Fiction Friday, Curve Ball Chapter 7

The suspense is thickening! I hope…

Curve Ball

Chapter Seven

The police officers were careful not to touch the vehicle, but they searched the area around it. One cop took pictures of the graffiti then went knocking on neighbors’ doors. A second took information for the report.

“Your mechanic was expected to come and take your tire and the spare to fix them. What time?”

“I don’t know. We left here about one o’clock or so. I can call and ask her when she got here.” Cami started toward the house.

“Miss, please don’t enter the residence yet.”

“But I need to call my friend!” She could hear the near hysteria in her own voice.

“Use my cell.” Grant handed her the phone. With shaking fingers, she keyed in Meredith’s home number.

“Oh, Mare.” She couldn’t say any more.

“Are you all right? Did Grant hurt you? I’ll…”

“No, I’m fine.” Cami found her voice. “We’re back at my house. My car… Meredith, when did you come fix the tires?”

“I sent my shop foreman over around three. What’s wrong?”

“Can you call him? The police need to talk to him.”

“The police? Cami, what happened?”

“Someone vandalized my car. They spray painted the word ‘why’ on it.” Her voice shook but she kept talking. “That’s what I want to know. Why would anyone do that?”

“I’ll call Tony right now. We’ll be there in a few minutes.”

True to her word, Meredith and her foreman arrived shortly. After hasty introductions, an officer questioned them. The police had taken Cami’s keys and searched the house. Grant waited with her in the front yard. The officers brought Petey out and he whined joyfully to see Cami again. She called and he ran to her, rear end waggling with delight.

“Oh, Petey.” She buried her face in his neck, fighting the tears that threatened to spill over. The dog squirmed from her grasp and eyed Grant.

When the officer finished questioning Meredith and her foreman, the trio approached Cami and Grant. Cami reached out to Meredith who put an arm around Cami’s shoulders and held her close.

“According to the mechanic, he left at four o’clock and everything was in place. He repaired both tires, put the original on the car, and the spare in the vehicle. None of the neighbors saw or heard anything out of the ordinary. We’ll take fingerprints and that’ll be all for tonight.”

“Will you be able to find out who did this?” Grant asked.

“Most likely it was random vandalism against the SUV. There have been incidents in both San Diego and Orange counties. A dealership in Anaheim had several cars painted and scratched up one night. My guess is the same thing happened here.”

“I… I don’t think so.” Cami spoke up. “I think it was directed at me personally. Some strange things have happened lately. I keep telling myself it’s nothing, but now I’m not sure.”

“What’s happened?” asked the officer.

“Random things. Hang up phone calls. Petey found a baseball mitt in the yard a week or so ago. Someone must have dropped it over the fence. I thought a car was following me a few days ago. Yesterday, I found a stuffed bear on my porch.”

“Why didn’t you tell me this?” Meredith asked.

“When did the calls start?” Grant spoke at the same time.

“I don’t know. And I don’t know.” She answered them both.

Meredith wrapped her in a hug. Grant raised his hand as if he wanted to do the same, but in the end stood there and looked at them.

“This vandalism is consistent with a random act.” The officer’s terseness didn’t help her nerves.

Cami swallowed a sob. “Who did this? Why?” She fought to maintain her composure, everything overwhelmed her and the tears spilled. Meredith led her away from the men and made her sit on the edge of the steps. Grant followed, hands in his pockets.

“You can go now,” Cami said to him. “Meredith is here.”

“I’m not leaving.” He gave her an amazed look. “I’m here to help. What do you need?”

She sighed raggedly. “I can’t think of anything.” She didn’t want to deal with him. Or anything. She wanted to curl up in bed and let sleep obliterate this terrible night.

“Can you go in the kitchen and make some hot tea?” Meredith asked. “A kettle’s on the stove with tea bags in the cupboard above.” Cami needed something warm to hold onto and she nodded, hoping Grant would go.

He disappeared into the house.

“He wants to do something.” Meredith sat beside her. “Except for the coming home part, how was your day?”

Cami pushed her hair behind her ears. “I… I don’t know. Fun, I think. I don’t remember now.”

“Do you really think someone is targeting you?”

“No!” She forced calmness into her voice. “I mean, no. Maybe. I don’t want to believe it, but right now I think I do.”

They sat in silence. Meredith kept an arm around Cami, who forced herself to be still. Petey flopped down on the ground in front of them and sighed.

Grant returned with three steaming mugs. As Cami sipped the hot liquid, the shivers and anxiety subsided.

“What am I going to do? I can’t drive that around town, to my jobs.”

Grant cleared his throat. “Borrow my car. I can take yours to a body shop tomorrow.”

“I appreciate the offer, but I can’t.” Cami shook her head. “If it wasn’t random, I couldn’t risk any damage to your Corvette.”

“I have a second car. A Volvo wagon. Boring, but inconspicuous. I’ll drive the ‘Vette home, and bring the Volvo back first thing in the morning. Then I’ll bring your car to the shop and someone can drop me off at the stadium for practice.”

“That is sweet, but I couldn’t.”

He appealed to Meredith. “Talk sense into her, please.”

“Cami, it’s a good plan. If this was deliberate, then driving a different car for a few days is smart. And if it wasn’t, then this is a simple way to have transportation until the Tahoe is ready.”

She opened her mouth to refuse once again until she saw Grant’s expression. Concern furrowed his brow and his eyes bored into hers. She sent a prayer heavenward. God, what should I do?

“Thank you,” she heard herself say.

Grant moved toward his car. “I’ll be here about seven o’clock. Is that early enough for you to get to work on time?”

“Yes.” She took a sip of her tea, now lukewarm, and let Meredith lead her into the house as Grant drove away. Cami stood at the door, watching the taillights disappear.

The trees in the park across the street cast moon shadows over the swings and slide. Was one of the shadows moving? She looked closer, leaning into her gaze. Everything was still. Must be an overactive imagination. She shrugged and followed Meredith into the kitchen.

“I’m sorry I told you to go with him today.” Meredith rinsed out her mug and placed it in the dishwasher.


“You were right, it’s too soon. You’re not ready.”

“It wasn’t his fault.” Hearing her own doubts voiced by her friend triggered a defense of him. She opened her mouth to continue but closed it. An urge to scream with helplessness weighed her down, followed by a wave of weariness.

“I know it’s not his fault,” Meredith said. “But with all this weird stuff going on, maybe you should back off.”

“I don’t want to.” Cami almost looked over her shoulder to see who had spoken.

“Really?” Meredith’s skepticism was plain.

“I’m sure.” And she was.

The next morning, Cami dressed in her paint-stained jeans and a clean top. Her hands wouldn’t stop shaking and she couldn’t button the denim shirt that completed her usual work outfit. She had laced up her formerly white Keds when Grant pulled up in a tan Volvo. Inconspicuous, as promised.

“Good morning,” Grant said as she met him on the front porch. “I’ve brought bagels and schmears. I figured you probably didn’t eat anything.”

“You’re right. I’ve got a rock in my stomach.”

“Let me toast one and you try to eat as much as you can.”

“Come on in the kitchen.” Cami led him through the living room. Petey’s tail thumped against the floor as he recognized Grant.

“Hey, boy. What went on here yesterday when we were gone? Did you throw a wild party?”

Petey agreed with a sigh. Grant scratched the dog’s stomach a moment then rose to look for the toaster. Cami sat at the small table and pointed out the utensils.

Grant sliced the bagels and started them toasting. He turned the stove on under the kettle and turned back to her. “Did you sleep?”

“Not much. An hour, maybe two. Meredith stayed with me for awhile.”

“What time do you get off work?”

“I finish at the shop by three. But Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I teach at the rec center.”

“I have to be at the ball park at noon. I’ll probably be there the rest of the day. I’ll take your car to the shop first thing though.”

“Thank you.”

“Tomorrow is the season opener.” He opened two tea bags and set them inside the mugs he’d taken from the cupboard. “My family is going to be there. I’d like you to come, too.”

“That’s a special day. You should spend it with them.”

He turned and faced her. “Haven’t you realized I think you’re special, too? I’m only sorry it’s taken us eight years to get reacquainted. And that it has to be at the beginning of my busiest time of work.”

Her eyes filled and she twisted away, trying to dash them off before Grant noticed. He seemed to sense her dismay and turned to the bagels. She forced herself to speak, to explain.

“Grant. I’m sorry. The tears aren’t because….” Her voice cracked. She took a deep breath and started again. “I’m amazed at how comfortable I am with you in such a short time. But I haven’t dated much in the last couple of years. I need to take things slowly. I do want to continue to see you as often as we can when you’re in town.”

The toaster popped and he plucked the two halves out then spread them with cream cheese.

“I’ve spent eight years waiting. And now that I’ve found you, I’m in a hurry to get to know everything about you. But I’ll be on the road a lot. So we’ve got six months to take things slowly. When I’m in town though, I’d like to see you.”

“I’d like that, too.”

“Will you come to the game tomorrow? I’ll be leaving Friday for ten days.”

