We’re excited to welcome John S. McFarland to the Highlighted Author. As writer of historical and arts-related subjects, he’s been widely published in magazines and has appeared on television and radio. He also is a frequent visitor of elementary schools and performs readings for first through third graders. In addition, his book is taught as a chapter book in several school districts. Enjoy the feature!
Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom
A little boy lost in the woods is saved by a sasquatch mom suffering from empty-nest syndrome…Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom, is a richly illustrated, slightly ironic young reader novel in the best tradition of Roald Dahl. It is funny, poignant, wry and character-driven, as well as quickly-plotted and suspenseful.
Evan Nestor Bettancourt, is a small-for-his-age eight year old slow to realize he is not a little kid anymore. He is imaginative, curious, and warily fascinated by the monsters in his story books. He is also particularly selfish and spoiled. His father, a high school biology teacher in a mountain town in northern California, encourages his son to see the practical, scientific side of life, and not worry about the fanciful creatures which live in his imagination. On a family outing, Evan Nestor is lost in the woods, and just as he starts to wonder if he will ever see his parents again, he meets one of those creatures: Annette, a sasquatch mom curious about the odd ways of humans, and missing her own child who has grown up and gone off on his own.
Pursued by a sweets-loving cryptozoologist who wants to reveal Annette’s existence to the world, and a hungry mountain lion, the unlikely pair make their way to a spot where Annette knows Evan Nestor will be safely found by his own kind. What they learn about sharing, empathy, and each other along the way, prepares them for many adventures to come.
Available now on AMAZON.
When Evan Nestor opened his eyes, for a moment he couldn’t remember where he was. Damp, moss-covered rocks overhung him, and he was shivering. His clothes, his hair and skin felt damp, too, and his fingers and the tip of his nose hurt from the cold.
He remembered he was lost.
“Mom and Dad?” he said quietly. No answer. “Mom and Dad?” More loudly this time, but still no answer.
He felt the fear pain in his stomach that he sometimes felt when he thought he heard a monster in his closet or outside his window at night. He thought he might cry. He crawled a little closer to the edge of the rock overhang that was protecting him. It was on a steep hillside, and he was overlooking a small valley filled with pine and spruce trees, and a carpet of ferns.
The ground was covered with loose, rich-smelling dirt and it felt almost like a soft cushion to Evan Nestor. As he crawled forward, his hand touched something hard in the dirt. His fingers closed around the object. It was gold-colored and light, like plastic. Evan Nestor looked at the object. It was a tube of lipstick like he had seen on his mother’s makeup tray in the bathroom. He smiled. There was something familiar in this, and comforting. Evan Nestor suddenly reached into his shirt pocket. His big red button was still there. He removed it and looked at it respectfully. He was glad he had not lost it. Evan Nestor put the lipstick back on the ground. He ran his fingers through the dirt again. He felt another object, but larger than the lipstick. He pulled it out of the dirt. It was a pink hand mirror with blue flowers painted on it. There was a little crack in the glass at the bottom edge, but otherwise the mirror was in good condition for being covered in dirt.
A lipstick. A hand mirror. These were things that belonged not to a kid or a dad, but more to a mom. Evan Nestor’s own mom had things like this. She had her share of bicycling equipment and skiing equipment, and even woodworking tools, for she was better at fixing things than Dad was. Still, mirrors and lipsticks were mom things. Evan Nestor wondered how these mom things had come to be here. He smiled again.
He looked above himself along the rock wall. There was a sort of shelf in the stone above him, and he could see something long and white sticking out beyond the edge of the shelf. Evan Nestor stood. The object was a hair brush. But, there were many other things on the rock shelf, too. There was a plastic dinosaur, a ball and jacks, a pocket knife, an adjustable wrench and screwdriver, a coupon for $1 off a fish plate at Ahab’s Fish and Chips, and a Decepto-Bot action figure from the planet Mendacitron 4.
Evan Nestor was amazed at all these things being collected together out in the woods. Who could have done it? He picked up the Decepto-Bot from the other things and sat on the ground to think about it.
