Friday, March 31, 2006

"The Operation"

By David Veronese

Do you have any idea how hard it is to impress the judges of short story contests, to stand out among hundreds of entries that have been workshopped and polished and then polished some more? My friend David Veronese wins short story contests. Even the most jaded judges are halted in their tracks by his gorgeous prose and his gripping, authentic emotional tales.

I love seeing him win awards, because it validates the way I feel about his writing. Makes me realize it's as good as I think it is, and I'm not biased by my affection for him.

Read this wonderful story and see if you don't feel the same way. It took second place in the prestigious Lit Pot contest a few years back.

The Operation
By David Veronese

I was killing time in the hospital admission room with my wife, Inga. She was down for a full hysterectomy, ovaries and all. She didn't seem particularly jumpy, but you never know with her. She’s from Denmark, her ancestors are the Vikings, and people like Sweyn Forkbeard, who by the year of 1013 had conquered all of England and Norway. The Danes don’t tend to wear their emotions on their sleeves, around their necks or pinned to their lapels; they don't tend to wear them anywhere at all.

A nurse summoned us, and led us into a vacant room with a desk and a few chairs in it, for a pre-op interview. The nurse was a fast-talker, and by my estimates, burned-out on the job a long time ago. You wouldn’t take her for a bedpan slinger or feeding you with an eyedropper.

She plowed through the spiel, answering questions with too much certainty. Any doubts that were shown she quickly acknowledged as worthy of consideration, giving a grave and meaningless nod, thus saving the time of having to argue with the patient.

Inga stated her distaste for painkillers. She'd had a few compacted teeth and a bit of jaw removed the previous winter, and once the anesthesia wore off, she refused to take anything except liquid Tylenol: add swallowing pills to the things she doesn't want to do.

Instead of telling Inga that she was a lunatic, and that sectioning out your gut might hurt a shade more than oral surgery, the nurse gladly wrote on the chart that the patient was not to be given any narcotics, chatting animatedly about how unnamed other patients had great luck with bullshit over the counter stuff like Advil and Aleve, in managing post-operative pain.

Stepping into the conversation at this point would have been like walking through the woods on the first day of hunting season wearing antler horns. These were empowered women, rightfully fed up with men telling them what to do about their uteruses, their fallopian tubes, their labia and vulvae. You could see the look in their eyes, they were for toughness, for heroics, for chewing and spitting out the nails. They could endure the unbearable pain of childbirth, after all: burrowing into the abdomen and removing a few elements from their private stocks, was a cakewalk. Painkillers! How gauche. How male. I kept my lips buttoned.

The nurse guided us back to the waiting area. Inga withdrew farther into herself. She'd been through many surgeries in the past few years, this was the point where she would ask me to leave, so as to be able to meditate upon her situation, to focus her concentration on the ordeal to come. She squeezed my hand with her powerful fingers, hugged me and kissed me on the ear. These were marching orders, I got up and left.

I'd closed the gallery for the day. My customers were used to my eccentricities, it gave credence to my artistic talents: Closed for Remodeling, Open Tomorrow would suit them fine, even though the store was surrounded by glass, and the absolute absence of anything resembling the remodeling process would be beyond obvious.

I went home and looked through the television schedule: it was the usual crap. I repaired to the video collection in the bookcase, and found a tape of Burt Lancaster and Yvonne DeCarlo in Crisscross. I fixed myself a roast beef sandwich with salt, and for the next hour watched the cast of characters doublecross and hustle each other, themselves, and anyone who got in the way.

I'd told them to have the doctor call me at home, when he was through cutting Inga up. His name was Aziz, a suave and steely Iraqi who'd spent about fifteen years practicing in England before coming to the U.S. to opportunely make his fortune. He drove a Jaguar, went hunting in Wyoming every fall, and after we’d consulted one highly recommended quack after another, it was he who finally identified my wife's malady. "It surprised me too," was about all he said, after showing me the photographic results of the laparoscopy.

Aziz had zero bedside manner. He wasn't mean or rude, but, at first, he scared the hell out of Inga: she couldn't imagine a doctor who wouldn't give more than yes or no answers to her volumes of questions. Inga thought you could only solve problems by discussing them. He's a specialist, I told her: he just works on Aston-Martins and Lamborghinis. You can't expect him to sit around talking about hub caps and spark plugs.

I put the VCR on pause, made another sandwich, and poured some cherry cola over a glass filled with ice. With remorseless fingers, my imagination took hold. I wondered why I was no longer entitled to meet any women like Yvonne Decarlo, Gene Tierney or Barbara Stanwyck. Some deadly femme fatale who'd allow me to seduce her with, on my part, a minimum of savoir faire. Who would proceed then to play with my heartstrings for some time, before fucking me over: committing acts of tortuous deceit, pulling me in like a fish, then letting out the line, then pulling back in again, until I was hopelessly obsessed with her. At which point I'd be given the remorseless boot.

The phone rang; it was Aziz. "Well, it's finished," he said.

"How'd it go?"

"It was a tough one," he said. "It took me nearly three hours."

"So you think that's the last we’ll see of the endometriosis?"

"It should be."

"Thanks, doc."


I watched the rest of the movie. I can't remember if Yvonne Decarlo took the bullet for Burt Lancaster or vice-versa. I liked film noir, there were no motives, rarely a need for character development, and anyone was likely or not to bite it.

Inga's hospital was a small one, just for women, on the east side of downtown. There was an ancient parking lot underneath it, that looked like a basement catacomb under Alcatraz. I let the valet park the car, I didn't care.

We'd gotten Inga a private room. My son's pediatrician, Dr Benghazi, was a sworn enemy of the insurance companies, and he'd walked us through a procedure that often would have them pay the differential over a double.

"These robbers take the money out of my pocket," said Benghazi decrying the insurance companies. "They take it out of your pocket. Then they put it in the stock market! The government should have the socialized medicine for the poor, and let us doctors compete in the market for the rest of the business."

Benghazi had been the one to recommend us to Aziz. They'd known each other as children in Baghdad. The men were near polar opposites, however. Benghazi was about five feet tall and had an accent as thick as Zsa Zsa Gabor. He was like a physician from the fifties; he'd make a house call, he'd pick up the phone himself on his day off.

Benghazi didn't even much care for Aziz, as far as I could tell. He only recommended him, I guess, because he thought he was the best man for the job.

Yes, no, and maybe were the major components of Aziz's vocabulary. If Benghazi, on the other hand, had a little time, he'd sit down and bullshit a spell, on any topic. "My father was in business," he told me once. "He didn't push us--we decided for ourselves what to do."

"How many siblings do you have?"

"Five brother. Three sister."

"What do they do?"

“All doctors," he confessed with an incandescent smile.

I'd figured out a shortcut to Inga's room. You walked past the lobby, turned right and pushed a knob on the wall. You walked through an atrium past a sign that said DO NOT ENTER: SURGERY ONLY, and got onto the first elevator.

Inga was out cold. They had all the IVs hooked up. I checked the contents of the bags. One was your 5% glucose: lunch and supper, the other appeared to be an antibiotic. No painkillers, naturally. The anesthesia from the surgery would last for a few hours.

I went up to the cafeteria. They were stacking the chairs; they always closed five minutes before I got there. I went down to the basement to the snack automat room. It was the same kind of crap they sell at a 7-11. Potato chips, candy bars, trash fruit juice, microwavable ham and cheese sandwiches on wilted bread.

At one time, recreational drug use was the focal point of my life, but now I couldn't even stomach a cup of coffee. How the mighty have fallen! I settled on an Eskimo Bar; I made sure not to read about the grams of fat on the ingredients menu.

There was a lone table and the newspaper scattered over it. I checked the progress of my internet stocks in the business pages. I was down about four thousand bucks. I read a column about picking mutual funds. It was based on the same principles used in handicapping ponies at the track.

What's the difference between picking stocks, and picking horses? What? There's only eight horses, and one of them always wins.

I contemplated what Benghazi had said. In fact, the market, like similar vehicles, was a funnel for enriching the very rich. They just wanted to keep the average suckers down, up to their necks in mortgage and car payments, putting the little spare change we had in money markets paying the same interest we'd get burying the dough in the backyard. Of course once the market caught fire with Joe Normal, the tycoons would take their profits, and it would drop like a lead balloon.

I read the back of the world news section. There was a major genocide going on in central Africa. Hutus, Tutsis, Rwanda, Burundi. A god-awful sickening mess. Unfortunately, I'd given up on the revolution, just like I'd given up on the drugs. But I wasn't a revisionist--I kept fond memories of both.

I went back up to see Inga. The ward smelled of isopropyl. An orderly pushed a dolly filled with dinner trays down the hall. Inga's eyes were fluttering.

"How's it going, angel-baby?" I asked. I touched her hand right above the vein where one of the IV needles protruded.

"What happened?" she asked very slowly.

"Dr. Aziz said it went real well."

Her eyes fluttered some more. Her lips were bluish. She didn't look anywhere near as bad as after the jaw surgery, when she resembled someone who'd gone a few minutes with Joe Frazier.

"How do you feel?"

"Okay," she said, in a stone-like voice that probably meant that she felt like shit. Of all the countries occupied by the Nazis, the Danes came through the best. They surrendered after about fifteen minutes, then sewed their mouths shut for five years, pretending like it didn't matter much. They kept every last Jew hidden and shipped them secretly over to Sweden. You never really did fucking know what they were thinking about. I checked the drainage of her catheter, and the level of the antibiotic.

I went to fetch my kid, Giancarlo, from school. I had to park a few blocks away. He didn't want anyone to know his old man was picking him up.

