The Whale on the Wall

The Whale on the Wall

I believe authors are given more experiences than the average person as a special gift from the angels. The average person might step over an emotionally-charged incident totally oblivious to the opportunity it offers. However an author will place that moment in his/her memory knowing someday it will present a funny, sad, or bittersweet view of a character’s challenges.

I pulled the following incident from my childhood and used it in Mister Darcy’s Templars. I tried to convey the panic a grownup would feel when placed in a similar situation. As those of you who follow my comedy mystery series featuring Lizzie and Darcy know, Lizzie possesses a knack for getting into pickles and charming her way out again.


And now, presenting The Whale on the Wall

Every experience holds a lesson. Some of us are smart enough not to have to learn the same lesson twice. Then there are some lessons that by their nature must be relearned…over and over. Quit while you’re ahead is just such an example.

At five years of age, I was well acquainted with my mother’s nasty temper. The slightest infraction would cause her to inflict bruises on my skinny little body. On the other hand I was always testing the limits, as curious kids will do.

I was sucking on a sugar cookie in one of the two bedrooms in our little apartment in New Jersey. My mother was clanging pots in the kitchen. As I sucked on the treat I wondered what the effect of spit on a cookie was relative to wall-stickability. Precious, I had evidence an early interest in science, cause and effect.

Slobbering the dough to what I guessed was the proper consistency; I plastered the cookie on the wall. Sure enough it stuck for a moment then slithered to the floor. Unfortunately it left a cookie-sized spot on the dusty pink wall. My mother would beat the budding scientist out of me when she spotted the spot.

Scrambling to the bathroom, I grabbed tiny pieces of toilet paper and slid them over the bar of Ivory soap. I raced back to the scene of my crime. Rubbing the spot with the soaped-up tissue caused it to become very clean and much larger. The ancient wall paint made the soap circle stand out as if a flashlight had been aimed at it. I was dead meat.

In a desperate attempt to improve the situation, I decided that the wall must be dustier than the new clean spot. If you dirty the clean spot it will blend in – a little voice in my brain told me. Where could I find dirt in a second floor apartment? Smart little tot that I was, I rubbed my fingers on the bottoms of my sandals picking up schmutz and smearing it onto the clean cookie-spot. The spot grew even bigger.

I could hear my mother winding down on her pot-banging. She would be checking on me soon. My panic kicked in. Desperate, I smeared more shoe-soot creating a spot as big as my head, but with a curious looking tail at one end. My plan had failed. I could not blend the clean spot into the dusty wall. There was a serious beating in my near future.

Taking some pencil shavings, I rubbed them on the clean spot that had grown even larger…by some strange magic.

A brilliant idea popped into my kindergarten brain. Perhaps the pink wall was dirty because it was greasy. That made sense—on some planet. If I could make the clean spot greasy, it might match the rest of the wall. I grabbed a jar of Vaseline petroleum jelly from my brother’s diaper table and smeared a handful of goop onto the spot that now took on the shape of a large whale with a perky tail.

I was staring at the whale on the wall in horror, when my mother walked in.

~ Censored due to extreme spanking ~

The giant, waxy whale remained on that wall for years. No matter what cleaner my parents used or the number of coats of paint they applied, the whale would resurface through in all its shining glory.

I imagine in the distant future an archeologist will discover that apartment. She will marvel at the resilience of that ancient art that looks like… a whale on a wall in a city somewhere in New Jersey.

Lesson: Quit while you’re ahead.

Poor Lizzie encounters her own whale-on-the-wall in Mister Darcy’s Templars.

Layout 1

Today’s the Day!

To celebrate the release of Book 5 in the Mister Darcy series comedic mysteries:

#Giveaway: A signed paperback copy of Mister Darcy’s Templars (US only)

An eBook copy of Mister Darcy’s Templars.

Please leave a comment below to be part of the giveaway. The deadline is Saturday May 30th at Midnight. EDST.

With Love and Laugher!


49 Responses to The Whale on the Wall

    • Deborah, Thank you for commenting. I found I am still doing versions of the same thing. “Plugging the hole in the rowboat even as it sinks.” That’s why it was such fun to put Lizzie in a similar pickle in Mister Darcy’s Templars. 🙂

  1. Great story! What is it with kids and walls? My mother never stops telling the tale about me and the sewing machine oil on the flowery wallpaper in my bedroom. My husband got spanked over a Harold and the Purple Crayon moment on the walls in his parents’ new house.

