Fiction Friday: CURVE BALL

When I posted to an online writer’s resource group about needing to poison a fictional canine and asking for suggestions, I was unprepared for the angry comments I received from people who said they would never read a book where an animal was harmed.

What part of fictional did they not understand?


Chapter Twenty-Three

They were at the end of her block when Cami called to Grant. “He’s starting to heave, like he’s going to throw up.” She could hear the panic in her own voice but she couldn’t give in to it. She’d cry later. Petey was all that mattered.

“There’s an intersection, which way do I go?”

“Left on Stonehill, the vet’s on the corner of Crest.” She sat in the back seat with Petey’s head cradled in her lap, holding the plastic sack in front of him.

“Hang on, buddy. We’ll be there soon. Please don’t die, Petey. Please don’t. What would I do without you? I love you so much, you’re such a good boy.” She ran her hand over his muzzle, smoothing the soft fur on his nose. His eyes closed as he shuddered and her heart shook in unison with his body. “Hurry, Grant!”

They entered a small parking lot and Grant slid into a handicapped spot near the entrance. He opened the back and hauled Petey out. Grant carried him a few steps, then groaned as the dog began to slip from his grasp.

“I don’t have any strength in my arm, I can’t hold on to him.” Anguish filled his voice.

“Let me.” She moved in front of him and gathered the dog’s limp legs into her arms.

Grant hurried ahead and opened the door. She burst through and called to the receptionist.

“He’s been poisoned! Please help us,” Cami called.

The young woman behind the counter hurried to open the gate from the reception area.

“Bring him in, I’ll call the doctor.”

Cami followed her into an examining room. She eased Petey onto the metal table, and leaned over him, cradling his head in her arms.

A woman in green scrubs entered and laid a stethoscope on Petey’s chest. “What did he eat?”

“I don’t know, Doctor Lorenzo. He was chewing on this plastic bone,” Cami motioned to Grant for the plastic bag. “It’s not his, it must have been dropped in my yard. I think someone poisoned him.”

“How long ago?”

“I don’t know that either. We brought him as soon as we saw it. I gave him some hydrogen peroxide, so he’s been throwing up. And shaking, too.”

“Wait outside please, I’ll get you as soon as I know anything.”

“He’s scared. He needs me.” And she needed to be with him.

“I insist.” The vet’s tone was firm.

“No! I won’t leave him.”

“Cami,” Dr. Lorenzo said, looking into her eyes. “It’s better for Petey if you wait outside. You’ll upset him and he doesn’t need that right now.”

“Come on, Cami.” Grant took her elbow to guide her back into the waiting room as the receptionist followed them out, closing the door and keeping Cami from even glancing at Petey.

“How could I let this happen?” She sank onto a wooden bench and put her head on her knees. “I knew this guy was crazy.”

“It’s not your fault.” He patted her shoulder then wrapped his arm around her.

“If Petey dies, I swear I will track this guy down and…and…” There wasn’t a punishment dire enough for killing her pet. “He’s the sweetest dog in the world. He’s a big baby who wouldn’t hurt a fly. He’s-” The possibility of losing Petey constricted her throat.

Grant squeezed her close. “It’ll be okay.”

The sobs came as she rocked on the bench. Grant held her, letting her cry until the tears slowed and turned into hiccups.

A veterinary assistant came out of the room, grabbed a purse from under the desk, and ran out the door.

Cami and Grant sat in silence. He held her hand, rubbing his thumb over her palm. He was trying to be sweet and supportive, she knew, but he couldn’t stop her thinking about Petey. Miserable and scared Petey.

Seconds ticked away into minutes until the assistant finally returned, dropped her things on the desk and slammed the door on her way to the doctor. She held a clear bottle that looked like vodka. Cami shook her head. That was odd. Why would they need alcohol?

They continued to wait, Cami on the bench, Grant pacing and holding his arm.

“What are they doing in there?” Cami asked as the minutes grew to an hour. “Don’t they know I’m out here?” She stared at the examination room door, wishing it would obey her demand to open.

Grant stood and walked to the reception area. “Can we get some information?” he asked the woman at the desk.

The receptionist shrugged. “The doctor knows you’re here. She’ll be out as soon as she can.”

Grant sat and tried to hold Cami’s hand again, but it was her turn to pace. The floor was made up of alternating hospital-green and white tiles. She could take eight steps from one end of the waiting room to the other on the green squares or six on the white.

Finally, the assistant came out and Cami joined Grant on the bench. He put a hand on her knee as she braced herself. “It looks like he’s going to make it,” the young woman said.

Cami’s eyes filled with tears again. “Thank God.”

“The doctor will be out in a minute.” The woman left again.

“Thank you.” Cami gripped Grant’s hand. “Thank you.”

The doctor soon joined them. “Well, he gave us a scare, but I think he’s going to be fine. He’ll need to stay overnight so we can monitor his vital signs and give him fluids. If you hadn’t gotten him here so quickly, there might have been a different ending.”

The vet wore green scrubs under a white coat. She’d always had multiple piercings in both ears and up her cartilage, but she’d added a nose stud since the last time Cami brought Petey in for his vaccinations. Wouldn’t that hurt, when it was put in? The thought was banished as quickly as it came. Quit wasting time when you should be talking about Petey.

“Do you know what it was?” she asked.

“Antifreeze. We took a urine specimen and examined it under black light. He’s very lucky you brought him in so quickly. By the time symptoms present, it’s usually too late.”

“Did you send someone to go get…vodka?” It sounded bizarre, but she had to ask.

“I guess folks are busy maintaining their cars. This is the third case I’ve had in as many days, and I’m out of the antidote of choice.” Dr. Lorenzo ran a hand through her spiky hair until it stood out straight.


“The alcohol adheres to the enzymes and allows his body to pass the toxins rather than try to process them, which is what would kill him.”

Cami’s mind still reeled from the news that Petey had deliberately been poisoned. Now, her vet got him drunk. “That’s amazing.”

“There was a recent case in England where a woman accidentally drank some antifreeze. Her doctor gave her a choice between whiskey, gin, or vodka.”

Cami lost interest in the anecdote and wanted only one thing. “Can I see him?”

“He’s still on the table in the room. He’s not going to feel like doing much for a few days. You can talk to him for a minute before we move him to the kennel.”

“Thank you so much.” Words could never thank this woman enough for saving Petey’s life.

“I’m glad you brought him. He’s a sweet dog, one of our favorites here, we’d hate to lose him.” Doctor Lorenzo stuffed her hands into her lab coat pockets, smiled warmly, and strode down the hallway.

Cami walked to the room where Petey waited, stretched out on a cold steel table. His tail wobbled when he saw her.

“Hi, buddy.” She stroked his nose. “I love you so much. You’re going to be fine. Doctor Lorenzo wants you to stay here though. I’ll be back tomorrow.” The dog nuzzled her hand and his tail lifted for a second before dropping back onto the table. His eyes closed again, but his breathing was no longer labored and the shaking was only intermittent.

“You’re awesome, Petey.” Grant joined her and rubbed the dog’s ears. They stood silently, watching him breathe in and out.

“We better go, let him sleep,” Grant said.

“I guess.” She stepped away with reluctance. “I’ll be back in the morning, Petey.” One more tail wag said good-bye.

Cami unlocked her front door as Grant looked up and down her street. “Pack a bag while I call Paige,” he said.

She turned to face him. “What are you talking about?”

“You’re not staying here. Not after what happened. And especially not without Petey to protect you.”

Her shoulders sagged. “But what if -?”

“I’ll check you into a motel if I have to. We’re talking about your life.”

He was right. She dragged herself to the stairs and started up. “I’ll be ready in a few minutes.”

She climbed the stairs to her bedroom and pulled an overnight bag from the closet. Okay, she’d need work clothes. She pulled khakis, tees and sneakers from her closet. Toothpaste and shampoo from the bathroom. She couldn’t stop to think about it all or she’d see Petey, trembling and throwing up while looking at her with so much trust in his brown eyes. She had to keep moving. She took her Bible from the nightstand and perched on the edge of her bed.

What did I do, God? To deserve this? Tell me and I’ll stop doing it. Or I’ll start doing it. Whatever you want, please make this all stop.

She hunched over and rocked as she pleaded with God. Silent tears ran down her face. She slid off the bed and sat on the floor. “I can’t.” But I can. The words were as clear as if they’d been audible.

“Cami?” Grant was calling from downstairs.

“I’m coming,” she answered, pulling a tissue from her pocket.

She lugged the overnight bag downstairs as Grant hung up the phone.

“Paige is in a meeting with clients. I left a message with Meredith’s receptionist. I’m about to call my parents.”

“Let’s wait on that until we’ve heard from one of the others.”

Grant shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter, you’re not staying here.”

“I know.” Her eyes filled as anger twisted her stomach. “I hate this! I hate that he’s chased me out of my home. I always felt safe here, but not anymore.”

Grant hugged her. “Can I change your locks? Add deadbolts? There must be something you need.”

“My locks are all fine. But you came for me this morning, on a moment’s notice, when I called. Then you broke several traffic laws getting Petey to the clinic. I needed that.” And I need you. But she didn’t allow the words to reach her tongue. “Thank you for taking care of me.”

He gathered her closer. “You’re welcome.”

As she rested for a moment in his arms, warmth spread up her spine. Maybe things would be okay.

Later that evening, she dropped her bag on the bed in Paige’s guest room. Paige had gotten the message and called Grant’s cell phone as he and Cami left her house. They each drove to Huntington Beach in their own cars.

The three of them met for a quick dinner where they discussed the events. Paige was horrified to learn what had been going on and insisted Cami stay with her until the guy was caught.

Cami picked at her Greek salad while Paige and Grant worked out a schedule to keep her under house arrest. But they called it protecting her. Finally she pushed the salad away and announced she was exhausted and ready to go to Paige’s.

At Paige’s condominium, Cami dropped her bag on the floor of the guestroom and herself on the bed. She could hear Paige rummaging down the hall.

“Next time, could you ask your stalker to give me some notice, so I can clean the guest bathroom before you arrive?” Paige emerged from the room in question with a fist full of paper towels and a can of cleanser. The pungent scent of lemon and chlorine followed her into the bedroom where Cami sat on the bed.

“What are you doing?” Cami asked.

“I had to make it presentable.”

Cami moved to what was troubling her. “What’s going on, Paige? What can I do?”

“You can take a hot bath. I scrubbed the tub.”

“I mean about what’s happening to me.”

“I know that.” Paige sat on the edge of the bed. “I wish I had answers for you.” She paused and thought for a moment. “Would it help to make a timeline of what’s happened, see if we can see a pattern?”

“That’s a good idea.”

“When was the first time you noticed something odd?”

Cami plumped a pillow and leaned back. “A couple of months, maybe? You know I’ve been hyper-sensitive to my surroundings for a long time, so I’m not sure if I was noticing real signs, or if my imagination was working overtime.”

“Give me some instances. But wait a second.” Paige left the room and returned a moment later minus the cleanser, but now armed with a yellow legal pad and a pen. “Okay. Tell me one of the times you remember.”

“The day I met Grant again, I thought I was being followed on my way to the rec center. But the car didn’t tag along all the way, it turned off before I got there.”

“Do you remember what it looked like?”

“Hmmm.” She thought back to that day, driving down Seaview, watching her rear view mirror. Seeing the car behind her. “It was red. It might have been a station wagon, a small one.”

“What else?”

“Wait a second…” Her voice trailed off as she tried to recall something nibbling at the edge of her memory. “Before that, maybe in February- yes, I remember it was during the Presidents Day weekend, I got a bunch of hang-up phone calls. Probably a dozen of them every day for a week. Then they stopped.”

“Didn’t you get some anonymous Valentines, too? I remember you mentioning them.”

“That’s right.” Her voice fell. “This is getting creepy.”

“ ‘Getting’? Hon, it’s been creepy for a long time now.” Paige drew her feet up and sat cross-legged on the end of the bed, facing Cami, the note pad in her lap.

“How could I have been so blind?” But she knew the answer already. Because she didn’t want to see the truth, didn’t want to acknowledge that things were out of her control. Wasn’t there a saying that denial’s not just a river in Egypt? It had sure cut a wide swath through her life until it became impossible to ignore.

“You said it earlier.” Paige’s words brought her back to the present. “You’ve been super-sensitive for so long, that you became immune to the real stuff.”

“Why is this happening? What is God up to?”

“Have you asked Him?”

Not until tonight when she was packing at home. “I think so,” she said.

“I don’t mean prayed things like ‘God, why are you letting this happen?’ I mean seriously taken some time to think about it all and what lessons you’re learning through it and maybe what good God can have come of it,” Paige said.

“Romans 8:28?”

“If we know that God works all things for our good, then what is the good that you’re getting out of this?”

Cami cast her mind back over the last few months, trying to remember any changes in her life recently. Especially good ones. “The only thing I can think of is Grant.”

“He really doesn’t count. You met him after the stalking started.”

“But it’s gotten more intense since we’ve been dating. What I mean is, because of the circumstances, I think our relationship has progressed faster than it would have otherwise.” That was true, although she probably wouldn’t have articulated it until Paige questioned her.

“And that’s a good thing? You’re the poster child for slow and steady relationships. Date for two or three years, then think about meeting each others’ families.”

“Very funny. I’m not that bad.” Was she?

“Bet me.” Paige’s smile took the sting out of the words.

Cami shrugged. “I think because of the stalker, I’ve been able to move through the dating stages faster, that’s all I’m saying.”

“Okay, that’s one good thing that has come out of this. But really, Cami, you can’t believe God would send a stalker to smooth out your dating life?”

“Why not?” Anger flared up then dissipated as quickly. “Well, it does sound stupid when you put it like that.”

“It’s not stupid,” Paige shot back. “Maybe naïve. Or simplistic. Even theologically unstable. But not stupid.”

