Chapter 23 –Summons From A Far

pregnant woman on plane

To Take Or Not To Take

Milly fretted over what to take to Scotland, what to throw out, or give to charity. Almost everything she touched held some kind of memory. Some of the furniture would make the trip but others would not. Items such as knives, forks and other items that could be found in a kitchen were destined to go. Slowly, they waded through the debris of their lives and asked: “do we really need this.”

Brad initially wanted to take his entire CD and DVD collection. Milly prowled through the titles. Some she could understand Brad wanting. However, there was one particular title she took issue with. The twelve disc set entitled “Busty Babes in Prison” did not make the cut.

“You’ve got to be kidding. You seriously think this should go to Scotland with us?. You’re about to be a father. Do you really want our children to see this trash?”

“But it’s a collector’s item. And it’s got great music” was Brads only defense.

“I know perfectly well what it’s got and it’s not going to the cottage. I don’t want our children to learn their father watched this garbage while practicing to be a dirty old man. Just holding the case makes me want to wash my hands.” She said nothing about some the stains on the case. She simply didn’t want to know.

Other titles had more redeeming qualities.

“Don’t you think you’re a little old for cartoons. Winnie The Pooh and The Blustery Day. I know you like DVDs but the Walt Disney version of The Sword In The Stone too?”

Brad was packing a box. When Milly started criticizing Winnie The Pooh it was just too much. “I’ll have you know those two titles are classics not likely to be re-released for years. Plus our kids might get a real kick out them. Before you condemn them why don’t you watch them? You might enjoy them.”

After dinner, Milly and Brad watched both the titles. She could actually see the worth of Winnie The Pooh. She conceded her condemnation of Winnie The Pooh had been a little rash. Plus they might come across children’s books with Winnie The Pooh. And having the DVD might encourage them to want to read.

That night, as she lay on her side and Brad snored, she noticed something about Sprog. Something was different. Nothing to be alarmed about. The following day she was due for another doctors appointment. She decided to mention this feeling then.


…One Last Time

“I’ve made a record of your pregnancy under my care for British Airways. I included my cell number, fax number, as well as my office number. Here’s my home number as well but only give it to them if there is some sort of problem at the airport. I sent Dr. Ransom a complete copy of your file so there shouldn’t be any problems there. I want one more scan if that’s all right with you.” Milly changed while Brad waited in the waiting room. The doctor was unhappy with the image on her ultrasound monitor. “I’ve really got to get this thing checked. It’s starting to get some sort of interference. No need to worry. There’s nothing wrong with you at all. Sprog is doing just fine too.” As Milly’s doctor switched off the monitor something appeared for a split second. As Milly got dressed behind the partition she and her doctor had a short conversation. “I’m going to fax Dr. Ransom and ask her to scan you in a weeks time. I want her to confirm these results. As a mother of three boys, I’m going to give you some advice from one mother to a soon-to-be mother. You’re almost at the six-month point in your pregnancy. Let Brad have the window seat and you take the seat by the aisle. The trip is going to be long and planes are dry. I don’t want you getting dehydrated. So get a bottle of water after you go through security. You’re going to be making lots of trips to the ladies room. I know you’ve flown before but you weren’t pregnant then so have the air sickness bag well within your reach. Things may be different this time. You might like flying but Sprog might not.” She handed Milly a small package. “It’s a present for Sprog. It’s a teddy bear. I didn’t wrap it because security guards love to tear wrapping off.” She handed Milly an envelope. Here’s everything you’ll need at the airport. Now scoot. You’ve got a plane to catch.”


My Seat Has Shrunk”

There were no problems boarding and the medical certificate was accepted. Milly and Brad were shown to their seats in first class. Milly watched Brad slip into his seat with almost annoying ease. “That really burns me up. You just slip right into your seat and I’m as big as a horse! Did you know I’ve got pillows between my hips and my seat? That’s how much of tight squeeze this is.” On this flight, they landed in Glasgow which was much closer to Strathpeffer. When they landed Milly immediately phoned MacTaggert Castle. Jessica answered. “You and Brad must be tired. You’ve had a long flight. It seems like you just left here but when you get here you’ll notice a few…changes. Jamie is driving down to pick you up. I’ll call his mobile and have him pick you up just outside international flights.” As Milly and Brad waited for Jamie Brad put the bags on a baggage trolley. After waiting a short half hour Jamie and the Esprit arrived. With the bags in the trunk, Brad helped Milly into the car. When all three were in the Esprit Milly couldn’t wait to find out all that had happened in their absence. “All right, what’s new? Tell us everything.” Jamie was highly selective in what he said. “Och lass, I canna tell you everything but I can tell you there have been big changes since you left. It seems you gave this town a proper shake. My father and the townsfolk are the best of buddies now. Foster Cottage is coming along nicely. I took a photo for you.” Jamie hand them the print-out.


Milly took a look and oohed and awed at it. It had a gorgeous clawfoot tub, two fireplaces, and Jamie told her about a small veranda that was at the back. “You can thank Jess for the clawfoot. She told my father how you adored the tub at the castle and he ordered one especially for you. He seems quite taken with you.” Brad got a look at the photo too. As Milly sat back and admired the photo there was a reflection coming from something and it was making her close one eye. It happened every time Jamie made a left-hand turn. On his ring finger was a solid gold wedding band. “Jamie Friggin’ MacTaggert! You’re married!” exclaimed Milly. Jamie was in the mood for a little good-natured ribbing and was not taken aback by Milly’s outburst. “Aye lass. That usually happens after a man and woman get engaged. They tend to get married” Brad snickered in the back seat. Jamie continued to give as good as he got. “Jess and I thought about inviting you both but when we heard you were with child we decided we did not want to stress out the mother-to-be.” There was a cough from the back seat. “Sorry, Brad. You’ve been so quiet I totally forgot you were in the car. I guess you’re enjoying the last bit of peace and quiet you can get. It won’t be long now.” Jamie wisely decided to drop the subject and started talking about the cottage again. Before long they entered the outskirts of Strathpeffer. Milly asked if they could stop in the town to say hello to Kendra, Brad’s distant relative.

The Lotus stopped outside the shop. As Brad and Milly got out of the car Kendra came out of the shop to greet them. “Last time we talked ya dinna say anything about starting your own tribe,” said Kendra. “I’d guess you’re about six months along. Am I right?” she added. Milly said she had just started her sixth month. “I’ll be glad when this is over. Six down three to go.” Kendra got Milly a seat. “And you, dear relative, don’t get a seat. Looks like you’ve already done your thing so you get to stand.” Kendra then hugged Milly and Brad. “I’ll do baby sittin’ as long as the wee bairn doesn’t call me Auntie.” Milly then explained they don’t know the gender and they call the unborn baby Sprog. “You should name the wee bairn a strong Scottish name like Angus. The fact that it’s my father’s name is sheer coincidence.” They talked for about ten minutes more. “I think we better get going. My father’ said Jamie. He’s probably anxious to see his newest employees.” As Milly was getting into the car she turned pale and fainted. Brad told Jamie to drive to the hospital.

When they arrived Brad carried Milly in. He explained that she was a new patient of Dr. Dinah Ransom. Dr. Ransom was sent for. Ten minutes later she arrived just as a resident was preparing to an emergency C section. She stopped him before Milly was wheeled into surgery. She took over and did an ultrasound at the request of Milly’s previous doctor. A fetal heartbeat monitor was attached to ultrasound to give a hard copy of the heartbeat. As the scan proceeded Dr. Ransom started to curse. “Damn and blast. I was afraid of this. I think we have mirror twins. Get Dr. Foster in here right now!” she barked. An orderly directed Brad to a small conference room. The two conferred in a small room. “I’m sorry, I don’t have time to sugar coat this. Your wife is carrying mirror twins. Mirror twin are very rare. One sperm fertilizes one egg. Then for some reason, the egg splits. One twin looks perfectly normal at this stage in the pregnancy while the other is essentially starved of nutrients and blood. Your wife’s previous doctor asked me to check for this. One baby will be fine in size and weight. The other will most likely need some time in an incubator. If we did an emergency C section today one baby might survive. One will almost surely die. My advice is to leave them both inside Milly and let mother nature to do her stuff.”

Brad was totally unprepared for any of this. He had to sit down and think.

“How come the twin wasn’t detected until now,” he asked totally bewildered. Dr. Ransom offered up a theory. “A lot of mirror twins are completely missed because their heartbeats are in absolutely perfect synch. Her previous doctor heard one heartbeat and saw one healthy fetus. The other was so tiny and so perfectly placed inside the mother that it literally was hidden from view. Remember, what you saw on an ultrasound was a two-dimensional profile view. The smaller one was probably directly behind the healthier one. Almost all mirror twins are preemies. One is going to need help right after birth. In Canada, one mirror twin weighed in at five pounds eight ounces. Its twin was only three pounds six ounces. That little guy needed six weeks in an incubator just to bring him up to a weight where he could be released. In terms of length, his length at birth was from the inside of your elbow to the base of your thumb. This is one case where size really does matter.”

“Milly means the world to me and so does Sprog,” said Brad.

“Excuse me. Who is Sprog?” asked Dr. Ransom.

“The name Sprog was Milly’s idea. We didn’t want to know the gender of the baby so she decided we should have a name that isn’t associated with either sex. She didn’t want to say “the baby” or “it” for nine months. Hence the name Sprog.”

“Dr. Foster, may I call you Brad.”

“Go right ahead”.

“Let the kids stay put for one more week. I want to do another scan. If…Sprig-“

“You mean Sprog”.

“If those two don’t start getting along we’ll consider doing a C section. You and Milly may have the unenviable choice of deciding who gets to live and who dies. But right now I think the best place for those two is with the mother.” Milly was given some water and some oxygen. As her previous doctor had warned she did not drink enough water and had become dehydrated. When she became conscious Brad filled her in as to what had been happening.

“Now I know why I feel so wiped out. I’m carrying a friggin’ tribe just like Kendra said.” Then Brad filled her in on they have may have to consider. “Jesus. What a choice to have to make. You said Dr. Ransom made a mistake with Sprog’s name. What did she call him hon?”

“She called him Sprig by mistake” answered Brad.

“OK. Since we know there are two babies their names will be Sprig and Sprog. Sprig will the little one. Sprog will be that great big lumbering brute. As for that choice, the one we might have to make, to be honest, I’d rather not have to make it at all. Are you alright with an instant family hon?”

“I want you and both of them if you’re looking for an honest answer kitten.”

Milly had tears in her eyes and she kissed Brad as passionately as she could. “I knew I married you for some reason. Thank you.”

When Dr. Ransom entered the room Milly saw her for the very first time. Her face was familiar yet Milly had never seen her before. Her mind raced to make a connection.

“And how are you feeling young lady?” asked Dr. Ransom. She sat on the edge of the bed.

“Like an exhausted mother of unborn twins usually feels” replied Milly.

“Did you two have a chance to talk?” she looked at Brad.

Again Milly spoke.

“I don’t know if you gamble Dr. Ransom but we’re goin’ for broke. We won’t make a choice of one baby over the other. We want both.”

Brad squeezed his wife’s hand. “The whole kit and caboodle” added Brad.

Milly squeezed his husband’s hand. “We know there’s a risk but we want to try and win.”

“I was hoping you two would make this choice. But I’m warning you right now you’re going to have to make some pretty radical changes starting right now. I want both of you in my office starting next week. The big baby may make a break for it at any time. I want you to be prepared for that. He almost looks full term so things could happen any time now. So that means both of them could be in incubators. We’re both going to be meeting once each week. So remember my name. It’s D-e-e-n-a, not Dinah. I want to see you both once each week prior to birth. I’ll set up the appointment schedule. Right now you need some rest.”

Dr. Ransom lowered her voice noticeably and spoke softly.

“On a completely different note from what I understand I think I should thank you both for turning Fergus into a real human being. I’m not sure how you did it but this entire hospital is glad you did. So on behalf of every employee at Highland Central thank you very, very much. My secretary will phone Brad with your next appointment. Gotta fly.”

That was it. The word “fly” made finally made Milly recall why Dr. Ransom looked so familiar. As Dr. Ransom exited the room Milly yelled “Freeze”.