    • Victoria, That is so true. Kids and walls. “Why did you write on it?” ~~~ “Cause it was there!”
      Thank you! Glad you enjoyed the story. Every time I eat a cookie I think about that day. It made all the sense in the world to me at the time.

  2. Thanks for sharing that story! I giggled myself silly, and what a ‘teaching moment’ 😉

    Congrats on the new release! Mr Darcy’s Templars sounds like a delight!

    • Joana, Thank you very much. Yes… it was a learning lesson. Soggy cookies do not stick on walls. Or perhaps the lesson is in the life span of Vaseline?
      Thank you for the congrats on Mister Darcy’s Templars. 🙂

  3. My mother stood only 5′ tall. My goodness, she was only 97 pounds when I was born. Even so, I knew NEVER to cross her. [I am about 5’8″…taller than any man on my mother’s side of the family. My head is cut off in all the family pictures. LOL!]

    • Regina, Small but powerful. 🙂 My mother was the same. But I still tempted fate with my little experiments. I even ran away from home at the age of 3. Carried a little suitcase, headed for my grandmother’s house in the city. I made it one block when I was hair-lifted out of the street and carried back home.

  4. My father never hit any of us girls. He was in an orphanage when he was 7and a half and the ruler was used quite often on the children. My late father had a few arguments with relatives who hit their children. Thanks for the giveaway.

    • Marilyn, Thanks for commenting. I volunteered as a helper in an orphanage as a teen. The nuns were very loving, but I imagine they were the exception.

  5. My mother was a very gentle soul, but when we six children quite drove her to distraction, she would open the door to the front closet and LOOK at the high shelf where a leather riding whip was stored that she’d had from childhood riding days. This was an unspoken threat, never carried out, to get it down and use it on us The only time I ever actually saw it was when I asked her about it, and she said she’d never done more than touched her horse with it. I tell you, no beating could ever be as effective as that door opening and her eyes going to that shelf. If just me was acting up, she’d draw a stick figure of a child and write my name next to it. She’d tell me, “I don’t believe you are the real Beatrice. I love the real Beatrice, and she never does this. You must be the ‘stick’ Beatrice I drew. The ‘stick Beatrice’ doesn’t know any better. I wish my real Beatrice would come back.”

    • Beatrice, Your mother must have been a very smart woman. I have never heard anyone use the “stick figure” method. It’s very clever. 🙂

  6. My father used a leather belt, also. We feared that. Enough said on a “sore” subject. I never had a good relationship with him, EVER.

    • So sorry Sheila. Not too many nice memories there, huh? I think that’s why I write light comedies…to coax a smile from my readers. I like to replace whatever is negative with a serious case of the giggles. 🙂

  7. Thank you for sharing a childhood memory! Loved that you were a curious child and your quick instincts, although it didn’t work out to your advantage. Looking forward to reading your books!

    • Dung, I had such fun translating my childhood panic to a little mess Lizzie gets herself into in Mister Darcy’s Templars. She always means well, things just sometimes get out of hand for her.

  8. Barb you brought back many memories with your post, most not pretty. Unfortunately both my parents had bad tempers, only my mother would tell my father to do the punishment. He was the strongest man at his workplace (apparently the men at US Steel liked to arm wrestle for the title) and he had no idea how hard he was hitting or when to quit . . . with a belt. Made it hard time to cover up the stripes I wore afterward. As a result, I spent my childhood frightened of making any mistakes. It is hard to be scientific or inventive when you are scared to death. Just saying.

    One good thing to come of it, I lived in a fantasy world in my head. That is why I began to write — I like the fantasy world better than the real one. 🙂

    I am so sorry your whale was not easily covered. I felt your pain just reading it.

    • Brenda, Thank you for sharing your painful memories. I would have been lost if not for my fantasy world and books. I spent all of my fourth year scrunched up in the hall closet trying to turn into a black panther. Guess what? It did not work. 🙁

  9. I was not the child causing these mishaps – I was the child dealing with such when babysitting younger siblings. Never Vasoline, but oil-based model paint, broken eggs, wads of TP, mud and other messy substances figured highly. There was no whale on the wall at our house, but we never moved the furniture in the twins’ bedroom thanks to the permanent black and blue spots on the carpet. You are so funny Barbara! It breaks my heart a little bit that your mom couldn’t find a less extreme method of dealing with her inquisitive and creative daughter.