“Theologically unstable? You sound like your father.” Cami jerked her feet back as Paige reached out to pinch Cami’s big toe. They burst into giggles that grew into hoots of laughter. The cork on her emotions finally popped and Cami laughed until she nearly crossed the line from mirth to hysterics.

“I needed that,” Cami said, still giggling as another thought occurred to her. She wiggled a little deeper into the pillows. “Here’s another idea: maybe God wants me to convert Grant.”

“You know missionary dating doesn’t work. Look at Autumn.”

Paige’s gaze unnerved Cami and she closed her eyes. “That’s all for tonight. I’m exhausted.” She stretched her legs out and rolled onto her side, stuffing the pillow under her head.

Paige tossed the paper and pen onto the nightstand. “There are towels in the bathroom. I have an early meeting, so I’ll be up and gone by six. Are you going to work tomorrow?”

“I think so. I’ll call Doctor Lorenzo first and see if Petey is okay, and then I’ll head to my new job. It’s a base coat day, so I’ll be done by noon. I’ll pick up Petey if – oh no!”


“What can I do with Petey? I can’t leave him at home alone. I can’t bring him here.”

“Grant to the rescue again!” Paige ducked out of the doorway to avoid the pillow Cami threw.

Cami brushed her teeth and changed into her red tartan pajama pants and an old tee shirt her brother had given her for Christmas one year. Mom Likes Me Best was emblazoned across the front and it had been worn until it was soft as old flannel.

She settled into the bed and pulled the grey plaid comforter up to her chin. Her thoughts drifted back to the conversation with Paige. Yes, her first idea about God sending a stalker to speed up her relationship with Grant did sound ridiculous.

But that was preferable to the other thought nibbling at her. That night with Patrick taught her some lessons: Trust no one. Rely on no one for safety. Don’t let anyone too close. And she’d learned them well. She had a guard dog, an alarm system, a large Get-the-tarnation-out-of-my-way SUV. And it had all worked perfectly, she’d been safe. So why did she feel so alone?


Fiction Friday: CURVE BALL

I was sitting at Barnes & Noble one day, working on the story. I knew Petey was going to be poisoned but not fatally but didn’t know with what or how. A man behind me was talking on his cell phone and I could tell from the conversation that he was a veterinarian.

I’m no dummy.

When he hung up, I introduced myself and asked his opinion. Petey’s predicament is all thanks to him. Of course, so is Petey’s survival. I wrote the nice vet’s name down so I could properly thank him if Petey’s story ever got published, but it’s lost in the bowels of my dead PalmPilot.

So Dr. Fresno Vet: Thank you.


Chapter Twenty-Two

Cami pulled the straw out of its paper sleeve and pushed it into the red plastic cup. Grant watched her lean over and sip the cold drink and wondered what was going through her mind.

They were having lunch at Mejia’s. The visit to the police station hadn’t gone well. Detective Bermudez sympathized, but reiterated there was nothing he could do to ensure her safety. Cami had listened to him until her eyes glazed over and Grant knew she wasn’t processing the words. He ended the interview by thanking the officer for his help. She’d glanced at him as she clenched her jaw, as if he’d been joking. It did seem ironic.

They’d left the police station and walked around downtown Agua Vida. Grant followed her lead as she wandered through the park, in and out of various shops, and even into the post office where she stood and stared at the “Wanted” posters.

He’d suggested lunch after that and she’d meandered toward Mejia’s. They’d been seated right away. Chips and salsa were delivered to the table, and now they sat, Cami not meeting his eyes.

She leaned back and settled a little deeper into the booth. The laminate tabletop had some nicks along the top edge. She picked at one of them, pulling plastic away from particleboard until the notch grew and became a definite hole.

Grant reached for her hand. “Cami,” he said quietly.

“Hmmm?” She shook him off and continued to pick at the table. He handed her a menu. She stared as though seeing it for the first time.

“What is wrong with me?” She slapped the menu down on the table. “I know this by heart and I can’t remember what anything tastes like. I can’t eat. We shouldn’t be here.”

“You need to eat. And we need to talk and make some decisions.” Please let her listen to reason, he thought. Or was it a prayer?

The waitress appeared, ready to take their orders. Cami shrugged, so Grant ordered a Number Six for her. A chicken enchilada and a soft taco. He chose the Hungry Hombre for himself: two tacos, two enchiladas, two chile releños, two chimichangas, and a quesadilla.

“Talk about what?” she asked after the waitress left.

“You’re not safe at home or at work. I’d like you to stay with me for a while.”
“I can’t.”

“It’s a big house,” he said, leaning forward to look in her eyes. “You can have your own room. We’d never see each other, if that’s what you want.”

“No.” Her tone brooked no further discussion and her gaze held his.

“Can you visit your parents or your brother?” He had to come up with a place for her to stay, where she’d be safe.

“My folks are in Big Bear, Dad took a long-term substitute teaching job up there. My brother lives in a tiny apartment with his wife and two kids. I can’t impose on them.”

“Then what about Paige or Meredith? Or even my parents?” Brilliant. He leaned back and dipped a chip into the salsa. “Mom would love to fuss over you. Come to think of it, I like that idea. Maybe if you’re her project, she’ll quit smothering me.”

A smile tickled the corner of her mouth. “I appreciate the offer, but I don’t think so.”

“Can I call Paige?”

“I don’t like putting my friends in danger.”

“No one would feel that way.” Exasperation tightened his voice.

She sighed. “I would.”

The waitress bustled over. “They’re very hot, be careful now,” she said, positioning plates in front of each of them. Steam wafted off the beans and rice, Cami closed her eyes and inhaled.

“Mejia’s has never failed me.” She picked up her fork. “I know you’re trying to help, but this person is after me. He’s watching where I go, who I talk to, what I do. I’m putting all my friends and family at risk by being seen with them.”

“We don’t care about that.” He wanted to enfold her in bubble wrap and take her home, so he could be sure she was safe. But she spooked so easily, just like that unbroken colt in Colorado. He’d have to go slowly, build up her trust. If that didn’t work, then he could make demands. Or call her parents maybe. He forced his attention back to her words.

“I couldn’t live with myself if someone I love got hurt.”

“Cami, listen.” Grant put his fork down and reached across the table for her hand. “I know I speak for Paige and Meredith, your family, everyone. If you’re in danger, we want to do whatever it takes to keep you safe. I don’t care about any risk to myself and I’m sure the others feel the same.”

“But I care.” Her voice grew heated and she removed her hand from his.

“Why are you getting angry with me for trying to protect you?”

She drew a deep breath and gripped the edge of the table. “I’m not angry. I know I seem ungrateful. And probably unreasonable. But I’ve learned the hard way that the only person on earth I can trust is me.”

She picked up her fork and began eating her beans and rice as though she were starving. She must have surprised herself with that. He folded his hands on the table, letting her have a moment before he approached from a different direction.

“Meredith works in a man’s world, she can take care of herself.”

That drew a half smile.

“And Paige eats nails for breakfast. I’m more afraid of her than any stalker.”

The smile became real. “You should be.”

