Original Short Fiction: "A Visit to Old Spot and Spark Ann"
This fable, "A Visit to Old Spot and Spark Ann," was originally not included in the published version of Jiggery-Jee's Eden Valley Stories. It will be restored in a forthcoming revision because it elaborates the very title of the book as stories written by the character, Jiggery-Jee.
A Trip to Bird Dog Creek
After Jiggery-Jee had finished writing his first batch of stories about Eden Valley and its unique residents, he decided to seek criticism of his work. He thought hard about whom to ask for criticism, because he wanted to have as objective an opinion as he could find. He finally decided the best residents to ask would be Old Spot and Spark Ann Dalmatian, literary partners, who live just across Bird Dog Creek. They had published stories in both Eden Valley magazines, Eden Valley’s East and West and Rabbit Times, and they were even famous for their novel, A Hound Dog in Sunshine, as far away a Bright Rail Ridge, which was like another country to the folks of Eden Valley. So Jiggery-Jee gathered up his stories and took them over to the Dalmatians to ask their opinion.
Approaching the Dalmatians’ house, he saw Spark Ann reading on her front porch. She looked up and saw Jiggery-Jee and called to him, “Hello, Jiggery-Jiggery! How are you? Haven’t seen you for such a long time. Welcome and sit down. I’ll yell to the Old Spot to bring us some lemonade.” And before Jiggery-Jee could even say hello, Spark Ann was yelling, “Hey Old Spot—come on out here and bring three glasses of lemonade. Our good buddy, Jiggery-Jee, is here for a visit.” Then she turned to Jiggery-Jee and noticed that he was carrying a manuscript under his arm. “So, Jiggery, what you got there?” asked Spark Ann.
A Warm Welcome
“Well, hello Sparky, thank you for offering me lemonade, and it is so nice to see you again. I have brought my manuscript of stories about Eden Valley and its residents. Before I send it off to the publishers, I’d like to get some criticism about it. And I thought you and Old Spot would be the perfect ones to ask to read it. How about it, Sparky? You and Old Spot up to reading and criticizing my writing?” asked Jiggery-Jee. Before Spark Ann could answer, Old Spot appeared carrying a tray of lemonade and cookies.
“Hello, Jiggery-Jee, good of you to come for a visit,” said Old Spot, as he set the tray down on the table. Spark Ann then poured glasses full of lemonade while the friends talked about Jiggery-Jee’s visit.
“Oh, sure, Jiggery-Jee. We’d be glad to help you. But it may take a few days; we have several book reviews due today and tomorrow, and we’ve been working long hours. Can you leave your manuscript until Friday? We’ll surely have it read by then. Then you can come back, and we’ll tell you exactly what we think,” explained Spark Ann.
“Sure, that’s fine. I really appreciate your taking time out to help me. I value your opinions, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think,” responded Jiggery-Jee.
The friends talked a bit more about the celebration, the weather, and the possibility of a new radio station in Eden Valley. They finished the lemonade and cookies and invited Jiggery-Jee to come back on Friday for brunch, when they would tell him their opinions about his stories. Jiggery-Jee thanked them and headed back across Bird Dog Creek.
Jiggery-Jee Begins his Second Book of Stories
As soon as Jiggery-Jee was back home, he started to write his second book of stories about Eden Valley. By Friday morning Jiggery-Jee had finished one story and started another.
Early Friday morning Jiggery-Jee remembered that he had appointment with the Dalmatians to have brunch and listen to their helpful criticism of his first book of Eden Valley stories. Jiggery-Jee left Miss Fuzzy Bunny a note, telling her he would be back around mid-afternoon; then he headed toward Bird Dog Creek.
Back to Bird Dog Creek to Face the Music
Arriving at the Dalmatians, Jiggery-Jee could smell fresh baked biscuits and buttermilk. And he saw that the patio table was set for brunch. As Jiggery-Jee approached the patio, Old Spot Old Spot brought out a plate of eggs and biscuits and placed them on the table. Seeing Jiggery-Jee, Old Spot greeted the writer, “Hello, there, Friend, Jiggery-Jiggery. Great morning, isn’t it? Sit right down here. Sparky will be right out with orange tea and forks.”