I watched in the rear view mirror. I saw his head appearing over the top of an old Pontiac.

Giancarlo got into the car. "How's it going, man?"

He was a tight-lipped little kid. "Fine," he said.

"How was school?"

"The same."

"It sucked?"


"Mommy's operation went real well. The doctor said she'll be just fine."

"That's good."

I know he cared a lot, but you couldn't see it on his face. He looked and acted exactly like his mother, not a bit like me. The Danish gene pool was tough to go around. Having been brought up among a screaming, hysterical ethnic group myself, it was hard to believe that my son exhibited no neurotic tendencies whatsoever.

"You mean you never even read Giancarlo any Bible stories?" asked my mother incredulously.

"No, Mom. But you can if you want to."

"But what do you tell him about God?"

"I tell him that God exists inside the human heart, and that we're innately capable of making decisions based on morality, without having to go into a building on Saturday or Sunday and talk to a wall..."

Giancarlo didn't want to go to visit Inga at the hospital. I'd taken him to see her when she'd had the jaw surgery. It was truly the worst she'd ever looked. They'd covered her face with some white paste and her cheek was blue and swollen. It was like looking down a long tunnel and getting your first glimpse of death.

I went up with him to our apartment and let him watch TV while I fixed him some macaroni and cheese. We had our daily tense discussion concerning homework strategy. Inga was nice cop, and I was mean cop. It worked out to the good; he was a decent kid.

I drove back to the hospital. I thought about work. It was tough having to sell five-thousand dollars worth of merchandise every week just to pay the rent and have a little vacation in the summer. I was sick of arguing with landlords, I was sick of leases. I was sick of having to hustle, hustle, hustle, to make sure the competition didn't take away too much of my money.

Inga was lying on her side, curled up, with her eyes closed. I could see she was wide awake.

"How's it go, angel-baby?"

"It really hurts."

"Have you told the nurse?"

"No. I was waiting." She was like a wounded horse. Instead of screaming and yelling with the pain, she was lying on her side as quietly as she could, hardly breathing.

"My wife is in 604. She had a full hysterectomy. She's in extreme pain. She needs some drugs."

The nurse looked at the chart. "It says she can't have any pain killers." She gave me a strange look. We knew we weren't going to like each other.

"They just sliced open her abdomen a few hours ago. She needs something."

"I'll have to call the doctor."

I went back to the room to sit with Inga. About thirty minutes went by.

I walked down the hall until I heard the nurse's voice coming from a room to my right. "We can switch you to a semi-private room tomorrow," she said all too sweetly. "It shouldn't be a problem, Mrs. Kirby."

I buttonholed her coming out the door. "Where's the painkiller?"

She looked at the floor. "The doctor hasn't called back. There's nothing I can do. I'll try calling again."

I went back to Inga's room. Oh shit, I thought. It's always me. The god-damned knight. Oh, well. I looked in the phone book and found Aziz's listing. He had a separate residence number. This is almost always a night answering service.

A woman answered the phone. "Hello."

"Is this Dr Aziz's house?"

"Yes, I am the housekeeper." She had a Latin accent.

"I'm in the hospital with my wife. She had surgery today--a hysterectomy." In my mind I composed the word in Spanish. It should be historotomia. "She's in horrible pain, they won't give her any drugs."

She didn't need any further prompting. "Oh--that's horrible," she said. "I will get hold of the doctor."

"Have him call me at this number." I gave her the direct phone to Inga's room, I didn't want to take any chances with the loose screw at the nurses’ desk.

"Okay," I said, resigned to the indeterminate wait.

But Aziz pulled a fast one. He called me back in four minutes. "This is Dr Aziz," he said in his vague British accent. He sounded like he'd just finished a top-notch desert with a thimble of brandy for a chaser.

I dispensed with formalities. "It's Inga's husband. She's in extreme pain. They have a block on narcotics on her chart. She's not allergic to anything."

"She's not?" he said.

"No, she just doesn't like taking them. She snookered the admitting nurse into blocking the chart."

"She's a tough cookie," said Aziz. That was the only personal thing I ever heard him say.

"She needs some Demerol. She needs to have it right away."

"Okay," said Aziz. “Yes...” For a moment, he seemed like a helpless child. "I'll order a pump. She can control the dose."

"Do you want the number of the nurse's station?"

"I have it."



It took me another half hour of kicking the nurse's ass to get the pump hauled in and running. I watched the gage while Inga lay there. "Hit it again," I said, the second the clock ran out. On the fourth squeeze she was okay.

That night I took Giancarlo out to shoot pool. It was one of those new wave parlors; bright neon, smart-looking college kids, short-skirted waitresses attending your drinking and dining needs. We played eight-ball. The girl at the front counter was a real dish. I went back several times to ask technical questions.

"If you're stripes, and the cue ball touches a solid ball and then sinks a stripe, does it still count?"

She had a slight accent. "No, that doesn't. You have to put the ball back." She looked at me looking at her.

"Where are you from?" I asked.


"Okay, I love you."

She smiled, a big bright one, I returned to the table. And I did love her. And I loved Giancarlo while he chalked up his stick, still a little clumsy at the game. And I loved Inga and I loved Benghazi and Aziz and I loved all the lights, the clatter of the balls filling the room, splitting apart from the rack like the fission of rogue atoms.

I knew it wouldn't last long. Love only comes in very small teaspoonfuls these days. It used to be it was always there, bubbling under the surface, forcing my hand; and I'd err on the side of passion every chance I got. I've given in now. I walk among the half-witted brotherhood of man, just another chump. But maybe I'd get lucky this time. Maybe I'd get a little extra mileage.

I left the counter-girl a five dollar tip when we turned in our rack. "See you in Budapest," I said.

"No," she said. "I don't think so. That time is gone."

Maybe she was right.

* * *

This story first appeared in Lit Pot

David's novel, Jana, is out-of-print, but the folks at can find you a copy. They did for me!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Richard Yates

Three or four million years ago, almost fresh out of college, I had a short-lived job as assistant to a literary agent. One of the perks of the job was that I was allowed to borrow any of the books from my boss's shelves. It was there that I discovered my first Richard Yates book, "Easter Parade," and I about lost my mind. This guy was simply the greatest writer in the universe, no question about it.

So ... can you imagine how a 23-year-old Ellen gushed the first time she picked up the phone for her boss and heard that the caller was Richard Yates? I'm sure I came across like a blathering idiot, but he was quite gracious.

We developed a little phone friendship over the months I was there, and he eventually sent me an autographed copy of "Liars in Love." The book has been lost in the bowels of my basement for the past nine years, and I'm happy to announce that I just found it. Of course, I'm delighted to share it with you.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I'm a side dish!

Just when I was about to stop obsessively checking The New York Daily News (yeah, right), there I am as a side dish, all cozy with the slurpalicious George Clooney. The above item is on page 24 of today's paper. You can also view it online here.

In other book news, I found out on Friday that SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA is going to a featured alternate in two book clubs, Doubleday and Literary Guild. I'm thrilled!

Friday, March 24, 2006

"The Lesson"

By Robin Slick

Today I'm thrilled to be featuring a story by my good friend, Robin Slick. Robin has one of the most natural, engaging voices of any writer I know. If you're not already familiar with her blog, I issue this caveat: it's addictive. Once you click in, you're her loyal reader forever.

Here's a wonderful story to sample:

The Lesson
By Robin Slick

I do it in a different place every afternoon. Sometimes, I use the gas station. Another day, the bus terminal or in a cubicle at the mall. Once even upstairs at my Aunt Helen’s house. My favorite, though, is doing it at old Mr. O’Brien’s apothecary. He’s got those ancient wooden booths in there. That’s where I am today. My heart beats wildly as I pick up the receiver and dial.
“Hello? Hello? Oh man. Who is this? Will you stop it already? Please!” The phone slams down hard in my ear. I clutch it to my chest. Oh Steven, Steven, Steven. Hearing his voice makes me weak. I sit with my head in my hands. I’m a really sick girl. Demented. I should probably tell my mother.

The reason I do not tell my mother is painfully apparent when I walk into the house. My mother is smoking a cigarette and dancing to some horrific electronic music. She waves and giggles and flicks her long frosted hair when she sees me, but doesn’t say hello. Her heart shaped butt is squeezed into tight, slinky jeans. Rosy polished toes peep out of metallic high-heeled sandals. She will be thirty-two years old next month, two days after my fifteenth birthday. My mother is a child.

“Please tell me this isn’t how you’re going tonight,” I say to her.

“Going? Where am I going?” she asks, her brow furrowed. I once overheard my Aunt Helen tell my Aunt Shirley that “Gloria is not all there”. I know what they mean. My mother is very beautiful, but it’s like she was bounced on her head. Hard. She doesn’t read or watch the news or care about anything beyond clothes and movie stars and soap operas. I realized at a young age that she was not very bright.

No one has a clue about my father. Apparently, neither does my mother, or at least she’s never said. Either there were too many boyfriends, or it was someone scary evil, like a family member or something. These are my deductions; I get no information from the aunts at all. We live in my grandparents’ house, where my mother grew up. They left it to us when they retired and moved to Florida. So between that and my mother’s job at the mall, at least she’s able to feed and clothe us. But it’s up to me to be the smart one.

“You’re going to my school tonight. Don’t you remember anything? It’s parent-teacher conferences.” I draw an exasperated breath and my mother makes a face at me.

“Why are you making me go to this thing, Cricket? Aren’t you like an honor student or something?”

