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Telling Tales and Whispering Secrets 

A bit of fantasy alongside the current human condition



A daily blog of Short Stories - Essay - Writer's Musings

*stories in draft 

Soda Pop Boys | Case of the Missing China

The Soda Pop Boys 

Preston, Hal and Ronnie

Photospiration short story


It is one of those days where the lack of rain feels like punishment. The late afternoon hot and dry as the Tucson desert sun has been at it since early morning. The Soda Pop boys are in conference. Deep in their dark half-underground fort, they work the case. Pouring over evidence, three boys study the clues gathered this morning.


Preston's arms are waving as if the other two detectives refuse to accept the obvious. "I'm telling you, it was Mrs. Keith. She's been after Mom's china since she moved into the neighborhood last year. Remember Thanksgiving? Mrs. K tried to borrow the entire set!"


"She would never lift just the gravy boat. She'd take something worthwhile like the meat platter or somethin'." Hal's cool response lowers the temperature a bit.


Preston relaxes into his chair and nods as he's now listening.


Ronnie understands it's his turn in this democratic endeavor. "This morning I went around her place. She was doin' some trimmin' and didn't really wanna talk so I slid in a couple of ripe questions. You know, answers she wouldn't provide if she was really payin' attention."


"Yeah, yeah we get it." Preston is no longer relaxed circling his finger, like roll film, encouraging Ronnie to get on with it.


"She's been outta town. Her mother's got another case of the gout so she had to go and take care of her dad's meals and stuff for the past week. She just got back last night and that's why she was out doin' yardwork in this gawd awful summer heat." Ronnie spills his beans as quickly as he can for he can't stand it when he's interrupted.


Hal leans forward, looking to both of his partners in turn. Preston knows better than to interrupt Hal as he has the gift of using a great number of descriptive words when just a couple will do. Once he knows he has their attention he begins. "Noel knows what's goin' on here. She and I back when we lived in Monticello…"


"Your sister's a bit loony if you ask me, she's always got her head in a book." Ronnie interrupts.


"Hey!" Hal's calm demeanor changes in a flash.


Ronnie knows he's gone too far. "Ah… I didn't really mean it. It just that… you know, she's different."


Hal grins, "Yep, I know." Nodding in solidarity to his Sis.


"Are you two done?" Preston's arms folded having lost his patience when Hal sequestered their attention. "I still say…"


"Let it go!" both Hal and Ronnie chime together.


"Okay! Geez, you didn't have to shout." Preston holds up his hands giving up and sits back refolding his arms.


Hal repeats the slow deliberate eye contact, "As I was saying." looking at the other two. "I'm tellin' ya if we're going to get outta bein' grounded for the rest of the summer, we've got to enlist Noel. This gravy boat did not disappear on its own and we know we didn't break it."


"Nope." Preston is shaking his head in disagreement.


Hal looks to Ronnie and pleads.


"Na uh." Ronnie's shaking his head as well. "No girls."


Hal stops just long enough to devise another plan. "Okay, so let's get on with it. We need more details. Preston, you ask Mom when and where she last saw it. Ronnie, check all over the house to see if you can find it. I'll go see Grandpa about some dowsing."


Preston up off the ground while Hal was dividing tasks, stopped turning to gaze at Hal shaking his head.


Ronnie looks to Preston. "Now who's looney?"


Preston begins to protest, and then thinks better of it and crawls out of the fort. "You better look up that dowsing thing before you visit the farm Hal."


"Good idea." Hal smiles standing waiting behind Ronnie who's following Preston at the fort's exit.



Fresh air, searing but fresh, the boys each inhale long deep breaths, look to each other with serious nods all three taking off in separate directions. Preston heads to the drugstore where his mother works, Ronnie went up to the attic to begin his systematic search as he's the thorough one and Hal creates a straight trajectory for the encyclopedia wall on the first floor of the house. Each on the job with integrity, they work to clear their names and maintain their summer break freedom.



Preston sidles into the drugstore making his way to the cosmetic counter. He leans on the clean glass and smiles at his mom. She's an exotic woman beautiful makeup and chic in style.


"No candy. Now move along there's no playing in the store Preston." His mother's demeanor doesn't quite match her look.


