Saddle Up Saloon: Liz Husebye Hartmann in the Author’s Chair

Written by D. Avery @shiftnshake

       Read my writing and see my books at  https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com

November 8, 2021

“Folks we’re real pleased to welcome Liz Husebye Hartmann ta the Author’s Chair this month.”

“Thet’s right. You know her as a friendly Ranch hand and a real fine writer. Here she is.

Howdy Liz! Thanks fer comin’ by with a story.”

“Hello Pal, hello Kid. It’s good to be in the Saloon. I’m going to read ‘A Giant Problem Solved’.”

“Yippee! I sure enjoy yer tales.”

Giant Problem Solved  

by Liz Husebye Hartmann

(Trigger alert: Not a tale for the wee ones)

Hugo’s belly pangs rumbled down the darkening mountainside above Heffinger Hollow. He was sorely tempted to nibble on a half-cooked morsel or two of the spunky spelunkers that frequented Carbuncle Caverns. This particular group of spelunkers had surprised the village by sneaking in to the Carbuncle and setting out to explore without a guide. They’d zigged when they should have zagged on that seventh leg of the descent, and had fallen deep into the bowels of the lowest cavern of Carbuncle. 

This had proved deadly for them, but put their corpses within easy reach of Hugo.

But a bit of history, first…

Several millennia ago, the Hollow’s ancestors had agreed to a quarterly human sacrifice, demanded by the Weather Gods in exchange for good hunting, abundant harvests, a healthy populace, and the like. Then, a handful of centuries ago, Hugo had been dropped on them by an angry Goddess, who’d demanded he do something useful and make amends though service. No one dared ask what he’d done, opting instead to accept him as a member of the community, and the new middle man in the quarterly sacrifice.

The villagers were grateful that Hugo had turned out to be fairly reasonable (for a giant), as well as a terrific strategist for a modern-day tourism plan that now kept him fed, and the close-knit community of Heffinger safe from the prying eyes of the media and those pesky, intrepid folklorists. No tourist had ever registered complaint over the occasional roll of light thunder through clear skies; stormy weather always passed quickly. Dining, shopping, and spelunking plans were never canceled due to inclement weather.

And if Hugo and the Hollow had found a creative way to appease the Gods, feed the giant, keep the tourists and spelunkers coming and their local economy healthy, then that was best for everyone. After all, the villagers needed to change with the times.

But on this particular day…

On this particular day that was neither the beginning, nor the end of the quarter, Hugo was very hungry. His stomach was rumbling, and his unhappy belches began to fill the pristine sky with noxious green clouds. 

UPS delivery to remote Heffinger Hollow was dodgy at its best, and Hugo had been late in getting out his bi-monthly order for HealthyMealz Krunchy Snackz ® (registered trademark). Not one to overlook an opportunity, Hugo had reached his long arm into the lowest cavern of the Carbuncle, fished out the dead bodies with his hairy fingers, and spitted the spelunkers. Waste not, want not, he reasoned.

Now the people of the Hollow looked up at the mountain with a little bit of terror as lightning ripped across the sky. The Weather Gods were clearly not pleased. Was this to be the end of their peaceful and prosperous life?  

Hugo quickly owned up to his mistake. He swore to the Weather Gods and Goddesses that he would do better next time, and never again be caught without a proper snack to see him through to his next meal. For that reason, and to demonstrate his sincerity and commitment, he had made himself wait, stomach rumbling and popping, as he rotated the sizzling spelunkers over his camp fire with the one hand, and shook the tiny canister of Hot Seasons Cheddar Sprinkles ™ (trademark, patent pending) with the other. 

Forgiving himself, he felt he deserved an extra portion of the cheese seasoning since he hadn’t had a snack since the day before yesterday; the athletic spelunkers tended toward being quite lean, and more than a little dry. And for pre-seasoning food prep, he’d rubbed the bodies with lanolin from a couple of very large sheep he’d plucked off the mountainside, promptly replacing the dazed creatures back with their herd.

It was a brilliant bit of ethical and sustainable sourcing. 

Hugo leaned backward into a nearby waterfall and drank deeply of its tumbling waters to soothe his stomach as he waited. 

