Navigating the Twitterverse, Book Review – My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister, Short Story – It Takes a Neighborhood

Navigating the Twitterverse

This has been a weird Twitter week. One man added a comment to a thread I was on, saying he wanted to “know” another woman on the thread and me.  I don’t know if he meant Biblically and at the same time, or what.  She didn’t respond and neither did I.  He’d followed me about three weeks back and has made brief comments on my tweets/comments along the lines of “I like what you say.’ This would be flattering, except that for some of these, I said something like “Contemporary/Speculative” in response to a post asking, “What’s the genre of your WIP.” Not exactly my most inspiring words.   At first, I’d like his comments, but after the “I want to know you” comment, I no longer engage.  He’s not a writer, and I don’t know why he followed me; although checking his profile a little more in-depth, I suspect he targets women to hit them up for money for his struggling family.  He doesn’t know it, but he’s on super sensitive Maggie Claypool Twitter Probation (SSMCTP).   You only get two strikes on SSMCTP.

I’ve been followed by several Twitter folk who profess strong political and social views.

  For some reason, several atheist groups have followed me.  I say “groups” because they have names that seem to indicate they’re a group.  I really have no idea.  I don’t know what brought me those followers.  Perhaps, I followed someone who’s a member of the group.   I don’t know.  It really doesn’t matter.  Two of my favorite people in the world are atheists.  And, I have the same view of organized atheists as I do about organized religious groups:  as long as you don’t try to proselytize me, you do you.  But I don’t follow back because I’m not an atheist.  Sometimes, I wonder if I should confess that to them.   Well, I guess I just did here.

There’s a member of the #WritingCommunity who tweets what seems to be hundreds of times a day suggesting different great members of the community who need followers.  I thought this a helpful community service until I checked out one of the very few male writers promoted in these posts, and his profile succinctly said he only likes to talk about titties and his penis.    Huh. 

I’ve somehow attracted followers not in the writing (or the reading, for that matter) community who are on polar opposites of the political continuum.  I’ve had similar “I should confess” angst regarding these followers.  Should I tell them I’m a registered Republican who’s a little right of center on fiscal matters, and a big step left of center on social matters, and that I’m contemplating becoming an Independent?  Do I tell the right-wingers, II did not vote for Trump in either election, would only vote to deport him, and I most certainly do not believe Ted Cruz is a gift to America?  Should I tell the left-wingers I voted for Biden, but don’t believe he’s doing very well, and that I am against the idea of “defunding” the police?  It’s not that I care if THEY hold these views, tweet these views or even write them in ink across their faces.  I believe their right to hold their views and speak those views is sacrosanct.   I just wonder if they would think I’ve somehow misled them about my views.  I  guess like the atheists, they can read my confession here.  (By the way, yes, I very much know that Trump cannot be deported, and that if he could, no one would ask for my vote on the matter.) 

Then there are the anti-smoking groups who have followed me.  They seem to be connected to other writers, so I assume that’s why they followed me.   Since I’m making confessions, I’ll say that I’m not a smoker, have never been a smoker and will never be a smoker. Cigarette butts thrown on the ground piss me off.   I wish my smoking friends would quit, and I tell them that privately.  I don’t, however, feel driven to join an organized anti-smoking campaign. But, I do want smokers who throw butts on the ground or out the windows of their cars to be traced through DNA and punished to the fullest extent of the littering law.

Two former high-ranking Naval officers followed me this week.  I followed one back, and he immediately sent me a DM trying to chat me up.  Huh.   Why would someone so highly decorated and with such a distinguished career – including being an Ambassador – follow me on Twitter to chat me up?  Why would such a person be using Twitter for that purpose at all?  Reminds me of all the men unable to come up with  two-syllable words on Words with Friends who chose that venue to find love – or whatever they were looking for.  I added a line to my profile that informs potential suitors that I will ignore their DMs.  What I don’t say is that those who try to chat me up through DM go on SSMCTP.

In other news, I managed to buy seedless grapes this week and fired off a couple short story submittals.

Book Review:  My Half-Sisters Half-Sister by Samantha Henthorn

My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister by Samantha Henthorn begins with an abbreviated family tree, which came in very handy at different points in the book.  It also is important for a twist at the end.

