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Story Chat Y2: “Handle with Caution

Can you believe Story Chat is one-third of the way through its year which starts each October? We met Hugh Roberts started this year with a spooky Halloween story, “Puddles.” Doug Jacquier broached the tough subject of PTSD after WWII in his story “Brooching the Subject.” Cathy Cade, wrote us a delightful heartwarming Christmas story, “On the Streets.” Geoff LePard started the new year off right with “When Gratitude Is Hard to Come By”

Now KL Caley, of New2Writing and hostess of Write Photo, is coming to shake us up a bit when her tea warns her to be cautious. As we approach the day of romance, I wondered if there might be a hint of romance in this cautionary tale. What do you think?

Authors say that your Story Chat comments make a difference in their writing. Grab your favorite Valentine hearts, a chocolate or two, and beverage and join us with your expressive analyses of “Handle with Caution.” Bookmark the story and feel free to check back often and joust with the other chatters. Enjoy snippets of your and your friends’ banter linked to your blogs in the Story Chat Summary at the end of the month.

So, without further ado, let’s read now and talk in a minute.

“Handle with Caution” by KL Caley

She stirred the tea leaves around her cup. The question mark again. She knew what that meant, “BE CAUTIOUS”. 

A small bird fluttered past the window and caught her eye for a second. She rose from her chair teacup still in hand and watched it hop around the garden. Whilst it picked up little sticks from here or there, it was cautious, always watching, always looking around. Occasionally its stony black eyes glared directly at her, knowing she was there, yet it assessed the situation and continued as was.  

The doorbell to the little shop made a noise in the background. and she hurried to tidy her cup away and make her way through the door but before she had a chance, Tom’s distinctive Scottish burr startled her.

“Reading tea leaves again, are we?” 

“Always. One day you’ll let me do yours”.

“Ha, you know I don’t believe in all that rubbish.” She laughed and then pouted pretending to take offence. He was standing in a shop full of incense, candles, and crystals after all. 

“Then what is there to be afraid of?” She smiled having caught him out. He raised his hands in a gesture of submission. 

“I’ve dropped off a package for you but this one needs a signature I’m afraid.” He gestured through the door and she followed his gaze.

“Crikey, what’s in there?” She walked over to a large box that sat in the middle of the shop floor, how strange no return label. The neat handwritten address confirmed it was definitely for her. 

“I must admit I’m curious, it’s a heavy box you have there. Do you want me to give you a hand moving it?” Tom’s cheerful smile seemed to sparkle off all the crystals in the room.

“Just give me two minutes and I’ll find some scissors to open it first. I can’t think what it could be.”

“No need, I have my pen-knife here if you want.”

“Sure”. She stepped back and Tom knelt beside the box. He carefully slid his knife along the two sides and then began to slowly move down the centre seal. As he got halfway, a huge bang escaped from the box and all the lights in the shop went out. 

“Tom!” Rosie shouted into the darkness. Her eyes slowly adjusting with a little help from the LED candles scattered around the store. She could just make out Tom’s body lying on the floor next to the box. 

“Tom!” she shouted again dropping to her knees beside him. His body started shaking. Then a loud noise followed.

“Hhahahahhaha. What the bloody hell was that? Are you trying to kill me, woman?” His deep chuckle continued to fill the air.

“Tom, it’s not funny.” She got back to her feet and made her way over to the lights, expecting the fuse to be blown she flicked them on and off but to her surprise, the room illuminated before her. Now it was her turn to laugh. She was laughing so hard tears began streaking down her face. 

“Oh, now you find it funny?” Tom asked dusting himself off, getting to his feet. Still struggling to talk, Rosie picked up a mirror off the shelf and held it to Tom’s face. He took a glance and realized he looked like a raccoon with black smudge marks around his eyes.

“So, what exactly was in that box? From the look of your face, you must have got a good look.” Rosie began laughing again at her own joke. 

“Well, if it was any other shop I wouldn’t believe it, but I think it’s a cauldron?”

“A cauldron?” She walked over to the box and sure enough inside was a large black cauldron. Although more curiously it was empty except for a small rolled-up piece of paper with a ribbon around it. Rosie unravelled it to reveal a note. 

Happy Birthday Darling, I thought you’d like this, I know you’ve had your eyes on it for years. I hope you didn’t mind my little surprise. Lots of love, Grannie. Xx

“You’re right, it is a cauldron.” She turned back to Tom and dropped the little note onto the counter. “Would you like to come through and clean yourself up a bit?”

