Fiction Friday


My local Sisters in Crime chapter sponsors an event (not a contest, because Sisters promote and support one another, they don’t compete with each other). At this event, members may enter short fiction projects for evaluations. This is the entry that earned the highest score that year.

This was inspired by Stephen King. In his memoir/how-to book, he gave a story idea and then instructed the reader to give it a spin and turn it to the opposite of the usual. I gave it a second spin.



“Today, in a brazen daylight escape, three inmates at the Chowchilla Women’s Prison eluded their pursuers through the orchards surrounding the complex. Two of the inmates have been recaptured; one remains at large, although authorities believe they will soon have her in custody. Stay tuned to this channel for further developments.”

Jack froze with his beer half way to his mouth. He knew, suddenly and with no doubt, the missing inmate was Julia and she was on her way here, coming to finish what she had started. Killing him.

Even as the thought entered his head he heard the pantry door creak and knew she was already here. That was what he had felt earlier. The mail wasn’t scattered across the entry way as usual. It sat on the hall table where Julia had always left it for him. He’d picked it up and carried it into the kitchen without a thought before he grabbed his beer and flipped on the television. All this raced through his mind as he wondered how he could escape from her again. Spousal abuse was common, but it almost always referred to wife beating. He was an anomaly, a husband who had been beaten and abused by a violent woman.

“Hi, honey,” Julia said from behind him, her voice light, as if she was returning from the grocery store and dry cleaners instead of a two-year prison stay. “I’m home.”

“Julia, I’m so glad to see you!” Jack worked some moisture into his mouth so he wouldn’t sound panicked. “I just heard about the escape. Baby, I was worried, why didn’t you tell me you were coming?”

“What? And ruin your cozy life here? I couldn’t do that, now could I?” Julia moved into his field of vision and he wasn’t surprised to see that she had his gun from the safe in his closet. “Where’s Chloe? I want to see my little girl.”

“I didn’t know you were coming. I let her go play at Jennifer’s house for the afternoon, I’m supposed to pick her up after dinner. Should I go get her now?”

“Very funny, Jack. No, we’ll wait until after dark and then we’ll both go get her. You can fix me something to eat while we wait. Let’s go into the kitchen.”

Jack got up from the recliner and briefly thought about jumping her to wrestle the weapon away but the sight of the .25 was a strong deterrent. It may be little, but it could still kill when fired point blank. And he knew that she knew how to use it. He had trained her himself. He had also taught her how to box, to use pressure points to disarm an assailant, and even some basic martial arts. She may be small but she knew how to fight dirty.

As Jack moved into the kitchen with Julia following, he decided that just as in all the detective books and movies, his best chances required that he keep her talking.

“Honey, you know I never meant for you to get sentenced to ten years in prison. I figured a year of probation would be it and we’d live happily ever after.”

“Skip the bull, Jack. What’s going on with the lawsuit?”

“My attorney expects the city to offer a settlement of half a million dollars, and she’s advised me to accept it.”

“I said to skip the bull. I know the city has already offered you three million and you said you want five. I know you are sleeping with your attorney and I know she’s agreed to a twenty-five percent fee instead of her usual one third.”

A tingle of hope raced up his spine. Maybe he could use her knowledge to his advantage and come out of this after all. He had underestimated her before, he wouldn’t make that mistake again.

“You really do know a lot,” he said. “Is there some sort of prison grapevine you can subscribe to?”

“Yeah, it’s called the Internet. I’m such a model prisoner, I get to do clerical work and sometimes I can sneak a few minutes online to read local news. I guessed about her sleeping with you, but since you don’t deny it, it must be true.”

“What should I do with your half of the settlement? Do you want me to put it in a CD that matures when you’re released?”

“Very funny, Jack. I’m now an escapee. If they catch me, I’ll be going back till Chloe’s a grandmother. I want the money now. How much do you have? And I’m starving. Are there any Spaghetti-Os?”

“No, but I can fix you some good ol’ Mac & Cheese. Remember how Chloe loved it when she was three years old? That’s all she ate the whole year, I think.”

“Don’t try to change the subject. I asked how much money you had.”

