Nancy L. Reed



About Author Nancy L. Reed

My first writing attempt, at the age of four, was a soup-and-sandwich cafe menu. A love of words grew from that time. I wrote poetry during my elementary and high school years resulting in two chapbooks. Numerous short stories and the beginnings of two novels blossomed from the heady days of writing fiction during college. After college I took a variety of writing classes and workshops to further fuel my passion.

My lifelong relationship with words has brought me here — a book of short stories, a collection of memory snippets, and a gift book of poems and songs about dogs. A second book of memory snippets, a second dog-grr-el book, and a children's book in poetic form will be published in 2016, with a novel following soon after.

The power of words to describe the world we live in and those worlds we’ve never seen, to celebrate people we know and those we’ve never met, and to share our thoughts and feelings as well as focus our futures is a gift we give ourselves and others. Enjoy your words.

Story Excerpts: Introducing Miss Jolley and Mrs. Sparkle

From: A Conversation Between Two Great Friends

Miss Jolley and Mrs. Sparkle are ladies of a certain age and great friends. They know each other's life stories so well it seems as if they grew up together. As is true with members of a family, they don’t always agree, but the consequences of their debates don’t disrupt their relationship. They have no need to defend themselves against each other, and they never assume their disagreements constitute attacks on each other’s beliefs or intelligence.

Indeed, Miss Jolley can’t remember a time when she’s grown angry because Mrs. Sparkle disagreed with her. She simply acknowledges her friend’s opinion as something worthy of further consideration.

And, Mrs. Sparkle doesn’t recall a time when their disagreements caused her to be exasperated with her friend. She simply acknowledges that they are two individualistic thinkers, both with valid points of view.

They know with total confidence that their friendship will only grow and strengthen through their interactions. Indeed, they learn something new about themselves or each other from their differing opinions, or they simply disagree and go on with their conversation.

“Of no importance,” they both proclaim.

Despite the differences in their personalities and lifestyles, they suit each other nicely. When they’re together, they enjoy intimate conversations and pleasurable silences. When they’re apart, they hold each other gently in their minds and hearts until they meet again.

Even for someone who knows them well, Dear Reader, trying to describe the two great friends is both challenging and delightful. Their appearances might inspire many splendid and colorful sketches, but a description of their personalities always seems, to an attentive listener, to lack completeness and depth, due not to the lack of observation, but to the fact that the friends are extremely reserved persons.

They may appear a bit Victorian, but, although the ladies are twenty first century women in many ways, they possess timeless sensibilities.

It seems best to let the ladies present themselves for your consideration, although a brief attempt at verbal portraiture is too tempting to resist.

Allow me to introduce Miss Jolley and Mrs. Sparkle.

Miss Jolley stands short and round. At one time, a small child candidly remarked that she was "the lady with lotsa gray hairs who wears clothes too big" – which is, of course, perfectly accurate. Young children can be terribly truthful. In fact, Miss Jolley wears overly large attire on purpose. She explains, although uncomfortable in the restrictions of clothing, she’s far too reserved a person to be a nudist, so she chooses the most comfortable option – baggy clothing she can swim in.

Perhaps her discomfort with well-fitted clothing has something to do with her odd sense of claustrophobia. Claustrophobic in a large room filled with chattering strangers, she’s at ease in a carload of friends with all the windows closed. Although quite comfortable in her small home, a bungalow of only five hundred square feet filled to the shutters with all her treasures, she feels distressingly hemmed in living in a town closely surrounded by other towns instead of open vistas. Miss Jolley believes when one leaves a city, one should truly depart the metropolitan area and see the last house or sidewalk adjacent to open spaces. It seems to her a rude trick to leave one town at the end of a block and be in the next on the opposite side of the intersection.

Miss Jolley lives alone. Although she wed twice, she hasn't been married now for a very long time. She still maintains a friendly, although long distance, relationship with her divorced husbands – husband second more than husband first. She contends that she and he didn’t want to ruin a wonderful friendship with an uncongenial marriage.

