Woe! It’s Wednesday


I feel a rant coming on. Just a little one.

Does anyone remember the news and the spin about paper grocery bags in the mid-eighties? We were told every paper bag was killing a tree somewhere and it was our environmental duty to switch to plastic.

So we did. For about a couple of years. Then someone decided plastic had its own issues, so we were given a choice.

When my children played house or grocery store, the girl doing the checking always asked, “Paper or plastic,” of the girl playing the mom.

The natural progression is that both are equally bad for the environment and if we’re truly conscious about our carbon footprint, we must buy and use cloth bags. Stores sell them with their logos emblazoned on the sides. (Don’t get me started about all the implications of that. I hate advertising for other people/stores/products. They should pay me to carry their bags.)

Anyway, we now prove our environmental awareness by how many reusable bags clutter up the trunk of the car.

It was only a matter of time. I just read a news article about those reusable bags. Turns out, they’re a walking time bomb of germs and bacteria and they infect all the food and other items we so responsibly stow in them, then bring the germs into our homes.

So we’re making ourselves sick to save the planet.

Can anyone say, “Irony”?


Book Talk Tuesday

I always have a stack of books waiting to be read. About once a year I go through it and weed out the ones that have been a long while, figuring I’m not going to get to them.

I’ve found some new favorite authors by plucking out a book in the stack.

coben Harlan Coben. I had never heard of him until Tell No One burrowed out of the stack. I fell in love with his writing and now I’m even going back and reading his early stuff.

I met Mr. Coben at a conference a few years ago and was shameless in my attempt to get a picture taken with him. He laughed at me because I handed my camera to Ridley Pearson and asked him to take the picture.

 robb J. D. Robb is Nora Roberts’ pseudonym for her mystery series. I knew Roberts as a romance writer and so took my time picking up a Lt. Eve Dallas book. They are wonderful! They’re set in the near future, in a crowded New York City.

Mysteries and other genre books are sometimes disdained by literary snobs. But they are great stories well told. And isn’t that the point?

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Fiction Friday: Curve Ball, Chapter 3

Cami’s friend Paige got her own story in my novel (also unpublished), Shop, Drop, and Roll. It started as a romantic suspense. I rewrote it more as a romantic comedy, but I really like the suspense element in it. If  When I publish a novel, I will revisit Paige’s story and see if there could be a market for it, either suspense or comedic.


Curve Ball

Chapter Three

Saturday morning. Camille stretched an arm out from under the covers to answer the jangling phone.


“Cami, are you up?” Paige.

“What time is it?” Cami rubbed her eyes, trying to remember what day it was.

“Nearly eight. Did I wake you? I’m so sorry!”

“Nhuh. You take pleasure in it.”

“You’re a ray of sunshine.”

“Paige, we’ve been friends forever. But I refused to room with you in college because you’re a morning person and I’m not. Quit playing games and tell me why you called.”

Paige’s sigh scorched the line. “Fine. I want you to drive up here. Since it’s Saturday, I’m only working ‘til noon. We could have lunch and run that beast you call Petey on the beach.”

Cami’s brain processed the words into coherency. “Where do you want to meet?”

“How about Robin’s Place? One o’clock.”

“See you then.” Cami hung up and rolled over. Her eye caught the digital display of the alarm clock at her bedside. She groaned. Besides being an incurable morning person, Paige was also a liar. The clock read 7:05, not “nearly eight.”

Cami knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep any more so she rolled out of bed and headed downstairs. Petey looked up in surprise as she turned on the stove under the teakettle.

“Don’t you start in on me, too,” she told him. “I don’t believe in greeting the day until it’s had a good start.” The dog dropped his head on to the pillow with a grunt of agreement. She knew his philosophy: Why run when you can walk, and why stand when you can lie down. He was named for the apostle Peter, the fisherman. Petey loved to sit and watch the goldfish in her tank. After sleeping, it was his favorite activity.

The phone rang again as Camille finished her first cup of tea.

She answered on the second ring. “Hello.”

No one responded.

“Hello! Hello?” Nothing. She clicked the phone off and sat with it in her hand, staring at the receiver as unease creeped up her spine. Another prank call. Plus the strange mitt Petey had dragged in yesterday. He must have found it in the yard somewhere, but how had it gotten inside the fence?

Her back entry opened at the top of three concrete stairs. It was more of a stoop than a porch, but she liked to sit on the top step with her tea while Petey ran through the trees across the back of the yard. Now she walked to the back door and looked at the area, assessing it in the morning light.

Her home had that rare-in-California commodity – a basement with a separate entrance from the back yard. With its glass door and high windows, the cellar made a wonderful studio, roomy and cool. It was really the reason she bought this house. It had taken every penny of her savings, plus a gift from her parents when they sold their home and moved to the mountains. Southern California real estate prices could be cruel to first-time buyers, and she knew she’d been blessed to get into this perfect house.

Her second favorite features were the porches, front and rear. Front was a wide wooden veranda with a swing and white wicker chairs. She’d painted a rag rug at the door. Several shades of blue, green, and beige combined to make a welcoming statement. Painstakingly designed, it looked like one corner of the rug had been kicked over. Invariably guests would pause to drag their toe across it, trying to flip it back. Their eyes knew it was paint, but their reflexes were stronger.

She shrugged and turned around. Petey had worked hard on the mitt. Wherever it came from, it was now too chewed up and marinated in dog spit to be able to shag fly balls. Even by Grant Andrews, loping across the green field and catching the ball with a last second tip of his glove, like she’d seen yesterday.

She shook her head to rid it of images of Grant. And she double-checked the alarm before getting in the shower.

Promptly at one o’clock, Camille stood in front of Robin’s Café on the pier in Huntington Beach. Petey strained at his leash. He knew he would soon be under a table and eating crumbs Cami “just happened” to drop. The restaurant welcomed dogs as long as they stayed on the patio and were well behaved. Petey fit those conditions. A big dog built like his Labrador Retriever sire, he was mostly black but the lighter brown dabbled on his hips and shoulders gave him unusual markings. His mother had some Pit Bull and Petey inherited his red eyes from her side of the genetic code. Cami liked that people found his appearance intimidating and were discouraged from making “nice dog” comments to her. He looked mean, and she had bought him for protection, but he turned out to be a ringer in the ferocious department.

Petey was afraid of the fog tendrils that would curl through her back yard, snaking around the orange trees. Neighborhood cats intimidated him and he was certain dog-eating monsters lurked around every corner. Cami had grown attached to him before his character defects became evident. So she took comfort in his fearful appearance.

The aroma of freshly grilled burgers nudged Cami to go ahead and take the only table available on the patio. Paige rushed up as Cami settled into a plastic chair on the scarred wooden deck.

“A last minute phone call to a new client about setting up a home office. It was supposed to be one minute, but stretched into ten. I may charge him for our lunch as well as my time.”

“You’ll do no such thing.”

“I know, but it’s fun to talk like a tough businesswoman with a triple digit hourly rate.”

“Instead of what you really are? A scurrying lackey, drowning in student loans.” Cami hooked Petey’s leash to the wrought iron table.

“Now why did I want to see you today? Oh yes, so I can be reminded of my lowly status in life: personal assistant to the world.”

“If you’re just a ‘personal assistant,’ then I’m a paint-by-numbers-on-velvet artist.”

“That reminds me.” Paige made a face. “Another client wants me to sell her great-uncle’s picture. It’s dogs playing poker. Is there a market for those?”

“Where’s the nearest nuclear waste facility?”

“I was thinking about it last night, after dinner,” Paige said.

“Nuclear waste or dogs playing poker?” Cami scrunched her eyes, trying to follow Paige’s thought path.

“No. You and dating.”

“Why do you start every conversation in the middle?” Cami picked up one of the plastic menus listing the daily specials and read it, a barrier against Paige’s strong will.

“I don’t. Only when I’ve been thinking about something for hours and want to share my new insights.”

