Thursday, September 26, 2013

"To Snitch or Not," a Young-Adult Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Dad, can we talk?”

“Sure, Rick. What’s up?”

“Something happened after football practice today. I don’t know how to handle it.”

“Tell me about it.”

“A bunch of us stopped at the convenience store by the school and bought some snacks. A couple of the guys hid part of what they took and didn’t pay for it.”


“Right. They didn’t take much, but they did steal. Do I need to report them to somebody?’

“What do you think?’

“Well…what they did was wrong, but if I report them to the school or the coach or the store-owner, there is going to be a big deal over something that seems small.”

“The store-owner won’t think it is small, especially if it happens over and over again. He puts in a lot of work planning, ordering, stocking, keeping the store neat and clean. He deserves to get paid for that, and his profit is what pays him.”

“But if I tell on them, they may get into big trouble. We are team-mates, and they may never trust me. If I don’t tell, I am almost as bad as they are, going along with it.”

“What if you didn’t name the players, but gave the store-owner some money to cover what was taken?”

“I don’t think I should have to pay for what they did.”

“How about calling him anonymously?”

“He probably has caller ID. It seems a bit cowardly, too.”

“You’d like a way to help him prevent theft, without getting your friends in trouble, right?”

“Yes. I could talk to him and tell him what is happening, but refuse to name the thieves.”

“That would help. What do you think of the kids who do this?”

“I will trust them less in the future, myself.”

A few days later, I stopped by the store and talked with the owner, apologizing for what had been done, alerting him to the problem. I said I did not want to identify the thieves, and he said he understood.

If their crime had been more serious, I think I would have named names. Though they remained my teammates, I felt a little less friendly toward them. I certainly would not want to leave my wallet where they could get at it unobserved.



One of a series of middle-grade and young-adult short stories by these authors.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

BRANDY COOPER, R.I.P. - A Beloved Dog Celebrated

Brandy, a red-coated Golden Retriever, came to us in the summer of 2000, then a one-year-old Alpha female. We had moved to the countryside and obtained her from a family whose children could not control her. She had breezed through obedience school without becoming obedient. We had a dog trainer give her a couple of extra lessons, without noticeable effect.

Off the leash, she would run away. On the leash, she would pull, urging us on when going for a walk, resisting being brought back. The first year or so, she would fetch, as befits a Golden Retriever, but then she decided that she wouldn’t return the objects and so became a Golden Receiver.

She knew lots of commands, obeyed those she liked. “Go to the kitchen” was far less effective than “Go to the kitchen. There’s food in your dish.”

She protected our home and, especially, my wheelchair-bound, bedridden wife, Tina, who was quadriplegic during Brandy’s last ten years. Until Brandy lost her bark at thirteen, she would raise the alarm when strangers approached our house. None wanted to test whether her bark was worse than her bite. Our nurses, especially those serving the over-night shift, were reassured by her presence, and even several of them who never owned dogs themselves became quite fond of her, and she of them.

After our neighbor’s Japanese police dog, Ace the Akita, died, Brandy became the local boss. Not only did she assert herself with respect to the community pooches, but when a visiting Pit Bull Terrier challenged her while we were walking, Brandy put him in his place, finally grabbing one of his front legs and holding it off the ground, immobilizing him until his owner came to rescue him.

At home, she largely oriented herself with respect to Tina, often sleeping in the hall right outside her room or in her room itself. While Tina was still paraplegic, Brandy refused to play tug-of-war with her, though happy to play it with our son Phil or with me. Somehow, Brandy knew Tina needed special treatment.

Brandy was my personal trainer and I hers. Our mile-long walks around Lake Osiris typically took twenty minutes, until the last couple of years when they stretched to nearly thirty. I was retired, and so was she.

Brandy and our younger son, Phil, were buddies. She greeted him excitedly on his near-monthly visits. She was less fond of me, treating me as a partner, or as the boss she wished she could be.

She figured out that if she barked by the kitchen door to the porch, a nurse or I would let her go there, but when she wanted to go outside, beyond the porch, she would stand back from the kitchen door and bark; she would refuse to let a nurse put her on the porch, whence she could not summon me to take her for a walk.

