Excerpt from my WIP – YA Novel

pink sunriseThe sunrise bathes the stadium in a pretty pink glow, but I just might puke.

Coach takes my jacket and looks me in the eye. “Jovi, there’s no need to be nervous. You can run three-point-two miles in your sleep. Forget that it’s Regionals. Use your mantra: Just another run. You got this.” He pats my back—three quick exclamation points on the end of his pep talk.

Easy-peasy.

“Yes sir.” I walk toward the starting line. Just another run. Just another run.

This is not just another run—if I don’t win today, and place at State in two weeks, I’ll never get a running scholarship and college will be out of the question. There’s zero money to help make my dream come true. If I’m going to be the first one in my family to go to college, I’ll have to find a way to pay for it myself, and a scholarship is at the top of the list.

The bleachers are packed. It’s a sea of colorful blankets and jackets pulled tight against the crisp dawn. Yet, none of my family is here. Just like every other day, Dad, Luke and Sassy are working in the pecan orchard, and GrandMary doesn’t drive. If Dad had his way, I’d never run another mile in my life, and I’d spend every spare moment working in the family’s pecan business: clearing branches, bagging pecans, shelling pecans, cleaning equipment, whatever needs doing. It’s Dad’s life. It was his father’s life. And he wants to make it my life.

My best friend, Morgan is here, but only because I bribed her with ice cream after the meet. Morgan has perfect skin the color I like my coffee—with three creamers—can sing like an angel, mixes plaids with prints, and doesn’t know right from left or north from south. She changes the color of her wild curls with her mood, and right now I’m glad I can spot her pink hair in the stands. Otherwise, I’d be here alone. Again.

Fifty-seven other long-legged, pony-tailed girls line up on the grass at the one-yard line. I wedge myself between green and gold, and purple and white. Somewhere in the pack, wearing black and gold, with matching size ten Nike’s, is last year’s state champ, Shianne Boggs. She may have big feet, but off the course, she’s the girl with the $100 blowout, designer jeans, and way too many trophies.

“Runners, take your marks.”

I crouch into position with one foot in front of the other, one hand on the ground. Eyes straight ahead. At least I know this course. It’s my third time at Wimberley Regionals. The next twenty minutes of my life will be fields, creeks, hills, and a wooded path wide enough for four fast feet.

“Set.”

Okay adrenaline, work your magic.

The shot cracks through the air, turning my tension into thunder. I bolt forward.

It doesn’t take long for me to pull out front, along with six or seven others. Shianne’s weird exhale whistling in my right ear helps me focus. My jitters are gone. I have one job to do—win this race—and it’s starting to feel do-able.

The first mile is fast. Maybe five-minute-mile fast. My heart is a machine in my chest. Elbows bump. Colorful running shoes slap the ground in comfortable rhythm. My body is slick with sweat.

Several minutes tick by in an instant. All I know is my breath and my heart and my desire to win. I can do this. I’ve won my share of races but this is the one that counts. Winning today would be an upset but Coach says it’s my time. He’s had me in the gym lifting weights and doing flexibility training for months and I feel stronger than ever. I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. A win today would change everything.

With less than a mile to go, I’m one of four leaders packed in tight, and the pace is grueling. Quads on fire, lungs exploding. We splash across a creek—the cold water on my legs a refreshing surprise. I lean in and climb the last hill, giving it all I’ve got. One more turn and we’ll be back at the football field for the final 400 meters around the track.

It’s way too crowded in the turn. I’m on the inside. Not enough room.

Can’t find my footing.

My right elbow slams into another runner. Black and gold tumbles into my fall. Shianne Boggs. We’re a slow-motion collision of arms and legs and sweat.

Until our heads slam together.

And a dark explosion swallows me.

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Balancing Act

person wearing black low top sneakers standing on railing
Photo by Craig Adderley on Pexels.com

You know those twenty minutes of euphoria that happen twice a year if you’re lucky? That brief, beautiful moment where everything is done and you feel like you’re winning at life?

The refrigerator is full, the dishwasher is empty. You’ve gone to the dentist, the doctor, gotten the oil changed in your car, the registration is up-to-date, your taxes are paid, there are no presents to buy, no parties to attend, nothing that needs doing because you did the work, paid attention, got things done, and have everything under control?

I experienced this joy last Sunday, when for a small window of time, everything was done. I danced around the house like a superhero, patted myself on the back, drank a glass of wine and took a bubble bath in celebration.

But the universe has a way of keeping us in check. Showing us the other side of the coin.

Reminding us nothing lasts forever.

Monday brought me a runny nose and a cough, Wednesday’s gift was back spasms that had me like: you didn’t really need to stand up today, did you? and then came Saturday. Saturday morning with its sunshine and promises. Still coughing, still feeling like crud, but excited by warmer temperatures and NO RAIN, I made myself a cup of coffee and went out on my back patio to enjoy.