“And?” Cami sighed in mock frustration. “Now what do you want me to do?”

“I was thinking about you beginning to date again.”

“Paige…” Cami’s voice held a warning note.

“Hear me out. I’m sorry if we came down too hard on you. And you’re right. Of the group, only Kennie is seeing someone. I guess it is a little strange that we’re all nagging you to have a social life. So I confess.” She held up her hands in mock surrender. “We’re crazy about you and want you to be happy. As long as you’re determined to stay single, you’re cutting yourself off from friendships with half the human race. I’m not saying you need to rush out and get married, but you could date and make some friends. There, that’s my lecture.” She leaned back. “What are you having?”

“Not only do you begin conversations in the middle, but you end them the same way. Not that I don’t appreciate you dropping it, and -” Their waitress materialized with ice water and cooed at Petey.

“I’ll have the Southwest grilled chicken salad, dressing on the side, and iced tea, please,” Cami said.

“I’ll have the bacon cheeseburger with fries and a soda,” Paige said to the waitress. “Diet.” The waitress scribbled on her order pad and returned to the kitchen. “Did you want to say something?” Paige continued to Cami.

“Yes. I’ve been thinking, too. And I’ve decided I will make more of an effort to be sociable. I may even date.”

“Wonderful! How do you feel about that?” Paige asked.

“Now you’re my therapist as well as my personal assistant?”

“You can’t afford me as an assistant, but my counsel is free.” Paige sipped her ice water and watched Cami over the rim of her glass. “I’m serious. How does that decision make you feel?”

Robin’s sat right on the beach, famous for its view of the Pacific. Cami looked at the water swelling up and rushing to meet the shore. “Honest? I feel good. I think. And a little excited to see what’s going to happen, what God has in store. And scared. But strong, too. Like I’m done being a victim.”

The wave crested, chasing a young boy away from his buckets and sand toys. He ran to his mother who scooped him up and swung him around, his legs dangling in space. A delighted giggle reached Cami, bouncing in with the breeze. Warmth filled her as she remembered her own dash away from the frightening undertow of life and how safe she felt in the arms of God.

Cami returned her attention to Paige and drew in a sharp breath at the sight of Paige’s tear-filled eyes.

“You don’t know how long I’ve waited to hear you say that. Well, yes you do. Two years, three months, and …” Paige counted on her fingers. “Twelve days.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ever since that night, you’ve been a walking heartache. I’ve learned that a sexual assault isn’t something you ‘snap out of,’ but I was afraid you would give up and stay behind alarms for the rest of your life. It’s safe there, I know.” Paige leaned across the table and touched Cami’s arm. “But it’s not where God created you to be. You have so many gifts to offer. You deserve to have a family of your own, not just nephews and students. I’m glad to see you taking these first steps from behind your security gate.”

“I barely said I would consider dating. I’m not looking to get married. Or even to have a boyfriend.”

“I’m so happy you’re joining the world of us singles. It’s a jungle out here, but we’re glad to have you.”

Their meals arrived and they spent the next half hour eating and chatting about the good time last night. And where Paige could find a furniture refinisher willing to tackle an antique buffet.

Later they crossed from Robin’s patio to the Leashed Dogs Only beach and made their way to the firm sand at the water’s edge. After a brisk walk to warm up, they broke into a jog with Petey loping easily beside them. Cami liked to run without talking and Paige fell into an easy rhythm at her side. A mile down the beach they turned around and began to walk back, weaving through Frisbee tosses and sand castles under construction.

“I really have to do that more often.” Paige still breathed hard, though she had easily kept Cami’s pace.

“Start turning down some of your social engagements, that’ll give you more time.”

“Ha ha. Sometimes I wonder exactly why I’m working so many hours. I know it will put me closer to my professional goals. But will I be happier?”

“That’s a very mid-life kind of question for someone still in her twenties.”

“It’s beginning to seem fruitless. I work hard, make my clients happy, they refer me to their friends, so I work still harder and get even more referrals. And at the end of the week, I’m too tired to do anything except sleep so I can do it all over again. I’m nagging you to date, when I don’t even have time for a social life. Ironic, huh?”

“Have you thought about-” Cami’s words were cut off when Petey jerked his leash out of her hand and bounded down the sand after a Frisbee a man tossed to a young boy. At the same moment, Paige grabbed her arm.

“Cami, I have to tell you something and you’re going to hate me. But please don’t.”

Cami ignored her and tried to call the dog back.

“Petey! Come! Come here!” He continued down the beach, seeming suddenly and completely deaf.

The child missed the plastic disc and it landed in the ebbing tide. Petey charged after it, bringing it back to the sand and his mistress. He gave a vigorous shake to rid himself of excess water and stood in front of Cami, wagging his tail.

Cami didn’t know whether to be amused or exasperated. She took the Frisbee and looked for the child he had stolen it from.

“We go seven years without seeing each other, and now you’re teaching your dog to steal my nephew’s toys? Really, Camille, I wouldn’t have expected such behavior from you.”

Cami turned and her heart froze. Grant Andrews stood before her. His smile seemed genuine. And only a little wary.

“Hi, Grant.” Paige extended her hand toward him.

Grant shook it. “Paige. Good to see you again.” He indicated the youngster next to him. “This is my nephew, Trent.”

“Hi, Trent. This is my friend, Camille, and you already met her dog, Petey.”

Paige and Grant were sure casual, for running into each other for the first time in ages. Or was it the first time?

She forced her attention to the child in front of her. “I’m sorry, Trent. Petey loves to carry things around and chew on them. Yesterday he found a baseball mitt somewhere and dragged it into the house so he could drool all over it. It was really gross.”

Trent laughed. “That’s okay. He didn’t chew up the flyer. Can I throw it to him?”

“If you don’t mind that it’ll get all slobbery.”

“I don’t care.” Trent ran a few steps away from the adults and called to Petey who obediently followed. Trent sent the disc flying down the beach and the dog chased it.

“Cami told me about running into you yesterday, Grant,” Paige said. “And now here you are again today. Amazing.”

Oh no. Cami had told Paige that she might start dating again. And Grant had already asked her out once. Coincidence? Cami looked at Paige who returned the gaze, her eyes wide and guileless.

“Do you two know each other?” Cami asked. “I mean besides from high school?”

“Kind of.” Grant shrugged. “You know how when you learn a new word or meet someone and then all of a sudden wherever you go, there’s that word or that person? I mentioned to a friend that I was looking for someone to set up my home office and Paige’s name came up. His wife plays golf with someone who knows someone. I think. I kind of lost track...”

“We’re in a self-employed women’s networking group,” Paige explained. “We had a dinner meeting last night.” She turned to Cami, her eyes pleading. “Then I had a voice mail when I got home.”

“It was weird. Seeing you yesterday,” Grant said to Cami. “Then calling someone I thought was a stranger and she turns out to be another Woody High refugee.”

“I returned his call this morning, after I talked to you.”

“And Paige said that you two were having lunch here today.” Grant smiled.

“So you were looking for me?” Her stomach tightened and the constriction crept up to her throat.

“Not at all.” Grant shook his head. “This is a huge beach. I knew the chances we’d run into each other again were slim to none. Trent and I already had plans to spend the day together. Paige just gave me the idea to bring him here.” A quizzical look flashed across his face. “Is something wrong?”

Cami looked out to sea. Huntington Beach did stretch for miles in both directions. And coming here with hopes of coincidentally running into someone was naïve. Her head told her so, but her emotions waved red flags. Lots of them. An urge to scream at Paige for setting her up battled with wanting to appear calm in front of Grant. He stood, eyebrows raised, seeming in no hurry for her response.

“You should have told me,” Cami finally said to Paige.

“You’re right.” At least she had the grace to look away. “But I did try-”

“How did the clinic go yesterday, Grant?” Cami turned away from Paige. “And what did you think of the team? And how about the Coyotes? How’re your chances this season? The paper said you open against the Padres, and then you’re on the road in Dallas and -”

“Whoa, girl. Take a breath!” Paige broke in.

