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Stitch! Read! Write!

Updated: 2016-10-06T09:31:43.654-04:00




Here is my ort vase for the month. The autumn-y blob on top is the product of stitching on a fall-themed pinkeep. I am trying something different for the pinkeep, and it is not coming out how I pictured it, but I think it will still look good. Can't wait to post pictures of the finished result!

I also have some other lovely things to show, when I have the time and energy to do a real post some day. Not that anybody is hanging on every blog post. :)




Not much progress this month. See the little fluff of color above the white bunch? That's it!

TUSAL and OakHaven SAL update


TUSAL and update

Only posting once a month works pretty well for me. It helps me keep a record of my stitching, and the TUSAL deadline keeps me motivated both to stitch and to post.

I got a lot (for me) of stitching done this month. Worked on the OakHaven Owl SAL, my Fair and Square Blackbird Designs round, and Sophie's Pincushion from Shepherd's Bush. So, my TUSAL update shows quite a bit of progress!

There is a satisfying lack of dust in this picture. Thank goodness I took a sec to wipe the edges with my skirt!

And here are the April and May birds from the OakHaven SAL. They are too cute - love the baby owl!

As it's a holiday weekend here, I will have to try and post again about my lovely Fair and Square exchange and the SB pincushion I mentioned above.(image)



When it came time to takes pix of my latest TUSAL contribution, it had been so long since I last stitched that I had to search for my ort bag...
Here it is, snuggled underneath my Favorite Stitching Book Ever. I'm using stuff from "A Stitcher's Journey" by Blackbird Designs for the current Fair and Square round.

I haven't put floss through fabric for at least a week and a half, so my threads are still in my adorable tiny ort bag. Isn't is fabulous?
Don't look at the dustballs. They ruin the magic.

Here is my paltry progress. I *have* stitched, I swear, but I must be super frugal with floss this time around. More likely, I haven't stitched as much as I thought. I think I stitch in my dreams.
My cats are not allowed near my stitching. HOW IS THERE A WHISKER HERE? Wait, maybe that's mine...

And a shot of that lovely crystal vase full of string:

It isn't even the new moon!


Time for an update, and it's not even because I need to post my TUSAL progress!

I *finally* got some decent photos of the squares Jennifer of Sweet Pea Stitches sent me for Round 23 of the Fair and Square exchange (accepting new members!).
Rhodes Butterfly Biscornu by Kincavel Krosses

This is why I'll never be a star in the stitch-blogging world. My photography skills are near zero. I could not get a photo to do justice to how pretty this is! I just love these - the colors are lovely, and the Rhodes Butterflies are perfectly stitched. The pretty pale yellow is Jennifer's own hand-dyed floss color. Beautiful! Thank you, Jennifer!

I also finished March's owl from the OakHaven SAL for the Yahoo group.
Another cutie. You can't tell in the photo, but he's stitched on Mint Julep Jobelan by Dyeing4U. I miss that company - yep, this has been in my stash around ten years! Tonia kindly sent me April AND May, so that's what I'll be working on for the next couple of weeks. I am also finishing up my squares for the Blackbird Designs round at Fair and Square.(image)



Just a quick post to share my TUSAL progress. I actually did get some stitching done during our move, so there are some pretty greens and pastels in there.

I finished my March installment of the Oak Haven SAL, and received some gorgeous Fair Squares from Jenn. I am having a terrible time getting decent pictures; it has been grey and cloudy lately. I will try again and post on those later.(image)

Fair and Square exchange


My partner, Jenn, received the squares I stitched for Round 23 of the Fair and Square exchange. I had such fun stitching these, and I'm happy I can show them now! Here they are:

Designer: Brenda Keyes of The Sampler Company
Pattern: one block from Sampler Musings
Fabric: 32 ct. light mocha
Threads: DMC as charted, except for the crab. I chose what I thought was a "crabbier" color than the original.
Note: the signature square also contains a fish motif from Hillside Samplings.

For some reason, as I was nearing the middle of the first square, I panicked because I thought the mailing deadline for this was April 4. It was April 18, which explains why nobody had noted they mailed their round. I am NEVER first to mail, that should have clued me in! At any rate, I ended up staying up all night on the 3rd to finish up, and left off the simple border that framed the pattern.

I think they turned out very cute. Jenn says she likes them, so that is what really counts!

