Monday, December 28, 2015

Girl Under Glass Chapter Three


Chapter One
Chapter Two

Chapter 3

It’s nearly six when Kelsey gets home. Her mother looks as if she’s been ladled into her chair in front of the TV. Brian somebody is sitting in for Tom Brokaw, who is on assignment in Iraq.
            Kelsey likes the sound of “on assignment.” She’d like to be sent some place where things are different—totally different from this shabby little house with its ratty furniture and a mother splayed out every afternoon like a dead person.
Lydia’s nest consists of an old Barcalounger recliner and a metal TV tray for her drink and cigarettes. There’s nothing else to sit on except a hassock and the ratty sofa neighbors put out in front of their house with a “Free” sign on it. Her mom found a coffee table at the State of the Ark thrift store out on the highway, then buried it under stacks of mail order catalogs, some ugly, multi-colored Rite-Aid yarn for her knitting, and a few of her precious photo albums. The newest thing in the house is a used television from last month’s Botanical Gardens’ Pack Rat Sale.
            Kelsey sheds her mist-covered coat and shakes her head like a wet dog. “Hi, Mom.” She crosses to the kitchen.
            Lydia doesn’t move.
The vodka bottle is down nearly two inches from the mark Kelsey put on it this morning. Knowing how much Lydia drinks when Kelsey’s not watching let’s her gauge what to expect when she gets home. It also lets her know when it’s safe to join her friends on Laurel Street without her mother noticing. Tonight it doesn’t matter. She’s staying in. The judge really scared her this time and it will be easier to stay out of trouble if she steers clear of the other losers who hang out in the alley off Laurel Street.  
The judge was wrong about her not being good at shoplifting. She’d stolen lots of things and not been caught. Just a couple of weeks ago, she and Carly went to trade in their worn out sneakers for new Nikes, leaving the old pairs in the boxes so the clerk wouldn’t notice the weight change. They walked out when he went to get another size. This last time, though, it had been all Kelsey’s idea. The gardenia was beautiful, and it was the last one Rite Aid had.  
            Kelsey takes last night’s grilled cheese pan off the burner where she left it. “Dinner looks yum, Mom. Roast turkey. My favorite.” She drops the frying pan into the sink and turns on the water.
            Her mother stirs.
            “Don’t get up,” Kelsey says. “You cooked; I’ll serve.”
            She opens the freezer to see if there are any pot pies left. She’s tired and hungry and doesn’t feel like cooking anything. There are two small, freezer-burned Boboli pizza crusts, two fifths of vodka, a fifth of gin, a quart of vanilla ice cream, refrozen since the last time PG & E turned off their power, and some fish sticks. Kelsey can’t remember whether the fish sticks pre-dated the power outage or not, so she chooses the Bobolis.
            There’s half a jar of spaghetti sauce in the fridge and a package of government-issued cheese slices. She spoons the mold off the top of the sauce, and spreads a clean layer on each of the pizza crusts. She covers them with the cheese slices and tops them off with some of her mother’s martini olives, which she pinches to flatten.
            Lydia sits up when the toaster oven bell goes off. She blinks a couple of times, and turns to search for her glass.
            “Hi, Mom.”
            Her mother looks surprised to see her. “Where have you been?”
“I just got home from work.”
“You got a job. That’s nice. Doing what?”
It’s been two days since they were in court, and this is proof her mother doesn’t remember being there.
“I’m helping a doctor in his greenhouse.”
`           “I love flowers,” her mother says.
“The pay’s not much, but he really likes me and promised a raise after six months. Did you eat today?”
            “I’m sure I did.”
            “I made pizzas if you want one.”
            “That would be nice.” Lydia finds her glass lying on its side on the rug. “And maybe you’d rinse this out and fix me a little vodka and water. Would you mind? My knees are killing me.”
            “Don’t you think you’ve had enough?”
            “No, I don’t. You know how hard it is for me to sleep.”
            Kelsey comes from the kitchen, takes the glass and puts one of the pizzas on the table next to her mother’s filthy ashtray.
            “Thank you, sweetie. Now just a little something to wash it down with, please.”
            The news from San Francisco is on. Her mother turns up the volume and flips through the channels. 
            Kelsey takes the ashtray with her to the kitchen and checks to make sure there aren’t any smoldering butts before emptying it into the bag under the sink. At least she can get that stink out of her life for a few minutes.
She brings her mother’s drink and puts it on the TV tray. Lydia smiles.
            One of the photo albums is open on the coffee table. Her mother likes to look through them and remember when she was young and happy. But the more she drinks, the more depressed she gets, until every picture reminds her of what’s gone wrong in her life.
            “Why do you make yourself miserable looking at these pictures?” Kelsey closes the album.
            “Shhhh,” her mother says. “Judge Judy’s on.”


