Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pounding the Pavement

This was a writing prompt for a small writer's group I belong to. Each week, we meet and have a short selection to share. This was mine for June 4, 2008.

I've never really actually pounded the pavement, except with my butt. What can I say? I'm clumsy. If it's possible to hurt myself, I will.

I don't know what my first experience with pavement pounding was, but several incidents certainly stand out in my mind in rather spectacular ways. I seem to have a proclivity for injuring my feet the most, though my shins and knees refuse to be left out of the action.

When I was four, my family lived in married student housing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while my father attended Harvard. There were lots of children running around barefoot and we played outside all spring and summer. One of the boys was given a red wagon for his birthday and we were all getting rides. I was determined not to be left out and claimed my place in the front while two others piled in behind me.

I started out with my feet under me Indian style, but there wasn't enough room, so I let my toes dangle over the side. Everything was fine until we hit a bump. I fell forward, my toes dragged on the pavement and I took part of the nail and the tips of my big toes clean off.

Screaming and crying, I was carted back to my mother who cleaned and bound the wounds, administered baby aspirin and kept me inside for the next week. For a long time after that, I was confined by tennis shoes.

My first major knee involvement came at age nine when I was learning to ride a bike. The neighbors had an old, battered, dark green bike with nearly flat tires. Jane, the eldest who was four or five years older than I was, got me set up, ran me around and got me confident. Feeling empowered by my new found skill, I decided to ride around the block a few times.

Flying along, I felt the freedom the bike gave me, enjoying the sun on my face and the wind in my hair - until I hit a patch of loose gravel. The bike went one way and I went the other, down on all fours in the dirt road.

Gravel and dirt embedded themselves in my flesh, leaving a trail of grime and blood. Luckily for me, I fell in front of the same neighbors' house. Their father carried me inside and their mother, a registered nurse, cleaned me up while her daughter ran down and got my mother. To make me feel better, the dad got me a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup. It kept my mind off the fact his wife was taking stones from my knees with tweezers.

My last major escapade with pavement pounding involved my right shin. This time, in college, working summer stock at a theater in Tennessee, I was coming off stage when disaster struck.

We were doing Carousel and I was singing and dancing in the chorus. I was going to the dressing room in the basement laughing and chatting with my friends. I really was paying attention to where I was going, but I was wearing slick bottomed dance shoes.

There was a rise in the floor, a step up of about ten inches. Instead of stepping on it like I should, I missed, catching my heel on the edge of the step. The shoe flew out from under me and I fell down, grinding my shin against the edge of the concrete step.

Luckily, there were several doctors and nurses in the cast as the theater drew extras largely from the community. One of the doctors gently checked my leg while one of the nurses held my hand and tried to calm me down. It wasn't broken, but I had a gash in my shin down to the bone that went from my knee to my ankle. I couldn't even get stitches because there was no skin left.

I've done many things to myself that defy description. None of them have ever been life threatening, but all of them have been painful and of major inconvenience. I'm not quite as clumsy as I was as a child, but that's probably because I try to be more aware of what's around me. Aside from the occasional stubbed toe, I do pretty well and avoid pounding the pavement.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Fragrance LIngers

Mara Cross is a successful architect who never felt she had time for love. On vacation on a tropical island, love finds her in a most unusual way.

The beach filled gradually, but nothing bothered Mara who was used to the noises of the city. Her apartment was in a loft unit downtown. It had once been a warehouse, back in the Prohibition Era. The historical society prevented its destruction and her architectural firm redesigned it into apartments for young, upwardly mobile executives. She'd liked the results so well, she bought the top floor for herself.

"Miss?" It was Julio. He was bending over her looking slightly concerned. "It's been nearly an hour since you fell asleep. If you don't turn over soon, you're going to be burned on one side and blank on the other."

Grinning at him, Mara obediently rolled over and ordered another drink. Julio brought it gladly, smiling happily as she added a handsome tip to the bill.

"I go off duty in an hour. If you sleep again, shall I wake you before I go"

"Thanks, Julio, that would be great."

She was grateful for her olive toned skin. Had she been fair skinned, she'd already have been fried. She didn't fancy tending a burn for the first days of her vacation.

Mara tipped the chair up slightly and took out her book. It was a science fiction novel she'd been hoping to read for some time, but hadn't gotten past the first few pages. She flipped back to the beginning and started reading. She was just getting into the story when a volleyball landed heavily in her lap, dropped to the ground beside her and knocked over her drink.

