Fiction Friday: Jax and Jive

This was my second attempt at romantic short fiction and was sparked when I saw a clown driving down Alluvial Avenue one day.




Jackie pulled the prop case out of her car trunk as a pick-up parked behind her in the driveway of the ranch style home. A young boy burst from the front door, hurtled down the front steps and into the arms of the man.


“Hey, Hep Cat! Happy Birthday, Jonathan!” The man set the youngster on his shoulders and hurried into the house, glancing at the clown following. Once inside, Jackie looked for the hostess. As usual at these parties, the woman with the distracted air was the one she sought.

While Jackie waited, she applied another layer of red paint around her mouth and squeezed her nose. It felt secure. Ever since a three year old pulled it off, she used adhesive. She checked her image in the mirror and felt to be sure she had several coins up her sleeve.

It was hard work, being a birthday party clown. But she loved it. Five year olds were the best; they had a long enough attention span to allow several tricks. And they totally believed in magic. Which was getting rare. Nowadays, even seven year olds were yelling out explanations as she pulled scarves out of her pants.

The knock at the door told her she was on. Five minutes later, Jackie was pulling quarters from behind guests’ ears and looking for her “lost” rabbit. At first she didn’t notice the tall man in the back of the room. He stood with his legs planted firmly, his arms folded and a grin on his face. He watched Jackie and also kept his eye on Jonathan, the birthday boy. Every so often, the youngster would turn around to be sure his Daddy-o was close by.

As Jackie stuffed feathers into her “magic” hat, she wondered about this family. The mom had booked several months ago, saying her husband traveled a lot and she wanted the party confirmed for a date he was scheduled home.

Jackie asked her audience for a dollar bill. The man handed her one. She stuffed it into her cupped fist, and then opened her hand to show four quarters. She stuffed those in, then displayed ten dimes. Kids loved this trick. Even though they didn’t quite understand the concept of money, they knew she was making something different out of what she started with.

The man was very attentive to the boy, but he was also watching Jackie. A lot. He smiled as the children roared with laughter when she ripped up the dollar bill.

Oh, what the heck. She was in costume and would never see this man after today. And even if she did, he’d never recognize her. Jackie decided her alter ego, Jax the clown, had a crush on him. She pulled the whole bill from her hat but instead of returning it to him, she curtseyed and put her hand into his as if expecting him to kiss it. She looked up and batted her eyelashes. He played along as if he was going to kiss her hand, but instead blew a raspberry on it. The children howled and she felt a bit giddy herself. Pretending disgust, she pulled out a handkerchief and wiped her hand. Then she wiped off her arm also. She offered the hanky to the man, but instead of letting him take it, she dropped it. The rubber ball sewn into the center returned it to her perfectly. She caught it as the children laughed, and then tucked it into her pocket.

Jackie returned to the front of the room and continued the show. He was still watching her. She tried to ignore him as she pulled silk scarves out of her pants. The kids howled when they saw the red boxers on the end. Jackie clutched her head, and then peeked inside her waistband. With mock horror on her face, she turned her back to the kids and stuffed the boxers into her pants. They loved it.

It was her custom to ask for help from the audience for the next and final trick. Of course it would be the birthday boy. When she motioned for the child to join her, he blushed, folded his arms and refused to move. Oops. His mom had forgotten to tell him he was part of the act. Now what?

Jackie hurriedly took an egg from her pocket. She would have to finish with pulling eggs from ears instead of the usual rabbit trick. Then the man came to her rescue, scooping Jonathan off the floor and bringing him to the front of the room.

“Is it ok if I do this with you?” The question was directed at the boy in his arms, but his eyes were looking into Jackie’s.

“Yes,” was the whispered reply. Jackie gave an exaggerated sigh of relief and wiped imaginary sweat from her brow. The kids laughed and the man shifted Jonathan onto his hip.

Jackie stuffed the costume into her suitcase and checked in the mirror to make sure she had removed all the white makeup. She would collect her check and be on her way. Away from the man with the unsettling green eyes. Really, she had to stop thinking like this about parents of her audiences. Now that she was in street clothes, it would be easier. He had no idea what she really looked like. If he saw her, he’d probably think she was a guest’s mom and not give her a second glance.

Jackie stepped into the kitchen and looked for the hostess. There she was, arranging candles on a cake. And there was that man. He looked up as Jackie stepped into the kitchen. He immediately moved towards her and offered his hand.

“Great show. You really have a way with kids.”

“Oh. Thanks…. How did you know I was Jax? Most people don’t recognize me out of costume.”

“Well, your eyes, I guess. I knew it was you.”

Jackie felt a flush creep over her face as she reminded herself this man was a husband and a father and a client.

“Well, you probably want your check. I’ll tell my sister you’re waiting.”

“Your sister?”

“Yes, Jonathan’s mom is my sister. I’m his uncle.”