Grant resumed eating. “Good. I’ll call them both and see if one of them can spend a few days with you.”

“I suppose it won’t hurt to ask.” The relief flooding into his legs made him glad he was sitting down.

They continued eating in companionable silence until Grant pushed his plate away. “How about if we drive your car home and you come with me to therapy?”

“I guess.”

“You don’t sound enthused.” Was it too much, too soon?

She slipped her hand into his. “I’d like that. I don’t play hooky very often. I guess I don’t know how.”

“I’ll teach you.” He squeezed her hand gently. “First of all, we don’t call it hooky. It’s a mental health day.”

Later that afternoon, Cami and Grant returned to her house. Therapy had gone well, though he’d swallowed a couple of ibuprofen tablets on the way back. He was so stoic, it was hard to tell his pain level.

As she punched in her alarm code and opened the front door, she called out to Petey. There was no answering clatter of paws on linoleum. That was odd, he always met her at the door. She listened intently for any sound.

“Petey!” She called again.

Grant added a whistle.

Finally, she heard the pet door flap as the dog ran through it. “Hi, boy. Where have you been?” Cami rubbed Petey’s ears as he sniffed her legs. “I’ve been faithful. I haven’t been with any other dogs.” His tail wagged as he confirmed that with his nose.

Cami flopped onto the couch and Petey parked himself at her feet. A great weight settled over her. The adrenaline fueling her morning left, leaving a tiredness that burrowed into her bones, pushing her into the cushions.

“Can I get you something? Tea?” Grant offered.


“What else can I do?”

“Nothing.” The effort of replying drained her.

He sighed and disappeared into the kitchen.

She closed her eyes.

When she opened them again, a cup of tea sat on the table at her elbow. Grant was stretched out on the easy chair next to the sofa. His long legs were propped on the floor while his good arm cradled the one in the sling and his head tilted sideways. His eyes were closed.

Cami reached for the tea. Cold. She tiptoed into the kitchen, put the kettle on to boil again and poured out the cold tea. Leaning across the kitchen sink, she peered into the back yard. Petey must be out there again. What was so interesting?

She opened the back door but bent out to look around the yard before stepping onto the stoop. Her front and back yards were connected with a strip of lawn along the side of the house. The enclosing picket fence was short. Anyone who really wanted in the yard could easily hop it. She scanned the lot, even standing on tiptoes to look into the neighbor’s yard. No one and nothing moved. Then she heard it. Chewing, chomping, slobbering noises.

Petey lay at the bottom of the back stairs, gnawing something.

Remembering the baseball mitt he’d found, she stepped down to see his newest acquisition. As she got close, he picked up his find and carried it to the house.

“Not so fast, mister. Let me see what you’ve got.”

Tail wagging, Petey stood at the top of the steps. She put a hand on his thick neck and opened the other in front of his mouth.

“Spit it out.”

His tail gained momentum.

“Petey.” Her tone was firm and his reaction predictable. He ducked his head to push through the pet door.

“Petey! Drop it!” Already inside, he ignored her.

She entered the kitchen as Grant came in from the living room. “What’s going on?” he asked.

“Petey’s chewing on something and he won’t let me see it.”

“Come here, buster. What’s in there?” Grant put his good elbow over Petey’s head and tried to pry the dog’s jaws apart with the same hand. Petey’s tail continued swishing, but now a low growl accompanied it.

“Let. Me. Have it.”

Cami joined Grant and used both hands to open the dog’s mouth. “There!” She held up a plastic bone dripping with dog saliva. “Ugh.” She dropped it immediately and the dog snatched it up as he trotted into the living room.

Settling on the floor, he lowered his head to set the treasure down.

“Well?” Cami looked at Grant.

“Well, what? It’s a toy.”

“I know that.” She didn’t try to keep the irritation out of her voice. “Where did he get it?”

“From you?”

“No. I give him old tennis balls we collect in the park.”

“Would someone come by and give it to him?”

The ugly thought hit them at the same time and they scrambled into the living room, both talking at once.

“Petey, give it to me. Right now.” Grant’s authoritative voice caused the dog to sit and cock his head.

“Good boy. Give it to Grant, Petey,” Cami said. “I’ll buy you a new one, I promise.”

Caught in their crossfire, he dropped the treasure and jumped to his feet. He shook himself, then sat down again.

“Got it.” Grant held it up this time.

“What should we do?”

“Let’s take it and Petey to the vet. Just to be sure.”

Cami grabbed the leash and her purse while Grant found a plastic bag to carry the chew toy.

“Wait a minute,” she said as they loaded the dog into her car. “I’m trying to remember something. I read an article about a dog that ate a Christmas poinsettia. Hydrogen peroxide made her throw up. Do you think we should try that?”

“I don’t know. Sometimes that can make things worse.”

“Well, he’s not obviously sick right now. If he has been poisoned, he hasn’t digested it yet. And by the time we get him to the vet it might already be in his system. I think we should do it.” Cami was up the steps and back in the house before he responded.

She grabbed a brown bottle from the bathroom, then stopped in the kitchen for a turkey baster and a plastic garbage bag before running back to the car.

“Here, hold his muzzle.” She filled the plastic tube with hydrogen peroxide. “How much do you think?”

“I have no idea.”

“I’ll do a couple of tablespoons. If it doesn’t work, I can give him more.”

Grant held the dog’s head between his good elbow and his chest. “Hurry, he doesn’t like this.” The dog struggled to get free, but Grant managed to hold him.

Cami forced the tip of the baster into his mouth and gently wiggled it while pushing it to the back of his throat. The dog gagged but she squeezed the bulb and forced him to swallow.

“Okay, let’s go.” She climbed into the back with Petey as Grant got in the driver’s seat.

She hung onto Petey’s neck as Grant took the corner at thirty miles an hour and continued toward downtown.


Fiction Friday: CURVE BALL

While the ice-cream vs. frozen yogurt memory is entirely fictional, it could have been lifted directly from my life. I’m working on voicing my likes and dislikes with more transparency, but it’s tough.


Chapter Twenty-One

Detective Bermudez clicked his pen as he listened to Cami’s story about finding her home address on the rec center computer.

“On the record, I can’t get excited about this. You could easily have entered your address on that computer for an online catalog or maybe to print out directions for someone and forgotten about it. Unofficially, I believe that didn’t happen.”

Cami sat on the edge of her seat at the kitchen table, hands wrapped around her tea mug. She’d called the police first thing and Detective Bermudez said he was willing to come talk to her before she left for work.

And hearing him say he believed her made her sit up a little straighter. “Thank you.”

“And I know you’ve already considered all the ramifications,” he continued. “It appears your stalker is either a center employee or a student.”

“I was up all night,” she said, “trying to think of some other explanation.”

“It’s not necessarily someone you know. A stalker builds up a rapport in his mind that may or may not be based on an existing relationship.” He slipped the pen into his pocket and stood as he closed the file folder. “You’re doing well at being aware of security and what’s going on around you. Have you called the Victim’s Advocate number I gave you?”

“This is so personal, I’m not sure they can help me.”

