it’s the Miss Inez who answers the phone.

“Can I talk to her?” I ask.

“Why? You need towels at the front desk?”

“No, ma’am.”

“You need mini shampoos to wash your hair in the rain? Or maybe a blanket so you can curl up by the TV and watch a movie while the rest of us work?”

“No, ma’am. I just—“

“Then you don’t need Maria. She does towels, she does shampoos, she does extra blankets. She does not do chit-chat with boys.” She hangs up.

At nine-forty-five, Mister George returns, carrying a long bundle, wrapped in a scrap of frayed tarp.

I look up from the counter, which I’ve polished with Lemon Glow until it’s as shiny as the moon’s reflection off the springs.

“I got five thousand bucks for you, kid.” His hands are shaking again, and he’s wetter than ever, but he unwraps the bundle, revealing a 22-caliber rifle and a box of bullets that have to be seriously old. The cardboard is all faded, just like the pictures on the walls.

And that’s when everything clicks together.

Ignoring my muffled cry and the finger which I point at him, Mr. George digs into the box of bullets and pulls one out.

“Go on, look close, Neil Spear,” he says. “Serial number’s the same as the one in that case over there.”

My hand falls. “You killed Old Joe,” I whisper.

“I was a dumb kid,” Mr. George says. “Did it on a dare. Same fellow who dared me got shot in Vietnam the next year. Nineteen sixty-six.”

“Why are you telling me it was you? Why are you even talking to me? You never talk!” I say in a strangled voice.

“Because you clean Old Joe’s glass. And because I know it’s tough to drive with a bad hand. Think you can manage to drive me to the police station without killing us both?”

Much of this story is based on truth, but I’ve bent that truth quite a bit. You can learn more about Old Joe by reading this newspaper article from 1985.



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