“Good morning, Old Spot. You’re right. It is certainly a great morning. My goodness! What a delicious meal you have prepared. I could smell it as soon as I crossed Rocking Horse Bridge. I am very eager to eat this meal, but I am even more eager to hear the news about my stories,” explained Jiggery-Jee. Just then Spark Ann appeared with a large carafe of aromatic orange tea, and she greeted Jiggery-Jee as she poured full cups for everybody. “Good morning, Jiggery-Jiggery. I bet I know what is on your mind even more than hot tea and scrambled eggs; you want to hear what we have to say about your manuscript. Let’s get started eating and talking about those stories,” said Spark Ann as she sat down and started passing plates of food.
Dalmatian Reading 2
“Well, Jiggery-Jee, they are delightful. They truly capture the spirit of Eden Valley and its residents. But, you know, they probably won’t make you much money, because they probably won’t sell many copies outside of Eden Valley,” began Spark Ann.
“Oh, yes. I’m sure you’re right about that. Outside of Eden Valley, the customers of reading materials demand much more action and complex plots, and my stories are simple and peaceful. That probably won’t catch on. But go ahead and tell me how you think I might improve what I have written,” commented Jiggery-Jee, whose real interest was to make the stories as authentic as possible, even though he knew they would not sell widely.
“Actually, Jiggery-Jiggery, neither Sparky or I could find any real problem with them. We thought of all sorts of things that you could do—like give brief biographies before each story—but we decided that really wouldn’t help the story itself. Each story unfolds something about each character. And since you are planning a second book already, your readers will realize that they will learn more about each character when they visit the second book,” Old Spot explained. “Sparky, will you pass the honey, please.”
A Difference of Peace and Harmony
“Here you are, Old Spot. Yes, Jiggery, Old Spot is right. We think the stories are so different from anything else that we have ever read that we had to think about them in a different way. But the emphasis on peace and harmony is exactly right because as you said in your introduction, that is what Eden Valley is all about,” continued Spark Ann.
“Go ahead and send them out, Jiggery,” urged Old Spot, “just don’t expect to replace Garfield or Curious George.”
“Oh, I don’t figure on joining that lofty company,” laughed Jiggery-Jee. “All I want to do is let the world know something about Eden Valley and to let readers enjoy us and think about the way we are.”
“Oh, Old Spot, I think Jiggery-Jee could well join the famous literary characters who have become classics. He is unique really, there is no one like Jiggery-Jee and the Eden Valley characters. But I, of course, speak with a certain amount of pride, being an Eden Valley character myself,” said Spark Ann.
Payment in Wheat and Honey
“Well, I certainly appreciate your criticism. And I have truly enjoyed this wonderful brunch. You will be hearing from me again soon. I have begun book two, and again I will need your constructive criticism. Oh, by the way, I brought you two bags of wheat and several jars of honey to pay you for you services,” said Jiggery-Jee, as he placed the bag and jars on the table.
“Oh, Jiggery-Jee, that is so thoughtful of you, but you really didn’t have to do that,” said Old Spot.
“Really, Jiggery you didn’t have to pay us. You are a friend,” agreed Spark Ann.
“Still, I think you deserve something for the extra work and taking time out from your paying customers. And also Miss Fuzzy Bunny told me to ask you to come to dinner; she said she would call you middle of next week to set the date, if you’d like that,” said Jiggery-Jee.
“We’d love it,” said Old Spot.
“Yes. Do tell her to call,” said Spark Ann.
“Great, I’ll tell her, and I’ll see you next week. Thanks again so much for this brunch and your kind words about my stories,” said Jiggery-Jee.
“Thanks for letting us read your stories and for the wheat and honey,” said Old Spot.
“And good luck with your books. We’ll be looking for them in the bookstores,” Spark Ann called out as Jiggery-Jee headed back across Bird Dog Creek on Rocking Horse Bridge.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes