These random ramblings and author musings are designed to entertain, though they might drag you kicking and screaming through my daft indie publishing journey. If you are somehow inadvertently informed, or if you have discovered something useful within, well then . . . count that as a jolly coincidence. Thanks for reading! (header background - Sky_18 Free Texture #133 by Brenda Starr)

20170414


If authors are anything, they're human. Oh so human. . . . And oh so wonderful.

Recently, a client and good friend of mine noticed an error in the hard copy version of his just-released debut novel, Murder at a Discount (one wayward chapter had strangely decided to go AWOL -- possibly on a Floridian vacation. Hmph! Lucky chapter!), and my client, being the wonderful person that he is (of course!), has chosen to rectify said honest mistake.

Thus and so, he's duly roped in the missing chapter, tied it down, shook his fist at it, and made it stay put -- or else. Abashed, the missing chapter nodded, subdued, and returned to its place in the novel, never to go AWOL again.

But for those of you who'd already bought the hard copy version with the missing chapter . . . here it is for your reading pleasure! And for those of you who are unfamiliar with author Carlie Lemont, here's the perfect chance to be introduced!

Enjoy!
 


CHAPTER 25

The women were to reconvene at Sammy’s house within the hour, which gave Sammy a chance to clean up the clutter no one would have noticed was there anyway. Plus, she wanted to feed and potty Freeway because he’d be so excited to have company, he’d eat too fast and be gassy for the rest of the night. Natasha had ridden with Sammy, and Freeway was so excited to see her, he’d tried to knock her down.

Soon, the friends had all gathered in the living room, where a gigantic sectional sofa with down pillows awaited them. After making themselves comfortable, though, everyone fell into an awkward silence. Freeway took advantage of the lull in the conversation and gave each lady the opportunity to love on him.

Heidi spoke first. “So, Sammy . . . did you see Ulysses’ tie last night on the news?”

“He was wearing a tie? I was lost in his eyes.”

Everyone laughed.

“That man is a thing of beauty,” Carol said. “I mean, how he isn’t married is beyond me.”

“Are you talking about that news reporter?” Natasha said.

“Yep.” Heidi giggled into her mug of tea.

“Do you know him, Sammy?” Natasha had a gleam in her eyes.

“She wishes,” Carol said.

Sammy shrugged. “He’s a great news reporter. What can I say? I like his . . . professionalism.”

“Professionalism?” Carol cocked an eyebrow. “Is that what we’re calling it?”

“Now, now, Carol. . . . Okay, fine—he’s gorgeous, brilliant, seems driven, and very professional.” Sammy winked, then laughed. “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we play a game or something?” If she didn’t divert the topic off Ulysses, she wouldn’t be able to keep her chance meeting with him a secret. Why she felt compelled to keep it to herself, she didn't know. Maybe it was because if she told them, it would become too real, and that was a lot of pressure.

“I hate games,” Carol said.

“I think it would be a great way to get to know Natasha,” Sammy said, “and for her to get to know us a bit better. I love the game Two Truths and a Lie. Have you ladies played that before?”

Heidi raised her hand. “I have. It can be so funny depending on who’s playing.”

“Carol, are you willing to play?” Sammy used her best puppy-dog eyes.

“Okay, fine.”

“How do you play?” Natasha said.

“It’s simple,” Heidi said. “All you have to do is make three statements about yourself: two of them are truths, and one is a lie. You want it to be hard for people to guess the lie. I’ll go first to demonstrate. Then, you get a point for each person who guesses the wrong answer.”

“Sounds good,” Sammy said.

Heidi started the game. “I was born in the front seat of my mom’s car on the way to the hospital. I can count to ten in eight different languages. And, I was once mistaken for the one and only Nicole Kidman . . . before she started looking like a cat.”

“There is no way anyone, ever, thought you were Nicole Kidman,” Carol said.

“Is that your guess?” Heidi said.

“Fine, yes. That’s my guess.”

“I’m going to guess being born in the front seat of your mom’s car,” Sammy said.

“How about you, Natasha?”

“Um . . . I have no idea. I guess I’ll say being mistaken for Nicole Kidman. You’re much too pretty to be her.”

“Don’t sugarcoat it,” Carol said. “It’s part of the game.”

Heidi smiled. “You’re all wrong. I can barely count to ten in two languages, let alone eight. That’s three points for me! Who’s next?”

“I’ll go,” Sammy said. “Okay, I have an irrational fear of clowns. When I was in high school, I punched the head cheerleader for calling my mom a heifer. And, I tried out for the Barnum and Bailey Circus, but when I found out how they train the elephants, I walked.”