“Excuse me. I am not used to being barked at”.

Milly apologized but explained she had a question.

“Do you have a sister named Susan and is she a mother yet?”.

Dr. Ransom looked very puzzled. She put her hands in pockets of her white lab coat and sat on the edge of Milly’s bed.

“Yes, I have a sister named Susan. And she had her daughter a few months ago. How in heavens name do you know her?”

Brad explained that Susan was at their wedding and was the pilot who originally brought them to Scotland. He also volunteered that she admitted being the person who gave their old boss the nickname of Dragon Lady.

“You mean there really is a Dragon Lady? I thought Susan was pulling my leg when she told me that.”

Milly explained that Dr. Druk Macbeth, her and Brads old boss was the fearsome Dragon Lady. She also added the only thing fearsome about her was her driving. “Dr. Macbeth has somewhat of a lead foot if you know what I mean.”

Dr. Ransom started laughing. “I’ll be talking to Susan tonight. I’ll say you two say hello. By the way, she named her daughter Milly.”

Milly suddenly grabbed Brad’s hand and started getting all misty-eyed. Dr. Ransom looked at her watch. “Now I really must fly. I try to call before Susan has to feed Milly. First, she feeds Milly then puts her down for a nap. Don’t tell Susan I said this but if I’m late in calling, and I wake up Milly she’s a right horror to get back to sleep.”

Brad started pointing at Milly. “Just like this one. If she’s not fed and watered on time she gets really cranky. When we were talking about names Rasputina was mentioned.”

Dr. Ransom stood up. “Alright, you two. Scoot, scram, get out. I’ll see you next week.” She almost flew out of the room. Brad took Milly to the exit in a wheelchair.

Jamie was almost beside himself. “What’s goin’ on? We were supposed to at the castle an hour ago”. After Milly got in, adjusted herself and put her belt on she told Jamie. “It seems there’s a wee stowaway.” She put her hand on his. “In other words dear friend I just found out I’m carrying twins. One’s very large and the other is very small. Dr. Ransom wants me to rest for the remainder of the pregnancy.” Jamie looked dumbfounded and concerned. “Well, how did that happen?”. He realized he just asked a very dumb question. Brad spoke up. “One sperm fertilized one egg. A few days after conception it split. We don’t know why it split but that’s how you get mirror twins.” Jamie went white as a ghost and as silent as a tomb. When they got to the castle Jessica came out. She too was pregnant. Milly hugged Jessica and Brad shook Jamie’s hand. Jessica was just starting to show. “Welcome to the club,” said Milly.

Milly was a pretty foul mood. In a nutshell, she could do very little but wait while Sprig and Sprog grew inside her. She was allowed out for walks, but aside from that, there was very little she was allowed to do. While Mason, the butler, went about he duties in the castle he couldn’t help but notice Milly’s expression. What should have a happy time in her life was exactly the opposite. Mason and Brad had arranged to communicate on a daily basis. Mason was not very comfortable with cell phones but every day at 4 PM Mason would text Brad with what he called “The Milly Report”. He got Brad’s cell phone number and would text one of two emoji symbols. Soon after they arrived in Scotland Mason regularly texted Brad this “:)” But soon the mood changed. Mason texted “:(” more often than not. Milly openly complained to Brad and came very close to saying he was totally responsible for her dilemma. Brad emailed Dinah and explained that Milly was going crazy with little to actually do. The answer was almost always the same. “Take her for a short walk in the town and buy a magazine.” Milly soon collected a small but substantial pile of magazines all geared to home decorating. When the shipping container arrived at the cottage Dr. Ransom said Milly could not decorate her own house which didn’t go over particularly well. To try and remedy matters Brad went into town and bought a small tripod for his phone. When he screwed it into the side of his phone he was able to transmit live images of the container to Milly’s phone. Tyler and Brad did the heavy lifting while Milly directed from the comfort of an easy chair in MacTaggert castle. Milly got to enjoy the “remote decorating” but would have preferred actually decorating her home with her own hands. Milly gave herself the title of “forewoman”. Tilly tried to make an uncomfortable situation bearable by being there for her daughter.

“A little to the right…more… it! Freeze”. Tyler was beginning to wonder if his daughter had been a tyrannical Hollywood director in a former life. One day Tyler and Brad were trying to place the sofa in what would be the family/living room. Brads phone had an unusually sensitive microphone and Milly could hear every grunt, groan, curse and moan coming from Tyler or Brad. When Brad or Tyler got tired they would start calling Milly “Master”. One day while directing the placement of a picture her water broke.

“WHOOPS…AGH…OH CRAP!”. Then Tilly translated. “C’mon back boys…it’s time. Her water just broke.”

Brad was in the delivery room but was of little use. He was primarily the target of curses hurled at him by Milly.


Dr. Ransom urged her to push.


Sprog was the first to make her entrance. “Got him…I mean her”. Milly sat back, soaked in sweat. “OK people. We’ve one more to come…on your toes,” said Dr. Ransom. Milly, who was in labor for fifteen hours, was exhausted. “Look doc, I’m too tired to push. Can’t you just reach in and get him?” Dr. Ransom knew Milly was tired so she tried a little maternal psychology. “Imagine the tax man is here to take away your daughter.” Milly sat up and made the fiercest face. Sprig just eased out. “OK. This one is an incubator kid. What’s his name, Milly?”

“I like Angus”.

Angus wailed at the sudden temperature change. He didn’t think much of his new accommodations and let his displeasure known.

“Oh for Christ’s sake’s…who’s bawling their brains out?”

Dr. Ransom put Angus on top of Milly. Milly started kissing and cuddling him. “Where did you come from little one?”. “And here’s your daughter”. Milly looked at her red hair and called her Jessica. Brad waddled out of the delivery room, covered in sympathetic sweat, and took off his mask. Tilly and Tyler asked about Milly. “Milly is gorgeous. She’s a mother to twins, Angus and Jessica.” Tyler got up from the couch he and Tilly had been sitting in. He approached Brad and put his hand on Brad’s shoulder. “This is the start of whole new chapter in all our lives son. Thank you.”

When Milly was moved to a private room she made herself more presentable. Tyler and Tilly visited. Baby Jessica was with her and all bundled up. Tilly cooed, oohed and awed at her new granddaughter. Angus was down the hall in an incubator complaining most vocally about the way his incubator was decorated. Jamie and Jessica entered Milly’s room. As Jessica entered Tilly said she should say hello to her namesake. Jessica took a look at her young namesake and started crying. Soon Dr. Ransom entered the room and ordered everybody out. “All right everybody out. Milly’s been through a lot and needs to rest. The show’s over. You have an entire lifetime to get acquainted. Everybody Out.” Just then baby Jessica started to cry. “Maybe the show is just starting”.


The End

I’ve done two separate series over the last year and I’m kind of bushed. So I’m going to rest, recharge my batteries and return  in the new year. Stay safe. Tom 

Chapter 22–Summons From A Far

four months along

The Verdict

The doctor opened the folder and reviewed the tests. She put her glasses on and re-read the test results. She flipped the pages back and forth comparing one test result with another. She wanted to be absolutely sure of the results before she said a word. The suspense was slowly killing Milly. It was now the new year. With a couple of false positives in her past, Milly was now trying for the third time to get pregnant.

The doctor took off her glasses and tossed them on her desk.

“Sorry for taking so long. I just wanted to fully understand the test results. I know how much this means to you. It all looks correct so I’m going to go out on a limb and say you, my dear, are about to be a mother.”

Milly broke into tears.

The doctor was puzzled by Milly’s reaction.

“This is what you wanted…isn’t it?” she asked.

Milly took her time answering.

“It sure is. You have no idea how much I want this baby.”

The doctor stood up and walked around to the front of her desk. She sat on the edge and faced Milly. “Now for the sixty-four million dollar question. How does Brad feel?”

Milly dabbed her eyes and blew her nose. The doctor pushed a box of Kleenex towards her. Milly grabbed some more tissues.

“Brad is going to be over the moon when I tell him. Then when the enormity of the situation hits him he’s going to become very protective of me. Especially with two false pregnancies behind me, he’s going to be impossible. Right now he thinks this is a normal check-up. He thinks I have a bug of some kind.”

The doctor went over to her filing cabinet and pulled out some papers.

“Alright young lady. Here is what I want you to do. From now I want you on a daily regiment of vitamins. You’re going to taking so many pills for the next few months you’ll be glad when you can see the finish line. Veggies. Lots of veggies. That goes for Brad too. He’s going to need to be in tip-top shape. He’s going to have a lot on his plate. At some point, which is always different with every new mother, you’re going to find you can’t do everything you want. That’s normal. Try not to get upset when it does happen. I can set you up with a doctor in Scotland too. That doctor will deliver your baby. But I want you to watch out for any spots. Any at all. If this pregnancy is false as well we’ll have to investigate what’s going on. And I’m talking about Brad too.”

Milly asked about having sex.

“Right now go for it. As often as possible. Don’t go overboard but try for at least once per day. Frequent sex can tone up those vaginal muscles of yours. Some women discover when they’re pregnant they have zero interest in sex while others become positively rabid and can’t enough. That’s why I want Brad on vitamins. I want him to fulfill your needs at a moments notice.”

“He’s already doing that really well” volunteered Milly.

“No offense but I’ve heard that before. That’s why I want both of you back here in two weeks. I want both of you to write down every question about having a baby you two can think of. No question is dumb so don’t be afraid to write down questions you think you already know the answer to. You may have only one half of the answer. I’ve been delivering babies for almost twenty years and it’s been my experience there are always a few questions you don’t know the answer to. So write them down and for heaven’s sake remember there are no dumb questions. Have you any idea how you’re going to tell him?”

“I got a jewelers box with a piece of the fabric of a cloth diaper in it. He’ll get eventually” said Milly.

“One last thing. You’re on maternal probation for the next two weeks. If your period doesn’t re-appear you’ll be officially pregnant. So I don’t want you telling anyone other than Brad. In two weeks time, I’m going to give you another exam. And if you pass, and I think you will, you can shout “I’m Pregnant” from the rooftops.”

The doctor handed Milly a list of vitamins to take, books to read, furniture to get, and list of items every new mother should have. Milly noticed that the breast pump was scratched out. Milly asked the doctor why.

“I wouldn’t get the breast pump till you move to Scotland. The electrical current is different there. If you get one here you’ll have to get an electrical adapter. I know it’s a small thing but I’m trying to save you money for the move.”

When the appointment was over she went home.

The Big Reveal

Brad was in the kitchen preparing one of the few meals he can prepare on his own. That night it was macaroni and cheese. When he was draining the water Milly came in through the front door. Brad looked up to watch her.

“I could watch you for a thousand years. And I can tell you right now I’ll never get tired of watching you come through the door kitten. You look fantastic.

As Milly hug up her coat she pulled the small jeweler’s box from her coat pocket.

“I am so glad you started dinner. Today is one those days I just didn’t want to prepare dinner. I’m just bushed. It was one of those days. Nothing went wrong. It was just boring. Nothing really spectacular stood out. Did I tell you I have a new nurse?”

“What’s her name?” asked Brad.

“His name is Vlad Kaminski. His name is a real mouthful for a kid. He’ll be great around Halloween. He has an accent that the kids associate with Dracula. He was so eager to get started he introduced himself to every kid in the wing.”

Milly walked into the kitchen and put the small box in front of Brad.

“What’s this kitten?” asked Brad. He washed and dried his hands before he picked it up.

“It’s called a box”. Brad looked at the ceiling and muttered something. “A nurse brought it in and asked everybody what they thought it was. Nobody could figure it out. What do you think it is Schweitzer?”

Brad stared at the box. “If I take the top off is anything going to jump out at me?”

“You should know I wouldn’t do anything like that. I might be really tempted to do something sneaky but I know you don’t like surprises like that” said Milly wearing a mischievous smile.

Not quite convinced Brad walked towards a clothes cupboard and after a while returned wearing a very overstuffed parka, ear muffs and a goalie mask from when he played hockey. He looked like he was about to diffuse a bomb. He moved gently and slowly took the lid off the box with plastic salad tongs. He moved his head away from the box. He was ready for just about anything. He extended his arms, closed the eye closest to the box and turned his head away from the box.