EDIT: (Just in case anybody is reading!)The Fair and Square exchange is accepting new members. You can check out the rules here, then go here for instructions on how to join. It would be great to have more active members! One of the things I love about this exchange is that it is a "stitched piece only" exchange. Putting together packages of goodies is fun, but it can get expensive and a little competitive feeling for me. This is simple, and it is so wonderful to have stitched pieces from all over the world!(image)



I can't believe a month has gone by already. I do have a small bit of stitching, but can't show it yet, as it's for the Fair and Square exchange.

On to my progress with the TUSAL. Here is the product of my stitching this past month. Truth be told, I feel like it's more the product of frogging! That's a story I'll tell when I post pics of my Fair & Square round.

As you can see, I am finally gathering a good amount of orts! Nice evidence that something is being accomplished. Please excuse my ironing board background. We are in the middle of moving and all of my pretty fat quarters are in storage.

Daffycat is the host of the Totally Useless Stitch-A-Long (TUSAL). This year's list is closed, but Daffy's blog is fun to read, and you can find links to tons of other inspirational stitching bloggers there, too.(image)



Well, I decided to give myself a chunk of stitching time, and I managed to finish the February owls by Tonia of OakHaven Designs. They are so cute!

Daffycat, host of the Totally Useless Stitch-a-long, asked about how to join this SAL. It is for members of Tonia's Yahoo Group. It is the kind where you finish one section and post a picture, then you can be sent the next month's pattern. You could e-mail Tonia to see if she is still accepting participants. Whether you can or not, you could still join the group - she is freebie crazy and has TONS of for purchase designs you can only access as a member. Her designs are sweet and simple; I love them!

I have been stressing because I have a few stitching projects lined up but LIFE keeps getting in the way. My husband and I have started a program to improve our health - I am talking MAJOR lifestyle change. It is well worth the effort, but it has turned our lives upside down and been quite an adjustment. We are also moving at the end of April. So I will have to manage my time very carefully in order to get the real important things done, namely my stitching projects! This is what I have lined up:

1.) Fair and Square Round 23 squares - I have a plan for these, just waiting to hear back from my partner to make sure my slight deviation from the rules is ok by her. Not worried about this one - I am sure I can get it done on time.
2.) Something stitched for the TUSAL prize basket. I have some time on this one, since it won't be sent out until the end of the TUSAL.
3.) A birthday present for my sons GF, due in late May. I worry about this one, because it is right in the midst of unpacking and cleaning our old apartment.
4.) Keeping up with the Owl SAL. Not sure what to do with this, because I am packing up most of my stitching supplies, so I won't have my huge stash of fabric to choose from in April or May. I may have to resort to picking up whatever looks nice from my LNS.

Unless I am forgetting something, that doesn't seem too bad. I am not a speedy or consistent stitcher, though, so I will definitely have to keep up with it.

I wanted to say thanks to the kind stitchers who have commented on my blog! Compared to some of the more popular and entertaining stitching blogs, my feeble efforts aren't worthy of notice. So, I appreciate it when people are nice enough to say hi. Thank you!(image)

I am so sad!


I was so resolved to get some stitching done this month, so I would have more than just my TUSAL. But I only got a few stitches into the Oak Haven designs SAL. So, here is that pic:

I know it is March, but I hope I can get it done in the next couple of days and that Tonya will still be kind enough to send me the March section.

And, here is my ort vase, with a tiny, miniscule addition of threads. You can see that I keep my stitching tray all set up in hopes of getting time to throw in a few stitches!



Haha, my stitching train almost totally derailed this month! I am working on a freebie and a surprise project, so if I get time I'll post pics during the week.

BUT - I did add a tiny bit to my ort jar. As you can see, I went overboard from last time, and chose a huge fancy crystal vase this month. It IS a month for flowers, and I thought it looked pretty with my heart fabric. (My in-need-of-paint walls are another matter - don't look.)

Anyway, here are my orts. It's sort of hard to see my threads, but they are there!

Thanks to the people who stopped by and commented on my first finish! I plan on visiting blogs this month of other TUSAL members to see what you all are up to!(image)

First finish of 2011!


I'm so excited - I have never finished something so early in the year before!

This is the first installment of OakHaven Designs Months 2011 SAL. I omitted stitching the month at the bottom because I'm waiting to see how the others look before I decide if I want to use them as monthly patterns. I love this little guy!

Designer: OakHaven Designs
Pattern: Months 2011 - January
Fabric: 28-ct Powder Blue Meran
Threads: DMC as charted, except I substituted 3750 for the recommended 937
Started: January 4, 2011
Finished: January 5, 2011




I haven't actually been added to the TUSAL list on daffycat's post, but since it's time, I'm posting anyway. Here is my first mostly empty jar for the Totally Useless SAL. I'll probably get something different to store these in, I just used what I had for now.