“I don’t know…” her voice trailed off. “I need to get to work.”

“Here.” Grant handed her a bagel. “Eat this on the way. I’ll call you tonight and you can let me know. I’d love you to be there. But if you’d rather not, I understand. My family usually goes out for dinner after the game. I need to make an appearance at the team opening party. But I only have to stay a short time. Then we could meet up with everyone. Or not. Whatever you’re comfortable with.”

Cami took a bite of the bagel. Crunchy, chewy, and creamy filled her mouth. She swallowed. “I’ll think about it.” She tore off a piece and offered it to Petey before heading out to the borrowed Volvo.

She led their two-car convoy to the coffee shop, parking behind the café on Pacific Coast Highway, the thoroughfare connecting all the little beach towns. She waved good-bye at Grant in the Tahoe. He honked before returning her wave and driving past.

Painting kept her hands busy all day but her mind replayed Grant’s words. Had he really waited eight years for her?

At two o’clock, she started cleaning brushes and the Three Musketeers of Woodrow Wilson High arrived at the shop.

“Hey, Miss Henderson.” Kyle leaned against the counter, watching her snap lids on the plastic tubs of mixed glazes and tints.

“Hi. How was school?”

He shrugged. “Okay.”

Anthony and Tara joined them. “It’s looking great in here, Miss Henderson,” Tara said.

“It’s coming along. I hope to finish tomorrow.” Cami surveyed the swirls and whorls in the plaster walls and leaned in for a closer look. “I need to dry brush some of these raised areas.”

Tara ran her hand over the wall behind the counter. “It’s so beautiful. It really looks old.”

“That’s the idea.” Cami smiled.

“I wonder…” Tara’s voice trailed off.


“We’ve got to come up with some ideas to pitch at the school newspaper meeting later. I wonder if something about your painting would be interesting?”

“I doubt it. What are some of your other ideas?”

“That’s the problem.” Anthony joined the conversation. “We don’t have any.”

“I had a few,” Tara protested.

“ ‘Fashion tips’ is not an article. It’s just … well, tips,” Anthony said. “And the prom article is only going to be interesting to girls.”

Tara appealed to Cami. “I suggested a profile of all we do to get ready for prom. Choosing a dress, coordinating flowers, getting your hair done. What do you think?”

“It’s been too long since I went to a prom,” Cami said. “And I don’t do anything with my hair except wash it and put it in a ponytail to keep it out of the paint. I’m no help.”

“Can you give us any ideas at all?” Anthony asked.

“Have you looked at the Agua Vida Courier? What kind of stories are they doing?” Cami asked.

“How about a series on where the cafeteria gets its meat and produce?” Kyle asked.

“Every year, every paper in every school in every district in the state tries that one,” said Tara. “Let’s do something original.”

Cami saw Anthony open his mouth then close it.

“Anthony, did you have an idea?” she asked.

“Well, maybe,” he said. “I thought of something like a ‘Roaming Reporter’ feature thing. You know, where we ask kids at random for their thoughts. We could do it on gas guzzling SUV’s and get reactions about smog and the environment.”

Cami’s hands stopped shaping brush tips and she gave Anthony her full attention.

“That’s an interesting idea. What made you think of it?”

“I was watching the news last week and they did a story about a car dealer in Anaheim who had some SUV’s vandalized.”

“What do the rest of you think?” Cami watched the expressions on the others.

Kyle shrugged.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Tara said. All the faces were guileless.

“Hmmm. Well, I should probably tell you my Tahoe was vandalized yesterday so I don’t think I’m the right one to ask if that’s a good idea or not.”

“Oh, no!”

“What happened?”

“Not your beautiful Tahoe!” A chorus rose in outrage.

Cami held up a hand to stop the torrent.

“It happened when I was out last night. The car was in my driveway but no one saw anything. The police think it was a random act of vandalism against SUVs in general.”

They looked so crestfallen, she had to smile. “It’ll be okay. The Tahoe’s in the body shop.”

“So SUV vandalism is topical,” Anthony said.

“It is to me. Whether the readership of the school paper will think so, I don’t know. You should ask your advisor.”

The kids left a great deal more quietly than they’d arrived. Through the front window, Cami watched them pile into the Jeep. Anthony drove, looking for cross traffic before leaving the parking lot. She never thought about a student being behind the vandalism, but now she watched them and wondered.


Woe! It’s Wednesday…

I’m feeling a bit melancholy today.

It’s my sister’s birthday and no one knows if she’s speaking to us or not. She never returns calls or responds to messages/texts/smoke signals. When someone does find her, she insists she’s fine. It’s pretty obvious she’s not, but I don’t know what or how to “fix” it. I sent a card. I’ll try to call in a bit. I don’t expect either to be welcomed.

My daughter has a big birthday coming up. She’s going after her dreams and that’s exciting. I’m very proud of her and love her lots. I want her to be happy and to have everything her heart desires. At the same time,  we believe God is sovereign and He sometimes withholds things we think we want because He has something even better in store. It just gets hard to wait and trust.

There are some other strained family relationships just now, and occasions like birthdays, graduations, really any kind of celebration, brings all that angst to the foreground. And if the dozen funerals I’ve attended in the last ten months have shown me anything, it’s that we can’t take tomorrow for granted.

I let my domain name, carriepadgett.com, expire and some other Carrie Padgett snapped it up. Carriepadgett.net is still available though.

In the last 24 hours, my friend’s daughter was robbed at gunpoint, another friend was in a car accident (she’s okay), my brother’s adopted baby is beginning to move down the birth canal and preparing to make her entrance, and my dog got to go for a ride in the car. He loves it and doesn’t get to very often, so it was an unexpected treat for him. 

Life is full of surprises. Some good. Others, not so much.

My point is, we may not get a chance to change things, to make amends, to say “I’m sorry,” or “I love you,” or “I’ve missed you.”

Don’t let your day be full of regrets and wondering ‘what if.’

I’m preaching to myself now, but the problem is, I can see the issues, I just don’t know how to fix them. I can’t force prideful and selfish people to see things from another’s point of view. I can’t take someone else’s burdens from their shoulders.

All I can do is listen, pray, ask questions, and hope.

Time to make a phone call…


Today, I’m praying for: DJ and that dratted Bar exam, Marissa, Shawna, and Bob.

Currently reading: The Homecoming by Dan Walsh

Last movie: The Object of My Affections – missed it when it was new and caught it on TV. There’s a reason I didn’t bother to see it before now.

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Book Talk Tuesday

One of my favorite general market mystery authors is Margaret Maron.

She has two series, but is currently only writing the Judge Deborah Knott series.

I love Maron for lots of reasons.

1) She’s a lovely person, kind, and generous and thoughtful.

2) She breaks some of the writing “rules” and it works!

3) She knows her characters inside and out. They will never do something that isn’t in their makeup or without a compelling reason.

I was fortunate to be able to drive Ms. Maron around Fresno when she visited here in 2004. I got some one on one time with her and she’s all that I said above, plus some.

The How-to-Write-Fiction books give rules, such as:

  • Don’t have sprawling family trees because readers can’t keep track of that many characters.
  • Don’t have elderly characters because you might have to kill them off as time progresses and readers hate that.

Maron breaks both of those rules and her readers love her for that. Deborah is the only daughter of Kezzie Knott, a former bootlegger in North Carolina. Deborah has eleven older brothers. Thankfully, only a few of them live close by. And each book includes a family tree for easy reference. Kezzie is elderly and would be long gone if literary time kept pace with real time. But that’s the beauty of fiction: it doesn’t have to! The books move ahead nicely, but are now several years behind “real” time, so Mr. Kezzie is safe for quite a while longer.

Another popular author has lost credibility with me because of her lead character’s propensity for going into dangerous situations, knowing she shouldn’t. But she does it anyway.

The only time Deborah knowingly puts herself in danger, it’s because she really has no choice. Someone else’s safety is on the line. If Deborah is in a life or death situation, she doesn’t just blithely walk in, telling herself she’ll be fine even though the basement is dark, there are strange noises and she’s only armed with a rolling pin.

The first book in the series is Bootlegger’s Daughter. And they only get better.


Fiction Friday: Curve Ball Chapter 6

Last week got away from me and before I knew it, Friday had come and gone with nothing from Cami.

I’ll try not to let it happen again!


Curve Ball, Chapter 6


The three middle-aged women enjoying laser tag are based on my friends Barbara, Monica, and me when we tried it. We had a blast, just like these women.


Chapter Six

Paths wound through a maze. Cami made her way along, going slow until her eyes adjusted.

“What do I do now?” She twisted her head to ask Grant, but no one was there. Her harness vibrated. “What was that?” She heard a giggle and searched for its source. The kid from inside disappeared around a corner. All righty then.

She followed, expecting to find the child hiding, but saw only another corner. Disembodied hands and faces appeared briefly and she felt another vibration. How were they doing that? She raised the laser gun and pulled the trigger in the direction of the shadows up ahead. Oh, a tone. She must have hit someone. Hmmm.