My mother cursed me for life by naming me Cricket. She thought it sounded like a name for a beauty queen. How ironic that the name fits more because my thighs slap together and make a noise when I walk.

“Because it’s important to me! Don’t you care how I’m doing in school? Or how my teachers feel about me?” I feel tears well up suddenly, and I push my glasses up hard on the bridge of my nose, as if this will stop the flow.

“Ugh, Cricket. I don’t understand why you won’t take me up on my offer of contact lenses,” she replies instead.

There are times I cannot abide her shallowness.

“Because if you studied the eye like I did, you’d know that they can give you horrible infections that can lead to blindness.”

“Oh, who told you that?”

“Mr. Jacobs, my science teacher.”

“Teachers don’t know everything, Cricket. And stop chewing on your hair. You’re never going to get rid of those split ends,” she adds, patting her own perfect mane.

I stomp upstairs to study for a few hours and when I come back down, my mother is still smoking and dancing.

“You should really go soon, Mom. The conference starts at six o’clock.”

I watch helplessly as she shrugs into her rabbit jacket. It’s cheap and the fur is all mottled. I consider getting into one of our usual animal rights arguments, but I don’t want her to be late and miss talking to anyone. Especially Mr. Barron, my English teacher, the only person who’s ever paid special attention to me. He always says how brilliant I am, and that if I keep it up, great things are going to happen. He makes me feel like no one has ever made me feel in my entire life. Please, please, please let my mother remember every word he tells her.

I’m so edgy after my mother leaves that I pace back and forth, back and forth, until finally, I decide to take a walk to the diner. My mother would not be happy about this, not because I’m going out at night but because I’m going out alone. She doesn’t understand why I don’t want to be with my friends. It’s just that ever since this girl Jeannie Burko came to live in our neighborhood, I don’t feel like hanging out with anyone. I think Jeannie is loud and stupid but for some reason, all of my old pals think she’s way cool and they worship her to the point where it makes me gag. My mother, as usual, doesn’t get it. She thinks I’m upset because I’m comparing my looks to Jeannie’s.

“Don’t worry, Cricket,” was her advice. “When you get older, you’ll see. All the pretty girls get ugly and the awkward girls get pretty.”

I stared at my mother like she was from outer space. She really had no idea about me at all.

At the diner, I forget about the loose flesh around my waist and order ice cream. I sigh and wish I didn’t use food as comfort. I learned all about that in health class. I knew I should be eating whole grain breads and fruit and vegetables but I live with a person who considers the golden arches a culinary treat. So I’m doubly doomed.

Of course on the walk home I see Jeannie Burko and all my old friends hanging on the corner. I take a detour across a neighbor’s yard to avoid them. They’re all smoking; I see the orange glow ash from their cigarettes in the darkening sky.

My mother arrives home five minutes after I do and throws me her coat which I catch with a look of disdain.

“So I hear you’re really good in school,” is what she says. She spreads out her hands, as if she has no clue at all how this is possible.

“What did Mr. Barron say?” I blurt, although I had every intention of playing it cool and acting like I didn’t care. Because when it comes to stuff like this, my mother for once has amazingly astute radar. “Oh, Cricket…he’s so gorgeous! And I notice he doesn’t wear a wedding band. Where did he get those eyelashes? He really does look like a Steven, doesn’t he?”

Steven. Hearing his name coming from her lips makes me physically ill. It’s as if she’s taken something sacred and then spit all over it.

“He looks like a Hollywood actor, Cricket. Oh man, I don’t know how you can concentrate in his class.”

“Tell me exactly what he said, Mom, okay?”

“Oh, I don’t remember everything, honey. He just went on and on about how you were really special and the most talented high school kid he ever taught, he just went on and on about that, and then we started talking movies and music, and that was it. Sorry, I didn’t get to see any of your other teachers, it was just too crowded. Now if you don’t mind, I am exhausted and I want to go lay down. I have to work a long day tomorrow,” she sighs, and leaves me standing there, holding her horrible dead rabbit jacket in my hands.

But after she goes to bed, I rehash the little she told me over and over in my head. Steven thinks I’m special.

I only discovered his name was Steven about a month ago. I found out while walking in the halls at school; he was talking with my science teacher and I heard him say “Have a nice weekend, Steven.” Steven. I swooned and as soon as I got home from school that day, immediately opened up the phone book. There he was, listed plain as day. Steven Barron – 476-2235. I committed the number to memory, repeating it to myself several times along with his name.

And like some kind of evil force, the number wouldn’t leave my brain. I knew I had to call him. Just to hear his voice, that was all. I’d only do it the one time, and that would be it.

The first time was from the booth in O’Brien’s drug store. My heart was beating so loud in my ears I thought I was having some kind of coronary attack. I sat there for a few minutes, scared witless, yet knowing I was going to go through with it. And then, it was as if some weird thing took over me, something so powerful I still can’t comprehend it. I picked up the receiver and dialed.

“Hello? Hello?”

Oh my god, it was him. I was filled with sudden panic and quickly hung up. What made me do that, I wondered. It was so idiotic and babyish. It was so wrong. I took a deep breath and tried to relax. And realized that underneath the fear and the loathing, I was feeling an odd thrill. I broke out in gooseflesh and my nipples grew hard. I made a false promise to myself that I would never do it again.

But the next day, the number roared in my brain, over and over, 476-2235. I couldn’t stop it, I couldn’t think of anything else. I went to the diner that time, the phones were way in the back, by the bathroom.

And so it began. I couldn’t get through one day without calling him. I would try to stop myself, I really would. I couldn’t even think to myself what kind of person I must be, how damaged, how mentally ill—it was too terrible to contemplate.

There was something about doing it that excited me.

I was so paranoid about getting caught that finding a different place to call him each day became a game to me, a challenge. I would end up in discount department stores, gas stations, bus terminals, diners. My aunt’s house. Each time I did it, I felt a terrible shame. And yet…

Tonight, the words “Steven thinks I’m special” echoing in my ears, I squeeze my pillow between my legs and rock back and forth whispering Steven oh Steven until I finally gasp and fall into a restless, sweaty sleep.

During English class, I am the picture of academic perfection. If only anyone knew what was going on in my head.

After school, I go to the mall, which is about a half hour walk. I know from experience and the phone book that Steven only lives a minute or two from school, so by the time I make my call from one of the pay phones there, he will already be home. But just as I am getting ready to do that, I see Jeannie Burko and my old best friend and Jeannie Burko clone Suzanne Kelley walking toward me. They are both wearing tons of makeup and big hair. I will myself to be invisible, but Suzanne spots me.

“Cricket, hi, whatcha up to?” she smiles. Jeannie looks bored and lights up a Marlboro in spite of the No Smoking signs everywhere. I mumble something about being at the mall to look for some new clothes. I hear Jeannie mutter under her breath to Suzanne that I need more than that. “After you’re done shopping, why don’t you come over Jeannie’s house with us,” Suzie drawls in her new Jeannie Burko voice.

I glance over at Jeannie, expecting her to be vigorously shaking her head “no way” at Suzanne, but she just looks back at me and shrugs.

“Okay,” I surprise myself by saying, hoping I don’t sound too anxious. I forget about my call for the moment and tag along with them instead. I feel like I’m in someone else’s skin, nothing feels right or comfortable.

At Jeannie’s house, we sit around talking. Well, I don’t talk, mostly I listen to Jeannie and Suzanne talk. They cover just about every kid in the ninth grade—who’s hot, who’s not, who’s doing it, who will never do it. I start to get desperate. I have absolutely nothing to add to this conversation, and I can only picture that I will be the next “who’s not hot who will never do it” the minute I’m out of their earshot. Much to my amazement, I find this bothers me. A lot. And so, I make what will be a fatal mistake.

“What do you think of Mr. Barron?” I ask, trying to sound adult sophisticated.

“Way cool. Definitely way cool,” Jeannie replies, coloring slightly. “Oh, isn’t he?” Suzanne chimes in.

“His name is Steven, did you know that?” I inform them like some kind of weird proud peacock.

“No, really?” Jeannie says, but I can see this is no big deal to either her or Suzanne. So I take it a step further.

“He’s listed in the phone book. In fact, I call him all the time.”

Suzie looks at me with new respect.

“You do not,” says Jeannie.

“Oh yes I do. Wanna see?” Do I have any idea at all of what I’m saying here? Am I completely losing my mind?

“What do you say to him? Do you have long, sexy conversations?” She giggles, but it’s a nasty laugh, and I don’t like it.

“Well, no, actually. I just call him is all. When he says hello, I hang up.”

Jeannie gives a disgusted cackle; Suzanne just looks confused. I feel utterly pathetic. But I’ve started a fire and now I have to stand there and watch it burn with morbid curiosity.

“What’s his number?” Jeannie is daring me, I can hear it in her voice.


“Why don’t you call him now? From here?” Suzie and I will get on the other extension.” .

“What if he’s got caller i.d.?”

“We have an unlisted phone number,” she grins.

I feel trapped and totally powerless. Suzie and Jeannie are smirking as they go into the kitchen and pick up the other line. I dial Mr. Barron’s number and wait in tense anticipation for him to pick up the phone.

“Hello? Hello?” His voice is tight; he sounds really angry. “Now listen…”

Suddenly, there is a giggle on the other end, and Jeannie Burko, loud and clear as a freaking bell, blurts out “It’s Cricket! It’s Cricket!” And simultaneously, we all slam down the phone.

“You didn’t just do that to me. You didn’t!” I cry, the tears are flowing down my checks and leaving wet splotches on my t-shirt.

“Oh what’s the big deal, Cricket. He has no proof that it’s you,” Jeannie sniffs.