“Was it Seattle? Or Milwaukee? I’m sure it was somewhere around there. How is it being on the road so much?” Cami continued before running out of breath. Great, she was either a blathering idiot or an uptight shrew.

Grant laughed from deep in his chest. “The teams are good. Both the high school squad and mine. Do you two live around here?”

Paige answered. “Cami’s from Agua Vida. I live here. We were heading back to our cars.”

“We’ll walk with you,” Grant said. He whistled for Trent and Petey to join them. Grant and Paige continued to chat as they strolled along the beach. Cami walked and kept her mouth firmly closed.

When they finally arrived at her car, she popped the back of the Tahoe to get out an old towel. As she rubbed Petey down, she hoped Grant and Trent would get bored and say goodbye. She motioned for the dog to jump into the back of the SUV. He obeyed, then looked at her expectantly. Reaching into the storage compartment at the side of the cargo bay, she fished out a treat. He snapped it out of her hand, she shut the hatch and finally turned around to the others.

“Trent, thanks for letting Petey play with you,” Cami said, moving to the driver’s door. Maybe she could make it out of here after all. “I better get him home and bathed before he stinks up the inside of my car. Grant, it was good to see you again. Paige, we’ll talk later.” Cami gave her friend a meaningful look. Boy, will we talk later.

Paige responded with a tight lipped sigh that said she knew exactly what Cami was up to. “What are you doing later? We could-”

Cami shut her door, pretending she hadn’t heard. In ten seconds flat, she was safely out of the parking space and watching Paige and Grant in her rear view mirror.

Grant stared after Cami for the second time in as many days. “Was it something I said?”

“No,” Paige answered. “Something I said.”

“Well, cut it out.”

Paige grinned. “Yes, sir.”

“Uncle Grant?” Trent tugged at his leg.

“What is it, buddy?”

“That car wants out.”

Grant hadn’t noticed the red station wagon trying to exit past the three of them. He waved an apology and moved aside, shepherding Paige and Trent out of the way. The man behind the wheel gunned the engine and laid rubber as he sped off.

“Gee, I hope we didn’t hold him up,” Paige said, staring after the car.

“Everyone’s in a hurry, I guess. So, when can you come take a look at my office?”

“How about in an hour or two?”

“Now who’s in a hurry?”

She laughed. “I was trying to ask Cami if she wanted to hang out some more, but she didn’t give me a chance. So I’m available and might as well work.”

“Call her. See if she wants to meet you at my place.”


He shrugged. “What can I say? I’m used to seeing the back of her head.”

Trent tugged again, motioning for Grant to lean over. The boy whispered in his ear. “I need the bathroom.”

“I’ll see you in a while, Paige,” Grant said. “We gotta go.” He scooped the youngster onto his shoulder and jogged towards the pier.


Woe! It’s Wednesday.

After last weeks mini-rant about idols and theology, my husband cautioned me not to upset the apple cart just to get some specimens for applesauce.

I know what he’s saying. I do, on occasion, like to see if something I say will get a reaction and what kind of reaction. I’ve also learned, that if something happens that I don’t particularly like, well, I asked for it.

In honor of that urge, I’ve decided to institute, Woe! It’s Wednesday. It will be a weekly rant or observation or maybe even a guest post from some rabble rouser.

This week I’m going to vent a little.

Disclaimer: I know I’m a dirty rotten sinner saved by grace.

But, I’m also a nice person.

I don’t deliberately say or do hurtful things. If a friend needs a kind word or some encouragement, or a cup of coffee, I’m there. 

As I touched on a few weeks ago, in my post about hurt feelings, sometimes I’m not motivated by altruism. Sometimes it’s selfishness. I figure if I do something nice for you, the least you’ll do for me is not snub me, or gossip about me. Maybe, you’ll thank me, but it doesn’t matter if you do. I enjoyed doing it. Still, an acknowledgement would be nice.

There are people in my life who I’ve been doing nice things for for, literally, years. Once, about six years, one of them threw off a comment, “Oh, we can always count on Carrie to (fill in the blank).” That was enough for me for six years.

I’m tired. I’ve been pouring into their emotional tanks for so long, mine is now depleted. I’d like to do something for them. My mind is still willing. There’s just nothing left in my heart to give.

If someone is doing something nice for you, at least acknowledge it. Maybe that’s all they want is for you to notice.

That’s all. It’s not hard.


Praying for: Cindy’s father-in-law, Stacey, Cheryl, and the above situation

Currently reading: State Fair by Earlene Fowler. It’s been on MT. TBR for a month and I finally got to it.


Book Talk Tuesday

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn

I wish I could remember who first recommended this book. I think I saw it mentioned on several writer’s lists that I receive.

It’s a brilliant satire of censorship.

It’s set on a fictional island where Nevin Nollop, the creator of the typing tutorial sentence, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” is revered. He has a statue and everything. The statue has his world famous sentence on the base.

One day, one of the letters from the inscription falls off. The island overseers decide it’s a “sign” that the letter should be removed from the alphabet and it’s usage is immediately outlawed.

The novel is a series of letters between Ella and her friends and family, both on and off the island.

As more letters fall from the statue, it gets harder and harder to communicate.

This book is a gem. I loan it out often and recommend it even more often.


Have you read it? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you.


Book Talk Tuesday on a Monday

I read a couple of really great books last week and over the weekend and since I already have the next few Book Talk Tuesdays written and scheduled, I’ve decided to spotlight these two on a Monday.


First up was Medical Error, Richard Mabry’s newest in his Prescription for Trouble medical suspense series published by Abingdon.

Medical Error The first one, Code Blue, was out in the spring and I enjoyed it. And I’m glad to say I love Medical Error. The pacing is great, the characters are believable and I learned more than I ever wanted to about the implications of identity theft and insurance fraud. Wow!

I’ve written a more detailed review that will be soon posted here.


Then, I got my hands on Shawn Grady’s latest, Tomorrow We Die. (Shawn’s first book, Through the Fire, published by Bethany House, is currently on sale at Amazon for $5.60. A bargain!)

Jonathan Trestle has been accepted to med school so his days of chasing the Angel of Death around Reno for little more than burger flipping wages as a paramedic are numbered.

One patient doesn’t die though. At least not before shoving a paper at Jonathan with odd markings all over it.

His conscience won’t let Jonathan get rid of the message so he attempts to deliver it.

Jonathan and his friend Naomi then get sucked into a web of lies, greed, and murder.

My pulse raced throughout the last fifty pages and for quite a while after I closed the book. I considered calling for a paramedic, but I knew it wouldn’t be either Shawn or Jonathan. So I just put a wet compress on my head and lay down for a while. Tomorrow We Die is highly recommended.


Both Richard and Shawn are friends but I would buy their books and read them and love them even if they didn’t promise me large bundles of cash… What? … Okay, what about the chocolate? I’m still getting the chocolate, right? RIGHT?? … sigh. Fine. 

Seriously, I love these novels. Go buy them. Ask your library to order them. Just get your hands on ‘em, whatever it takes.


Today, I’m praying for: Stacey, my tendonitis, Abbie, and Pastor Bill’s family (yes, we’ve lost another friend).

Last movie: Toy Story 3 – LOVED it!

Last book: See above

Currently reading: On the Run: The Story of a Mafia Childhood by Gregg and Gina Hill


Fiction Friday: Curve Ball, Chapter 2

Curve Ball was sparked by a comment from a good friend about her cousin who was dating (and is now married to) a MLB player. He was divorced and hesitant to pursue another relationship with a woman unless she understood the demands of a professional sports career. And not just the demands on the athlete, but on his wife and family as well. I got to thinking how an intensely private woman would handle those demands…


Curve Ball


Chapter Two


Cami cracked the windows and gave Petey a treat before heading into the building. At least the weather was still cool enough for him to stay in the car.