She turned another corner and found a ramp. She moved up to the landing and paused. Vibration again. Who was getting her? Where were they? She peered over the side and took aim at someone slinking along the edges below. Tone and a hit. Yes.

She leaned around the side of the landing and checked out what was ahead. More mazes. She dashed up but another tremor hit the harness. She whirled around and pulled her trigger, aiming at nothing and everything.

“Man. You got me.” The kid was on the lower level.

“I told you I would,” she called over her shoulder as she continued up the ramp. “You said you were going to get me, too.” Grant appeared in front of her.

She swung her weapon up, took careful aim at his chest and was rewarded with a tone. “I believe I just did. Darn it. Where are you?” She whirled and headed down the ramp in pursuit of the youngster who kept getting bull’s-eyes at her expense. Grant’s chuckle trailed behind.

Time in the maze passed in a blur of laughter. When the lights came on and the laser guns quit firing, Cami was breathing hard and grinning. She followed the yellow arrows painted on the floor and returned to the equipment room.

The middle-aged women were already back, hanging up their vests and guns, giggling and talking as fast as the young people.

“You’re pretty good.” The youngster wriggled out of his harness and held up a hand for a high five.

“So are you.” She slapped his palm and exchanged glances with Grant who had entered. “What now?”

“We wait outside for the computer to spit out our scores and rankings.” He hung his gear on its peg and guided her through the door where the rest of their group milled around. The clerk emerged from behind the counter and began calling out names.

“The winner of this round with 16,570 points is Slugger.” A cheer rose as Grant bowed and accepted his scorecard.

“Second place goes to IceMan, and third is Skywalker.” A crowd formed as all the players waited to retrieve their scores. Hammer was called and Cami moved to center to accept her due.

“9,380,” she said to Grant. “Is that good?”

“Not bad at all, especially for a first timer.” He pointed to the bottom of the card. “This says how many shots you took, how many hit, and your shot to hit ratio. You ranked eighteenth out of twenty-four, with thirty percent of your shots hitting a target.” He grinned at her. “Did you enjoy it?”

“I really did.” She smiled back. “Thank you.”

“Let’s move on to the next challenge. Miniature golf.”

After collecting their equipment, they spent an hour sending golf balls toward castles, windmills, and other obstacles. Being evenly matched, they finished within a few strokes of each other.

“Well, shoot howdy, Miss Artist Lady, I guess we’ll have to have a rematch one of these here days right soon,” Grant said as they returned the putters to Anita. “Can I buy you a sarsaparilla?”

“I’d love one. And I want to challenge you to a round of Skee Ball in the arcade.”

After the arcade, they shared a pizza with Anita. Cami watched Grant talk with his old friend, impressed with his ability to make anyone feel at ease. She had long forgotten that he was famous. Some boys in the arcade recognized him so he spent twenty minutes signing autographs and giving batting tips. The smile never left his face and he seemed to enjoy it as much as the kids.

Cami sat at the counter and visited with Anita while Grant talked with his fans.

“He’s a nice man,” Anita said, following Cami’s gaze.

“Yes, he is.”

“I pray for him all the time.”

“You do?”

“It breaks my heart and it would kill his grandfather. If he weren’t already dead, of course.”

“What would?”

“The way Grant seems to feel that his talent has gotten him this far in baseball. He’s forgotten that his abilities are gifts. And we’re supposed to be thankful for gifts.”

“He isn’t grateful?”

“Well, he appreciates that he can throw a ball and run fast, but he takes it for granted. He thinks all he has to do is work hard and have a positive attitude. God is going to get his attention one day. I pray for it and dread it at the same time.”

Grant waved goodbye to the last fan and returned to Cami and Anita.

“It’s been fun, but I have colors to mix before work tomorrow,” Cami said. “I need to be getting home.”

“You come again anytime,” Anita said. “And don’t wait for Slugger here to bring you.”

“I’d like that.”

“I’m not sure I do.” Grant looked from Anita to Cami. “What have you two been talking about?”

“Just chatting,” Anita said. “Drive carefully. Cami, it was a pleasure meeting you.”

It was dark when Cami and Grant took the Agua Vida off ramp.

“I haven’t had so much fun in ages,” she said. “Thank you for a wonderful day. And I love Anita. She has a real soft spot for you.”

“She’s great,” he agreed. “I wish I could do more for her than visit once in a while.”

“What does she need?”

“It’s tough to be self-employed nowadays.”

She chuckled. “You don’t say? Really?”

“I’m preaching to the choir, I take it.”

“We formed our support group for a reason. Do you think Anita would like to visit us sometime? Maybe get some marketing ideas?”

He glanced at her. “You’d invite her? To your young women’s network?”

“They’d love her, too.” Cami paused, not wanting to say the wrong thing. “They may have younger viewpoints, but we all see the value of knowing what works and what doesn’t for other businesswomen. Anita could bring a more mature perspective.”

“You’d do that?”

“Of course.” She shrugged. “I’ll call her before our next meeting.”

“Thank you,” he said, making the turn onto her street. “I hope Meredith took care of everything.”

“I’m sure she did.”

As Grant pulled into her driveway, the headlights illuminated the driver’s side of Cami’s vehicle.

She saw it a split second before he did. It took a moment for her brain to process what her eyes were seeing.

One word had been spray-painted in bold strokes, the red letters harsh against her navy blue Tahoe. WHY?


Woe! It’s Wednesday


Today will be a bit different. Instead of a rant, I’m going to share a real woe.

My “aunt” Gloria Miller died last week. I put the aunt in quotes because she was technically my step-aunt. My mother married Gloria’s brother when I was 9 years old. I had a sister and two brothers.

Some of the family looked at us askance. Who was this woman with her four kids and did she think she’d found a man who would support her and those children?

I’m sure Mom was snubbed and questioned and doubted. Forty-two years later, I think most people realize Mom wasn’t a gold-digger (or worse) and theirs is a love-match.

Aunt Gloria treated us kids like her “real” nieces and nephews.

When our family moved from the Bay Area to the Central Valley, she and Uncle Keith helped Dad find a job and us find a home. She let me stay with them when the family went out of town and I needed to stay home.

When David and I got engaged, she hosted our engagement party.

She never made me feel like a “step” anything. Her sons treated us as cousins and we love each other.

She’d been sick and we knew it wasn’t going to be much longer.

Yesterday was the funeral. Although I hadn’t seen one cousin in 13 years and the other one in 20, we started talking like it had been a week.

The beauty of funerals is that it allows you to cut past the superfluous and right to the important stuff.  The hovering presence of death reminds us to not waste this moment. When asked “How are you?” the correct answer isn’t “Fine. And you?” It’s “I’ve been struggling with (fill in the blank) and it’s been hard. But I’m glad to be here and so glad to see you.” Or anything real, anything that tells how we really are.

Several times yesterday we mentioned how Aunt Gloria loved having her family together in one place. It didn’t happen often enough. It’s a fact of life that funerals are frequently the way it happens.

She would have loved yesterday. All her children and grandchildren gathered. Her brothers. Their kids. Her cousins. The only thing missing was Aunt Gloria’s beautiful smile.


Book Talk Tuesday: GLAPPPS

Anyone who’s read it knows instantly what GLAPPPS stands for. 
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a masterpiece.
It’s part romance, part humor, part social commentary, part self-help, part historical, and completely wonderful.
GLAPPPS is an epistolary tale. Letters fly between writer Juliet Ashton and residents of the Isle of Guernsey in the months after World War II. Germany invaded and occupied Guernsey for most of the war and the islanders were hungry for … well, everything. Food, news, books, contact with England, and, most especially, news of family and friends who left the island when the invasion began.
The characters emerge from the pages as real people. The relationships grow and blossom.
I don’t think this story could have been told any other way except through the exchange of letters.
It’s wonderful and highly recommended!


Woe! It’s Wednesday

I’ve been thinking about the dangers of extremism.
Specifically, the danger of extreme feminism.
I’ve talked about my friend who told me I had a moral imperative to vote for Hilary Clinton on the basis of her possession of ovaries.
Curiously, the moral imperative wasn’t valid when it came to Sarah Palin. Governor Palin was a book banner and all kinds of other horrible, terrible things including unfit to govern the dog pound.
Today, a couple of friends and I discussed the recent Mel Gibson news.
One friend called his girlfriend “a slut.” Because she felt it was obvious the girlfriend snared Mel and got pregnant just to make some money. And, not incidentally, broke up a long term marriage.
The other friend was offended at the term “slut.”
“I would never call another woman a ‘slut,’" she said.
She had no problem calling Mel a “racist, sexist bastard.”
And there’s the problem with extremism of any kind: the double standard.
If a woman can’t be a slut, then a man shouldn’t be a bastard.
That’s my rant and I’m sticking to it.
Praying for: Amber, Taryn & Josh, Laura
Currently reading: Get Out of That Pit by Beth Moore
Last movie: I recently re-watched Must Love Dogs. I read the book by Claire Cook several years ago. Then watched the movie. I saw it coming up on TV so I scheduled the DVR, then watched it again. In the meantime, I read another Claire Cook book and noticed her propensity for including “wacky” senior citizen parental characters. I taped the movie to see if the dad was as wacky as I remembered. Yep.