You can join the TUSAL here.(image)

Let's Try Again


After so long a silence, all my (few) readers have left! It's to be expected, of course, and I've come to the realization that I'm not really a "blogger", like some of the beautiful stitching blogs I follow.

Still, I do want a good way to keep records of my stitching. I re-joined the Fair & Square exchange, and am anticipating being in a stich-a-long or two, as well as an exchange or two. I am firmly determined to make this the year of stitching without guilt, and I don't want to lose track of what I accomplish.

I also want to join the TUSAL run by daffycat. It sounds like fun, and there is a giveaway! Hop over to her blog and see what it's all about!

So, here are my planned stitching projects for 2011:

1. Fair & Square rounds - all the regular rounds and special holiday rounds if I feel up to them at the time.

2. The Queen's Sampler: Elizabeth I by Plum Street Samplers. (This was my New Year's start.)

3. 2011 SAL by OakHaven designs. You can check Tonia's Yahoo group here.

4. Valentine's Day card exchange on the SanMan Originals message board.

And, here is my progress on my New Year's start:

The Queen's Sampler by Plum Street Samplers
32-ct Light Chino by R & R Reproductions (think this is discontinued)
DMC as charted
Started: January 2, 2011

Oh, and I forgot to put the pattern in the picture - here is what the finished product will look like:

(image) (image)

More exchanges


I wanted to show you the gorgeous pinkeep I received from Mylene for the HoE LHN exchange. (Isn't it funny how we stitchers have our own "secret language"?)Here is the front, which is one of my very favorite LHN designs, "Night & Day". And the back, which Mylene fashioned into a useful and adorable scissor pocket. I definitely want to try this technique soon! And here is what I sent to Nic for the same exchange.This is from Garden Pleasures (LHN, of course). I just love how this one turned out. The colors were fantastic (I mostly used what was called for. There may be a substitution or two in there, but I didn't keep track.)I love the little butterfly I added, too. The backing fabric, the green & gold - it just all came together so nice, it's one of my favorite finishes so far. I am glad Nic said she likes it, too.One of the threads I used in there was Dried Thyme by Weeks, I think. My floss was one I've had from waaaay back in the day, and I just adored how it looked. But when I went to my LNS to get more, it's a completely different color! I don't expect them to keep dye lots consistent over a decade, of course - but I was disappointed that the Dried Thyme I love is no more...Bliss stopped by my blog and commented that we are both working on the Lizzie Kate doubles. Of course, she just finished hers! I feel like I am stitching only for exchanges, and now the Halloween RR. I am going to have to get myself to stitch a little more so I can leave room for other projects. Otherwise it starts to feel like I "have to," which of course means, I immediately don't want to! Anyway, the post on her blog where she courageously breaks down the cost of the project was motivating. I am grateful to live in the U.S. where most things are affordable. At least our falling dollar gives our over-the-lake neighbors a small advantage!And thank you, Vonna, for your kind comments on the exchange items in my last post.I have one more thing to show - my recipient finally received what I stitched for the LiveJournal xstitchexchange community's Seasonal Exchange.This is Summer from L*K's A Banner Year series. I got the pattern from a friend after she'd stitched it, so I didn't have the little fish button called for, and I couldn't find anything to swim in and out of the seaweed on the bottom, but I still think it turned out well. The fabric shown is what I used for backing. It really looks like sand!And that's it. I'm finally caught up. I'll have an update on my stitching for the Witching for Stitching RR after the weekend.Thanks to those of you who stop by to look and read. I enjoy being able to my love for this craft with you.[...]



Two posts in a row! Don't expect that to continue. :op But I did want to get my other pics posted.I participated in my first exchange at the Yahoo! Prairie School Fans group. This is what I stitched for Patricia (no blog that I know of). Taken from Spring Samplers by Prairie SchoolerStitched on 28ct Potato Annabelle. I don't think they make this fabric anymore, which makes me sad because I really love it.Threads of my choice, but they mostly match those called for.I love the idea of the twisted ribbon on the side, but the sheer ribbon allowed some of the the side to show through. I'd probably need to ruche the ribbon a lot more next time. Also, I experimented with using cotton batting instead of hi-loft batting, and I forgot to put anything in between the layers to hold the pins in! I have been making pinkeep after pinkeep in an attempt to get better, trying out different methods and materials. I'm a slow learner... But I think I'm finally getting the hang of it, because my latest pinkeep, which you'll see as soon as I receive word it arrived, turned out pretty nice...And here is what I received from Dixie for the same exchange:I love how she stitched our initials and year on the backing fabric. Lovely finish. Thanks so much to Dixie, who I don't believe has a blog.Next up is the Hooked on Exchanging Little House exchange. I will save it for tomorrow, so I don't overwhelm my many readers. ;)[...]