She dropped her backpack on the shelf inside the classroom door. Round tables filled the center of the room and counters lined the walls. Computers sat on one side, art supplies and sports equipment jostled for space along the other. Covering the walls were colorful posters with inspiring messages such as, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. ~ Thomas Edison.”

The faux finishes and decorative painting paid the bills, but an afternoon teaching kids to draw left her with more energy than when she started.

“Let’s keep working on your pencil drawings from the other day,” she announced to the dozen middle and high school students seated at the tables. “I want to finish up your one-point perspectives.”

“Ummm, Miss Henderson?”

“Yes, Sean?” Cami turned to the teenager who never missed a class.

“Something’s wrong with my staircase. It’s bigger at the top, but I’m supposed to be looking up the stairs.”

A glance at Sean’s pencil drawing gave her the solution. She turned his upside-down paper around and watched understanding blossom on his face. If only all problems were as easily solved.

Problems like the expectations pinned on Kyle. Her mouth twisted with compassion. Should she go by the field to watch practice and encourage him a little? No. Janis had made it plain this was none of Cami’s business. Her advice and input weren’t wanted.

But could they be needed? Kyle would excel wherever he went to college but his mother was stressing over something out of her control. Maybe Cami could tell him to relax, God is in charge and His plans are perfect. That wouldn’t be too interfering, would it? She straightened her shoulders and nodded once.

Shaking all thoughts of over-achieving students out of her head, she spent the next hour helping young artists find horizon lines and finish their staircase drawings.

After class, Cami checked the time as she packed files and supplies into her backpack. Anthony’s vocabulary cards sat on top. He would want them so he could study this weekend. Maybe she should drop by the field and give them to him. And if she happened to see Kyle, she could give him that pep talk and check off two tasks with one stop.

Cami grinned to herself. She was going to get a look at Grant Andrews after all. It would be fun to see him again, check out if he’d changed much. A lot could happen in eight years. Should she go by the house and change? She shook her head. He’d never remember her, so why bother?

And tonight at dinner with the girlfriends she’d have a great story. “Hey, guess what professional athlete I went to high school with and saw again today?” They’d get a kick out of it.

He’d been a bit of a flirt in high school and half the senior class girls had crushes on him. She’d also been susceptible to his easy smile and big green eyes. Of course that was when she’d been far too innocent. What happened two years ago took care of her vulnerabilities and she no longer flirted. Ever.

Ten minutes later, she drove into the parking lot by the baseball field and gazed at the group huddled in the outfield. The green and gold uniforms made all the high school players identical. A couple of coaches in the same colors walked the sidelines. She could just make out a tall man in the center, dressed in the blue and gray of the Orange County Coyotes. Grant.

She got out of the Tahoe and strolled across the field. Now that she’d arrived, this didn’t seem like such a good idea. Here she was getting ready to meet a famous baseball player and she wore painted-stained clothes. Maybe she should turn around and go home and change. Or just turn around and go home period.

She shook her head. She came to deliver Anthony’s cards, so she’d find Anthony, make the delivery, and forget about seeing Grant. He wouldn’t remember her and she didn’t want to remind him.

Grant looked around the field. The grounds hadn’t changed much since he’d been gone. The chain-link fencing around the home dugout still curled along the bottom edge from years of kids knocking their cleats against it. A bigger patch of Bermuda grass spread across the on-deck circle.

This clinic had been fun. He’d watched the coaches drill the kids with bunts and pop flies. He gave some occasional pointers. Now they were wrapping up a practice game.

Grant played his regular shortstop position. Seeing the kids’ delight reminded him how much he enjoyed baseball. He’d been focused on the career side of it, worrying about batting averages and if someone younger and better on the AAA team waited for him to make a mistake. A sunny spring day, a green field, a leather glove on his left hand and he was ready to take on the starting lineup.

The batter stepped to the plate, shuffling into his stance. He focused on the pitcher who had looked over his shoulder at Grant during every windup.

A crack of the bat signaled a hit. Grant caught the pop fly and tagged the player who delayed running back to second. Yells and cheers from the athletes in the field greeted the double play. Without a pause, he fired the ball to the pitcher who stuck his glove in front of it reflexively.

The kid ducked as the ball slipped through his grasp and continued to home where the catcher scooped it up and lobbed it back.

“Pay attention to the game and the ball, not me,” Grant yelled.

“Yes, sir, Mr. Andrews.” The tone was just short of respectful.

“Don’t be sorry, be focused and be ready. Sorry is for losers,” Grant said. The pitcher probably had problems listening to his coach, too.

“Got it.” The kid turned around to face his next batter. This time he didn’t glance back and the batter swung and missed the fastball that made a hearty smack in the catcher’s mitt.

“Better,” Grant called before he noticed the pitcher’s attention move to the sidelines. Grant followed his gaze to a woman who stood watching. Probably a teacher. After two more batters struck out, coach called the players in and thanked Grant for spending his afternoon with them.

“My pleasure. I’d be glad to come again any time,” he said, a little surprised to discover it was true.

The team headed toward the gym and locker rooms. A crowd formed around Grant as some of the players produced balls and trading cards for him to sign. He never got tired of this – the acknowledgement that he’d arrived. It made the hours of practice and training a little sweeter, having this kind of impact on kids.

“Why’d you do that to me, Mr. Andrews?” The player he’d intimidated with the throwback glared, sending a frisson of unease through Grant.

He shook it off, like he would a pitcher trying to intimidate him with a fastball. “I did you a favor.”

“Didn’t seem that way to me when I dropped it.” A stare accompanied the words.

“I know. I’ve been there.” Grant kept a genial tone. “The same thing happened to me once. And I started practicing for hours and hours so I would never be caught off guard and drop it again.”

“Do you think I can make it?”

Grant shrugged. “Maybe. Don’t neglect your batting and other skills at the expense of pitching. It takes hard work and a few lucky breaks.”

“Is that how you did it?”

Grant chuckled. “I made my luck. When the others went out for pizza, I went to the gym. When they had dates, I was studying at college. When they went to parties, I went to batting practice.”

“And you were a good player.” The kid looked at him quizzically, like Grant had left something out.

“I’m good because I worked hard. And I still do.”

“So is hard work more important than talent?”

“It’s as important.” Bingo. The pitcher wanted an out, so he could kiss off extra drills and say his failure to make All-Stars was because he wasn’t good enough. “Look- what’s your name?”

“Kyle.” The kid’s brown eyes bored into Grant’s.

“Look Kyle, I’m not gonna sugarcoat it for you. To be a ball player takes sacrifice, work and sweat. Talent’s a part of it, sure. But a smaller part than you might think.”

A bigger kid stepped in front of Kyle waving a ball and Grant took it. Others soon shouldered their way in too, and soon Kyle was enveloped in the crowd.

Finally, most of the kids took off. Kyle and a couple of outfielders still stood nearby when Grant looked around again. He saw the woman from the sidelines approaching.

“Kyle!” she called. The pitcher turned around.

“Hi, Miss Henderson. Did you watch?”

“A little bit at the end. I found Anthony’s vocabulary cards and thought he might want them.”

“He’s in the locker room but I’ll give them to him.” The woman handed the kid a small bundle. “Umm, Miss Henderson?”

Something itched at Grant’s memory.

“Yes, Kyle?”

“Some of the youth group are going to Mejia’s tonight for nachos. We wondered if you’d like to come.” The kid turned red, but the woman didn’t seem to notice.

“Thanks, but I’m meeting Paige and some of our friends. Maybe next time.”

“Sure.” He seemed to be about to say something else, but she was already turning away.

“See you Sunday.” She waved and started toward the parking lot.

When Grant saw her back, he knew. He’d spent hours staring at that head of hair, trying to figure out what color it was. Auburn? Burnt Sienna? He didn’t know all the shades it could be called, only that he’d tracked the passing seasons by watching it change from the sun. Could it be…?

“Excuse me,” he called out to the woman. “Don’t I know you?”