“But… I heard him call you ‘Daddy’ when you arrived.”

“He called me ‘Daddy-o,’ that’s one of our nicknames for each other. Daddy-o and Hep-Cat. I try to teach him ancient history, like ‘60’s and ‘70’s slang. Kids nowadays have no knowledge of pop culture going back farther than Harry Potter and Yu-Gi-Oh.”

Jackie smiled. “That’s for sure. I once made a comment about Papa Smurf to some teenagers and they had no clue.”

“I’m here to help my sister with the party. Her husband got held up in Buffalo by a storm. He should be here soon. My name is Stan, by the way.”

“Jackie,” she managed to reply as she shook his hand. “Of ‘Jax Trix and Laffs, Magic for Every Occasion.’” Now she was really embarrassed as she remembered how she flirted with him during the show.

“Jackie, I love how you interact with the kids. The way you were able to get Jonathan out of his shell and participate in the show was wonderful. He’s pretty shy and I wasn’t sure he’d go along with it.”

“I wasn’t sure either. Thank you for helping out.”

“My pleasure. Really. I wanted a closer look at your eyes so I would recognize you out of costume.”

“Now my face is red instead of white.”

“Your face is lovely. The party is winding down; can I buy you a cup of coffee? Or a new rabbit?”

“I’d love some coffee.”

“Great. I’ll go say good-bye.” Stan stepped over and whispered in his sister’s ear. She took a check from her pocket and brought it to Jackie.

“Thank you so much, you were a big hit.”

“You’re very welcome. Please think of me for your next event, I also do parties for teens and adults with different tricks.”

Jonathan ran up and leaped into his uncle’s arms.

“Are you leaving, Daddy-o?”

“Yes, dude, I am. This is Jackie. We’re going to get some java.”

“Is she going to be your old lady?”

“Jonathan!” Now Stan flushed.

Jackie smiled. “Jonathan, you are definitely hip, but I’ll have to get to know your Uncle Stan better.”

“Out of sight.” Jonathan wriggled out of Stan’s arms and slipped his hand into his mother’s.

Stan grinned at Jackie. “Groovy!”


Fiction Friday: I Still Do

Yes, another romance reject. This one is based on a true story. Sort of. A friend whose parents didn’t approve of her husband. He did win them over and everyone gets along now. I just thought their story needed better closure.


I Still Do


Megan pulled her hair into a knot, pinned it to the back of her head and surveyed herself in the mirror. Too severe. She tried an upsweep, pulling out wisps until her face was framed with tendrils. Better. She pulled the pins out, letting her chestnut hair bounce on her shoulders. But that was her everyday look and she wanted something special for tonight.

Leaning out her bedroom door, she peeked down the hall and into the living room. Good, Katie was still drawing in her new Cinderella coloring book. The twins, Jason and Jenny napped in their infant seats on the floor near their big sister.

Three kids under the age of four didn’t leave a lot of time for date nights with her husband, Max. But tonight was special. Her mother had agreed to take all three children for the evening; Megan just had to take them to her parent’s home. Then she’d pick up Max at his office and they would begin their fifth wedding anniversary celebration.

As Megan brushed her hair out again, she thought back to that night five years ago. She’d been so scared, but so determined too. Her parents disapproved of Max and it took all her resolve and courage to go against their wishes and marry him. They had gone to the county courthouse and been married by a judge in his chambers. Quick and simple. A part of her still mourned the loss of the wedding she’d been imagining since she’d colored in her own Cinderella book.

She and Max had grown up as next-door neighbors. She had loved him ever since he helped bury the dead squirrel she had found in the yard. He had rebelled in college, dropping out and joining the stage crew of a rock band. Her parents made no secret of their disapproval of his lifestyle. Even after he returned home and finished college, they felt he had ruined his life. And they were afraid he would ruin hers as well.

When she and Max began to date, her parents never lost an opportunity to insult or belittle Max. But he took their disapproval in stride, never letting it affect his love for her. He hadn’t wanted to marry against her parent’s wishes, so Megan had proposed to him. They joked about it now, but Megan’s tears at their wedding had been as much from sorrow over her parent’s absence as joy at marrying her beloved.

As the months passed, her parents began to thaw. Max worked hard to provide for his bride. After a year, they were able to move from their first studio apartment to a small house in the same neighborhood where they had grown up. Her parents had helped them move and had even stripped wallpaper from what was to become the nursery.

By the time Katie was born, Max had won them over. And when the twins came along, they were thrilled. Megan’s happiness was complete. She felt an occasional pang over her lost wedding, but her marriage and children more than made up for it. She loved her life, her husband, and her family.

Max had been planning a surprise for their fifth anniversary for weeks now. He’d made dinner reservations and childcare arrangements.

The phone rang, startling Megan out of her memories. She hurried to answer, hoping it wouldn’t waken the babies.