Brandy almost did not survive autumn a year ago, developing great difficulty in walking, eventually helped with regular anti-inflammatory and pain-killing medicines. We felt we got an “extra” year of life for her, with the help of our vets. We knew we were skating on thin ice, however,

Thursday, 19 September 2013, Brandy ate and drank little or nothing, a rare occurrence previously. Lying on the porch, she would not get up for our ten p.m. walk, a worrisome sign, and eight hours later she was still in the same position. The morning of the 20th I called the local vet‘s office, discussed our options. A pet ambulance came, and the aides gently put her aboard. I followed them. At the veterinary hospital, I discussed the case with Dr. Dasaro. Brandy was running a fever, which they were going to treat with intravenous feeding and antibiotics, after performing a blood test. I received a call the next morning that Brandy was not recovering, and she died later than day.

If there is a place for the souls of very good dogs, Brandy’s will be there.

Friday, September 20, 2013

"May Lee," Another Middle-Grade Short Story


Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“Mom, who’s the girl Tess is playing with out back?” I asked.

“Her name is ‘May Lee.’ She’s Chinese-American. Her family just moved here a few weeks ago. He’s some kind of scientist, and his wife is an accountant. They have several children, and Tess and she have become good friends.”

“Pretty girl.”

“She’s Tess’s age. Too young for an elderly gentleman like yourself.”

“Oh, Ma….”

Just then, Tess and May came indoors.

“Rick, this my friend, May Lee.”

“Please to meet you, May. Are you named for the month of the year? Like, ‘April showers bring May flowers.’”

“Not really. ‘May’ in my name is actually the English version of the Chinese word for pretty or beautiful. The same word is used as part of the Chinese term for America…beautiful country.”

“How do you like going to this new school?”

“It’s OK. I am slowly making new friends. Tess is my first and my best friend.”

Mom asked, “May, your English is perfect. How long have you lived in America?”

“Mrs. Williams, I was born here, though my parents were not.”

Tim came in from playing baseball. He tossed his glove on the couch, then took a surprised look at May Lee.

“Hi. I’m May Lee. You must be Tim.”


“You girls go wash up, and we’ll have a snack, just the three of us females.”

Tess and May went out of the room, and Tim turned to me and said, “She looks…different.”

“Yes, but she is very nice and she’s Tess’s special friend. You’ll get to like her, I’ll bet.”

The girls returned.

“Tim, have you seen the tattoos some of the athletes are getting that have strange writing on them?” May asked.


“They are Chinese characters, the way Chinese people write.”


“Would you like me to write something for you in Chinese? Not a tattoo, of course.”

“On my baseball?”


May took a Magic Marker and put a pair of Chinese characters on Tim’s baseball.

“What’s it say?”

“Dee-dee, little brother.”

“Neat. Do you have a brother?”

“Yes. He’s about your age and he likes baseball, too. Maybe the two of you will become friends.”

“Do you have an older sister?” I asked. Tess just rolled her eyes.


Another in a series of fifty short stories that inform, about a small-town American family now.






Friday, September 13, 2013

"Something Fishy," a Middle-Grade Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

“What are the fish doing down here?” I asked my nine-year-old brother, Tim. His fish bowl with two goldfish was on the table in the living room.

“They’re watching television with me.”

Our dog, Duke, had died only a week before, and the fish were the only pets we had left. We were all a little lonely without Duke. Smart dog. Good dog. His death left a hole in our home.

“What are you watching?”

“Sponge Bob.”

“That’s about sea creatures. Do you think the fish like the program?”


“Be careful bringing them back upstairs to your room.”


The next morning was a Saturday. I got up late. When Tim came to the kitchen table, he looked sad, almost crying.

“What’s the matter?”

“One of my fish died.”

“What happened?”

“I don’t know.”

“Did you do anything different?”


“Where is it now?”

“In a baggie.”

“Zipped closed, I hope.”


“Are you going to throw it away?”

“No. Bury it.”

“I’ll help you, in a minute.”

I finished my coffee, grabbed a shovel from the shed, and went with Tim to a far corner of our back yard.

“Here, OK?”