The Gods, intrigued by his culinary imagination, were appeased. No more lightning. Gone was the green cloud and noxious fumes, and a beautiful full moon rose over the mountain and into every corner of the Hollow to promise continued prosperity. The Heffinger Hollow folk raised their noses and marveled at the rich scent carried on the now-clean winds, and considered that a quick and immediate visit to the giant might be in order. They packed up their kegs of Heffinger Dark Brew and made it a party.

And of course, they all lived happily ever after, and considered a new supply chain for Hugo’s meals, as well as a different delivery service for snacks. And if Hugo had not finished nibbling spelunkers then, he is surely nibbling them still.

Snip Snap Snu, and now my tale is through.

© Liz Husebye Hartmann (2021) (10/03/ 2021)

“Thet was a fine tellin’ of a fine tale Liz. Are ya ready for questions about it?”

“I am!”

“Okay folks, interact an’ ask questions in the comments section. Ya might even git randomly drawn ta win a free book! Last month’s winner is Nan who will relieve a copy of The Fire Keeper’s Daughter.”

“Yes, grab a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever is your favorite beverage, and say hi! The valley is open, the weather hospitable, and the trolls very friendly. And since the story shared here is about as fictional as they come, feel free to pose any question. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll make something up. Cuz fiction (wink!)”

Liz Husebye Hartmann is a Midwest dabbler in fiction, modern fairytales, and poetry. Her shorter works can be found online at https://valleyofthetrolls.blog/, in various chapbooks and anthologies, and most recently, “This Was 2020: Minnesotans Write About Pandemics and Social Justice in a Historic Year” (2021). 

Contact Kid and Pal’s writer, D. Avery, if you want to take a seat in the Author’s Chair here at the Saddle Up Saloon.

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30 Comments

  1. Norah

    I enjoyed listening to you read as I read through you story, Liz. No questions for now, but I do love the name ‘sperlunkers’.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Liz did a great job here in the author’s chair! Thinking’ yer takin’ on Pal’s di’lect with yer spelling’ a spelunkin’ though. Shift happens…

      • Liz H

        Oh shift! Did I misspell “spelunker”? Comes from being one’s own editor!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        No, Norah did. Doesn’t matter either way. It’s not a giant problem.

      • Liz H

        Possible meme for gigantic writers: And if anybody criticizes your spelling, eat them too!

      • Norah

        Yeah, a couple of typos in there. Sometimes my brain is just too frazzled. Sorry.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ah, Norah it is a minor errorist attack. I notice Kid and Pal seem to incite those errorists. The main thing is that we have a comfortable Author’s Chair with writers and readers taking part. Thank you. You’re the ranch hand that roped me in. Hope you are still okay with that. I’m still grateful.Good news? Ernie and Pepe are working on an anti-frazzle product.

      • Norah

        I do like the sound of that anti-frazzle product. I’m happy to participate in the trial. ????

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Liz, you seem to enjoy fractured fairy tales and twisted tales. This was gruesome and fun and tourists as fodder has merit… Where did the idea for this one come from?

    • Liz H

      This was a quick write to a Six Sentence Story prompt. “Spunky Spelunkers” attached itself to the idea of a very hungry giant…and I let my crazy loose.
      And then, it was pre-October all of a sudden, and this Author’s Chair-with-audio opportunity showed up, and I wanted to grow the story. I thought the Ranchers were a great crew to share this with.
      So, a little pre-Halloween dark humor that might also be the thing as the nights get long and cold.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Well it is a fine tale for all the problem solving; mistakes were made but wisdom and humility gained. It speaks of sustainability and reciprocity, an old style tale for modern times.
        Thank you for sharing here at the Saloon! (I just hope the tourists haven’t been scared away)

  3. Michael B. Fishman

    Congratulations on sitting in the Author’s Chair and thank you for giving us such a fun story. And going forward I am taking the moral of the story, “never again be caught without a proper snack”, seriously.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      I agree Michael! But I found it admirable that the giant, though hungry, never succumbed to hanger; he did not stomp and rage, merely sought to assuage his hunger pangs.
      If that village’s UPS is like my village’s, his snacks got delivered on time- just to the wrong address.