Mara looked up angrily and saw a man waving to her apologetically. He was medium height and build, with medium length, medium brown hair. He trotted up the beach, hand extended.

"I'm so sorry," his tone was sincere with a hint of a Southern accent. "I guess my friend hit it harder than he needed to. We haven't played in years, but he still thinks that he's the king of the spike."

He pointed down the beach to a short, squat, freckled, redheaded man in orange swim trunks. He looked embarrassed and his face was so red, it rivaled his hair.

"Sorry about that!" He called. He had a distinctive West Texas drawl.

The man next to her picked up the volleyball in one hand. "Cole Bayard," he extend the hand not holding the ball.

"Mara Cross. Who's your pal?"

"He goes by Red Gilroy. Bet you can't guess why."

Mara chuckled, glancing at the man standing over her. He was better looking up close and had a firm chin and well toned physique. His navy blue swim trunks had big, white tropical flowers on them and rode low on his hips. What really caught her attention was the tattoo on his belly just below his navel.

All she could see were two brightly colored serpent's heads intertwined, facing one another. She wondered how low the tattoo went below the level of his shorts. Shaking her head slightly, she realized he was speaking to her again. Blinking, she looked up at him, trying hard to focus.

"I'm sorry. I guess I've got a little jet lag."

Cole grinned flashing even white teeth in his tanned face. "No problem, Miss Cross. I was just apologizing again for the volleyball. We didn't mean to interrupt."

"Not a problem. Call me Mara. Miss Cross sounds too much like work. I'm here to forget the office, not burrow deeper into it."

Cole bounced the ball back and forth absently as if he were trying to make up his mind about something. "Mara, would you like to join Red and me for dinner?"

"Oh, well... I don't know... It's just...."

"I know, it's abrupt, but we know some of the less traveled night spots. I'm here about six months out of the year and Red comes down fairly often. I sideline as a tour guide. It gives me something to do to take my mind off the office." He said with a completely straight face.

"I'd like that, actually," Mara decided. She was determined to enjoy herself. Dinner in a public place sounded harmless enough.

"Super! We'll pick you up at six o'clock. Dress casually, the fancy spots are for tourists." Grinning, he saluted her and ran back down to where Red was standing.

Cole moved with easy, unaffected grace, running effortlessly through the sand. When he got back to Red, he popped the ball hard over the net. It landed in his friend's outstretched hands. Mara watched them play until they went back into the hotel together.

It was nearly one when Mara finally left the beach and went back to her room. A note had been slipped under her door. She opened it and grinned. It was covered in a sloppy scrawl.

"I continue to be sorry about the volleyball, but I'm very glad I met you. I look forward to dinner. Cole."

Friday, December 04, 2009

Car Trouble - part 2

I like dialog. One might go so far as to say I'm a conversation junkie. I like verbal exchanges, word play, innuendos, double entendre and yes, even puns. I particularly like conversations where the two main characters get to know one another.

I did a few "first meetings" not long ago, and I decided to revisit that and post a few more. This is the first part of a novel called "Car Trouble" - as yet unfinished.

The disconcerting thing about this novel is that I had car trouble myself in the exact spot that Kent has car trouble in the first chapter. Only that didn't inspire this tale, because that happened weeks after I started this story. In fact, I was driving home from a meeting planning to work on it when my tire blew.

My rescuer wasn't a hunky male, he looked more like Rodney Dangerfield, but he was friendly and efficient, getting me back on the road safe and sound.

I got out, dragging my meager possessions with me. There was more in the car, but I wasn't about to try to carry it all. Taking my other keys off the ring, I left my car key with Rosalie in the office and followed Cadence to her pickup.

"Mr. Mason, you look like a man in need of a cup of coffee," Cadence said as we hopped into her dark colored pickup.

"I do indeed, Miss Jacoby. I'm beat, but wide awake, if that makes any sense."

"I understand completely. I live on caffeine when I work this shift. I don't usually take it, just covering for one of the guys. He's out with the flu."

She pulled into an all night diner, parking out front. It was surprisingly full for nearly three o'clock in the morning. We found a booth, ordered coffee and pie and sat there awkwardly trying to find something to talk about.

I got a good look at my companion for the first time. She was an attractive brunette, probably in her late twenties or early thirties. Athletically built, she was muscular and looked stronger than some men I know. I'm no slack, but she could whoop my ass easy if I got too fresh. Her eyes were a dark hazel rimmed with long, black lashes. Dressed in jeans and a company T-shirt in day glow green, she looked very competent.