Bionic Roses

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Megan's drawing.

This Heartbreaking Picture by a 13-Year-Old Artist Shows Us Exactly Why Orcas Need to Be Free

Megan, who lives in Canada, was moved to draw this picture after learning about the death of an orca named Unna

 Another death at Sea World

Lolita, at the Miami Seaquarium
45 years in captivity and counting

Monday, December 21, 2015

Girl Under Glass Chapter Two

top the estuary - Picture of Beach House Inn, Fort Bragg - TripAdvisor
Pudding Creek

  Chapter 2

According to the directions the bailiff gave her, the doctor’s place is almost directly across Pudding Creek from the middle school. Weekdays, it will be a twenty-minute bike ride, but today is Saturday, and she needs an extra ten minutes to get there from her house.
The shortest route would be down to the Highway One, then north, but Kelsey takes back streets until the river has to be crossed. She cuts down to the highway, turns north and crosses the narrow, traffic-y Pudding Creek Bridge. On the other side of the bridge, the hill past the recycling center is so steep she has to get off her gearless, old bicycle and push it.
It takes a few tries to find the house because the number on the mailbox is missing, and the place is down a long gravel drive lined on either side with the tallest rhododendrons Kelsey has ever seen. The driveway ends in gravel parking area that has grown weedy. The only vehicle is a rusty old Dodge truck. There’s supposed to be a greenhouse somewhere around her, but she doesn’t see it.
Her bike doesn’t have a kickstand so she leans it against rear of the truck and walks toward a long, low plywood building once painted dark brown, now covered with a tangle of sweet-smelling honeysuckle vines. It’s shaped as if it might have once contained horse stalls, but there’s only a single, rotting-from-the-bottom-up, hollow-core door with a carved woodpecker knocker with the beak broken off. Yellowing lace curtains sag against the dirty glass windows on either side. A fat, black and white cat lies in the sun near the front door. It opens one eye as she approaches, and yawns, does a double-take, scrambles to its feet, and runs toward her.
            She squats down, and, to her astonishment, the cat hops into her lap and stands on her knees. It puts a paw over each shoulder, buries its face against her neck, and begins to purr. Kelsey strokes the back of its head and it purrs louder.
             She likes animals and animals like her, but she’s never had anything show such affection. Kelsey feels like she might burst into tears. The cat tightens its grip around her neck, and for no reason at all, Kelsey thinks of her father—a man she’s never met. If he were to show up someday, this is how she thinks she’d greet him—like he’s someone she loves and has been waiting a long time to see.
Kelsey cradles the cat’s head and presses her cheek to one soft ear until the strain of its weight on her legs makes her muscles quiver. “I’m going to have to stand up.” She tries to disengage, but the cat holds on.
Kelsey struggles to her feet, carries the cat to the front door and raps on it using the broken woodpecker knocker. Odd, tuneless music floats in the air, but she can’t tell where it’s coming from. No one answers the door. She tilts the cat’s chin up. “Is anybody home?” She kisses the top of its head and puts it down.    
It rubs against her leg, then waddles, tail up like a tour guide’s flag, down the side of the house, pausing once to see if she following. They walk down a path, which turns and meanders along the west side of the house and passes beneath a rose-covered archway. Beyond are two huge greenhouses, each bigger than the house Kelsey and her mother live in. The greenhouses are made of a series of glass panes set in aluminum. Between them, and of equal size, is a shed. From the beams supporting the roof hang dozens of begonias blooming in shades of red, pink, orange, yellow and white. A neighbor once gave Kelsey’s mother a coral-colored one, but Lydia watered it too much and it rotted. 
            Kelsey opens the door of the closest greenhouse even though the sign on it says No Admittance. The moist, muggy building is full of orchids. A ceiling fan makes lazy, squeaky circles, and another fan directly above the door rattles noisily. “Anybody here?”      