She and the kid answered at the same time. “Yeah!” the pitcher said.

“No.” She started to shake her head, then looked at the pitcher and sighed. She walked over to Grant and extended her hand.

“Well, actually yes. I told Kyle earlier that you sat behind me in geography class. But I’m sure you don’t remember me.”

“I don’t remember your name, but I remember you.”

She flushed. “Camille Henderson.”

“Right. You were awful at geography, as I recall.” He grinned to show he was teasing.

She shrugged. “I never went anywhere, so it didn’t seem important to memorize capitals and gross domestic products.” She glanced at the kid. “Kyle, ignore that.”

“And I was a military brat. I’d been all over, so history and geography were the only classes I aced. That and sports.”

“I forgot your family was military. Navy?”

“Yep. We moved here when I was a sophomore. And now you’re a teacher?”

“A painter. Can’t you tell?” She motioned to her shoes, covered with blue and green splotches. She seemed about to say something else, but looked over at Kyle again.

Grant followed her gaze, noting the kid’s obvious interest in their conversation. “You did great,” Grant told him. “Keep working on your stance and grip and you’ll be able to hit those sliders. It was good to meet you.”

“Yeah, thanks. You too.” From the expression on his face, Grant knew Kyle felt dismissed. He sauntered away, stopping after a few feet to retie his cleats. Finally he picked up some gear and headed to the gym.

Camille smiled. “Thanks. I felt a little awkward talking about our high school years in front of him.” But her eyes followed the kid, almost like she was wishing she could escape too.

“Why don’t we have coffee and finish catching up? I’d like to hear what you’ve been doing since graduation.”

“Oh.” A look of …panic? No, but something like fear flashed across her face. “Thanks, but I have plans. For dinner. With friends. Old friends. Well, not old old. We’ve been friends for a long time. That kind of old.”

Grant held up his hand to stop the flow. “That’s okay, another time then.” He scooped up his duffel bag of equipment and slung it over his shoulder. “It was good seeing you again, Camille. Take care.”

He walked to his car, lost in thought. Was she really afraid? Of him? Why?

“It was awful. I stood there opening and closing my pie hole like some largemouth bass he’d hooked. Umm, my bait hole, I mean.” Cami forced a grin. “Thank goodness I’ll never see him again.” Her story about seeing Grant Andrews lacked the breezy panache she’d imagined when she decided to return Anthony’s cards to him at the baseball diamond.

“What is wrong with you, Cami?” Kennie asked, sipping her iced tea. “Women don’t turn down dates with Grant Andrews.”

“I can’t go out with a baseball player,” Cami said, her hand frozen over the breadbasket.

“Why not?” This from Paige, her friend with a new question for every answer.

“I just can’t.” Didn’t they see how absurd Grant’s offer was? “First of all, I don’t date. And B, I really don’t date guys who have agents and publicists. I’m not a groupie. I’ve got my own life, thank you very much, and I’m busy with work and … and work.”

“And having dinner with a bunch of other career-obsessed, dating-challenged women,” Paige said.

“That’s not fair,” Cami protested. “We haven’t seen each other in a month and you’re my best friends.”

“I know.” Kennie reached out and squeezed Cami’s hand. “But you could have said you were busy tonight, how about tomorrow? It would be good for you to get out more, date a little. I know you have a life, but it should include men, not just your dog and us.” Kennie smiled to take out any sting in her words, picked up her fork and twirled it in her fettuccine.

Cami’s stomach knotted. They were supposed to be supportive, not badgering her to date. He could be an axe murderer or… or the serial rapist. They didn’t know him. Her throat tightened and tears stung her eyes.

“You all know why I won’t go out with him. Or anyone else.”

Paige leaned across Kennie to look Cami in the eye. “We’re saying maybe it’s time. You know Grant. He would be a safe first date.”

“I’ve had other dates!” Cami objected. Her abdominal muscles tightened, resisting the lasagna on her plate.

“I’m sorry, but going to the movies with us doesn’t count. Neither do singles activities at church,” Paige said.

“Or beach trips with family,” added Autumn, turning her attention from the other conversation across the table. Meredith and Randa continued arguing the merits of clone versus name brand golf clubs.

“Aha!” Cami pointed a triumphant finger at Autumn. “She doesn’t date either and you’re not getting all over her.”

“Her husband left her almost bankrupt with a daughter. She doesn’t have time,” Paige said, flashing a smile at Autumn. “However, her turn will come.”

“Autumn, I’m sorry.” Cami’s shoulders fell. “I didn’t mean that the way it came out. Forgive me?”

Autumn smiled. “It’s okay. If they’re all focused on harassing you, I’m off the hook for tonight.”

Laughter broke the tension and everyone continued to eat and chat. Cami looked around the table, anger gone and gratitude taking its place. She was blessed to be here with friends who loved her. Even if they showed it by nagging.

Cami’s best friend since second grade, Paige was direct and often spoke before she leaped. Or something like that. She had seen through Cami’s shyness at seven years old and ever since pushed her to be more daring.

They had taken a continuing education class for self-employed businesswomen in Huntington Beach three years ago where they met the other four women. As they learned tax laws and marketing, they discovered other things they had in common.

As women, they sustained each other personally. As business owners, they supported each other professionally. As Christians, they kept each other accountable spiritually. They had started gathering for a weekly marketing and networking group but as they grew more successful it got harder to schedule meetings.

The waitress brought the dessert tray and they picked out three different selections to share: a slice of strawberry pie crowned with a dollop of whipped cream, a layered chocolate cake with thick chocolate shavings on top, and a wedge of carrot cake. The last was so they could scrape off the cream cheese frosting and pretend they were eating wholesomely. Paige handed out the six forks and started the desserts around the table as she moved the conversation back to their previous topic.

“Cami, you know we love you and will support you in anything. We want to see you happy and we think it’s time you left the past there and started to date. Just once in a while. Dinner and a movie maybe. In public.”

“I’m too busy,” Cami said. “I’ve got sample boards to paint and a dog to walk.”

“There’s an exciting Saturday night begging to happen!” Paige’s sarcasm could be razor sharp but Cami heard the concern behind the words.

Cami sighed. She was going to have to tell them what they wanted to hear, if only to move on to another subject.

“Okay. If I’m asked. By someone I know. If I consider him safe. Then I’ll think about it.”

The others laughed. “As long as you’re open to the possibility!” Kennie said.

“But why are you all so concerned about my love life?” Cami asked. “I don’t see any of you with full dance cards. Except Kennie. How is Austin, by the way?”

“Don’t try to distract us,” Paige said. “It’s Pick On Cami night. After we get you out in the social world, we’ll start on someone else. Maybe Autumn. Kennie will never have a problem getting dates, if the number of men turning to stare at her legs is any indication.”

“Hey, I work in the music industry. I have an image to project,” Kennie protested.

“You shouldn’t have to wear anything so short it looks like it was designed for a twelve-year old to project your ‘image,’” Paige said. “But only one of us at a time can have issues. Tonight, it’s Cami. Now pass the offering plate because I’m done preaching.”

Cami turned her Tahoe into the driveway of her California Bungalow home. Instead of pulling into the garage, she parked in the driveway, close to the front door. Hopping out of the SUV, she clicked the remote to lock it behind her and set the alarm. Slinging her backpack over her shoulder, she carried pepper spray in her left hand, keys in her right. In a few steps she was through the gate into her little fenced yard and standing on her front porch. With a practiced hand she tapped out her code onto the keypad by the door. Once inside, the door locked and bolted and the alarm set, she breathed deeply, calming her nerves.

“Petey, I’m home,” she called, listening for the scramble of paws on the linoleum. She kept the dog confined to the kitchen and laundry room when she was gone. He had a pet door that gave him access to the backyard, maybe he was outside.

“Petey?” Cami took down the gate between the dining room and kitchen and flipped on the light. He was on his bed, tail thumping behind him, but didn’t get up.