Book Talk Tuesday

When I attend writer's conferences and meet "famous" authors, sometimes it's intimidating to make conversation.

I've discovered a sure fire ice breaker.

I ask what they've read recently that they loved. Or what's the best book they read in the last few months. Anything to get the conversational ball rolling. And, I've read some seriously good books because of it.

Here's one that I would never have picked up on my own, but I loved it. It's moving and sad and haunting.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay is a World War II story set in France. It alternates between the present day and the 1942 round up of French Jews who were shipped to Auschwitz.

Sarah's family lives in Paris and are certain they are safe, in spite of the growing German sympathies.

Julia is an American married to a Frenchman and living in Paris in contemporary times. Julia writes for an American magazine and is assigned a story on the French deportations. As Julia researches and learns about the roundups, she is drawn into a chilling story that reaches into the present day.

I loved this story. The characters were real to me. I felt Sarah's heart break and Julia's soul crack open, then begin to heal. It's a book you won't forget. Ever.


Fiction Friday: Curve Ball, Chapter 5

My friend Debbie is a faux painter like Cami. She generously and patiently answered my questions, let me follow her around and watch and take notes, and set up an opportunity for me to pick her and her co-worker’s brains. Thanks, Deb!


Curve Ball

Chapter Five

The next week passed quickly. Cami finished the panetteria walls to Janis’s satisfaction, collected her check, and moved on to the insurance company mural. Although she had to be more careful of paint dribbles and spatter and Petey couldn’t come, she enjoyed being in an occupied business again after the solitude of the café. The phones ringing, the teasing banter among the employees, and the constant availability of tea helped her forget the continuing hang-up calls at home in the evenings. There had been no more sign of a red station wagon though so Cami convinced herself the calls were a wrong number. A lot of wrong numbers.

By Saturday morning, a week after Grant gave her his house key, Cami felt ready to start thinking about the shades of leather she wanted to paint in his office. She sat on her back stoop in slippers, lounging pants, and a sweatshirt against the early spring damp, with her English Breakfast tea and the cordless phone. She dialed Paige’s cell phone.

“Paige Wagner.” Cami heard a rhythmic whoosh in the background.

“What shades are you doing in Grant’s office?”

“Who. Is. This?” Ahh. The choppy breathing tipped her off. Paige was exercising.

“How many friends do you have that call you on a Saturday morning to discuss colors?”

“Is this Kennie?”

“Very funny.” Cami sipped her tea and grinned at the image of Paige, walking on her treadmill, making notes on her Palm Pilot, and talking on her hands-free phone.

“What are you doing up at the crack of mid-morning?”

“The mural is almost done. I can’t get back in there until Tuesday, so I thought I would work on sample boards for Grant’s office.”

“His desk is a medium cherry wood. I found some great bookcases at a consignment shop in Laguna Niguel. They’ll look great. Do you want to take a drive with me and go see them?”

“If this afternoon is okay. I’ll do some boards now, take them with us and see how close I got.”

“Meet me at the mall. One o’clock?”

“See you then.” Cami set the phone on the step and continued to sip her tea. The sun sat above the trees in the park east of her. Petey headed around the side of the house after trotting around and across the back of the property. Oranges hung from the trees, their scent filling the yard, infusing it with spring and hope. Cami leaned against the house, took a deep breath and let a ripple of contentment wash over her.

A whimper and a flash of brown streaking toward her snatched her back to the present. Petey passed her and went through his pet door at full speed, the plastic flap snapping shut behind him.

“What the…?” Cami stood and looked around the corner into the front yard. Everything appeared normal. She opened the back door and went through the laundry room into the kitchen to find her guard dog sitting in his bed, quivering. “Petey, what’s wrong?” She rubbed behind his ears as he pawed at her. “Stay off. You know you’re too big for me to hold.”

She returned to the door and surveyed the yard again. A frisson of unease swept through her, erasing her earlier contentment like an ocean tide over sand. Grabbing her pepper spray out of the knapsack on the dryer, she opened the back door a crack and leaned around the opening. “Is anyone there?” Her voice cracked. She cleared her throat and tried again. “Hello! Who’s there?”


She inched out the door to stand on the stoop. After a full minute of silence except for a lawn mower down the street, she moved off the steps and across the lawn. Her slippers scuffed over the grass as she approached the side of her property and continued into the front yard where Petey had been scared off.

Gate closed. No toilet paper in the redwood tree. No graffiti across the sidewalk. Everything looked fine. She breathed deeply and her heartbeat slowed to a brisk walk instead of a gallop. She glanced around one more time before returning to the back door. Then she saw it.

But - why would a teddy bear be sitting at her front door? Cami looked around again, still not seeing anyone. She stood and stared into the trees across the street. No one. She gingerly stepped up each of the three stairs to the porch.

Yes, a stuffed bear sat at the door. Cami picked it up and examined it. About twelve inches tall, the bear had light brown fur and wore a sombrero with slits cut into the brim for its ears to poke out of. It was darling. But where did it come from? She didn’t question Petey’s reaction to it. He sounded an alarm if the rubber band on the newspaper snapped as the paper hit the pavement. A strange animal on his front porch would terrify him.

Cami surveyed the neighborhood again. Everything looked absolutely-one-hundred-percent-spring-Saturday normal. Kids in the playground across the street, couples walking through the trees, skateboarders careening around obstacles. She rubbed the bear’s velvety ears sticking through its hat as she continued searching the street. Finally she shrugged and went inside.

By four o’clock that afternoon, the teddy bear and where it came from had been relegated to the mid-recesses of Cami’s mind. After checking the alarm system, she had spent the rest of her morning layering paint and tissue paper and more paint on half a dozen sheets of foam board. She had laid them carefully across the back of the Tahoe, letting them dry as she drove north to meet Paige.

Paige had pulled her through a consignment shop, showing Cami the bookcases she had chosen. Then Paige insisted on a tour of several other antique stores, to evaluate what else was available before returning to the shop where they started.

“What do you think?” Paige looked at Cami with raised eyebrows.

Cami sat on the floor with several of the sample boards, holding the different colors up next to the bookcase, finding the best harmonizing shade. “I have to find the right color to paint the wall next to it. They need to complement each other, not match exactly.”

Paige picked up one of the boards. “Oooh, burnt sienna, I love you. Your name goes with your eyes.” She set it back down. “There, is that enough of a compliment? Or should I talk about its personality? Will it be insulted if it thinks I only like it for its looks?”

“Ha. Ha. Ha.” Cami looked at her friend. “Did I complain when you dragged me to three different stores to look at bookcases? Bookcases that were all the same wood, with the same number of shelves, and the same size? No, I did not. Now it’s your turn.”

“Fine.” Paige leaned against the wall and slid her back down it to sit beside Cami. “But you’re going to owe me.”

“We’ll be even.” Cami placed another board on the reject pile and held up the two finalists. “Anyway, I’m done. For now.”

“Which one’s the winner?”

“It’ll be one of these. I want to see them both in the room before I make a final decision.”

“Let’s go now.” Paige stood and gathered up the boards.

“Go where? Wait a minute.” Cami scrambled to her feet and tried to take the boards away from Paige. “They have to be stacked with plastic between them. Here.” Cami reached for a nearly invisible stack of acetate sheets, expertly sliding one between each of the painted squares.

“To Grant’s. You have the key, right?”

“You’re crazy, we can’t go there.”

“Of course we can.”

“What if he’s there?”

“We’ll knock first.” Paige grabbed the stacked samples and headed for the door, leaving Cami to gather the two finalists and her purse. She hurried after her friend, wondering how Paige always made her do what she didn’t want to do.

Grant drove around the corner and stomped on the brake. Cami’s Tahoe sat in front of his house. What the…. A honk behind him nudged his foot on to the gas pedal. He pulled into his driveway and sat.

What to do? She had obviously come to do something in the office. And since he wasn’t home, she’d used the key and gone in. So how could he enter his own home without terrifying her? She was so skittish, she’d probably be in the office with a paintbrush in one hand and brass knuckles in the other.

He considered calling his home number from his mobile phone. The answering machine would pick up. But what would he say? “Hey Grant, it’s Grant. I’m home now and coming in.” And the machine was in the kitchen anyway, not the office. She probably wouldn’t even hear the message. Well, he’d have to go in and make plenty of noise, warn her he was coming.

He pressed the button on the garage door opener and pulled inside. He put the ‘vette into Park and stepped on the gas twice, winding up the engine a little. He slammed the door, too. He unlocked the door from the garage into the laundry room, took a deep breath and stuck his head inside.

“Orca!” he called. “Here kitty.” The cat wouldn’t come without a strong incentive. “I got tuna,” he called. He eased himself into the small room, listening. And was rewarded with a female voice from down the hall.