“You should see yourself. A grown man and you’re behaving like it’s a bomb. I assure you it won’t bite” said Milly.

When Brad took the lid off the box nothing happened. Still, with a certain degree of trepidation, he looked into the box. No itching powder, no springs or strings. He looked into the box. “Just a small piece of white fabric. Since it’s the wrong color I know it’s not the felt for a pool table. Yet I feel I should know what it is. This is a brain teaser, isn’t it? It almost feels like a diaper-“

Brad looked at Milly and there were tears in her eyes. “Are you kidding?”

“I believe there’s a phrase that says the third times a charm. It seems one of the Foster Brigade is a marine. He swam and did what he was supposed to do. You going to be a father. But we can’t tell mom or dad yet”

Brad hugged Milly, picked her up, and twirled her. “Why do we have to wait before we can tell Tilly and Tyler?”. Milly asked him to take the parka, ear muffs, and goalie mask off. As Brad was putting those particular items back in the clothes cupboard Milly answered his question.

“Since I have two false pregnancies behind me my doctor asked me to wait two more weeks. If my period still hasn’t appeared it be official. Then we can tell them. In two weeks you and I have an appointment with my doctor. She wants us to write down every question we can think of when it comes to having a baby. But I need to tell you something. When some women get pregnant they lose all interest in sex. Some go sex crazy. So my doctor wants you on vitamins. And she wants us to pounce as often as possible.”

Brad was puzzled and started scratching his head.

“Sorry kitten. I don’t follow. If you really are pregnant why does she want us to behave like sex-crazed teenagers?”.

“She’s of the belief that just in case my hormones aren’t quite sure what to do she hopes yours will be able to convince them I’m pregnant. So do you want to do any convincing tonight?”.


Let The Word Go Forth

Milly rang the doorbell at her mom and dads house. As they waited for somebody to answer the door Brad turned to Milly and confided quietly that he was scared.

“I’ve never really thought of being a father before. It’s a daunting job being responsible for another life. I don’t have a clue about being a parent. But at the same time, I can hardly wait. Am I making any sense kitten?”

Milly thought a short while, brought her hands up to her mouth, warmed her hands with her breath then turned to her husband. “I’m going to come clean. I’m positively terrified. I haven’t the faintest idea what it is to be a mother. I just know I want to be one. I’ve read about what to expect but putting theory into practice are two very different things.” Tilly, Milly’s mother, answered the door.

When she answered the door she put her head behind the door and started berating her husband. “Tyler Shine. The kids are here for dinner. Why didn’t you answer the door? It’s freezing out there.” Tilly ushered the two inside apologizing for her husband. When she closed the inside door there was a very distinctive click. Tilly put the chain lock back on the door. From an area near the door was the sound of a toilet flushing. As Tyler appeared he did his belt up. Milly kissed her father. Brad shook his hand. “When mother nature calls there’s not much you can do but obey.” Brad chuckled. “I know exactly what you mean sir. Those twelve-hour stints in the operating room are murder.” Tilly took the jackets and lay them on the bed in the master bedroom. A scowl covered Tyler’s face. “Hey. I thought we agreed you would stop calling me sir.” Brad apologized. “Sorry, Tyler. A minor slip of the lip.”

Tyler asked Brad what he’d like to drink. However, when he asked Milly she declined any kind of beverage. Tyler was surprised and suspicious. “What’s this? You’re saying no to mineral water? Somebody mark this day on the calendar. It could be a momentous occasion.” Milly asked her parents to have a seat in the living room. Milly and Brad stood in the door frame. Milly held her husband’s hand. She could feel the nervous sweat on his palms. “You don’t know how right you are. This is a very special occasion. Sometime this fall you’re going to have a grandchild. Brad and I are pregnant!”

Tilly rushed over and kissed her daughter.

Tyler shook the hand of his son-in-law. Then he turned to his daughter and kissed her. “Well, your mother wants to know if we should get some of your things out of storage, or if it’s going to be a boy?” he asked.

Milly thought about what to say. “We don’t know and we don’t want to know. We want to be surprised. But your grandchild will be born in Scotland. Our contacts were sold to Highland Central. As of July 1, we’ll be working for Fergus. He bought our contracts from Druk. He’s having a cottage retro-fit for a waiting room, and an examining room. So when you come over for a visit in the summer to help with the move you’ll be able to see the baby right after I deliver. The cottage, Foster Cottage, will be an urban off-shoot of the hospital. We’ll fix cuts and scrapes on the first floor and live on the second.”

Tyler got out of the chair he was in and went downstairs. When he returned he was carrying a champagne bottle. He walked over to Brad and Milly who were sitting on a rose-colored love seat and started talking to them both. “When Milly was born my father gave me two bottles of champagne. One was consumed when Milly was born. The second bottle was for when she announced she was going to be a mother. I think this qualifies as that occasion.” Tyler poured the contents into four champagne flutes. As he distributed the glasses Milly still declined. “I know this is a special occasion but I don’t want to jinx things. But I will have some mineral water.”

A few minutes later Tilly announced the roast was ready. Brad volunteered to carry the roast in. “I’ll do the honors, Tilly. Milly’s doctor wants me in tip-top shape for the next nine months.” When he entered the dining room Tyler started asking questions. “Tell me, Brad. Has there been any morning sickness?” Tilly asked the first of many that evening. “Any special cravings yet or is it too soon for that?” Brad looked at Milly who the questions were really fielded to. “No morning sickness so far. My doctor says some women just don’t get morning sickness at all. As for cravings, I’ll let Brad tell you about that. I’ve got to go to the pregnant ladies room.” As Milly walked away there was a small smirk on her face. As she walked away she heard Brad start talking. “So far the cravings have been pretty tame. Rocky Road Ice Cream-“

“Oh, that doesn’t sound bad at all. When I was pregnant I had some very strange cravings. I won’t tell you what they were. It was an experience best forgotten.”

“As I was saying Milly has had cravings for Rocky Road Ice Cream and shrimp.”

Tyler covered his mouth and ran for the bathroom in the basement. Tilly apologized for him. “Tyler was very squeamish when I was expecting. Poor thing was almost in worse shape than I was. But how are you doing? How are you feeling?”

“Milly’s doctor has me on all sorts of vitamins. As Milly nears her due date she’ll be doing less. So I have to pick up the slack.” Tilly dabbed her mouth with her serviette. “And so it should be. It used to be the father does his thing then sits back for nine months while the wife goes through hell. It’s high time men carried a lot more of the load.”

Brad looked to see if Tyler had returned. He hadn’t so Brad continued talking about Milly’s unusual cravings.

“There’s a deli down the street from the apartment. After Milly ordered Rocky Road and shrimp a few times they sort of figured things out. They have changed the menu slightly and added a “Milly Special”. They’re open twenty-four hours so they are really convenient. If it’s three in the morning she phones in the order and I pick it up.”

Tilly was transfixed and didn’t notice her husband coming slowly up the stairs. “One time they didn’t did have shrimp and Milly said “surprise me””. When I picked up the order the deli folks told me they put in squid. When I saw her chowing down on squid it sort of made me feel like Tyler.”

As soon as Tyler heard this he knocked on the floorboards and pointed downwards. Tilly started giggling at her husband’s dilemma. “I wonder if I should check on him. I’m going to say something and I don’t want Milly to know. Her father was a complete basket-case when I had my cravings. Tyler and I had to eat in separate rooms. He just wasn’t prepared to be a father.”

Milly returned. “Forget everything I said about not having morning sickness. Sprog just said hello.”

Tilly was mystified. “Who or what is Sprog or is that of those new 21st century things I keep hearing about on the news?”.

Brad dealt with this question. “Since Milly and I don’t want to know the sex of the baby we gave the baby a sexless name. We didn’t want to say “baby” all the time, and we really did not want to call the baby “it”.”

Tilly was concerned. “Are you sure it was morning sickness? It’s seven-thirty in the evening.” Milly sat down and looked a little pale. “Since I became pregnant we’re now living in the Sprog time zone. He seems to think it’s morning.”

Tilly just about jumped out her chair when she heard the word “He”.

“You just said the word he. Does that mean you think it’s a boy?”.

“Sorry. It’s just a figure of speech. I don’t know. Brad doesn’t know, and my doctor doesn’t know the sex of the baby. It’s still too early to tell.”

“Surely you have a preference. I’ve got to get knitting. I’ve got to know the color.”


One month later Milly was undergoing another ultrasound.

“I’m going to put the gel on your tummy. If you want to see “Sprog” just raise your head a bit. The monitor is near your feet.”

As Milly’s doctor passed the ultrasound camera over her tummy she could hear the heartbeat of her unborn child. Brad watched the monitor and started crying when he heard the heartbeat.

Milly’s doctor was surprised to see Brad crying.

“Well, this a switch. Usually, it’s the mother who goes all to pieces during one of these scans. The father is stoic as can be and grins like a fool. It’s re-refreshing to see this role reversal.”

Brad a quick reply.

“Milly isn’t the only one whose hormones are doing gymnastics. I’m human too.”

Milly’s doctor put on her glasses and studied the monitor. “Well, everything’s accounted for. Ten fingers and ten toes. Heartbeat is great. I think you’re good to go. The doctor in Strathpeffer is Dr. Dinah Ransom.”

Chapter 16 – Summons From A Far

When Milly came down the stairs she returned to the table. She whispered to Brad she had just delivered the message and that Druk was madder than a wet hen.

Fergus leaned back and looked at Milly. “Has that man of yours told yours you look gorgeous today?”

Milly blushed a bit, looked at Fergus and grasped Brad’s hand.

“Brad and I were talking last night,” said Milly somewhat nervously.

“Well, I’m glad to hear the English language is still alive and kickin’. But I suspect you’re about to ask me something” said Fergus.

Milly looked at her mother and father and felt a chill go up and down her back.

“As I said Brad and were talking last night. A lot. And the upshot is we would dearly love to be married here. In  your castle. At the end of the week before mom and dad go home. Everyone we would want at the wedding is either already here, close by, or could be here on short notice. Mother and daddy could give me away, I’d want Jessica as my bridesmaid, Brad wants Jamie to be his best man, and most importantly we both want Dr. Macbeth here. Mostly because without you and her we wouldn’t be here at all.”

Fergus scratched his chin and asked Tyler if she was always so eloquent and gorgeous.

“My daughter Milly has always been gorgeous. Just as gorgeous as her mother. Eloquent? Well, that’s a different matter. In her teenage years, it was more “I want this or I want that”. But in her twenties whenever she wanted something it was always “Mother dear…” or “Daddy dear…” This civilized eloquence would seem to be a relatively recent development. But as her father, I can only suggest you give your consent to her request or you’ll never hear the end of the matter.”

Milly couldn’t take the suspense or the character assassination any further.

“Daddy. You’re embarrassing me!”

Her father leaned on the breakfast table and addressed his daughter. “And that, my darling Milly, is one the prerogatives of being a parent. And as one of your parents, I’m allowed to embarrass you. As is your mother. Nobody else is. Just the two of us. It’s something I suspect you’ll excel at. As will Brad.”

Tyler turned his head slightly and addressed Brad.

“And Brad, if you want a little coaching on this subject I humbly volunteer my services.” Tyler turned his head towards Milly. “Milly, my dear I suggest you consult your mother. There are some things best-said man to man and woman to woman.”

But right now Milly gazed at Fergus. His silence started to make Milly crack. She put her hand on top of his. “Please?” She looked into his eyes with two moist eyes.

All of a sudden he pushed his chair back.

“Och, I canna stand all this sentimentality. I’ll give ya ma answer when you least expect it. Ask me agin and the answer will be no!”

With no warning, Milly rose from the table and ran to the bedroom crying. Fergus watched Milly run to her bedroom and heard sobbing.

Tyler and Tilly glared at Fergus with fury and anger. He had overstepped his role as host. Tyler lost his temper and started yelling at Fergus.

“I don’t have a clue what you thought you were doing just now, but if you don’t apologize to my daughter this instant Dr. Macbeth is going to have company on the plane home.” yelled an enraged Tyler. Tilly stood up for her daughter as well.