Jack moved to the pantry, removed the familiar blue and white box and filled a pot with hot water to start boiling.

“I have a couple hundred on me is all. If I knew you were coming, I could have had more.”

“You think I would trust you again? After you set me up? Geez, you must really think I’m an idiot. I’m not.”

“I’m so sorry, honey. I don’t know why I froze like that. I think I was just so into it, like an actor becoming his character. I know I let you down. I hope that someday you’ll be able to forgive me.”

“You had the chance to get me sentenced to local jail for six months and then probation, but you sold me out to state prison for ten years. I’m supposed to forgive that? You ever hear of double jeopardy? It means I can beat you senseless. I’m already doing time for domestic violence. I might as well do the crime for real.”

Jack swallowed as he poured the macaroni into the boiling water and stirred it. He forced his voice to stay calm and even. “I understand. I blame myself. It’s all my fault and I deserve whatever you do.”

He hated pain, the hardest thing he had ever done was to purposely hit his arm with a club to crack it. He wanted his injuries to look real and to convince the cops. He had had to beg Julia to punch his face hard enough to leave bruises. As much as he hated pain though, he loved money and he loved his plan for getting it even more.

It had seemed easy enough in theory. They would be a typical American family, hiding a violent spouse-beater. But instead of the man being the abuser, it was his idea that Julia would mistreat him.

It had taken a couple of years to lay the groundwork. For the first few months in their new house they were the perfect, loving family. Then he began to show a few bruises to friends and neighbors, accidentally of course. After some really bad contusions, he confided to a friend that Julia hit him when she was angry and frustrated.

Then they had a few arguments in public and Julia would throw something and let people glimpse her violent nature. It was all an act. She was never abusive to him or Chloe. They really were a typical close and loving family. Except for the plot to make a million dollars.

Finally, it was time to stage the performance. Together, they knocked over some furniture and threw some dishes around while yelling, just in case a neighbor was out walking a dog. Then Jack had hit his arm with the bat, hard enough to break it. Julia couldn’t stand to watch, though she knew it was a vital part of the plan.

Then Jack called the police, requesting protection from his wife. It took two more performances before the Fresno PD began to really believe that Julia was a husband beater. She was arrested.

The plan had been that she would be released, come back home, and put Jack into the hospital. Jack would file a lawsuit against the city, claiming they had neglected to protect him and had placed his life in jeopardy. Jack figured a man beaten up by a woman had to be worth a million or two, maybe more when you factored in sympathy.

Everything went according to the script. Up to the point of Julia’s sentencing hearing. He was supposed to agree to a plea bargain and a restraining order. But as he sat in the courtroom, anger began to swell in his gut. This was his plan. He was the one in constant pain. He had done all the planning, taken all the physical risk, and he deserved all the money.

When the judge asked him if he was agreeable to Julia’s plea bargain, Jack willed his eyes to fill with tears. He looked at Julia and allowed fear to wash over his face. He managed a quick nod, but just as he hoped, the judge asked a few more questions. Was he continuing to live in fear? He whispered that he was. Then came the clincher. The judge asked if he feared Julia would become violent towards Chloe. He almost guffawed, but was able to turn it into a sob as he nodded. Julia’s face turned deathly pale as the judge rejected her plea and sentenced her to ten years in jail.

Two years later, his lawsuit against the city was near settlement and Jack planned to take the money and his daughter and start life over again in a new state. But Julia had shown up, and now she was angry enough to beat him for real. Maybe even kill him.

Jack considered throwing the boiling water from the macaroni onto Julia. He held the pot and looked steadily into her eyes. “I could throw this boiling water on you right now, Julia. But I’m not going to.” He continued to the sink and poured the water and macaroni into a colander he had set there. He moved the drained pasta to a bowl and stirred in some butter, milk, and the fake cheese powder. “I don’t want to hurt you. I really feel sorry for the way things have turned out and I want to help you get away. I have probably five hundred dollars stashed around the house I can give you. What else do you need?”

“I want my daughter.”

“On the run from the cops? Do you know how crazy that is? You’ll barely be able to take care of yourself. You’ll always be afraid to look at milk cartons. What kind of life is that for her?”