“Hi, Mister. What have you been doing?” Hands on her hips, Cami approached and saw something nestled between his paws. She wrestled him for the item, and then held up the prize to examine it.

“Ugh.” She dropped the baseball mitt he had been gnawing. “Where did you get this?” A lump of fear lodged in her throat. She didn’t own any baseball equipment. Her nephew was too little and her neighbors too… well, beyond the age for it to belong to them.

Petey’s tail wagged as he looked up at her. She returned his innocent look, considering.

She went to the back door and looked out. She lived on the inland side of the thoroughfare that bisected Agua Vida down the middle. Her cottage sat on a large corner lot with the house close to the street and a long driveway to the garage at the rear of the property. The backyard was spacious with orange and lemon trees and plenty of room for Petey to run. Some kids might have been on the sidewalk outside, tossing balls and mitts and one had gotten an extra hard heave and sailed over the fence. But wouldn’t they do something to get it back? Climb over? Leave a note?

She shooed Petey outside for a little perimeter patrol. Maybe he’d find something else, a clue to where the mitt came from. While she waited for the dog, she brewed a cup of tea and recalled the dinner discussion. Was it time to leave the past? Although she had only said she would consider dating in order to get everyone to quit nagging her, the prospect intrigued her. If she picked her dates carefully, it might not be too bad.

Cami raised her eyebrows. She had just been asked out for the first time in over a year, and now she envisioned lines of prospective dates forming behind signs in the front yard: Queue Forms Here and Please Wait For The Next Available Neurotic Painter.

Shaking some flakes into the fish tank, Cami chuckled at her own foibles. She whistled for Petey, locked the pet door behind him, then headed upstairs to bed with her mug of Sleepytime tea.


Hold On To Your Knickers!


This is the first time, (I think), that I’m setting out to post something that I expect to provoke a reaction.

At Bible Study last night, we were talking about idols. What do we set up in our hearts that draw our love and devotion and time and attention away from God?

The usual answers were thrown out: TV, books, hobbies, jobs, body image/exercise, cars, houses, clothes, shoes, chocolate, and so on.

One woman raised her hand and commented, almost apologetically, that really all those things come down to self. We may say we have a problem with a chocolate obsession or shopping or whatever, but it’s really that I want to do what I want to do when I want to do it for me. Me. Me. Me.

So true.

But then another woman near me leaned over and said the most profound thing I’ve heard in ages… well, at least a week. Maybe two.

“Even our theology can be an idol.”


It hit me like a soccer ball to the head.  (Trendy World Cup reference there, did you catch it?)

I know people from other denominations who won’t let a guest speaker into their facility if they’re from a different denomination.

I know people who filter every book they read, the music they listen to, and the web sites they visit through the filter of a pastor/teacher/theologian with whom they agree.

I know people who would rather disdain and dismiss their hosts offerings rather than partake of something they have deemed not good enough for them. And I’m not talking about wine/alcohol drinkers only. It happens with sweeteners. “Is this made with Splenda or sugar or Stevia?” “Does this have gluten/white flour/canola oil in it?” Disclaimer: I know there are true food allergies, but come on… if it won’t kill you, smile and say thank you.

I know Calvinists and Arminians.

I know gay folk and straight.

I know carnivores and vegans.

I try to extend grace to everyone, to acknowledge that they are following what God has told them to do, to the best of their ability.

I had a friend who regularly entered the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and burned copies of CDs for friends. I can’t do either of those things. But I can have a glass of wine and she can’t. God has given us different instructions for our lives.

I’m tired of people who filter everything through what their favorite teacher has said. I can’t tell you how many times a subject will come up and they quote from his/her latest book like it’s the final authority. Their theology has become their idol.

This makes me sad.


Praying for: Michael, Joyce, Toni, and Abbie.

Currently reading: Still House Pond by Jan Watson

Last movie: Rachel Getting Married – nyuh.


Book Talk Tuesday

Fridays are for fiction. Tuesdays are now for talking about books. What I’ve read recently. What I liked. What didn’t work for me.
When I’m at a conference and sitting near a “name” author, and am too paralyzed to talk about my own work and don’t want to appear stupid or uninformed about theirs, I’ll often ask them what they’ve read recently or what their favorite book was in the last few months.
I’ve gotten some dynamite recommendations for books I probably would not have picked up otherwise.

First up: 
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. This was recommended to me by Sue B., an editor with Zondervan.
The language is beautiful, the prose is poetic, and the story is first rate.
I probably would not have picked this one up on my own, but I reserved it at the library a little over two years ago.
It’s part gothic tale, complete with a creepy old house on the moors and a secret wing where no is allowed.
It’s part mystery. What happened in the burned out house?
It’s part romance. Where will the shy bookseller meet Mr. Right?
It’s a gripping story from start to finish and highly recommended.


Fiction Friday: Curve Ball

When I started posting my short stories on Fridays, I thought I had enough for a couple of months. Now, nearly six months later, I’ve finally run out. But I’ve enjoyed revisiting these stories and have decided to continue with Fiction Fridays.

I’m going to serialize my first completed novel. I view it as my “practice” novel. I proved I can finish one. I learned a lot while writing it. It will be never be publishable. But I love the characters and several of them have evolved and turned up in new stories. So here goes. I hope you enjoy it!


Curve Ball

Chapter One

A sharp crack echoed over Camille Henderson's head and she pressed herself flat against the cabinets behind her. "What was that?" she whispered. A robbery at the bank next door? Or just a car backfiring outside? And her pepper spray was across the room in her supply caddy, she could see it peeking above the paints. She pulled out the earphones from her MP3 player as the noise came again.

Then she made out a voice over the panic thundering in her ears. "Camille, are you in there?"

Bank robbers wouldn't know her name. Reason lifted its head although Cami kept hers down. She peeked around the corner of the coffee bar and saw Janis Shaw, the cafe' owner, shaking the locked doors and knocking on the glass with her keys. The piercing sound was clearer but more annoying without the earphones.

Cami sat on the floor of the under-construction shop where she had been painting a faux finish on the walls. As soon as her heart started pumping normally, the strength returned to her legs. That radio report she heard about a serial rapist in Orange County combined with the prank phone calls at home had rattled her. Just when she thought she was getting better at not freaking out at every little thing. She forced a couple of deep breaths as she scrambled to her feet and grabbed a rag to wipe her paint-stained hands.

Petey, her Labrador Retriever-mix, gave a half-growl-half-whimper in the back of his throat and looked at her for approval.

“Good boy. Thanks for trying.” She patted him on the head. “Please don’t shed on her Prada handbag, okay? I need a quick payment if we’re going to eat next month.”

Another shake of the doors echoed around the empty shop as she hurried to admit the woman tapping her foot. “I’m coming.” Cami twisted the deadbolt and swung the heavy door open.

“I should make some duplicate keys. I gave mine to the afternoon manager to meet a delivery later.” Janis entered and surveyed the painting in progress on the walls of her new business, an Italian-style bakery and coffee bar, a panetteria.

Cami smoothed the wrinkles out of her pant legs. Jeans and an old denim shirt were practical for work, but she felt frumpy next to Janis’s color-coordinated navy blue suit, spectator pumps, and purse. Cami had pulled her thick hair back into a ponytail to keep it out of her face as she worked. Janis’s hair was sprayed into precise place.

Cami tucked a wayward wisp behind her ear and fought an urge to run to the nearest salon for a cut and style. Living in a beach town like Agua Vida, she had given up hope of ever having smooth or straight hair. But the humidity did keep her curls full.

Janis motioned to the wall behind the counter. “I don’t think the plaster is thick enough, Camille. I want a real ‘old world’ feel with heavy swirls in the wall and the leaves and vines raised in relief.”

“It’s a process. I’m not done yet.” Cami fought to keep her irritation out of her voice. At least Janis seemed oblivious to it. And her. As usual.

“I hope you’ll make sure I’m happy before you bill me.” Janis moved behind the counter and set her leather briefcase on top.