Let us just stipulate...


... that I may be a stitcher, but I am definitely NOT a stitching blogger!Anyway, I have some finishes and exchanges I want to show off.First, here is my Round 7 square for Nicky R.Motif from Medallions by Rosewood ManorUnknown Needle Necessities floss & unknown 32 ct linenAnd here are Nicky's squares for me:Next up is what I sent to Joan for the now-defunct To You From Me with Xs exchange. Thanks to Joanne for hosting this summer fob exchange.Adapted Blue Moon from Small Samplings by BrightneedleUnknown 28 ct pale blue evenweaveDMC, Weeks, & GAST of my own choosingMy first one over one, and, if wisdom prevails, my LAST. It turned out beautifully, but was not a joy for these tired eyes. I love how the colors turned out, too.Next, here is the adorable fob I received for the same exchange from Michelle. Unfortunately, I can't find Michelle's blog at the moment.I want to say thank you to the generous souls who have stitched so many lovely things for me lately. The shelving unit in my living room is dotted with gorgeous pieces and I am just so appreciative.Thank you, too, to any reader who may still be hanging around this dusty corner of the web. :)I have more, and maybe I will get around to posting them sooner rather than later![...]

New Exchange Blog


Forgive my double posting, but I totally forgot to include this. Joanne has also started a new exchange group. This will be a quarterly exchange, and it looks like folks will vote on a theme each time. This time, we are doing a beach themed scissor fob. I have the BEST idea for this, I can't wait to get started! I *think* the first deadline is today, so check it out.(image)



Well, I am going to take a quick minute to post pics of my latest two projects. I've signed up for another round of exchanges in various spots, so I want to get everything cleaned up before things get too busy again.First, here are my squares for the Earth Day round at the Fair and Square Exchange:Design: Seasons of the Heart 2 by Erica Michaels (Spring)I modified it somewhat by adding the green "hill" border and changing some colors.And the extras I sent her. I bought a copy of the LHN for myself, too!Staci finished a bunch of squares from the Fair & Square exchange as beautiful threadholders. Check them out at her blog!Next up is my pinkeep (or Pyn Keepe as Edgar spells it. Love that!) for Edgar for the HoE exchange. I loved the colors and how everything came together:Front:Back:And a pic of the trim. I was so happy to find it as it's unusual and I think it went well with the rest. Click for a better view.Design: Miniature Quaker Sampler by Thistle Threads (from "Tiny Inspirations" leaflet)Fiber: Cherry WaterliliesFabric: 32 ct Sand Storm from the Series of Nature line by SilkweaverI also received my own lovely pinkeep from Joanne. Everybody was a bit worried because it had been a long time arriving, so I was very excited to open my mailbox yesterday! Front:Back:Joanne stitched me a design by SanMan originals, who I love. The colors are so sweet and delicate, and the finishing is beautiful. I loosened one of the pins to get a peek at how she finished it, since it was much thinner than my pinkeeps have been. I use the method where you put foam core board between the front and back. Joanne used the one where the front and back are whipstitched together. I think I'm going to try that method next time, it makes a much more delicate looking piece. You can also see the great summery fabric and ribbon she sent. Thanks, Joanne!Last, here is a pic of my latest WIP. Obviously, it's the Lizzie Kate Doubles series that so many people are doing. I went with the materials as called for, and I'm making quick progress. The progress is quick because I decided that "dream" can be one line off, and a letter (or two) on "love" can be off by 1 thread. Old eyes call for compromises sometimes. Don't you love my thread keeper? It's from Monique of My Mark designs. She carries the neatest stitching gadgets in her etsy shop!Well, I do have stash pictures, but I think I'll hold off. I'd rather do smaller posts more frequently, instead of a flood or words once in a while. :) Thanks to all who read my blog, and comment. I realize I'm still in the learning stages here, so your visits are greatly appreciated.[...]



Need I title every post with some notation that I'm behind? I think it's a given by now....