“She must hate me. Do you know how much that thought kills me?”

“She was too little to remember any of the fighting and yelling and stuff. We were always careful around her, you know that. All her memories are of normal, family stuff. I show her the pictures of us at the zoo and the park. That’s the mom she knows. I just tell her that you love her and miss her, but that you have to be away from us right now.”

“I want to believe you.”

“After everything I’ve put you through, I wouldn’t lie about Chloe.”

Jack scooped the orange macaroni into a bowl, pushed it and a spoon across the counter to her. She started to eat. “I won’t take her right now but I want to see her. When can you get her?”

“At eight. Why don’t you come?” A plan was taking shape. “You can ride with me to the Benson’s. I’ll pick up Chloe, we can have a little reunion, and you can drop us off here and take the minivan. I’ll report it gone in the morning. I’ll tell the police you must have hidden a spare key somewhere that I didn’t know about. That’ll give you ten or twelve hours to get a head start. How about it?”

“I need to let the food hit my stomach and think for a minute.”

“We’ve got until eight o’clock.” Just then the sitcom rerun on the television segued into a newsbreak.

“Police are still on the lookout for escaped convict, Julia Larson. Authorities believe she will head for Fresno where her family lives. Anyone with information is urged to contact the police at the number on your screen. Don’t attempt to confront Ms. Larson, police consider her armed and dangerous.”

Julia paused between bites to listen. “Well, they got that right.” She finished the bowl of macaroni and touched a paper napkin to each corner of her mouth. “Okay, we’ll try it your way. Let’s get Chloe now so I can have a little longer with her.”

“You bet.” Jack moved into the entryway to get his jacket and keys. “Umm, do you think it’s a good idea for you to be in the car with me? What if someone sees us? Then the police will know I gave you the car and they’ll think I know where you’re going.”

“Well, I’m not staying here, Jack. I know you. You’ll drive straight to the police station. I’ll be sitting here eating microwave popcorn when they surround the house.”

“What if you ride in the back? Hunkered down. Then you can hear where I go and what I say.”

She seemed to consider the suggestion. “It might work. Just remember though, I have a gun and thanks to you Jack, I know how to use it.”

“Let’s go.” She really was stupid to fall for this. Geez, his brilliant mind had been wasted on her.

They moved into the garage and Julia climbed into the back of the late model Odyssey. “If you do anything to attract the cops’ attention, I will hunt you down,” she said. “Even from prison. Don’t underestimate me again.”

Jack forced himself to look her in the eye as he answered. “I promise I will do everything in my power to help you see Chloe and get away safely tonight.”

Julia settled herself in the rear seat, still gripping the .25, as Jack slid the door shut. Soon they were on their way down the suburban street, just the local single dad on the way to pick up his daughter. Jack waved to a neighbor he hoped would later tell others about how “Everything seemed so normal, he even waved like always. Who knew?”

Making the turn onto Cedar, Jack slowed and watched his rear view mirror. He needed just the right vehicle, not too fast, not too slow, not too big, and not too small. “Aaah, there we go.” A Caddy, about ten years old with one head in silhouette appeared behind him. It touched the white line.

A drunk driver would be perfect! He almost said it out loud as he let off the gas just a little so the Cadillac could gain. He checked the mirror again and calculated the timing and speed he would need for the driver of the other car to rear end him, kill his wife and solve all his problems. “She must have climbed in while the car was in the garage,” he would say. The back would be so damaged in the impact, no one would guess the truth.

They entered the intersection at Herndon on a yellow light. “Now!” Jack slammed the brakes and braced for impact. A long second later the Caddy stopped for the signal. “Damn!” Before the word was out of his mouth, brakes squealed and a pickup hit him on the driver’s side. The Honda slammed to the right and was hit again on the opposite side.

Julia told her story to the detective as she waited on a gurney in the emergency room. “I did it just like you said. I kept the gun between us. I didn’t let him see the wire. I knew what he was planning when he suggested we pick up Chloe. Thank God you were listening and tailed us. And thank you for taking a chance and believing me.”