Again, Heidi raised her hand. “I think the lie is you’re afraid of clowns.”

“I can’t believe this, but I have to agree with Heidi,” Carol said.

“I would have to say you never tried out for the circus,” Natasha said. “I couldn't imagine if you had a fear of clowns that you would ever even consider working for a circus.”

“We have a winner!” Sammy motioned to Natasha. “I never tried out for the circus. I thought about it once, but I’m not in agreement with the animals being used for profit, and I have really bad performance anxiety. I only get two points.”

Carol cleared her throat. “I guess I’m next. Let’s see. Um . . .”

“Come on, you’ve had plenty of time to come up with something,” Heidi said.

Carol shot her a murderous look, but didn’t respond. “I killed a man back in the 1970s, but it was ruled self-defense and no charges were filed. I know how to make a dirty bomb in my basement using common household items, and I can do it in the dark in under an hour. And, back when I was seventeen years old, I taught Sunday school at the local Catholic Church, but was kicked out for sleeping with the priest. Who wants to guess first?”

Silence filled the room.

“Come on! This should be easy!”

Heidi looked around. “I guess . . . you’d killed someone in the 70s?”

Natasha and Sammy both nodded in agreement.

Carol sulked. “Damn. I hate games. I never win. You’re all right: I never killed anyone . . . in the 70s.”

“That leaves you, Natasha,” Sammy said.

Natasha hesitated, then said, “When I was born, my parents gave me up and put me in an orphanage. Um . . . I had a twin sister, but she died when we were born. And . . . I . . .” She bowed her head and started to cry.

“Oh, honey, don’t cry.” Sammy rushed over and gave her a hug. “We don’t have to play this silly game. It was just a way to get to know each other. We can talk about other things, more lighthearted, fun things.”

Heidi, Sammy, and Carol exchanged looks of sympathy and curiosity.

“Okay.” Natasha wiped away her tears. “I’m sorry I ruined the game.”

“No need to apologize,” Carol said. “It’s all Heidi’s fault, anyway.”

Heidi glared.

“Well,” Carol went on, “in order to change the subject and hopefully bring some life back to this party, I have some things in my bag that may come in handy if the night turns ugly.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Heidi said, eyes wide.

Carol unzipped her backpack and pulled out a long, black, metal weapon.

“Explain how we use that again?” Sammy said.

Carol made a violent hammering motion with the weapon, and it extended outward. “It’s a telescoping baton. See, you open it like that, and you close it like this.” She stabbed the narrow end into the carpeted floor in front of the couch, and the weapon closed in on itself.

Heidi flinched.

“What do we need that for?” Natasha said.

Carol smiled. “It’s just in case. If you needed to protect yourself, like, if we were followed here, wouldn’t you want a solid metal baton made by Smith and Wesson at your side?”

Everyone nodded.

“What else you got in there?” Sammy said.

“I’m glad you asked. It’s important to be familiar with your weapon of choice prior to needing it. When your heart’s pounding and the adrenaline’s coursing through your veins, it’s hard to act unless it’s already become instinct. Here.”

Carol proffered a weapon, and Sammy took it. “What’s this?”

“A lady’s best friend. It’s the latest in Taser technology.”

“It’s pink!” Sammy said.

“Sure”—Carol gave a nod—“but it’ll drop a burly biker to his knees in less than a second. It even has a laser pointer on it, so not only will you know where it’s going to shoot these little barbs, but you can also scare the hell out of the enemy. They’ll know exactly where they’re gonna hurt if you pull the trigger.”

Heidi sat down next to Sammy on the sofa. “So, it shoots things out of it? I thought it was more like a cattle prod.”

“Oh, it has that, too. This baby’s multifaceted; it can shoot out electrically charged barbs, and it can be used in close proximity. Its weight gives it a secure feeling, and it has a metal encasement so you can technically club someone in the head if you had to.”

“What do I get to use?” Heidi said.

“Here.” Carol handed her a weapon of her own—a skinny metal rod of some sort.

Heidi turned it over in her hands. “What is this? This doesn’t look like much of anything.”

“It’s a tent pin,” Carol said. “It can technically be used to stab someone, but it isn’t super sharp. I didn’t want you to hurt yourself. You know . . . get too excited and faint or stab yourself or something.”

Heidi rolled her eyes. “Great, everyone else gets a weapon to save their lives, and I can go pitch a tent. Thanks, Carol. You’re the best.”

