Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Help Name Gus LeGarde's New Puppy!

Hi, folks!

Thanksgiving is over and now we're madly sailing toward the Christmas holidays. ;o)

For those of you in the US, I hope you enjoyed your turkey day. I cooked up a storm, featuring a 23 pound bird, and we had nine people at the table, including five grandkids! We're still eating lots of leftover turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pie. I must say, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of all, and boy-oh-boy do I love the leftovers!

Now I find myself dreaming of the big aromatic tree I want to buy this weekend to stand inside our great room double windows. If you remember, last year at Christmas Dale's mother had just recently passed away. I was in charge of sorting through all of her treasures, and fortunately, I saved all of her vintage ornament collections that filled an entire sea chest. So this year, I hope to use them. I will, however, place them at the top of the tree away from little toddlers' hands! I'll take a photo and send you one with the next newsletter.

In my spare time this past weekend, I painted grandson Joey's bedroom after the fiasco of the plaster and lathe ceiling that had started to fall down! With a new ceiling, now it's all painted with historic house colors Salisbury Green walls and White Opulence trim. The furniture is back in and my daughter has started to decorate with toys and pictures. At least the poor boy is no longer sleeping in the upstairs landing in his crib! 

I also found some time to finish writing Murder on the Brewster Flats, the 12th LeGarde Mystery. It came out to 76,000 words. Next step is to take another pass through it, and then send it out to my Beta readers. So far 20 of my editing experts have agreed to take a look at it, so I'm psyched. 

In this book, Gus gets a new puppy. Would you like to help name him? (see below)

Also, Gus agrees to play in a concert with violinist Jack Remington from my love story The Seadog (Paines Creek Beach series). I am sharing a link to the music he's playing, below. ;o)

My hoped for release date will be in January, but I don't want to get the cart before the proverbial horse, so I won't make any promises right now.

Thanks for hanging in there with me, and especially for not unsubscribing ten seconds after you downloaded your free books. Believe it or not, that happens a lot, and therefore, I'm more than ever grateful for you.

Happy reading, and don't forget to take pleasure in the little things.

Aaron Paul Lazar

Today's post:

  • This Week's Sale - Upstaged: 99 cents
  • What I'm Reading - Marriage Before Death by Uvi Poznansky
  • The new Gus LeGarde Book - Help Name Gus's Puppy
  • Books from Fellow Authors

This Week's Sale
Today through : 11-30-2017 -  99 cents!

Upstaged (LeGarde Mysteries, Book 2)

(can be easily read as a standalone)

by Aaron Paul Lazar

Usual Price: 3.99 Sale: .99

Who’s playing dangerous pranks on the drama club? And what do they have against Gus LeGarde’s fiancée, Camille? Is it sex-crazed Armand, the Latino teen infatuated with Camille? Or Superintendent Marshall, whose past holds horrific secrets? Gus must unravel the mystery before the backstage saboteur stakes his final, deadly claim.
What I'm Reading


If you like romantic thrillers, please check out Uvi Poznanasky's new audiobook.

Marriage Before DeathA WWII Thriller
book 5 in the Still Life with Memories series
by Uvi Poznansky

Ms. Poznansky has done it again, but this time—and I don’t say this lightly—she has written my favorite book to date in her stable of literary gems.

Marriage Before Death continues in the Still Life With Memories series, which paints stories of the lives of Lenny and Natasha. (Book 1: My Own Voice, Book 2: The White Piano, Book 3: The Music of Us, Book 4: Dancing with Air)

In this story, Ms. Poznansky eloquently shifts from her previous genre of literary stories full of romance, to a wartime suspense story, still, however, continuing with the love story of our beloved couple.

I have always adored Ms. Poznansky's evocative writing, but this time she whisked me into the era of WWII French Resistance Fighters. And what an adventure it was! I trembled in my virtual boots beside Lenny when he was captured by Nazi soldiers, “this close” to being executed. He stood in a line of captured soldiers and resistance fighters, waiting to be sent to one group or the other. One group would be immediately hung in the gallows that loomed nearby, the other would be used in some fashion to help the Nazi cause. The tension was riveting.