“I’m just glad the city attorney’s office had so many questions about your husband’s story that didn’t add up, and asked us to investigate before they signed the settlement papers.” The detective awkwardly patted her hand. “You did good.”

Her eyes filled with tears. “Is it over?”

He nodded. “I think it might be.”

Jack died on the operating table, still believing he would be coming into some real money very soon.


Fiction Friday

This is my first piece of published fiction. It’s appeared in Orchard Press Mysteries and Short Attention Span Mysteries.


Vanilla Video

Jan put the car in Park as she muttered to herself. “This is crazy, who buys a DVD when they don’t own a DVD player?” The question was not rhetorical. Eddie would, but she had closed their joint checking account. He couldn’t hold on to enough for a pack of gum, so where had he gotten the money to buy a thirty-dollar Director’s Cut DVD of Black Hawk Down?

Jan got out of the blue roller-skate, otherwise known as a 1989 GEO Metro and walked to her front door. Sure enough, she could hear automatic weapons through the walls of the mobile home.

Eddie had called her at work earlier to announce his new purchase. She had not believed him, but it appeared he’d told the truth.

Jan entered their home and stopped in the doorway. “Where did you get that?” she demanded.

“Hi hon. How was your day?” Eddie answered with a grin, as he paused the movie and looked up.

“Eddie, where did you get that and how did you pay for it?”

“Oh babe, you sound like you had a tough day. Come sit and watch a movie with me.”

“Yes, I had a tough day, but where did you get that player, how did you pay for it and how did you buy the DVD that’s in it?”

“Geez, you’re full of questions. I took a bus downtown and it was on sale at Snow’s Appliances. Zero down, zero interest and zero payments for a year! You’ve been working so hard since I got hurt and I wanted to do something nice for you.”

“If you wanted to do something nice for me, why did you buy Black Hawk Down? Why not You’ve Got Mail or something I would enjoy? And what makes you think we’ll be able to afford this in a year, if we can’t afford it now? By then, the prices will have come down, and this won’t be worth any more than a Beta player was after a couple years of VHS. We’ll still owe the full amount on it, you still won’t be working, I’ll still be waiting tables and trying to save my tips from the bus boys. So, how are we gonna pay for it?” Jan’s voice rose on the final words.

“You worry too much. It’ll work out, you’ll see.”

Jan walked into the kitchen and sat at the plastic table with her head in her hands. After a moment she returned to the living room. “Eddie, I’m taking it back.”

“Don’t you want a DVD player?”

“It’s not that I don’t want it, it’s that we can’t afford it! I’m tired of being the bad guy all the time. I’m tired of working all day and now I’ll be working while you’re watching movies. I’m tired of worrying about groceries and if there’s enough money for gas, so I can drive to work instead of walking.”

“Jan, I promise you, everything will work out. I’m feeling better every day. I didn’t tell you, ‘cause I didn’t want to get your hopes up, but the doc says I’m ready to start walking around the mobile home park here. He says I can start with one lap three times a week. Isn’t that great? We’re going to be fine, I’m getting better and soon I’ll be able to go back to work.”

“Eddie, you just don’t get it. You were hurt three years ago. I think you like that I take care of everything. And I’m tired.”

“Sure babe, I understand. Go ahead and take it back, I wasn’t thinking of how you would feel about me watching movies, I was just thinking about giving you a little treat.”

Jan walked over to their “entertainment center,” two 2 x 4’s on cement blocks, and unplugged the unit from the wall, then from the television. She gathered up the cords and cables and walked out the door. Outside, she saw the empty carton labeled “DVD Player” sitting on the trash can so she grabbed it too and put the player back into the box, trying to make package it like new again.

Thirty minutes later, tears of despair and frustration welled as the crunchy-haired teenager at Snow’s Appliances told her the player was non-returnable once it left the store. That was part of the special incentive with no interest and no payments. And no returns.

“But please; you don’t understand, my husband isn’t working, we can’t afford this. You have to take it back.”

“I’m sorry ma’am, but it was spelled out to everyone who bought one. No returns. And you know, you do have a whole year before you have to pay. Just start saving a little every week.”

