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Janelle Meraz Hooper


short stories | commentaries | shorts | novels

Short Story and Commentary excerpts: Some of these are posted in full in the short story section...


 Short stories:

Elvis Has Left the Building--And Is Living In My Computer

by Janelle Meraz Hooper

(excerpt, see the whole story on

     Elvis is still alive. I know it. I have proof. And I don't mean the kind of proof where some guy who's had too much beer stops at a local filling station and sees Elvis filling up his Eldorado with regular gas. What a joke. Everyone knows that Elvis uses super. 

     And I don't mean like that guy outside of the basketball arena waving a sign that says, Elvis Parks Here. Everyone knows that Elvis is way too cool for basketball. 

     No, I'm talking about tangible down to earth evidence that the King of Rock-n-Roll is alive and well--and living in my computer ...


Narrows Shoes

By Janelle Meraz Hooper


            Margie strolled to the edge of the bridge and took a deep breath of fresh, salty air.  She'd always loved the view from up here.  At this height you could see the currents rush into whirlpools and swirl and swirl until they bumped into the next whirlpool finally disappearing hundreds of feet beneath the water.

             Margie saw few boats ... the main fish run must be over, she thought.  Then her eyes fell on a boat that was very familiar, and so was the man in it.  There was her George, his boat tied on a long rope to the bridge pilings.  He'd told her he was going to put in a new air conditioning system for that old school house that had been turned into condominiums, but there he was--fishing!  No wait! He wasn't fishing, there were no poles in the water, and who was that woman with him? 

            In less than a second, her brain telegraphed to her heart that her marriage was over.  Anna and Susan were busily petting the black labs in the truck behind them and didn't see Margie run to her car for her new black spikes.  The first shoe missed its mark and got caught up in a whirlpool, but the second shoe hit the deck right on target.  The surprised boaters looked up to see Margie on the bridge staring down at them like an angry goddess surrounded by black clouds and threats of lightning.  Instinctively, the two on board the boat bolted jerkily in several different directions looking for a place to hide.  The only shelter was the sleeping cuddy, and they knew it wouldn't improve matters to duck in there ...

Wanda, the Witless Witch of Boo!

By Janelle Meraz Hooper


            Wanda, the Witless Witch of Boo! circled twice around her split-level home in an expensive neighborhood before she landed her broom on the roof and slipped down into the kitchen through the air duct to the kitchen fan. "Darn!" she cried as the blades sliced her hat and ripped her hair. "I forgot to turn the fan off again."

See what I mean by witless?

But beautiful. Blond, and petite, she bought all of her clothes at Hoardstrom's and flew to LA every week to have her hair done at Chez Cher-Fawcett's.

Stopping only to check her makeup in the mirror, she opened the sliding French doors and threw out the pot full of frogs, slugs, and spiders left over from her morning spells. "Darn crows! Why is it all the pesky birds in the neighborhood end up at my house?"

Trust me. She'll never figure it out ...

Bear Bait

by Janelle Meraz Hooper


    I knew why I, the weakest member of our social group, was always included in camping and hiking trips to Alaska. Overweight and out of shape, I was obviously the designated sacrifice to any angry bears we might encounter on the hiking trails.

     Or so it has always been. Two years ago, I became determined to get in shape, build up my muscle strength, and be at least second from the last on the trails. To this end, I purchased a very pricey, fully computerized electric treadmill with hydraulic inclines and heart rate monitor to the tune of over six hundred dollars.

     On my computer, I developed workout charts, which I posted on my bathroom mirror in plain sight of my husband and any grizzlies that may be stopping by to scout me out. The machine was flawless, except it was very noisy, making watching television or listening to music impossible. Nonetheless, I stuck it out for over a year, working out two or three times a week for twenty-minutes with the machine set at a high incline. I didn't lose any weight, but my endurance improved dramatically.

     I tried to sell my doctor on the idea that my weight wasn't due to fat, but rather to bone density. I was definitely feeling stronger. Maybe I wasn't able to outrun a bear yet, but I felt fairly confident that I could take anything in the raccoon- size range ...


T-ball season brings plenty of memories


            T-ball season is over, and a good time was had by all. Of course, the weather was awful--isnt it always? The grownups sat huddled in their folding chairs hugging their thermal coffee cups and urged their little players to run out on the field and roll around in the wet grass and the muck and have fun. When it actually rained, the adults brought out the umbrellas--not for the little playersfor themselves. After all, wouldn't want to get those camcorders wet, would we? No siree, Grandma and Grandpa back in Wisconsin had to see this!

In this, our second season, the parents and grandparents could see a lot of progress in our girls and boys approach to the game. For instance, the first season, our little leaguers spent more time following the snack lady than the ball. You'd think the little batters had never seen treats before.

This year, they were way cooler. As each player arrived, he'd saunter over to an earlier arrival and quietly ask if the mom who was to bring snacks had arrived yet. When a player pointed out a mom with a big white plastic bag at her feet, you could hear a sigh of relief from the T-baller. Then, the player would carefully scan the Mom and the bag. Was the bag big enough? Could someone else's mom be trusted to bring enough snacks for everybody?