I listened to the audiobook version of this fascinating story, told by the talented Mr. Don Warrick. His male character voices are outstanding, and his accents—whether it be British, French, German, Jewish, or American, the rendering is brilliant and on target. The female voices aren’t quite as effective, in my humble opinion, but honestly, one can’t fault a deep, stentorian narrator for not being able to completely sound like a woman. ;o)

Thank you, Ms. Poznansky, for allowing us to continue to believe that America still produces great writers who judiciously craft each sentence, and who can tell a great story at the same time.  

Highly recommended!

Murder on the Brewster Flats LeGarde #12

I'm almost done with the last chapter in the new Gus LeGarde novel! I won't give away any of the plot yet, but in this book Gus gets a new puppy. He's white with brown patches, has big chocolate brown eyes, and soft floppy ears. His fur is curly and soft like a stuffed animal. Okay, so yes, he looks like my dog Balto did as a puppy. ;o) But I need a really cool name for him. Would you like to comment on this piece with your suggestions, below? If you remember, the other three dogs in the series are Max, Sheba, and Boris. 

Also, as I've mentioned before, Gus and Camille are on vacation on Cape Cod in this book, where they run into characters from my Paines Creek Beach series. Jack and Scout Remington, from The Seadog, make an appearance (Among others! Remember Fritzi?!) and Gus agrees to play a piano/violin duet with Jack at an upcoming concert. You can listen to this beautiful piece here: 

Meanwhile, thank you all for the help you gave me when I was pretty depressed this year and thought I'd never write another book. I am so grateful to all of you, especially those who tossed me all their fun story ideas. ;o) Bless you all!

Balto - the model for Gus's new dog
Books By Fellow Authors
On Sale: 99 cents  Start Date: 11-21-2017 End Date: 12-15-2017

Murder in San Francisco: A Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery (Liz Lucas Cozy Mystery Series Book 8

Michelle D'Amato's pregnant with San Francisco millionaire octogenarian Bernie Snow's baby, but he's dead, and a lot of people would like to see her dead as well, so her baby can't lay claim to his vast estate. Was that why he was murdered?


Child's Play (Michael Sykora Novels Book 4)

By Darcia Helle

Price: 3.99

The search for a missing child leads Michael Sykora and his team to a place where children are a commodity for the wealthy and depraved. Following leads from daycare centers to the Darknet, this search is about to become personal.

(Note: I missed this book's sale period, but it looked so interesting I thought I'd include it anyway. What the heck, it's only $3.99!)
Start Date: 09-28-2017 End Date: 12-31-2017


By Ruth Gowan
Usual Price: 1.99 Sale: FREE

A high octane action,Romance, set to a backdrop of deceit, lies and rivalry. the fast-paced, adrenaline fuelled, challenging world of International Rallying. Twists, turns, secrets and lies, this racy story has it all: fast, furious and passionate.
Start Date: 11-27-2017 End Date: 12-24-2017

Cupcakes and Conspiracies (Sweet Baked Mystery Book 1)

By Katherine Hayton
Usual Price: New Release Sale: .99

When police accuse her sister Crystal of attempted murder, Holly Waterston must don an apron and roll up her sleeves. Things are going to get gooey if she’s to catch the real culprit AND keep the cupcake bakery going.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Happy October!

Yesterday morning dawned wet, dark, and windy. But by the time I started my walk--after writing chapter 28 in the new LeGarde Mystery--the sun was shining and a cool, stiff breeze blew across the fields. I walked 3.5 miles and just as I got home, it clouded up again and threatened rain. Boy, was I lucky. Not that a little rain would have melted me, or anything.  ;o)

We picked the last of our tomatoes and made a fresh tomato soup the other day -- boy is it good. So easy to make, just cook down the fresh tomatoes, strain out the skin and seeds, add a little ketchup for tang, a bit of S&P, and you've got your own better-than-Campbells tomato soup!

It's been crazy warm here this month up in the Finger Lakes region. Have you seen that in your area? We usually are in the 60s or maybe 70s in October, but we've had many days in the 80s. I'm sure we'll see some more normal temps soon--the one thing we can count on up here as far as the weather is concerned is the variability!

For the Birds, the award-winning book 1 in Tall Pines Mysteries, is on sale for 99 cents through this month. (see below) I hope you can also find some nice deals below - I'm offering some specials from other authors as a gift to you. Let me know if you like any of them!