The main character is Pippa, given name Epiphany.  Her older half-sister Heather is responsible for giving Pippa that unusual name (per Pippa it’s not a name, it’s a noun), and as the story progresses we learn that Pippa thoroughly resents her sister, and her name is just one of the reasons for that burgeoning resentment. 

The story starts with a flashback to when Pippa was a child, and she and Heather’s half-sister Sadie meet.   Back in present day, Pippa lives over her mother’s closed pub (closed at the start of the pandemic) with her boyfriend to whom she seems indifferent.  She describes herself as “frumpy, fair and nearly forty” and wishes she were a librarian.  Enter Heather’s half-sister Sadie, beautiful and stylish, to bolster Pippa’s self-confidence and self-esteem.

After Sadie begins influencing Pippa, the story gets increasingly surreal, like something is not quite connected.   Hints are laid as to why this is, and as the story goes on, it slowly becomes apparent that someone doesn’t have a clear picture of reality.  But, the climactic answer to what’s going on is much more than I’d guessed. 

Character development, particularly that of Pippa and her mother Jacquetta, is outstanding.   The manner in which the story is laid out is exceptionally clever, and the cadence of the text is quick and easy flowing.  With dark humor peppered  throughout, this book is a quirky and engrossing read!

Short Story:  It Takes a Neighborhood

Ellis McDaniel backed his grey pickup into the Cafferty’s driveway and parked it next to another Chevy pickup.  Then, he got out and began organizing the tools he’d need on his tailgate.  The mid-morning sun felt hot on his dark skin – especially his shaved head — and he was glad he’d be working inside this morning.  .

“Well, you must be the new neighbor, Ellis,” a booming voice said from behind the other pickup. 

Ellis looked over to see a tall man with a ruddy complexion and reddish brown hair coming toward him with his hand extended.  Ellis, a bit puzzled, smiled at the man and shook his hand.

“I’m Paul Toffler.   My boys and I live in the two story brick home just around the corner.”

“Ellis, McDaniel – my wife and I just. . .”

“Moved into the Smith’s house.  Yeah, Millie told me when I got here this morning.  She wanted to make sure I left room in the driveway for ‘the nice young man who’s coming to do the electrical work.’”

The men both laughed because clearly Ellis was well into middle-age.  “Well, I guess age is a relative thing,” Ellis said. 

Right then, two teenage boys came around from the back of the house.  Paul said, “Here are my boys..   The older one is PJ – short for Paul, Jr.—and the younger one is Timothy.”  Both boys stepped forward and shook Ellis’ hand.  Then Paul told them to take the shovels, hoes, and rakes out back.

“Here to do some gardenin’?” Ellis inquired.

Paul chuckled, “No, actually we’re here to clear the brush out of the fence line – you may have noticed it’s a little out of control.”  

Looking puzzled again, Ellis said slowly, “You’re going to dig it out?”

Paul’s eyes twinkled.   “No, but experience tells me, I’ll need the shovels before the day is over.  Well, I’d better get at it.  See ya on the patio for a beer with Herschel later this afternoon?”

“Oh, no,” Ellis said.  “I’m only gonna to be here an hour and half tops.   I’m just putting in an electrical outlet in the living room.”

He was very much taken aback when Paul laughed and said, “Sure ya are.   Okay, catch ya later.”

As the other man walked away, Ellis shook his head.  Then he put his toolbelt on, and drywall saw in hand, walked up to the Cafferty’s front door.       

Before he could even knock, Millie Cafferty threw the door open and with a big grin greeted him.  Her bright blue eyes shone through the deep wrinkles in her fair face, and her snow white hair sprung every which way from her head, just as it had when Ellis and his wife had dinner at the Cafferty’s earlier in the week. 

“’Mornin’, Ms. Cafferty!” Ellis greeted her.

“Just call me Millie,” she responded.  “It’s shapin’ up to be a warm one today – come on in!”

They walked into the Cafferty’s living room, and Ellis went directly to the wall between the living room and kitchen.  When he and Maya had been over for dinner, the Cafferty’s had two different lamps and a fan plugged into an extension cord there.  He’d explained that that particular extension cord was not meant to carry such a heavy load.  When he’d looked around the living room, he’d found that for some reason that wall had no electrical outlet, and he’d offered to put one in.

“Okay,” he said.  “I’m gonna put the outlet in the middle of the wall so that you have the most flexibility.”

“That sounds good to me,” Millie said.  “But, before you get started, can you look at the lights underneath my kitchen cabinets?  They keep burning through bulbs, and I think somethin’s wrong.”