Through the opaque glass wall of the other greenhouse, she sees the shadowy figure of a man moving slowly down the row between shelves of plants. He’s talking softly, almost lovingly to someone. The music kind of reminds her of one of those dripping-water, nature sound recording her mother used to like. The cat nudges the door open and squeezes in. Kelsey follows. The back of this greenhouse is concrete, and it takes Kelsey a moment to realize the wall is a block building attached to the rear of the greenhouse. There’s a black steel door in the center and a big window to the right of the door. The window has a dark tint so she can’t see through, but otherwise it reminds her of pictures she’s seen of old bomb shelters.
            The old man, whose white hair is sticking out every which way, is still wearing pajamas and bedroom slippers though it’s nearly eleven. He turns and smiles at the cat. “Hey, old boy,” he says, then sees Kelsey. “Who the hell are you?”
            The music stops.
            “Kelsey McCully.”
            “McCully? I knew a McCully once.” He says this as if he’s forgotten she’s there. “Well, what do you want, McCully?”
            “The judge sent me.”
            The old man shakes a trowel at her. “Make some sense or get out.”
 “I wish I had a choice,” Kelsey says.
“Aha,” says Dr. Jonathan Hobbes. “You must be my newest delinquent.” 
 “What’d you do to your fingers?”
He looks down at his hands, as if he hasn’t the foggiest notion what she means.  “These?” He wiggles the last two fingers of his left hand, which move as a unit since they are wrapped together with black electrical tape. “Broke ‘em a while back.”
“Did a doctor wrap them like that?”
“I wrapped them like this. What are you doing here so late? The day is practically over.”
“It took me a while to find this . . . dump. . .” she thinks, “place,” she says.
“Well, hell, is this what I can expect—you showing up when it’s nearly too late to get anything done?”
“What do you want from me? I had to ride my bike clear across town.”
“Watch your tone, girly. I understand I’m your last chance, so you better keep your nose clean.”
“Yeah, well, Juvie might be better than hanging around here.”
“You ever been in Juvie?”
“No, but I’ve got friends that have. They say it’s not so bad.”
He waves a hand like he’s shooing flies. “Well, if you think it’s such an Eden, get on out of here. I don’t need this crap.”
Kelsey squares her shoulders and bites her lip. The cat has jumped up onto a potting table, and makes his way toward her like an eight-ball with legs. When he reaches her, he stands, put his paws on her shoulders, and rubs his chin against her chin. 
“Ah, hell’s bells. If Genera likes you, you can stay.”  
Don’t do me any favors, she thinks, but, for a change, keeps her mouth shut.
            “You can start by sorting these pots.” He sweeps his hand the length of the potting tables. Beneath each are piles of pots, hundreds of them, maybe even thousands, in all sizes.
            “Where do you want them to go?”
            “I don’t want them to go anywhere. Leave them there, just sort them.”
            “Sort them by color, size, shape—what?”
            “Hell, I don’t care. Just make them look neater.” He picks up the cat and shuffles toward the steel door in the concrete wall. He hunches over and squints to see the numbers as he dials a code into the bottom of a padlock. When it pops open, he glances back at her. “Those pots have been like that for years, so watch out for Black widows.” He grins. His teeth are yellow and crooked. “You know what those are?”
            Duh. “Spiders,” Kelsey says. He’s set her to a fool’s task, as her mother likes to say—meaningless work, like digging a hole, then filling it in again. 
            “See that jar?” He points to a glass jar with a filthy dirty, worn-away applesauce label on it.
            “Put any earwigs and brown slugs you find in there.”
            Kelsey’s nose crinkles in disgust. “Earwigs pinch and slugs are slimy.”
            Dr. Hobbes smiles. “Your point is?”
            “I don’t want to touch them.”
            “Then don’t.” He taps the side of his head. “Use something to pick them up with.” He squints at her. “Do you like plants?”
            “They’re okay. Why?”
            “Just asking.” He pulls the steel door open. “What’s your favorite subject in school.”
            She kind of likes biology, but she isn’t going to tell him. “Lunch.”
“Figures.” He rubs the cat’s ears. “Watch her,” he says before stepping inside and closing the door. She hears a bolt slide shut on the inside.
            Kelsey shoots him the bird, and then nearly jumps out of her skin when the music starts again. For a moment there is just one long note, before it softens into pattern-less tones. 