But I’m destroyed, I’m terrified, and I run out of her front door in hysterics. I don’t know how I get through the rest of the evening. I think about cutting school the next day, only I have a science test that counts for half of my grade and I’ve spent weeks studying for it. I tell myself that maybe Mr. Barron won’t think it’s me, because I never would have identified myself like that, and it wasn’t even my voice. But deep down inside, I know I’m in trouble. Big trouble. I have absolutely no idea how I’m going to handle it if he confronts me. I entertain fantasies all night long about tearing Jeannie limb from limb, until she is nothing more than a pile of big hair that I sweep into a dust pan and deposit in garbage filled dumpster.

I wake with dread and somehow force myself to go to school. I walk into English class with my head hung low. I don’t hear a word Mr. Barron says to the class, I can’t even look at him. I pretend to be searching in my text book for something the entire hour. Finally, the bell rings and I jump to my feet, hoping to make a quick get away. But I’m not that lucky.

“Cricket,” he says, an ominous tone in his voice. “Wait after class for a moment, will you?”

My face blazes and I feel like a condemned prisoner as everyone else files out the door. He sits on the edge of his desk and crosses his legs.

“Is everything okay, Cricket? You weren’t yourself in class today.” .

I shuffle my feet nervously and look away. The laughing, shouting voices of the other kids fade as they head for their next period class and the old clock on the wall above ticks loudly, echoing in the empty room. When I finally meet his eyes, he’s looking at me with a curious expression.

“It was you, wasn’t it,” he says softly, his voice tinged with disbelief.

I can’t answer him. My tongue is so thick I’m afraid I may choke. What’s he going to do to me? What’s going to happen? Will I be suspended, expelled…what? Or will he give me the dreaded I’m-so-disappointed-in-you speech. I now know the meaning of the term breaking out into a cold sweat.

“What were you thinking of, Cricket? Why did you do it?” What makes it worse is that he sounds condescending yet concerned, like he’s worried I’m a psycho.

“I don’t know,” I mumble miserably.

“You must have had a reason. If you needed to talk to me, all you had to do was talk. Why did you keep calling and hanging up? I just don’t understand…”

I stare out the window behind his head. Outside, two seniors are kissing under a cherry blossom tree. My heart hurts.

“Cricket? Are you listening? I’m trying to be sympathetic here…but you aren’t making it easy. Didn’t you realize what you were doing? Didn’t you stop and think of the possible consequences?”

All I can do is shake my head no like some kind of moron. I’m perspiring so badly that I wonder if I’m not peeing myself, too. I feel a wet spot on my jeans, and I’m too horrified to check. I look back outside at the two lovers. The boy is cupping the girl’s chin in his hand. Something tightens in my stomach. Mr. Barron turns around and follows my gaze and sighs.

“Look, Cricket. I can tell your life is a little bit different. I can tell by your comments in class, by the way you write. I understand. Maybe you might want to talk to your counselor here, but I’m not going to force you. I’m going to take this as a silly mistake by a young girl who now feels very badly. So look. I’m going to let you slide this time. I think you’ve learned your lesson here. You’re a good student. As long as it doesn’t happen again, we’re both going to forget we had this talk, that this whole thing ever happened. Deal?”

“Deal,” I gasp. “I’m so sorry, Mr. Barron. I’m so, so sorry. I’ll never do it again. I promise. I really do. I promise, I promise, I promise. I really have learned my lesson. I have!” I am crying now, my nose is running, I wish he would hug me but I know he can’t –that’s the last thing he will do.

“Okay, then. Now get to your next class before you get a late slip. We can’t have our budding genius getting detention,” he smiles.

I am so weak-kneed with relief and I’m so grateful I almost throw myself into his arms anyway, but I control myself, thank God. If he’s forgiving me this easily, maybe he does care! Maybe he even loves me a little, almost as much as I love him. He said I’m a budding genius! My heart practically thumps right out of my chest and I’m almost skipping as I turn to leave.

“Oh, and Cricket?” he calls out after me. “Be sure to say hello to that pretty mother of yours for me, will you?”

I freeze statue still in the doorway.

“You’ll remember? To give her my regards, I mean?” he says, his voice unfamiliar and husky.

Somehow, I manage to nod.

# # #

This story first appeared in In Posse Review

To learn more about Robin's work, visit her website,, or her Publishers Marketplace page. Better yet, go straight to the source and order Robin's hot and hilarious Three Days in New York City. You'll be an instant fan, I promise.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Meet Johanna Edwards

One of the talented authors from the Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit has just published her second book, and it looks like a pure delight. Here's the synopsis:

Danielle "Dani" Myers has become an expert at romantic breakups ever since she was hired to "facilitate" them for clients of Your Big Break, Inc. In other words, she dumps people for money. But company rule #5 (do not get personally involved) is getting harder to obey. One of her dumpees is turning out to be the kind of guy she might just want to pick up on the reboundAndnd a new client has just walked in, begging for Dani's help breaking up with The Big Jackass, who's been leading her on all this time-and now turns out to be married. It would be a routine job except for one problem: the so-called Big Jackass is married to none other than Dani's mother.

Sounds great, doesn't it? Even though the book just came out, the critics are already agreeing:

"Readers will find the themes of the novel very relatable--who hasn't experienced heartbreak or the excitement of new love? Chick-lit enthusiasts will welcome this fresh and funny addition from the author of The Next Big Thing (2005)." - Aleksandra Kostovski, American Library Association

You can buy Johanna's new book, Your Big Break at your local bookstore. To order online, visit or Barnes and Noble. To learn more about Johanna, visit her website at

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Why I love being a mom

Here's an actual conversation I just had with my pint-sized 8-year-old daughter.

Daughter: I've never been skiing in my whole life.

Me: You want to experience everything, don't you?

Daughter: Yes.


Daughter: Except going to jail.


Daughter: And dying.




Daughter: And eating rabbit.

Friday, March 17, 2006

"That, Not This"

by Jordan Rosenfeld

In addition to being a magnificent storyteller, my friend Jordan has a gift for language that knocks the wind right out me. She's also a talented nonfiction writer. And the host of a literary radio show, Word by Word. She makes jewelry, too. And she's young and pretty and has a great, big, generous heart. Okay, I'll stop now and let her writing speak for itself.

That, Not This
By Jordan Rosenfeld

It seemed natural to April to be drawn toward foods slightly fetal in quality: halves of tomatoes, primal and slimy; smooth, slightly gelatinous eggs with runny yolks; artichoke hearts emerging from the womb of their leaves. Her pregnancy itself, however, did not seem so terribly natural, despite all she'd been told of a woman's inborn urge and instinct for mothering. Her body had begun to take on the qualities of a temperamental teenage girl. It bloated, ached and drew her emotions into conspiratorial crescendos, blasting her like a small sailboat through hormone driven surf.

She probed inside a small tangelo for its seeds at breakfast. The pulp and juice of the tiny citrus seemed like little internal organs splayed open under the halogen light of a science class. For one anthropomorphic moment, she didn't want to eat it. That finger, her right index, was swollen along with its fellows full of ambient water, a side effect of gestation. Since reaching the plateau and "safety" of the second trimester just two weeks ago, she had been drawn to the insides of things with a fascination that made her feel conspicuous. Hal caught her yesterday peering up into the pipes under the bathroom sink, a large plastic U of piping at her side.

"Fixing a clog?" he joked.

April blushed and stuttered and left the sink undone like that without an explanation. She had just wanted to look inside, see what couldn't otherwise be seen, as if there might have been some parallel understanding to the creature (she couldn't quite see it as a person yet) growing inside her.

Hal weathered her moods and strange behavior quite tolerantly for a man who was not genetic contributor to her expected child. She had stopped having the nightmare too, in which Hal was a gorilla smothering all her baby gorillas and trying to seed her with one of his own.

With her hands smeared in tangelo juice, the phone rang — as it did much more often, she discovered, in the life of a pregnant woman. She wiped her fingers on the side of her pajama top and leapt to answer it.

"Hey girl," Bonnie's voice chirped.

"Bon-bon. It's Saturday, make me feel like a normal person again, O.K.? People act like I might hurt myself by lifting paper."

"County fair," Bonnie said.

"Oh." April tried to hide her lack of interest.

"I promised Ethan. You'd be good company for me, if you're feeling up to it."

"Well I can't really use nausea as an excuse."

Bonnie arrived twenty minutes later in "The Behemoth" as Hal referred to it, a vehicle so big and red that it made eyebrows rise even in SUV circles, according to Bonnie, who drove it because her husband insisted on the BMW for himself. Eight year-old Ethan, as red-headed and freckled as they came, sat in the backseat looking sullen.

Bonnie kissed April and attempted to open her door for her.

"Don't do that! I'm pregnant, not disabled."


Bonnie walked back to her side and got in.

"Hey moppet," April said to Ethan, who didn't even crack a smile. "Who's got crumbs in his pants?" April teased.

"We're negotiating needs," Bonnie said to which Ethan thumped the back of her seat with a Nike-clad foot. "He believes he needs more time in front of the television, I believe I need a child who can form a complete sentence."

The fairground teemed with people, many of whom had managed to become sunburned before noon. The chaos of odors and the roar of rides made April feel overwhelmed, though she kept it to herself. Bonnie procured a handful of tickets for Ethan and set him off on The Zipper.

"I want a caramel apple," April declared, drawn by the prospect of something with seeds in its heart.

"Ugh," Bonnie clutched her stomach. "The last time I had one of those it didn't stay down."