Happy reading,

Aaron Paul Lazar

I thought I'd share some fun stuff with you today.
  • Author Appearances - Stop by if you're in the area!
  • What I'm Reading - Vegas Lies by Andrew Cunningham
  • Book Sale - For the Birds
  • How's the New Gus LeGarde Mystery Coming?
Author Appearances:
  • Deer Run Winery, Geneseo, NY: Reading Between the Wines, Sunday Oct. 15th, 2-5.   
  • Dansville Public Library, Dansville, NY: An Author's Evening. Tuesday, October 17th, 6:30 PM.
What I'm Reading

If you like mystery/thrillers, please check out Andrew Cunningham's new eBook or paperback.

Vegas Lies
a "Lies" novel, book 3
by Andrew Cunningham


Five teenage girls from a small town in Oregon disappear without a trace. Were they kidnapped, or have the five friends perpetrated a massive hoax?

Nine hundred miles away in Las Vegas, a woman with a dark secret vanishes on her way to meet friends for dinner.

Those friends are Del Honeycutt and bestselling mystery author Sabrina Spencer, in Las Vegas for a book convention. As Del and Sabrina investigate their friend’s disappearance, they are convinced that she has been abducted, and they begin to uncover the secrets that might have triggered her abduction, secrets that now put Del and Sabrina’s lives in jeopardy.

When clues indicate that the five missing girls might also be in Las Vegas, the situation takes a new turn, directly into the unthinkable.

Once again, Del and Sabrina find themselves head over heels in trouble and marked for death, and they only have a few hours to solve the case or their friend and the five young girls will be gone forever.

Be sure to check out my review on Amazon. I LOVED this book!
Send Date: 10-31-2017

For the Birds (Tall Pines Mysteries Book 1)

By Aaron Paul Lazar

Usual Price: 3.99 Sale: .99

Treasure. Secrets. A 50-year-old unsolved bank heist. See Marcella run for her life in For the Birds, a sensual, mystical, rollercoaster ride through the Adirondack Mountains. "...a lively story of deceit, obsession, and redemption" G. Scholter

So, how's the new LeGarde Mystery Coming?
The twelfth LeGarde Mystery is at 43,000 words now and still rolling forward. It's my first "series crossover" mystery that brings two series together. Gus runs into Jack and Scout from The Seadog, a Paines Creek Beach love story, as well as Libby and Finn from The Seacrest. You probably know how much I love Paines Creek Beach in Brewster, Mass. So you'll understand why I took Gus and Camille there to "vacation." So far, this has been the worst and most challenging vacation ever!

In spite of having many new family problems over the past few weeks, plus also having my gums operated on (Ack! I have stitches in my MOUTH!), I'm still writing in spite of it. Yay!

Happy reading, and don't forget to take pleasure in the little things.

Aaron Paul Lazar

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Lord Keeps Me Humble: Surviving Writer's Block, by Aaron Paul Lazar

I have to admit, I was always a little smug about not having to deal with writer’s block. For the past sixteen years, I had a multiple story lines swimming around in my head. I couldn’t imagine not knowing what to write next, and my biggest problem as an author was “which” book to write next, or which subset of fans to satisfy first. 

I started writing during a family crisis in 1997. My father had just passed away, and he was the 8th person in my circle of family and friends to die in a five-year period. It completely crushed me.

But soon I discovered the amazing therapy of writing. It helped that my first book (Double Forte’: a Gus LeGarde Mystery) was loosely based on my father, a music professor, consummate gardener, family man, passionate soup maker, and lover of the arts, with whom I ached to reconnect.

I had a bit of a slowdown halfway through the book. Raising three teenage girls with a disabled wife was a bit of a challenge. But I managed to make my way through it – whether it was prom dress shopping, music lessons, drama club stage crew.. you name it. Where do you think I got the silver in my hair?

But in 2001 my mother, who’d been reading along when I started Double Forté, said, “I’d really like to know what happens to Gus, honey. Why don’t you get back to that?”

I did, and it was then that the writing bug really took hold.

I churned out book after book, until I had five LeGarde Mysteries under my belt in just a few years.