    • Diana, Thank you for sharing. I was the oldest of four so I understand YOUR pain. 🙂 My younger siblings did make a great audience. Happily they were not risk takers. I was the Wile E. Coyote in our family. 🙂 That is probably why I ran off and joined the Peace Corps at a tender age. 🙂

  10. Thanks for sharing a fun story from your past, Barbara. I’m not the playful and adventurous type so I’m fortunate my mother is not bad-tempered like us though I remember she did cane me and my sister once when we were quite naughty. Btw, congrats on the release of your new book, Barbara. Please enter me for the e-book format.

    • Thank you for commenting and for the congratulations. Caning has a certain ring to it. It sounds more harsh than spanking or whipping. Quite naughty? Hmm? I wonder what you did. 🙂

  11. My sister was the one who gave me a hair cut like the one mentioned above. My kids didn’t make a whale size spot on the wall, they made a hole in the wall . The boys were playing and somersaulted into the wall . a crater at least two feet in all directions appeared. It was a rented house. The next day while I was trying to see what repairs could be made the boys decided to bounce their 8 month old sister on the bed. They bounced her right off on to the floor on her head. She and I spent the next six days in the hospital, though they let us home for Christmas day and operated on her skull the day after Christmas. There are worse things than whales on the walls.

    • Nancy, Oh my goodness. Words fail me. But then I am the mother of a girl. Yes, I agree. There are worse things than whales on the wall.

  12. OMG! That is hilarious! My, but you were a troublemaking child. 😉 I had two of those myself, so know how it goes. Although I don’t recall any whale or other animal shaped spots on the wall. Ha!

    Congratulations on the new release. I LOVE the man on the cover. *sigh. Well done… very well done. 😉

    • Sharon, Thank you! I was always experimenting. As a child I had a scientific mind and an overdose of Looney Tunes. 🙂
      Thank you for the congratulations. The cover guy is pretty sigh-able. 🙂

  13. I had a little neighbor friend, a few years older than me who one day suggested she trim my hair. I decided, why not? A little snip here and there…..hmmmm…maybe a little more here and a little more there….and some more….you get the idea. What started as a trim turned into a complete hacked mess. Should have quit while ahead. My mom tried to repair the damage but that trim will forever be remembered in a family photo. Thank you for the giveaway. Congratulations on your release.

    • Becky, That is so cute. When we are children the oddest things make sense…until we realize we should have quit while we were ahead. Thank you for the congratulations! 🙂

  14. Another reason not to have kids! I really enjoyed the first three stories in your Mister Darcy series. What is book 4? Looking forward to reading the next one(s)! Thanks for the chance to win.

    • Linda, Thank you. I am so glad you enjoyed Books 1-3. Pansy Cottage was slipped into the collection with a different name but it continues the story. So Pansy Cottage is Book 4.

  15. I have a similar instance when I was 6, but it began with red lipstick and a white sheet. Play quietly they said. Riiiight.

  16. Well, I never did science. All I ever did was music, music, and more music from the get go. Although I will admit to taking the cookie box and hiding it. My mom would say Jennifer Lynn, now where did you hide the cookies this time. I would just laugh, not telling and maybe put them back later if there was anything left by the time I finished snacking. Hope the Templars are doing well. Jen

    • Jen, Thank you. Another cute story. Yes, the Templars are doing very well. I am plotting Darcy’s next adventure right now. He makes a great knight!

  17. As I already said some time ago when you asked about Templars + Jane Austen: it has to be just awesome!! I have read loads of books about templars and obviously about Pride and Prejudice (apart from the originall). It sound amazing. I can imagine Darcy as Jacques de Molay ^^
    Thank you for also doing the international giveaway with the ebook copy.

  18. Oh my! This reminds me of my own scientific experiement with bicarbonate of soda, my siblings and their hole to China, my trying to give my terminally ill mother a break and doing the ironing and starching my father’s boxers, and deciding I could bake a cake on top of the stove. Oh yes, and that is to just name a few. It makes me wonder what antics the future children of our favorite Austen characters could get into. This could make me have a sleepless night tonight just mulling that one over. LOL

    • Louann, Those are great OOPS’s! We might panic at the time life hands us those little oops’s, but they are tiny treasures for stories. Future children…hmm.

Your thoughts are precious!