“Yea, if you don’t mind. Perhaps I’ll have that cup of tea after all.” Tom added and they made their way through to the back room. He chuckled. “I think you’ll try anything to make me a believer. In saying that I think I’ll be approaching your parcels with Caution from now on!” 

They both laughed as Rosie put the pot on to boil, she picked her discarded teacup up to give it a rinse.

Caution. Indeed!

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67 replies »

  1. My initial thoughts were that Rosie mirrored herself in the bird. Cautious, watching, seeing a possible threat, assessing the situation, but continuing on his way.
    I thought Tom was a threat. (Sorry Tom)
    Like Rosie, I would always check for a return label on an unexpected package. When Tom’s smile seemed to sparkle off all the crystals, I realised Rosie didn’t see him as a threat…..until he produced a penknife.
    I was very suspicious hahahaha!
    For me, It didn’t come across as a dangerous explosive. I assumed it was just a harmless joke. Similar to something from a kid’s magic set. I thought maybe it was a balloon full of black powder. I wasn’t worried.
    I love Grannie. I think she’s a witch. This is exactly the kind of trick my dad would have played (but he wasn’t a witch) with no intentions of harming anyone. I think Grannie also has a crystal ball and watches Rosie and Tom in it. She’s using her magic to push them together. I think Rosie is a witch too. White witches!
    I think it was Geoff (in the comments) who suggested that Tom wouldn’t have time to stop for tea. Where I come from (small Irish town) it’s not unusual for the postman to have his tea break in a friendly neighbour’s house, so that part came across okay for me.
    I would suggest the following sentence could do with a little editing. ”The doorbell to the little shop made a noise in the background. and she hurried to tidy her cup away and make her way through the door but before she had a chance, Tom’s distinctive Scottish burr startled her.” I ran out of breath.
    I really enjoyed this story. I love a little bit of the mystical and supernatural now and then!
    And the comments from the others teaches me things about my own writing.
    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is an amazing analysis, Gloria. I love these in-depth conversations about the story. That’s exactly what Hugh and I envisioned Story Chat would be like. I’m glad you enjoyed all the other comments as well. I think it was Hugh that said it reminded me of the mother in Bewitched. As soon as he said that it clicked for me, too. I hadn’t thought of Grannie as having a crystal ball she could see. For that matter, she might be receiving Rosie’s security camera videos on her cell phone. LOL She might have had a little cupid dust in that explosion. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks Marsha. I find all the different perspectives really interesting. Amazing how we all take different things from a story. Mmm…cupid dust. I like that!
        I wrote a story for you (Hugh suggested for me to do so) and I’ll be thrilled if it makes it into story chat some day. Wonderful feedback!

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Gloria,

      Thank you so much for all your wonderful feedback on my story.

      Yes, I think in my mind Grannie (and maybe Rosie) are witches. However, I intended Rosie to be far subtler than the more elaborate Grannie. Oh, I hadn’t thought of Tom as a threat! I wanted him to be a little aloof to all the magic stuff, certainly a non-believer until Grannie got involved, but I never intended to harm him, as you say, more of a practical joke.

      There are certainly a few sentences that could do with a clean-up and edit. I think Gary suggested that maybe it should also be a longer piece/have a second half and I quite like that idea, so I may come back to it as my favourite character was the one we never really met (Grannie) and I love the nod to Bewitched which Hugh pointed out.

      Thanks again for taking the time to give such great feedback.

      KL ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on New2Writing and commented:

    Hi Everyone,

    Got a little time on your hands this drizzly Sunday afternoon? If so, please pop over to Marsha’s story chat. She has kindly featured one of my stories this month. It’s a genre I am not used to writing in but a story I very much enjoyed and think has possibilities for expansion. I’d love to know what you think?

    KL ❤

    Like

  3. This was a lighthearted tale, for me. I don’t read any signs of romance between Rosie and Tom. To me, they’re good friends who I am sure will go on to laugh a lot and have fun.

    Grannie, on the other hand, reminds me somewhat of Tabitha’s mother from the show Bewitched. Which, if is the case, makes Rosie a witch too. Given the type of shop, she’s running, I’d say Rosie was into her witchcraft too, but, like Grannie, is a good witch.

    A fun read. And what I liked about it even more, is that it was simple to read. No strange, long words that my dyslexia doesn’t help with.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m glad you liked it, Hugh! You are probably right about Rosie and her grannie. Bewitched grannie could be pretty naughty, too. I could see her doing something like this then popping through the walls to laugh at her handiwork!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Hugh,

      Thank you so much for your wonderful comment and feedback.