It was in 2003 that I finally realized I really “should” look into getting them published.

Years passed. Books came out. Awards were won, spurring me onward. Last year I finished writing my 26th book (23rd novel), Devil’s Spring, and was raring to go with the next one.
Again, my only problem was which series to indulge in, or which set of characters did I feel more like visiting at the time?

Then my wife’s mom died unexpectedly. She’d lived with us for eighteen years, so it was a real blow to the entire family. My wife and daughters fell apart, and I have to admit it really knocked me for a loop, too. We weren’t prepared. We thought we’d have at least another three or four years with her. But the Lord had other plans, and she went to be with Him on November 5th, 2016, about a year and a half after I lost my own dear mother in June of 2015.

The weight of the world was on me. At least that’s the way I felt. Because of Dale’s brothers living out of state, dealing with my mother-in-law’s house (attached to ours, but a full-sized dwelling), was my job.

As sad as it was, my wife and I decided we’d move into her mother’s side of the house, which we’d helped her design and which is a truly beautiful living space. We offered for my daughter and her two little boys to stay in our “old” side of the house, where we’d been squished together for the past year. And when I say old, I mean old! It was built in 1811, just like Gus LeGarde’s home.

What happened then was an endless blur of weekends of me going through closets, boxes, eight fully packed wooden trunks, an overflowing packed cellar, and dealing with over fifty cartons of family “treasures” that had been brought from my mother-in-law’s home town and represented over three generations of family. Imagine 4 sets of antique china, hundreds of linen tablecloths, dozens of 1950s aprons, so many pairs of fancy dancy ladies gloves that I couldn’t count them… and so on. Unfortunately, there was very little actual value other than family nostalgia with these items. The market on antiques had dropped significantly. So, we saved a few things, and other than a few nice pieces that went to auction, the rest went to an estate sale which took so much work and planning that it just now finished up in August.
During this whole adventure, my day job boss and his wife (two of the four people in our company) left suddenly with no warning on January 31st this year, forcing me and my remaining colleague into insanely long hours and taking away my time to enjoy a daily walk as well as any writing time.

But that wasn’t all. In hindsight now, I realize I, like the rest of the family, I was actually going through a massive depression. Even when I squeezed out an hour or two per week to write, I had no urge to do so. I was bored with all my series, all my characters, and couldn’t imagine another book that would take my interest.

Finally, when I grew disgusted with my lack of creative productivity, I reached out to my fans.

I set the opening scene for a new LeGarde Mystery (book #12) and asked them for ideas. In my very strange state of mind, I honestly thought I’d covered every single possible type of villain, disaster, or evil that could descend on Gus.

My readers came through for me, and I was deluged with emails full of fun ideas that did, indeed, inspire me to a new mystery. Once unleashed, I twisted and turned the themes and came up with something—hopefully—entirely new and fun.

I’m halfway through the book now – and loving every minute of the time I get to squeeze out for writing in my insanely busy day.

So, for a guy who never had writer’s block, I guess I endured about six months of it. As I said, The Lord keeps me humble. ;o) I’ll never again wonder how this could happen to someone, and always be grateful for my loyal fans.

Remember to take pleasure in the little things, and if you love to write, write like the wind!
Aaron Paul Lazar

Aaron Paul Lazar is obsessed with writing. He's completed twenty-six books to date, and has earned twenty literary book awards. He writes mysteries, suspense, love stories, and more. You'll usually find him writing his heart out in the early hours of the day - preferably in the dark, quiet hours when no one else is awake in his bustling household. Visit his website at www.lazarbooks.com to sign up for a free book and to learn about future deals.

“Addictive, award-winning fiction.” 

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Is Summer Really Over?

Hello, book lovers!
I can't believe it's already September. Where did the summer go?

One of the best parts of this season, however, is the great abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables. The sweet corn has never been sweeter, the canteloupes juicier, or the peaches fuzzier. (Ha, I know some of you hate the fuzz, but I love feeling it on farm fresh peaches)

That said, yesterday (Labor Day in the US) was an absolutely gorgeous day. I got a few chapters written in my twelfth LeGarde Mystery, finished filling the freezer with tomatoes (35 gallons!) and worked on the yard with a frenzy. Where do all those errant walnut trees come from, anyway? Right in the middle of my flower gardens, mind you. I guess I'll have to blame the squirrels. LOL.