“Hi. Is someone here?”

“It’s us.” Paige’s head popped into view. “Cami and I are in your office. Come see.”

He tossed keys and a cap on to the counter and followed the laughter to his office.

“Hi.” Cami sat on the floor across from the door, smiling at him. Paige stood spread-eagled next to the wall Cami would be painting. In each hand, she held a two foot square piece of something against the wall. “These are the colors we’re deciding between. What do you think?”

“Hmmm. Umbrian brown or cordovan?” He stood near Cami, assessing the samples.

“You’re making that up,” Paige said.

“I told you I helped the kitchen designer. I’m probably the only Coyote who knows the difference between Dune, Delta Sand, and Butter Cream.”

“That last one is cake frosting,” Paige said.

He laughed. “It’s also countertop colors.”

“Can you make a choice, please? My arms are aching.”

“What do you think?” he asked Cami.

“I’m leaning toward the cordovan. We looked at the bookcases this afternoon and I wanted to see the colors on the wall.”

“Cordovan it is,” he said.

“Thank you.” Paige dropped her arms with a whoosh and a sigh.

Cami took the boards from Paige and a pen from the desk top and wrote on the back of each board.

“I hate to say I was going to order a pizza again,” Grant said. “But if you can stay, I’ll order out. Chinese tonight? Or Mexican.”

Cami looked up. “I can’t.” She must have realized how abrupt she sounded because she hurried on. “I mean, it would be nice. But I really do need to go home. I want to try a new pounding brush I bought and I need to practice with it before I start in here.”

He didn’t want to let her get away. Not without knowing when he’d see her again. “You’re not going to paint all day tomorrow, too. Are you?”

“Of course not. I have church in the morning.”

He smiled. “How about if I visit your church? And we can do something after?”

“Paige?” Cami asked.

“I’d love to, but I’ve got to go to my folk’s church tomorrow. Command performance.”

Cami’s expression grew guarded. “I don’t know.” She looked at Paige who seemed to be busy examining the flooring in the office.

“Come on, it’ll be fun. The season starts Tuesday and I’ll be busy for the next six months. Hopefully.”

“You will?” Why did she seem pleased at the thought of his hectic pace in the next weeks?

“Yep. After Tuesday, goofing off will be a luxury I won’t have time for.”

“Well…” She seemed to be weakening, so he forged ahead.

“We could get a quick lunch and I have somewhere I want to take you.”

She still hesitated. “I’m uncomfortable riding with someone I don’t know very well without knowing where I’m going. It’s a security thing.”

He considered for a moment. “How about if you drive? I’ll be the passenger and navigate.”

She chewed her bottom lip. “I guess that would be all right.”

“Great.” Just like last week, he wanted to hurry out of the room before she changed her mind.

Paige seemed to have the same thought. “I need to get going. Are you two all set?”

Cami looked at him and smiled. “I’ll see you at church tomorrow morning.”

The sun reflected off the white clapboard building behind Cami. Someone’s idea of a little chapel on the beach, it looked like it would be more at home on the windswept Maine coast. Cami spent a few minutes visiting with some acquaintances from the singles class while she waited for Grant out front.

“Hi, Miss Henderson.”

Cami looked over her shoulder. Kyle and some other students approached.

“Hi, guys. How was youth group today?”

“Great.” Kyle answered for them all. “We’re planning a lock-in in a couple of weeks. We’re going to spend all night doing stuff, then come back here to the gym for pizza and movies. We’ll play broom hockey, maybe go bowling.” He paused as he looked around. “It’s an outreach kind of thing, where we invite unchurched kids. I was thinking of asking some of the guys from the baseball team. What do you think?”

“Good idea. Speaking of the team, how did you enjoy the clinic with Grant Andrews last week?”

“Awesome!” This time a different student spoke up. “He really knows technique,” Jared said. “I’ve been playing since first grade T-Ball and no one ever told me I needed to change my grip for a bunt as I grew up. I practiced drag bunts all week.”

Expressions of shock and shyness appeared on the kid’s face. Grant had arrived.

A gentle touch on her arm warmed her as he greeted Kyle and the others.

“We were talking about the clinic the other day,” Cami said.

“Yeah, Mr. Andrews. Thanks again for coming,” Kyle said. He shuffled from foot to foot, looking uncomfortable.

“You’re very welcome,” Grant answered. “Are you ready to go in?” he asked Cami.

She nodded and they hurried inside to find seats in an oak pew near the middle of the sanctuary.

Cami settled into her spot next to Grant. He carried a Bible, and had no trouble finding the passage the pastor used for his sermon text, First Samuel, chapter seventeen, the story of David and Goliath.

Pastor Mike gave some background to the familiar story. The Philistines had been taunting the Israelites and mocking their God. Then David stepped forward to show the heathen that God would not be ridiculed.

Cami drifted back to the conversation with Grant the week before. She was troubled by his confession that he had only gone to church because his mother made him. Her relationship with God was vital and she didn’t want to diminish it by becoming involved with a man who didn’t share her beliefs. But the last guy she dated claimed to be a man of strong faith and values and he….

She dragged her thoughts back to the pulpit. Pastor Mike stood over six feet tall, with a full head of dark hair. He was distantly related to a Chicago mobster of the 1930’s whom he declined to name. His favorite joke involved getting his cousin Guido to take care of problem parishioners. He had a sense of humor that most of his flock appreciated, and the few that didn’t soon left for duller pastures.

After the service, Cami and Grant paused to shake Pastor Mike’s hand. She introduced Grant who complimented the sermon. “I never thought about Goliath as a symbol of something huge in my own life. And that we all have a Goliath to struggle with.”

“Don’t think about it too hard,” Pastor Mike said. “I could be wrong and Goliath was just a big man who fell hard when he mocked a great God.”

Grant grinned. “How long have you been the pastor here? I remember a short dweeby guy.”

“A dweeb?” Pastor Mike roared with laughter. “I’ve never heard Doctor Lawrence described quite that way.”

Grant grimaced. “I guess that’s not a Christian-like description.”

“But accurate. I’ve been here five years in June.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” Grant said. “And if it’s okay, I’ll think about your message and try to apply it to my life.”

Pastor Mike shrugged. “Suit yourself.” The wink he gave Cami told her he knew exactly what he was doing. “The biggest lesson for me in today’s Scripture is that as humans, we usually measure our opponents against our own strength. Whether we’re dealing with rude bosses or a smoking habit or a brain tumor. We think we can’t stand up to our problems. And we can’t, if we try to slug it out on our own. But when we compare the obstacle to God and His resources, there’s no contest.”

“That’s an interesting thought.” Grant seemed to consider Pastor Mike’s words.

“If I would only listen to myself, I could get rid of these ten pounds that sneaked up on my gut when I wasn’t looking.”

Grant laughed as they said good-bye to Pastor Mike and made their way to the parking lot. Walking to their cars, Grant held Cami’s elbow but she pulled away, conscious of the stares of many people following them. Including Kyle and his friends.

“Should we leave from here? Or I can drop my car off at your house. You’re the driver, so what would you like?” Grant didn’t seem to notice her retreat as he patted his pockets searching for keys.

“Let’s go to my house. I forgot to feed Petey this morning, so I really need to give him something before we take off. You can follow me.” She gave the interior of the Tahoe a quick glance through the rear window before climbing in.

“Lead the way.” Grant waved, clicked off his alarm and folded himself into the ‘Vette parked next to her.

She pulled into her driveway a few minutes later as Grant stopped at the curb in front.

“I’ll be right back,” she called to him, punching in her security code.

“Take your time,” he called through the open passenger window.

Cami entered her house and called to Petey. The dog’s tail thumped as she entered the kitchen. He still chewed on that mitt. Never mind trying to figure out where it came from, get ready to buy a new one for the kid that will soon be knocking on the door. She scooped some dry food into a dish from the bin under the sink. Petey dropped the mitt and headed for the kibble.

Cami stuck her head out the front door to call to Grant who now leaned against his car.

“Do you mind if I take another minute to change?”

“Fine with me. But we have a problem. You have a flat.”

“What?” Cami hurried out of the house to look at her SUV. Sure enough, the left rear tire sat level on the pavement. “How did that happen?”

“Maybe you picked up a nail. Sometimes that’ll happen, but it won’t deflate right away. I can change it if you’d like.”

“I guess so…”

“Is it open? I’ll get started while you finish inside.”

“Just a sec.” Cami retrieved her keys and tossed them to him. “The spare is mounted under the rear.”

“Okay.” Grant leaned down at the back of the vehicle while Cami returned inside.

Ten minutes later, she had changed from church clothes into a pair of cropped khaki pants and a lime green top. She wasn’t sure how to dress since Grant hadn’t told her exactly where they were going, but thought the outfit versatile enough for whatever the day held. She checked the mirror for confirmation. Her hair had started the day behaving itself on her shoulders, but now it looked like it was considering a rebellion. She pulled it back into a pony tail, secured it with a rubber band and shrugged. At least it wasn’t frizzy like after a full day at work. She picked up her purse from the table.