Anyway - thank you all for your wonderful comments. Wanda & Edgar, I am so glad you liked what I made for you. I have a critique of my pinkeep for Edgar on the next post - didn't quite turn out how I'd have liked. Practice makes perfect - I plan on making pinkeeps like crazy until I've mastered them...

I have more pictures coming of exchanges, and - *gasp* - actual WIPs!

I don't want to leave you with NO pictures, so here are two of many things I've stashed lately:

By Monsterbubbles - Stitch Graffiti - I'll be reviewing this book coming up soon!

And, this. Yummy! I sent one to an exchange partner, and bought mine at the same time because I couldn't bear to send it out of the house otherwise!


Does anybody know offhand which ONS might have the Weeks wool felt?

Thank you kindly for visiting my blog.(image)

Exchange Received


I read on Lillie's blog that she received my HoE Biscornu package. I am so glad she liked it. I was so pleased with how it turned out. I can't wait to make more!

Here is the front:


And the back:


Here's the whole package. I thought the frog fabric was cute.


The design is by Casey Buonaugurio, and you can find the pattern on her front page. I stitched it on R & R Reproductions Blue Wave. I loved the feel and color of the fabric - I'll definitely be using R & R more frequently in the future. I converted most of the DMC that was called for to overdyed. I used Willow by GAST for the frog stomachs, and I love the way that particular choice worked out. So cute!

It was definitely a fun stitch (even all those french knot toes!), and I plan on starting another biscornu as soon as I finish up the last of my exchange projects.

Also - thank you to those who comment on my blog. It's very cool to know people are reading!(image)

Lots of catch-up


My, oh, my, where to begin? Lots of stitching is getting done, but all for exchanges. I do have one finish I can show, which was received ages ago. This is a Fair Square for Mercy (Round 5)This is adapted from "Cute As A Bug" by Birds of a Feather in an old Stitcher's World magazine. And here's a pic of the extras I sent along.I also received my Earth Day squares from Staci, which are just so so so cute!Here's a snap of both squares, as well as some goodies she included:Yes, those are honey sticks you see there! Yum. I know they are for tea and whatnot, but I admit to treating them like the Pixie Stix from my childhood and just slurping them down! Delicious. And some lovely linen for more squares! Thank you, Staci!My squares for Staci will be in the mail in the next day or two. I also received my very first biscornu from Wanda for the HoE Biscornu exchange. It's just lovely: She used Silk N Colors Tidal Pool, and the colors are so delicate. I love it! It arrived before I'd finished my biscornu, so it was the first real-life biscornu I'd ever seen, and I was just blown away. Her finishing is just perfect.She also sent some lovely extras, including pretty blue fabric, some pretty threads and LHN's "Prairie Sampler." I have to admit, I do already own that particular LHN pattern. But, it also happens to be one of my favorites, so it'll be a joy to be able to pass one copy along to someone else some day. Also, please note - the chocolate DID make it into the picture this time! :) Thank you, Wanda, for a delightful package!I finished my biscornu, too, for the HoE exchange, and it's winging it's way not-QUITE-halfway around the world. I hope it doesn't take too long to arrive. I am SO excited at how it turned out. It was the first one I'd done, and while it isn't perfect, I am proud of how it looks. Very cute pattern, too.Ok, I have three projects in the finishing up stage, so I'm going to go and get stitching. Thank you for reading my blog, and for providing me so much inspiration with your own! I spend a lot of time with my couple of hundred stitching blogs - yes, I add every one I find to my feed reader. It's why I don't comment so much - it's taking me time to get to know who is who. I actually separated my reading into two parts - one for blogs belonging to people I've exchanged with, and all the rest. Hopefully I can begin commenting on those few blogs and get to participate better in the full experience.Enough rambling - happy spring![...]

Fair and Square exchange received


First I want to say thank you to those of you kind enough to comment on my posts. I am not sure of the etiquette about comments - I feel repetitive if I reply to each one, but I certainly do appreciate each one. I guess, since it's very low-volume, that for now, I'll respond individually. But if I miss you, please know that I am excited each and every time somebody takes the time to read and comment.

I received my first square from the Fair and Square blog. My partner is Mercy, and she stitched "Be True" by Shepherd's Bush. I LOVE this design, and the colors are even more gorgeous in person. My camera won't capture a lot of detail, but you can get a closer look if you click on the picture. Check out the tiny cross-stitch heart pendant kit!


Mercy's also an avid scissors collector, and makes her own beautiful beaded fobs. I am so happy with the gorgeous fob she made me! Don't you think I now need to get these scissors so I can gaze adoringly at that fob while I'm stitching?