“Sure,” Ellis replied readily.

The two lights under the cabinets were old fluorescent fixtures.  He explained that they really needed to be replaced.

“Oh, my,” Millie said, her face showing her concern.  “I really need those lights to see what I’m doin’.  You know these old eyes aren’t what they used to be, and I could end up choppin’ off a finger.   That would be the beginnin’ of the end for me, I’m sure.” She looked at Ellis pitifully, directly, but pitifully..

Ellis felt a little put on the spot, but before he could even respond, he heard a voice say from behind him, “Hey, there, young man!”  He turned and there in the entrance to the kitchen was Herschel, a little leprechaun of a man with blue eyes as bright as his wife’s, and a mischievous grin.    

The men shook hands while Millie asked Herschel, “Is that battery gonna take care of the beeping?”

“I certainly hope so,” Herschel replied. “We don’t have any more nine volts to try.”

Just then the unmistakable sound of a smoke detector chirping could be heard from somewhere in the house.

“Well, damn,” said Herschel.  “Guess I gotta go buy some new batteries.”

Ellis shook his head and said, “Batteries aren’t gonna fix that.  When it chirps three times like that, it means that the detector needs to be replaced.  When’s the last time you put new smoke detectors in the house?”

The Cafferty’s looked at each other, and then Herschel said, “It must’ve been ‘bout 11 years ago when we had the kitchen renovated.   To get the house up to code, we had to have new detectors including one of those carbon detectors.”

“Well, then, you prob’ly need to replace all of them, or they’re just gonna start chirpin’ one by one,” Ellis said. 

“Oh, my,” Millie cried.  “I can’t take any more chirpin’.  We didn’t’ get any sleep last night.  I’m plumb tuckered.”  Again, she fixed Ellis with that direct, yet pitiful, stare.

Herschel walked over to his wife, and guided her to the kitchen table.  “Now, you just sit here and rest, Millie,” he said.  “Don’t you worry – I’ll figure out how to turn them all off.”

“Oh, no,” Ellis said.  “You don’t want to disable all the smoke alarms.   And, anyway I imagine your breaker box locks that breaker.  You’d have to disconnect them one by one, and if you’re gonna be up on the ladder to do that, might as well just replace ’em.”

“Oh my,” cried Millie.  “Herschel’s already been up that ladder too much.  It aggravates his knees and with his vertigo, he could fall and break a hip – then where would we be?”

Again, she fixed Ellis with a stare, this one looking more distressed than previously.  Ellis, caught in that stare, found himself saying, “If you guys can order the smoke detectors for pickup, I can install ’em for you.”  He sighed, and continued, “Might as well get some new LED lights for under the cabinets while you’re at it.”

And, so it was that before Ellis could even begin working on the electrical outlet, he sat down with some lemonade and homemade cookies at the kitchen table and helped Herschel order smoke detectors and lights.   When that was done, he moved furniture away from the wall so that he had room to install the outlet.   

“Ellis, while you’re movin’ the furniture, do you think you could move that chair to the other end of the couch?” 

“Sure,” he replied.  Then he spent thirty minutes rearranging the living room furniture until Millie decided that the configuration was just right.  Just as he settled down to start the outlet work, Hershel announced he was off to pick up the smoke detectors and lights.  He asked Mille if she wanted to ride along.  At first she said yes, and then she said, “Oh, my.  I completely forgot to ask Paul and the boys if they can make sure there’s room by the fence for those bushes I got the other day.   I better stay here.”

“Don’t forget to put mulch around them,” Herschel said before he left.

Alone in the living room,  Ellis said, “’Oh my,’” completely understanding what Paul had said to him earlier.  He called Maya and told her he’d probably be at the Cafferty’s most of the day.  She said, “You’re doing the right thing, helpin’ those sweet people, El.”

When Millie came back in the house, she started putting lunch together in the kitchen.  By the time Herschel got back, she had laid out cold cuts, cheese, pulled pork, cold fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, pasta salad, three kinds of bread, fruit salad and a variety of chips.   She hollered out the back door to Paul and the boys.  

When everyone gathered in the kitchen, Herschel said, “Let’s give thanks.   Thank you, oh, Lord for these thy gifts — the food and the company — in Jesus’ name. Amen.”  Everyone echoed the ‘Amen,’ filled their plates, and sat down at the kitchen table. 