I wanted to thank all of you for your wonderful emails with memories of slang from the fifties and sixties. I was overwhelmed with the volume, and can't thank you enough! I still have to collect them all in one file for future books that travel back to my favorite eras. ;o) It was great hearing from you!
I've thrown Devil's Lake into the mix in this Giveaway. Enter to win great listens!
What I'm Reading

If you like mysteries, please check out Clay Boutwell's new eBook or paperback. I love these Sherlockian-style books! These are "cozy" mysteries written in a style reminiscent of the Sherlock Holmes or Poirot series.

An Agora Mystery

by Clay Boutwell

A childhood nemesis. A threat seemingly from beyond the grave. Murder by Monday...

A mysterious letter sends Carl Brooke and Rutherford Nordlinger off to the aid of a man who, accused of murder, is now threatened by the man he is said to have killed.

So, how's the new LeGarde Mystery Coming?
The twelfth LeGarde Mystery is full steam ahead. With 26,000 words under my belt, it's flowing nicely. Boy, is Gus getting into mysteries in this story, one right after another. Everywhere he turns, he bumps into someone in trouble. Camille is already ferociously digging into the town's historical records to help solve the mystery of --yup, you guessed it-- a lost pirate's treasure.  Many of you suggested a pirate or treasure theme, and of course, it makes sense in the Cape Cod locale.

I'm really having a blast with this one, and man, does it feel good to be writing again.

I've decided for fun to also make this book a "series crossover." Have you seen that before? It's where the characters of one series meet up with the characters of another series.

In this case, Gus has met and is interacting with the folks from The Seadog, a Paines Creek Beach love story. I couldn't resist. And best of all, Gus gets to meet Bubba, the lovable mutt  Scout Vanderhorn rescues about the same time she saves her beloved Jack from the nightmare he's enduring at the hands of cruel fate and some nasty teenagers.

Well, back to writing! Thanks for hanging in there with me, and especially for not unsubscribing ten seconds after you downloaded your free books, LOL! Believe it or not, that happens a lot, and therefore, I'm more than ever grateful for you.

Happy reading, and don't forget to take pleasure in the little things.

Aaron Paul Lazar


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Free Excerpt: The Disappearance of Billy Moore by Aaron Lazar

Hi, folks!

I thought I'd share an excerpt from book 1 in the Green Marble Mysteries today. (It's on sale for 99 cents through Sept. 4th, so if you enjoy the read, grab the deal at 75% off. ;o))

The Disappearance of Billy Moore

Here's the set up: 

Fifty years ago, Sam Moore’s little brother Billy vanished without a trace—leaving Sam with guilt that haunts him to this day.

Fifty years with no body, no leads, and no answers. Until now.

When Sam unearths a mysterious green marble buried in his garden, he’s shocked to find himself transported back in time—to Billy. Whisked between past and present with no warning, and receiving only glimpses of their childhood, he struggles to unlock the secret of his brother’s fate.

But the marble isn’t the only secret the ground holds. Further digging uncovers human remains—the legacy of a serial killer who’s been targeting one boy every five years since Billy vanished. The next five-year mark is coming up fast. And now, Sam’s grandson may be in the killer’s sights.

Can Sam tie the past with the present and unravel the mystery of his brother’s disappearance—before the killer strikes again?

an excerpt from
by Aaron Paul Lazar
Copyright © 2017 by Aaron Paul Lazar and published here with his permission

