Myra turned on the light, finally, and stared at the print run, which was, in fact, complete, and she was in no mood to mat either prints or watercolors of sea lions playing in the surf, tide pool creatures, clouds of silver-winged plover—scenes from a life that had vanished. Instead, she taped fresh paper to her drawing board, and soon an oversized hen with disheveled feathers and long scrawny neck appeared from the point of her pen.
“Matilda. That’s surely your name.” She smiled, as she cast the day’s shame and humiliation onto the paper. If Matilda wasn’t art, so what? She brought laugher. “You need company.” She laid the chicken aside and took a fresh sheet. A porcupine. Eyes narrowed, he was calculating the distance to a heron who stood nearby, his long beak in the air. Alphonse. That was the heron. And the porcupine? Rufus. That would do nicely.
Feeling blood flow through vessels that had been numb since morning, Myra drew out still another sheet. Quills flew, striking not only Alphonse but a gull who had the misfortune to fly by. The gull tilted and crashed, giving out a long drawn-out screech. Eustasia, Myra named her, as the gull’s squawking brought Matilda’s head, at the end of her long neck, into the picture, and Alphonse flapped his wings, knocking Rufus over as he took off.
“You’re the clumsiest heron I’ve ever seen,” Matilda remarked.
“Bad knees,” Alphonse answered.
So there they were. An overgrown chicken with too much neck, a porcupine with lousy aim, a gull bristling with quills, and a heron with bad knees. “I think you’re going to be great company,” she told them, taping them in a row above her desk. She sat back and looked at them, her body released from the day.
The adventures of The Rabbleville Varmints, as they come to be called, become an on-going strip throughout the novel. Myra finds herself a professional cartoonist.
A free paperback edition of HOME FIRES when it is released in January to the best pen and ink rendition of Matilda, Rufus, Alphonse, and Eustasia. Send your efforts to me via the email address on the Contact Me page (click here). Use the form on the Contact Me page to send your written permission to use the drawings on my web pages (website, blog, social media). I will credit you and site your website when I use them. You will also, of course, have the right to use them on your own sites.