“We’ve got another problem.” Grant now sat on her front porch steps.

“I’m afraid to ask.”

“Your spare is flat, too.”

“You’re kidding me.” Is this a joke or a plot, she wondered. Second date curse? In the music business, Kennie called it the sophomore slump. Maybe there was a sports or baseball term for it too.

“I’m starting to think you really don’t want to take me anywhere today.”

“It seems that way, doesn’t it? But I’m looking forward to whatever you had planned.”

“Me, too. What should we do?”

Cami thought for a moment, then straightened her back and made a decision. “I refuse to be dictated to by an inanimate piece of vulcanized rubber. Let me call my friend, Meredith, from our networking group. She has a garage and can get someone over here to fix the tires. And if you’ll tell me where we’re going, I’ll let her know, too. That will take care of my security issues and I’ll ride with you in your car.”

“How about if I talk to her directly? That way she’ll know where you are and she can tell you if she doesn’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Deal.” Cami went into the house and brought out her portable phone. She pushed speed dial number six. Meredith answered on the second ring. After explaining the tire situation, Cami handed the phone to Grant, then went into the house to get a sweater. She froze as she opened the closet behind the front door.

Grant could lie to Meredith.

She stared into the closet, not seeing her white cardigan. The decision to go with him felt right. She didn’t usually trust her own emotions, but Grant’s easy acceptance of the car troubles reassured her that he wasn’t planning to kidnap her. He had been nothing but kind. And if he did lie, at least Meredith would know who she’d been seen with last. She smiled and reached for the sweater. A few days ago, the thought that a man could be lying would have sent her locking all the doors and setting alarms. Now, she’d convinced herself to trust him.

When Cami returned to the porch, Grant stood talking to Meredith as if they’d been friends for years.

“Okay, I’ll let you know how it goes. And be sure your guy checks the other tires. Maybe even the fluid levels, too…. Yes, here she is.” Grant handed the phone to Cami.

“I think it’s a great idea for a Sunday afternoon,” Meredith said. “I’ll call you tonight, to make sure you got home fine. Just enjoy your afternoon and your car will be ready when you get back. Put the key on top of the front driver’s side tire.”

“Thanks, Mare. I appreciate it.” Cami turned to go inside and spoke quietly into the receiver. “How about a hint where we’re going?”

Meredith laughed. “And ruin the fun? No way.”

“Traitor.” Cami disconnected and set the phone on the table inside, shut the door and set the alarm. A moment later she reached inside the Tahoe’s front wheel well to leave her key. “I’m ready.”

After a few minutes on the southbound freeway, Grant exited and turned the car into a parking lot with a sign announcing Welcome to Fairway FunLand! Miniature Golf, Arcade, Laser Tag, Pizza.

“An arcade?” This was not what she had expected. A late lunch and a movie, maybe. Or a drive down the coast. But an arcade?

“Actually, we’re here for the laser tag.” He held the door and they entered the lobby, a large room full of computer-style games, but with some old pinball machines as well. A bank of Skee Ball alleys stood against one wall with a counter opposite. Teenagers in red polo shirts and baseball caps were selling pizza slices and helping coupon-clutching children choose their prizes.

“Grant! If I’d known you were coming, I’d have gotten dolled up.” A short, round woman approached, wearing the same uniform as the employees.

Grant turned and enveloped her in a bear hug.

“I like you the way you are, natural and unspoiled.” He released her and turned toward Cami.

The woman slipped her arm through his. “Promises, promises. One of these days I’m going to get tired of waiting for you to propose, and I’ll accept one of the other men who keep begging me to marry them.”

“Don’t you dare. I’d have to fight them all and I’m extremely busy right now.”

“Who did you bring to see me?” She extended her hand to Cami.

“Anita, I’d like you to meet Camille Henderson. Cami and I went to high school together and we’re getting reacquainted. I thought I better introduce her to my heritage. And to my favorite older woman.”

“You’re incorrigible.” Anita elbowed Grant in the side. “Nice to meet you, Cami. I hope you can putt and shoot, otherwise you’re in trouble.”

“Shoot?” Cami shook Anita’s hand and glanced at Grant with raised eyebrows.

“My great-grandfather built this place. ‘Course then it was just a miniature golf course. My grandfather ran it after that and added the pinball arcade. Since Dad wasn’t interested, Gramps sold out to Anita and her husband when I was in junior high. They put in the laser tag and pizza ovens.”

“Since Jacob passed on, I’ve been running it myself.” Anita looked at Grant fondly. “But I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. Aging is a high price to pay for maturity. I finally think I know what I’m doing, but I’m too decrepit to enjoy it.”

“You’ll outlive us all,” Grant said. He turned to Cami. “I’ve always loved this place and I try to come often when I’m in town. I haven’t been here since spring training though, so I’m a little rusty. Have you ever played laser tag?”

“Golf is my game. I’m the family champion.”

“We’ll play both, to be fair.”

“And if we both win our chosen events?”

“We come back for a rematch.” He smiled. “Deal?”

“Deal. What are the rules for laser tag?”

“Anita, I think we’ll be needing some weapons.” He blew on the tips of his fingers and walked to the counter with a bow-legged gait. Cami laughed and followed.

Anita wished them well and hurried off to the prize counter where two boys stood, both with fistfuls of tickets and determined expressions on their faces. The employee held one Star Wars Darth Vader action figure and wailed for Anita.

At the laser tag sign-in, Grant gave her a quick lesson. “First, we choose code names. I’m always Slugger. What name do you want?”

She hesitated. “I’m not good at thinking up clever names like this.”

“Let’s brainstorm. What are your hobbies?”

She wrinkled her brow, thinking. “Petey.”

“Do you have a mentor at work? A favorite super-hero? Or an artist you admire?”

“Hmmm.” She considered. “I’ve always liked Mary Cassatt.”

“Perfect. You can be Hammer.”

“How did you get Hammer from Mary Cassatt?”

“Her initials.”

“I’m still lost.”

“Remember M.C. Hammer? Singer slash rapper slash dancer in the ‘90’s?”

“I get it.” She laughed. “I actually like it.”

They gave their names to the teenager behind the counter who handed them each a plastic tag with a metal slug embedded in one end.

“What is this?” Cami asked, as they joined the line waiting near a doorway that looked like it belonged in a medieval castle.

“Your name is coded into it. When we get inside, we’ll choose our equipment and this will transfer your name to your weapon so the computer can track your shots and hits.”

“Is the computer named HAL? Or Big Brother?”

“We call it The One Behind the Curtain. To Be The C, for short.”

Cami tried to smile, but a tickle of unease raced up her spine. “How does this work?”

“The staff will explain. Basically, you strap on a harness with laser activated points on the chest, back, and shoulders. When you get hit, the harness will vibrate and your weapon will be useless for a few seconds.”

Cami looked around, assessing the other players. A mixture of teens and younger kids with a sprinkling of adults. “What about when I hit you?”

“Me? The Slugger?” He shook his head. “No, no, no. You won’t be hitting me.”

She faced him. “You’re awfully confident.”

“I’m The Slugger.”

She laughed. “Well, hypothetically, what happens when I hit you? Or someone else.”

“You hear a tone and the computer scores a hit for you.”

The clerk who assigned their code names opened the wooden doors and the crowd surged into a large room. Ultraviolet lights cast a purple glow on faces and many of the other players seemed to disappear, leaving their heads and hands floating in the dark.

“We should have worn black. We’re major targets,” Grant murmured.

The group waited while the end of the line entered. A boy about ten or eleven caught Cami’s eye. He grinned in anticipation and pointed at Grant. “I’m gonna get him,” the child mouthed.

She returned his smile and pointed back. “I’m gonna get you.” The nervousness dancing in her stomach composed itself.

They all listened to a safety lecture and dutifully repeated the rules together.

“I will not run. I will not lie down or kneel. I will not trip anyone. I will play fair.”

Another door opened and they entered the armory. Cami and Grant moved to the back of the room where he helped her put on a harness and showed her where to latch it. Excited laughter echoed around the room. Cami lifted the laser gun, testing its weight and maneuverability.

“It’s point and shoot, like an arcade.” Grant finished his own fastening and grinned at her, his teeth and eyes purple in the light.

The absurdity struck her and Cami laughed. “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this. I’m about a million years older than all the other players.”

“You’ll love it. And you’re not the oldest one here.”

She checked to see and did find other adults. Some were obviously parents, but nearby a trio of middle-aged women were struggling into their harnesses. Cami reached out to help one of them find the latch that remained barely out of touch over her shoulder.

“Thanks.” The woman finished the final snaps as the last door opened. Kids hopped in anticipation and a dusty haze floated overhead.

“See you in twenty minutes, Hammer.” Grant stood to one side, grinning and waiting for her to go through the door.

She met his eyes, took a deep breath, gulped, and stepped into the darkness.