Jan stared at the twit before walking away with the carton in her arms. That was why Eddie had given in so easily when she insisted on returning it. He knew they wouldn’t take it back and his toy was safe.

Rage clenched her jaw as she considered this latest indignity. On the drive home an idea occurred to her. It was immoral, in poor taste, and probably illegal, but she was going to do it.

Jan steered the car into a strip mall, made a few purchases at the hardware store and even bought some vanilla ice cream at the mini market, using that precious tip money instead of saving it for the Damned Vacuous Dreamer.

A short time later she stopped in the alley behind the coffee shop where she worked 60 hours a week. She spread out a layer of the thick construction grade plastic she had just bought, then took the DVD player out of its box and set it in front of her little car. Getting back in the vehicle, she shifted into “D” and proceeded to angle the tires a bit as she inched forward. Jan spent a very enjoyable few minutes driving up and down the alley. The bumps of the car got smaller with each pass over the mound. Finally she stopped and took her brand new four-pound sledgehammer from the trunk.

Later the Geo stopped with a lurch as Jan drove into their little carport. Her walk had a bounce and the plastic bundle gave a satisfactory crunch as she set it on the kitchen counter.

“Hon, is that you? How’d it go at Snow’s? Did they take it back okay?” From the tone of his voice, Jan knew Eddie had expected her to walk in with the thing.

“Yep, no problem.”

“Oh…Really? You’re sure?”

“I’m sure. We no longer own a DVD player. I’m sorry Eddie, it just wasn’t a good idea.”

“I know you’re right, I wasn’t thinking.”

“Eddie, I’m sorry I was so snappish earlier. Can I fix you some dinner? I was thinking some soup, maybe a sandwich? I stopped at the market and got some ice cream so I could make you a real milk shake for dessert. How does ‘Cookies and Cream’ sound? A nice thick shake made with real ice-cream and bits of dark crunchy goodies in it?”

“Great,” answered Eddie. “Sounds delicious!”


Breaking the Mold

In a effort to be fearless, I’m going to make some confessions.

Sometimes I say “crap.”

Sometimes I go to the movies, pay for one and watch two.

Sometimes I drink wine and I’m known to be fond of a gin and tonic.

Sometimes I think the world is full of idiots and they follow me wherever I go. Sometimes I think I’m related to all the idiots.

Sometimes I feel sorry for myself.

Sometimes I deliberately cut off a driver who’s been speeding and bugging me.

Sometimes I’m angry at God. Or my stud muffin. Or my kids. Or even, myself.

Hmmm… I thought I would feel better after saying some of those things “out loud.”

Maybe I’m just human and I’m the only one who didn’t know that.

Note to self: reread this tomorrow and see how brave it really was. Or not.


Complementary Blogs

No, I’m not fishing for compliments or even comments.
It’s with fear and trembling that I’m unveiling my second blog.
I’ve been blogging since November about my journey as my husband studies to learn about wine and food pairings as he aspires to become a sommelier. He loves coupling wine and food and he plans to take classes and study the art. He’s taking an online course now.
Years ago, I read Mrs. Fields’ autobiography. Mrs. Fields of the cookie shop. The woman can tell what part of the world chocolate is from. My husband can taste wine blindfolded and label the variety and probably lots of other things. I can tell it’s solid or liquid.
So, I’m blogging about our meals, the wine, and maybe a bit about what I learn along the way.
Take a look.
If you like it, I want to know.
If you hate it, keep it to yourself.
If you doubt my salvation… well, we can chat.


Living Intentionally

That’s my phrase for 2010. To live intentionally I must do the things that I always plan to get around to. I’m working on doing something of purpose every day.

I think, so far, I’m doing okay. I’ve gotten Christmas down and mostly put away.

I also plan to:

  • work on scrapbooks
  • catalog recipes
  • clean out closets
  • Read more
  • Play less computer games
  • Call family members more often


On the Today show this morning, a woman talked about finding happiness in the moment, not always looking for what’s around the corner. Actually, that’s not what she talked about, but that’s how I heard and applied it.