They wandered past the booths full of cheap glasses in a crowded bay of other glassware; white, egg-like Ping Pong balls floated embryonic in the belly of ashtrays and bowls too small to be of much use.

"You want to try?" Bonnie pointed. The hawker smiled at the ladies.

"Ten balls for two dollars," he said.

"No thanks," Bonnie said, flipping her hair in an unconscious mode of flirtation. "We have more than enough balls in our lives."

The hawker grinned. "You can never have enough," he said.

The chemistry of strangers trading pheromones irritated April. There were days she loved Bonnie like a sister and days she wished she'd never met her.

April pushed her on.

"He was cute!" Bonnie protested.

"You're married," April reminded.

"We'll see how long that lasts," Bonnie replied, glancing up at The Zipper to locate her son, swirling in centrifugal motion.

"Don't let Ethan hear you say that. This is the stuff that scars children for life."

"No, the permanent damage comes from the name-calling that goes on in his presence."

"Is that why he watches so much television?"


They soon moved Ethan on to the Tilt O' Whirl, where he was piled into a cab containing three boys much bigger than him who looked pained to have him in their midst. Despite having defied gravity three ways to Sunday, Ethan didn't show the slightest trace of an upset stomach.

"He called, you know," Bonnie said, reaching for April's half-gnawed caramel apple despite her earlier grimaces.

"Don't eat the last of the caramel," April said.

"You don't want to talk about the call?"

"What's to say Bon? We made a deal. My autonomy for his disappearance."

"There's no such thing as no strings attached, you know."

April grabbed the apple from her friend's hand mid-bite. Bonnie narrowed her eyes.

"If this is your idea of an intervention, you can forget it," April said, purposely licking off the remains of the caramel. Behind them a caricature of a carnie, all greased hair and pock marked skin, beckoned to them with promise of stuffed zebras at his game.

"That ride makes me sick just to look at it," Bonnie said watching her son's blurred face whiz by. Then she fell silent or as close to it as possible inside the parabola of carnival noise. The nearest simulation of silence was the whoosh of the water gun filling up behind their heads where sunburned men won their girlfriends stuffed jungle animals.

"So what did he want?" April acquiesced.

"Just to know how you are."

"And how am I?"

"Fine, I guess. You seem fine. Hal seems fine. Everyone is peachy."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Look, I'm going to be an aunt to my best friend's baby and yet my own brother is out of the loop. It's just, it feels weird, you know? It feels…"



"He didn't want it."

"And you did. The quintessential dilemma of procreation," said Bonnie with a sigh.

"How'd you feel when you got pregnant with Ethan?"


"Ha-ha. I'm serious."

"Ecstatic, honestly. I was a walking ovary basically just waiting to pop out an egg.”

"Did you feel ecstatic right away?"

Bonnie bit her fingernail and glanced back at the cute ping pong ball hawker who waved.

"Yeah, from the second that other pink line appeared."

"I'm still hungry," April said, shoving off mid conversation toward the speckled yellow and red stand that sold cornballs. Bonnie, distracted by eye contact with the cute guy, finally chased after her.

"You're avoiding something," she said when she caught up. Mouth full of popcorn ball, April shrugged.

"You were excited when you found out, right? You would have been more excited if Cole had been too… right? "

"Probably, but…"

Bonnie pressed on, as if afraid to hear what April might really have to say.

"But Hal's a good guy and you love him, I know."

"No, it's not just that."

"And he is a good guy to father someone else's baby." Bonnie sounded bitter.

"Hal is… he pays attention, he wants to be…"

"I mean, it's not something just any guy would do… they always want to plant their own seed…"

The gorilla nightmare rose like acid reflux in April.

"Stop it, Bonnie. Enough. "

Bonnie glanced over April's shoulder at the ping pong guy. April followed her gaze.

"If you get his phone number I'm going to kill you." April said.

"Who should leave whom alone?"

"Ethan's Tilt O' Whirled out," April said pointing. Bonnie shot her a glance full of irritation and they trudged off to rescue the teetering boy.

Another five rides later and a chatty conversation with ping pong guy that fortunately did not lead to potential extramarital concerns, April was done with her day at the carnival.

"Can we just look at the animals before we go?" Ethan begged his mother. Bonnie pleaded through eye contact with April. The look said, he doesn't ask me for anything anymore… just give me this.

So they meandered through manure scented rows of pigs and cows and proud handlers. Ethan ran ahead, kicking up sawdust. April tucked the top of her shirt over her nose and mouth in case any wayward particles should filter in. Ethan stopped, transfixed in front of one stall. The women lingered behind so they could continue their conversation.

"Apey… can I ask you something?"

"You just did," April said, wishing she had a soda to wash the heat out of her throat.

"Ha-ha. Now I'm serious."

"You'll ask even if I say no; why do you even bother?"

"Do you really want this baby? I mean, you're not having second thoughts are you?"

April became suddenly fascinated with the gargantuan pig in the stall at their feet.

"It's nebulous right now. It's not a person or anything, just kind of an idea; an idea that makes me feel like shit every morning and makes a lot of people feel sorry for me. Come to think of it, it's a little bit like being disabled."

"What kind of an answer is that?"

"I guess not the one you were hoping for."

"I just… I have a genetic investment in this, you know?"

"Yeah, I know."

"And you know if you had second thoughts… I just want you to know that you have options."

April brushed sweaty blades of hair from her face.

"Are you saying you'd adopt this baby if I didn't want it?"

"I'm just putting it out there."

April shook her head. What was there to say to that? Something about it made her angry and she felt like taking off in a gallop away from the stinking carnival air and the fawning interest of her friend. Just then, Ethan shouted and waved to the two women frantically, a look of desperation stretched across his face. "Come here! It's dying, Mom. It's dying."

They rushed over to the stall where a very fat cow was lying on her back, lowing.

"Oh my God!" Bonnie said. "She's not dying, honey. She's in labor, look." She pointed to the cow's vagina where two tiny hooves were emerging inside a voluminous watery sac.

Their commotion brought the owner over and April, on shaky legs, and Bonnie and Ethan on bended knee witnessed Burma the Jersey cow bringing her baby into the world. April had to resist the urge to vomit.

"I told Betsy we shouldn't have brought her," the owner said, getting down on his hands and knees. "But she tried to tell me she has women's intuition. This baby wasn't coming for another week, she says!"

"Wasn’t that amazing?" Bonnie prodded as they left. April wished she could agree.

“Is that how I was born?” Ethan demanded, looking partially fascinated and disgusted, kicking dust at his feet into clouds that April had to avert her face from. Bonnie guffawed. “It did sort of feel like you had hooves… ”

Bonnie drove April home silently. Even Ethan refrained from acting out, sucking happily on a lollypop nearly as large as his head. When Bonnie pulled into April’s driveway she shut off the engine and stayed facing the garage door a moment without speaking.

“Bon bon?”

“Look, I’m sorry if I… if I went too far today. I’m sorry if I seem to want more than is my place.”

April felt sorry for her friend, whom she’d known since high school and had once spent a whole night discussing the mysteries of losing their virginity. Bonnie was caught between her own troubled blood and her best friend.

“You just might want something for me that I don’t even want for myself.”

Bonnie raised an eyebrow and snagged her lip between her teeth in what April thought was an overly dramatic gesture.

“What do you mean?”

April felt tired. “I don’t even know. Chalk it up to hormones.”

Bonnie opened her mouth as if to protest the easy answer, but stopped herself. They bid each other goodbye and April shuffled into the house feeling as tired as in her old marathon training days.

Hal was asleep on the couch with a baby-naming book fallen onto the floor, spread open to boys' names. Theodore. Thomas. Trevor. April stood watching the soft rise and fall of his hairy chest and felt momentarily like Hal’s return to her life was a conspiracy in effect, possibly by God, to stop her from doing foolish things. If Hal hadn’t turned up a week after Cole had retreated from a future life shackled by wife and eventual child, April would have done one of two things: thrown herself desperately on Cole with the same historical results or run off to Mexico.

How Hal had known she was single again, if one could call it that, was something they had simply not discussed. Hal was content to be the permanent “in-betweener” more permanent now than ever. In the history of their fourteen-year friendship, they’d dated more than six separate times. He’d called it dating, at least, she’d thought of it merely as screwing until now.

Whether it was her stare or the sound of her breathing that did it, Hal woke.

“Back already?” he said, stretching.

She laughed, “I think so,” she said, then walked to the window, placed a hand unconsciously on her stomach, and wondered if a fetus was capable of caring for its own future yet.

“Have fun?”

Her nose recreated the acrid smell of sweating children and synthetic popcorn and sugar commingled into one top note. She grimaced.

“Not exactly fun. More like distraction.”

She could almost hear him thinking behind her. Hal seemed perpetually on the edge of speaking a sentence; one that April often felt would reveal a truth that would shed some needed light on their situation.

“You hungry?”

“No, I’m full of carnival food.”

Hal got up and came around behind her, put his arms around her. She wanted to shrug him off. It wasn’t out of spite or loathing; she loved the feel of his construction-worker arms, his smell like baby powder left in the sun. She didn’t want his love though, until she could promise him that all shards of her feelings for Cole were pulled free from the sinews of her being… and that seemed so impossibly far away. If he wanted to stay, he could stay. If he wanted to be the male presence in her child’s life, she couldn’t see any reason not to give him that. But every caress of his recalled a gesture of Cole’s, even if it was Cole’s pale, slender hand pulling away from her, or gripping the meat of her arm too tightly in an argument. Though he had been hard to get close to, and often mean, she'd gotten used to his brand of love. Hal’s was too easy, too available.