“You’d be surprised. They ask questions and have different protocols to follow. Something may trigger a recollection for you that will help. It’s worth a try.”

“I’ll call them.” Cami walked the officer to the door and stepped out onto the front porch. Petey followed close behind.

She indicated the park across the street. “I’m even afraid to sit on my own front porch. Someone could be back in the trees, watching me, and I’d never know. It’s too creepy.”

“Have you seen loiterers? Someone who left when you saw them?”

“Once. But there’ve been other times when I’ve felt I was being watched.”

“I recommend not going there, especially not alone.”

“I won’t. But I have to run Petey somewhere. He’s too big to get enough exercise in my yard.”

“Can you hire a dog walker?”

“I suppose.” But that would be admitting defeat. “Although I enjoy running. And I do feel safe with him.”

“Stay in wide open spaces, where you can see anyone approaching.”

“I will. Thank you for coming.”

A few minutes later, driving down Beach Boulevard, she scolded herself. Concentrate on work – a faux marble on the columns in an entryway. She needed to check her feather collection, make sure she had enough to do the job.

If it wasn’t a student, could it be that new custodian at the center? Or a finish carpenter at that new model home office she painted before Christmas. She had caught him staring a few times. Wait a minute – that’s not work.

Her cell phone rang. Grant would be calling to ask about her meeting with Detective Bermudez.

“Hello?” The phone nearly slipped out of her grasp as she made the turn onto Adams. “Hello!”

“Why did you call the police?” It was the same electronically altered voice that had called about the flowers.

Her mouth opened but no words came out.

“Why do you insist on playing this game, Camille? You know we’re meant to be together. It’s time for you to stop teasing me. I’ll see you soon.”

“Who is this?” she demanded.

She heard a click and the call was over.

“No!” she yelled. “Who are you?” She slammed the phone onto her knee. She pulled to the curb, ignoring the honks behind her. Her heart pounded as her white knuckles gripped the silent phone.

How did she find the list of received calls? She held the phone in front of her with both hands. Think, Cami. With shaking fingers, she finally punched the right combination. No information available, the tiny screen informed her.

She loosened her hold on the phone only when her cramped fingers began to ache in protest.

She scrolled through her directory for the construction company office number and left a voice mail saying she had an emergency and wouldn’t be starting the job today.

Her head grew light and lifted, as if it was about to disconnect from her body and float away. She scrambled out of the car and hurried to the passenger side where she leaned against the vehicle with her head down, her breath coming in ragged gasps.

After a few minutes of forcing herself to breath deeply, her heart rate slowed and her head remained attached. She slowly stood and took a couple of steps away from the car, looking over her shoulder. Were eyes watching her every move?

Cars sped by, a few shoppers rushed down the street. As she stood in the middle of the sidewalk, a pair of women in shorts and running shoes split around her, never breaking their stride or their conversation. She looked up to get her bearings. She was in front of Panino, Janis Shaw’s coffee shop.

Jerking open the car door, she leaned in and grabbed her phone, purse, and keys. Clicking the remote, she set the alarm and dove into the café, thirsty for the security it offered.

“Extra hot large tea, please.” Her hands still shook as she pulled a five from her wallet.

“Her money’s no good here.” The clerk froze at the imperious voice. Janis materialized through a door behind the counter. “It took you long enough, Camille. I’ve been open two weeks.” Like the employees, Janis wore a green apron over black slacks and a crisp white shirt. Except on her, it looked like couture. Not that Cami had any couture, but Paige’s mom did.

She realized Janis still stood behind the counter, eyes wide, waiting for Cami’s response.

“Oh, yeah, I’m sorry.” She forced a smile. “I’ve been busy”

“I heard. Grant Andrews. Nice work.” Janis looked at her with something new in her expression. Respect? Admiration? Cami shook her head; she must be imagining things.

“Umm, yes. Well… thanks for the drink,” she said, still on auto-pilot.

“You’re welcome.” Janis smiled. “I get regular compliments on the walls in here. You ever need a reference, send them to me.”

“Okay. Thanks again.” That woman could change moods faster than a hummingbird on a nectar quest.

Cami sat on an overstuffed couch and sipped from the mug. Cupping her hands around it, she soaked up the warmth. The shaking finally subsided, responding to the heat of the tea and the safety of the shop.

Now what?

She stared at the hateful phone but finally punched in a familiar number and put it to her ear again. She took a deep breath as he answered.


“Hi. It’s me.” She coughed to cover the half sob.

“Good morning.” His voice was warm. “Did you call the police?”

“I talked to Detective Bermudez.”

“What did he say?” Her shoulders fell and she felt cold in spite of the hot tea. She wanted Grant’s warmth. No, she needed him. “I’m scared,” she said. “Please, I don’t know what to do.”

“What happened?”

“A phone call. On my cell. Just now.”

“Where are you?” She heard rustling noises, like he was already moving toward her.

“A coffee shop on Beach called Panino.”

“Don’t leave. Stay where people can see you. I’m on my way.”

Cami leaned back into the enfolding softness of the sofa. The trembling slowed and finally ceased as she relaxed.

What was happening? Oh God. She started to pray but didn’t know what to say next. And that was the problem, she saw with a flash of clarity. If she knew who the stalker was, she’d know how to respond. But ignorance crippled her. Like now, on the phone. But of course, it wasn’t that simple. He wouldn’t give her his name. Or he would have when she asked the last time he called.

Why couldn’t she act? Why didn’t she speak up? She sipped her tea, the paper cup rattling against her teeth. Why did she have such trouble speaking up when she needed to? Like with Patrick. The thought floated into her brain and touched down on the edge of her consciousness. She tried to swat it away, but it kept coming back, like a mosquito determined to feed.

It was a question she had asked herself continually in the weeks after the rape.

Had she brought it on herself by not saying “no” forcefully enough? Was she so nice and too concerned with hurting his feelings that she hadn’t made it clear to Patrick that he had to stop? Wanting to please others at the cost of her own happiness had been a struggle since childhood.

One time, she’d been about fourteen, and had won an art competition at school. Her family all attended the show and had been so proud of her. Dad wanted to take them out for dessert and he asked where she wanted to go. Her favorite place was a little ice-cream shop in downtown Agua Vida. She opened her mouth to say, “Scoop Deck,” but had seen her brother’s pleading eyes. “Penguins is fine,” slipped out of her mouth before she could stop it. Penguins had been the frozen yogurt place Boyd’s current crush worked. She wanted ice cream, but had ended up eating frozen yogurt at her own celebration.

During therapy after the rape, she learned if she didn’t value her own likes, why would anyone else. She’d gotten much better about speaking up, but sometimes old habits came back like a tennis ball served to Serena Williams.

The mosquito of doubt swooped in again. Was her “No, Patrick. Stop!” loud and clear? Or did she say, “Please, Patrick,” and he misunderstood?

No. She shook her head, certainty flooding her heart. She said, “Stop,” and he didn’t. He raped her. She knew that then and she knew it now. And even though she might always regret not saying it louder or more often, it didn’t change the fact that she had said it. And Patrick had ignored it.