Woe! It's Wednesday

I'm not in a particularly cranky mood, so I don't have much to rant about today. Even though we're in a national park and their usual attitude of "Where's your entrance fee? Now, get out," irritates me. So far, it's been a very pleasant trip.

Yesterday we went into Yosemite Valley. Some of our party hiked down from Glacier Point. The rest of us dropped them off, then drove on and visited the store, and the Ansel Adams gallery. Rangers were very helpful. A park service employee was directing traffic and he asked if we were having a good time. Someone said, "Better than you. We're not at work." He quickly retorted, with a gesture to the granite rocks surrounding us, "But I get to work here." We chuckled and admitted he had the last word.

It all comes down to attitude. If you say you enjoy something, and work at convincing others, pretty soon you believe it, too.

The power of positive thinking is contagious. So I think I'll go spread a little of it.

Book Talk Tuesday

I'm on vacation and I was so busy the week before that I forgot to write and schedule this week's blog posts. I'm hoping the ol' laptop doesn't fail me now.


I'm almost done with Jodi Picoult's Picture Perfect.  I'm enjoying it, but it's very different for her other novels that I've read. It's one of her early works and I definitely see how her craft has grown and deepened. Cassie is an amnesiac anthropologist. Her husband is an abusive Hollywood mega-star. It sounds more like a Danielle Steel novel, but Picoult has made me believe in Cassie.

My first Jodi Picoult was My Sister's Keeper. I loved it, even the ending. Lots of people hate the ending, but for me, it was the only way it could end and be consistent with all the characters.

I also read The Tenth Circle and loved it. The movie was very good. I didn't really buy Ron Eldard as the conflicted father but Kelly Preston did a great job as the mother. The teenage characters were believeable. This book should be required reading for every parent of teens in our country.

In my humble opinion, Jodi Picoult is one of the best writers publishing today. Her characters are real, even in unreal situations.

I also found a couple of movies based on Picoult's works that I watched in the last few months. Of course, the theatrical version of Sister's Keeper did pretty well, in spite of changing the ending 180 degrees.

The Pact could have been great. It was just mediocre as a movie.

The Plain Truth was excellent. Mariska Hargitay as an investigator who lives with an Amish family while trying to figure out what happened to the baby found dead. Part Agnes of God and part Witness, the movie is worth adding to your DVR or Netflix queue.

Praying for: Cindy's father in law, Josh, Tony, and Avila


Fiction Friday: Curve Ball, Chapter 4

Our dog, Seamus, who passed away in February, was the basis for Cami’s dog Petey. Seamus was named Petey when he came to live with us. He was a big scaredy cat and a momma’s boy.


Curve Ball

Chapter Four

Cami’s mobile phone rang as she started up the onramp to the freeway. Even without checking the caller ID, she knew it was Paige. Something about the ring’s urgency gave her away.


“You are something else.”

“I had to go. Petey-”

“Save the excuses. Petey enjoys smelling like a cannery.”

“Yeah, but I have to live with him.”

“Anyway, what are you doing around four o’clock?”

“Why?” After Paige’s stunt on the beach, Cami wasn’t going to be ambushed again.

“I have to go by a client’s house. I thought you could come with me and then we could see a movie or have dinner or something.”

“Who’s the client? Anyone I know?”

Paige sighed. “It’s Grant.”

“Honestly, Paige. Do you think I’m stupid?” Cami glanced over her shoulder and in her rear view mirror before changing lanes. Another red station wagon, like yesterday’s, followed several car lengths behind.

“Not stupid. Just in need of a little personal assisting.”

“I’m not interested in dating.”

“You told me you were ready.”

“I lied.”

“Anyway, it’s not a date. I have a business appointment with a former acquaintance. You can come with me while I do the initial appraisal. He’ll offer us a soda. We’ll talk for a few minutes. Then we leave and go to our movie.”

Cami drove in silence, thinking and watching that wagon still behind her.

“Come on, Cami. I’ll look at his office and we’ll be out of there. And you’ll have done something scary and lived to tell about it.”

She took a deep breath. “What’s the address?”

“He gave me directions last night.” Paige rattled off an address above the Newport Beach golf course and disconnected.

Before I can change my mind, Cami thought. Thankfully she reached her exit and watched the station wagon continue past. Her grip on the steering wheel eased as the other vehicle dropped out of sight. Then tightened again as she realized what she had agreed to do.

Ninety minutes later, Cami drove at exactly sixty-five miles per hour as she headed north on the 73 Freeway. She didn’t want to arrive any earlier than she had to. After hosing Petey off in the back yard, she’d let him shake excess water out before toweling him dry. Snoring from his basket on the back porch was all the good-bye she got.

Now she forced herself to think about the rest of the evening. She would stay for an hour, then make an excuse about having to be at church early the next morning. As she exited the freeway and continued up Jamboree, Cami resumed a conversation with God.

Why did you get me into this? If anything happens, I will never forgive you. She took her foot off the gas pedal, slowing as she approached the turn on to Ocean Vista and shook her head. She knew better than to try to dictate anything to God. As soon as you prayed for perseverance, you were in impossible situations. Or if you requested peace, turmoil erupted. She once asked for patience and the next day met Kennie.

She shrugged, forcing her thoughts to the current dilemma: how to get out of this evening. Paige’s Audi was parked in front of a nondescript house. White with blue shutters, it sure didn’t scream “Superstar Athlete.” Cami parked behind the metallic blue Audi and got out. Her hands shook as she pressed the remote control button to lock the Tahoe and set the alarm.

A cement walkway led to a porch that stretched across the front of the low-slung ranch-style house. There were a few shrubs but no annuals, no color to break up the green of the lawn meeting the gray concrete ribbon around the white house. Pausing for only a moment at the top of the three stairs, Cami pressed the doorbell.

Immediately the front door flew back on its hinges and Paige pulled her inside.

“I can’t believe you’re here,” Paige stage-whispered.

“Me either.”

“Hi, Cami.” Grant appeared around a corner. “Come on in.” He waved to a large room across the entryway. “How’s Petey?”

She stepped in and surveyed the expanse. “Snoring,” she said, looking around. Unremarkable might describe the front of the house, but not the inside. Or the view.

Glass windows filled the back wall of the great room. An incredible panorama unfolded beyond the French doors that led to a deck with stairs down to a swimming pool hovering above a steep hill that sloped down to the golf course below.

“Wow.” She never would have guessed this house boasted such an incredible vista of Newport Beach. She could see the Pacific glistening in the far-off sunset. Lights flickered around what must be the course clubhouse, below and to the south of Grant’s.

“I know.” Grant appeared at her side. “I never get tired of looking at it.”

“And you abandon it for how many weeks every year?”

“Ouch.” He clutched his chest. “You had to remind me?”

“Sorry.” She grinned, feeling the grip around her own heart loosen a bit. “I don’t know if I could leave it.”

“Stay as long as you like.” His gaze held hers and Cami had to force herself to look away. “Can I get you something to drink? Paige is itching to look at the office and give me her professional opinion of how much I need her help.”

Cami’s breath returned as she realized Paige stood beside her. “Iced tea?”


“No, black and strong.”

He moved to the kitchen that stretched along the right side of the house but was still open to the great room where she and Paige stood. “Paige?”

“I’ll have the same as Cami.”

“You hate tea,” Cami whispered.

“I know. But I want to get to work.”

Grant handed them each a frosty glass and motioned for them to follow him down the hallway to the left of the entry. “I finished the kitchen last year and now I want to get my office in shape.” He opened a door and waited for them to enter.

Cami’s heart began to pound. Paige must have felt the trepidation because she turned and gave Cami a questioning look. “Are you okay?” she mouthed.

Cami gulped and shook her head. “I don’t think-”

Paige grabbed her hand. “I’m here.”

Cami’s heart rate immediately slowed. Not quite to normal, but at least it wasn’t hammering her chest like Petey’s leg on the floor when she scratched his belly. She smiled her thanks and followed Paige into Grant’s office.

Grant caught the fleeting look between Paige and Cami. Odd. It looked like Cami was afraid to go into his office. He surveyed the room. Only about twelve feet square, there was one window along the rear wall overlooking the swimming pool. A scarred wooden desk sat under the window, its back to the door. A folding table at right angles to the desk held his printer and fax. Boxes of books and files finished the décor.

He looked at the women and gave an encouraging smile. He hoped.

Cami smiled, but it didn’t reach her eyes. She let go of Paige’s hand and squeezed the hem of her polo shirt, bunching it up then letting it go. She finally smoothed it down as she entered the room and looked around. “Oh.” The single word held surprise.

“What?” he asked.

“I expected something more-” She seemed to search for a word. “Sports-filled, I guess.”

He didn’t think that was the word she’d been looking for but he shrugged. “I just want it to work as an office. What do you think, Paige? Is there any hope?”

“Absolutely.” Paige set her glass on the desk and prowled the room, looking into boxes and opening the desk drawers. “I know exactly what you need.”