I felt even more as if I had spent the last twenty-four hours in the same suit. I was clammy and sticky, my T-shirt and underwear still damp from sitting in a too hot car while I waited for the tow truck.

"Pardon my saying, Mr. Mason, you look beat."

"Kent," I mumbled. "I am. It's been a long trip."

"Well, at least you had car trouble close to home."

"Yeah. It's been giving me serious trouble since Tallahassee. I kept having visions of getting stranded along I-10 in the middle of B.F.E. I hate that stretch of road."

"Having had car trouble along there, I sympathize. I was lucky it wasn't anything serious. I was able to fix it and got back on the road. It was creepy out in the dark though. I kept imagining someone sneaking up on me while I had my head in the engine."

"Oh, you fix cars as well? I thought you just drove the truck."

"My dad taught me how to tear down and rebuild an engine when I was ten. I've been working on cars since I was little."

"I know about this much," I held my fingers an inch apart. "Put the key in, turn it, internal combustion takes place and it moves. If one of those steps fails to happen...." I spread my hands helplessly.

She grinned, her dark eyes twinkling. "Then you call me."


"So, you're an author, huh? What kind of books to you write?"

"Crime novels, for the most part. Though I've tried my hand at other things as well. I've got a sci-fi series and even a few of romance novels."

"Romance? You aren't secretly gay, are you?"

"Why does everyone think that? Men can write romance novels too, you know. Of course, mine are more smut than romance...."

I laughed at my joke, I write mostly historical romance and they aren't very smutty. However, I can turn my hand at smut if it helps pay the bills.

"Oh, smut boy, huh?" She grinned, taking a sip of her coffee.

I sipped mine too, stinging my mouth. Gasping, I gulped my water to cool my blistered tongue. Eyes watering, I stirred my coffee and took a bite of my pie.

"I should have warned you," she looked concerned. "It's the hottest coffee I've ever had. I don't know how they do it."

"Pass it through a nuclear generator," I speculated. "Dear God, that's hot! Now that I've nearly killed myself, do you need to warn me about the pie?"

Cadence giggled, shaking her head. "I haven't hurt myself on the pie yet. Though apple... You never know with apple. They might have dropped a hand grenade in there."

"Yep, you'd never know the difference."

"Until you blew up."

"That would give it away, for sure."

"One might even say, 'a dead give away'," she smirked.

I know it's a cheesy joke, but I couldn't stop laughing. Blame it on a lack of sleep, or the fact I'd been traveling for nearly two weeks. Whatever it was, I felt like a complete idiot.
When I started to choke, I felt like a pathetic, lame, weak, complete idiot.

"Are you okay?" Her eyes held concern.

I could see myself in the window, turning red in the face, blue eyes watering, blond curly hair awry. All I could do was nod and gasp, so I did. No words came out, just gasping. Pretty soon everyone in the diner was looking at me. I could see a couple guys in the corner mentally reviewing the Heimlich Maneuver and wondered vaguely if it worked on liquid. I was pretty sure it didn't. Eventually, I stopped gasping and coughing, eyes watering like crazy. I looked like a victim of tear gas.

"Sorry," I wheezed. "Water went down wrong."

"You're a wreck, Kent."

Mentally, I was kicking myself. I liked this woman. She was bright and interesting with a similar sense of humor. Not only that, she was gorgeous. Except for book signings, I don't get out a lot and I haven't had a proper date since 1996.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. Not since 2006 when I got divorced. To be specific, I was figuratively ganked in the courtroom when my wife took virtually everything I owned. I now live in a modest rental home in Edgewater when I used to have a magnificent beach house in New Smyrna. My wife has the magnificent beach home, my Porsche and my dog, Ripper.

I realized with a lurch that my companion was speaking and I hadn't heard much of what she said.

"Kent, are you sure you're okay? You don't look so hot."

"Exhausted, Cadence. Nothing more."

"Maybe I better take you home."

I insisted on paying for our coffee and pie, leaving a more generous tip than it was worth, but I felt like I should atone for the choking fit in some way.

Books & Entertainment Radio Presents Dellani's Tea Time with Jenny, Jon and Karen!

It's summer time and folks are flocking to the beach, the mountains, and anywhere else they can go (at least in their minds—there'...