She put her thumb on the mosquito and pressed firmly.

The terror and adrenaline rush from earlier dissolved into a deep-rooted weariness that began in her bones. Stretching her feet out, her eyelids fluttered.

The shop door opened and she jerked straight up. A woman in workout clothes hurried to the counter and ordered a tall mocha with extra whipped cream. Cami eased back into the couch again and fought to stay awake. She watched the employees take orders, brew coffee, and check the containers of sugar and half-and-half. She timed the drinks to keep alert.

After the staff had served seven lattes and five mochas, Grant arrived. She started shaking again as soon as he walked in the door.

“Are you okay?” He wrapped his arms around her. She nodded, too overcome to trust her voice. “Are you sure?”

When she didn’t answer, he continued to hold her. She nestled her head into the hollow between his neck and shoulder. He seemed to sense that all she needed was his presence.

After a long while, she raised her head. “Am I hurting you?”


“Good. Oh-” She remembered. “You’re supposed to be at therapy, aren’t you?”

“I moved my appointment to later.” He settled himself on the couch. “Can you tell me about it?”

She took a deep breath. “I got a phone call when I was on my way to a new job. It was that same weird voice from after I got the flowers. He asked why I called the police and why I keep teasing him. And he said he was going to put an end to this game, and it’s time for us to be together. He must -” Her voice faltered. “He must be watching me all the time.”

Grant nodded. “What did Detective Bermudez say?”

“He believed me that someone used the rec center computer to look up a map to my home. But it would be too easy for me to have done it myself and not remember. He said I should think about someone at the center who might be doing it. Another staff member. Or even a student. But I’m sure it’s not a kid.”

“Why not?” His voice tightened.

“I don’t think my students are capable of this kind of intensity unless there’s a video game involved. And no adolescent would give me more than a passing thought except as an old maid.”

“Cami,” he said, “for someone who works with teenagers, you have some strange ideas about them. Don’t you remember what it’s like?”

“Of course.”

“Not academically. I mean socially. The loneliness, feeling that you’re the only one going through adolescence, no one’s ever had it as tough.” He scooted away a little and squared himself and looked her in the eyes. “The isolation. That makes a teen vulnerable so when they think they’ve made a connection with someone, it becomes all-consuming.”

“I know what you’re saying, but I really don’t see any of my students as abnormally disconnected or alienated.”

“You need to call the police again.”

“The visit this morning seems to have pushed this guy over the edge. He was definitely mad about seeing Detective Bermudez at my house. He said I was teasing him. If he sees the police again, it’ll really set him off.”

“Like Joe said last night, the danger is that this guy truly believes there’s a relationship. You have to keep convincing him there isn’t. And the best way to do that is to keep the police informed of what’s going on.”

“I know you’re right.” She closed her eyes.

He reached for her hand. “So far, this guy’s been throwing brush-back pitches. I’m afraid he’s going to get serious with some fastballs. And another thing, this means he’s also got your cell phone number, not just your home number and address.”

“Oh, no!” Her voice caught in her throat. “How did he get it?”

“Who have you given it to?”

“Only my close friends and some clients.”

Grant stood. “Let’s go. We’ll leave your car here and I’ll drive you to the police station to make a report.”

Cami drained her cup of the cold dregs and shuddered as the bitterness slid down her throat. Grant smiled and held out his hand. She took it as he braced himself and hauled her up from the overstuffed comfort of the couch.

“How’s your arm?” she asked.

“Fine. I did my exercises already. I’m down to only half a pain pill, and just at night. Do you need to call your new job?”

“I did.”

“I’ll get your bag out of the Tahoe.”

Cami handed him her keys. “I need the back pack, I’ve got my purse.”

“Wait right here.” Grant held the door open for an influx of customers, then ducked out and walked to her car.

“Hi, Miss Henderson.”

Cami whirled around.

“Oh, hi Anthony. You startled me.”

“Sorry about that. Aren’t you going to work?”

“Not today. I have a … situation I need to take care of.”

“Anthony!” Janis’s voice summoned him and he rolled his eyes.

“I’m borrowing Kyle’s SAT study books.”

Cami smiled. “You be nice,” she admonished.

Anthony’s eyes widened. “Who, me?”

“Yes, you.” She saw Grant enter the shop, holding her backpack in his good hand. His eyes settled on her, then moved to the teenager, and a frown furrowed his brow.

“I’ve got to go, Anthony. I’ll see you later,” Cami said.

“Hi, Mr. Andrews,” Anthony said.

“Good morning.” Grant’s cool eyes appraised the young man. “And what’s your name?”

“Anthony Collins. I’m one of Miss Henderson’s art students. And a friend of Kyle Shaw’s. He called you last night for the interview.”

“Oh, right.” Grant slung the backpack over his shoulder so he could shake Anthony’s hand. His gaze moved to Cami. “Ready?”

“Yes. Bye, Anthony.”

“See ya’.” Anthony gave a casual wave and moved to the counter as Cami and Grant left the shop. He guided her to the corner and pushed the button for the crosswalk light.

“I’m across the street there.” He motioned to the Volvo wagon a short way down the block. “Who was that kid?”

“You heard him, one of my art students and a friend of Kyle’s. They came by my house selling cookie dough for a fundraiser a couple of weeks ago. I’m sure you’ve seen him, either at your baseball clinic or at church.”

“He doesn’t seem familiar.” Grant opened the car door and Cami slid in. “I guess I’ll have to start paying more attention to who’s hanging around you.”

“Anthony is harmless, just a nice kid. And besides, he’s dating Tara Mendosa.”

“You’re sure?”

“Well, if he’s not, then she’s spending an awful lot of time and money on a prom dress for no reason.”

“Okay, I guess he passes.”

“Thank you, sir.” She touched his arm. “And thank you so much for coming. I panicked and I didn’t know what to do or who to call. You were the only one I could think of.”

He reached for her hand. “I’m glad you did. It means a lot that you would ask for my help. I like feeling that you need me.”

“I do need you.” Wow. Where did that come from? But it was true. She needed Grant, his strength, and his unfailing encouragement. Breathing a quick prayer of thanks that he was in her life, she fastened her seat belt as Grant pulled into traffic and headed to the police station.


Fiction Friday: CURVE BALL

Ben and Jerry are thirteen months apart, just like my husband and his older brother. The put the compete in competition. Still.


Chapter Twenty

Cami’s heart froze for a beat. There must be an explanation. Her eyes darted across the screen. There had to be a sign of who requested the map. Nothing. She searched her memory for any reason she might have put her home address into this computer. But she knew where she lived. Did she order something online and use her home for the ship-to address? No.

Almost on autopilot, she typed in the Spencer’s address. While the computer printed out directions and a map, Cami gathered her belongings. She’d think about this later. Her hands shook as she shut the classroom door behind her.

As Cami drove to Fullerton, she forced herself to maintain the speed limit, in spite of nerves screaming to go faster, to get there, to feel safe again with Grant. Weaving through the neighborhood and consulting the computer-generated map kept her mind occupied. As soon as she arrived, she hurried up the wide brick path and rang the doorbell. Scuffling and what sounded like running footsteps sounded inside.

