Paladini Potpie

Adventures within The Crust!


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Writing in a Book: a love story

I was leafing through a used book to sell in my online bookstore. It had a lot of underlining and notes in the margin. Hmmm…that meant I would have to describe this otherwise beautiful book only as “good”, rather than “very good”.

Sometimes messy writing and underlining completely destroys a good book. But sometimes intelligent, thought-provoking notes can make a good book even better.

I almost always make notes in my own books, but I hardly ever get rid of a book I have enjoyed enough to write in.

This train of thought took me to one of my favourite stories about writing in a book. I heard it years ago and I don’t know if it’s a true story. But I love it.  I hope you will too.

It was sometime during the days of the Second World War and Lieutenant John Jeffries was going to be shipped overseas for a long tour of duty. A few days before his departure he went to a used book store to pick up a few books to take with him. As he browsed the shelves, his choices were random and eclectic.

Several months later, thousands of miles from home and feeling very forlorn, John opened one of the books. It immediately captured his attention.  But what captured his attention even more, were the notes and underlines in the book. It seemed that the previous owner had been fascinated and interested in all the same parts as John himself. It was uncanny!  Reading on, John kept wishing he could have a conversation with the person who had marked in the book.

He flipped to the front of the book, and looked at the name and address carefully penned on a bookplate:  Catherine Abernathy, of such and such a street in Raleigh, New Jersey.

After some consideration, and feeling kind of silly and awkward, John wrote a letter to Catherine Abernathy in New Jersey. He explained that he had purchased the used book, and asked if she had written all the notes and underlined the passages in this book which bore her nameplate.

(Nothing ventured, nothing gained.)

Catherine wrote back in the affirmative. And so began a wonderful pen pal friendship.

For John, the dark days of the war were lightened with every letter from Catherine.  They talked deeply and thoroughly about every subject.  They agreed about most things, and had interesting, stimulating discussions about the things they did not.

John could hardly wait for his leave when hopefully he would have an opportunity to meet this amazing woman in person.

So far Catherine had refused to send him a photograph, saying she didn’t want looks to interfere with what seemed to be a very real and honest friendship.

Sometimes John considered Catherine’s point with instinctive nervousness. But he always pushed his discomfort aside, reminding himself that there are more important things than looks. Didn’t their letters prove how compatible they were in all the ways that really count? Did it really matter what Catherine looked like?

Finally, in May of 1945 John would be coming home! He and Catherine made arrangements to meet in Times Square. On such and such a day, she told him, she would be at the corner of Broadway and 7th Avenue. She would be there at noon, and he would know her because she would be carrying a book.

Lieutenant John Jeffries was only one of many handsome young servicemen basking in the glow of victory and bright sunshine that Sunday afternoon in late May. And wherever he looked, there were lots of pretty girls, ready to flirt with their heroes!

John was a little bewildered as he looked around, trying to catch sight of a girl or woman with a book. (He didn’t even know how old Catherine was!)

No books in sight – but plenty of smiles.

One of the cutest girls John had ever seen brushed up close to him and gave him a wink, and a smile.  “Hey soldier, goin’ my way?”

“Sorry,” John managed, “I’m meeting a friend.”  With some regret he watched the pretty blond flounce away with a swish of her sea green sundress, and a tap of dainty white sandals.

A few moments later he noticed a rather plain looking, middle aged woman sitting on a bench holding a book.  She had a nice face, but she was…well, rather squarish, and wearing what they call “sensible shoes”.

Reminding himself that looks are only skin deep, and reinforcing in his mind all the wonderful conversations they had shared in letters, John approached her. “Hello. Are you Catherine Abernathy?”  He held out his hand.

Squinting in the sunlight, the woman looked up at John through her wire-rimmed glasses. “I don’t exactly know what this is all about,” she giggled, holding the book out toward John, “but that blond woman in the green dress asked me to hold onto this book. She said if you come over and talk to me I should give you the book and ask you to meet her at that coffee shop there across the street.”

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The Mousetrap

With a post called The Mousetrap, you might think a booklover such as I would be leading into a book review or commentary on Agatha Christie’s famous mystery. But this is even better. 

I guess this is one of those stories that are told and retold, but I heard it for the first time a couple of weeks ago from Rev. Stanley Long, of South Bay Community Church, in Fremont.  It’s  thought provoking, and so cute that I smiled all day.