“What do you think about Tiberius as a name for a boy?” Hal whispered in her ear, digging for a laugh.

She smiled. “I think Tiberius is actually kind of interesting,” she said, and then excused herself to lie down.

Total erasure of her lifelong insomnia was the one beauty of pregnancy. All her body required was the placement of her head against any surface remotely horizontal. She’d nearly fallen asleep standing up in the supermarket as she’d craned her head sideways to read a label.

She fell fast into the dark, tight desert of sleep, bumped only occasionally by a scattering of dreams that were more like someone else’s vacation slides accidentally shoved into her unconscious. Jars of wet cocktail onions and bowls of slimy spaghetti were set upon a table. Larvae and fish swam through soupy lagoons. Cole strode in and out of these dark, primal dream spaces, as if searching for something he’d left. She woke startled by a cramp in her abdomen, the smell of Hal’s eggplant parmesan creeping up the stairs into the bedroom.

She sat up, reassured that the cramp was not repeating, soothed her belly with her hand and forced herself to go downstairs. Once, Cole had pushed her across the room over an argument about something whose topic she could not remember. A bill? A glance she’d made at another man? The way she’d parked his car? She had fallen hard onto her tailbone, spraining her sacroiliac joint and bruising her lumbar ribs. He hadn’t even said he was sorry. Since entering her fourth month, the sacroiliac joint that had almost healed completely had started to throb again, especially when going downstairs, as if to remind her constantly how she’d gotten into this state.

She hobbled on aching leg down to the kitchen and pulled up a chair to the table.

Hal, who had been married twice already, moved about the kitchen with grace, familiar with rituals of comfort. Cole often came home so late that she’d simply make dinners for one, bearing his anger when he’d somehow expected her to know, psychically - she presumed - that she should have prepared something for him.

She still remembered the day when she had to tell Bonnie the truth about her brother. Bonnie had been contemplating running off with the young butcher at her market and had been difficult to corral into conversations that had anything to do with anything else.

They’d been sitting in Bonnie’s backyard catching the fast forming drips off lime popsicles.

“Why do you look so glum?” Bonnie asked, after revealing what the butcher boy had said he wanted to do to her. A fat drop of green goo had splashed her white summer dress and she’d begun wiping it, only making the stain worse.

“Cole hasn’t been home in two nights,” April said.

“He loves to go fishing, doesn’t he?” Bonnie said, turning the hose on to get the green out of her dress.

“No, Bon… he just doesn’t come home. He hasn't gone fucking fishing.”

Bonnie looked up then.

“He isn’t always very nice to me, you know.”

“No, I don’t know.”

April had put her face in her hands or possibly even gotten up and strode across the lawn. Bonnie had shut completely up about her potential infidelity.

“He’s hard on me.”

Bonnie had coaxed the truth out of her, but had been reluctant to believe it. For a week the two friends didn’t speak while Bonnie sorted out the details for herself and finally came to admit that she had known her brother to be a “rough guy” on some level. He used to chase her and beat her up when they were kids. He'd murdered the guinea pig when she was ten, and he was twelve. Bonnie had bolstered her output of friendship from there, as if trying to make up for the failings of her brother.

Now, soothed by the smell of food cooking, April had a hard time placing Hal in her home, her life. The dream images of Cole walking through rooms stuck with her. Hal seemed like a borrowed thing, on loan from some service that helped single mothers. She had the good man in her life and the seed of the bad boy growing inside her but an anxiety pervaded, as if Cole was going to show up and tell her he’d changed his mind, that she and the baby belonged to him. Part of her was horrified by the idea, but another part of her, as she looked at Hal readying her meal, liked the idea more than she could admit to anyone. And guilt then followed. She was a cliché, one of those women on Jerry Springer who falls for the bad boy because she had an unavailable father, who craves torture over tenderness because it confirms her low self-esteem.

“Soda or water with dinner?” Hal asked, herding vegetables around in a skillet of oil.

“Water. I can get it myself.”

“You can, but don’t,” Hal said, moving toward the water purifier before she could as much as push out her chair.

The summer evening was light and hot.

“Let’s eat on the porch,” she suggested. Hal nodded. “But after dinner I want to take you somewhere.”

“Oh Hal, I’m not up for much.”

“Trust me… it’s just another… .distraction. You’ll have fun.”

They ate his delicious eggplant parmesan and stirred veggies outside. When they finished, Hal cleared everything away.

“Digest for a half hour, and then you’re coming with me.”

As she lay against the sofa staring out at the tall, slightly withered pink and purple heads of the Cosmos she’d planted in spring, there came another twinge in her uterus, sharp enough to make her catch her breath.

She almost called out for Hal but instead hobbled to the bathroom. A few drops of blood marred her underwear. Spotting and cramping were both normal signs. It happened to women, especially women who were closer to thirty-five. She put a maxi pad into her panties and wondered if she should call the doctor. She didn’t want to tell Hal, to raise his anxieties unnecessarily. She returned to the couch and rested as he had suggested and took three Tylenol just in case, before Hal shepherded her off to his truck.

“Where are we going?”

“Surprise,” Hal said.

She wanted to tell him that she didn’t care for surprises just now, but every time she thought of thwarting his efforts to be sweet to her, something stopped her.

The drive out to Drake's Beach, though longer than she wanted to sit in a car, had the effect of lulling her. Her whole body felt swollen with a sedative bloat, like she had turned into a large round sphere instead of a person, the food and the comforting monotony of the road ahead acting like an analgesic.

Hal had no children, and April was worried that he had more invested in her own child than she did, that he would love this baby not only more than her, but more than she could love her own baby.

Would she spend the rest of her life looking at a simulacrum of Cole? Hear an inflection reminiscent of that sharp vocal punctuation of his, watch tiny demonstrations by her child of his big, lively gestures that had won her over when she was sixteen? She had known both men for too long. Should she make a break now, go back and suffer the oppressive supervision of her parent's house and end ties with Hal for good? Because he couldn't love her if not for this shiny slice of promising future in her belly, could he?

She had fallen asleep to the lullaby of the car on the road and the sudden halt of motion woke her as Hal pulled into the parking lot at the beach.

"Wake up, babe," he said, resting a warm, large hand on her thigh. Another tiny cramp squeezed her uterus. She got out of the car and felt a rush of well-being at the smell of ocean.

"It's pretty," she said. "Water looks icy, though."

"We're not going in the water… unless you want to?" Hal smiled.

"I forgot my wet suit," she said.

Hal rummaged in the back of the truck and returned with something large and vaguely triangular in shape.

"What is that?"

He took her hand. "C'mon out here, I'll show you."

They pushed out onto the sand, littered with dead kelp and water-smoothed wood and stone. A handful of people dotted the beach, and one crazy surfer paddled, belly on his board, out to catch a wave.

Hal unfurled the item in his hands and April realized, finally, what it was.

"A kite?"

"Yup. Made it myself."

It was built like a miniature hang glider with two rope spindles instead of one and looked almost like something that required a pilot.

The wind was gentle, but enough to get the kite off the ground and once in the air, Hal maneuvered it deftly with tiny manipulations of his fingers and hands, sometimes it looked like the kite was simply holding him up.

"Now you try," Hal said. April looked at the ungainly thing. Her hands felt clumsy and swollen.

"I don't know if I can."

"You can," Hal said.

He handed her the spindles then took the end of the kite and moved away from her, jogging a little until April could feel the place where wind and her own body were at an exact tension. But the kite was big and heavy and she felt suddenly so small and incapable. It would rise into the air for a few seconds and then plummet back to earth.

It reminded April of a time when Cole took her to the long stretch of green down by the Marina in San Francisco to watch the kites. She had been mesmerized by the airy dance of all those brightly colored flags and had begun to follow one in particular held by a good looking man, following its dip and swirl with patient eyes. Cole had dragged her from the park finally, his thin sharp fingers carving a string of bruises into her arm. In the car he had accused her of wanting to go home with the man holding the kite she'd been watching.

As she thought about this, the kite under Hal's instruction nosed down into the sand again and April shook her head and dropped the spindles at her sides feeling discouraged. Like somehow this was a test for her future and she was failing. Hal came toward her. "Don't give up," he said.

Another pinch tore through her uterus and this one was sharp enough to make her wince aloud. Hal noticed.

"What is it, sweetie?"

April breathed in deeply, the way she used to through the three-hundredth sit-up. When she let go of the chord of air a long, snaky sob slid out past her guard.

Hal stared at her, looking helpless, but his gaze wasn't the judgmental glare of Cole's who used to feel manipulated by her crying.

"I… I can't fly this stupid thing."

"It takes practice. That's what you're doing. Practicing."

"I don't want to do it. I don't want to learn."

Hal looked at his red and yellow kite, lovingly cut and sewed to the light frame, April imagined. She felt suddenly guilty again, like she was rejecting him by failing to fly his creation.

"Hal… I… Ow!"

This cramp was bigger and more fierce than any other she'd felt yet. She put her hands on her belly then, to support it or hold it. Hal looked alarmed.

"You're in pain!"

"I'm having these cramps," she said. "I don't think this is a good sign."

As she said the words, she became aware of a shivery fear rising from her spine, a sense that if something happened with her pregnancy she was giving Hal permission to leave her.

"We should get you home then, call the doctor."

"No. Not yet," she said. "Let me just go to the bathroom. I want to try the kite again. I'm O.K."

Hal looked unconvinced, but he rarely pushed his agenda on her. He walked her to the bathroom and April sat down on the toilet afraid of what she would find. A series of smaller cramps began to course through her, the kind she used to get before her period began.

