by Maureen O'Hara Pesta

Karen kicked snow chunks from her boots at the front door and fumbled in the dim porch light for her key. Roger stamped his feet on the mat.

It had been a long day. Ahh, good to be home. She pressed the latch and nudged the door open with her shoulder, brushing against the big, evergreen Christmas wreath hanging there. Setting her purse and keys on the table, she flicked the light switch.

Then it began, the flapping.




''The Werley Boys'' by John Pesta on Smashwords

The Werley Boys,” a short story by John Pesta about two cranky brothers who won't give up their beloved outhouse, is now available as an e-book from the bookseller Smashwords. It can be read easily on all major e-book devices including iPad, iPhone, Kindle and others. At 99 cents, it's priced to sell.

We're thrilled about this short-story publishing experiment ~ please take a moment to check it out. The cover illustration is, as always, by Maureen.

Click below to read an excerpt from the short story.

John, Maureen, Jesse and Abigail
The Fine Words Butter No Parsnips Team




A short story by Maureen O'Hara Pesta

“Hi, Margaret. Laurie Stanton Carter added you as a friend on Facebook. We need to confirm that you know Laurie in order for you to be friends on Facebook. Thanks, the Facebook Team.”

Laurie? Laurie of 60 years ago?

Once upon a time you met, played Wild West cowboys in your backyard, and went your separate ways. Today that little girl gallops out of the past, all grown up and scaring me again.




by Abigail Pesta

Another day, another charming letter from my landlord.

"I noticed that you have flowerpots on the windowsills -- make sure you don't leave rings of dirt behind," this one read.

The little notes were arriving with increased frequency, ever since I told him I'd need to break the lease. I had a good enough reason: I was being transferred to Hong Kong by my employer; my time in London was up. To soften the blow, I'd even found him a brand-new tenant for the apartment, so he wouldn't lose a single cent of rent.

Still, he couldn't quite wrap his brain around it. He thought I was getting away with something.




by Abigail Pesta

Can there be a more enlightened way to start the new year than by going to a Buddhist brunch?

My friend Cecile invited me to one on New Year's Day, and I said yes right away. It sounded like the perfect chance to regain some dignity after a night of drinking, lunacy and self-reproach. Plus there would be finger food.

I didn't know what exactly to expect at Cecile's party. But one thing's for sure: A Buddhist brunch raises the stakes on the hostess gift. Lots of opportunities for bad karma.




by Abigail Pesta

I met Emma at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Houston, and we sat for a few minutes on a bench outside the deserted basketball court. It felt like the coldest day of the year. The black city sludge in the gutter was frozen rock solid. Overhead, the branches of a tree -- hopelessly tangled with plastic bags -- were whipped by the bitter wind.

But none of this mattered to Emma, because she was in love and wanted to spend the afternoon telling me about it.

She looked radiant and pixie-like, wearing a striped knit cap with a fuzzy ball swinging on the end of a piece of yarn. "I am so in love!" she declared.

I, on the other hand, had spent the morning composing angry mental letters to an old boyfriend. Perhaps it made me a less-than-ideal sounding board for Emma. But here we were.




by Abigail and Jesse Pesta

In the kitchen, Dad's sitting on the linoleum floor, cussing at a vacuum cleaner. The piece that's supposed to connect the top to the bottom doesn't quite fit. It's August and the apartment is boiling hot.

With sweat pouring down his neck, Dad looks up at a pigeon on the windowsill. The bird is watching him with its creepy pink eye. "God, give me a break," Dad says for the fifth or sixth time. "Please, just one break."

He's so mad at the vacuum cleaner, he's hissing his words. "Just one single break. Is that so much to ask, God?" he implores. The pigeon blinks.




by Maureen O'Hara Pesta

The world is divided into two kinds of people.

There are those who will smash a snake with a shovel the instant it shows up their front yard. Smack! Snake problem solved.

Then there are the others. They want the snake to go away, too, but their strategy is more subtle -- it doesn’t go nuclear right out of the gate. It involves flowerpots, tactical retreats and cardboard boxes.

Leann belonged to the second group.




by Abigail and Jesse Pesta

I rolled out of bed on Christmas eve feeling uncharitable. As usual, I'd put off all my shopping till the last minute. And the city was sure to be a zoo after the subway strike.

Like everyone else, I had wasted the whole week trying to find ways to get back and forth to work. No time for gift-shopping, no bill-paying -- not even time to do the laundry. Which meant that on top of everything else, I was out of underwear.

But none of this would deter me, for a simple reason: It was now or never. "Today I am a woman with a shopping list," I thought, steeling myself for what I imagined would be bitter cold and bitter people.

To try to get into the holiday spirit, I drank an eggnog latte at Starbucks before heading uptown with my list. The crisp, wintry air put a snap in my step that heretofore had been lacking. Maybe this will be a good day after all, I said to myself, marching up the avenue in tight, wooden-soldier formation, elbow-to-elbow with my shopping comrades.




by Maureen O'Hara Pesta

Just before Christmas last year, Vernal and I made our annual trek through the holler and down to Millport bottoms to buy a tree. It's always a project, buying from a tree farm, but we get a nice, fresh-cut pine, just like the old days, sort of.