“Megan, it’s Mom. I’m so sorry, honey. I’m still at work.”

“What happened?” Disappointment struggled with concern. Was this some plot to keep her and Max from celebrating their anniversary? No, her parents had changed their feelings; they wouldn’t ruin this night. They knew how much Megan had been looking forward to it.

“It’s a long story. I can be ready to leave in about half an hour. If you’ll bring the children here, I can take them home. And you’ll only be a few minutes late starting your evening. Is that all right?”

“Yes, of course.” Relief flooded Megan. Their night wouldn’t be cancelled after all. “I’ll be there in thirty minutes.” Her mother worked as a part-time secretary at the church Megan had attended since childhood. It wasn’t out of the way at all. She picked up the phone again and called Max to tell him about the change of plans.

“Sounds good,” he said. Nothing bothered Max, least of all last minute changes. “We’ll still have a wonderful night out, it’ll just start a few minutes later. Don’t worry and don’t rush. Just get here when you can.”

“See you soon.” Megan hurried back to her room and brushed her hair out again, deciding to leave it down.

When she pulled up in front of the church, she was surprised to see her friend Alison waiting at the curb.

“Hi. I was helping your mom in the office and she asked me to look for you. She’s inside. I’ll take the kids, you go on in.”

“But I need to move their car seats into her minivan.”

“I’ll take care of it, you go on. She said it’s important that she see you as soon as you got here.”

Megan was puzzled. “Okay. Where is she?”

“In the chapel.”

“I’ll be right back.” Megan approached the double doors of the small chapel, hearing a piano. Someone was practicing “The Wedding March.” She entered the church then came to a complete stop. At the end of the aisle stood Max. Her mother sat in the first pew. The other seats were full of familiar faces. Family and friends smiled at her. The music grew louder. She felt a nudge from behind. Bewildered, she looked over her shoulder into her father’s tear-filled eyes.

“Happy anniversary, sweetheart.”

“Who? How?” So many questions filled Megan’s mind.

“Max. He wanted you to have a real wedding. And so do Mom and I. We love you both. And we want to be at your wedding to welcome him into the family. For real this time.”

“Oh, Daddy.” Her breath caught in her chest, Megan couldn’t say any more.

“Go on. They’re waiting. I’ve got the kids.” Alison slipped into a rear pew, a twin in each arm. Katie followed, watching her mother with large eyes.

Blinking away her own tears, Megan turned to walk down the aisle.

“Psst. The flowers,” Alison said.

Megan glanced to her right and saw a bouquet of roses on a chair. Picking them up, she slipped her other hand through her father’s arm and began to walk toward her husband.


Fiction Friday: Happily Ever After

This is another Woman’s World reject. I think my stories are just too different for them. I can’t do formula.

Happily Ever After

“Ouch!” I exclaimed, and tossed the novel aside.

“What?” My roommate, Maggie, looked up from the papers she was grading.

“That’s so sweet, my teeth hurt.” I grimaced and made a yum-yum noise for emphasis. “Falling in love never happens like that.”

“Are you sure about that, Miss Love-is-logic-not-feelings?” Maggie insisted on believing in the fairy tale. Love at first sight, a cute first-meeting story to tell the grandkids, the whole package.

“Laugh if you want, but love is based on common interests, compatible personalities, and a commitment.”

“Don’t you ever want the moonlight and chocolate? The prince on a white horse to bring you roses?” Recently engaged, Maggie was determined to help me find love as well. The trouble was, Maggie had never gotten engaged to the wrong guy. I knew the fairy tale was a fantasy that didn’t happen in real life.

I shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t think the heart-thumping, butterflies-in-the-stomach kind of love exists.”

“Like Mrs. Reyes says, sometimes there is a happily ever after.” Maggie and I both loved our upstairs neighbor who was due to be discharged from the hospital any time. She’d collided with the catcher on the softball team as they both scrambled for a pop fly at Sunday afternoon’s game.

“Mrs. Reyes got the last Prince Charming,” I said. Reyes is Spanish for king and we often called her Queen of the Cypress Hill Sluggers.

Maggie stood and shook her head. “I feel sorry for the guy who’s going to fall for you someday.”

A clip-clop kind of sound floated through the open window. We looked at each other.

“That sounded like a horse.” Maggie cocked her head and listened.

“What would a horse be doing in the middle of the complex?” Our ground floor apartment looked out on the center courtyard.

We both moved to the window and immediately jumped back and spoke at the same time.

“It is a horse!” I said.

“He’s gorgeous!” Maggie’s eyes widened.

“He is, isn’t he? I’ve always loved palominos.”

“I’m talking about the rider.”

I hadn’t noticed the man in the saddle until then. Long-legged and lean, wearing dusty jeans, cowboy boots and a stained baseball cap, he held a bouquet of flowers along with the reins. He stared at the apartment above ours.