Maybe because that’s something I struggle with. I can’t relax if I have something hanging over my head that has to be done. So I forget to enjoy the moment, if I know that I will soon have to leave, or go do something.

A couple of years ago, that was my habit to work on during the year and I’m much better now. It mostly still surfaces in small things. I like to return phone calls and emails as soon as I get them. But I no longer watch the clock when I’m at a meeting, fretting about when I have to leave to get to my next appointment.

And I like it better. I like me better.


Today I’m praying for: Barbara, Jamie, Renee.

Last movie: Bride Wars

Currently reading: Inside Out by Dr. Lawrence Crabb

Blame the Screenwriter

One of the most controversial movie endings was last summer’s My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult.

I loved the book and the ending. No spoilers coming, so it’s safe to keep reading.

Readers either loved the book ending or hated it. I felt it was the only ending that gave any emotional satisfaction and left the reader still liking and sympathetic to all the characters.

Hollywood, in its “wisdom,” changed the ending to something it felt would be more palatable. And lost all the emotional power.

If I were a grownup writer, I would write with the honesty and depth and downright fearlessness of Jodi Picoult.

I’ve been thinking and reflecting and praying and reading and wondering and visualizing and meditating and lots of other gerunds about my writing path and I’ve come to the conclusion: I’m gutless.

I write cute stories. I write well. But, with a few rare exceptions, I can’t seem to pull off a surprise. And to surprise the reader I have to surprise myself with a character or emotion or situation.

I try to tell myself I’m just not imaginative but the truth is I’m not brave.

I can see the problem. I acknowledge the problem. I just wish I knew how to solve the problem.


Fiction Friday


I’ve decided to start something new. Each Friday, I’m going to post a short fiction piece. Some will be reprints, some will be contest winners and others will be losers and rejects that I think deserve to be read. This is one of those. It’s my very first Woman’s World romance reject. I wrote it in 2005 and while my craft skills are improved and I could probably rewrite it better, I want to let it stand in all its glorious ineptitude.


Whole Latte Lovin’

Jason pretended to make a call on his cell phone as he observed the café employee whose name badge said Maggie. An attractive strawberry blonde with hazel eyes, she obviously didn’t feel well. He watched her hands to ensure she didn’t touch her nose then his coffee cup. The shop manager approached and laid a hand on her arm.

“Maggie, I need to apologize,” said the woman whose own badge read Diane. “I was out of line telling you to come in today. I’m sorry. I hope you can forgive me.”

Maggie continued to dispense whipped cream, gently building a white mountain on top of the coffee. “Tall mocha for Jason,” she called out. Then in a lower tone, “Thank you, Diane. I appreciate that.”

Jason took the drink and instead of heading for his car, sat on the overstuffed purple couch. This might be worth a little extra time. After ten minutes his wish was granted when another employee took over the drink counter and Maggie picked up a cloth and headed toward the condiment bar. Jason went to get a stirrer he didn’t need.

“Hi,” he said. Original opening.

“Can I get you something?” Maggie asked as she wiped up stray sugar granules.

“No, thanks. You look like you should be home in bed. Do you have that nasty flu that’s going around?”

“Yes, I did, but my fever broke last night, so I’m not contagious anymore and I’m feeling better. Much better than yesterday.” She seemed about to continue, but paused. “Thank you for asking.”

“Well, I hope you didn’t have to work when you were sick?”

Maggie seemed to choose her words. “I called in sick three days, but we’ve been short staffed lately. Some people have quit and our manager hasn’t hired and trained replacements yet.” Jason recognized the code for “My manager is an idiot and can’t keep employees.”

Maggie continued, “She asked me to come in and make some calls to get my shift covered. She didn’t realize how sick I really was until I dragged in here. You probably heard her apologize. But no need to worry, I’m not contagious.”

Jason smiled. “What kind of manager makes a sick employee come in to find a replacement?”

Maggie smiled and raised an eyebrow. “Well, since we’re understaffed now, some associates had to work double shifts. She was trying to make sure no one was on overtime. Flu really messes up schedules.”

Jason admired both the refusal to malign Diane and her eyes. “Have you thought about becoming a supervisor? Or are you happy pulling lattes all day?”