      • Liz H

        Stop eying those rambling Spelunkers, D. You’ll never get away with it in these modern times!
        Another good reason for buildinging a sense of community trust!????????

    • Liz H

      Hugo was wise indeed…well beyond his years!
      And hey! The chair is surprisingly comfortable. Kid & Pal would enjoy a visit and a story from Michael’s vault!

  4. suespitulnik

    What a fun “dark” story. Thanks for sharing Liz. It’s great technology gives us a chance to socialize, hear, and see friends from distant places.

    • Liz H

      Thanks Sue. It’s nice to have a place to share my weirdness.
      And no lie, I love seeing and hearing actual footage of my fellow Rough Writers!
      Do you have something lined up for the Chair?

  5. Charli Mills

    Your reading voice is spot on for dark humor, Liz. I know you write fairy tales and have studied the genre in writing courses, but do you consider that to be your genre? When did you get interested in playing with fairy tales? You create humorous contrasts between what we’d think of as an old tale (giants) and a modern setting (spelunkers, UPS). What inspires these contrasts? Do you look at the UPS delivery guy in your neighborhood and think, what if a giant didn’t get his snacks on time…?

    • Liz H

      Sorry for the delayed response…I’ve been lost in NanoWriMo! I’d have to say that fairy tales are more like a part of my ‘genretti.’ Fairy tales crept in during early childhood, were fed by voracious reading and a lot of alone time wandering thru woods & climbing trees. Ir even followed me through graduate school & my thesis on Elaborative Inferences in text comprehension. The fairy tales haven’t left yet.????
      Hugo was grown out of a Six Sentence Story (as with Deanna’s Author’s Chair offering), that popped up when I had a deadline and no clue as to what to write. So imagination, a little pressure, a nervous stutter, laughing on the keyboard, and Boom!
      There’s more fantasy, and even some pathos, in my short works on my blog page, there seem to be an underlying theme of family for much of them.
      My novella (unpublished, but sizzling on a final editing back burner) shows this, selkies, enchanted monk-apprentices, nordic crones, kindly stepmothers, and the occassional kraken notwithstanding. My novel-in-process is also fantasy/fairy tale themed. Some of the characters stroll by in my blog posts…

  6. robertawrites235681907

    It is lovely to meet LIz and read an extract from her book. Sadly, the link wouldn’t work for me today.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Yikes! I’m here to check- it was here yesterday- and it’s GONE! I’ll see if it is around back or something.
      Thank you for coming by. That’s a great tale Liz shared, classic Valley stuff.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Ha, it is there, just slow to load this morning. I can only surmise that it is “one of those things” then as I haven’t heard of the link being an issue for others. I just clicked the red arrow in the upper left corner of the icon. I do hope we can get the glitches straightened out as we grow the Saloon and Author’s Chair.

      • robertawrites235681907

        It is a great tale, thanks Ms D. I didn’t mind reading it instead of listening to it.

    • Liz H

      Shoot! But thanks for persistence and willingness to read.
      Hope you enjoyed the ride!

    • Liz H

      Thanks, Ann!
      There are lots of fairy tale rewrites out there that inspire. I took a number of online classes through Sara Cleto and Brittany Warman, of the Carterhaugh School, that offer lively classes about folklore and fairytales from around the world (we even read & discussed centuries-old classics).
      One of our texts/books of modern rewrites was “Beyond the Woods: Fairy Tales Retold (2016), edited by Paula Guran, with tales from superstars Neil Gaiman, Jane Yolen, Tanith Lee, Charles DeLint, and Catherynne M. Valente, to name just a few. I highly recommend!??????

      • Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

        A local writer here, who was also a publisher, is very interested in fairy tales. Which is neat, given that her name, Teika, means fairy tale in Latvian!

      • Liz H

        Well, that’s sweet serendipity!
        I’m currently delighting in a book by Naomi Novik “Uprooted”(2015) that’s Speculative Fiction. Kind of a mashup of Beauty and the Beast, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and a bit of horror. Requested from the library: another of hers that’s a re-take on Rumpilstiltskin — can’t wait! D’you suppose your friend is familiar?

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