Maggie opened the door and leaned out. “Can we help you?”

He tipped his cap. “I’m looking for Lorraine Reyes in apartment 205.”

“She’s in the hospital.” I spoke up. “But she’s supposed to be coming home soon.”

“She was discharged this afternoon,” the cowboy said. “She’s my grandmother and I brought Calypso here to see her.”

“He’s a beauty.” Maggie glanced at me. “Amy was just saying she loves palominos.”

“He’s friendly.” The rider invited me with a nod. Before I could tell my feet to be still, they took me out the door. The horse turned toward me and I rubbed his velvety muzzle.

“I’ll tell Mrs. Reyes she has company.” Maggie hurried up the stairs, her flip-flops tap-tapping her heels as she ran.

“I’m Hank.” The man leaned down and I took his outstretched hand.

“Amy.” I jumped at the spark when our fingers touched.

“Hmmm. Static electricity,” he said.

“I guess so.”

“Hank, what are you doing here on a horse?” Mrs. Reyes’ voice came from above us. She stood at the top of the stairs, Maggie beside her. The white cast on her arm shone in the sun. I shaded my eyes against the glare.

“Came to see you.” Hank swung out of the saddle and led Calypso to the bottom of the staircase. “And I brought flowers.”

“Well, now you’ve seen me.” She turned and walked away. “Give them to Amy,” she said over her shoulder.

“Now, Gram, don’t be like that,” he called to her.

She turned around. “Don’t think you can come here with some flowers and candy and sweet talk me.”

He pulled a heart-shaped box out of his saddlebag and held it out to her. “Please, don’t be mad.”

“You embarrassed me.” Mrs. Reyes looked every inch a queen, standing at the balcony, looking down on us.

“I’m sorry about that.” Standing at the bottom of the stairs, holding candy and flowers, he looked contrite.

“I forgive you.” She dipped her head in acknowledgement of his apology. “But I’m not ready to accept your gifts.” She and Maggie exchanged a glance. I was too far away to read their expressions, but a shiver ran up my spine. “Give them to Amy.” Her voice floated down to us as she turned and walked away. Her door slam echoed around the courtyard. Surely Maggie hadn’t told Mrs. Reyes to say that. My roommate wouldn’t do that to me. Would she?

Hank took off his cap and slapped it against his thigh. A cloud of dust rose and tickled my nose. I sneezed in the awkward silence.

“Bless you.” Maggie made her way down the stairs.

“Here.” Hank offered me the bouquet and candy and I took them without thinking.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I disobeyed a royal command.” He shook his head. “I thought since I was a grown-up …” His voice trailed off.

“You silly man,” I said, with a chuckle. “We all know better than to disobey Mrs. Reyes. What did you do?”

His rueful grin was sweet. I ran my tongue around my teeth. No aches or cavities. “Never mind, it’s none of my business,” I said.

He shrugged. “She wanted me to ask out one of her nurses. The gal was nice, but I didn’t feel-” A flush spread up his neck and across his cheeks.

“Didn’t feel what?” Maggie asked. But I listened for the answer.

“Didn’t feel that spark.” He looked at me. “You know.”

“Oh, yes.” Maggie nodded. “Well, at least I know. Amy thinks sparks are static electricity. And she doesn’t believe in happily ever after.”

“Hey, I’m right here,” I protested.

“We did have a spark, didn’t we?” he said. “When we touched.” His gaze drew me closer.

I forced myself to look away. “Like she said, static.”

“Maybe.” He held his hat over his heart.

“Or maybe,” I said, not believing I could think such a thing, much less say it out loud. “Maybe the start of a story we can tell our grandkids.”


Enough with the Navel Gazing

I don't know if I've made a break through or if I'm just tired. Probably a little of both.

I've shared my struggles with being transparent. For most, if not all, of my growing up years and into adulthood, it seemed if I was the real me, shareing my feelings, thoughts, desires, whatevers, I got kicked in the teeth. So, I grew a cocoon and went with the flow.

As I've answered God's call to write, I've fought with Him about how to share my heart while not sharing myself.

It occurred to me a few weeks ago, that the problem is me. I keep thinking it's all about me, when the reality is it's nothing to do with me. My insistence on finding out what I can do differently is a trick the Deceiver has been playing on me. As long as he kept me focused on myself and my feelings, I wasn't doing the work God gave me. Not to mention being selfish and self-centered.


There's a part of me that thinks... wait, I'm doing it again.

I promise I will try to always be authentic, to own my opinions and thoughts and feelings, and to share those when appropriate and to shut up when it's not. Please call me on it if I fail or back off.

Currently reading: The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow by Joyce Magnin - it's lovely. I'm almost done then I'll be starting The Help by Kathryn Stockett.

Today I'm praying for Terell and her job and housing, Amy's health, and Craig Venter, genome scientist.

