Category Archives: Stories

The Dog Angel: A Maine Christmas Story

Much of writing involves discipline—sitting at the desk, day in and day out, and working even if you aren’t exactly filled with inspiration. I believe this is called discipline, and it is essential not only for writing but for many other things, too.

However, once in a while a writer gets lucky, and a story seemingly drops out of nowhere, practically whole cloth with only a small amount of fiddling. So it was for me this November with my short story “The Dog Angel,”¬† with two things coming together to inspire me.

First, there was Aimee Man’s melancholy but lovely Christmas song “Calling on Mary.”

Then there was this ornament, which I featured in a previous post.

Actually, there was a third inspiration, and if you look closely through the glass table, you can see Rumer Godden’s The Story of Holly & Ivy, one of my favorite Christmas tales. Do read it if you haven’t already. Anyway, “The Dog Angel” is a sort of homage to The Story of Holly & Ivy.

In my imagination, I saw a little dark-haired girl and her dark-haired mother, two drifters in the snow, homeless. They were in Waterville, Maine, in the 1970s, in the South End, the Franco-American section of town where I lived when I was very young. Because I like fantasy and folderol, I added a dog angel.

And the rest, dear readers, I will let you discover for yourselves if you are in the mood for a Maine Christmas story. “The Dog Angel” is a free online read available on our Hinterlands Press website. It’s a longish story—about 7,000 words—but it pops along, and you can certainly read it in sections if you like.

Happy holidays to all! May the spirit of generosity be with us not only now but throughout the rest of the year, too.


Apple Crisp and Stories


On Sunday, our friends Cheryl and Denny and Judy and Paul came over for homemade apple crisp and talk. As I’ve noted in a previous post, I really love hosting afternoon get-togethers with friends. We have a good-size dining room with an old Victorian table—the original chairs, long gone, were filled with straw—that can easily be expanded to accommodate eight to ten people. However, for me, six is the perfect number for good conversation.

Apple crisp must surely be one of the best desserts to serve at a gathering. It can be made ahead of time, tucked in the refrigerator, and baked forty-five minutes or so before guests arrive. Old apples, a little wrinkled, taste perfectly good, and my blast-furnace oven does a fine bubbling job of baking the crisp. The recipe I use comes from a Craig Claiborne New York Times Cookbook, and I just follow his instructions. If I had made enough¬† modifications to call the recipe mine, then I would happily share it. But I haven’t.

Then there is the smell of apples, cinnamon, and cloves as they blend and bake. It wafts from the kitchen and drifts to the dining room, and I expect this smell stimulates the appetite. (Let’s just say that it’s a good thing I made plenty for seconds.) So you have warm spiced apples and a crunchy, buttery topping. Perfect, right? Almost. It needs a scoop of vanilla ice cream to slowly melt into the warm mixture. Whipped cream is all right, but to my way of thinking, ice cream is the jewel in the crown, so to speak.

As we sat around the dining room table, we talked about many things, but one topic in particular stuck with me because I’ve been thinking about it lately—the importance of stories and how we all have them.

Judy told of how one day, when her mother was young—this would have been in the 1930s—she came home to find her mother (Judy’s grandmother) sobbing as she did the ironing.

“What’s wrong, what’s wrong?” Judy’s mother asked.

As Judy’s grandmother ironed, she listened to the radio, to an afternoon soap opera, and something sad had happened to one of the characters. Hence the tears.

After hearing this story, I replied, “I think the story gene runs strong in humans. Whatever the medium, we will always have stories. I’m sure of it.”

Everyone nodded, and Cheryl recounted how one Christmas her book group listened to a recording of A Child’s Christmas in Wales read by the great man himself, Dylan Thomas. All the lights were turned off except for the ones on the Christmas tree, and by the sparkling lights they listened to this fine writer read his own words.

“Sounds wonderful,” I said, thinking that I might like to do this next year, but with just Clif and me. (My book group meets at the library, and somehow, it just wouldn’t be the same to do it there.)

“It was,” Cheryl said, smiling as she remembered.

Warm apple crisp, friends around the table, shared stories. Another finest kind of way to spend a winter’s afternoon.