      I loved Bewitched when I was younger so perhaps there is a magical influence there. I definitely think Grannie is the character to watch and think Rosie probably has a job on her hands trying to keep her under control. I certainly wanted to add the magical elements to it but I wanted them to remain quite subtle until the cauldron scene when suddenly the magic would be in your face (quite literally in the case of poor Tom – haha).

      Thank you so much for taking the time to provide feedback and join story chat.
      KL ❤

      Like

  4. Hi KL.

    Hm, quick question — is “KL” what your friends call you or would you prefer . . . what?

    This was a fun read, vivid and both characters are endearing in their own way, A bit of a stir mid-way that really drew me in and you brought the whole scene to a pleasant soft landing. Very comfortable and well-woven.

    But this is Story Chat and Marsha has expectations that should not be disappointed so let’s dig a little and see what pops up. What did I notice?

    First up, I’m left unclear about the character names. Rosie and Tom are fine, but we are told Tom’s right in the 3rd paragraph which still qualifies for “right from the start” but Rosie — was there a reason for keeping hers back till mid-story, when you literally could replace the first word of the story with “Rosie” and we would know her better right from the start? I think that a character’s name can be the hook that readers build an image upon as the character is revealed. When it’s missing, I wonder if she’s just not significant to the story — which of course is not fair, but that’s what my mental clockworks do with such a start. It can be useful – but in this case, I don’t think you did this deliberately.

    Next: there’s likely a term for 2-part-thought delivered in pieces, one near the beginning which acts as question left unanswered, and the second very close to the ending which answers the question – like literary bookends around the story. This is what I thought you might be doing with the charming little bird with the dark eyes and knowing assessment of his surroundings. But he never reappeared so I’m left wondering what I missed because his significance had to be in that paragraph. His contribution was to help set the stage i guess – which he did well, but how could he have helped you wrap-up the final scene and been part of the answer to what just happened or surprise us by walking away knowing more than any of us. . .

    Rosie’s reading of the tea leaves was fun, subtle and painted a rich picture of her character. You got close to Tom giving in to having that cup of tea with her and letting her stir up some interest from his cup. Did you intend to leave that where you left it?

    Then there was Grannie’s cauldron. Wow! What happened here? So many questions and great seeds for what could be a chapter 2, 3 and likely beyond. No one was injured (surly a Grannie would never set such a trap) but was the racoon result intended for Rosie? Was it so magical as to not only flip the light switch but also change the person whose face was just darkened? Fun questions are sprouting here. . .

    Bottom line: I don’t know you well but was expecting a great read from what I know of your reputation and you delivered. The image from beginning to end unfolded naturally and vividly. I caught zero editorial concerns and now have the evidence that proves you are a very accomplished writer and story weaver. Let’s do this again sometime.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Very nice review, Gary. You always go the extra mile to dig deeper into the story. You offer some great doable points that I would never think about – like putting Rosie’s name in first. You will enjoy KL’s writing very much. She also hosts WritePhoto, which I think you would love getting involved with. What you write is open ended – so no word count or genre prescribed.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Marsha, This was a fun story with plenty of room to talk about stuff. I also think this group will treat KL right and we’ll have a great discourse.
        … and yep, I did find and stepped into her #WritePhoto fun a few times already.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Gary,

      Thank you so much for your comment, this is really useful. This isn’t a genre I normally write in (I tend to lean more towards historical fiction), but I was really feeling the magical vibes – haha.

      Let me introduce myself, hello, my real name is Kerri-Leigh (all one word with a hyphen not first, then middle), but due to the multiple ways people find to spell it, I find it far easier to go by KL. I think the only person that tends to use my full name is my mother. 🙂

      I hadn’t caught that I had an opportunity to introduce Rosie’s name earlier, that’s such a great idea.

      The little bird was introduced to add an element of being watched (perhaps Grannie watching or as Geoff said maybe a familiar). Great idea to bring it back in again later.

      I certainly could see the story expanded as you say. Perhaps to include a bit more about Grannie (I have a feeling she’s quite a character) or to find out how Rosie and Tom’s relationship develops now that they are eventually having a cuppa together (thanks to Grannie’s meddling).

      Some great things to work on, thank you so much for taking the time to provide feedback, much appreciated.