She’s quite content to share her life with Belle Bête, her aging but true and constant canine companion, often referred to by Miss Jolley as her fine, furry, four-footed, funny friend. She loves alliteration and often speaks to Belle in such a manner. Belle listens politely and sometimes even finds humor in her human's foible, responding by circular wags of her tail – her form of laughter – or giddy dancing – her response to goofiness.

To people who’ve known her well, Miss Jolley displays a mixture of pixie and crone – the pixie of children's stories, the crone of folk wisdom. She seems to move from one role to the other without any conscious knowledge of doing so.

Perhaps there really are modern-day, short-cycled changelings who never recognize their true natures.

She once wondered aloud if she would live long enough to become.

"Become what?" Mrs. Sparkle inquired.

"Whoever it is I'm supposed to really be," Miss Jolley responded, which may explain why she’s so perplexing to describe. She can't describe herself.

In visual contrast, Mrs. Sparkle’s bearing is thin and straight. Although not tall, she stands so erect that the children she once taught regarded her as a tree, sometimes towering and unyielding – at such times to be obeyed without question. At other times, graceful and bending – the time for laughter and gleeful adventure. The children instinctively sensed her nature even though they didn't realize they knew.

I believe that she possesses the essence of the ent, a talking, walking tree who whips its branches alarmingly during unsettling times and yet is graceful and gentle in peaceful interludes. An ent who wears a myriad of colors through the seasons of life.

Mrs. Sparkle wears clothing of the most extraordinary colors, always elegant and remarkably unique. Friends marvel at the rainbow display of her combined attire, but find, when they try, they can never achieve the same effect. They look as if they’ve dressed in the dark or forgotten their color wheels.

Mrs. Sparkle shares a loving and devoted partnership with Mr. Sparkle. They experience life's gifts and deprivations and remain unfaltering companions. They bore and raised a son late in life, and their small family is their foundation. He has grown into a bright, loving man and an unquenchable taster of life, travelling the world and sending back tales of his adventures in long, poignant letters which Mrs. Sparkle shares with her friend.

Mr. and Mrs. Sparkle devote the warmer seasons to their gardens and their long walks in the mountains. When colder weather arrives, they live cozily with their favorite books and music and their long visits with friends in the hundred year old house they’ve renovated with loving care.

Early in their growing friendship, Mrs. Sparkle and Miss Jolley established a tradition of hours-long conversations over coffees and teas, brunches and lunches. Retired from the drudgery of work life, they see each other often. Their time together occurs outside the ordinary definitions and strictures of hours or minutes. They don't regard their time together as too much or too little or the span of time apart as too long or too short. The topics they explore result from their insatiable curiosity and love of learning, and they are disinclined to share as deeply with a multitude of people as they do with each other.

The following are recollections of some of the great friends' conversations through which you may come to know them more intimately. Neither are aware of these small voyeuristic offerings, and so, Dear Reader, you must be a most quiet and respectful audience.

Story Excerpts: Worth a Thousand Words

From: A Conversation Between Two Great Friends

The great friends sipped their flavored steamers. They felt silly and lightheaded on this December evening, hearts carefree and minds receptive, open to infinite possibilities.

Holiday energy and excitement charged the atmosphere in the coffee shop, inspired, perhaps, by the view of Christmas shoppers seen through the many-paned window in front of their table. The friends experienced amazement at its dimensions, reaching nearly from ceiling to floor and spanning most of the front wall.

Maybe the flavorings in their hazelnut steamed milk, their holiday drink, contained a touch of alcohol, which caused inhibitions to relax a bit. They leaned their heads together like young girls and tittered over inanities.

After an uncharacteristic episode of the giggles, and in an attempt to recover their breaths and their decorum, they sat back in their chairs and struggled to look like proper ladies. They avoided eye contact, which could easily set them off again, and glanced out at the snow-encrusted streets and sidewalks, shop awnings, and mountain peaks silhouetted against the lowering skies above the nineteenth century shops across the way. All the small panes of glass were accented by the curious light streaming through them, a mixture of twilight and street lamps.