Chapter 1

Sam Moore was free. Free from the tether of the alarm clock, pushy pharmaceutical reps, runny noses, and waiting rooms packed with patients. On the first day of retirement, at the age of sixty-two, he was ready for a change.
He stood behind the barn and looked toward the garden. It lured him with a peculiar intensity he’d never been able to explain to Rachel. The pull was visceral, infused with a strong lust for the land. Cirrus clouds skated across the sky, racing eastward and the cool May breeze ruffled his hair, caressing him.
He should be happy. But a familiar sense of melancholy washed through him. It was always there, ever present. It retreated occasionally, when he was busy caring for patients. But as soon as he stopped—to take a breath, to look out the window, or to eat his lunch—that undercurrent of sadness, born of loss, returned.
It had been this way for fifty years. Fifty years of longing for the truth, of missing his little brother.
Where are you, buddy?
A flurry of starlings swooped past him. Their trickling waterfall calls resonated, frightening the goldfinches feasting at the thistle feeder. He watched the birds settle on the branches of the black walnut tree. Their blue-black plumage glistened in the sunlight.
The breeze rose, stirring the leaves in the cottonwoods.
Is it a sign?
Sam shot a glance toward the house, embarrassed to have such thoughts. He was glad Rachel couldn’t hear the foolish ideas that ran through his mind.
Was Billy dead or alive? Snuffed out on his eleventh birthday, or whisked away by a kidnapper? Was he living somewhere? In Alaska? Canada? Forced to change his name as a child, brainwashed to forget his life as a Moore? Did he have grandchildren, like Sam? Or…
Sam’s heart blackened. He hated this part.
If Billy were kidnapped, he would’ve tried to come home once he gained access to a car. He had been old enough when he disappeared to remember what town he grew up in. So…if he hadn’t returned, he must be gone. Gone for good.
Sam sighed and ran a hand through his thick gray hair. Two starlings lit on the birdfeeder and pecked at the seeds. The wooden feeder had suet holders on each end, and his hands were still greasy from the peanut-flavored cakes he’d refilled earlier. A woodpecker hung upside down on one end, tapping at the treat.
He realized it would be harder now to ignore the persistent questions about Billy’s fate. He’d have time on his hands. Lots of time. Besides tending to Rachel and babysitting his grandsons, he’d have hours to imagine the best and the worst.
He slid a hand into his pocket and jingled his keys.
I’ll just have to keep busy.
Squaring his shoulders, he walked into the barn and yanked on the starter cord of the rototiller. It coughed, belched black smoke, and stalled. He nudged the choke back and tried again. The engine roared to life. Sliding the choke all the way down, he shifted the tiller into reverse and backed out of the barn.
Sam guided the tiller over the wet grass toward the garden. Its knobby tires dug into the ground, drawing him past the bearded iris bed. His mind drifted to patients and the young doctor who’d taken over his practice.
I wonder how Garcia’s doing?
He'd dreamed about retirement for the past forty years. And here he was, on his first day of freedom, about to embark on a full day of gardening until he dropped into the lovely sleep born of physical exhaustion—and his first thought was about Garcia.
Doctor Andrea Garcia had worked by his side since she graduated from the University of Rochester Medical School. She was good. Very good. And she’d take excellent care of his patients.
But would she remember to retest Jenny Boyd for strep?
An annoying voice hissed inside his head.
Forget about it. It’s not your job. Not anymore.
It was hard to sever himself from a practice that flourished for forty years. Forty years of growing this “limb” that became such a part of him, and everyone expected him to simply chop it off. Just like that! It wasn’t going to be easy.
He stopped and looked at the cloudless sky. The strong sun shone through pure azure, although it was just eight in the morning. Leaves rustled in the whispery willows and sugar maples that dotted the grounds. He smiled, drank in the scent of honeysuckle, and propelled the tiller forward.
The jungle grew to his left. He’d hacked away at the bamboo-like shoots for weeks after tending to patients all day in his family practice in Conaroga, New York. The official name of the weed was Japanese knotweed, a rapid-spreading invader that killed everything in its wake. Last year's stalks were dry and crisp. They towered twelve feet high, crackling in the breeze. He imagined them taunting him, calling to him.