Carol shrugged. “What?”

Sammy smiled. “Heidi, it is a weapon, and it’s better than nothing. Plus, it’s not like we’re gonna need it anyway.”

Natasha yawned.

“Are you getting tired, honey?” Heidi said.

“Yeah, it’s been a rough couple of days. Where will I be sleeping?”

“You’re out here on the sofa, if that’s okay?”

Natasha nodded at Sammy with a weary smile.

Then Sammy turned to Heidi. “You’re in the second spare room across from the bathroom, and Carol, you’ll be in the first spare room next to the den.”

So, with weapons in hand, everyone dispersed to their rooms to sleep. Sammy helped Natasha fix the sofa with a sheet, a blanket, and some pillows.

“I’ll have Freeway in my room so you won’t have to worry about fighting him for space on the sofa.”

“Thank you so much for having me,” Natasha said. “I feel so much better being here with all of you.”

“Anytime . . . I mean it.”

Sammy gave her a reassuring hug. “I’ll be getting up early to make coffee and breakfast for everyone. After that, we can call the detective.”

“Sounds good.”

Sammy took Freeway outside to potty one last time, then gave him a hug and scratches behind the ears when he ran to her after finishing his doggy deposit in the backyard.

She straightened and turned to walk back into the house, but Freeway stopped and refused to budge, with his attention fixed upon something off in the dark distance. Sammy strained to see through the shadows, but even with the back-patio lights, she was like a fish in a fishbowl. Freeway’s hackles rose, and a rumbling growl reverberated through his chest, then out his mouth with a soft, menacing, woof.

“Good boy. Let’s go inside.” She gave his collar a little tug, which seemed to do the trick.

Who knows, maybe it was nothing.

After closing herself into the bedroom with Freeway, Sammy got ready for bed. Freeway had warmed her side of the bed and by the time her head hit the pillow, she felt the familiar pull of sleep, until—

Crash!

—the sound of breaking glass made her sit bolt upright in bed. She looked at the clock. Two minutes to midnight. Had she dreamt that sound?

A terrifying scream pierced the night air, and Freeway started barking and snarling in a way she’d never heard before, pawing and scratching at the bedroom door, trying to get through. The screaming continued from the living room, and Sammy snatched up the Taser, ran to the door and, hesitating for just a second, swung it open wide. They rushed out into the darkness of the kitchen, toward the living room, where Natasha had been sleeping. She was met in the kitchen by Carol and Heidi—Carol with her gun drawn, and Heidi fiddling with her tent pin.

Freeway scrambled ahead of them, barking and snarling, but the screaming had already stopped and there were no other sounds coming from beyond the kitchen. The three women slunk around the wall, moving toward the living room, Carol in the lead with her gun raised.

They turned the corner and walked into a space that looked war torn: the glass back door had been shattered in, the dining table had been overturned, and the sofa had been toppled onto its backside. Sammy lunged forward to pull Freeway back from the broken glass, then handed him over to Heidi, asking her to take him into the bathroom and check the pads of his feet for cuts or shards.

Carol and Sammy looked for Natasha, alive or dead, under the overturned sofa and behind the table, but found nothing.

“Carol, call the police. I have Detective Estrada’s name and number on the fridge, as well. Call him, too.”

“Sure thing.”

Small amounts of blood near the couch had intermixed with the broken glass on the tiled floor. Not a lot, but some. Could have been Freeway’s, Natasha’s, or it could have belonged to whomever had broken into the house. No way to tell at this point. By the sofa, Natasha’s baton lay, extended, with its tip covered in blood.

“What the hell just happened?” Sammy said.

*  *  *
If you like what you've read, here's the Kindle version.



20170327

Shit, I feel like a caterpillar.

No, wait. Let me rephrase that.

I feel like I’m in the “caterpillar stage.”

What do I mean by that? Well . . . for quite some time, I’ve been going through some weird type of transformation. I certainly don’t feel like myself anymore. Or, rather, who I was a year ago. Back then (and the years before that), I was more energetic, more “on the ball,” more “with it”; I followed and engaged in intelligent conversations with intelligent people; I loved having fun, joking around, making jokes, laughing, smiling, and above all . . . writing.

And then . . . my mother died.

At first, I didn’t feel any different. Was I sad? Sure. She was my mom. I loved my mom, and losing one’s parent isn’t a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. But what I didn’t realize was how much it had actually affected me in the long run, and how parts of myself died with her.