Their mind at ease on the snack situation, they moved over to hear the coach's instructions. "No dog-piling!" he pleaded. The team broke into a chant, "No dog-piles! No dog-piles!"

Actually, I was relieved to see some dog-piles. The first year, the T-ball would run through their little legs on its way to the alley and they'd never notice--their eyes would be on the snack bag.

           This year, the same kids jumped on the ball rolling down the middle of the field like it was the last candy bar on earth. Sometimes, kids playing in other games on the multi-purpose field broke position in their own game to run over and jump on a ball in our game. Now that's progress.

          Yep. The season is over. The baseball pants and team tee-shirt have been washed and put away until next season--when they'll undoubtedly be too small--the camcorder has been dried off, and the official baseball pictures have arrived in my mail.

          At the beginning of the season I wrote a commentary that said organized ball was a lackluster substitute for real baseball--a pick-up game in a makeshift field. I was wrong. Baseball is baseball. Wherever. Whenever. However.

Play ball!




Two Windows on Ground Zero

By Janelle Meraz Hooper


            September 11th found me stuck at home with only a 38-inch screen TV, and a large living room window.

 I could have done without the big screen TV. This was one time a one-inch screen would have been too big--too painful to watch. Over and over and over I watched the planes hit the WTC towers.

I felt trapped as I looked out the living room window. No sign of the tragedy was visible in the surrounding homes. Not a person was in sight. Maybe it was a nightmare, but no, there it was on CNN. On ABC. On CBS. On Fox. On CBUT, the Canadian channel. I turned to Univision and saw a blazing banner across the screen: Bajo (Low) Attack! ...


Soldiers Give Writer Reason To Be Thankful

by Janelle Meraz Hooper


    When I was a kid, I was raised in a large military family in a small town next to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  Half of my family was Catholic and the other half Baptists (don't ask!), but once a year, we got together at a large table to make a turkey suffer.  My uncle, the Head Baptist, had such a reputation for praying so long every year that my grandmother always brought a rosary to the table so she'd have something to do while he blessed everyone but the pope. 

             But, to be fair, he had a lot to pray about that year.  I had three uncles overseas.  One was in Korea, one in Japan, and one in Alaska.  Well, I know Alaska isn't technically a foreign country, but we worried about him just as much as the other two.  So my uncle would pray and pray, then, when even his stomach started to growl, he'd say "Amen!"  

While he filled his plate, he'd start around the table, asking each person to share what they were thankful for that year. I usually said something dopey like I was thankful for my mother and my new poodle socks. And I was.  Truly. It was short and sweet, and he'd move on to my cousin, who always said something that his mom had helped him rehearse, like he was thankful for the farmers who worked so hard to provide the feast we were going to enjoy.

            Well, I've grown, and at fifty-eight, I have a whole list of things I'm thankful for.  If he asked me now, we'd be there until there was a green scum floating on the cranberry sauce:  I'm thankful for a loving, healthy family.  I'm thankful for this beautiful planet.  I'm thankful for this country.  I'm thankful for those old geezers who wrote all that We the People stuff.  And I'm thankful for the men and women who protect it, everyday. 

            As I write this, it's weeks until Thanksgiving, and well, with the world situation the way it is, you never know.  Some of you may not be sitting at your family's table this year, and I'm thankful for a strong fighting force that is able to keep the peace wherever it's needed. 

            Most of all, I thank God for letting me be born in this great country, enabling me to see my child and grandchildren grow up safe and healthy.  Oh, sure, I crab about the politicians and what's going on with our government, doesn't everybody?  But usually about then, they have a story about Kosovo or East Timor on TV.   Then (too often it seems), I see an American soldier slogging through the mud probably praying he or she doesn't step on a land mine.  I always think that if I'm watching, maybe their mother is too. 

            So, to the men and women who think you're out on a limb sometimes and nobody cares, I do.  And I'm thankful not only for you, but to your families who make such great sacrifices so that my little grandson can play Tarzan in my backyard without fear... Happy Holidays, dear brave men and women, from my heart to yours.


  Baseball is more fun when played on sandlots

by Janelle Meraz Hooper


      Every spring the hamburger joints are filled with ball teams all dressed up in their new baseball outfits, their pristine new balls, mitts, and hats scattered on the tables between the milk shakes and fries.  It always makes me wonder: they have the equipment, but do they have a passion for the game? Is that what baseball is about--equipment?

     Times are getting tough, and excess has been on the minds of many Americans lately. I think that the sport of baseball is a good example. Fancy stadiums. Fancy uniforms. And those players contracts well, let's not even go there ...


How to Fight Big Hair, Adventures in Raising a Teenager

by Janelle Meraz Hooper


            When our children were young, I had a friend who told me that it was time for her five-year-old son to go to school--she had taught him everything she could.