She pulled her underwear down and saw that the pad she had installed there was heavily spotted with blood. It was happening. She had read the literature. Miscarriages could happen at any time, even in the second trimester. It was normal; it just happened to some women.

April washed her hands in the cold water and dried them under the warm air device. She hobbled outside where Hal stood, clutching his kite like a child.


"Let's fly the kite again. I'm O.K.," she said.

"Are you sure?"


He stared at her a moment before agreeing.

She let Hal unfurl the triangular bird again and held onto the spindles like they were the controls to an airplane. Like they could hold much more than that tiny cloth creature aloft.

"Don't try to control it so much as just follow it, just feel where the tension picks up and then try to keep it riding the current," Hal instructed.

He moved a step away and the kite lifted up in the air but quickly fell back to earth. A cramp rippled her uterus. She breathed in, motioned for Hal to try again. This time she would feel the place where the kite grabbed the sky, where it wanted to ascend and meet the wind. And though it was only for a few seconds, the feeling was enough to urge her to do it again. Suddenly the kite was not just another ungainly object she had to magically put into the air; it was a living thing hungry to stay alive.

The kite finally rose and stayed up. April took steps backward, keeping the tension of the string taut, breathing, following, not controlling, and it occurred to her for the first time that maybe Hal was here because he wanted to be.

She could have stayed there all day, through the night until her arms grew numb. The dance of kite and her body made a sense her mind couldn't name. She and the kite had been one solid line. When the airborne craft finally hit a pocket of dead air and drifted lazily to the ground, Hal ran up to her, his cheeks wind-reddened, laughing. "Seven minutes!" he said. It had felt like hours to April.

Her belly quivered, she felt slightly feverish and elated.

"I guess I should get back… should call the doctor," she said, but felt no alarm.

"Is it… ?"

"I think so."

"Are you sad?" he asked.

"Are you?" she said.

Hal smiled and put his arm around her. "It's hard to be sad when I've got my arm around the woman I love."

* * *

This story first appeared in Summerset Review

To learn more about Jordan, visit her blog, Write Livelihood.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I. Am. Done.

I just finished my first draft of The Smart One and boy does it feel awesome! My new baby measures 390 pages long, and weighs in at 95,000 words.

My next step is to start editing, but I tend to write pretty tight, so it shouldn't be a very long process. Then I'll show it to hubby and my wonderful crit pal, both of whom will have useful comments, I'm sure. After I incorporate those, I'll send it to my agents and my editor.

But right now the question is, how shall I celebrate? Champagne? Caviar? Godiva chocolates? I'll mull it over while I dance through the house folding laundry and sprinkling Comet in the toilets.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Deja vu

Today, in an exact repeat of yesterday, there was no article in The Daily News about my book. Others might be quick to point out that there was also no article about my book in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, BusinessWeek, Institutional Investor, Time, People, Vanity Fair, Playboy, Good Housekeeping, Glamour, Redbook, Family Circle, New Woman, Highlights, The New England Journal of Medicine or Teen Beat.

However, in the department of The Universe is Writing My Press Release, I saw the following item in Newsday today:

Patricia Heaton, a two-time Emmy winner for her work on "Raymond," is starring in an as yet untitled half-hour for ABC about a recently widowed woman who begins a new life after joining the PTA.

Dear ABC: May I suggest a title?

Monday, March 13, 2006

No news is no news

Yes, that was me looking pathetic in the parking lot of the Seven-Eleven at six o'clock this morning, frantically flipping the pages of The Daily News. I had heard my book was going to get a mention today, but no dice. Disappointing? You bet. But I can't dwell on it. People have worse things happen to them all the time. Just yesterday, for instance, I heard that a woman in my town had a bad hair day. I'm thinking of sending a card.

In other media news, life imitates art as there's an headline in the current issue of People magazine that sounds like it could be straight out of my novel. Turn to page 23 of the double Oscar edition, and you'll see this:

Delighting locals, George Clooney films his next film in a small New York burg

Combine that with the gossip that the toothsome hunk is dating Desperate Housewives hottie Teri Hatcher, and you've petty much got the entire plot of "Secret Confessions of the Applewood PTA." It's like the universe is writing my press release, but keeps forgetting to mention the title of my book.

Thank heavens my hair looks okay.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Meet Cindy Cruciger!

You've got to love an author who has this to say about her book:
"This is not your typical romance. This is not a romance for normal people. Revenge Gifts is a romance for the lunatic fringe."


Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to another member of the Girlfriends' Cyber Circuit, Cindy Cruciger. She sounds like a lot of fun, doesn't she? I'm sure her book is, too. Check out what these reviewers have to say about her debut novel, Revenge Gifts:

"***** This is one of the most amusing novels I have read this year! Tara has a most unique outlook on life that almost convinced me to join her for a walk on the dark side! This modern contemporary romance adds just enough of the paranormal element to make the characters' lives interesting to those of us forced to live in reality. "Revenge Gifts" will win awards, mark my words. Highly recommended! ***** " - Detra Fitch, Five Stars from HUNTRESS REVIEWS

"Cindy Cruciger's debut novel is riotously funny and wickedly witty. Tara's personality not only jumps off the page at you, it grabs you by the throat and drags you into the story. I loved the way Tara's character evolved over the course of the story, but never lost her sarcastic humor. REVENGE GIFTS kept me up reading long past bedtime, and I enjoyed every second of it. If you're looking for the perfect escape, grab this book today!" - Cat Cody, 4.5 Ribbons from Romance Junkies

"Funny, snarky characters, smokin' hot sexual tension, and a little voodoo thrown in to keep things interesting". - Lisa Bradley Romance Divas

Not bad, eh? You can buy this "riotously funny and wickedly witty" novel at a boosktore near you, or order online from or Barnes & Noble. To learn more about Cindy, visit her website at

Friday, March 10, 2006

"Getting the 8 x 10"

by Susan Henderson

Have you read anything by my friend Susan Henderson? If not, you're missing a special kind of magic. Susan has a way of touching your heart with such deft elegance you don't even notice she's doing it. You get pulled along by the characters, the story, the spare details rich with meaning and before you know it the tenderest part of you is opened. I think you'll enjoy this ...

Getting the 8 x 10
By Susan Henderson

All summer I smothered myself in Crisco vegetable shortening, hoping for a good tan and maybe, finally, a boyfriend.

I lived at the swimming pool, where I pretended that I, like the other girls my age, had had my period. I occasionally spent a ridiculous amount of time in the bathroom stall, rustling paper and complaining of cramps. My tan was better than any of theirs but I was never asked to compare strap lines. And I was never asked about my crushes, though I had plenty. I liked the boy who mowed the pool grounds, some lifeguards, of course, and a guy who played ping pong all day. But mostly I liked the diving coach, who wore mirrored sunglasses and was actually short enough for me to kiss.

Most people at the pool called him Scott the Diving Coach, but I just called him Scott because we talked every day. I went wherever he went—water fountain, front desk, side of the pool, snack bar.

One day he handed me a cherry freeze from the snack bar, no charge. He sat next to me on the hot bench and said, "You're pretty much at the pool from opening to closing, am I right?"

"Every day," I said. I tipped the ice out of the paper cup and set it back in, upside down, to eat the soft part. I offered him a lick and he declined.

"Since you're around all the time anyway, would you like to be the manager of my diving team?"

I was a great manager: came early, stayed late, and did absolutely everything he asked without a complaint, which included carrying his clipboard and not letting it get wet, and writing things about the members of the diving team in my best handwriting. In the photo of the diving team, I was practically standing on his feet.

Scott was probably unaware, but he gave me status with the girls who left their Stayfree Mini Pad wrappers on the back of the toilet. While they stood back and giggled, I felt comfortable pulling up a lawn chair beside him or fetching balls when he played pingpong. At night I practiced kissing my arm.

My tan was progressing, but I wasn't sure that Scott and I were. Labor Day was fast approaching, meaning the pool would soon close. And worse, I learned Scott was going away to college. I tried to think of something to give him that would make us kiss, or at least make him pine for me from school. Desperate, I told my mom I was in love with the diving coach.

"Well," she said. "We could take a picture of you that looks like you're not wearing anything, and you can give that to him."

She got the Polaroid while I put on a bikini and a pair of her high heels. On a cardboard sign, I wrote: "Happy School." Except I wrote slash marks through the o's, the same way Scott did, because he was into computers and being original. Then, as directed by my mom, I covered the bottom part of my bikini with the sign and my mom took a picture of me from my stomach down.

"I'll bet he's cute," Mom said. But she'll never go to the pool because she looks pretty in dresses, not shorts and bathing suit ware. And she hides now when she's in sunlight because she says it makes her look old, so the house now is dim, the ceiling bulbs have long burnt out of the rooms she uses, and there are only table lamps with colored bulbs or lamps with scarves thrown over the lamp shade.

"If things go great," I said, "I'll bring him here to meet you."

I put the Polaroid in one of those photo cubes. There were spaces for five more pictures of me, but I wanted to wait until he asked. Then I wrapped the cube in his towel. He never said he got it but I know I would never mistake his towel for anyone else's.

The next time I saw him, I asked if he had a school picture he could give me. I still had plenty of mine leftover and maybe he'd ask for a trade. Scott said he gave them away. I realized he probably gave them away to girls—to the kinds of girls who were not like me.

"It doesn't matter," I said.

"But wait," he said. "I still have the 8 x 10."

He brought it the next day and signed it. I was careful to sunbathe but not swim so the photo would not get wet. Scott watched me that day with the same puzzled look he had in his picture.