“I thought we were friends. If you don’t do something right now you can consider our friendship at an end. You seem to think you can bully people to your way of thinking. Well, guess what…you can’t! If you value our friendship at all you’ll get off your high horse and apologize.”

Fergus considered what he had said and what was being said to him. He didn’t like anyone telling him what to do in his own house, but in this case, he was clearly in the wrong. And outnumbered.

“I think I may have overplayed ma cards a wee bit. I think I better tend to this right now.”

He walked down the hall to the guest rooms. And he heard her crying into a pillow. He knocked on the door and to his surprise, Milly opened the door.

“May I come in? I’ve come to apologize. Only once before has a woman’s tears caused me to apologize or change my mind.”

“That must have been your wife. She must have a very understanding and patient woman.”

Milly sat on the edge of the bed while Fergus grabbed a chair and put it close to her.

In hushed tones, Fergus talked to Milly like a father. “What I’m about to say must stay between you and me for the remainder of time. You mustn’t tell anyone ever, not even Brad.”

Milly nodded, not quite sure what sure what she was hearing had to do with her request.

Fergus continued.

“For a lot of my life, I’ve been pig-headed, and stubborn. My stubbornness has caused me to lose my first born son. I wanted him to stay in Strathpeffer but he wanted to leave and see the world. I’d like to ask you a personal question. Is Brad your first love?”

“I suspect you already know he is Dr. MacTaggert,” she said quietly.

“Aye, I thought he was. After my son, Hamish left my attitude towards people left me an embittered, angry old goat. My attitude destroyed my marriage. It drove my wife away. I tell Jamie his mother died because that’s what happened to our marriage. It died because we both stopped trying to understand each other. I learned too late that no one fully understands their spouse. You may think at some point you know all about Brad, and he knows all about you. In a marriage, you never stop learning about the other. As for my first love lets just say it was somebody you know very well. Somebody, you’ve known all your life.”

Milly’s eyes became as big as saucers. “Are you telling me I’m you’re daughter?!” she said excitedly.

Fergus started to chuckle. “Nothing so theatrical as that. Your mother was my first love. She met your father when he and I were in med school and fell in love with him. But she wanted to study in your country. Today at the table I could see so much of your mother in you. So much of the woman I fell in love with. It was so difficult seeing you and knowing you could have been my daughter. With your permission, I’d like to be your second father if you’ll let me. The castle is yours for the wedding.”

Milly was so happy that tears rolled down her face.

But Milly wasn’t finished with her questions. Not by a long shot.

“Are you saying mom never knew you were in love with her?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. I never had the courage to tell her. And please don’t ever tell her. Or your father. Ever. Now that I’m through gettin’ that off my chest am I a friend of the bride or groom?. I want a good seat. I don’t want a seat way at the back.”

“You’re definitely a friend of the bride. And you get a seat with mom and dad!”

“Could I ask you a question?” asked Fergus.

“By all means fire away” replied Milly.

“Based on everything you’ve seen since your flight, even in England, do you think you or Brad would want to stay here in Scotland of a while? The reason I ask is that Highland was willed a cottage. And the hospital is simply not in the real estate business. Right now we have no use for the place. But it could serve as your first office/surgery and a home for both of you. The hospital would supply everything you need. And we would keep in touch with you via a secure internet connection. The board of directors would probably approve of the idea if they knew two newly married doctors were available. I know you probably want to see it first before committing yourself and I don’t blame you. If you agree the cottage might even become known as Foster Cottage. The hospital is simply becoming too large, and this could be an extension of the hospital but in a more rural setting. I want you to understand this is just an idea. Nothing is carved in stone yet. Who knows…maybe you or Brad may have an idea for improving on the idea.”

“Before I give you my reply is my answer connected in any way to my getting permission for my wedding?” she asked warily of what the answer might be.

“You using the castle for your wedding does not depend on your answer regarding the cottage in any way. And if I may be so bold you asking the question makes me wonder if you aren’t a Scot in some way.”

Milly gave Fergus his answer. It was not the answer he was hoping to hear.

“Brad and I both dislike working in a city to a certain extent. Working in a small town appeals to us both. But working in a big city does have its advantages too. While the idea does have some merit the question you’re asking is of such magnitude that I would feel very uncomfortable giving you what I think might be his answer. If we were to work here for even a short period of time we’d be breaking the law. When both of us became employed at City General we signed contracts. Binding legal contracts. We can’t work for anyone else for any length of time. Those contracts would have to render null and void. Then there is the matter of closing matters such as credit cards, bank accounts, moving, and everything associated with a move this large. I have a car as does Brad. We’d have to sell those. You seem to think Foster Cottage could be whipped into shape in no time flat.  The cottage would have to be retrofitted with everything we would need before we could see one single person. I don’t know anything about building permits here in Scotland but you would have to find out if you can convert a cottage into what you want it to be. If it can be converted that’s fine. If it can’t the idea is as dead as a proverbial door-nail. I won’t mention any of this conversation to Brad till you find out if the cottage can be converted. If it can be converted to what you suggest that’s when we would want to take a look at the cottage.  Brad and I have a wedding to plan and precious little time in which to do it in. Right now I’m going to find out if Jessica will be my maid of honor.”

Fergus looked with Milly with almost fatherly pride. “Right now you look and sound so much like your mother. And you make me so very proud. I was hoping to hear something very different. But you made this old man realize he was putting the cart before the horse. And like your mother you’re wise far beyond your years. It might be a good idea if you asked Jessica now. I’ve got some apologies to make to your parents.”

Milly dried her eyes, went into the hall and knocked on Jessica’s door. She was taking a nap. Milly’s loud knocking roused a sleepy Jessica. When she came to the door her red hair was all askew. She looked tired and yawned.

“I just wanted to ask you what you’re doing at the end of the week because I’m getting married and I would like you to be my maid of honor.”

“What did you say?” said Jessica not quite sure she heard Milly correctly.

“Jessica McCloud, will you be my maid of honor?”

Jessica heard what she needed to hear and forced herself to become more awake.

“Are you sure? You’ve only known me two weeks” she asked.

“That may be true but I know all I need to know” she replied.

“Then I’d be honored Dr. Milly Shine,” said Jessica.

Milly pointed to her neck then pointed at Jessica. Milly mouthed the word “hickey” and Jessica clenched her fist. “If you should see Jamie tell him Brad’s on the prowl. He wants to ask Jamie to be his best man.”

“Thank you, Milly.” As Milly walked away from the door she heard Jessica quietly chastise Jamie. She smiled and had a spring in her step.

Fergus had just finished apologizing to Tyler and Tilly when he encountered Brad and Milly in the hall.

“I’ve apologized to Milly and her parents. And I’d like to apologize to you, Brad. Your lovely bride to be has made me realize that I better mend my ways. I want to apologize for upsetting Milly, you, and your plans. I also want to know if you two will still want to come to the hospital to show your us your life-saving knot. I’m more than sure that Herman can hardly wait.”

“Herman. Just who is Herman?” asked Brad.

“Let’s go into the library where we can sit and discuss things. With a wedding to plan things will hurry by mighty fast.”

The trio wandered into the library where Brad got his first good at the library. The walls were covered in oak paneling. The shelves were stuffed with books about medicine and astronomy. Brad asked about the books on astronomy.

“When I want to get away from the world and just relax I retreat to my observatory. I built one on the roof. Being so far north I don’t have to worry about light pollution from a big city. I don’t know if you know this but in Strathpeffer, you’re closer to Norway than you are London. You can get some gorgeous photos of the heavens from up in my little observatory.” Fergus reached for a leather bound book that contained nothing but photos he had taken and handed it to Milly. Here’s what you can see up there. When you’re up there it’s like being on an island in the middle of the ocean. Only the sky is my sea. And the stars acts as a nightlight. I can truly relax.”

Milly was more than impressed. She was speechless. Her eyes slowly grew wider and wider as she turned each page. “Have you ever thought about having any of  this published?  They’re simply beautiful!” Brad looked over Milly’s shoulder. “These are really impressive Fergus.” “Och no, I won’t publish. Astronomy is just a hobby. A retreat. Medicine is my passion and my life.


Which brings us back to Herman. Herman is an anatomically correct dummy you can operate on. Herman isn’t alive. But he’s programmed to behave just like a real person. And to respond just like a real person. If you want to have a general anesthetic he’ll be quiet as a mouse. If you want him to have a local he can talk your ears off. You can program him to talk to you in Scottish-Gaelic, or English. Once some med students programmed the little bugger to talk like me. Herman was made in England which is why I call him a dummy. Herman is a MAD or a Medically Assistive Device. But I call him Herman because he looks like a character from an American TV show I saw when I was a boy. The show was called The Munsters.”


Later that day Brad and Milly walked through the town of Strathpeffer. The town had a population of only two thousand people, far from the raging metropolis it might have been. It was a quaint Victorian town with buildings that were done in the Victorian style. Many of the original structures that weren’t made from stone were painted green. Strathpeffer was a perfect example of a town where the rumor mill outdid the local newspaper almost every day. If somebody living in the east end of the town ripped their pants trying to deal with an uncooperative sheep those living in the west end of town would almost certainly hear of it just a few hours later. Only those living in the west end would hear that somebody dealing with a crazed ram was maimed and the ram was thought to be rabid. Few facts of the original story would make it intact across town. Usually, the story was morphed and contorted into something it never was by the time it reached its final destination. A pipe band started playing every day during the summer for one hour. Strathpeffer was also a town that depended on the tourist trade. The locals had to be nice to strangers. As Milly and Brad passed near a local bakery a young woman appeared in the doorway with a tray full of free samples.

Milly discovered Brad was part bloodhound. And he had a bit of a sweet tooth. He started sniffing the air. He ran across two lanes of traffic to get to the local bakery. He bought some freshly made bread and a locally made beverage that approximated a Coca-Cola.

He tore off a hunk of bread and offered it to Milly who declined. But after a few minutes, she found the smell so tantalizing she suddenly took a bite out the hunk in Brad’s hand. “Oh Lordy, that’s so good!”

When it came time to pay the woman who ran the shop she stopped to ask them a question.

“You wouldn’t be staying at the MacTaggert estate would you?”

Brad tried answering but had stuffed too much bread in his mouth. He pointed at Milly.

“What Lord Piggy is attempting to say is that we’re both staying at MacTaggert Castle,” said Milly.

The woman behind the counter wiped her hands on her apron and came out from behind the counter. She then leaned against it. Her arms were crossed.

“Is it true Fergus is getting re-married?” she asked.

Milly started laughing. “I’m sorry. I not laughing at you. I’m laughing at my overstuffed fiancée. Fergus is not getting re-married. But we are at the end of the week. In the castle. I’m Dr. Milly Shine, and the tall overstuffed fellow at my side is Dr. Brad Foster.” Milly shook her hand then Brad, who finally swallowed enough bread, managed to say hello.

“Shine. From County Mayo in Ireland?”

“That’s what the research on my family said.”

“Then it would seem we’re about to relatives of a fashion. I’m Kendra Foster. This is certainly a coincidence. My great aunts’ name was Milly and her husbands was Brad as well.”

Brad’s eyes bugged out in total surprise. He had also swallowed enough bread to ask a question on his own.

“Then you must know of Gil Whitaker. He and I had a great chat when Milly and I stayed in Bosworth market. I recorded most of our conversation but I don’t recall him mentioning anyone named Kendra.”

“He may not have mentioned me because I was born after the bombing. How long was your chat with Gil may I ask?”

Brad paused to think. After a few seconds, he gave his reply. “I don’t recall exactly, but it felt like at least a couple hours. It was a most enjoyable conversation. I just met the guy but at the end of the talk I felt like I had known him all my life.”

Kendra went behind the counter to fill another customers order.

“That sounds uncle Gil. It’s too bad he has dementia now. But I’m glad you recorded the conversation. Maybe you could burn it onto a CD. Then you’ll have it when he’s no longer with us. Have you seen the photos?”

“You mean there really are photos? The reason I say that he wasn’t making a lot of sense at the time. I thought it was simply a fragment of a thought that had nothing to do with our talk.”

“Take a look at the photos if you can. He’s got a photo of me in there I think.”