“I’m a shift supervisor now. I’ve been asked to consider management and I am thinking about it. But if I started the training, I’d have to work at other stores, and I really don’t want to leave my regulars here.”

“What do you mean, your ‘regulars’?”

“This is an older neighborhood with lots of retired people. I have customers who come in once or twice a week for coffee and a visit. When I first started, I never thought I’d still be brewing espresso five years later. But I really feel like… it sounds cheesy, but I make a difference here. I know someone else could get drinks for Mr. Chester and Mrs. McCabe and the others. But I enjoy making their visits personal. They’re lonely, and the others treat them like they’re an annoyance. Or as if old age is contagious. I ask about their grandkids and their arthritis. I flirt with the men and make excuses when the women want to fix me up with their grandsons. If I went to another store, I’d feel guilty about leaving them. So, I hang in.”

Jason stared at her for a moment.

“What? Do I have something in my teeth?”

“No,” he replied. “I’m having trouble processing what I just heard. You stay in this store, with an inept manager, and don’t promote because you think what you do matters?”

“Well, when you put it like that, it sounds stupid. I know it’s just coffee, but it’s also companionship and community and …I don’t know, it’s just …”

“No, I don’t think it’s stupid, I know exactly what you mean. It’s your way of giving something to the people here.”

“Yes, I guess so.” Maggie wiped off the cream container. “Are you sure I can’t get you anything else? I have to run the register now.”

“Nope,” Jason replied. “I’m fine. Take care, and I hope you feel better soon.”

“Thanks.” Maggie moved to the counter, tossed the rag into a sink of suds and stepped to the register as an elderly woman entered. Jason turned his back to the door and examined the travel mugs. He heard Maggie’s greeting.

“Hello, Mrs. Porter. How are you?”

“Good morning, Maggie, I’m fine, thank you. I missed you.” He made his escape while they discussed whether Mrs. Porter wanted three or four pumps of hazelnut syrup in her latte.

Jason got into his car and set the drink on the portable scale. He pulled the evaluation sheet from his briefcase and began rating the visit. The mocha was fine, weight wise. He tasted it. Good flavor balance with both the espresso and the chocolate, neither one overpowering. He had dawdled too long to get an accurate temperature, but judging from the temp now, it had been about 180° when served.

Jason paused as he came to the section for personal comments. He knew the rash of employee resignations had the corporate office concerned. It was one reason he had been sent to do this undercover evaluation.

He also had a personal interest. His grandmother was in the habit of stopping by this store for an occasional latte. She told him what a wonderful place it was, with the sweetest employees, but an awful manager. He had dismissed her comments: Grandma didn’t understand the café business; she still perked her coffee, for heaven’s sake. And she wanted to fix him up with one of the employees.

Grandma had evaluated this store exactly right. Bad management, great employees, wonderful dating possibilities.

On the form he made a suggestion that Diane be moved to a different store and given some retraining in employee relations. Then he added his recommendation that Maggie Rogers be encouraged to promote, with an assurance that once trained, she would be assigned to this location. He replaced the form in his briefcase after signing it, “Jason Porter.” Yep, his grandmother had great sense about both business and romance.

A month later Jason returned to the store for a follow up visit. Just as he thought, his grandmother was there for her coffee. And as he had hoped, she was talking with Maggie who wore a new name badge that read Manager.

Jason slipped behind his grandmother and put a finger to his lips as he caught Maggie’s eye. “Excuse me ma’am. Are you causing trouble here? This new executive trainee should get back to work. After all, we don’t pay our managers to chit chat all day with the customers.”

“Jason!” his grandmother exclaimed as she whirled around. “I’m so glad to see you. I’ve been trying to tell Maggie that my grandson was here last month and he made the decision to give this store to her and to move that awful Diane out. But I don’t think she believes me.”

“Well, it wasn’t my decision to make, but I did make the recommendation.” He turned to Maggie. “We haven’t formally met. I’m Jason Porter, Corporate Operations. I was in a while back and we spoke for a few minutes. I was very impressed by your commitment to this store and to your “regulars” like my grandmother.”

