Wednesday, August 5, 2009


And now for something a little different: On my web site,, there is a new short story, "It Slices, It Dices." Unpublished anywhere else, it was written as an entry in an anthology of Minnesota State Fair mysteries. Unfortunately, the anthology was never published and the story came back to me. I’ve tweaked it a little, tried selling it to a magazine without success, and so am just offering it for free to anyone who cares to wander by and look for it. It’s not a Betsy Devonshire mystery, the sleuth is a woman police investigator. It’s a "stand alone," not part of a series.

I love our state fair, it’s huge, the second-largest in the nation. I go every year, heading straight to the animal barns. I love the horses, the cows, and especially the chickens. There are some beautiful chickens bred in Minnesota, from the immense Plymouth rocks, to the sleek and colorful banties. One of my favorites is the Polish, who look as if they took a lit firecracker into their mouths where it went off, making the feathers on top of their head stand up and out. Then I walk the midway, though I don’t go on the rides anymore or play the games. I remember when I was in my teens and lusted after one of those huge stuffed animals, but now I think, "Where would I put it?" and worse, "But then I’d have to carry it around the rest of the day!" Still, it’s a nostalgic thing to walk down the midway and stare in awe at that one ride which flings people high in the air on bungie cords. Not for a million dollars, thank you. Then on to the arts and crafts building, to look at the quilts and sweaters and needlework and wood carvings and miniatures. Thence to the hucksters inside the grandstand. Golly, the things offered for sale: knives and popcorn and machines that massage your feet and blown glass and aluminum siding and electric organs and nut fudge and liquids that clean jewelry, and a thousand other things. Our state fair is famous for food, especially food on a stick. Everything from deep-fried fruit on a stick to spaghetti and meatballs on a stick (I’m not kidding, they did it by surrounding the spaghetti with a meatball). The most fattening thing I’ve ever seen at our fair – and they specialize in fat – was a deep-fried Snickers bar. You could raise your cholesterol ten points just walking by the stand selling those things.

It’s August and the fair starts the 27th. I’m already making plans to go.

We are lucky enough to have a home-visit veterinarian. He’s our second one, our first one died suddenly, to our sorrow. She was nice and our cats loved her – they didn’t really know they were getting annual physicals from her, they just thought she was a kind visitor who sometimes played a little rough. I mean, squeezing their tummies a little hard, poking an implement into their ears, and giving them this teeny little prick above the shoulder – but all the while speaking kindly and doing a lot of stroking. Panzi was a little suspicious, but she’s a naturally suspicious cat. Stinker, on the other hand, never caught on. We still have Panzi, but Stinker has gone the way of all flesh, and we now have Snaps. And Snaps, our new vet has discovered, has a little problem: a heart murmur, a malfunctioning mitral valve. Nothing serious right now, just a two on a scale from one to six, but something to look at again on his next visit. Meanwhile it seems as if Snaps is determined to show us there’s nothing to worry about, leaping and running all over the place. Yesterday morning he jumped from atop our chest of drawers onto the top of our bed. Our bed is so high I have to take a flying leap to get into it, then it has a raised bookshelf at the head with lights inset in it, that brings it up near our ceiling ten feet away. Snaps announced his accomplishment by crying out loudly to wake us – it was quarter to six on a morning I am usually able to sleep in. I would have shouted back at him, but to what end? I was already awake and so was my husband. Even Panzi was up.

I finally gave up on my old, cheap golf clubs and found a new set on an e-Bay auction. I was out-bid and disgusted about it but the company offering the clubs contacted me and offered me the set for my bid. I accepted the offer. I hope I like them, but there’s a money back guarantee if I don’t, so I feel all right about buying them. They should be here by the end of this week. Meanwhile, I will play my last game with my old clubs later this morning.


Julie said...

The Indiana State Fair starts day after tomorrow! My daughter and I have a routine: We walk past the racehorse barns, feeding grass to any interested equines in the paddocks. On the "main street" of the fair we check if the cow nursery has any new calves to see, have something marginally healthy, like fried vegetables (I said marginally. Battered and fried green pepper is delicious!) then proceed to the fried dough. I don't even want a fried Twinkie, Snickers or fried pizza, just an elephant ear. We see the draft horses, chickens and rabbits and baby quail, sheep, with a mandatory detour to the shop in the sheep barn selling yarn and wool things. We go thru Home and Family Arts to check out needlework and cake decorating and walk through fields full of hot tubs and campers before buying some maple syrup and heading home, sweaty and happy. Makes me smile just thinking about it. Maybe we can go on

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Monica, I love State Fairs. What good memories these evoke!

You know, once upon a time, these were very, very important to everyone in the Midwest because they offered a yearly chance to catch up, buy livestock, learn from the best practices, and share the sorts of info we share with ease over the Internet.

Monica Ferris said...

You're right, Joanna, the function of the fair has changed with the information-source explosion, but it remains a great place to go to mark the end of summer.

Betty Hechtman said...

I have never been to a state fair, but have gone the Los Angeles County Fair and Orange County Fair. They have all the fried things, which I've never tried. Just the smell gives me a stomach ache. My favorite is the roasted on a barbecue corn.

I like the animals and the craft displays. It was fun to see the crochet entries. Also, very neat to watch a woman spinning soy fibers into yarn.