Brad brought out some change to pay for the bread. Kendra put up her hand and started wagging her finger at Brad. “You sir get the family discount. It’s free.” When Brad insisted Kendra started talking to Milly. “Is he always so stubborn?” she asked.

“Sometimes. Sometimes not. It all depends. If it’s near dinnertime he can be really cranky. And if he’s not fed and watered on time he can be rude too.” said Milly. “Hey, are you trying to sully my good name?” asked Brad. “No hon. I’m just trying to give Kendra an honest answer.” It was then Kendra spoke up “Sure sounds like a Foster to me.”

Kendra whispered to Milly there was a bridal shop in town. “If I tell them you’re coming you may get a discount. I canna promise but I’ll see what I can do.”

Chapter 17 coming next week….

“Hitched (At Last)” – Chapter 12d – Panooksa

Idea by Tom Austin                                         Written by Tom Austin

                                    Revised by Tom Austin

Without the very timely intervention of Tyler the wedding would be in shambles. Brad wouldn’t have his white tuxedo, and Milly wouldn’t have her wedding gown and shoes, not to mention church, hairdresser and photographer. And still with all that there still remained a great deal to do. BB and Mike just didn’t work well together. And they would have to be informed that they were no longer required.

Brad and Milly returned to their own dimension so they could tell them in person. Brad and Milly had decided to tell them they had eloped and were only back in the city long enough to inform them face to face.

Milly found BB during a lull in her rounds. BB said she was disappointed she had missed the wedding but wished Milly all the best. Mike, however, was a different story. Brad went down to the garage but Mike was nowhere to be found. Brad looked under cars, behind the counter, even in the overhead tire rack. No Mike. Then he checked what Mike called his office. He found Mike sitting in a wooden office chair, with his head lying in a stack of bills a few inches deep. He was as drunk as a skunk. Brad got Mike sitting up, and poured some hot coffee for him. But there was a stench any doctor would recognize. That of vomit and urine. Mike had wet himself and thrown up. Brad told Mike to get some help. He also told him he and Milly had eloped, and that he missed his chance to be best man. He doubted anything he had said would sink in so he wrote Mike a note and stuffed it in his hand. Mike got himself into this mess, and he would have to get himself out of it. Brad was disappointed with Mike and left.

When Brad got back the apartment he told Milly all about Mike. But they both agreed there was nothing they could do. They continued to box up all their goods and chattels. In the midst of the organized chaos, Brad looked around and was amazed at what he saw.

“I had no idea we had so much junk! Some of this stuff I can understand, but who in the world needs five popcorn poppers.” Eventually, almost everything was boxed up. The only thing that remained was Milly’s bedroom, all the bathroom stuff, and a few things in the kitchen. Quincy was not amused that his world was suddenly populated by boxes and that access to his favorite place to sleep was blocked by boxes. Brad had asked Milly a question, and she was still mulling it over a day later. Brad had suggested inviting Sirena to the wedding.

“Please tell me you joking. I’d rather invite the plague.”

Brad shook his head. “I’m not wild about her either, but we’re going to have to learn to live with her. She going to be a neighbor too.”

Milly looked rather unhappy at the idea of having her for a neighbor.

“All right. I suppose you’re right. We have to learn to live with her. I’ll even ask if she would be a bridesmaid. But on one condition. I can also bring her a bottle of the perfume called Poison.”

Brad thought it was a great idea. The perfume could act as a peace offering of sorts. After all its the thought that counts.

“Is that perfume new or something? I’ve never heard of it” asked Brad.

“It came out ages ago. Fifteen or twenty years ago. It smelled great then. But I really have to wonder if it will smell the same. The drug store has had a bottle in the window for about ten years. Maybe I should get her Shalimar instead. That’s a little more recent and more reasonably priced. What would you think if I got her a Pet Rock?” asked Milly.

“I think that would be pushing it a bit. The woman may be a horrible human being, but she’s not a moron.”

Brad took all the boxes through the doorway to the new house. The boxes were gone. Most of the furniture was gone. The sofa remained as it was Brad’s bed. With her hands on her hips, Milly surveyed the apartment.

“I’m going to miss this place. A lot of good memories.” The two hugged in the middle of what used to be the dining room, their arms wrapped tightly around the other.

Milly had her head against Brad’s chest. But now she looked up and rested her chin on it.

“Did you know that sometimes when you were still asleep on the couch I played with your hair?’

“You sexy little devil. No wonder it was so hard to comb in the morning. Some people at the hospital are convinced I had a permanent!” He kissed the tip of her nose.

“Brad, I’ve got to ask you a question. Should we hang onto the apartment? If we don’t we can never come back. We won’t have the doorway.”

Brad rested his head on top of Milly’s.

“I’ve been giving that very question a lot of thought too. I don’t like the city. It’s grubby, and every year it gets more expensive to live in. I think when we move it should be a clean break. Sure we’re going to have the memories of this place. Those won’t be gone till we are. But I’d prefer to start with a clean slate, with you, and Quincy in the house. This didn’t really feel much like a home. An apartment never does to me. Even if we never knew about The Second Realm or the doorway this place would always be temporary. A real home is someplace permanent, like a house.”

Milly thought about what her soon-to-be husband to be had said.

“I guess you’re right. Besides all I really want is what I’m hugging right now. So I guess this is our last night here. Here’s to new beginnings” said, Milly, as she pulled Brad towards her. She stuck her hands in his back pockets. Her fingers could feel a piece of paper. She pulled it out of Brad’s pocket.

“What’s this”

“That, my love, is something you dad gave to me. He wants me to pin it to the door on our wedding night.”

Milly opened the piece of paper. There were four lines on it.

Milly turned around and leaned against Brads chest. She slowly unraveled the crumpled piece of paper. Her eyes bugged out when she read it. She turned to face Brad. She tried to say something but was so surprised she stammered a bit.

“My father-my dad gave you this? You know I think my dad is slowly becoming a dirty old man.”

Milly lay on the bed in her parent’s guestroom and stared at her wedding dress. Somebody knocked. Whenever anybody knocked she always asked who it was, before zipping up the garment bag and unlocking the door.

Her mother was at the door.

“The hairdresser just called and she wants us both there three and a half hours before the ceremony.”

All Milly could think was there were now less than twelve hours to go.

Brad started getting nervous. He was pacing back and forth outside the house till Tyler called him in for dinner.

“Hey, Brad. Get in here. It’s dinner time, and stop wearing out the road”

Tilly tried giving her daughter a shot of Brandy to help her sleep. Sleep did not come easily that night. For anyone.

Tyler insisted on wearing tails. He said if it was good enough for his father it should be good enough for him. Tilly accompanied her daughter to the hairdresser. It was hard for Milly to really believe this was happening. She carried the wedding gown with her. The jaws of life wouldn’t be able to separate her from the gown now that she had it.


There he was. At the end of the aisle. In his white tuxedo. Brad. Milly looked sensational. She was gorgeous. Brad found it hard to believe this vision of loveliness had consented to be his wife. They exchanged vows and then got the surprise of a lifetime. A majority of The Town had turned out to see them. Sirena was there. Merlin was the ring bearer. Tyler acted as best man for Brad. Joe Crangle, the jeweler Milly and Brad woke up to get the engagement ring sized supplied the wedding bands for free. The reception took place at Sirena’s new house. And when Tyler shook Joe’s hand at the reception he handed over the Rapala fishing lure. The woman from the frame store handed Milly a gift on behalf of the store. It was a small frame with a piece of cloth inside. Inside was what left of Brad’s lucky boxers.


When they went to their house Brad carried his bride over the threshold. Inside they found a brand new brass bed with a note attached – “Let’s see you break this one. It’s got a twenty-year guarantee with love Tilly & Tyler.”

Brad did as he was told. He put the note on the door. It read…

If you think you hear squeakin’

And there ain’t no talkin’

Don’t bother knockin’

Just start walkin’

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“B is for Bride” – Chapter 12c – Panooksa

Idea by Tom Austin                                                    Written by Tom Austin

                                         Revised by Tom Austin

Milly sat on the couch studying every word in the pamphlet. Her brow was furrowed, then her eyes became very large. She shouts as she can then stuffs the pamphlet in her jeans pocket.


She needn’t have yelled. Brad was standing just a few feet away near the now empty bookcase.

“You bellowed my love?” said Brad

“Hope you paid last months VISA bill cause we’re going shopping!”

With a look of intense determination she activated the doorway and stepped through. Brad was hot on her heels.

“Hold on there Missy. Where’s the fire?” said Brad who was just a bit curious as to their final destination.

Milly was now speed walking like in the Olympics. “We’re going to Murphy’s Bridal Emporium. I just saw my dress on sale there for less than half price than in the city.”

“MILLY! will you please slow down” yelled Brad.

She finally came to a stop and looked at him.

Brad was panting, leaning over, trying to catch his breath.

“I am not a hamster on a wheel. Why are you walking like a demon?”

“We’ve got to get there before it closes.”

Panting like an old hound dog he asked an obvious question.

“Why don’t you teleport?”

Milly scrunched up her face and grabbed her hair.

“Jeez, Louise. I feel so dumb” She grabbed Brads hand, cleared her mind, and they slowly vanished.

When they re-materialized they were at the front of Murphy’s Bridal Emporium. A man wearing a three piece suit greeted them. He had greased back hair.

“May I help you with something. A wedding gown for the lovely lady, or maybe a tuxedo for sir?”

Milly took charge as this was her territory.

“We’re new in The Town, and your fine establishment was recommended to us.” Milly greased the mans ego.

“How kind of you to mention that. You wouldn’t be planning on getting married would you?”

“How interesting you should ask that. That’s exactly the reason we’re here.”

The man, whose name was Geoffrey G., pulled a pamphlet from his coat pocket. It was the same as the one Milly had stuffed in her pockets.

“This month we’re running a special on Murphy wedding packages. You pick the dress, you pick the shoes, you pick the tuxedo, and we do the rest. We supply the church, the garter, the hairdresser, and the photographer. We call it our Fifty/Fifty deal.”

Geoffrey G. led Milly over the dress wing. There were over six thousand dresses to choose from. The room was gigantic. It was bigger than the entire store.

“It’s bigger on the inside than on the outside.”

Geoffrey G looked the ground and muttered quietly.

“I do wish people would stop saying that.”

Meanwhile Milly’s jaw dropped and her eyes bulged. “I think I’ve died and gone to wedding dress heaven” she managed to say.

Milly wandered through the seemingly endless racks of dresses and gowns. The look on her face was one of pure joy. She was in a sea of happiness. Then after forty-five minutes she announced she had found her dress. “It’s just like the picture I showed to BB.”

At this point Geoffrey G. said “That’s simply wonderful. Now if you could be so kind as to walk towards me bringing the gown with you.” As soon as she left the wing it vanished, and the shoe wing appeared. Thousands of shoes for thousands of feet. The wing stretched out in front of Milly further than she could see.

“What shoe size do you take Miss?”.

“Size Five”

Geoffrey G reached into thin air got the right size shoes.

“What did you say your fiancés name was?”

She said with a bit of smirk “Bradley”.

“Thank you. Now Bradley, could you please turn around. We’re going to put the dress into a garment bag so no peeking”

Brad turned around and muttered quietly to himself.

“If he calls me Bradley just one more time I’m going to clock the little twerp.”

Milly and Geoffrey re-appeared with the dress properly secured in a garment bag. Milly held the shoes. The next item was the garter.

“We going to pick out the garter now Bradley. If you could be a good chap and turn around again.”

“Geoffrey, I’m a doctor. I’ve seen more garters than you ever will.”

“As my dear mother used to say “bully for you”. Now I’m going to count to five. If you haven’t turned around you’ll be escorted out of the store.”

Milly signaled to Brad to turn around.


Milly put her hands together like she was praying and silently said please.

A hand suddenly fell on Brads right shoulder.

“I know it’s damn silly, but turn around.”

Now a deeper was heard. It was Tyler.

Milly crawled into her fathers arms.

“Daddy, what are you doing here? How did you even know we’d be here.”

“Your mother. After Brad’s unannounced visit she figured it was only a matter of time before you two showed up here. Besides I was coming to town anyway to get some more tobacco”.