The usual heavy August fog has rolled in by the time Kelsey finishes sorting the first hundred pots, and decides she’s had enough. “I’m leaving now,” she yells at the door.
There’s no answer.
            Genera is curled near one of the fans that keeps the air moving in the greenhouse.
            “Tell him I left, okay?
            The cat rolls on his back and starts to purr.
            Kelsey rubs his broad belly, and sees the applesauce jar. She’d conveniently forgotten about that task. “If he asks—” She presses her lips to the soft fur of one of Genera’s paws. “Tell him I didn’t find any slugs or earwigs.” 

Mendocino Coast by Ron LeValley

Can Plants Hear? 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Girl Under Glass Chapter One

                             Chapter 1

Kelsey McCully waits while the girl at the Rite Aid pharmacy counter searches the shelves for her mother’s prescriptions. “M-A-C?” she asks—same as last month.
“M-C,” Kelsey says.
The pharmacist glances up. “How’s your mom?” 
“Glad to hear it.”
There are times Kelsey thinks she was born inside out—every nerve exposed—feeling everything one day, and nothing the next. She either hates this monthly charade, or has to fight back tears because some one bothered to ask about her mother. Ronald, the pharmacist, always asks. Kelsey always lies. Her mother worked here five years ago, but was fired. No one cares how she’s doing, and today Kelsey hates them for pretending they do. 
Her friend, Carly, waits outside, guarding her bicycle. Kelsey comes out, and tosses the bag of prescriptions into her basket.
Carly nods toward the store employee, whose butt-crack is exposed every time he bends to reset plants blown over by the last night’s gusty winds.
Kelsey watches him pick up the lone gardenia, and put it back on the stand. She looks at Carly and grins. “My mother loves gardenias,” she whispers, wheels her bike to the plant stand, presses her nose into the single, sweet blossom, and breathes deeply.  
 Carly pushes her bike into position between the clerk and Kelsey and holds one hand behind her back, ready to signal when he isn’t looking.
Kelsey feels light-headed and her heart thuds. She sniffs the white blossom again, sneaking a peek at the blue-vested employee. He’s watching a woman in high-heels walk to her car.  
When Carly flaps her hand, Kelsey snatches the gardenia, jams it into her bike basket, and rides away. She shoots across the parking lot toward Coast Tire, then out onto the sidewalk. She flees past the Tradewinds Motel, turns up Hazel Street, slows, circles back, and peers around the corner. When she sees Carly ride out of the parking lot, she starts back toward her, grinning, but Carly looks over her shoulder, then shouts something.
“Go. Go!” Carly screams.
Kelsey turns into the Tradewinds’ parking lot, pedaling as hard as she can toward the Franklin Street exit. She bounces over a speed bump and nearly falls as she makes a sharp left onto the sidewalk behind the motel. Jerry Curtis, the same Fort Bragg cop who caught her when she sneaked off to a party in her mother’s car a month ago, stands in the center of the sidewalk with his hands on his hips. She tries to steer around him, but he catches her around the waist and lifts her off the bike, which crashes into the only section of the motel’s back wall that isn’t hidden by thick clumps of pampas grass. The potted gardenia flips out and lands right side up on the concrete. The bag of prescriptions sails out and lands in a puddle the drip system has left.
            Kelsey tries to act innocent and confused. “Geez, Jerry, you scared me.”
            Carly comes out of the motel’s rear driveway, sees them, and turns the other way. She glances back once before crossing Franklin, and riding, hell-bent, up Chestnut.
            “Nice gardenia.” Jerry picks it up and smells the bloom.
            “I bought it for my mother.”
            Jerry’s a neighbor. He lives one block over from Kelsey’s house—too close as far as she’s concerned.
“I bet she’ll like that.” He smiles.  
            “Yeah. They’re her favorite.”
            “They don’t do well here. Too cold, I guess.”
            Kelsey can’t tell if he believes her. “Well, I gotta go.” She rights her bicycle.
            Jerry grabs the handlebars. “Sure, Kelsey, I just need to see the receipt.”
Kelsey pretends to look for it: in her backpack, on the sidewalk, then she shrugs. “It must have blown out of my basket.”
            “Did the bag blow out too?”
            “They didn’t give . . .” Kelsey turns and follows Jerry’s gaze.
            The Rite Aid clerk is jogging up the sidewalk toward them, his belly bouncing like a beach ball. “There were two of them,” he pants.
            “I know them both,” Jerry says. “Take the plant, but leave me your name. You’ll probably be called to testify.”
            “Not a problem. I’m sick of these kids ripping us off when they’ve got more money to pay for stuff than I have.”
            Jerry nods. “Tell me about it.” 
            Kelsey swallows, determined not to cry. “Jerry, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again. I promise. Mom’s been sick, and I wanted to bring her something.”
            “Sorry, Kiddo. You were warned. No more free rides. Maybe a few weeks in Juvenile Hall will change your tune before it’s too late.”