On the last day the pool was open, I showed Scott I could forge his signature and I could imitate his walk and the slurp of his flip-flops. I even had the 8 x 10 with me again in case he wanted to write more. He didn't, said he couldn't think of anything else to say.

I tacked his photo to my closet door. Someday, his being short would no longer be a plus. Someday, having my period would not be my greatest ambition. Someday, I would surely pay the price for sunbathing in Crisco. But for the moment, I relished in the way Scott looked awkward in his formal clothes: He was old enough to shave but not old enough to look secure wearing a tie. And when I felt lonely, I could pretend it had something to do with him.

* * *
This story first appeared in Happy

I hope you loved this story as much as I did. To read more like this, visit and order Susan's story, Motorhead. It's exquisite! To learn more about Susan, visit her Publishers Marketplace page.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

For your clicking pleasure

Melanie Lynne Hauser, author of Confessions of Super Mom, posted the most hilarious blog entry today, The Care and Feeding of Authors. Brilliantly funny and worth a click.

The multi-talented Jordan Rosenfeld, novelist/blogger/journalist/ radio host/maker of fine jewelry, was generous enough to post an essay of mine on her blog today. Thanks, Jordan!

Life in the carpool lane

Perhaps I should have titled this entry "Life on Long Island." But I don't know. Maybe this could happen in Anytown, USA. I suspect that, at very least, it could happen in Los Angeles, as it strikes me as a very Larry David moment. But maybe that's only because there are so many New Yorkers in L.A. But let me know if you think this could happen in your town ...

Every Saturday morning, my husband takes our two boys to a swim class at the local high school. They were running a bit late this week, so he dropped them at the entrance before scouting for a parking space.

A long school bus was parked by the curb, squeezing a two-lane passageway down to one. Hubby drove past the bus and saw a parking space directly ahead. Just before he reached it, a PYMPEL (Privileged Yet Miserable Person with an Empty Life) in a big white BMW pulled up and blocked the space. She was leaving the parking lot, and needed to head through the lane next to the school bus.

Hubby motioned for her to back up so he could slip into the parking space and be out of her way, but she shook him off, insisting that HE back up. It was ludicrous, as he would have to back up the entire length of the bus (and probably lose the parking space), while all she had to do was back up a couple of feet.

He gesticulated again and again to make it clear that he just wanted to pull into the spot, but the PYMPEL wouldn't budge. Hubby can be as stubborn as the next guy, especially when someone is being unreasonable, so he made a show of folding his arms and relaxing in his seat, to indicate that he had all day.

But never underestimate these Long Island PYMPELS. The woman got out of her car, opened the back door, took out a BOOK, and then got back in the front seat to read it.

Not to be outdone, my husband picked up the book next to him in the passenger seat, which just happened to be my ARC, and held it up so his nemesis could see he had reading material as well.

I would love to tell you my husband won the battle of wills, but such is not the case. He had, after all, left the boys unsupervised. And for all his posturing, he really didn't have all day, which Princess PYMPEL clearly did. So, finally, he moved forward, passed the BMW, made a tight U-turn and pulled into the space after her highness had moved forward.

So she won. I'm sure she's never backed up an inch for anyone in her miserable little unfulfilling life, and never will. But if that's winning, I'll take losing every time.

Monday, March 06, 2006

George Clooney in a tuxedo and other reasons I'm in a good mood today

Early this morning, basking in the afterglow of my George Clooney fantasies (I mean, did you see the way he looked?), I clicked on Amazon to check my book's ranking (I know, I know. I am not supposed to do this. I am weak.) I was surprised and happy to see it had jumped from one-million-something to fifty-nine-thousand-something. Wow! It probably means two books were ordered, but still. I've decided to be happy about it.

I noticed, however, that they dropped the price of the book, which, I imagine, accounts for the sales. I could only think of one possible reason they would do this: competition. Some quick clicking proved me right--the book is now available for pre-order from Barnes & Noble as well.

So if you've been dying to order the thing (and I know it's been keeping you up at night) but have been sitting on your hands waiting for it to be available from Barnes & Noble, click here. Or, if you're a bargain hunter and have been waiting for the price to come down, click here.

Or, if you're George Clooney, and you found your way to this blog because you did a search to see what people are saying about you today, click here.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"Bridges" by Myfanwy Collins

I've decided to start a new feature on my blog, posting short stories by some excellent writers I know. I think you're going to love this first one by my close friend, Myfanwy Collins, who writes about fear and nature better than anyone I know. Enjoy!

By Myfanwy Collins

It was natural bridges and not arches where they were. The difference is that one of them is formed by erosion and the other by water. Bridges were by water. Maybe? That would make sense. Bridges, water. Yes.

So they were hiking in amongst the natural bridges somewhere west--Utah, Arizona--one of those states to which people go. The way was tricky but not overly hard. They hiked down from the rim on a slender, dusty trail. Took barely half an hour. Not bad, not bad at all.

But the problem was that not many people visited this park and while that, at one time--maybe at the beginning of the trip when solitude was key and sought--had seemed essential, now just seemed sad.

"So, he was on his horse right there, eh?" Jenna said, pulling the guidebook and pointing to a picture of the jocular Teddy Roosevelt upon his steed in the very spot before them.

"Yes," Tony said and took off his hat, as if to wipe the sweat from his forehead but possibly for some other darker, more OCD reason. Jenna'd noticed that every fucking time she mentioned Teddy Roosevelt on this fucking tour of the National Parks and Monuments they had begun a few months before, he'd wiped his forehead. This time she thought she might have it in her to ask him about it but she found she couldn't. It was just too tedious.

"So what are the beasts this time?" Tony said and laughed. Jenna didn't join in. He was not sensitive to her peccadilloes, made fun of her obsessive need to remind him of the dangerous flora and fauna (really, mostly the fauna--poison ivy only lasts so long) in each National Park they visited. In Yellowstone--the wolves, the grizzlies. In Glacier, the grizzlies, the big cats. In Grand Canyon, the rattlers. And here in this obscure spot in Southern Utah she was grasping at straws but chose, for the sake of probability, the big cats as the predator.

"It's not funny," she said. "Yes it is."

"Whatever." She was pissed but now that they'd reached the bottom of the canyon, they walked. It was a dried riverbed, bushy, beige. Not all that interesting. Nor were the walls of the canyon, but for the bridges that every so often spanned from one side to the other. And each time, they would stop and he would say, "Isn't that amazing?" while she scanned the vegetation and canyon walls for cougars, for escaped convicts, for falling rock.

Up ahead, there was a standing pool--one of several they'd seen. She stopped and held his sleeve. "Do you see that?" she asked, pointing to the thick inch deep track at water's edge.

"Cool," he said. "Look at that thing! It must be huge."

"Yeah," she said, scanning the area, "must be."


"It's a cougar, obviously. But I don't know... looks kind of fresh."

"Cool," Tony said. He always wanted to see the actual animals and this made her angry. Wasn't he at all concerned for their safety?

"What the fuck, Tony?" Jenna turned and started back the way they'd come. She could make it to the path up in ten, maybe fifteen minutes. Must not run though.

"Hey, Babe," Tony called, plaintively. "Jenna. Baby! Come on, Baby!" He knew she hated it when he called her "Baby" as if they were some sort of Nick and Jessica.

"Fuck off, Tony," she called over her shoulder. She heard him sigh, settle the weight of his pack and jog to catch up with her. She turned. "Don't run," she hissed. He stopped. "Do not run." She held out her hand in the stop motion. "Have you not listened to anything I've said to you?"

"What?" Tony said, slapping his hands on his hairy thighs and then holding them up to the sky. "What, Jenna?"

"If you run," she said deliberately, "they will think you are prey. They will hunt you. They hunt prey."

"Oh right," Tony said and walked towards her, keeping eye contact. "But if I walk, I'm okay, right?"

"Yes," Jenna said. She could feel her skin ease from tension to relaxation, could feel the sweat slide from her armpits down her sides like cats' tongues.
Then a noise from above stopped her. Again, the heart beating fast, the breath coming slow and long, then fast and close. Tony seemed to hear the noise, too, and he stopped. They looked at each other. Tony mouthed, "What now?" Jenna wanted to run to him or run with him. Wanted to take his hand and go or just go. She wanted to just run. Just fucking run her ass off. Let the fucking thing get her. Just let it. Shitfuckshit.

She held her ground and looked at Tony but he gave her one of those soft "Baby" faces that let her know he knew she was scared.

"All right," he said out loud, voice cracking. "Okay, J. I'm just going to walk slowly toward you."
Then another noise. A cracking. A big cat making its way through the dry grass and brambles, looking for its meal and not even bothering to stalk them silently. Jenna felt like crying. She held her hand out to Tony.

Another and another noise. Fuck. Just get it over with.

Tony walked towards her, fast, purposeful as if on tightrope. He grabbed her around the waist and said into her hair, "It's all right, Baby." And she felt that maybe it was. Maybe it was all right.

But the noises were all around them then. Fast. Loud. Cracking. Snapping. What was this? What was it? Shit.

And then laughter. Echoing, cawing off the canyon walls. Echoing and echoing.
Jenna dug her head, furious, into Tony's chest. She peeked her eye to the left and saw an older couple on a path just above them, making their way slowly, deliberately into the canyon on a path they had not seen, stopping every once in a while to pick up rocks, or hold hands.

Above her the sky was a bright, high-altitude blue. Tony felt warm, safe. In the distance a bridge spanned the canyon.

* * *
This story first appeared in Pindeldyboz

To read more about Myfanwy, check out her blog or her website,