"Geez Mom, I just stopped in to say hi."


"Well hello son, now go." His mom replies looking about to see if any of her regular customers need assistance.


"I will if you tell me where you last saw the gravy boat?" Preston is determined to complete his mission.


"What?" she's focused on a couple of ladies that just came through the door.


"Tell me where you last saw the gravy boat."


"Okay! I'll tell you and then you've got to go." His mom is checking her coiffure in the mirror behind her. "It had gravy in it. Two days ago, dining room table."


Knowing his sister usually did the dishes, he flashed a huge grin and headed out. His mother already half way to her next customers that were checking out the new perfume.




Ronnie, on the first floor realized by the dust that no one had been in the attic recently. Checking all the kitchen cupboards, he was currently in the dining room inspecting the china cabinet when Preston blew in through the kitchen door.


"Guess who had the gravy boat last? Noel! We are off scot-free." Preston's grooving around the dining table his jig not that bad actually.


"You've got some moves Pres." Ronnie replies. "I don't think your mother is goin' to transfer guilt from the three of us to Noel. You know how responsible your older sister is."


Preston's dancing slows. "Buggers. You're right. Is Hal back?"


"No, he's at the farmhouse."


"Guess we'll have to wait then." Preston grabs an apple and heads back to the fort.


Ronnie laughs at Preston's cavalier response and continues his shakedown of the dining room.




Just as he completes his task, Hal speeds in, "I've got the wand!" holding the dowsing fork up in one hand.


"Oh wow!" Ronnie carefully closes the last cabinet. "It's not in the house believe me."


"So where should we start?" Hal's deflated a bit.


"Dunno." Ronnie quiets shaking his head.


"I guess we should start outside but if it's out there, I bet it's broken and it's sofa city for us the rest of the summer."


Both boys head out the backdoor.



Hearing the screen door slam, Preston emerges from their fort and throws his apple core. Wiping his hands on his pants, he asks. "So what's up? Are we home free?"


"No." Hal responds and then smiles a grin as big as Preston's was at the drugstore. Bringing his hands from behind, he reveals the dowsing fork. "But we got this!"


"Let me have it!" Preston grabs one side of the fork. "I'm older than you."


"Absolutely not! You are not qualified to use Grandpa's dowsing instrument." Hal holds on tight.


Ronnie gives Pres a big shove. Struck in the shoulder, he loses his footing over a big rock letting go of the dowsing rod to break his fall.


"Thanks Ronnie." Hal smiles.


Preston grimacing sees Ronnie's demeanor, gets up brushing the dust off his pants and inspects his hands for scrapes. Keeping busy, he won't need face his fumble.


Hal places his hands on the handles of the two spoked dowsing wand his eyes focusing down the 'v' to the bobbing pointing end. Slowly he sweeps the front property. Nothing, not even a twitch.


Deciding he needs an energetic break, he grabs apples and the boys sit on the back steps. Hal coveting the wand watching for Preston's sideward gazes. No one has anything to say.



At last, Hal stands and throws his core as far as he can. Preston next beats Hal's distance. Ronnie seems to just toss his and almost doubles the distance of the other two. They laugh and high five Ronnie, he's got an arm!


Rested, Hal takes his stance, concentrates and starts the sweep of the back property.


The other two follow every once in a while saying, "You got somethin'?"


Hal, not breaking concentration, shakes his head.


"Waaaaait!" Hal's arms are struggling as the tip of the wand is twitching violently.


"Let it go Hal! We gotta start diggin'." Ronnie's already on his knees, Preston not far behind.


Hal relaxes considering the situation. "This is ridiculous. Mom's china would not be buried in that crusty hard dirt."


Ronnie and Pres stop sitting back on their heels, they realize the excitement got the better of them.


"Let's think about this." Ronnie says.


Hal begins walking around the spot creating larger circles with each rotation. The other two join in the line covering more space. About 15 feet from 'the spot,' they discover Popo's den. The family dog, half wolf, had dug himself a den to keep cool.


"I found us a place to look. I'm not going in there." Hal tells his partners.


"I can't fit. I play football you know." Ronnie is quick to take his name off the list.


Hal and Ronnie slowly turn to Preston together.