“I got it, I got it!” a voice said.

“I was here first,” another protested.

More footsteps and then Ellen’s voice. “I’ll get it. You two go play out back.” The door finally opened and Ellen greeted Cami.

“I’m so glad you could come.” Ellen ushered Cami into the entryway. A pair of tow-headed boys, about four or five years old, stood beside their mother.

“Thank you for having me. Is Grant here?” The panic she’d fought during the drive threatened to spill out. She could hear it in the tightness of her own voice.

“He’s in back with Joe, they’re putting burgers on the grill.” Ellen stepped closer to Cami with a concerned expression. “You’re pale. Is everything all right?”

Cami took a deep breath and her pulse slowed a bit. She tried to reassure Ellen. And herself. “I’m fine, I had a bit of a scare.”

“What happened?”

“It’s a long story. I need to see Grant. Is it this way?” Cami indicated the hallway that led off the entry.

“Yes. These two can show you the way. Boys, this is Miss Henderson.” The taller of the two thrust his right hand in her direction. “Cami, this is Ben and Jerry.”

“Really?” She reflexively shook the offered hand, but looked at Ellen for confirmation.

“Well, actually, this is Benjamin.” Ellen placed a hand on the older boy’s head. “And this one is Jeremiah. I don’t know what we were thinking. They’re only thirteen months apart, sometimes it’s like having twins. And I never even thought of the Ben and Jerry thing until my father-in-law started calling them that. Now we’re trapped in a world of ice-cream jokes.”

The humor struck her and Cami stifled a giggle. If she started laughing, she might not be able to stop before it turned into hysteria. “I’m glad to meet you both,” she said. “Can you show me the way to the back yard?”

The pair raced ahead. “I’ll be right there, I need to toss the salad,” Ellen said as she motioned Cami to follow the boys down the hall. They were already through the French doors at the side of the family room.

She stepped onto the concrete patio and looked for Grant. The boys disappeared around a corner where she could hear voices. She followed and found Grant and Joe sitting at a wooden table under a large green umbrella, with tall, icy glasses in front of them.

“You’re here!” Grant stood up. He hugged her, but suddenly pulled away. “What’s wrong? You’re shaking like Petey when he sees shadows.”

“I …” She glanced at Joe, reticent about blurting out the whole story. There had to be an explanation, she was overlooking something simple.

“What?” Grant still held her arms and looked into her eyes.

“Something strange happened just before I left the rec center. I let myself get all worked up and it’s probably nothing.”

“Did you call the police and Detective Bermudez?”

“The police?” Joe interrupted. “What’s going on?”

“Cami has a stalker,” Grant answered. “What happened?” He turned back to Cami.

“No, I didn’t call the police. I didn’t know what to do. Except get away as soon as possible. I was typing the address here into the classroom computer. You know how sometimes a computer will pop up with previous entries, in case you want to use the same information?” Both men nodded at her. “Well, when I typed the first digit, the three, some other addresses popped up. One of them was mine. My home address. Someone searched for a map and directions to my house on my classroom computer. I panicked and left. But I keep thinking there must be some reason. What am I not seeing?”

“Have you ever printed out a map and directions to give to someone at the center? Another staff or a student, maybe?” Joe asked.

“No. I…” Cami faltered and sidestepped the issue. “I’m pretty security conscious.”

A door slammed and Ellen joined them on the patio. “Joe, you didn’t get Cami a drink?”

“Sorry ‘bout that. Cami, would you like some iced tea or lemonade? Or water?”

“Lemonade, please.”

“Have you ever ordered something online and had it shipped to your house?” Grant’s brow furrowed.

“No. If I order from the center, I have it shipped there. Even if I order from home, I use the center for deliveries. So I don’t have to worry whether I’ll miss a package. Or about strange deliverymen at my house.”

“What happened?” Ellen asked as Joe returned and handed a glass to Cami. Grant explained about the stalker as she sipped the tart lemonade. Her puckered lips and tongue reassured her that at least her senses still worked. Even if her brain and emotions were not compatible on the color wheel.

“No wonder you’re anxious. And you don’t have any idea who’s behind it?” Ellen asked.

“That’s what’s so frustrating. I know strange things are happening. But they could have innocent explanations.”

“There is no rational reason for the vandalism to your Tahoe. Or for the flower delivery,” Grant said. “You have a stalker. And we have to figure out who it is, before he gets bolder.”

“Grant’s right, Cami,” Joe said. “A few years ago, Daniel Payne, a first-baseman for the Coyotes, had a stalker. It went way beyond the groupie kind of thing Delia’s into. Dan’s was really psycho. She ended up in an institution. But not before terrorizing him and his wife. Part of what was so scary was that she couldn’t be convinced they didn’t have a relationship. She really believed he loved her and was being kept away by his wife and others who were interfering.”

Cami’s neck tightened and an ache started at the back of her head. “I don’t think I want to hear this.”

Joe flushed. “You’re right. I want you to be aware that these people are unstable and you need to call the police or get alarms on your house.”

“I’ve done all those things, and it’s not helping.” She sank down on a wooden Adirondack chair. “Why is this happening to me?”

Grant pulled another chair up and put his good arm around her. “I guess this wouldn’t be a good time to remind you of your own words, would it?”

“What words?”

“That God is working through circumstances to show you His love and concern.”

“I said that?”

“It sounds pretty profound. And a little smugly self-righteous.”

“That about sums you up,” he teased. He looked so smug, like a kid showing off his new bat and ball to his friends on the ball field, that she had to laugh.

She looked at Ellen and Joe who stood nearby. “I’m sorry for bursting in and putting such a damper on the party.”

“You didn’t. If you’re having problems, we want to help. That’s what friends do, isn’t it?” Ellen answered as Joe grabbed a spatula.

“Ohhh, bad word!” He began to take burgers off the grill. “I hope everyone likes their meat well-done.”

Grant stared at Joe. “Bad word? Pick that one up around the club house?”

Ellen laughed. “He’s watching what he says around the boys. The clubhouse language does tend to find its way home.”

“I like ‘Golly gosh darn it’ myself,” Cami said. They all three stared at her in astonishment. “What? I pick things up on job sites too, if I’m not careful.”

Ellen laughed. “Thanks, Cami. That makes me feel better, to know Joe’s not the only one to struggle with his tongue. I’m afraid of being in a house full of men who swear, leave empty chip bags in the living room, and never fill up the ice trays.”

“That’s what an ice maker is for.” Joe set the burgers on the table. “Let’s eat.”

They discussed local news while they ate. The serial rapist had struck in the north county. At least he was getting farther away, but that situation had faded in Cami’s consciousness since her own struggles began.

As they finished their burgers, a sitter arrived to care for the boys. Cami watched Joe and Grant get ready, the words and gestures became shorter and stronger. She’d heard of a game face, but this was the first time she’d watched it happen.

“Are you coming?” Grant asked.