Last movie: Into the Wild


Fiction Friday: The Last Laugh

This one started as a romance for Woman’s World. They didn’t like the funeral setting. Then one year the Coveted Dead Bird theme was Graveyard Shift so I pulled this out, added a murder and entered. It didn’t place or get anything… Maybe I should try it again as a straight meet-cute romance.


The Last Laugh

“Are you asking me for a date? At a funeral?” My jaw dropped and I had to force my mouth closed. The dark-haired man standing in front of me had the grace to turn red and duck his head.

“I know it’s tacky. But –”

I interrupted, not wanting to give this jerk any more time. “You’re so right. And so wrong. Excuse me.” I stepped around him and continued down the aisle of People’s Church, looking for my cousins, Gus and Cindy.

The nerve of that man. I shook my head to get rid of all thoughts except why we were here: to say goodbye to Aunt Sissy. She wasn’t really my aunt. Married to my mother’s older brother who had died when I was a child, she’d always been a part of my life and I loved her. Most of Aunt Sissy’s children lived in other states and she didn’t get to see them or her grandchildren often enough. Aunt Sissy treated me as a favored niece and I adored her in return.

Cindy and Gus were the only local grandchildren and Cindy and I had always been close. Ever since we could pull ourselves up to the big table and snatch oatmeal cookies before running out to play. Being three years older, Gus couldn’t be bothered with us except to steal our dolls and perform all kinds of weird transplants with their parts. I still had my Cabbage Patch Kid with the round head. Except she was on an American Girl Samantha body.

Cindy leaned over and whispered. “Molly, did you meet my cousin Rob?”

I shrugged. “I don’t think so. Is he here?”

“Supposed to be. Grandma always wanted you two to meet again, she thought you would be perfect together.”

“I know.” I sighed, remembering. Every time Rob came to visit, I seemed to be out of town or too busy to go out to the ranch where Sissy lived. She’d begged me to come see her favorite grandson, but it just never seemed to work out.

“What does he look like?” I whispered back, and then caught myself. I had just bawled out a man for suggesting coffee after the service and now I was about to ask Cindy to set me up.

“I’m as bad as he is,” I murmured.

“As bad as who?” Cindy asked.

“Some guy. He walked up to me when I came in and asked if I wanted to go out later.”

“Who?” Cindy craned her neck around to look at the mourners still entering and finding seats. People’s Church is about the largest in Fresno and it was packed. Aunt Sissy was well known for her work in the raisin industry and the fund raising for Children’s Hospital through the La Comida Guild.

“Never mind.” I elbowed her and forced my attention to the platform up front where the minister stood. “I will not use your grandmother’s funeral to pick up men.”

“Why not? She’d love it.” Cindy picked up her program. “I just can’t believe she’s gone.”

“I’m going to miss her so much.” Tears filled my eyes, grief still sneaking up on me when I wasn’t on guard. My own grandparents were distant, both geographically and emotionally. Aunt Sissy had been the older woman who loved me unconditionally, whose face lit up whenever I walked into her home, and who wanted me to fall in love with someone special.

She often talked about what a great guy her grandson Rob had grown up to be, an attorney with a family law practice. I had a vague recollection of a scrawny towhead, chasing Cindy and me with tadpoles one summer. We ran and squealed and pretended to be afraid. Then we collected a whole bucket of worms, polliwogs, and minnows. We put fish in his orange juice at breakfast, his water glass at dinner, and his milk at suppertime. He drank everything down, either never seeing the added protein or pretending not to. We weren’t sure which.

As the years went by, Rob’s family had moved further away and stopped coming for long visits. Now that we were grown, Aunt Sissy would occasionally mention how much she’d like Rob and I to renew our acquaintance, but it wasn’t meant to be.

The minister started and Cindy and I stood to sing How Great Thou Art with the rest of the crowd. Lots of people stood to share their memories of Sissy. The associate pastors were running all over that sanctuary with hand held microphones so everyone could get a chance to talk. Then we dismissed to head down Herndon to the Clovis Cemetery at Villa.

Cindy tugged me into one of the family limos with her. The procession of cars moved slowly with motorcycle cops holding traffic for us the whole way. It was less than five miles but it seemed to take forever. By the time we pulled through the gate and parked along one of the curves, I had a different problem. Nature was calling and pretty insistently.

“I’ll catch up with you in a minute,” I whispered to Cindy. There was a restroom in a stone building in the center of the property and I hurried to take advantage of it. As I washed my hands and stared at myself in the tarnished mirror over the sink, my mind wandered back to the last time I saw Sissy. She’d had heart surgery, but was recovering nicely. I visited her in the hospital after work one afternoon. As I gathered my purse and prepared to say good-bye, she’d held my hand and not let go.

“Can’t you stay another minute or two, Molly? Rob is on his way, I’m sure he’ll be here any minute.”