"You don't think I'm gonna go in Popo's black widow infested den do you?" Preston is now doing the pleading.


"I've got a plan." Hal solemnly states with surety.



"Just how is this going to work? Now I can't move." Preston's muffled voice emerges from the Pinto bean sacks he's been carefully sewed into.


"Just inch your way in there like a worm. If you get stuck, we'll yank you out." Ronnie's excited. This is more fun that he's had all summer.


"I dunno about this…" Preston's not convinced.


Hal smiles and hugs the sacks around Preston for encouragement. "I think this is gonna work Pres. You are so brave."


"That's true." Muffles from the mummified one.


Ronnie and Hal assist Preston onto his belly.


"Wait! Where's Popo?" Preston yells.


Hal spies him sleeping in the shade on the laundry room porch.


"He's sleeping in front of Mom's laundry, I'll keep my eyes out." Hal reassures his brother.


Preston begins to wiggle his way into the large dog's den. Hal and Ronnie try not to laugh. Once inside Pres, wriggles the little flashlight out of his pocket and wrangles it to his mouth. Turning it on, his eyes grow as wide as saucers. The den is filled with insects of all kinds. It's moist down here and Popo's brought bones. He screams with the flashlight in his mouth.


"What?! I mean look for the gravy boat Pres and we'll pull you out!!" Hal called scared for his brother.


Preston scans the pitch dark den illuminated by his little flashlight just as Hal had with Grandpa's wand. Nothing. He begins again while releasing a hand that's falling asleep. His hand free he feels the ridge his shoulder is resting on. It's not a rock, it's the gravy boat! Making sure he's got a hold of it safely, he yells through his teeth the flashlight still in place. "Pull me out. Now!"


Ronnie dives as far in as he will fit and begins dragging Preston out of the underground doghouse.


Half way out and Hal calmly touches Ronnie's back. "Guys, don't move."


Ronnie freezes and Preston begins to complain. "Pull! Ronnie. I feel like I can't breathe in here."


Ronnie hisses and loud, "Shhhhhhh!" that quiets Pres immediately.


Popo's low deep growl resonates throughout the back properly. Ronnie's frozen, Preston's heard enough to freeze and Hal begins to back away.


"Be right back." Hal whispers.


"What!?" Ronnie hisses to Hal


Preston doesn't care what happens. "Just pull me out please." Feeling like he's going to pass out, he needs to get out now.


Hal presses his palm downward with a calming motion as he creeps past Popo's focus on Ronnie's behind and the bottom half of the 'wrapped up' Preston. Once Hal's out of range, he breaks out in a run for the kitchen. Through the door, he grabs a kitchen table's chair and brings it to the sink so that he can reach the cabinets above. Whipping them open he grabs the coveted box of dog treats. He knows he's going to get in trouble, but feels he's got a good excuse this time.


Flying out the door he's calling the family dog, "PoooooPo. PoooooPo!" waving the box of treats. He sees Popo quickly loose interest in the den robbery trotting Hal's way like a puppy. Hal grabs half the box and runs round to the front of the house depositing the chewy treats on the front lawn. Popo's not far behind and lands on the treats just as Hal is running back to Popo's den.


Ronnie and Preston are out of the cave sitting on the ground, the china resting on one of the folded Pinto bean bags. It's covered in dirt crusted gravy. They all move in for a group hug, the china in the middle.


Preston finishes freeing himself from his wrappings feeling the superhero he just was. "We gotta get Noel to clean this up before Mom comes home."


"Yeah, she'll take care of it." Hal is smiling. "Thanks Pres. You found it and we all solved the case."


"Thanks for pulling me out Ronnie." Preston slaps Ronnie on the back.


All three are heading for the kitchen laughing and relieved they won't be sofa bound for the summer.


The boys are given their pay for another mystery solved, soda pop.


Snapshot is not always 'the thing itself,' for there are stories to be told



Interest in Noel's adventures? She's real bookworm with a bit of magick on her side. You can read an excerpt from her short story here: The Magick in Her Books




We'll be seeing you tomorrow.


Cheers and best,



Telling Tales | Whispering Secrets

Day 8 of 365 Orbit

Short story draft


Ps- Tomorrow, I've got an update on The Nine Trilogy for you.



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