You can’t stop us. We’re taking over.
Sam had worked hard to clear half the knotweed spreading behind the barn near the woods, but a lot remained standing. His bonfires had been impressive. Fueled with dried knotweed, dead apple tree limbs, and bundles of crispy weeds, they roared into infernos, inciting stares from passersby. The coals were usually warm the next morning, when Sam added more branches to the pile each day.
He reached the vegetable garden near the above ground pool and set the tiller in motion between the wide rows of sugar snap peas and asparagus. Rachel and he had feasted on purple-tipped asparagus for the past few weeks.
His stomach growled. He’d skipped breakfast and bolted outdoors before the sun had crested over the hill. The idea of a brunch of asparagus on buttered toast nearly drove him inside, but he resisted and kept working.
Sam muscled the machine around the row of peas and started on the other side. The soil churned like butter. Baby beets grew thick within the row. He smiled again, pleased with the result. He’d defied upstate New York conventions and had boldly planted the beets at the same time as the peas. He’d marked it in his garden journal: March 27th, a rare, eighty-degree day, perfect for the first till.
Lila trotted toward him from the woods, hopping over felled logs and skirting piles of knotweed stalks. Her sleek, white body moved with feline fluidity. She meowed twice, raising her tail in greeting.
Sam switched off the tiller and leaned down to pat her. She pushed her head against his hand and turned in small circles beside him.
“What’s the matter, Lila? You hungry? You missed your supper last night. What have you been up to?”
She purred and placed her delicate paws on his knees as he crouched beside her. He stroked the smooth fur on her neck and scrubbed his fingers behind her ears.
“That's a good girl. Good kitty.”
When Lila was satisfied, she abruptly trotted toward the house, probably to claim her missed meals. Sam restarted the tiller, finished working the soil between the corn and potatoes, and headed to the knotweed patch.
He was ready to dig today. Although the job of clearing wasn’t yet complete, he ached to set tine to soil and stir it up. It would allow him to smooth out the area, rake it, and eventually mow the knotweed to death.
He maneuvered the tiller over the lawn to the knotweed jungle and slowly worked the soil. The weed colony was founded when he and Rachel owned horses, years ago. When her multiple sclerosis worsened and she needed the wheelchair, the animals were sold, and the knotweed multiplied, infesting the edge of the woods. By the time Sam retired, it had grown expansively, creating “the jungle.” Sam was obsessed with ridding the landscape of the infectious weeds. Listed first on his retirement list, he planned to turn the area into a lush lawn, opening it to a line of heirloom apple trees that edged the woods.
Something sparkled from the earth. Sam poked at the soil and uncovered a clear glass bottle. He brushed off the dirt. “Bayer Aspirin” ran down the side of the tiny vessel in raised letters. He pocketed it. Rachel would want to clean it and add it to her collection. Such treasures frequently popped out of the earth around the house and barn. Long ago, it was common practice to bury trash, before the emergence of the town dump. Since the house was built in 1815, Sam anticipated an abundance of finds.
He continued tilling until he connected with the woody root of a knotweed plant. The tiller bounced up and down, trying to unearth the root. Eventually, after coming at it from several directions, it popped out of the ground. The offender was ten inches long, knobby, and misshapen. It resembled a piece of wood. Pink shoots of baby knotweed sprouted from the chunk. He threw it into the wheelbarrow. After letting it dry in the sun for a few days, he'd burn it.
Another object flashed from the dirt. Sam backed up the tiller and dug until his fingers closed around a small marble. He picked it up, rubbed it on his jeans, and held it to the light.
The sphere was small and partially opaque. A cat’s eye. He turned it in his fingers. Light sparkled through glass the color of lichen; muted, pale green overlaid swirls of deeper green within. He smiled, put it in his pocket, and continued until hunger drove him in for lunch with Rachel.