“I can’t. I have to get back to school for Open House. My class has been working so hard and I have to be there to meet their parents. The next time he comes for a visit, I promise I’ll come see him.”

“I’ll hold you to it. Even if I have to come back and haunt you.” Aunt Sissy’s eyes flashed and for a moment I saw the steely determination that had helped her run a cattle ranch and raise a family after her husband died.

“You planning on dying any time soon?” A sudden concern washed over me. The doctor said she was recovering nicely. “Is there something you’re not telling me?” I demanded.

“No, sweetie. I plan to make your life miserable for a long time. And I have a surprise for you when I get home.”

“I can’t wait to hear it.” I’d kissed her good-bye and hurried out, only to run smack into Gus in the hallway.

“Squirt,” he’d said as he pushed past me into Sissy’s room.

I rushed back to school. After an evening showing twenty-four sets of parents their third grader’s desks and schoolwork, the message that greeted me at home later shook me to the core. Aunt Sissy was gone. She’d had a massive heart attack shortly after I left and died instantly.

My heart still had trouble believing she was gone. I checked my purse for tissues and headed back out. The crowd around the awning was too thick to squeeze and find Cindy so I found a place on the side to listen.

“Our beloved mother, grandmother, aunt, sister, and friend will be missed,” the pastor was saying. He was different from the one at the church, maybe they divide up the services. “We take great comfort in knowing the person responsible for her death has been caught and will have to face a jury of his peers.”

What? I stood on tiptoes to get a look over the heads. Aunt Sissy had a heart attack. Didn’t she?

“A person’s days are numbered by God and God alone. He doesn’t like it when others decide to take a life before its time.”

Something is definitely wrong. I look around for familiar faces and find the stranger who tried to pick me up at the church. So, I was in the right place. He caught my eye and edged his way through the throng until he stood just behind me.

“We’re at the wrong service.”

I whirled around. “What are you talking about?”

He cocked his head toward the restroom. “You picked the wrong crowd to follow when you left there. I noticed and came to bring you back.”

I felt my cheeks redden. “Are you sure this isn’t another plot to ask me out?”

He grinned. “Are you sure you didn’t do this on purpose to get me away from the others?”

By now, we’ve walked far enough away to talk normally.

“As if,” I said, determined not to flirt. A thought struck me and I froze. “This woman was murdered.”

He nodded. “I heard.”

“What if Aunt Sissy was too?” My chest tightened just thinking about it.

“She had a heart attack,” he said.

“But what if she didn’t?”

“Look, I know you were close and all—”

“How do you know that?” I demanded.

“I saw you leaving the hospital the day she died.” He shrugged and pushed his sunglasses up onto his forehead.

Fear and anger surged up my spine, giving me the strength to turn and run for the crowd on the other side of the stone hut. I found Cindy and Gus sitting on folding chairs near the pine box. I gripped Cindy’s elbow and whispered in her ear.

“Aunt Sissy was murdered.”

Cindy stared at me. “What are you talking about?”

“I figured it out when I shifted myself from one funeral to the other. From what I thought I knew to the truth.”

“Talk to me.” Cindy pulls me up and away from the mourners. Gus follows us.

“Sissy was getting better. There’s a guy who’s stalking me and he was at the hospital. He saw me visiting and he killed her.”

“Molly, are you sure?” Cindy’s eyes welled up. “Because I don’t know if I can take knowing someone killed Grandma.”

Gus stepped between us and took our arms.

“Ouch.” Cindy tried to wrest her elbow out of his grip.

Pain shot up my arm. “Gus, you’re hurting me,” I said.

“I’m sick of you, always butting in. Always trying to get into Grandma’s good graces. And you finally made it when she changed her will.”

“What are you talking about, Gus? I loved your grandmother.”

“Don’t make me laugh.” His eyes blaze with something and dread creeps into my gut. “You were playing her for the money. I heard her telling you she had a surprise. You succeeded in getting her to making you one of her heirs. And it cut my portion down. Way down.”

“Gus, you mean you… you killed her?”

“I had to. She had called Rob to come, too. To change her will.”

I stare at Gus in horror. “No. She called him to introduce him to me. She was trying to set us up.”

“That’s what you want me to think.” He starts pulling us toward another open grave a few rows over.

The stranger steps out from behind the giant tombstone and tackles Gus. Gus takes a swing but the guy ducks it and throws a punch that lands on Gus’s chin and puts him down on the ground.

The crowd of mourners is looking at us and a few of the uncles hurry to us.

“Thank you, Rob,” Cindy said.

I gasped. It couldn’t be.

“What’s wrong?” She looked at me out of the corner of her eye.

“That’s the guy I insulted for asking me out, the one I thought was stalking me.”

She giggled and I tried to scrunch behind her and blend in as we inched closer.

“I need to apologize.” Rob reached around her and touched my arm.

“No, I’m sorry. I told Sissy—”

“Grandma made me promise—”

We both stopped talking and stared at each other.