            I looked at it this way: the teachers could teach my daughter all of that 3-R stuff--I was never good at it anyway. I could teach her about fine literature, art, the history of oriental carpets--and how to make tiny guest soaps from little plastic muffin pans and a microwave.

            Okay, so all we did was buy the book with the soap recipes. We never actually got around to making the soap. It's probably still on a bookshelf somewhere next to the books on One Hundred Ways to Braid Your Hair and How to Have an Archaeological Dig in Your Own Basement ...


 "Ouchy, ouchy!"

by Janelle Meraz Hooper


             Now that I'm two and a half, I can't get Mom to notice that I'm starting to outgrow my car seat.  It may even be unsafe.  It , for sure, is uncomfortable.  If it weren't for my diaper, I'd have saddle sores, I bet.  I've tried to find the words to tell her that my seat hurts whenever we go anywhere because the foam cushion is worn out, leaving my backside to rub on the spot where the seat belt comes through the seat at the bottom, but I can't seem to find the words ... the best I've been able to come up with so far is, "Ouchy, ouchy."

One day I did try a better word that I learned from Dad, "S- - -t!"  But I got in big trouble.  Next, I even tried to get through to Dad by refusing to get in the car seat, but he gave me one of his looks and said, "Look, Cowboy, you have no option, there is no choice when it comes to riding in a car seat ... it's the law."  Dad is a no-nonsense kind of guy, he talks like that all the time, even though half the time I don't understand him ... I wonder if when he says no option, he means I'm out of juice? ...

                A New-Fangled Thanksgiving

                      by Janelle Meraz Hooper   

      Thanksgiving dinner was always the same at Mom's, and that was how we liked it. In a changing world that multiplied stress by the minute, we could always depend on Mom's turkey being perfectly browned, and her cornbread dressing nicely laced with celery, pecans, and raisins. The giblet gray was always perfect, and there was lots of it. Mashed potatoes were lovingly whipped with a hand mixer and topped with real butter. Sweet potatoes were perfectly glazed with more real butter and brown sugar. Rolls were the packaged kind that came in a paper tray and were partially cooked. The cranberry sauce was canned and always served on our fancy glass tray that had been around since Roosevelt was putting a turkey in every pot (or was that a chicken?). Our peas came out of a can.

Okay, so it wasn't a gourmet meal, but it was good and again, that was how we liked it. The meal, and the large family that came to share it, was perfect. Almost every time.

But one year, when my mom and her sister were both close to eighty, my aunt showed up from California with her new-fangled ideas about tradition. Thanksgiving morning, Aunt Pat got up early and beat my mom to the kitchen, determined to California-ize our turkey dinner. The first item on the menu that she changed was the cranberries-- she used real ones. Mom was suspicious when she looked at the cranberries bubbling on the stove with bits of fresh orange peel. She didn't like the looks of those orange shavings. To her, they looked like something that slipped past the food inspectors.  Mom believed cranberry sauce should come out of a can with those little ridges that showed her where to cut the slices. "No one will know what this stuff is." she worried. "This isn't what they're used to. And it smells funny."

            My aunt stood her ground. Resigned to a cranberry failure, Mom went to the living room to relax and read the paper. She didn't see my aunt pull the cornbread dressing out of the oven and stir in a bag of fresh spinach. The last thing my aunt did before she left the kitchen was replace the table butter with an unidentified soy product she'd brought from California in her handbag that didn't look, taste, or smell like butter.

            The family was sitting down at the table when Mom pulled the dressing out of the oven and discovered that it'd turned green. Her sister told her it was the latest thing in California, and much healthier. Mom was appalled and predicted, "No one will eat it."

            And they didn't. That bowl was passed around the table so often it looked like it was in its own special green orbit, and no one would touch it. On one of its last flights around the table, my cousin reluctantly put a spoonful on her toddler's plate, but the kid broke out in tears, so my cousin took it off and hid it in her napkin. Finally, my aunt mumbled something about taking the dressing to the kitchen to heat it up. It never returned.

            The cranberry sauce met much the same fate. When it was passed around the table, everyone would try to get a portion that was not laced with orange peel. No one succeeded. Soon it entered its own orbit, criss-crossing the orbit of the green cornbread dressing. Around and around the table it flew until the contents of the bowl were just a fragrant red blur circling the Planet Table, not unlike the rings around Saturn. 

             Mom and her sister are both gone now, and I think of them often. Looking back, maybe green dressing and orange cranberries wouldn't have been that awful. I should have at least tasted them. Although, sister rivalry being what it was, I'm sure Mom would have never forgiven me if I had.

            It has been years since that dinner, but the legend of the green cornbread dressing lives on to this day. No one in our family can accept an invitation for Thanksgiving dinner without first inquiring, "What color is your cornbread dressing?"





The full text of Narrows Shoes and Bear Bait can be found in The Sun Never Rises,  A Rainthology ...most of the commentaries can be found in The Northwest Guardian Newspaper archives ...short stories are on The Blue Rose Bouquet (