“Would the father of the bride care to see anything?”

Tyler had a short fuse when it came to Geoffrey.

“He most certainly would not. Now do the world a favour Geoffrey and go knit something. Now shoo!”

“Yes Dr. Shine”

But before he left he stuck his tongue out at Brad.

“That pathetic excuse for a person used to be a patient of mine. Not the sharpest tool in the shed.”

“But a tool just the same.” said Milly. “But what’s with the knitting?”

“The hospital taught him to knit whenever he felt stressed out. Personally I think the little twerp should be defusing grenades.”

“Daddy, I hope you never really said that to him”

“No. But there ever there was a reason for birth control it’s him! But enough about Super Twerp. Brad, I understand you need a Tux.”

Tyler then put his hand on Brads shoulder.

“Let’s find you a Tux son.”

Tyler led Milly and Brad into the tuxedo wing

Tyler winked at Brad, and the two conspired to put Milly into a mild panic. He held up a tux.

“What do you think about this one. You’ll certainly stand out in a crowd”

It was bright orange like a traffic cone.

All of a sudden Milly said “Don’t even think about it. My knees are in great shape.”

Brad burst out laughing. Tyler looked for something even more horrid.

”I afraid I must decline, but I did see a striped number that looked simply adorable. It had a sort of chain gang theme.”

“Bradley Rosebud Peters. Don’t you dare!”

Milly’s eyebrows went up, and her eyes grew to gigantic proportions. Her hands quickly covered her mouth. She had done the unbelievable and the unthinkable. She had done exactly what Brad asked, pleaded with her never to do. She was to never, ever, under any circumstances mention his middle name.

“What?” said a very surprised Tyler.

Tyler talked calmly and slowly. All his medical training now came into play.

“Explain this to me slowly son. Don’t leave out any details no matter how small. Take a deep breath and exhale. Relax and tell me all about it.”

With a certain amount of reluctance Brad told Tyler the whole sordid story.

“When I was born my father, who was rather drunk at the time, gave me the middle name of Rosebud. Those were the last words Charles Foster Kane said before he died in the film Citizen Kane. He adored that film.”

“Your sainted soon to-be mother-in-law used make me watch that damn fool movie every time its was on. I’ve seen eight times. Hated every minute of it.”

As they all walked into the Tuxedo Wing Brad made an unusual request.

“I know it’s not the norm Tyler but would it be alright if I chose a white tux. I’ve already cleared it with Milly”

Tyler looked a little queasy just thinking about the idea.

“You sure about this Brad?”

“More than ever. Milly knows why and I have her OK.”

“OK. Here you go. I hope you do know you’ll look like the vanilla frosting on a chocolate cake.”

“That’s alright with me” said Milly who was dying to take a bite out the cake.

Tyler handed it to Brad. Tyler looked like he was about to be ill.

“OK you two. Lets go to the cash.”

Suddenly, Milly exploded in anger and profanities took flight.

“Holy friggin’ Fuzzbucket. Damn and double damn. I knew we forgot something. Money!” she said. “I’m so angry right now I spit nails.” Milly pouted and frowned all at the same time.

Tyler put an arm around Brads neck and asked him a question.

“I seem to remember something about the father of the bride paying for the wedding. Did you ever hear anything like that?”

“I seem to remember hearing something about that too.” said Brad

Suddenly Milly expression went from a dark, dark frown to wide, wide smile.

Tyler whispered to Brad. “If I didn’t at least offer her mother would have my guts for garters.”

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“Inspection” Chapter 10B in the Panooksa Saga

Idea by Tom Austin                                                       Written by Tom Austin           

Revised by Tom Austin

“I suppose we can take a look at it right now if you want to. But remember you’re in the Second Realm now. You can’t hop in a car or hail a cab.”

Brad risked Tyler’s wrath and interrupted.

“That’s what I would like to know. The entire time we’ve been here we haven’t seen a single car, cab, or even a horse. How you folks  get around here?”

Milly closed her eyes and winced. Surprisingly her father’s temper did not explode as she fully expected. Instead, her father praised Brad for noticing the lack of transport.

“Brad raises an excellent question. If a person, or in this case persons are going to live in this realm they are going to find out sooner or later. This isn’t science fiction or an episode of The Twilight Zone Brad. We get around via telepathy. Some people prefer to walk, and that’s fine if you’re going short distances like we did when we first met. But if a person wants to go to a specific place like we do we go via telepathy. You stand still, you clear your mind and think of where you want to go. If your mind isn’t clear you could find yourself halfway up a tree. That’s what happened to me shortly after Tilly and I came here. It’s also handy if you want to find a specific person. Say you wanted to see that Merlin fellow but you didn’t know where he was. Travel by telepathy would take you to with ten feet of him.”

“What if he was a busy, or otherwise engaged daddy,” asked Milly.

“You’d see a large red busy signal sign.”

Brad leaned over to Milly and quietly said “I’m pretty sure I don’t want that image in my mind ever. Just the idea of seeing Merlin getting busy is rather unsettling.”

Tyler asked everybody to stand.

“Milly, hold Brad’s hand. I’ll hold your mother’s hand. And Tilly, hold on to Brads other hand. We’re about to go to the road just outside the house.”

Everybody held hands. “How come I feel like I’m at some of revival meeting,” said Brad.

All color suddenly disappeared, they vanished, and all four found themselves on the road outside the house. Absolutely nothing went wrong in the transport. Except for some reason Brad ended with a wooden bucket over his head.

“Hey! Who turned out the lights?”

Milly turned her head, looked at Brad, and started to laugh. Tilly snickered a bit too.

Tyler helped Brad get the bucket off his head.

“That, my boy, is probably because of that revival comment.”

“The groom-to-be is not amused.”

Their next attempt at getting to the house in the picture was far more successful.

Milly ran up the stairs at the front and ran to the porch swing. She was so happy. Her dream was coming true. Then she inspected the wood trim on the front windows by tapping on it with her fingernails. If the wood was old and in need of repair her fingernails would leave an impression in the trim. They were alright. She opened the front door and spun in the hall. The wood paneling was perfect. She went from the living room to the front hall to the dining room.

“Everything is perfect!” she squealed.

When she inspected the kitchen she was struck by its sheer enormity. “It’s almost as big as the apartment back in the city” she exclaimed. Then she darted upstairs. She decided the wooden floors in the main bedroom might need some work. Brad, Tilly, and Tyler were coming up the staircase when Milly suddenly darted through the hall going from the main bedroom to the guest bedroom.

“I love it, I love, I love it” she said

Brad inspected the electrical and plumbing work. He was surprised to find circuit breakers. He couldn’t help but notice the screws were still shiny. And they still had the marks of the screwdriver that put them there. “I cant find a thing wrong. Are you telling me you didn’t have anybody do any work here ?”. Tyler said they couldn’t have and they didn’t own the house. While Tyler was talking with Brad Tilly thought she heard a noise downstairs. She went to inspect. When she got to the main floor she found Sirena Telford.

“What are you nitwits doing in my house,” said Sirena.

Tilly explained that they thought the property was for sale.

“It is ! she bellowed. “It’s my house, I’m selling it. Now get out!”.

Tyler now appeared, and patiently explained what he and Tilly wanted to do. It didn’t do any good. Then Milly appeared.

“What’s all the racket? Who is making enough noise to shake the rafters?”

“And I suppose you’re their brat”. Brad now came downstairs, and just in time to restrain Milly from knocking Sirena into next the next county.

“Who’s the hunk? I haven’t seen you before. You must be new in The Town.” and she flicked a lock of Brad’s hair.

Milly went berserk when she saw that. “He’s my fiancé you bitter old witch,” said Milly who tried to claw at Sirena. Brad held Milly arms with one hand. He put his other arm around Milly’s waist and took one step back to prevent Milly from clawing or kicking Sirena. “Let me at her. I’ll put super bitch in the hospital.”

Tyler took over. “I apologize for my daughter’s behavior. We’ll leave. But I suspect you just alienated the only potential buyer.”

Tyler, Tilly, and Brad went to the road. Brad, who still had an arm around Milly’s waist while the other held her arms tried to clear their minds so they could teleport back to the house. However, with Milly squirming and swearing teleporting wasn’t easy. When they finally were outside the  Shine house Tyler suggested to Brad it might a good idea if he could put her in the shower when they got home. In the living room, Milly’s behavior became more annoying. She collapsed on the floor like a small child having a tantrum. He picked her up at the waist of her pants and hauled her into the shower. He then turned on the cold water. Screams came from the shower. Then crying.

Brad and Tyler sat in chairs situated in the living room and took stock of recent events. “Well, that was an interesting little jaunt. Just who the heck was that?” asked Brad.

Tyler leaned forward, rested his elbows on his legs, and massaged the rapidly tensing muscles in the neck.

“That was Sirena Telford. She is The Towns resident pain in the ass and the worlds most pathetic excuse for a human being. If The Town votes to do something she’ll vote against it. You see when then minutes from the meeting are printed  her name will be in print. She gets her jollies from that. She’s the longest living resident of the town. I think she used to be a movie star or something”

“Well I’ve never heard of her and I took the history of film class when I was at college,” said Brad. “Why is she so bitter” added Brad.

“You no doubt noticed that conical gown she wore.”

“I couldn’t help but notice. What’s the story with that?”

“The word around town is this and I’ll number the highlights for you. One. She thought she was gods gift to Hollywood. Two.  Nobody would work with her because of her temper, and her constant insults. Three. When she couldn’t get work she sulked inside her mansion and watched old movies of herself. Four. She tried to blow her brains out with a pistol. The trigger had already been pulled and the bullet was speeding down the barrel. That’s when Messenger intervened. Only he botched the job. There wasn’t enough time to fully come to this realm. Coming to this realm didn’t work out as planned. The poor woman’s head and body made it, but her feet were a shriveled mess. Messenger constructed that gown for her so she could move around or “glide” as she puts it. But all that did was make her angrier, and let all that met her know she couldn’t walk. That’s why she’s so bitter and angry with everyone she meets. Miss Personality is angry at the world, and won’t let any of us forget it. The fact that none of us in The Realm had anything to do with her accident doesn’t seem to matter. We’re all guilty by association with Messenger. Even you and Milly.”


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“Early Stages” Chap. 10 in the Panooksa Saga

Idea by Tom Austin                                                    Written by Tom Austin

                                               Revised by Tom Austin

Things were far from harmonious at the Shine house. Milly had her own ideas of how she wanted things at her wedding. And Tilly had her own. It soon became obvious that nothing was going to get done. Tyler looked at Brad and said “At this stage a wise man says nothing. Say anything and you risk getting your head handed to you.”

Tyler listened to decibel level rise. What he was hearing was almost a screaming match. When the volume reached an intolerable level he stood up, held a book with his right hand, and raised the index finger of his of his left hand. Tilly and Milly were hunched over the breakfast table looking at a very rough sketch and barking at each other. When Tilly noticed her husband standing she put her hand on top of her daughters shoulders, and told her to be quiet. Suddenly, there was silence where only moments before there had been barely controlled chaos.

“I’ve only two pieces of advice. One for Tilly and one for Milly. Milly, your mothers have been planning your wedding day since the day you were born. In fact, you weren’t a day old before she started talking about the day I’d be taking you down the aisle. Listen to her, consider her suggestions. And if you find them sound but in need of alteration don’t be afraid to do just that.”

“My next piece of sage advice is for my wife. Tilly, I know you want to do everything. And you want only the very best for our daughter. That’s only natural. But Milly is the one getting married. She has the final say. If anybody needs me, which I doubt, I’ll be in the den.”

Tyler walked across the living room, entered the room he called his ‘den’ and closed the door. Milly’s jaw fell open, watched her father walk across the room, and disappear behind a door.

“What was all that about,” she said?

Tilly motioned for her daughter to be silent and to come into the kitchen. “Since you’re about to be part of this family, you better come as well Brad.”

Tilly spoke quietly, almost whispering.”Ever since the accident, when we saw Messenger for the very first time, your father has had heart problems. He has heart arrhythmias. But for heaven’s sake, don’t let him know you know, or I told you.” Tilly went on to inform them that he retired from being a doctor because of the heart problems, but that he still teaches and lectures at The Town hospital.