Kelsey spends the morning watering down her mother’s drinks, trying to keep Lydia sober enough to walk and talk, but drunk enough not to know what’s going on. Before the time comes to leave for court, Kelsey gets her mother to eat a little lunch, and baits her into getting dressed by asking Lydia if she wants to stop at the liquor store after they go to the courthouse to pay a parking ticket.
“When did I get a parking ticket?” Her mother stands in front of the bathroom mirror letting Kelsey comb her hair.
“Two weeks ago. Don’t you remember?”
“I guess I do. In front of the post office, right?”
“Uh huh. There.” Kelsey puts the comb down. “You look nice.” She smiles at Lydia’s reflection in the mirror. They look eerily alike and unrelated at the same time. Kelsey’s hair is a mousy, dull brown; her mother’s a graying shade of dishwasher blond. Kelsey’s eyes are brown, her mother’s are pale blue, red-rimmed and bloodshot. All they have in common is the same pug nose and the same gap between their front teeth. Sometimes, like now, with her mother’s hair combed, they resemble each other, but so superficially that Kelsey feels pretty sure that her mother’s drinking has nothing to do with having Kelsey as a reminder of her lost youth.  


The bailiff calls, “All rise” when Cindy Mayfield, the Mendocino County Juvenile Judge, enters the courtroom. Kelsey drags her mother to her feet and keeps her steady with a hand on her shoulder. After Judge Mayfield takes her seat, Kelsey sits and pulls Lydia into the seat beside her.
“Well, which is it?” Her mother’s voice is slurred.
“Young Lady,” Judge Mayfield says.
            “Yes, ma’am.” Kelsey stands again, but keeps a firm hand on her mother’s shoulder.
            “It’s yes, your Honor.” 
            “Yes, your Honor.”
            “I’ve read Officer Curtis’s report and heard the testimony of Mr. Jennings from Rite Aid, and I have reviewed your record. This is your second arrest for shoplifting, which means, incidentally, that you aren’t very good at it; you’ve been picked up three times for truancy, and you have a speeding ticket. That’s quite a record for someone too young for a learner’s permit.” She puts down the file, folds her hands, and glares at Kelsey. “Here’s the deal. You’re fifteen. In spite of the recommendation of Ms. Rontero of the Juvenile Probation Department, I am loathe to send you to Juvenile Hall at your age, but I see no other way to get through to you.”
            Kelsey concentrates on picking at the chewed skin around the nub of her thumbnail.
            “Look at me.”
            She sucks on the inside of her cheek and looks up at the judge.
            “I want to hear your excuse.”   
            “For which thing?”
            “The one you’re here for now,” Judge Mayfield snaps.
            “My mother’s . . .” Kelsey whispers.
            “Speak up.”
            “. . . been sick. She likes flowers.”
            “So you stole one for her. Would a stolen gardenia have made you feel better, Ms. McCully?”
Kelsey glances at her mother.
Lydia McCully’s head comes up lazily, and she blinks at the judge.
“Say, no, your Honor,” Kelsey hisses under her breath.
“No, your Honor.” Her mother smiles dimly. 
Kelsey’s shoulders sag. She tried to keep her mother out of this by erasing the message the police left and intercepting the notice to appear in court, but three days ago that woman from the Mendocino County Juvenile Probation Department came by to make sure her mother knew Kelsey was in trouble again. She’d come late in the afternoon, but Lydia managed to appear lucid. After the woman left, Lydia fixed herself another vodka and water, had a good cry, turned on the television, and seemed to forget all about it. 
Judge Mayfield studies Lydia. “How are you feeling now, Ms. McCully?”
Kelsey turns to whisper the answer, but her mother says, “Not well, your Honor.”
“What’s the problem?”
“Gout,” her mother answers.
Kelsey coughs to cover her astonishment. Where the hell did that come from?
            “Uh huh.” The judge stares at Lydia for a full minute, then turns her scary gaze on Kelsey. “Here’s the deal,” she says. “I see in your file that your sixteenth birthday is in six months, so I’m giving you one more chance—six months probation and 300 hours of community service. That means every day.” She shakes a finger. “Every single day after school, and all day on weekends you will work for Dr. Jonathan Hobbes. The bailiff will give you the address. Is that clear?”
            “A doctor?”
            “He has a PhD in botany. You’ve got yourself six months to grow a gardenia for your mother.” She writes something in the file, and hands it to the clerk. “Kelsey . . .”
 “Yes, your Honor?”
“If I hear you’ve missed a day or caused Dr. Hobbes one minute of trouble, you are going to Juvenile Hall. Is that clear?”
Kelsey nods.
“I never want to see you here again.”
            “You won’t ma’am. I promise.”
“That’s what you said last time.”
“I mean it this time.”
“You had better, young lady. You are headed down a dead-end road.”