Mr. Bell, the owner, lost an arm in a farm accident. Although he's handy with the chainsaw, I always feel we should somehow be helping him and not the other way around. He wandered around the lot, patiently, while we made our selection. After he cut it, we lugged it across the field to the barn.

"Set 'er up here an' hold on good and tight," he said, as Vernal and I hoisted it up onto the metal platform of the tree-shaker machine.




by Abigail and Jesse Pesta

I needed a job badly, but there were some red flags during my interview at Magma Corp.

For starters the interview lasted just five minutes, during which time the office manager, Nell, told me her four rules of employment. "Karen," she said. "To work here, the rules are: Obey the dress code. Be punctual. Get along with other people. And have fun."

She stressed the word "fun" by slapping her hand loudly on her desk. The noise startled a parrot perched on a bookcase a few feet away. It flapped its wings and squawked a word that sounded like "turtleneck."




by Abigail Pesta

The night we got to Shanghai, Marcy and I were so tired that all we did was stay in the hotel and watch "The Sound of Music" on TV.

Never mind that it was dubbed in Chinese, which neither of us spoke.

So the next day, we promised ourselves, we'd have an adventure. Which is how, 24 hours later, we found ourselves standing next to a creepy hearse-like limo at midnight, trying to decide how stupid we'd be if we actually climbed in.

The limo was piloted by a pair of Shanghainese barflies we'd chatted up. Now they were inviting us out for a night on the town. Their names: Jimmy and Napoleon.

"Hop in," Napoleon said. "We'll take you to nightclubs with Chinese movie stars."




by Maureen O'Hara Pesta

I was fourteen when Dad said it was time I learned something about business.

The "office" -- that was Dad's world. Office attire for a computer salesman in the 1950s meant starched white shirt, dark suit, necktie, and felt hat with grosgrain trim. No wonder, then, that when Dad got home at night, we were supposed to give him space. Space to drink a martini, smoke a pipe, and read the paper. Space to recuperate after a exhausting day of talking to customers and looking reassuringly dependable.

"Yes, it's important to learn about business," Dad said. Then he dropped the bomb: "So your mother and I would like you to join Junior Achievement this year."




by Jesse Pesta

Riding home on the school bus, the Neidermeier twins are having a fistfight about which is better, John Deeres or Massey Fergusons.

I shouldn't even be on the bus, but I missed my stop. The driver says he'll drop me off on the way back, but first he has to finish the route.

Meanwhile, the twins are punching each other and saying "fuck you" about tractors. The bus slowly empties out.

My family is a town family, we don't live on a farm. By missing that stop, I gave the twins an opening. Now, they're just waiting for the right moment.




by Abigail Pesta

I started getting these dizzy spells, so Dad suggested that I buy a toaster.

If you have a toaster, you see, you're able to eat more toast for breakfast. Breakfast cures everything, Dad says.

I didn't want to blame breakfast for feeling dizzy, I wanted to blame Hong Kong. The tiny apartments, tiny people and tiny refrigerators all conspired to make me feel like big, lumbering Sasquatch. The city's narrow sidewalks turn the shortest stroll into a game of human pinball. Even the lampposts are cruel, with their loud, staccato crosswalk signals constantly warning that the light's about to change with a rapid-fire ticking noise. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick-tick! You can hear them for blocks, machine-gunning the masses with this message: Quit wasting time.

But I digress.

My dizzy spells weren't the dainty Victorian kind where you recline on the fainting couch and ask for some smelling salts. They demanded action. Could a toaster really be the cure?




by Maureen O'Hara Pesta

My mother was pulling out all the stops for First Communion Day.

A white organdy dress had arrived from a store back east. So did the veil and tiara. It was time to welcome Jesus into my heart, as Sister Angela taught us, an occasion to be dressed properly.

But the white leather shoes, with their dainty straps and open toes--that was my favorite part of the whole outfit. I could hardly wait for the moment to arrive that I could buckle on those shoes.

That’s because I had been diagnosed with weak arches by the shoe salesman. I had put my feet in the big metal device in the shoe store, with its eerie green radioactive light, and I had seen the bones inside of my feet.

Yes, it was an x-ray machine, right there in the shoe store.




by Maureen O'Hara Pesta

Okay, so this is where we're headed today, Nan said to herself earlier, after the mailbox blew up. Evidently, a firecracker delivery had occurred following the mail delivery.

One of the facts of life in the countryside is that kids like to blow up your mailbox with cherry bombs. Fair enough.

Buy why today? She already had to deal with Melanie, who was slumped on a stool at the kitchen counter, her cheeks streaked with tears because she had witnessed a snapping turtle devour a box turtle down at the pond.




by Abigail Pesta

It was destiny. The cockroach and I would meet again. I never would have guessed it when our paths first crossed, many years ago, that steamy evening in the tropics.

The light was fading over Wan Chai--its girlie bars and mossy skyscrapers--when we locked eyes, this bug and I. We sized each other up, paralyzed. Then, I made a break for the can of bug spray, and the battle began.

I blasted the creature out of my kitchen with a steady, lethal gusher of Raid. The roach galloped into the living room, then to the bathroom, fleeing as poison sluiced from beneath my angry fingertip.