“No, I don’t think – Oh, I don’t know. I don’t really want to but I don’t feel like going home alone either.” She sighed, bleak inside at the prospect of her home under siege.

“Why don’t you go to my house?” he asked. “I’ll meet you there after the game and follow you home. You can call Detective Bermudez in the morning.”

“Do you want me to come with you?” Ellen offered.

Cami considered, but Joe was the starting pitcher and Ellen would want to be there. “No, I’ll be fine,” she said. “You go to the game and cheer for me.”

Grant’s cell phone rang, interrupting their goodbyes.

“Hello. Oh yes, Kyle, the interview.” He moved the phone to his other ear as he shrugged into a jacket. “I’m on my way out the door. Can I call you back later?” Grant made arrangements to talk at a different time while Cami and the Spencers walked to the driveway. Joe and Ellen drove off as Grant disconnected his call. He accompanied Cami to her car.

“You still have my house key, right?” he asked as she moved around him to check behind the seats of the SUV.

“Right here.” She held up her key ring and climbed into the Tahoe. “I’ll be fine, and I’ll see you when you get there.” She closed the door then remembered something. Rolling the window down, she leaned out to catch Grant before he got into the Corvette. “You didn’t tell me what your therapist said today.”

He smiled. “I’m ‘making progress.’ That’s all he ever says.”

“Well, it beats the alternative.”

“I guess. Text me when you get in the house, so I know you made it okay.”

She nodded and waved as she drove away.

Grant parked in the stadium players’ lot and punched in the phone buttons to call Kyle back. He didn’t need to be there quite as early as Joe, so he’d take a few minutes for the interview now. “Kyle. It’s Grant Andrews.”

“Hi, Mr. Andrews. Thanks for calling me back.”

“No problem. What do you need to know?”

“I have a list of questions that we’re asking all the alumni.”

“Okay, shoot.” Grant eased himself down into the seat of his sports car and prepared to talk for a while. “I hope I’m not too boring.”

“First of all, when did you graduate?”

“Eight years ago. I went from Woodrow Wilson to UC Irvine. After I finished there, I went to the Coyotes triple A team for two years.”

“Did you know Miss Henderson when you were in college?”

“No. We were casual friends in high school. Different colleges, different careers. We didn’t see each other again till I did the clinic for your team.”

“Has she changed a lot?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” Grant paused. “Umm. Kyle, what does that have to do with the article?”

“Oh, sorry, Mr. Andrews. Just curious, I guess.”

Kyle didn’t ask another question. Finally, Grant cleared his throat and took the lead. “Anything else?”

“A couple. What would you say to current students considering a career in professional sports?”

“That’s a great question. First, it’s intensely competitive. Talent isn’t enough any more. You also need determination, perseverance, a little bit of luck, and the most important thing is an education.”

“Did Miss Henderson tell you to say that?” The kid sounded suspicious.

Grant chuckled. “No, it’s true. Professional sports is an industry first of all. And you need to know the fundamentals of business if you want to succeed, stuff like accounting and marketing. Not to mention anatomy and physiology.”

“Come on, Mr. Andrews, do you really use that?”

“You’d be surprised. I used the business courses when my agent negotiated my contract with the Coyotes. I knew collective bargaining was coming and we were able to add a clause that saved management some money up front, but is better for me in the long run.”

“What if you have to retire because of your injury?”

“I’ll be fine. Because I knew what was worth fighting for in my contract.”

“What was your major in college?”


“What would you recommend our students major in?”

“First of all, it should be something you enjoy. The odds of having any kind of pro career are very long. Go into it with the goal of getting an education first. Sports medicine is good, if you’re good at science. Marketing and business degrees are always useful too.”

“Thanks, Mr. Andrews. That’s a good start for the article. Tell Miss Henderson ‘hi’ for me.”

“Glad to help.” Grant disconnected. Time to get to work. For the first time he could remember, the prospect depressed him. He headed into the stadium.

He greeted the security guard and after chatting a few minutes, made his way to the locker room. He paused before entering, squared his shoulders and pasted a smile on his face.

The phone in his pocket beeped. Kyle with another question? No, it was a text message. “I’m here. See U.”

He pushed through the door, his cheeks already sore form forcing them to hold his grin in place.


Woe! It’s Wednesday

Spring Summer 2010 061


That’s a picture of Jake The Naughty on the patio. He’s drooling while watching a kitten inside the house. So yes, those drip marks on the glass are what you think they are. I know.

Jake has his own Facebook page. He has a dozen or so Friends or Likers.

I don’t know how much longer we can keep him.

We don’t give up on people. When you’re a friend, you’re a friend forever.

When we took Jake into our home, I never thought I’d be considering taking him back to the pound.

He’s sweet natured. He wants to please. He’s (pretty) obedient.

But he’s very high energy and he’s a power chewer.

Jake has destroyed:

  • 4 pairs of shoes
  • 2 throw rugs
  • 3 couch cushions
  • 1 blanket
  • countless plastic food bowls
  • 2 softballs
  • 1 golf ball
  • several tug of war ropes
  • 3 or 4 “indestructible” rubber chew toys
  • 1 azalea bush and its plastic pot
  • 1 garden hose
  • assorted gardening pots
  • a wood border around the herb garden in the back
  • 2 kittens
  • 1 squirrel
  • a garbage can full of newspapers, books, fliers, and brochures

The list could go on and on.

I don’t know how much more our home and furnishings can take. Our decor went from shabby chic to ghetto.

When do you say goodbye to a relationship that you have no hope of ever getting better? I hope Jake grows out of the chewing thing. He’s over a year and a half old. If I knew it would only be six more months or a year or whatever, I’d be more inclined. But I can’t turn my back on him for even a minute.

It’s exhausting.

If I knew for sure there was a good home out there just waiting for him, I’d take him to his new family in an instant. But I feel like we committed to give him a home and I can’t sentence him to death.

But this has to stop. I can’t afford to refurnish a whole house just because we have an incorrigible dog.


Book Talk Tuesday

The books are stacked and threatening to topple over. I must take a break from television, Facebook, personal hygiene, and sleep in order to clear off some space on my desk.

On the stack I call Mt. TBR (To Be Read) are:

Finder’s Fee by Alton Gansky

Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson

Someday by Karen Kingsbury

Helping Me Help Myself by Beth Lisick

So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore

Sizzling Sixteen by Janet Evanovich

Blinded by Travis Thrasher

Intervention by Terri Blackstock

High Tea by Sandra Harper

God Attachment by Dr. Tim Clinton and Dr. Joshua Straub

And that’s not all… the stacks continue but I can’t read that high.

Some are for review, some are for enjoyment, some for edification. All reproach me with their accusing spines lined up and begging, “Me next! Pick me! Pick me!”

Next week… what I’ve managed to read. And hopefully enjoy.


Today, I’m praying for: Nancy, Debbie, Nadia, Ellen

Last book read: The God Hater by Bill Myers – enjoyed it. Come back later for a fuller report.

Last movie: Red with Bruce Willis. LOVED it!