As the months went by after her death, I began to feel a sense of “self” slipping away. Anxiety took root—in a big way. A huge way. I worried about anything and everything, but mostly about my health—or lack thereof. I felt as though issue after issue was cropping up, demanding my attention, demanding that I get this thing checked out and that thing checked out.

And I did. Repeatedly. Believing there was indeed something “off” or “not right” about how I felt. Everything—and I do mean everything—came back perfectly fine (sans my blood glucose levels, of course, being diabetic and all). NOTHING was wrong with me. NOTHING.

NOTH. ING.

Physical, that is.

So why did I (and do I) feel so cruddy all the time?

“Hyperfocusing,” my brother’s called it. Hyperfocusing on all the wrong things. He tells me I’m “watching my gas tank too much.” When we’re on a long trip, it’s good to watch the gas tank, of course, to make sure we don’t run out of gas, but really . . . we’re supposed to focus on driving! And that’s what I’m not doing. Life is that long journey, and instead of “driving” through it like I’m supposed to (duh!), I’m now obsessively “watching the gas tank.”

And that’s exactly what my mother did. She hyperfocused on everything—health issues and all. I remember she used to tell me, “I know there’s something wrong with me, but no one’s listening.” Sure, in her later years she had chronic health issues (which were mainly kept under control), but she’d also developed bad habits I absolutely abhor to this very day and would never, ever—ever—partake of. Ever.

I’m starting to sense that my mom, on top all of her health issues and various bad habits, didn’t quite know how to deal with the natural process of aging. When we age, we start to move more slowly, think less clearly, see less clearly (among many other things). Perhaps she was incapable of moving past “who she was” (in her youth) into accepting “who she’d become” (in her older years)? I’m finding myself at that stage of my own life—I often hear myself saying, “I just want to be who I was a year ago,” or “I feel like there’s something wrong with me . . .” and that no one’s listening.

But you know what? They have. A lot of them have. And physically . . . I’m fine. Great, in fact. Hell, I rock climb—hard—at a local rock wall for goodness’ sake! I’ve set a goal to “climb Mt. Everest” by doing laps (climbing both up and down the rock wall equals one lap), and I’ve done 123 of them at the time of this writing. How could I have something physically wrong with me, if I’m doing intense exercise like that??

Well, shit, of course I’m not going to move as energetically as I used to, not when I participate in rock climbing three times a week. I’m no Spring chicken anymore, so it kind of takes its toll on my arm and leg muscles, though I’m doing pretty damned well if, at 46, I can scale the same rock walls my ten-year-old daughter conquers on a regular basis in her climbing team practice.

For me . . . it’s dealing with the “brain fog” that’s the toughest. Feeling like I can’t connect with the world or hold intelligent conversations with people anymore. Which is, of course, bullshit. Yes, I have brain fog—all the time. But that does happen as we get older, and for various reasons: lack of sleep (apparently we get poorer sleep as we get older), anxiety, diabetes, aging eyes, to name a few . . . the four main culprits I fight with, three on a daily basis: anxiety, diabetes, and aging eyes. I always feel like I’m walking around in a brain-fogged-up fish bowl. And it sucks.

The weird thing? . . . I’ve asked both of my kids and my husband if, while in my “brain foggy” state, I’m acting strange to them, and they’ve all said, unequivocally: “No!” (And my family isn’t good at lying to people. Trust me.)

Dammit!

So where does that leave me?

Stuck in the “caterpillar stage.” Right now, I’m going through many changes in midlife that are throwing me for a loop, tangling my emotions, squashing me, making me feel inadequate and worthless, because “I’m not myself—I’m not how I used to be.”

Well, duh. I’m changing, growing, transforming. Yes, I’m going to be less energetic than my younger counterparts (because of the diabetes, too), less “on the ball,” less “with it” (also because of the diabetes). But does that mean I can’t follow and engage in intelligent conversations? Not necessarily. They’ll just be a bit more “brain fogged” than I’d like. And I can certainly still try to have fun, joke around, make jokes, laugh, smile, and above all . . . write.

Writing was what I missed the most. And, thankfully, this blog post has proven that I can still indeed do that.

So right now, I’m going to have to accept that I’m a caterpillar. Will I like that stage all the time? No. Do I like it now? Hell, no. I hate it. It’s fraught with uncertainty and stressors and all kinds of crap. How long before I transform into a butterfly is unknown, but I can help ease that caterpillar process by taking it easy on myself.

No, I’m not the person I was before, and only God knows who I’m destined to eventually become.

I just need to learn to have some patience.