I won’t tell it exactly as Dr. Long did, but here’s the gist of it.

Little Mouse lived in a cozy condo in the wall of Farmer’s house. It was a good life and Little Mouse was well provided for.  He didn’t realize Farmer and his wife considered him to be a pest.  Until one day he peeked out his tiny mouse hole and saw them open a innocent looking Home Depot bag, and take out a mouse trap!  Little Mouse was aghast!

In a panic, he ran out into the farmyard where a chicken was industriously pecking at scratch.  “There’s a mousetrap in the house, there’s a mousetrap in the house!” he screamed.

The chicken stepped back apace and shook her head. “Mr. Mouse, I’m sorry for you, but this doesn’t affect my life, so I can’t be bothered by it.”  No doubt she was remembering her notorious ancestor, Chicken Little who had caused a similar stir in the barnyard some years back. And all for nothing.

Little Mouse scurried to the pigpen. Wringing his tail he poured out his torrent of fear. “There’s a mousetrap in the house!”

“Sorry Mouse,” the pig shrugged, “but there’s nothing I can do about it.”  She callously returned to slurping her slops.

Discouraged, Little Mouse approached the cow in the hope of help or advice. But the cow just stared straight ahead, chewed her cud, and pretended that she didn’t hear.

Is anybody there? Does anybody care? Little Mouse went back to the Farm House feeling very alone.  

That night, the very walls of his cozy condo shook when a loud snap reverberated through the house. The farmer’s wife rushed downstairs to see what was caught in the mousetrap.  

In the darkness, she didn’t realize that it was not the pesky little mouse, but the trap had caught the tail of a poisonous snake.  In the dimness she reached toward the sprung trap, and the very much alive snake bit her! No doubt the snake was feeling particularly venomous over the injury to his tail.

Little Mouse watched as Farmer rushed his wife to the hospital.

And he saw her when she came home a few days later. She still had a fever, but the hospital staff said she would recuperate more quickly at home with a little TLC and Fresh Chicken Soup.

Looking out his hole, Little Mouse watched the Farmer head to the chicken coop with his hatchet.  

Little Mouse watched day after day as Farmer’s wife continued to be ill. Friends and neighbors came to sit with her day and night. So many caring people – but Farmer had to feed them. 

So he butchered the pig.

In spite of all the tender loving care, and the good chicken soup, Farmer’s wife didn’t get well. She died.

And so many people came to the funeral that Farmer had to have the cow slaughtered to provide enough food for the mourners.  

The moral of the story is that we’re all connected. We might think, “It has nothing to do with me,” but we never know how the misfortune of someone else will affect our own lives.


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A Mark, a Yen, a Buck or a Pound

I don’t know where it originated, but my my cousin in Scotland sent me this economics analysis.  I must have laughed for 20 minutes…then I started to cry.  Now all I can do is pray.

Her story is based in Greece but maybe we can all relate.

It is a slow day in a little Greek village. The rain is beating down and the streets are deserted. Times are tough; everybody is in debt, and everybody lives on credit.

On this particular day a rich German tourist is driving through the village, stops at the local hotel and lays a £100 note on the desk, telling the hotel owner he wants to inspect the rooms upstairs in order to pick one to spend the night.

The owner gives him some keys and, as soon as the visitor has walked upstairs, the hotelier grabs the £100 note and runs next door to pay his debt to the butcher.

The butcher takes the £100 note and runs down the street to repay his debt to the pig farmer.

The pig farmer takes the £100 note and heads off to pay his bill at the supplier of feed and fuel.

The guy at the Farmers’ Co-op takes the £100 note and runs to pay his drinks bill at the taverna.

The publican slips the money along to the local prostitute drinking at the bar, who has also been facing hard times and has had to offer him “services” on credit.

The hooker then rushes to the hotel and pays off her room bill to the hotel owner with the £100 note.

The hotel proprietor then places the £100 note back on the counter so the rich traveller will not suspect anything.

At that moment the traveller comes down the stairs, picks up the £100 note, states that the rooms are not satisfactory, pockets the money, and leaves town.

No one produced anything. No one earned anything. However, the whole village is now out of debt and looking to the future with a lot more optimism.