“Already?” He hoped his skepticism didn’t show.

“You’re attached to this desk, I can tell. I’d get some dark wood shelves for your books and memorabilia. And a file cabinet and printer stand. I can set the office up easily enough. But I have a suggestion for paint.” She glanced at Cami and paused.

“What?” Grant and Cami asked simultaneously.

“A faux finish.” She motioned to the right of the door. “Leather on that wall, with brass nail heads making a seam off-center and along the corners.”

Grant cocked his head. “I like it.” He glanced at Cami, unsure what her reaction would be after her reluctance to enter the room. She stood, arms akimbo, looking the wall up and down. “Cami?”

“I don’t know.” She sighed. “I mean it would look great. But I’m trying to finish up the coffee shop, then I have a mural to do for an insurance company. I’m not sure when I could get to it.”

“I’m not in a hurry. The season starts in a couple of weeks and I’ll be on the road a lot. So we might as well take our time.” His words had slipped so smoothly from “me” to “we” that he almost missed it. And he hoped Cami had.

Something definitely had her spooked, like a wild horse he’d once seen on a road trip with the Salt Lake Stingers. The bus ride through the Wasatch Mountains toward Colorado Springs and the Sky Sox took him through some of the most beautiful country he’d ever seen. He’d spent hours staring out the window at clouds and trees and fences and horses. They’d stopped for the driver to check on a rattle. Grant saw several horses standing together in a field. A man approached the small herd slowly, a rope loose in one hand. All of the horses except one ignored him. That one watched the man advance until he’d closed the distance to about ten feet. Grant blinked and the horse was a quarter mile away, across the pasture. The man slapped the rope against his thigh and the other horses scattered. Grant had the feeling that if he made a wrong move, approached too fast or showed her a metaphorical rope, Cami could out-run that horse and leave him slapping his own thigh in frustration.

But she seemed to take his words at face value as she continued her inspection. “If you’re not in a hurry, I could pencil you in for after the mural.”

“Deal. Now about dinner?”

“No thanks.” The denial came so fast, Grant suspected she’d been planning her getaway.

“I was about to order a pizza.” He turned to Paige. “Please. I want to hear more about what you can do with the room.” He was shameless, appealing to Paige’s business to get closer to her friend.

Paige frowned and glanced at Cami. “I’d love to, but we do have plans.”

“Have a quick bite here with me, then go on with the rest of your evening.” He kept his gaze focused on Paige.

“Cami?” Paige turned to her. “Is that okay?”

“Oh. Um.” Cami sounded unsure. “I guess it’s all right. Since it’s work.”

“It is.”

“Absolutely.” Grant and Paige spoke at the same time, but Grant continued. “I’ll call in an order for delivery.” He moved to the door. “Come on out when you’re done looking,” he called over his shoulder, in a hurry to get to the phone before Cami saw the rope.

Paige froze, her pizza wedge halfway to her mouth. “What is that?” She gestured with the tip.

Cami looked over her shoulder to the kitchen. Sitting in the doorway from the laundry room was the largest black and white cat she’d ever seen. Swishing its tail imperiously, it surveyed the trio at the table and obviously found them lacking in some essential character quality.

Grant rose from his chair and headed to the kitchen. “That’s my cat.”

“I thought a professional athlete would have a Great Dane, or maybe a Rottweiler,” Paige said. “Something big and mean. Or if feline, I would expect a mountain lion. Or a cougar. Something you keep in a cage and toss raw meat at.”

Grant opened a cupboard, removed a foil packet, ripped off the top, and went into the laundry room. “I know,” he called back. “Cats don’t really fit the image. But my folks are cat people and I’m used to having one around. It works better than a dog since I’m on the road so much. My cleaning lady feeds Orca while I’m gone. When I get back, he ignores me for a couple of hours until I’ve been properly punished, then I feed him some tuna and we’re fine again.”

“Orca?” Cami asked.

“He weighs eighteen pounds. Course, he wasn’t that big when I got him, but with the black and white coloring, the name seemed to fit. And he’s grown into it.” Grant returned to the kitchen, wiped his hands on a towel and rejoined Cami and Paige at the table.

“Tell me what you’ve been up to since we left Woodrow Wilson High.” Grant sprinkled some pepper flakes on his pizza and took a bite.

Paige spoke up first. “We both went to Caldwell Christian College in Pasadena.”

“I got an art degree that’s useless in the real world,” Cami said. “I’ve been back in Agua Vida four years. How about you?”

“U.C. Irvine, the minors, then the Coyotes invited me to the show. This is my second full season. Knock wood to stay healthy.” He rapped his knuckles on the table.

“I remember you had a bunch of brothers?”

Grant laughed. “Still do. Four of ‘em, all younger. Trent, my nephew at the beach today, is my brother Jonathan’s son.”

“And your folks?”

“Dad’s still in the Navy. He and Mom live in San Diego with my two youngest brothers.”

“Do you mind if I take a crust home to Petey?” Cami asked, folding a napkin around the left over edge of her pizza.

“Take him a whole slice,” Grant said.

Paige handed Cami more napkins. “At least Cami’s using her art degree in her business.”

“Is there much of a market for your kind of painting?” Grant asked.

“I guess you’re not into home decorating.” Cami looked around. “Someone else designed this place?”

“I knew what I wanted in the kitchen. I let the decorator do the rest of the house.”

“I’m normally booked two to three months out. I had a little break and I took a small job to fill in the time, but-” She paused to sip her iced tea.

“But what?” He looked genuinely interested, leaning over his plate to look in her eyes.

She swallowed. “I knew the client would be demanding, but I took the job anyway. I should have followed my first instinct and stayed out of it.”

“What kind of job?”

Cami told him about the bakery, the finishes and colors that were never up to Janis’s standards.

“Cami changed the shade three times, before trying the one she started with. Then Janis said she finally got it right.” Paige spoke with disdain.

“She sounds like a pain to work with.”

“It’s not that bad.” Cami felt a flush of disloyalty. She really did like Janis. Most of the time. Well, some of the time. “She’s a perfectionist. In all areas of her life.”

“How do you know her?”

“We go to the same church. And her son is in my art class. Oh.” She stopped as she recalled the scene at the baseball field. “You met him at the clinic yesterday. Kyle, the pitcher.”

“He’s talented.”

“He’s a good kid. His parents have high expectations and he’s under a lot of pressure to excel.”

“At everything,” Paige said.

“Do you both work with kids?”

Cami shook her head. “Not really. I used to help in children’s ministry. Now I teach art enrichment classes at the AV Youth Center.”

“And I stick my nose in where it’s not wanted.” Paige stood up. “Do you mind if I go take some measurements in your office?”

“Help yourself.” She disappeared down the hall as Grant shifted in his chair, one arm draped across the back. “You still active at Agua Vida Community Church?”

“Yes,” Cami said. “Where do you go to church?”

“Well, actually…” His voice trailed off. “I’ve gotten out of the habit in the last few years. Once I was on my own, it was easier to worship at the altar of the fluffy pillow on Sunday mornings.”

Cami picked her words carefully. “I know that happens. That’s one reason I chose a Christian college.”

“Church was never that important to me. My mom made me go and there were cute girls there. Apparently, there still are.” He smiled again, making her heart skip a beat. “I’m glad it means something to you. It wasn’t a big deal for me.”

“I can’t imagine life without my faith. Years ago, I memorized Proverbs 4:23. ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.’ And I try to live that.” She paused to dip her last pizza bite into some Parmesan cheese. “I needed to go to a Christian college and be in that environment to guard my heart.” She shrugged as she chewed and swallowed. “And I thought it would prepare me for life.”

“You ‘thought’ you’d be prepared,” Grant repeated. “You weren’t?”

Paige returned then, saving Cami from a reply. Engrossed in the conversation, it was easy to forget he was a relative stranger. She’d better keep her guard up.

“We should go,” Cami said to Paige. “Petey’s been alone a long time.”

“You said he was sleeping when you left,” Paige said. “And if we’d gone to a movie, we wouldn’t be out yet. What’s your hurry?”

Grant is too easy to talk with. But she couldn’t say that out loud. “I need to make snacks to take to the youth group tomorrow morning.” She’d fix a coffee cake so it wasn’t a lie.

“It is getting late.” Grant stood, gathered up the paper plates, napkins, the empty pizza box, and swept it all into the trash compactor. “I’ll take care of the dishes.”

Cami laughed. “If you insist.”

“When can you start on my office?” he asked.

“I hope to finish the bakery Monday. Tuesday at the latest. The mural will take at least a week. In about two weeks?”

“The season starts then, so I’ll be coming and going a lot.” He picked up a key ring from the counter, maneuvered one key off and handed it to her. “Come whenever it’s convenient.”

She stared at him, not sure if she should take the key. Paige solved her dilemma by grabbing it and pulling Cami’s elbow toward the door. “I got the measurements. I’ll order some shelves and let you know when they come in.”

“Thanks.” He hurried to get in front of them to hold the door open. “I’ll see you both soon.”