“I am sorry,” he said. “I didn’t mean to use her funeral as a place to pick up women, it’s just that I promised Grandma we would get reacquainted.”

“It’s my fault for jumping to conclusions. I should have known Aunt Sissy would get the last word.”

“Didn’t she always?” He smiled and a familiar warmth spread over me, as if Sissy had just wrapped me in one of her quilts.

“She certainly did.”


Another Book to Recommend

I just finished another winner.

code blue

Code Blue is the debut novel in Dr. Richard Mabry’s new Prescription for Trouble series.

Dr. Cathy Sewell has returned to her home town to set up practice as a general practitioner. Whatever can go wrong, does. She’s in a serious accident when a black SUV runs her off the road. The hospital stalls her request for privileges to admit and treat her patients there. The other doctors in town are skeptical of her skills, especially when a patient claims malpractice. The bank has second thoughts about the money they loaned her to get her practice up and running.

Cathy has more than the present issues weighing on her. She left town with personal problems and they seem to crowd her as well. She has to learn how to make peace with her past before she can deal with the present.

Mabry writes with medical knowledge gleaned from a career practicing and teaching medicine. He does a great job writing a female protagonist, as well.

The suspense builds naturally as Cathy learns someone does indeed want her out of town. Or dead. She finds the strength and the faith to face her problems and resolve them.

My prescription for your fiction fix: Get Code Blue and read it “stat.”



Currently reading: Today, I picked up three (3!!) books I had on hold at the library. I think I’ll start with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society.

Last movie: Haven’t seen one recently…

Praying for: Amy, Leigh Steinberg, Taryn


We Call it a Celebration…

Okay, people: enough with the dying.

Since Thanksgiving, I’ve been to at least five funerals, and had to miss several others. In March, I attended an average of a funeral every ten days.

One or two were for very elderly and/or people in poor health, so they weren’t entirely unexpected. One had a very fast growing brain tumor. She was gone less than two weeks after diagnosis. Two were accidents. One was a “widow-maker” heart attack.

Some were simple graveside services. One was a Catholic mass and one was an evangelical Presbyterian. One was an African-American, one was Scotch-Irish, one Italian.

Maybe because I attended so many in such a short amount of time, I’ve been able to do a microstudy of different funeral styles.

All claimed to celebrate the life of the deceased. Some clergy pleaded with God to admit their dead parishioner. Most were sure their loved one was admitted to heaven.

Some had old hymns, one had swing songs, one had hot rods, one had poetry, one had videos. One in particular felt like a true celebration. There were tears, yes. But the deceased was one of those men who is always working. I mean always working. The only time I saw him still and not moving was when he was laid out in his casket. His friends and family celebrated that his labor was finally over and God brought him home.

As much as we say we celebrate the “home going” of a believer, there is often unfinished business, especially if the deceased is young or leaves a family. They leave behind fears of the future, especially is they were the breadwinner. There may be sadness over what will be missed in the future: weddings, grandchildren, graduations.

I’m sure about one thing: There is eternal life. The only thing in doubt is where you’ll spend the portion after you leave this earth.


Last book: Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

Last movie: no clue…

Today I prayed for: Amy, the Murdoch family.


A Wee Visit to Scotland

I’m a huge Liz Curtis Higgs fan. Like all her fiction readers, I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for her newest release. I finally got my hands on it and finished it yesterday.

It’s wonderful.

Set in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1745 and ‘46, during the Jacobite rebellion, Here Burns My Candle is a fictional retelling of the biblical story of Ruth and Naomi.

Dowager Lady Marjory Kerr dotes on her grown sons. Lady Elisabeth Kerr loves her husband, Lord Donald, the eldest of Lady Marjory two sons.

If you know the story of Ruth, then you know where things are headed.

What I love about Liz’s books is that even though you know the story and events, she is able to put real people with their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions into the novel and make it come alive.

I know it’s fiction, but I found myself thinking, “I’m sure Naomi really did feel like that,” or “Oh, I get why Ruth was so willing, nae, adamant about going with Naomi and leaving her family.”

I also found bits of the auld tongue slipping into my thoughts. 

Liz is a gifted story teller and I loved Here Burns My Candle as much as her earlier stories about Leanna, Rose, Jamie, and Davina.

Here Burns My Candle doesn’t finish the whole story. In fact, it covers just the first few verses of the book of Ruth. I can’t wait for the next installment.


Fiction Friday: Sorry Wrong Number

I’d forgotten this story until I started digging around in my archives for fiction to post.

I love this premise.

I may have to revisit this one…


Sorry, Wrong Number

It was bound to happen.

I have an unfortunate habit of setting things down and walking off. Purses at the checkout. Gas tank caps on the pump. Once I left my high heels in the gym locker room. I still wonder if I’d have made it to the car if the receptionist hadn’t seen me.

