We enjoy our daily strolls much and I’ve gotten to really love this cow field. It’s nothing grand and yet ever changing. We’ve got three sandhill cranes who live nearby year round and deer that wander about. Sometimes cows, sometimes not. Bit of breeze, more so than in the woods.
At first glance, an empty field.
An empty field haphazardly filled with cow patties like a drunken checkerboard.
As always, so much that came before.
A leaf falls.
Distant rooster crows.
Flock of birds silently swoop by.
Way in the distance, the gray sandhills drop from the gray skyand casually stroll.
A leaf falls.
Birds twitter nearby.
A couple miles away, the Most Disgruntled Employee, an eighteen wheeled rig complains along the interstate.
The cow patties rest. Or do they?
Perhaps under each pile, a crew of dung beetles like Snow White’s comrades, is whistling while they work their pickaxes.
Some heaps resemble sand castles; others quite symmetrically round.
The cows are in another pasture this morning, doing their cow things.
Yesterday seven calves, shoulder to shoulder, awaited–what?
A photo shoot?
No doubt, I disappointed.
Breeze swings a tendril of Spanish moss.
The sandhills have disappeared behind the red tractor.
(Yes, WCW, so much depends on that red tractor, too, we know.)
I was in the mood for a mystery thriller and this one fit the bill in some ways while missing it in others. The film is based on the novel The Blunderer written by Patricia Highsmith in 1954. Highsmith is also known for writing The Talented Mr. Ripley and episodes of Armchair Detective, Tales of the Unexpected, Chillers, and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and that’s a small portion of her writing credits.
The plot is contrived; the ending–well, let’s say not entirely satisfying.
I’d give it three monkeys but for the acting and period design which are both excellent and bump it to a 4-monkey rating.
Patrick Wilson and Jessica Biel are the leads, as Mr. and Mrs. Stackhouse. They are perfect in their oddities and dysfunction alone and together. She’s unhappy, neurotic, suspicious, which pushes him inevitably towards the beautiful and available young Haley Bennet who is terrific as Stackhouse’s girlfriend.
I’m surprised that Eddie Marsan (I knew him from the series Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell) did not get top billing too, as he is a scene stealer, in my opinion, holding back a world of malice behind his glasses.
Mr. Stackhouse is a successful architect who writes crime stories in his free time. His hobby is collecting true crime articles for reference. Things go south quickly when his own wife is found dead at the scene of a recent murder and it becomes apparent that Mr. Stackhouse had previously gone to meet the key suspect. It’s possible Mrs. Stackhouse killed herself, but an obsessed cop is not so sure. Stackhouse is a terrible liar. It was unclear to me why he seems to deliberately make people more suspicious of him. His obsession with the murder and the creepy Mr. Kimmel only makes the cop more anxious to prove him guilty.
Have to assume they intended the play on meaning with the title: a kind-of murder or a type of murder? Did he kill his wife? This title works better for me than The Blunderer for sure.
Honestly, the ending doesn’t quite do it for me, BUT overall, the film kept me guessing. I loved the noir-ish atmosphere. The characters are complicated. Even though I wasn’t enamored with any of them–oh, hold up, I take that back–the girlfriend is likeable–but there was enough mystery to keep me engaged.
When I first pictured taking over the Stinkin’ Skunk Ape Fish Camp, I envisioned a sign out by the road in pastel colors with a swooping, graceful font that read Blue’s Lotus Lodge. This is not what happened. The rumor mill of Catfish Springs became convinced that I had hired Lorraine’s sister Lerlene to do the sign. Lerlene is our local artist; her style is noted for oversized objects in blinding colors. She has been commissioned to do a series of oversized vegetables for the produce section of the Whatcha Need Mart and just recently her Welcome to Catfish Springs sign was put out on the highway.
It looks like a catfish strung out on cocaine in blinding shades of lime green, hot sun yellow and turquoise.
My Blue’s Lotus Lodge ended up looking like a psychedelic artichoke with chaotic Chinese take lettering.
I’ll be honest. I hated it. I cried. It was all I could do to smile and thank her for it. But over the next few weeks, I had a change of heart. It was eye-catching and got lots of comments, albeit not always complimentary ones. It did make it easy to find the retreat, you sure couldn’t miss the sign.
And then a drunk driver smashed into it over Halloween and blew it to splinters. I found myself really torn. This was my chance to go back to the original design, the pastel colors, the flowy script. But my retreat had already gotten the identity, “the place with the crazy sign”. Meanwhile, Lerlene had had articles written about her in local and state magazines. She’s really getting some notoriety. When she offered to make a replacement sign, it seemed impossible to refuse and possibly stupid.
“It’ll be even bigger and better than the last one,” she’d said encouragingly, giving me a conciliatory hug.
I knew she was busy with other commissions, so I didn’t expect my sign until sometime in January. In the meantime, I’d had Hey Baby, What’s Your Sign? in Gainesville make and install a black and white utilitarian sign.
Imagine my surprise to find that the temporary sign was gone, and the new sign was in place. I had to stop the truck to take it in. The psychedelic artichoke was back but whereas before it was floating in a field of plain white, this time it sat in a fiery, rainbow lake. Multi-colored spotlights radiated out from its leaves like searchlights seeking heaven through a dreamy fog of turquoise fading to a horizon of deep plum. The colors were even richer than before. It was dazzling. I was crazy about it.
But it was not alone. It was flanked by two shiny, aluminum trees with branches in red, green, and gold and a forest of four-foot-tall plastic candy canes in the foreground. Green garlands wound around the legs of the sign accentuated with white twinkle lights. Three wire framed deer with white lights seemed to be prancing down the retreat road.
It was all so over the top, so unlike anything I would have done and yet wonderful, I was overcome with emotion. Knowing that I’d be out of the way, Lerlene must have had a team working feverishly to get this all done while I was gone. I loved it. I was so touched by the effort and fantastic outcome, I got choked up. I eased off the brakes and followed the deer to see what else had happened while I was away.
Haint Blue needs a vacation. It looks like she’ll be alone for Christmas. Her relationship with Buster is in limbo. Why not slip off to the beach? She can almost taste the fish tacos and fried shrimp. But before she can make a motel reservation, psychic Aunt Moira calls. “I had a vivid dream this morning. There was a bright Christmas tree…children laughing…an empty deep freezer in a garage. You were wringing your hands in a red apron. Some weird nursery rhyme repeated ‘the larder was bare’. The dream tells me that you need to stock your pantry; you’re going to be a busy hostess this Christmas. Get your holiday cookbooks out, Sweetheart.”
As the 25th approaches, the phone calls begin.
“Haint? This is Yolanda, from Paco’s. Our restaurant stove–something is wrong. It’s gas. Sometimes it works and then suddenly nada. Sometimes I swear I smell gas. I’m not going to play with gas. I’m afraid of gas. We were wondering if you had a few cabins?”
“Haint? Max. Listen, my sister Nellavon thinks I’m dying. She’s got this hairbrained notion to get the family together. I can’t talk her out of it. I know business has been slow, and I was wondering, you gonna be open for the holidays?”
“We’re travelling with rescue alpacas… do you have space to exercise them?”
“We’re the Lame Brain Zombie LARPers…party of seven, do you have a cabin?”
“My client wants privacy.”
The calls keep coming. And odd little gifts keeping showing up and disappearing. What’s that about? As the retreat fills to capacity, strangers become family for a Haint Blue Christmas.
Looking for a funny, feel-good holiday romp with a bit of mystery? This is the one.
Now available in paperback in full color (it’s chock full of pictures) or black and white and as an eBook.
Full color paperback link: (extra bling for Christmas!)