A rustle of twigs on the ground down the hillside startled Evan Nestor. He slowly crept, on his hands and knees, backward and further into the rock overhang. In a few moments, he saw a little gray mound of fur pop up above the lower edge of the rock opening. Some animal was creeping up the hillside. Suddenly, two pointed ears could be seen, then a shiny black snout. It was a gray fox. The fox stopped abruptly when it saw Evan Nestor back in the shadows. Evan Nestor smiled, not knowing if he should be afraid or not. The foxes ears quickly pricked up and it looked first to its left, then to its right. In a moment, Evan Nestor realized he could hear a very low and steady growl. He took his red button from his pocket and clasped it between both hands.
In an instant, the fox seemed to see something that startled it, and it ran off. The low, growling sound continued and grew louder. Instead of a furry gray mound at the rim of the overhang, Evan Nestor now saw a dull, yellow one. The mound grew into a muscular back, a strong neck, and a wide, round head set with terrible, yellow eyes. It was a mountain lion!
The stab of fear shot through Evan Nestor’s stomach again. There were tears in his eyes, and he wanted to close them, but he could not. The lion’s eyes looked deeply into Evan Nestor’s, and he found he could not look away. The lion crept up closer to the overhang. Then suddenly, from somewhere above, an arm reached down and grabbed the lion by the skin of its shoulders, as if it were a kitten. But, it was like no arm Evan Nestor had ever seen before: it was huge and covered with long, black hair, and its wrist and forearm were as big around as one of his father’s legs…at least.
The great cat lifted off the ground with a puzzled expression on its face. In another second, it was tossed down the hillside with an indignant hiss, and Evan Nestor heard it crash into some brush somewhere far below. There was no other sound for many minutes, and Evan Nestor did not move. Whatever had saved him must have gone. Slowly and very quietly, he crawled toward the front of the overhang.
He could see now that it was a bright and sunny day. He noticed the sounds of birds singing, which he hadn’t noticed before, and a little breeze was stirring through the valley. As Evan Nestor neared the front of the overhang he noticed the edge of something just to the right of the opening. It looked like the edge of a huge foot standing still on the moss. It was like a person’s foot, but so much bigger that Evan Nestor could hardly imagine it. And it was covered with long, black hair.
The foot didn’t move. Evan Nestor crept out a little further. His fear filled his stomach and head, but his curiosity was even stronger. Could this be a monster? Could this be a nice monster who had deliberately saved him? The enormous foot was attached to a thick leg the size of a tree trunk, bulging with muscles, and also hair-covered. The creature still did not move, but stood facing away from Evan Nestor, as if it were looking down the hillside where it had flung the mountain lion.
Finally, Evan Nestor poked his head entirely out from under the rock overhang, and saw the great creature standing there. It was a giant, taller even than Mom when she sits on Dad’s shoulders in their Neptune’s Envy above ground swimming pool in the summer: taller than the guttering on their house. It was a mountain of muscle and black hair. Its arms hung low, nearly to its knees, and its back was wider than Evan Nestor’s mattress. A true giant. Could it be a real monster?
Evan Nestor gasped when he realized the creature was slowly turning toward him. He had no place to run. Before he could move, the great face was looking at him. The mouth was wide and thin-lipped and opened a little, showing several white, flat teeth. The eyebrow ridges were heavy like a gorilla’s, and the top of the head was pointed. And sitting on the broad, flat nose was a pair of heart-shaped, bright pink sunglasses.
John S. McFarland’s first novel, The Black Garden was published in 2010 to universal praise. His work has appeared in The Twilight Zone Magazine, Eldritch Tales, National Lampoon, River Styx, Tornado Alley, and in the anthology, A Treasury of American Horror Stories. He has written extensively on historical and arts-related subjects and has been a guest lecturer in fiction at Washington University in St. Louis. He is a lifelong Bigfoot enthusiast, and Annette: A Big, Hairy Mom is his first novel for young readers.