“A Colorado State University scientist has re-engineered plants so that they can detect explosives, air pollution and toxic chemicals. Plants fixed with custom-made proteins in biologist June Medford’s lab signal the presence of potentially deadly vapors by turning white from green. Military and federal Homeland Security research directors Wednesday said they envision wide applications for the genetically modified plants positioned in buildings, war zones and cities where terrorists could set up covert bomb-making factories.
…from The Miami Herald, February 2011

 "They tell us that plants are perishable, soulless creatures, that only man is immortal but this, I think is something that we know very nearly nothing about."  …John Muir


“It’s never too late to become who you might have been.”

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Girl Under Glass Introduction

Meat Eating Plants

 In 1966, FBI polygraph instructor, Cleve Backster, solely on a whim, hooked his undernourished, and often ignored, office plant to a lie detector. He was curious about whether he could record its physiological reaction to receiving water. He expected increased electrical conductivity as the water reached its leaves. Instead, the polygraph needle trended in the opposite direction, equivalent to a sigh of relief. Backster was so surprised by this reaction that the possible explanation began to consume him and, until his death, he pursued what he believed happened that day, that he had established contact with the plant kingdom.
            I think it was 1974, when I first read about this experiment and many others in a book entitled The Secret Life of Plants, which is still available and selling well on Amazon—perhaps even your local bookstore. I found it fascinating, as did others. It launched an era of people talking to their plants and playing them classical music. Funny now. Kind of. The thing is, poor Cleve Backster was ridiculed by the scientific community for the rest of his life, but he never conceded defeat. He studied plant communication right down to a cellular level until the end of his life. I spoke with him some years before his death, and he sent me the book he’d written on the subject, which he called Primary Perception.
            The most remarkable experiment Backster performed went (as well as I can remember) as follows: He put two plants in his lab, one of which was hooked to a polygraph. He then had his students draw straws. The one with the short straw—and no one knew who that was—went into the lab and destroyed the plant not attached to the lie detector. He torn it out of its pot, ripped its leaves off, and stomped on it. Afterward, Backster filed his entire class through the lab and when the “murderer” passed by, the witness-plant had a violent reaction—recorded on the polygraph.
            I love gee-whiz biology.
           In 1974, I was not a writer. The idea of becoming a writer had never crossed my mind. I was a college drop-out who failed English numerous times. In 1974, I was a flight attendant, and recently married. At that time, Colombo was a wildly popular detective series, featuring a rumpled-trench-coat wearing Peter Falk as Colombo. The twist was, viewers got to see how the perpetrator planned and carefully carried out the murder, then watched Colombo try to figure out how it was done, and how he was going to prove it.
            I was so enamored of The Secret Life of Plants, I thought it would make a great Colombo episode. Imagine the perfect murder with a house plant as the only witness. I did something I’d never done before, or since, I wrote the producers, and received a short reply: “We have writers.”
            In 1977, I went back to college. In 1982, I wrote an editorial for a local newspaper about an abandoned dog. It was published and one of the editors called me and said, if I could write like that, they’d publish anything I wrote. The phone called that changed my life! At the time, I was a biology major and had Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Calculus yet to take. I signed up for a creative writing class instead. Really. That’s how this thirty-year plus odyssey began.