Maggie blushed as recognition lit her eyes. “I remember! You came in the day after I had been sick, and you overheard Diane’s apology.” She stopped abruptly.

“What’s the matter?”

“I said I make excuses when customers offer to set me up with their grandsons.”

“I don’t need Grandma to find dates for me. But I am glad she’s fond of you, and I would like very much to get to know you better.”

“I’d like that, too.” Maggie smiled at him.

Mrs. Porter watched with satisfaction. “I hope this means I get free hazelnut lattes from now on.”

Jason put an arm around her shoulder. “Grandma, any time you want to tell me about a management problem, I promise I’ll listen. But I don’t think you need to arrange any more dates.” He looked in Maggie’s eyes and smiled at her nod. “And you can have all the lattes you can drink.”


Twits and Tweets

My twitterfeed quit working and this is a test to see if I reinstalled it successfully. Hummm da dummm…..

Is it weird that so far this year, I’ve seen eight times as many movies as I’ve read books?

It’s usually the opposite. But for some reason, I can’t get into anything on Mount To Be Read, so I’m taking my time with a nonfiction title that will probably challenge and stretch me.

I guess I’m avoiding that hard work by watching movies instead.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that… it’s just not my normal way of doing things.

Speaking of which, I’ve been playing with my blog today (besides the above mentioned twitter feeds).

Be sure and check back here on Friday for a fun new edition of Chocolate No Nuts.

If I was a Casting Director

At my local Sisters in Crime chapter, we sometimes talk about who we’d cast if Hollywood wanted to make a movie of our favorite books.

The one that always garners the most debate is Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum. I guess there’s been talk for years about bringing Stephanie’s exploits to the big screen and I’m not sure why it hasn’t happened. They are visual stories that unfold in my mind just like a movie.

I’ve decided that there really is only one choice to play Stephanie Plum.

Sandra Bullock

Some of my cohorts think Reese Witherspoon would be great. She would. But Sandra, I believe, has it all. The looks, the charm, the klutziness. I believe Sandy could blow up cars without trying.

Ranger: The Rock, Dwayne Johnson

Joe Morelli: This is the only one I can’t decide on for sure. Mark Wahlberg, maybe. Gerard Butler? Can Morelli be Irish/Italian? Jeffrey Dean Morgan? Yeah, I like that one.

Lula: Queen Latifah. I think she’d bring a sensitivity to a character who could be so over the top she’d become a caricature.

And there are opportunities for lots of other actors to have cameos. Can you see Candace Bergen as a shoplifter who skipped court because she had a spa day scheduled. And when Sandra, er, Stephanie shows up to haul her in, there’s an incident with the body wrap mud and… hmmm….. I think I need to use this myself. Never mind.


Today, I’m praying for Billy Graham, Mel, and Dave.

Last move: Bride Wars – much better than I expected!

Currently reading: Inside Out by Larry Crabb


Plastic or Real


I watched a television movie the other night with Linda Hamilton, of the TV series Beauty and the Beast and the Terminator movies.

The movie itself was okay, but what really struck me was how real Ms. Hamilton looks. A few smile lines. Real skin, not a plastic flesh-colored covering on her face.

That got me looking at actress faces and thinking who looks still looks real and who traded in their face for a newer model.

I happened to catch last week’s Desperate Housewives and they’re all shiny and dewy and completely fake looking. Except during Felicity Huffman/Lynette’s dream sequence, I thought the “old” Lynette was lovely, much prettier than she is now.

During a late night channel surf, Victoria Principal chatted about something or other. She and Priscilla Presley tie in my “Scariest Smile Sweepstakes.”

I don’t mind getting older, really. I don’t want to look old, but I get it that it’s the price to pay for living.

I do have one suggestion for Ms. Hamilton, though: eyebrow shaping. Think about it. Other than that, you’re perfect!


Today, I’m praying for Bev, Sue, and Elnora.

Last movie: Did You Hear About the Morgans?

Last book: Mr. Paradise by Elmore Leonard – my first Elmore Leonard. It was good, but I don’t think my mother will allow me to read another one with that kind of language.