I dug down about a foot. Tim laid the bagged goldfish at the bottom of the pit, and we put the dirt back over it. Tim had a flat stone with the letter “F” written on it, and he placed it on top of the grave.

“Tim, what’s the ‘F’ for? Fish?”


Later, when Tess asked me what our little brother had been doing, I told her. She started to laugh at the burial and the stone. I warned her not to let Tim know she was not taking his loss seriously.

To Tim, Fred had been important, and his death was nothing to laugh at.



Another in a series of fifty we have written about this family. Each makes a point.

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Eggs-actly," Another Middle-Grade Short Story

Douglas Winslow Cooper and Brian Maher

I came home from football practice, dropped my knapsack by the dining room table and saw something strange.

On the table was what looked like a baby bassinette, a little wicker basket, with a soft piece of pink cloth and two eggs wrapped in the cloth as though they were babies. In fact, the eggs had little faces drawn on them, and, as I looked more closely, I saw that each had a belly-button.

“Tess! What’s this on the dining room table?”

“What’s what?” my twelve-year-old tomboy genius of a little sister replied.


“Those aren’t eggs. They’re babies.”


“Yes. In health class, each girl got one or two eggs to take care of for a week, to see what it is like to have to care for a baby.”

“Care for a baby?”

“Yes. Keep track of when to pretend to feed it. Carry it carefully. Make sure you don’t leave it in a dangerous place. Take it with you wherever you go, unless you get a baby sitter.”

“But you have two.”

“I wanted twins, Tina and Tammy.”

What happens if you drop them while you are carrying them somewhere?”

“You fail. Watch them for me for a minute? I‘ve got to go to the bathroom.”

“Hurry back. At least, I won’t have to change diapers.”

Tim came in from outdoors just then. He’s in fourth grade and likes to play tricks on people, but he is a sweet kid.

“What’s that, Rick?”

“Tess has given birth to twins.“


“Her health class teacher has each of the girls take care of an egg or two for a week, to get a little idea of what it would be like to be a mother.”


“Don’t let Tess hear that. She thinks they’re cool. Here she comes.”

“Thanks for watching Tina and Tammy for me.”

“No problem. Good babies. Quiet babies.”

Mom came home from school. She teaches seventh grade. She made dinner, and we started to eat, with Dad still at work. He’s an Emergency Medical Technician with the fire department and has strange work hours sometimes.

“What’s that sound?” Mom asked.

“That’s my cell phone!” Tess exclaimed, jumping up from the table. “I’ll take it outside to talk.”

“Don’t forget Tina and Tammy. I’m going upstairs and don’t want to mind them.”

“That’s OK, Rick. They’re coming with me.”

“Tina and Tammy?” Mom asked. “Oh, yes. Tess’s babies for a week. She has no idea….”

I headed upstairs and Tim disappeared. Tess came back in the house to ask Mom for permission to do something with one of her friends. The next thing I heard was a scream.

“Where are my babies?” Tess yelled.

Mom replied, “Didn’t you bring them back in the house after the phone call?”

“No. I set them on the stoop. I was just going to be back outside in a minute. I just wanted your answer about going to the mall with Laura.”

“You left the babies alone outside?”

“Only for a minute. I‘ve got to find them. They‘ve been kidnapped!”

I heard the ruckus all the way upstairs, came down, got the story and asked immediately, “Where’s Timmy?”

“I’m not looking for Timmy. I’m looking for my babies!”

“I’ll bet if you find him, you find your twins.”

Tess ran out of the house, yelling for Timmy, who came in through the back door, carrying the eggs, snugly wrapped in some extra cloth.

Mom glared at him. “Did you kidnap Tess’s twins?”

He smiled. “No. I just took them for a walk. I’m their uncle.”

“Uncle Tim,” I said, “I think you like driving Tess a little crazy, which is a bit mean, but I’m sure she will be relieved when she finds out they are safe.”

Tess came back, annoyed with Tim, pleased the twins were safe, and having learned a lesson.

“You see how easy it is to get distracted when you are supposed to be watching your babies?” Mom asked.

Tess agreed. “Eggs-actly.”