Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mysterious visitor: memoir 5

One December night when I was about ten, my siblings and I woke to a clunk. Our open window brought the familiar sounds of the surf and foghorn, but this noise was new.
with my brother at Christmas
     It was almost Christmas. "Maybe Santa came early!" we whispered. With our parents still asleep we crept out to the living room to investigate.
     Santa had been there! But instead of toys, he left behind a bunch of black boxes in various shapes. We unsnapped the lids, surprised to find a shiny musical instrument in each, nestled in blue velvet: a trumpet, trombone, flute, clarinet, and a saxophone.
     One of us bumped into some brass symbols that Santa had propped against a chair. The crash roused our parents from their room, groggy and in bare feet. "Well this is unusual," Dad said. He let us down gently by explaining Santa Claus was still at the North Pole, so evidently a stranger had entered our home. He picked up the phone and dialed "O" for Operator who contacted the police.
     Turns out, a musician from a beach jazz club had volunteered to deliver the equipment to a friend's home. It had been late and dark. He'd forgotten the address, but when he saw the cottage with the bright porch light and the front door unlocked, he figured he'd found the right place.
     I'm thankful for the man's mistake.
     Years later this curious incident inspired THE SECRET OF THE JUNKYARD SHADOW in my Cabin Creek Mystery series with Scholastic. In this adventure, townsfolk are perplexed when damaged items show up on their porches in shiny good repair:
     This is a real puzzle," Mrs. O'Neal told the cousins. "See, when I went out to get the newspaper this morning, I was flabbergasted to find my broken toaster. Someone had returned it all spiffed up, with a ribbon and a bow."
     It takes much sleuthing for the young detectives, but a lot of nice things happen along the way as they solve the mystery.
     The photo [above] shows my brother and me a few years earlier in our dining room where we were allowed to thumbtack Christmas cards to the pine paneling. We enjoyed regular tea parties with orange juice and little Danish cookies.

From BLUE SKIES: ONE AUTHOR'S JOURNEY, to be published this Fall.

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