Mrs. Sparkle's gaze rested on one pane in particular. She whispered softly to herself, "It's a Currier and Ives."   

"What?" Miss Jolley asked, craning to hear what her friend said.

"A Currier and Ives painting. Truly. "

"Where?" Miss Jolley glanced from side to side and scanned the walls for a piece of art she had somehow missed, unconsciously pushing her lose fitting glasses up onto the bridge of her nose. They constantly slid down and threatened to fall to the floor.

"No, not in here," Mrs. Sparkle responded. "Out there, through this single pane of glass."

Miss Jolley leaned across the table and peered intently where Mrs. Sparkle gestured genteelly with an open-palmed hand. She narrowed her visual focus to the single pane and squealed like a delighted child.

"A Currier and Ives! All the people in their winter finery enjoying the beautiful holiday displays in the shop windows.  The children playing tag around the legs of the adults. It resembles a modern Main Street painting. How wonderful!"

Mesmerized, they stared at the scene until Miss Jolley's back cramped, and she had to push herself upright with an effort. At the same time, she and Mrs. Sparkle noticed David standing patiently by their table, two more steamed milks on his serving tray and a Cheshire cat grin on his face.

His usual silent self, David served their steamers, leaned down and looked through the Currier and Ives pane. Giving them a thumbs-up, he smiled broadly and retrieved their empty mugs. As he left their table, he performed a quick two-step as if to say ta da. Both ladies smiled, pleased that he delighted in their discovery.

"What an artist's eye you have," Miss Jolley remarked to Mrs. Sparkle. "All I've ever seen through this window is the hustle and bustle of peoples' lives as they pass by, but you see the beauty of a classical painting. I wish I had such vision."

"Pretend you're at the art gallery on one of our excursions. Look through a different pair of glasses, as it were. Now, concentrate on one pane of the window."

Miss Jolley's eyes darted from one pane to another until she grew dizzy and impatient with the exercise.

"Slow down. Just pick one pane. Try this one." Mrs. Sparkle chose the pane directly in front of Miss Jolley at eye level.

For several minutes, Miss Jolley stared at the indicated pane, but when no picture materialized, she shook her head in frustration, sending her glasses to the floor at her feet. She bent to pick them up, but froze in that position for several seconds and began to laugh.

"Do you feel alright?" Mrs. Sparkle inquired.

"Look, look, look!" Miss Jolley said.

"I can't see anything from here. What do you see?"

"Come over here and look ... please," Miss Jolly insisted.

Mrs. Sparkle stood, walked behind her friend, and looked down. Miss Jolley remained doubled over looking through the window pane close to ground level. She hadn't put her glasses on, so she’d scrunched her eyes trying to focus. On the other side of the glass, a small white dog looked like a pen and ink sketch against the black-trousered legs of its owner.

"What is it?"

"It looks remarkably like the sketches James Thurber did of dogs for one of his stories." Miss Jolley laughed again. She seemed quite pleased she’d found a pane picture.

Mrs. Sparkle gave her friend's shoulder a congratulatory squeeze but didn’t stoop down to see what Miss Jolley saw. She thought she might not get up again, and, of course, propriety must be maintained, so she returned to her seat.

Now, both ladies took up the hunt. Mrs. Sparkle saw a large red amaryllis blossom on the plant a lady carried past, framed in a single pane – a Georgia O'Keefe.

Miss Jolley saw a Picasso in a little boy's face, squished out of shape against one of the panes.

Together they found a Klee, a Beardsley, and a Monet.

The small coffee shop, packed with holiday shoppers and celebrants, hadn’t enough tables or chairs, so many stood sardine-packed between the seated groups. Eavesdropping proved inevitable.

Like a wave flowing outward from the friends, others joined the game. They bobbed and weaved to look through the window and find more pieces of pane art. The coffee shop rang with laughter and exclamations of discovery.

The evening developed into one of the most enriching holiday celebrations the great friends had shared together. They enjoyed the gifts of imagination and living art, enveloped by the warmth and joy of others.