Cami never knew if Janis was joking or serious and decided to take it as a joke. “I’ll make sure you’re happy if you’ll give me free coffee for life.” She forced a lighter tone as she joined Janis across the room. And she earned an art history degree for this- dealing with demanding southern California home and business owners. She had planned to be working in a gallery somewhere by now, not painting fake marble on walls.

Cami pasted on a smile and bent to examine the lower half of the wall she’d been working on when Janis’s door knocking had sent her diving for cover. She ran a hand over the plaster, feeling the pattern of vines that would spring into life when the topcoat was dry-brushed on. Her hand itched to unwrap her new badger brush and ease on the color. Well, maybe she wouldn’t be happy in a gallery after all.

Janis cleared her throat. “How much longer?” She had a reputation as being picky and difficult. This one-week job had stretched into two and now it looked like Cami would have to come back a few more days after the weekend. Not something to look forward to on the first sunny Friday in April.

“I should be finished Tuesday or Wednesday, at the latest,” she said. If God is merciful.

The thick plaster layers Janis wanted took a long time to dry between coats. If Cami ever finished, the beautiful walls would be a great addition to her portfolio. Hopefully, it would be worth it.

“Has Kyle been by?” Janis adjusted her Tiffany charm bracelet, turning it so the heart rested on the back of her hand. “He’s supposed to let me know the minute the SAT scores arrive. They were mailed out earlier this week.”

“I haven’t seen him.”

Screeching brakes drew their eyes to the front parking lot where a rust-colored Jeep Wrangler careened in.

Grant Andrews thought about the afternoon ahead as he started his late breakfast. It was already noon, but he felt like having eggs. He’d call it brunch if he had to. He turned on the commercial range, listened to the clicking until the gas caught and he had an even flame, then placed a skillet on the burner.

Later, he would drive down the coast to Agua Vida. The Orange County Coyote’s baseball team had gotten a request from Woodrow Wilson High for a baseball clinic. The school asked for him specifically because he was a graduate.

Once the pat of butter melted and sizzled, he broke two eggs into the pan, added three more whites and began to whisk. As the eggs crisped at the edges, he dropped a couple slices of sourdough into the toaster. Adding veggies and grated Swiss cheese to the pan, he waited until the eggs set, and the cheese melted before scooping the lazy man’s omelet onto his plate.

He juggled the hot toast as he buttered it and moved to the counter behind the splash sink in the island.

He glanced at his watch as he settled on a stool with his plate. He’d have to eat in a hurry so he wouldn’t be late. He forked through the eggs, then scooped them to his mouth, savoring the crunch of the bell pepper. Even if he had to rush, he wanted to at least take a minute to enjoy the omelet.

It would be weird going back and he wondered if any of his friends were still in town. He hadn’t been back in… four or five years at least. Not since Dad transferred to the Alameda naval base.

Standing up, he sopped a bit of melted cheese with the last bite of toast and took his plate to the sink. He rinsed the dishes and put them in the dishwasher as he took a mental detour. Agua Vida and Woody High were special to him since that was where he’d realized he was good at baseball. Seriously good, maybe even with a shot at the pros. He filled the skillet with hot water and set it aside to soak.

The WWHS baseball team had been Orange County Champions his senior year. They hadn’t had a winning season since, according to the AV Tribune he still received. During spring training, when Coach ragged on him about his batting average, that bit of trivia had comforted him.

He grabbed his ball cap as the phone rang. Not again. Talking to Mom earlier had made him rush his lunch. Should he answer or let the machine get it? The second ring was insistent, demanding he pick up.


“Hi, Grant. It’s Delia.”

He didn’t have time for her antics today. “Hey, Delia. I’m headed out the door.” At least he didn’t need to lie. “We’ll have to talk later.” Say, in a year. Or ten. He edged toward the laundry room and the door into the garage.

“I’d let you go if I thought you’d call me back. Instead, I’ll talk fast. Cinda and Bill are having a team party Sunday afternoon and you’re invited. I’ll be there and I’m looking forward to catching up with you. It’s been months since we talked.” Her voice slowed and caressed the last sentence. He stifled a shudder.

“I really am walking out the door. Thanks for the invite. I’ll phone Bill later.” He hung up on a squawk of protest, grabbed his keys and was in the garage before the phone could ring again. As he slid behind the wheel of his Corvette, he made a mental note to call his regrets in to Delia’s sister and brother-in-law when he got home.

Cami watched from the counter as three teenagers tumbled from the Wrangler. They pushed and shoved their way inside through the still open doors. Seeing the women, they lowered their voices. But the jousting continued.

“Hi, Mom. Hi, Cam- um, I mean Miss Henderson.” The young man glanced at his mother before nodding to Cami.

“Hey, Kyle.” She turned back to the wall and picked up her brush. “How’s your fast ball coming?”

“Pretty good,” he answered.

“Pretty good, nothing.” Anthony Collins looked at Cami. “He’s drilling it, Miss Henderson. I mean, this guy’s smokin’.”

Cami heard more than a bit of pride coming from the boy who’d been Kyle’s best friend since the fourth grade. She’d been a helper in their Sunday School class. She smiled, remembering them eight years ago: short and pudgy. Now they were both tall and slim. Kyle all muscle and grace while Anthony was more gangly, a cavorting puppy of a kid next to Kyle’s sturdy thoroughbred.

“And what do you think?” Cami asked the last of the Woodrow Wilson High Three Musketeers.

“He’s hot.” Tara Mendosa laughed. “I mean… his fast ball is.”

Cami glanced at Kyle who seemed to hold his shoulders a little straighter under her gaze.

“Hey.” Anthony grabbed Tara’s hand. “I don’t want my girlfriend referring to other guys as ‘hot.’”

Cami laughed. “I know what she meant.”

Janis cleared her throat and the kids immediately quieted. “Well?” she asked, eyebrows raised.

“Got ‘em.” Kyle rattled a piece of paper triumphantly.

“And?” Janis waited with her hands on her hips.

“I got a 580 in the verbal and a 680 in math.”

Janis’s eyes narrowed. “That’s not good enough. Our top schools require at least a 620 verbal.”

“I’m sure if you keep working on your vocabulary, and pay special attention to the Greek and Latin roots, you’ll be fine.” Cami patted Kyle’s arm as she moved around him to gather her rags and the plastic lid she used as a palette. Petey followed close behind, making sure Cami stayed between him and the visitors. “I’ve got to clean up here and get to class. Are you coming?”

The last few weeks of Pencil Drawing, the youth enrichment course she taught at the city recreation center, had been sparsely attended. Spring fever and cramming for finals claimed victory.

“We have to get to the baseball field. We’re getting a major leaguer to help us,” Kyle answered. He slammed a fist into his opened hand. “Grant Andrews is giving a clinic today.”

“Shortstop for the OC Coyotes?” Cami’s mind flashed to a tall, good-looking athlete. “We went to Woody together.”

“You should come by and say hi.” Anthony spoke up.

“He wouldn’t remember me.” Cami smiled at the memory of Grant sitting behind her in World History & Geography. He had whispered answers in her ear when the teacher called on her. “We only had one class together.” She picked up her paints and brushes and moved to the sink at the rear of the shop, behind the new counter with the swirled black and taupe granite top. She glanced down. She had really nailed that shade of paint for the wall that would frame shelves of bread.

“He’d remember you.” Kyle’s voice grew louder, drawing her attention back. “You should come and watch.”

“If I have time after class,” she said, avoiding an outright no.

“I hope so.” Kyle picked up his SAT score sheet and tucked it into his back pocket.

“We’ll talk later, Kyle.” Janis interrupted, giving her son a tight-lipped smile as the three kids left. She watched as the teenagers piled into Anthony’s Jeep and pulled out of the parking lot. “I don’t know what to do with him. He acts as if he doesn’t care about going to college. He can’t make a career as a baseball player.”