I am still stitching away on my square, and now worrying that I'll be pushing the deadline. I know I'll make it, but it's going slower than I expected. A 50 x 50 square shouldn't take this long! I am a sloooow stitcher...

By the way, if any of you don't already know about the Fair and Square group, you should check it out. It is so much fun, and growing every round.(image)

Fob arrived!


I am so excited! I sent Judith in the Netherlands a fob for the Hooked on Exchanging scissor fob exchange on Wednesday and it already arrived!

Here's a pic:

And one of it hanging:
Queen Anne's Lace by The Cat's Whiskers
Fabric: 28 ct platinum Cashel linen
Fibers: Bethlehem from Weeks, Fool's Gold and Rainy Day from Crescent Colors
Beads: 3025 and 62031 from Mill Hill

I hadn't made a fob of any sort before, and I was pleased with how it turned out. Not perfect, but very nice, although it looked a little worse for the wear on Judith's pic for the HoE blog. I guess traveling thousands of miles is hard on inanimate objects, too.

As usual, I forgot to take a snap of the extras. I sent her the chart & bead pack for Just Nan's Queen of the Needle, which was on her wish list.

I am working on another exchange project right now, so no progress pics. I haven't had much time for stitching, so I'm not working on any of my other projects. I did, however, get all of my WIPs and UFOs organized! Each in its own bag and it is taking up only two boxes! Look!


(You get a peek at my mess of a craft table, too. Sorry about that!)(image)

Fairy Tale


This is something I wrote for a visual prompt at a writing community I belong to. The visual prompt is at the end of the story. I'm just happy to be able to use my "write" tag for a change.---------------------------------------------------The day after, he woke up queasy, and felt as thought he'd gotten caught at something, and punished. He thought about going downstairs, feeling the dust under his bare feet, and watching it dance through the sun shafting through the stained glass window on the landing. He pictured his mom's smile, his dad's playful slap on the shoulder, and wondered how he'd be able to accept that. Their love, their perfect faith in his innocence. Wouldn't they see it in his eyes? Would he have to watch the light fade from theirs, the smiles dim, as they saw who he'd become?Breakfast smells rose up the stairs. Mom was making bacon and pancakes. Coffee, too, but he hated the bitterness of coffee. He'd settle for syrup drowning his plate, and a glass of apple juice. Then his stomach flipped as he remembered."Chicken! See, I told you. He's a pussy. Still kisses his mommy goodbye in the morning." Robbie was tall, and fat, and angry, the kind of kid you always thought of when you thought the word "bully". He stood in the middle of the field of overgrown grass. Charlie hadn't known grass could grow that tall, would grow heads like wheat, and poke you as you walked through it. All around Robbie, dark shadows darted and flicked, too fast and small to be identified. But Charlie knew. The first day, Charlie was walking behind them, and had stopped short at the edge of the field, nervously taking in the flying buzzing shapes. Robbie and crew stomped on a few feet, and that's when Charlie heard it, the crunches as they were crushed under foot, the truncated cries of pain, and the quick zip of energy drawn up and away."C'mon, you baby. What're you waiting for? Scared? Scared of grasshoppers!" Robbie turned to his fellows and laughed. He sneered as he caught the look on Charlie's face, mistaking disgust for fear. He turned threatening in an instant, smelling prey. "C'mon, I said. Now." Robbie advanced toward him, and Charlie turned back, running home. He hid on the side of the garage, showing up late for school on his first day. Since then, he'd taken a circuitous route through back yards and down alleys, successfully avoiding Robbie. But yesterday, at the end of an alley that emptied out on the far side of the field, he'd found Robbie and a group of other boys waiting. He could smell his own blood in the air, feel pain in his ribs as he looked at their bared teeth.All it had taken to save himself was a walk through the field. It had helped that he'd peed his pants. Robbie saw it as a sign of submission, although it had really been his distress as he felt all those lights crunched out beneath his sneakers. He'd walked all day with the scent of death wafting up from underneath him, a lingering curse that made him keep his head down, so nobody would see his tears.Sighing deeply, sounding much older than eight years old, Charlie padded downstairs and braved his way through the ignorance of his parents' smiles and jokes. "Go on out and play" they'd urged. So Charlie squared his shoulders and went to the closet for his shoes. They were there, and they looked the way they always had, but he could smell it, and he saw smudges of black smoking up from underneath them. He picke[...]