Bachelor Lloyd Schifflebein strives to adopt six special needs children, start a home business, and find Ms. Right. To succeed, Lloyd must convince authorities (and at least one young lady) that he is not crazy. Then he receives a supernatural visitor who really drives him nuts! It’s a funny way to build a family.
Targeted Age Group:: 12 to adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
God blessed our family late in life with an adopted special needs child. We prepared for her arrival for months while governmental delays persisted. We even adopted bunny rabbits to be her pets, but the process dragged on literally for years, and all the bunnies eventually went to the big bunny hutch in the sky. Our daughter finally arrived just shy of her third birthday. That was fifteen years ago, and in all that time I have learned that faith in God's mysterious ways, and a large dose of laughter, are necessary for a family to survive and thrive when faced with the unexpected on a regular basis.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I actually knew a Lloyd Schifflebein over forty years ago, and he was a wonderful Christian bachelor in his twenties. My family and friends watched Lloyd meet Ms. Right and get married, but we all relocated to faraway places before we could see Lloyd as a father. I always believed he would be the greatest daddy ever, so I patterned my fictional Lloyd Schifflebein after the real one in grace, strength, and good humor.
Excerpt from Schifflebein’s Folly, by Iris Chacon
PROLOGUE – THE STUDIO
In the oldest and most perfect pottery studio in the universe, the walls glowed with ethereal light. The ceiling was high enough to be hidden by clouds. The only flaw in the studio’s splendor was its single door, which was narrow, wooden, plain, and scarred. Through that door bustled a peculiar, small person sporting a cocked stovepipe hat. He closed the door and waited politely for the Potter to acknowledge him.
The diminutive visitor looked like a 19th century sidewalk newsboy, or he might have been a taller-than-average leprechaun. Truly, he could be both, either, or neither, as the situation demanded. He was older than he looked by several million years, but he could pass for middle-aged on any planet. His name was Orkney.
Orkney watched in silence as the Potter fashioned a teapot and then its lid. He watched the Potter paint the raw clay and then set the two pieces into a kiln for firing.
A glance at the nearby workbench revealed a freshly painted vase, an urn, some candelabra, cups, saucers, a platter, but no other teapots.
When a minute had passed, or it may have been a year or a decade (time having no meaning in the studio), the Potter lifted the fired teapot from the kiln and set about painting a face upon it. Orkney neither moved nor spoke during all that time.
“Good to see you, Orkney,” said the Potter, at whose smile Orkney nearly floated with happiness.
“You called, Guvnor?” Orkney said, sounding like a London street urchin—which he could be if called upon.
“Time to go to work again, my son,” the Potter said, putting the finishing touches on the teapot’s facial features. “It’s been thirty-two years, seven months, four days, and six hours since the last job, by human reckoning.”
“Human. So it’s to be earth again, sir?”
The Potter put down his paintbrush and stepped back to evaluate his creation. He produced a neon green card from among the folds of his robe and flipped the card toward Orkney. Orkney remained absolutely still while the card wafted across the room and lodged itself securely in the band of his stovepipe hat. “That’s the name and address where you’ll deliver this teapot,” said the Potter.
Orkney retrieved the card from his hatband and read it. He blew out air. “Coo! This bloke? They think ‘e’s bonkers already, Guv. This’ll get ‘im locked up for sure!”
“Just deliver the teapot.”
Orkney looked at the teapot with its newly painted face. “But i’s still wet!”
A gust of wind swept through the studio, billowing fabrics and rustling small items on the workbench.
“It’s dry now,” the Potter said. He placed the lid on the teapot then handed the pot to Orkney.
As Orkney accepted the teapot, it grinned and winked at the Potter.
CHAPTER 1: THE DELIVERY
Lloyd had a philosophy: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If it ain’t on clearance (defined as at least 70 percent off), don’t buy it. If it’s less than 50 years old, it’s too good to get rid of. If it’s more than 50 years old, it’s an antique and therefore too valuable to get rid of. It was a blessing that Lloyd had never married because his philosophy probably would have driven some poor female to commit murder sooner or later.
That’s not to say Lloyd was undesirable as a man. Indeed, women above the age of 50 found him adorable and wanted to mother him. Women in their 40s found him polite, attentive, an excellent listener, and the perfect date for weddings, graduations, awards ceremonies, even funerals. Thirty-something ladies felt he wasn’t career-driven enough, but he had a respectable investment portfolio and a cute butt. Twenty-somethings at the gym on Lloyd’s workout days sent text messages to their friends about his great body—sometimes they even posted Lloyd videos on YouTube.
Despite his positive attributes, however, Lloyd had reached the age of thirty-two years, seven months, four days, and six hours without finding Miss Right and converting her into Mrs. Lloyd Schifflebein. Yes, Schifflebein. A surname decidedly lacking romance in addition to being difficult to spell and way too long a signature for checks and the backs of credit cards.