            The first story I wrote in my first creative writing class was the one about my husband sinking his airboat and walking out of the Everglades. The second was entitled, The Greenhouse, about a young girl whose biology professor is murdered and she figures out the plants in his lab are witnesses. It was, frankly, crap. I still have it around here somewhere, in case I ever get to thinking I was blessed with a story-telling gene.
            And the point is? I have five published novels, and five unpublished novels. One of them is entitled Girl Under Glass. It’s The Greenhouse with 30 years of writing experience under my belt. I love this book, but no publisher (and I’ve had four different ones) has ever shown any interest in it. I like to think it’s because Marketing doesn’t believe kids (my main audience) will be interested in reading about plants. I think anyone who enjoys a good mystery, or sci-fi (even if it's not,) will like this book.
By now, you get where I’m going.
I’ve had nearly 80,000 hits on this blog. I realize that may well be 100 of my best friends who have dutifully clicked on each and every post over the last four years. Still it's a place to start.
When Backster did his experiments, he was unaware of the recent research into plant communication. In The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan, explores the way plants have for centuries maneuvered us into protecting and propagating them, how they lure us with beautiful blooms to provide food, water and space to grow. They enlist us as allies to ensure their survival. But what if it goes beyond the exchange of nutrition, transportation and space? What if they form attachments—perhaps care enough to use their defenses to attempt to warn us of danger?  
In Daniel Chamovitz’s recent book, What Plants Know, he delves into the mystery of how they can warn each other of predation; how carnivorous plants know when to spring the trap. It's another fascinating read.

This is the Girl Under Glass “elevator speech,” sent to disinterested editors.

When Kelsey McCully, shoplifts a gardenia for her mother, she steps across a line and discovers how deep a relationship with the botanical inhabitants of this planet can go, but the question remains will Kelsey McCully, a troubled teenager, find—in a cranky old man, a roly-poly cat, and a greenhouse full of plants—the support she needs to straighten out her life?

Maybe this will work out, and Girl Under Glass will find an audience. Maybe it won’t. Either way, it will be out there for a few to enjoy, and that will make me, and my philodendron happy.  
I’ll start with this Introduction, and post a chapter a week. Tuesday's with Kelsey. At the beginning of each chapter will be a link to the Intro and any preceding chapter.   


Girl Under Glass builds on the intriguing scientific research into plant communication as detailed in the still popular, best-selling The Secret Life of Plants, and more recently The Botany of Desire, and What Plants Know. 

Kelsey McCully, 13, is fatherless and living with an alcoholic mother. When she gets arrested for shoplifting, the judge sentences her to community service with a local botanist who is trying to duplicate experiments done with plants. When the botanist is severely beaten and robbed, Kelsey discovers the secret of these communications but must convince the police that the greenhouse plants are witnesses to the crime.  

Girl Under Glass weaves the themes of family alcoholism, family secrets, and the everyday struggles facing most teens with the mystery and intrigue of our relationship to the natural world. It moves Kelsey from coping with her loneliness and self-doubt expressed through bad behavior and association with other outcast kids, to learning to trust enough to ask for help for herself and her mother.     


Despite not having brains or nervous systems in the traditional sense, plants are surprisingly sophisticated. They can communicate with each other and signal impending danger to their neighbors by releasing chemicals into the air. Plants constantly react to their environment — not only light and temperature changes, but also physical stimuli.       
                                                                                  Washington 7/10/14

... cleve backster primaryperception com cleve backster wikipedia backster 
The Backster Effect: If plants can communicate, what are they saying?

Friday, December 4, 2015

I'd love to buy you a beer...

If you'll spring for the airfare.  

Bag of Nails pub in Bristol.