Sneak peek: The Grass is Always Snowier…

We’re in the midst of a heat wave in many parts of the country, so why not think about something a little…snowier? While I’m definitely a fan of summer, it’s also my most productive writing season. And I can’t ignore the fact that Corgi Capers book 4 takes place in a blizzard.

Here is an excerpt from a section of the book that I modified for my writing group (I’m up this month over at valmuller.com/blog). It’s from the middle of the work in progress, and I tried to avoid as many spoilers as I could. Keep your eyes open for announcements about the book’s completion.

The Grass is Always Snowier…

By Val Muller

Outside, the snow swirled. Courtney took several deep breaths. The house had been chilly an hour ago, but now Courtney was too hot, like she felt during gym class. Her aunt’s words echoed in her head: “You’re in charge now.”

Those words were everything she would have wished for—a few days ago. But now, especially with the blizzard, the young teenager wasn’t sure being in charge was exactly what she expected.

To calm her nerves, she went through the checklist. Back door: unlocked, drape open. Adam, Toby, and Zeph would have to come in sooner or later. Side door: locked, just like her aunt and uncle instructed. The last thing she needed was for Sapphie to wiggle her way out to find Zeph, not with the snow picking up. She peeked outside, looking over the sink full of dishes. The snow had already coated everything in a thin layer of white. Just a few years ago, Courtney would have thrown her arms in the air and hurried outside to play—like Adam and Toby and Paxton were, somewhere—but now she was in charge. She didn’t want her aunt to come home to a messy house, so she turned the water on and tackled the stack of dishes left over from last night’s dinner and this morning’s chaotic breakfast.

What else was on that checklist? she thought as she washed the dishes. Heat: on. Check. Phone: plugged in. Nope. Where was her phone? She couldn’t check now, not with soapy hands. She’d have to find it as soon as she was done. Her dad always warned the family to plug in phones and other devices if a storm was coming. “You never know when you’ll lose power,” he would always say.

Or, that’s what he would have said if he were here. Instead of somewhere tropical. Enjoying a frozen drink with mom. While Courtney was coronated as the Princess of Chaos. It just wasn’t fair.

She stacked the dishes in the dish drain. What else? What else? Feed the dogs. Feed the kids. That was later, of course. Assuming they all came home. Which of course they would. They wouldn’t be stupid enough to stay out in a blizzard, right? She craned her neck to peek out the window. The snow was still coming down, and the thin layer thickened while she watched. She didn’t see footprints, human or canine. Where was her brother and cousin and Paxton? Where was Zeph?

She took a deep breath. Remember, she told herself, Toby knows the area. He won’t wander far. He’s only four.

Okay, so feed the kids. With that went all kinds of things like don’t leave the stove on, or the oven. Clean up the dishes.

Check.

Speaking of dishes, Courtney had been clinking dishes for a while now, and no sign of Sapphie. Sapphie was usually the first to arrive when a single fork clinked against a plate, always hoping for a scrap or two. Where was she?

“Sapphie?” Courtney called out.

No answer.

Courtney finished the last of the dishes and dried her hands with a towel.

“Sapphie?”

Courtney started for the basement—maybe Sapphie got stuck down there. But then she remembered her phone. It was important to plug that in. If only she knew where it was. Let’s see—she had been playing with Toby in his room.

She hurried up the stairs.

No phone there.

Then she’d gone into the front entryway to talk to her aunt. There was nowhere in the entryway to put down a phone. She checked her pocket again. No, of course it wasn’t there. Where in the world could she have put it? She walked back to the kitchen to look out the window. No sign of Adam, Toby, or Zeph. No footprints or anything. Only more snow.

She glanced down at the counter and saw her phone sitting right there, next to the drain of drying dishes. Was she losing her mind? She was acting like her mom, now, scatterbrained. Maybe that’s what being in charge does to people—it heats up the world with so much responsibility that it melts the brain.

But she was too worried to laugh. Instead, she shook her head and went upstairs to plug in her phone. There, she passed the office computer, where Adam had hooked up his wildlife camera. She opened the camera and looked. Nothing but white piling on white. No footprints, no boys, no dogs.

And speaking of dogs…

“Sapphie!” she called.

Her heart skipped a beat. She remembered the time Sapphie was stuck in the office at home. A stack of newspapers had fallen, nearly crushing her. Sapphie’s track record of staying out of trouble was pretty low. A pit of worry formed in Courtney’s stomach.

“Where is that dog?” she muttered.

She ran from room to room, calling for Sapphie and looking for paths of destruction, but everything looked normal. No, not normal. Nothing about this was normal. Her aunt and uncle were gone, of course, but so was everyone else. Everyone and everything she was supposed to be in charge of was missing. Her brother, her cousin, her dogs.

“Urgh!” she yelled.

A strange chill pricked the back of her neck, but this time she wasn’t imagining it. She followed the chill out to the side door. The side door she knew she’d locked.

It was wide open.

And in the dusty snow that had spread onto the covered porch, two pawprints. She’d recognize them anywhere. They were Sapphie’s. Only two prints that disappeared into a fresh layer of snow that was falling way too fast.

So everyone was lost. Adam, Toby, Zeph, and Sapphie.

Courtney had been in charge for less than an hour, and she had already failed. She thought about her aunt and the promise she made to keep an eye on everyone. Her parents, her teachers, everyone who warned her—they had all been right. She was not responsible. She took a deep breath. Her parents were miles and miles away, in a different climate, on a cruise or an island somewhere. Her cousins were miles away. She didn’t know any of the neighbors. She had literally no one she could reach to for help.

She had failed.

No, Courtney hadn’t failed. This wasn’t over. She hurried inside, put on her winter gear, then took her best guess as to the direction of those in her charge. At the last minute, she hurried inside for Toby’s flashlight and backpack kit. She made sure to close the door behind her as she hurried out into the whitening world, feeling more like a space explorer in one of Adam’s comic books than a teenager babysitting her family.

* * *

Posted on July 28, 2022, in inspiration. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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