Chapter 2

“Want some more, Sam?”
Sam wiped the napkin across his lips and pushed back from the kitchen table.
“Thanks, but I'm stuffed. How ‘bout you? There's a little asparagus left. I could make you another piece of toast.”
He walked past her wheelchair with his dirty dishes.
Rachel smiled and patted his hand when he passed. “No, I'm fine.” She paused, watching him. “Stop that, now.”
He reached the sink and looked over his shoulder. “Huh?”
She motioned toward the sink. “I'll do the dishes. I'm not helpless, you know.”
He kept working and smiled. “I know, but now that I'm retired, I want to pitch in more.”
A look of surprise crossed her face, followed by a frown. Sam returned to the table to collect the glasses and pan of asparagus.
“What? What’s wrong?”
She brushed aside her graying bangs.
“Much as I love you, Sammy, I have to admit I've been dreading this day.”

His eyes widened and he dropped into the chair. “What? Dreading it? Dreading my retirement?”
She covered a smile. “Don't sound so hurt, honey. It's just that I don't want you to mess up my system. You know, I've got everything organized and if you start helping out, I'll have nothing to keep me busy all day.”
Her voice fell at the end of the sentence. Sam reached for her hand.
“Really? I thought you could use the help.”
She shook her head. Tears welled in her rich brown eyes. “Since my legs got bad, I've needed things to keep me busy. To keep my mind off this rotten illness. The way you fixed the house is perfect. I can reach almost everything, now. I keep to my schedule every day. It makes me feel useful, Sam. I need that.”
He digested her words as memories of their past flashed unbidden across his mind. The diagnosis came when their children were born, over thirty years ago. Sam took Rachel to the best neurologists in the country, but as the symptoms worsened he knew before they did. Multiple sclerosis. It progressed slowly over the decades, relapsing and remitting as it ran its curious and elusive course. The exacerbations were periods of unusual exhaustion, facial and limb numbness, and weakness in the legs accompanied by frequent bouts of depression and anxiety. Six months ago, Rachel's legs gave out. She'd tried a cane for a while, but fell three times. Finally, and with much angst, she accepted the small scooter Sam purchased for her. She swapped between a lightweight wheel chair and the electric scooter, depending on the circumstance.
Sam looked into her eyes. They were still beautiful, after all these years. He leaned over and ran his rough fingertips along the soft down of her cheek.
“Okay, honey. Don't worry. I've got plenty to keep me busy outside, anyway.”
She brushed at her eyes and squeezed his hand, flashing a familiar look of affection.
“Thank you.” Her voice shook, husky with emotion. Changing the subject, she put her dishes in her lap and wheeled to the sink. “Are you working on those nasty weeds today?”
He nodded. “Uh huh. It’s slow going. And I have to mow again.”
The thought of the cool blue air called to him. He felt the pull of the garden as he fidgeted in his chair. His hands ached to be in the soil again. There was weeding, mowing, planting, mulching, and clearing to be done.
“Well, then, you'd better get out there. That lawn won't mow itself. And don’t forget, the boys are coming later.”
He had forgotten about his grandsons’ visit, but didn’t want to admit it. “I won’t.” He kissed her forehead and walked back into the sunlight, refastening the Velcro on his back brace. A simple arrangement, the stretchy straps worked like suspenders, and the wide, nylon brace rode low on his back. He repositioned it, took a deep breath, and started toward the knotweed colony.
As he headed out, a memory flashed through him—brief, but palpable. Billy and he, aged twelve and eleven, had walked barefoot on the hot pavement after a spring rain. Soft tar warmed their feet. Rain puddles sizzled and misted on the road. The boys laughed, then raced home to dinner. Steak, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and salad. Billy's favorite.
Sam checked the date on his watch. May twenty-fourth. Billy turns sixty-one today.
The little boy who slept in the bottom bunk, who breathed hot, sweet breath on his face when they hid in the closet beneath the stairs, who offered his sticky hand during scary movies, and who mysteriously disappeared on his eleventh birthday—would be sixty-one today.
He closed his eyes and let the wind blow across his face. The breeze lifted his hair. Sam felt the cool soft touch brush his skin. He pictured his brother communicating with him from Heaven. He'd often imagined it, and was comforted by the thought.
Happy birthday, buddy.
He opened his eyes, sighed, and ambled toward the stone fire pit behind the barn. He dropped onto the old iron bench and wondered for the millionth time what had happened to his brother.
Sam reached into his pocket and fingered the green marble. It reminded him of the marbles they played with as children.
Could it have been Billy’s?
He closed his eyes again and rolled it in his hand. The smooth glass slid between his fingers, warming his hand, then grew almost too hot to touch. Surprised, Sam plucked it from his pocket and inspected it. Strong sunlight glinted on its surface, but it seemed to glow from within. He cupped his hands around it, puzzled by the intensity of the heat.
Instantly, a green flash blinded him, forcing his eyes closed. Shimmering, ghostly images danced before his mind's eye. The sound of children playing reverberated in the air. In seconds, he was transported to another realm, wrapped in a rolling cloud of green effervescent swirls.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think in the comments, below!

Remember to take pleasure in the little things, and if you love to write, write like the wind!

Aaron Paul Lazar