      KL ❤

      Like

  5. This is an intriguing piece. It starts with a message in a tea cup and then the bird ‘glaring’, suggesting, what? Possession? A Familiar? Or just Rosie anthropomorphising the bird’s glance? I’d like more.
    We then meet Tom – the postman, or delivery man – and we wonder if this is the love interest? He stays while she opens the package – she’s happy – so friends at least?
    Rosie notes there’s no return address. I must admit I never look for this unless I need to. I open first. Is this significant? We don’t find out.
    And there’s a bang that leaves Tom ‘racoon-faced’. What caused that and why? Grannie doesn’t should like she’s grasped the concept of Health and Safety. He could have been blinded. No one seems to worry.
    Tom plays dead. Bit childish but whatever floats his boat. Rosie accepts his behaviour – I’d think him an arse; she doesn’t – so I guess there are some feelings there.
    And he’s happy to stay for tea even though he’s delivering parcels and as I understand it they get paid by the speed of delivery – has his shift finished? Any excuse to stay with her, even if it loses him money?
    And then we have the reference back to the ‘be cautious’ tea leaves reinforcing Rosie’s belief in the supernatural but giving Tom more reasons to tease her. Or is there a supernatural element? We don’t know.
    So we have a lot of possible threads, that hint at something fantastical but equally it could just be coincidental and a early stage romance. You’ve left us with some intrigue, KL. Personally I think it is a little too fragmented and you could easily develop this to make it a more satisfactory piece.
    I’d also suggest you think about some of you sentences/descriptions. For instance ‘The doorbell to the little shop made a noise in the background. and she hurried to tidy her cup away and make her way through the door’ is too wordy and could be tightened. There are other examples that would benefit from a crisper edit.
    Well done; and welcome to story chat!

    Liked by 4 people

    • Wow, you really got into this, Geoff. Lots of great advice here and it sounds like you enjoyed yourself and thought a lot about the story. I never thought about Tom being an arse, a tease maybe, but that’s part of the game, isn’t it?

      Liked by 2 people

          • I love your Dad’s poems and your mom sounds like a hoot. I just finished the down sizing episode where she is not going to get rid of anything! I had to laugh. My grandmother moved in with Mom when she was 80. She had a tiny house with a basement the size of the house completely stuffed full so that you couldn’t get down the stairs with things she couldn’t part with. She eventually left most of her stuff with the new owner to deal with. Mom and my brother couldn’t get her to even part with spices, toilet paper, or 40-year-old sheets. 🙂 So I read a little bit each night. It’s like having a little treat each night before bed. 🙂

            Like

          • They worked for me. There were a few times when I wanted to take the old man back to the Dad library and try a different genre but in the end I stuck him out and he came good in the last couple of volumes…

            Like

    • Thank you so much for such brilliant, detailed feedback, Geoff. Much appreciated. ❤

      Yes, the bird was placed to give a hint of her being watched, something going on/about to happen. I definitely will take Gary’s point further down about bringing it back later on.

      I think in my head, Grannie is a bit of a mischief-maker, propelling Rosie into action, and finding a way to encourage the two to spend a bit of time together. How she knew the timing of the box or who would open it is a detail I haven’t figured out, but again I was trying to weave the hints of the magic behind it.

      Regarding the delivery man, I quite liked him. I guess I spent a long time living in Thirsk which is a small market town and the knew the posties and delivery men. Actually, I know my main postie now, he’s called John and quite good looking – haha. Although, obviously I don’t invite him inside (not sure what my hubby would think of that), but I definitely think he’d help me lift a heavy box in. 🙂

      Whilst a short intro to Rosie’s little shop, I wonder if this should have perhaps been a longer piece?

      Definitely will re-edit it. This was admittedly pulled together quite quickly, so definitely needs a bit of work.

      KL ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Marsha. What a brilliant collection of writers so far in story chat! I feel very privileged to be featured amongst them. I look forward to people’s thoughts on the story. 🙂 KL ❤

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I didn’t know witch way to turn when the box exploded. Perhaps Grannie wanted to teach the poor bloke a lesson, with all his Tommy rot. I’d be cautious next time and look for the explosives declaration on the box. Fun tale.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Hi Cathy, thank you for responding. I think Grannie is quite a naughty character and if I expand the story in future into something longer, or maybe a two-part I suspect she will feature more. She certainly seemed to find a way to bring Rosie and Tom together. I suspect, she probably did teach Rosie a thing or two in her past. 🙂
      KL ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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