I try, really. I traded my purse for a small wallet with my license, debit card, and a few dollars. I take an inventory of my possessions every time I leave the house.

So when the fast food clerk called me back to the counter and handed me a cell phone, I just stuck it in my pocket, thinking I’d forgotten it. Again. I’d been busy admiring the broad shoulders and dark hair curling on the nape of the neck in line in front of me.

Back in the car, I juggled my burger while signaling a right turn when the phone started ringing. “Your Gal Friday.”



“Who is this?” The man’s confusion vibrated through the air.

“You’ve reached Michelle.” I tried to sound professional and upbeat. I would have pulled it off except the driver in front of me stopped suddenly.

“Oh no!” I slammed on the brakes too. My left over fries spilled onto the floorboard and Mrs. Mendoza’s appraisal report followed.

“Who are you?” Now he sounded exasperated.

I glanced over my shoulder before pulling to the curb.

“I told you, this is Michelle. Your Gal Friday.” Was this guy nuts? He called me. “How can I help you?”

“I want my phone back.”

“Okay. I do errands and shopping for people.” Good, a simple fetch and drop. I’ve picked up engagement rings from the jeweler, bouquets from the florist, even a crate of live chickens once, so a phone should be simple. “Where is it and where do you want it delivered?”

“You’ve got it!”

“I do?” I ran a quick mental inventory of today’s errands and came up blank. “Where did I pick it up?”

“How should I know? I just want it back.”

I sighed. My lunch was spread all over the car and I’d have to clean it up before getting the Benasso triplets from school. And now a difficult client. If I had any fries left, this was just the salt to top ‘em with. “I’m sorry, sir. I don’t have your phone. But if you’ll give me its location, I’ll be glad to get it.”

“This isn’t funny. I’ve got phone numbers and pictures stored in there and I want them.”

“Fine.” I waited for him to give me the details.

“That’s better.” He took a deep breath. “Where can I get it?”

I closed my eyes and sighed. “I don’t know. Where is it?”

“I just called you on it.” He choked out the words through a clenched jaw.

Finally it clicked. “Oh. I’m sorry. You’ve called the wrong number. This is my phone.”

“Are you sure?” For the first time, I heard a little doubt in his voice.

“Yes.” I was about to lean over and start picking up fries when a sound came from under the fast food bag. A melody that sounded suspiciously like my ring tone. “Uh oh.”


“Hang on.” I set his phone down – funny how quickly it changed from being my phone to his - and scrabbled under the sack. Yep. I stared at the second phone in my hand until it stopped ringing.

I put the first one to my ear. “Are you still there?”

“Yes.” The exasperation was back.

“I’m really sorry. I was buying lunch-”

“Lunch! I left it at the Burger Barn.”

“The clerk gave it to me. I just assumed I’d set it down and forgotten it. I do that sometimes.”

“You didn’t steal it?” He sounded suspicious.

“Of course not.” Now I was annoyed. “Who do think I am?”

“I have no idea!”

“Well, I didn’t steal it.”

“So I can have it back?”

“Just give me your address and I’ll drop it off right away.” I glanced at the clock. Oops. “I mean I’ll get it to you later.”


“I have a two o’clock deadline. But right after that, I swear. On my honor as a Burger Barn lover.”

He paused. Did he expect me to drop everything and rush to him? It’d do him good to wait for it. Maybe teach him a lesson, not to be so careless with his belongings.

Finally I heard a sigh. “I’ll meet you somewhere.”

I dredged up my professional voice again, hoping it would out-rank my eye roll. “Just give me an address. I can be there after two.”

“I guess…” I could hear his brain wheels turning. “The Burger Barn will work. I’ll be there at two.”

“See you then.” I flipped the phone closed and held it, comparing. It was the same model and color as mine. So this was hardly my fault.

Time flew with three six year old girls in the back seat. By the time I got the papers dropped off and the triplets delivered, it was after two. I rushed into the Burger Barn. The place was almost empty but even if it had been crowded I would’ve been able to pick this guy out. Familiar shoulders with curly brown hair, he had a milkshake in front of him and another across the table.

“Is this for me?” I set his phone on the table and picked up the frosty cup.

“A peace offering.” He grinned. “I’m Max. And I’m sorry.”

My heart skipped a beat. I don’t know how else to describe it. “Thank you.”

“I’ve lost a couple of phones already and couldn’t believe I did it again.”

“You misplace things?”

“All the time.” His rueful tone melted me. “I forgot concert tickets once. We had to listen to the show from the parking lot.”

“That’s awful.” My sense of superiority fled when he nodded agreement. “Well, it’s not that bad. I had to drive a hundred miles to get my checkbook when I left it at my sister’s.”

“I failed to remember my puppy at the park,” he confessed.

I shook my head. “Took my nephew to the wrong grandparents.”

He extended his hand. “You win.”

I sure did.