“I hear he’s very good.” Cami raised her voice over the water running through the brushes. “And that Grant Andrews the boys were just talking about, he made it from Woodrow Wilson High to the big leagues.”

“Perhaps.” Janis shrugged. “The odds are against Kyle.”

“But isn’t it better to let him discover that himself?”

“How many children have you raised, Camille? Oh, that’s right. None.”

Ouch. Janis must be having a really bad day. Cami shut off the water and kept her back turned so Janis couldn’t see Cami’s tight jaw and flushed cheeks. “You’re right, of course. None of my business.”

She pinched the bristle tips into points, set the brushes to dry, and gathered her gear. She plucked the pepper spray from between paint cans in the supply caddy and dropped it into her backpack. “I’ll be in on Monday.” She clipped Petey’s leash to his collar and led him out the door.

A rubber-banded bunch of index cards on the ground caught her eye as she stepped off the curb into the parking lot. She picked them up. Vocabulary cards, with a word on one side, its definition and sample usage on the other. The label declared them the Property of Anthony Collins. Anthony had to be the most precise teenager in Woodrow Wilson High. She shook her head and slipped the cards into her backpack. She’d return them when she saw him at church Sunday.

Cami opened the door of her Tahoe and glanced inside to make sure it was empty. “In you go,” she said to Petey who climbed into the back seat and she followed into the front. She locked the doors but opened her window as she left the corner parking lot and entered the stream of cars on Beach Boulevard. Humming Little Surfer Girl along with the radio, she took deep breaths of the salt air. The Pacific Ocean winked in the sun on her right for all of three minutes before she turned left and headed into town on Ladera Avenue.

A few minutes later, a beat-up red station wagon pulled in behind her. It stood out in the sparse traffic. And it looked like the one she’d seen this morning on her way to the shop. Her heart pounded a cadence in her chest. It’s just a coincidence. Quit imagining trouble behind every door and evil in every car. She held a deep breath while watching the rear view mirror. With the glare off the wagon’s windshield, she couldn’t make out the driver. Breathing again, she made a turn without signaling.

The vehicle followed her onto Seaview. She stayed in the middle lane. So did the wagon. She changed lanes and prepared to turn left onto Catalina. The other vehicle sped past and she loosened her grip on the steering wheel.

A serial rapist loose in Orange County didn’t mean every car on the road was wickedness afoot. Okay, wickedness on wheels. She forced a smile in tribute to Mrs. Kuchenmeister and Sophomore English for teaching her about mixed metaphors.

Her morning started with a hang-up phone call, then that radio news report. Now after Janis’s door-banging she’d become paranoid. It’s been two years, sister. Time to stop looking over my shoulder. Patrick is gone.

On the other hand, it might be a good idea to get the pepper spray out of her backpack and tuck it in the seat next to her. She had promised herself she would never again be caught off guard and defenseless. As she reached for the bag, it fell off the passenger seat, strewing half its contents across the floorboard. Cami grumbled as she stretched for it, but everything rolled frustratingly out of reach.

After a couple of blocks, the traffic lights turned against her and she stopped for a red. She shifted into park, undid her seat belt and leaned all the way over to gather the bag and her scattered belongings. She found a lipstick, her checkbook, two pens, a tube of acrylic paint, a sticky lemon drop, and Anthony’s vocabulary cards. But no pepper spray.

She sat up again and set backpack on the passenger seat. Petey poked his head over the seat and whined softly. “Thanks, buddy, but there’s nothing you can do for me without opposable thumbs.”

The light changed. Cami drove with one eye on the road, her left hand on the wheel, her right still searching through the bag. Fighting the panic rising in her throat, she pulled to the curb and turned the bag out on the seat beside her. That little can with its mixture of capsicum and oleoresin was her grown-up security blanket. But still no sign of it.

She half-climbed out of the driver’s seat so she could explore all over the floorboard and in a desperate last attempt stuck her arm under the passenger seat, as far as it would go.

“There’s something.” She stretched her fingers and finally nudged it close enough to grasp. “Yes!” She held up her shiny black comfort. Okay, that’s it. She was going to buy three more cans of the stuff and keep them all over. This was the second time today she didn’t have it when she wanted it.

She merged back into traffic and a few minutes later turned into the parking lot of Agua Vida Recreation Center and pulled into a spot.

“Wait a second.” She had parked here every day this week. It was time to shake things up a little. She backed out and made a circuit before choosing a slot in the next row.

She tucked the pepper spray into the pocket of the driver’s side door so she wouldn’t have to fumble around for it later. Unfortunately, in her view, weapons of any kind weren’t allowed in the center. She shook her head at the incongruity of life in the 21st century. A generation ago, a woman could ask a gentleman to escort her to her car. Now, she had to rely on herself. And a canister of pepper spray that waited in the vehicle.


There Oughta Be A Law

This is a quirky, weird one. It was an entry for a 500 word contest that gave the opening line: All the warning signs were there.

There Oughta Be A Law

All the warning signs were there. The blonde chick in the front row had been enjoying the music, clapping along with the first couple songs. We kicked it up a bit though and now she had some elbow action in it.

I caught Frankie’s eye, trying to tell him to go easy on the drums. Jerk thought it was funny. If anything, he hit harder, pounding the beat into the floorboards. I tried to lighten my touch on the bass. I didn’t expect it to work.

Sure enough, she started the hip sway. I had to do something before it moved to her knees, ‘cause by then it was gonna be all over except for the Mendelssohn march.

I forced myself to remember what happened the last time. Sharon and a Vegas wedding chapel. She’d looked so damned silly, concentrating on her ponytail swing as the tempo caught her. We’d been opening for a disco holdover; the audience full of thirty-something women who thought they still had it. Too bad they’d never had it to begin with.

Before that: Tahoe. Caesars and a second-rate big band. Linda with dark hair hanging loose and full around her shoulders. She had me when she started rocking from one foot to the other on the up beat. She kept trying to correct herself and wound up clapping on about every third thump.

Ginger in Sparks was my first. Red hair, translucent skin, tried to sing along with a Motown wannabe. I was appointed to get her talking, buy her a drink or two to distract her. It worked. We were married in the Nugget chapel while the guys finished our set.

I’ve been a sucker for women who can’t dance since I played the tuba in the middle school marching band. All the gawky girls who gathered in the school gym corner during the mixer dances knew I’d come asking before the first intermission. Something about the look of concentration and clumsy motions sent me over the moon. I had to get closer, had to see the wreck up close and personal, like a highway gawker. Except no cop ever told me to move along.

Now we were in some Indian gaming casino in Podunkville. And the next Mrs. Me started dipping her shoulders, bobbing them forward, trying to catch the tempo. And missing.

How could I help myself?

I approached her during the break. Miranda giggled, pleased to think she’d caught the attention of one of the musicians. We chatted. She was single. She asked if I’d ever been married. I told the truth: three times.

When the band headed back to the stage, she bounced in her seat, warming up. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“How ‘bout we find a justice of the peace and I teach you the rhythm method?” Worked again.

Soon, I was looking at her wondering what the hell I’d done.

She’d asked if I’d been married before; unfortunately she didn’t ask how many times I’d been divorced.


Feelings… Nothing More Than Feelings…


I got my feelings hurt this week.

Which is fine, after all, I’m a big girl, I can handle it and be okay.

But it does make me wonder why I’ve bothered to spend the last years defending this person to anyone who voiced a criticism.

I guess I expected I would be exempted from anything hurtful or thoughtless they would do.

I was wrong.

But was I wrong to defend someone who wasn’t present to defend themselves? I don’t think so.

All I can do is express my disappointment and move on.

Which is what I’ve done and will continue to do the next time it happens. And it’s gonna happen again, just because I’m a sinful person who always falls short of my intentions, and because I live in a world filled with other people who fall short. 

Because I’m a big girl and I know feelings come and go and they don’t make good barometers of how others, God, my family, and my dogs see me.

As long as I keep the kibble coming, the dogs like me just fine. I’m not too sure about everyone else.