Things were looking up.

Within minutes I got stung by a venomous caterpillar and spent the next twelve hours in excruciating pain. Yep, the universe reminded me who’s boss. It decided that five days of fighting a cold, slogging to work when I felt like staying in bed, enduring rainy day traffic and cranky co-workers wasn’t enough. The universe, in all it’s wisdom, decided yesterday was the day I needed to be introduced to this fuzzy fellow.

Puss Caterpillar with log

Meet the Southern Flannel Moth, a/k/a the Megalopyge opercularis, the Southern Stinging Caterpillar, or Puss Moth Caterpillar. They are a bi-annual (spring and fall) phenomenon found from Virginia to Florida to Texas. They love shade trees (especially oaks, pecans, elm, and citrus) and if you’re allergic, their sting can send you to the ER faster than you can say fuzzy wuzzy. These guys are fuzzy, but ferocious.

Above is my picture of the actual culprit. Here’s a better photo I found online:

Gardening-Asp-caterpillar

On my patio, the lime tree my daughter got me for mother’s day looked like it needed rotating, so I bent down, hugged the container and turned it. When I did, I suspect this creepy crawler moved from the plant to the front of my sweatshirt. Or it fell out of a tree. I didn’t see it.

When my arm brushed against it’s back there was an instant stinging, burning pain. I looked down and saw him there, stuck to my shirt. My husband used a stiff leaf to fling it away. My arm was on fire … like a thousand fire ant bites or a dozen wasp stings.

The stung area didn’t look like much, just some redness, but it felt like hell. We washed my arm with soap and water. Poured bleach on it, scrubbed it with mechanic’s de-greaser, and made a baking soda paste.

Nothing helped.

 

 

Except ice.

I set up camp on the couch, and over the next few hours, switched out an ice pack every thirty minutes while I watched the first four episodes of The Romanoffs on Prime Video to take my mind off my misery. It kinda worked. But not really. But wow! What a show.

Romanoffs

Hubby scoured the internet looking for anything that might help. Between episodes, we tried different remedies. Scotch tape to remove the poisonous hairs from my skin, vanilla extract, aloe vera. Tylenol did nothing for the pain. We tried anti-itch cream, pain relief rub, even magnesium oil. Nothing put a dent in my discomfort.

I’m not a baby. I survived 25 hours of labor and gave birth without medication. I have a high pain tolerance. But after six or eight hours of bone crushing, burning, throbbing agony, I questioned whether it would ever stop. I questioned my sanity. I questioned the existence of God.

Most of what we read online said the pain would subside within an hour or so. But then we read an article that said, in some cases, the pain lasts up to twelve hours. And that’s when I knew. The universe was going to make me suffer even longer.

The pain continued. And, after the skies grew dark, my mind grew numb, and my body grew exhausted, it was time for bed. The sting occurred at 10:00 am. It was now 9:00 pm. Still in misery, I brushed my teeth, put on my jammies, and crawled into bed.

And magically, within minutes, I felt an easing. A loosening. A promise that this pain, just like the euphoria of feeling on top of the world, and in control of everything, would not last forever.

As I drifted off to sleep, it was with the knowledge that this too had passed. I survived a week that started off bad, got worse, and then ended with unbelievable pain.

Life is a balancing act.

I lost a beautiful Saturday. Gained a healthy respect for caterpillars, and am kinda afraid to go outside right now. But I’ll keep getting up every day, going to work, doing all the things, and one of these days, I will be on top again, if only for a few brief moments.

Everything has an opposite. One cannot exist without the other. Good. Bad. Love. Hate. Euphoria. Pain. Control. Chaos.

And nothing lasts forever.

Not the common cold, not bad weeks, or rainy months … not even autumn, when the Puss Caterpillar invades Texas.

Have a great week.

architecture boulder city cityscape
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

 

Happy Anniversary To Me!

This week marks my one-year anniversary with WordPress. As with most things these days, time has flown by and I can hardly believe I’ve been blogging for a year already!

During the past few months, I’ve also been writing my next book and therefore don’t post here as often as I had hoped.

So…..I think it might be time for a little change, a little shake up, which my mom would tell you never hurt anyone.

Instead of limiting my written posts strictly to overheard conversations, I will begin sprinkling in other ideas, musings and stories as they come to me. This will hopefully lead to an increase in the number of posts I make and widen my audience.

Everyone I’ve met and talked with through this blog has been so nice and supportive, and I’d really like more of that 🙂

I’ll have to give some thought to whether or not I’ll change the name of my blog, but for now I’ll leave it alone.

See you soon.