Milly was puzzled. “Hold it just one second. Did daddy have these heart problems before or after meeting Messenger?”

“He started getting them when we came here,” said Tilly

Milly suddenly went silent. “That’s two. Now I want to talk to Sirena Telford”.

“What are you on about?. What does that horrible woman have to do with my Tyli-poo,” said Tilly

Milly and Brad couldn’t believe their ears. They both looked at Tilly with a mixture of horror and astonishment.

“Yuck. Mother, that name is terrible.”

“He dislikes it too. I’ve tried different variations over the years, but nothing seems to fit”.

Brad agreed. “Makes me want to hurl”.

“Let’s get back to the matter at hand. You still want to know about Sirena Telford?”

“This very instant!”

“She might be the key to something that’s been bothering Brad and me ever since we first met somebody that looked very much like Messenger.”

Brad went outside to chop wood for his soon to be in-laws. The mere mention of Messenger made his blood boil. He had to do something physical to get rid of this sudden surge of hostility. He took off his shirt, set a piece of wood on the chopping block, and brought the ax down with his strength. It wasn’t long before he had worked up a significant sweat.

Milly and Tilly returned to making preliminary wedding arrangements only this time there was less confrontation to worry about. They were still talking when Tilly went to the kitchen to make some coffee. Tilly was not aware Brad was outside, shirtless, sweaty, or chopping wood. When she looked out the kitchen window, she saw Brad and the sweat glistening on his body. Suddenly the words “That muscle, those abs. He’s an Adonis” slipped out.

Milly was shocked at what she just heard.


“Sorry about that. I was once a young woman too you know. I simply meant to say that you picked well.”

“Well…just stop it. Hearing you talk like that is just plain creepy”

“You know his body would be perfect if it didn’t have those scratches on it,” added Tilly.

Milly went beet red and grabbed the nearest magazine and pretended to read it. She didn’t even notice the magazine was upside down.

Together Milly and her mother fleshed out a plan that was essentially Milly’s. But this time it had a little more meat on the bone. Milly would get a few friends from her realm,  to act as bride’s maids. The gown would be paid for from her trust fund. Brad wouldn’t know there were going to be two gowns though. Brad thought about asking Mechanic Mike, the man who took care of his red Mustang, and the person he’s known since the seventh grade to act as best man.

Tyler read a book in the den. When he entered the room he decided he wanted no part in the planning stage. Milly was her own woman, as was Tilly. Nothing would get done until those two learned to talk to each other instead of trying to compete. But after a while, the volume calmed down. He hoped that the two had learned to talk to each other, instead of talking at one another. As was his habit he frequently stood while reading. For most of his professional life, he had stood, and saw no reason to change that particular habit. The den was where he kept all the awards he had amassed over his time in the second realm. A lot of the time when he knew he was going to get an award he would saw ask Tilly a rhetorical question. “Why should I should I get an award? For heaven’s sake, I’m simply doing the job I was trained for”. One thing he resented was an award ceremony in the middle of the workday. On those occasions, he openly complained “Why can’t they just mail me the damn thing. I could be saving somebody’s life right now, or setting a broken limb. But no. I’ve got to eat some of this god awful rubber chicken, and look like I’m enjoying it.”

Of all the awards, and there many, the one he liked the most, and the one that had presented the least inconvenience to him was the Century award. The Town hospital turned one hundred years old and Tyler was the acting as chief of staff. The actual administrator was practicing his putting skills when he flipped on a golf ball. He broke his foot on his desk. Tyler  accepted the century award, made a few golf-related jokes, and brought the award home. The award was obviously a rush job. The hospital never noticed the incorrect spelling on the plaque. Instead of reading the century award it read the “Sentry” award. There would soon be another reason to like it.

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Engagement – Ch.9C in the Panooksa Saga

Idea by Tom Austin                                  Originally written by Tom Austin

                                               Revised by Tom Austin

Content with what had he had heard Tyler and Brad walked along the dirt road.

Brad had a question of his own.

“How did you know I was madly in love your daughter”

“It was at the ballgame. Actually, it was a combination of things. First, it was the way Milly called you. It wasn’t the words exactly, but there was something special in the way she said them. Secondly, it was the way you responded to her voice. You seemed so glad to hear it, and see her. Thirdly, the dead give away or maybe I should say clincher, was your face. You were shaking hands with me, but it was the way you were looking at her. Have you any idea how you’re you intend to ask her?”

“Not a clue. To be honest when we first tried out that damn doorway Messenger told Milly about I had no intention of asking her to marry me. But ever since we arrived I’ve had this feeling that if I don’t ask her I’ll bust. I want her to be in my life, and I want to be part of hers. I want to be able to call her my wife”. They soon came within sight of the Shine household.

Tyler puffed on his pipe and offered some advice.

“I’d ask her, and ask her as soon as possible. I discovered when I was dating her mother the longer I put it off the harder the task became. And the longer I waited the more crumby I felt.” Then he handed him a ring. “I suspect you’ll need this. It’s a family heirloom. It was her grandmothers wedding ring. Now you’re fully equipped.”

Brad was flummoxed. “How did you know I didn’t have a ring?”

“A fathers instinct. Don’t worry. You’ll get one eventually too.”

As Tyler and Brad walked on the road Brad was on the side of the road where there wasn’t moonlight. He wanted the moonlight to augment Tyler’s poor night vision. Just before they turned towards the house Brad stepped into moonlight. He was soaked in nervous sweat.

“If you want my advice, I think you’d better ask her before you drown.Do you want me to send her out?”

“No. Just let me lean against the fence a couple of minutes. I need to collect my thoughts.”

All of a sudden Tyler broke into a run, and ran towards the house. As soon as he entered he noticed Milly and Tilly were still seated at the dining room table and were still talking.

“It’s Brad! I think he’s having an allergic reaction to something. Milly get out there and keep an eye on him. I’ll get my bag.”

Milly rocketed out the door, going as fast as she could to the shadowy figure now gripping the fence with both hands.

Tilly got flustered and worried.

“If anything happens to him I’ll never forgive myself.”

It was then she saw her husband sitting down, gripping a pipe in his teeth, reading a newspaper.

“Why aren’t you worried, why aren’t you getting your bag, and why are you sitting down reading a paper!”

“I can’t do anything for Brad. It all depends on what our daughter says.”

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“He’s proposing, or at least trying to.”

Tilly’s face had a blank expression then a look of happiness took over. “You know what this could mean – grandchildren!”

“Yup, that’s the way it usually works.”

“Aren’t you happy?”

“Yup. Thrilled beyond belief. Tickled pink” said Tyler like he didn’t care at all.

“Oh poo” said Tilly who was not thrilled at her husbands attitude and gave him a short Bronx cheer.

“BRAD!” screamed Milly. “What’s wrong?”

Brad leaned against a fence railing, then pushed himself away from it. He wanted to face Milly. Milly could see his shirt was soaked.

“I want to…I’ve got to ask you something.”

Milly could sense it was very something important.

“OK. Shoot.”

Brad got down one knee.

“Oh my god” she said quickly.

“Milly Shine, I love you, and want you in my life. Will you do me the honor of marrying me.” He pulled the ring from his pocket.

Milly was surprised, and put both her hands in front of her mouth.

She then had a mischievous smile and put her hands in her pockets.

“Can I have some time to think about it?’

“Certainly. Take all the time you need.”

Brad was not expecting this turn of events.

“Ok…I guess” said Milly.


“Yes I will marry you”

Brad yelled “Yahoo!” at the top of his lungs which only served to wake the neighbors and start a dog barking. Milly put her arms around her fiancé’s neck, jumped up, and put her legs around his waist. Brad kissed her so passionately Milly she could feel goosebumps on the back of her neck, and her toes curl.

“You’ve never kissed me like that. Keep doing it and I’m going to get a panty puddle” she whispered.

“Do you want me to stop?”

“Hell no…Keep going!”

“You know what I want to do?” said Brad

“If it’s what I’m feeling I’m sorry but you’ll have to wait just a little bit longer. I want to wait till it’s one hundred per cent legal. Why don’t we find a place a little more private. We’ve got some real talking to do.” With Milly legs firmly locked around Brads waist they walked down the road.

Milly and Brad snuck into her mom and dads house in the early hours of the morning. Brad insisted she take the guest room, and Milly was too tired to argue. Brad reminded her about the ring.

“Put it on the night table before you get undressed. I love you.”

“And I love you saying it”. She blew him a kiss and closed the guest room door.

Brad took off his shirt and crashed on the couch. The last thing he remembered was Tilly putting a blanket on him. “Thank you” she whispered and she gave Brad a peck on the cheek.

Tyler sat the breakfast table, looked over his glasses and noticed Brad stir. “Good Gravy its alive! You were right Tilly. We should have sold tickets”

“Very funny Dr. Jackhammer. How can you sleep with inhuman noise Tilly?”

“I know it’s very old technology but it works. Rubber ear plugs.”

“Is her ladyship alive, or is she still in the Land of Nod?”

Just then then guest room door opened.

“She’s alive, and she smells coffee. I’ll take mine black. Please”

“Morning dear, sleep well dear?” asked Tilly.

A wide sleepy smile took over her face. “You can bet the ranch on that.”

As Brad was putting on his shirt Tilly noticed some scratches on his back but wisely decided not to say anything. Brad rubbed his face and found he was need of a shave.

“Have you ever used a straight razor before?” asked Tyler.

“That’s the way I started shaving. All my old girlfriends appreciated the closeness of the shave.”

Milly heard the playful jab and playfully hissed and clawed at Brad.

Tilly noticed Milly was not wearing her ring.

“Is there anything we should know?”

“No. After I proposed Milly and I went into The Town to get the ring sized. We woke a jeweler and got it done.” said Brad.

“Last Night?” asked Tyler

“We pounded on his door till he opened up. Said something about “taking a flying leap at the moon”. He sized the ring. When he found out Milly was your daughter he told us to remind you about “The Lure” whatever that means.”

“Sounds like Joe Crangle. Every year your father has beaten him in some fishing contest” said Tilly.

“And since you asked about the ring we thought we’d re-enact the ring portion of last night. This will be the first time Milly has worn the ring”.

“Milly Shine, I love you, and want you in my life. Will you do me the honor of marrying me.”

Milly was surprised, and put both her hands in front of her mouth.

She then had a mischievous smile and put her hands in her pockets of her kimono.

“Can I have some time to think about it?’

“Certainly. Take all the time you need”

“Ok…I guess” said Milly.

“Huh ?”

“Yes I will marry you”

And they kissed, not quite as passionately as last night. Tilly had tears in her eyes.

“Yuck! It’s like kissing a porcupine. Have a shave. Please!”

Tyler couldn’t help but laugh.

“I think you been given your first orders by your soon to be wife.”

“And when you come back from removing that facial fungus, we’ll have a little chat about the arrangements” said Tilly.

“It’s at times like this I really wish we had a basement.”

“Why in heavens name would you want one of those.”

“So I can hide. You forget. I know what happens next. ”

Musings of Meg Sorick can be found Here!

Take a look at Meg Soricks Bucks County novel series Here!

Purchase her award-winning novel Three Empty Frames from Amazon

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Reunion-Chapter 9b in the Panooksa Saga

Idea by Tom Austin                                                  Written by Tom Austin

After everyone was seated at the table Tyler said “I know there are probably a thousand questions but this is a meal of Thanksgiving. We’ve finally found our daughter, and we’re meeting the man who helped her become so very happy. Let’s leave the questions till after dinner shall we. And now I’d like to propose a toast”. He raised a glass of wine.

“To newly found friends and family. After so long we’re back together”.

Tyler dabbed any remaining gravy from the corners of his mouth with his napkin. He was about to compliment his wife on a delicious meal. But Brad beat him to it.

“Mrs. Shine, it’s been some time since I had a meal like that. It truly was terrific. On behalf of your Milly, your husband, and myself we thank you”.

Tilly blushed a bit at the unexpected praise.

“Why thank you, Bradley. Tyler hasn’t said anything like that in some time. But please call me Tilly and I won’t call you Bradley. Tyler told me quietly of your dislike for the name Bradley, and to a certain degree, I don’t blame you. I had a cousin named Bradley who was a perfect little horror”.