Supposing Miss Right were willing to overlook the awkward appellation, there was one other impediment to wedded bliss. Lloyd devoted his whole life to his children. Children he didn’t yet actually have, but he was working on it. He had been working on it all his life. He had filed his first formal application to adopt on his 20th birthday, having been turned away on his 18th and 19th. This devotion to his as-yet-unadopted children led many people to deduce that Lloyd Schifflebein was crazy. Big and strong, sure. Cute, maybe, but loony nonetheless.
On the afternoon of Orkney’s mission to Lloyd’s house, Lloyd had laid aside his carpentry tools, locked his woodworking shop, and settled in the kitchen to brew a cup of tea and make an important telephone call. An ancient teakettle on the old Kenmore stove began to bubble and then whistle, blowing steam. Lloyd was lifting the kettle from the burner when his doorbell rang, startling him into dropping the kettle, which shattered into snowflake-size pieces on the tile floor. Lloyd had never seen stainless steel behave that way. It should have been dented or bent, but shattered? And where was the water? How weird.
Lloyd bent to pick up the mess, but the doorbell clanged again. He sighed and stepped over the debris on his way to answer the door.
He opened his front door to find Orkney on his threshold with a brown box in hand, clipboard under one arm, and pencil behind one ear.
“Delivery for Schifflebein,” said Orkney. “Sign ‘ere, if ya please, Guvnor.” Orkney offered Lloyd the clipboard and pencil.
Lloyd signed, then he exchanged the clipboard and pencil for Orkney’s brown box.
“Well, g’day, Guvnor, and good luck.”
Abruptly, thunder boomed out of a clear sky.
Orkney startled and glanced heavenward. He removed his hat respectfully and backed away from the door, keeping one eye on the heavens.
“No! Not luck, sir. I didn’t mean luck, sir. I meant to say, uh, Lor’ bless ya. G’day and Lor’ bless ya, sir.”
Lloyd, too, examined the clear skies and even held out his open hand to check for precipitation, but there was none. He turned to thank the strange little man, but Orkney had simply disappeared. Lloyd stepped outside the door and glanced up and down the street, but there was no sign of a delivery truck or driver. More weirdness. What a day. Shaking his head, Lloyd returned to his kitchen with his brown box.
He left the box on the counter, swept up and discarded the remains of his erstwhile teakettle, and walked down the hall to his home office to make his phone call. He opened a four-inch-thick file folder on his desk, found a number, and punched the digits into his phone.
“May I speak with Mrs. Walken, please?” he asked the answering receptionist. “Retired? But she couldn’t have been more than 50! … Oh, really. Well, she sure didn’t sound 62. My goodness.”
He paged quickly through the thick file and found his answer. “Wow, I guess it has been, goodness, twelve years now that she’s been handling my file. … Schifflebein, yes. You know my case? … Really! Everybody? Hnh! … Well, do you know who’s handling my file now that Mrs. Walken has retired? … Uh-huh. … Uh-huh. … Well, would you please ask whoever draws the short straw to call me? … Yeah, that’s still my number. You have an amazing memory. … Really! Taped to the desk. Goodness. … Thank you very much, then. I’ll wait for your call, her call, or his call, somebody’s call. … Right. ‘Bye.”
Lloyd put down the phone, slumped in his chair with long legs extended before him. A black-and-white rabbit hopped through the office door, across Lloyd’s ankles, and onward to the futon against the opposite office wall.
“Montalban, don’t eat my bed,” Lloyd said absently. The rabbit reversed course, crossed Lloyd’s ankles going the other direction, and left the room.
After several minutes of staring at nothing, Lloyd slapped his knees as if encouraging himself. He rose and returned to the kitchen, where he removed a paring knife from the cutlery drawer and proceeded to open Orkney’s brown box. He lifted the brand new teapot and placed it on the stove with its brightly colored face visible from the center of the room. “Goodness, this is providential,” he said. “Who sent you?”
The teapot didn’t answer, and there was no return address on the brown box. In fact, there was no address at all on the brown box. Lloyd turned the box over and around, but it was blank on all sides. “My goodness,” Lloyd murmured.
At the Department of Children and Families, the receptionist delivered a Pepto-pink message slip to the desk of a supervisor. “Walken’s nutty guy called,” the receptionist said. “Who do I give it to?”
“I’ll take it,” the supervisor said, and rose from her chair to take the message in hand.
The receptionist returned to her desk, and the supervisor walked down an alley between cubicles to the lair of Hepzibah Stoner, Social Worker Extraordinaire.
Stoner was the unofficial hit-woman of DepChilFam (as she liked to call it, having become accustomed to such amalgamated nomenclature while serving in the United States Marine Corps). Stoner had the compassion of Florence Nightingale, the relentless determination of Indiana Jones, and, sadly, the face and physique of Winston Churchill.
The supervisor leaned into Stoner’s cubicle and placed the phone message on the desk. “Kook call,” said the supervisor. “Walken strung him along for twelve years hoping he’d give up, but he doesn’t get it. Name’s Snicklebean, or something like that. Everybody’s talked to him at one time or another, but nobody’s had the guts to just tell him no and put him out of his misery. Something about the guy seems to turn people soft. Find the file. Go see him. Tell him to get lost, and close the file.”
“You got it,” said Hepzibah Stoner. “Snicklebean is history.”
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