Sunday, June 8, 2014

What would you do if you were sitting on a park bench, minding your own business, and one of those annoying pigeons suddenly started to talk to you?  And what if the pigeon didn’t just talk to you – in a meticulous British accent, no less – but pleaded with you to help untangle a piece of string that had accidentally attached his leg to a wrought iron fence surrounding the playground?  And what if, while you are still convinced that this is all a big nasty trick, a hawk swoops down out of the sky and starts cursing at you, also in the King’s English, for getting in his way when he wanted to execute the pigeon?
That is the quandary in which Jennifer (almost 13 years old and probably a bit too smart for her own good) finds herself one sweltering July morning while babysitting her 11-year old (very precocious) brother James and his mopey, allergy-prone friend Sleepy.   She soon learns that the bird is actually a man named Arthur Whitehair, a 19th-century Englishman who had been turned into an eternally-lived pigeon by misreading an ancient spell that was supposed to give him eternal life as a human.  Likewise, an unscrupulous colleague of his, named Malman, had been turned into a hawk by Whitehair’s blunder.  After years of searching, Whitehair claims (half-truthfully) that Malman has found him hiding in Central Park and is now out for revenge.  On top of all this strange business, Jennifer has recently begun having weird dreams in which a crazy-looking man with curly red hair speaks cryptic phrases in Latin.  Are they random phrases, or messages?  And why would some sketchy guy be sending her messages in her dreams?
Excerpt from Things Are Not What They Seem:
At that moment, a group of pigeons that had been eating bread and birdseed nearby suddenly took off together.  The beating of so many wings created a sudden, strong breeze, tossing up dust and bits of leaves and a few loose feathers.
“Yuck,” Jennifer said.  She picked a feather out of her hair.
“Oh my,” said the bird in a worried voice.  “There must be a hawk in the vicinity.  Would you hurry, just a bit?”
“Hurry?  You’re asking me to hurry?!”
She had already been warm just sitting in the shade.  Now she was covered with a thin coating of dust and feathers from the ascending pigeons and when she’d slid down the bench and emerged into the hot sun, sweat had immediately dribbled across her forehead.  How would that look posted on the internet?
The pigeon let out a screech like chalk across a blackboard.
“Oh, my good God!!” he cried. “Malman!  It can’t be!  But it is!  Malman is here!  And he’s going to kill me!”
The pigeon began flapping his wings frantically.
“Stop that right now!” Jennifer said, forgetting for a moment that she was talking to a pigeon.  “You’ll hurt yourself.”
“Hurt myself? I’m going to die outright on this godforsaken piece of American asphalt if you don’t take this bloody string off right now!”
Jennifer was extremely irritated now, but she quickly got off the bench and bent over to grab the pigeon.  And that was her third mistake of the morning.  There really was no turning back now.
To her surprise, the bird did not try to escape as her hands wrapped around his feathery body.  It was as if he really understood that she was trying to help him.
 Then the pigeon flinched and let out a howl that was genuinely full of fear.
“Look out!!!”
Jennifer hunched her shoulders in response to the warning and felt a violent rush of air and a searing pain near the top of her back as a blow out of nowhere knocked her forward.  Holding onto the pigeon, she dropped to her knees.  Then a second voice spoke to her, very nearby it seemed—a voice that was deep and sinister, but also with an origin in the British Isles.
“Give me that pigeon!” he roared.
Jennifer turned to look over her shoulder and gasped at the sight of a large hawk perched on top of the wrought iron fence surrounding the playground.  Her heart was beating a mile a minute.  Her arms and legs trembled.  What was going on now?  Was this still a trick?
“Give him up,” the hawk screamed again.
“Go away you nasty old thing, whatever you are,” Jennifer yelled right back.
The hawk stretched toward her threateningly, as though he wanted to peck at her face.  She drew backwards.
“The devil take you then!” he said, and with a mighty push of his legs, he flew upward and away on the strong, steady beat of his wings.  “You’ll regret it!”

Authors of:
Kate and the Kid, (adult fiction)(Wings ePress)
Mind Me, Milady, (adult fiction)(Barbarian Books)
Things Are Not Wht They Seem, (‘tween fantasy/adventure) (MuseItUp Publising)
Stone Faces
, (middle grade)(on the Apple iBookstore)
Hearts (no flowers) Signs of Love in the Gritty City (on the Apple iBookstore)


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