“You have a deal, Tilly. Now that we’ve finished dinner there is a question that I’d really appreciate an answer to.”

Milly turned to Brad and held his hand. She talked in hushed tones.

“Brad, please don’t ask. I don’t care what the answer is. They’re here and that’s all that counts”

“You used to be a doctor. Aren’t you the least bit curious?”.

“I’m pleading with you. I don’t want to know. Please don’t do this.” She squeezed his hand to show her desire not to know.

Tyler cleared his throat and spoke up. “I suspect you’re curious as to why we’re not dead. The answer is we don’t know why. All I remember is that Tilly” he touched her hand and continued. “Tilly and I were headed down a hill in a car when our brakes gave. We were about to go over a cliff. There is no way this accident should have been survivable, yet here we are”.

Brad interrupted. “But that doesn’t explain why -”

Milly looked very uncomfortable like she knew what was about to happen.

Tyler pointed his index finger straight at Brad.

“Look, I’ve been a teacher longer than you’ve been alive. You asked a question. Kindly allow me to continue giving you the full answer without interruption”.

“I apologize, sir. Please continue”.

“Much better. Now as I was saying here we are. All I remember is that Messenger suddenly appeared in the windshield. Then whoosh…we’re here. Apparently in the few seconds after the car left the cliff time slowed down and we had a very lengthy conversation with him. He asked us if we wanted to continue living. Then he asked if we wanted to live here. We both wanted to live, and by our estimate, we didn’t have any choice but to say yes to us living in The Second Realm. His first question was really a very stupid one. Our car was about to become the size of a tuna fish can, and he asks us if we want to live. He’s really a nice fellow once you get to know him. Still, a damn strange question if you ask me”.

“Milly and I had a similarly awkward first encounter with him. I was about to lose my apart-”

Tyler held up his hand and motioned to Brad to stop.

Milly had moved her chair closer to her mother. The two were talking very quietly. Girl talk had begun. The kind of girl talk only a mother and daughter could have. And to Tyler that meant just one thing: Retreat.

“Brad, it would seem our respective ladies are having a little pow-wow. Why don’t we don’t we go for a walk and stretch our legs. Shoot the breeze, or whatever they call it now”.

“That sounds like a good idea. I think I’ll join you”

Tyler excused himself from the table, leaned over to his living room chair  and grabbed a pouch of pipe tobacco. Brad was surprised to see a doctor who still smoked.

“It’s my only vise if you don’t count the Scotch”. Brad smiled.

“Don’t worry Dr. Shine. You’re forgiven. I used to have an uncle who smoked a pipe. The aroma from the pipe is quite pleasing”.

The two men exited the house without Tilly or Milly batting an eye.

They walked in silence toward a dirt road and picket fence. Tyler banged the bowl of the pipe on a fence post to knock the old, cold tobacco out. He then filled the bowl with fresh tobacco and lit it.

“That feels better. Now let’s down to brass tacks. You can stop blowing smoke up my ass. Start by being honest. So cut the bull”.

“I am being honest”.

“Look Brad. Being super polite goes only so far. The name is Tyler. I suggest you start using it. Now what’s going on between you and my daughter?

“Dr. – I mean Tyler. I first met Milly when her group was rotated to my department. There was something special about her. We had a patient we couldn’t do anything on but most basic tests. For some reason, I still don’t understand, Milly volunteered to watch the patient over an entire weekend. She even brought a DVD player to the hospital to watch a really old film. Sometimes -”

“Watch it, Brad. What’s “really old” to you isn’t “old” to me at all. Get my drift?”.

“Something in this film caused this person to react orally and physically. He started bowing at the TV set”.

As the sun set Tyler pulled out some glasses and plunked them on his nose. Brad noticed this.

“I’ve got crappy night vision. Can barely see anything at night. Go on”.

“Well, this fellow literally vanished, and Milly too”.

“Vanished? Don’t you mean you just couldn’t find him?”

“Nope. Vanished as into thin air. Milly initially rented an apartment near the hospital, but she disappeared. No one could find her. The police stopped looking after a few months. There was no trace of her”.

“Cops. Never cared for them. Couldn’t find their ass with a map. But you did find her. What’s so different about you?”

“Maybe it’s because I cared about her. I gave a damn. I found her living in a seedy part of the city. After I got evicted -”

“What for,” he said gruffly biting the stem of his pipe.

“My apartment was being converted into a condo”.

“Those damn things still around?”

“Look, the city you knew is now three times as big. The selection was really bad and Milly offered to let me stay for a while at her place”.

Tyler grunted. “So she made the first move. Good”

“Look Tyler. I’ve answered all your damn questions, so let’s stop the hostility festival. All I want from you is your permission to marry Milly”

“And if I said no. What would you do?

“Well I’d go back to living with her, but things wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t tell her you were the one who screwed her chance at happiness if that’s what you’re worried about. But like I said things wouldn’t be the same. And eventually, I’d move out. There’s no way on Gods green earth I would stay there forever if you said no”.

Brad wanted Tyler’s approval really badly.

“So let me see if I’ve got this right. You’d actually sacrifice your own happiness so she could be happy?”.

“Yes, sir.  I love her that much. And I’m sorry if asking permission is old or quaint. That’s just the way I was brought up, and that’s the kind of man I am”.

The two had been walking side by side. Suddenly Tyler put his hand on Brad’s chest and walked in front of Brad. The two were face to face, and there was a tear in his eye. Tyler placed a hand on his shoulder.

“Brad, you’re one special fellow. Sorry for the Attila The Hun imitation. I needed to know what kind of man my daughter had fallen in love with. It’s one of the things a father has to do”.

“So this was that good cop-bad cop stuff?”.


“Tyler, did anybody ever say you should have been a cop?

“Not till you suggested it. But you do have my permission“. 

Further musings of Meg can be found right here!

Take a look at Meg Soricks Bucks County novel series here!

Purchase her award-winning novel Three Empty Frames from Amazon

                                            Just click right here!

“Reunion”-Chapter 9a in the Panooksa Saga

Idea by Tom Austin                                           Written by Tom Austin

The woman behind the counter took a second look at the cloth Milly handed her. “It’s definitely unique.” said the saleswoman. After pausing to think she said “I can’t see this causing any problems. I think it’s safe to say it’ll be ready in a week.”

“Great. I’ll see you in one week.” Milly waved goodbye and exited the store. She walked down the street with her hands in her pockets, her head looking this way and that. When she came to to the curb she came to a full stop out of reflex. On the other side of the road just in front of her was a familiar face. It was her father, Tyler Shine.

“Daddy?” she squealed.

“Milly? Is that really you?” he said slowly.

They ran toward each other, and collided with a force that would have knocked over a building. She didn’t have to worry about cars – The Town didn’t have any. They hugged, kissed, and cried. Milly hadn’t seen her father since she was a little girl.

Tyler Shine said “I’m never going to let you go. I’ve got you back” and rocked her gently from side to side. They hugged so long they started to block foot traffic. “Your mother’s is going to cry so much we’ll be able to water the garden for a week”. Milly kept hugging her father. “You have no idea how much I missed you” she replied.

Tyler brushed a tear from his face, composed himself, and asked “Where is that man of yours?” her father asked.

“Brad said he was going to check out the local hospital, but I suspect he’s doing exactly what I’m doing. Walking and snooping”.

Tyler put his arm around his daughters waist. “Tonight’s roast beef night and I’d like you and Brad stay for dinner and drinks. But first we have to find your man. Let’s see if he’s at the hospital”.

They looked for Brad at the hospital. They looked all over. They even asked Merlin. They finally found him teaching some kids how to play baseball. Milly knew how to get his attention instantly.

“Paging Dr. Peters, Dr. Peters, Dr. Bradley Peters”

Brad, who was leaning forward behind the catcher and playing the role of the umpire heard this rather unique request for his attention. He immediately stood up and looked in the direction the voice came from. He saw Milly and waved to her.

“I’ll be right there. One more batter to play in this inning.”

Tyler was standing right beside his daughter and saw her wave back enthusiastically. “I’m impressed. You have him well trained. I wasn’t that well trained until your mother and I had been married a couple of years”.

The next batter struck out and Brad ran over to Milly.

“Brad, I want you to meet my daddy, Dr.Tyler Shine” said Milly beaming with pride.

Brad stretched out his arm, and offered his hand in friendship.

“Pleasure to me you Dr. Shine. You have a gorgeous daughter”.

Dr. Tyler Shine smiled and shook Brad’s hand.

“I most certainly do. And its indeed a pleasure to meet the fellow who’s made my little girl so very happy. As I was telling Milly tonight is roast beef in the Shine household and I’d like it if you and Milly would join my wife and I for dinner and drinks. Plus it will give us a chance to ask some questions and hopefully answer some questions. Now is it Brad or Bradley?

“I’d appreciate if you just call me Brad sir. Milly is the only person I allow to call me Bradley. To be honest I really dislike the name. If I could change to  Brad I would, but the mountain of paperwork involved in changing my name makes me change my mind about the entire matter”.

Tyler clapped his hands together and starting rubbing them together. “I better call Milly’s mother or I’ll be in more trouble than you two can imagine”.

One thing about The Town is there were telephones on every other city block. Tyler picked up the phone nearest him, and started dialing. His wife answered.

“Would it be all right if I brought two guests over for dinner? I met this couple who are down on their luck, and they look like they haven’t eaten in a month.”

There was a pause. Then a distinctly female voice responded.

“I really dislike it when we have unexpected guests, especially strays, and you know how I feel about that. The roast beef is only for three people, but I suppose we could make it stretch. I’m not making any promises, but these people better be very special”. She didn’t say goodbye like she always did, just a loud click at the end of the phone. She was not pleased.

Milly looked at her fathers expression and came to the conclusion that something was wrong.

“What’s going on daddy?. You’ve got a look in your eye that tells me mother isn’t very happy with you”.

“She not happy with me at all, and that “look in my eye” is commonly know as fear. Your mother could get the Almighty to tremble in his boots with a single sentence”.

Brad who had been trying suppress laughing just couldn’t contain himself any longer. He burst out laughing.

“I’m not laughing at you sir, but now I know where Milly got that ability. Milly can sometimes get me quivering in my boots too”.

Milly rolled her eyes, crossed her arms and looked at Brad . “Oh I cannot! You’re exaggerating”

Tyler didn’t want to start any disagreements so he put one arm on his daughters shoulders, and his other arm on Brads shoulders. “Ok kiddies. Lets play nice. Anybody else smell roast beef?”.

Brad and Milly locked hands and began the journey to the Shine household with Tyler leading the way. But it wasn’t long before Milly whispered “You and I are going to talk” to Brad. Brad secretly hoped she would forget.

It wasn’t long before they reached the Shine house. It was on the edge of town, away from the hustle and bustle of The Town proper.

Tyler turned towards Brad. “Now Milly’s mother are expecting a couple of strays. We used to call them hobos or bums when I was your age. So try to look the part”.

Milly whispered that her dad was secretly a frustrated actor.

As they approached the house Tyler had one last bit of stage direction for Brad. “And don’t forget to mumble”.

Tilly was at the kitchen sink with her back to the door. When the front door was opened Tyler announced he was home. Brad followed head down. Tilly still faced away from her guests.

“Howdy ma’am” said Brad with all the enthusiasm of a man walking to the electric chair.

Milly gripped the door frame and stuck her head just inside the door. “Hello there mom”.

Tilly went white as a sheet, a plate slipped from her grasp, and crashed in the sink. Slowly she turned around and saw her daughter.

“Milly, is that really you,” she said quietly.

“In the flesh” said Milly who now stood inside the house, arms out stretched, and tears in her eyes.

Tilly wiped her hands on the apron she was wearing, then ran through the living room and into the arms of her daughter. Tilly cried. Milly cried. Even Brad got a little misty-eyed. Tyler poured himself a Scotch, sat in his favorite chair, and bawled his brains out.

Other musings of Meg  can be found right Here!

Take a look at Bucks County Novel series Right Here!

Her award-winning novel Three Empty Frames can be purchased from Amazon

Just click Here!