A little later, when Herschel and Millie went to the basement to get more bottled water, Ellis said to Paul, “’Oh my!’ I found out what you were talkin’ about  this mornin’.”

Paul grinned back at him, “Yeah, they think they’re subtle.”

Ellis chuckled, “Millie’s ‘bout as subtle as a brick to the head.”

Paul, nodded, still grinning.  “Yeah, but, we all know the game and play along.  Here’s the thing, Millie and Herschel are the heart of this neighborhood.   When my wife was dyin’ from cancer, Millie was there every day.   She came and stayed with the boys when I was with Linda at the hospital.   And, Herschel drove Mr. Smith everywhere up until the day he went to live with his daughter.  They know who needs what, and they organize help for whoever needs it.  For instance, if you needed help clearin’ out that old fence at the back of your property, they’d suggest that maybe you could trade some electrical service for my help.   I doubt that it’s  a coincidence that you and me are both here on the same day.  They thought we should get to know one another.”

Hearing the Cafferty’s on the stairs, Paul lowered his voice, “They are damn funny about it sometimes.   One time, Millie wanted her kitchen painted a different color, so Herschel ‘accidentally’’ put something through the wall.  Had Lester – you’ll no doubt meet him soon — and his family come to dinner.  Lester’s wife sees the hole and  says, “Lester’ll fix it.’ Lester shows up, and they not only have the drywall and spackle, but two gallons of paint in a completely different color than what the kitchen was.  So, we all know when our ‘day of service’ comes around, block out the entire day.  Luckily. It’s a good size neighborhood so ‘service day’ doesn’t roll around too often.”

The Cafferty’s returned with the water, and everyone finished up their lunch.  Paul and the boys went out to complete their work, and Ellis installed  the electrical outlet.  Next, he replaced all the smoke detectors while Herschel “held the ladder” and told him about the local places he could take his wife out to dinner.   Then, with Millie and Herschel at the kitchen table chatting at him about all the goings-on in the neighborhood, he installed the new lights under the cabinets.

“Oh my! Those are much brighter – my fingers are safe!” Millie said, wiggling her gnarled fingers.

Herschel stepped toward Ellis and said, “Thank you so much.  I hope you’ll sit a while with us out on the patio – have a beer before you head home.”  Then he tried to hand Ellis some folded up bills.

“Oh, no, Mr. Caff. . .Herschel,” he said.  “You keep your money   I’m sure there will be a time we, Maya and me, might need your help.”

“Okay, Ellis, but please be sure that you call on us when you need help.  We’re a good neighborhood, and you’ve shown today that you’re a good neighbor.   Help me fill a cooler with beer?”


They filled the cooler with ice and beer, and Ellis carried it out onto the patio.  Mille and Hershel followed him out, Millie bringing water and soda for the boys.  Paul and his boys were busy heaping brush into a single pile in the middle of the Cafferty’s backyard.   So, Ellis went out to help them finish the job as Herschel and Millie arranged chairs and raised umbrellas  on the concrete patio.  

When the brush was all piled, with the smaller limbs and vines weighed down by larger limbs and small trees, Ellis, Paul, and the boys sat down under the umbrellas.  The men cracked open beers, and the boys drank water and soda. 

“Oh, my,” Millie said.  “The rose bushes look so beautiful!  Thank you so much – you didn’t need to do that!”

“You’re welcome, Millie,” Paul said.  He and Ellis traded knowing smiles.

“So, whadya think, Paul?” Herschel asked.  “Will the brush dry out enough to burn in three weeks?”

Paul nodded his head, “Yeah, I think so.  Even if it doesn’t quite dry out, we’ll put some more seasoned wood with it.  What doesn’t burn in the bonfire, I’ll come back and burn again later.”

“Good, good,” Herschel replied.  Then he turned to Ellis.  “Neighborhood BBQ, here, three weeks from today.  Bring a chair, your beverage of choice, and a dish to share.   When the sun finally goes down, we’ll light the bonfire and have s’mores.”

“Sounds great!” Ellis said. 

The neighbors drank a couple beers and got to know each other better. Before they headed home, Paul and Ellis exchanged cell phone numbers “in case you ever need anything.”

Later, after Ellis packed up his gear and went home, he said to Maya, “Maya, you know I wasn’t sure about moving here.  I think we made the right choice.”

%d bloggers like this: